[I agree. Stay the f*ck away from the Liberal "experts". Jan]
The Canadian Red Ensign
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Don’t Trust the "Experts"
Until a short time ago the word "misinformation" referred to statements purporting to be factual which fell short in some way, whether in letter or spirit, of the ancient and ageless transcendental landmark known as truth. "Disinformation" meant the same, but with the additional connotation that the erroneous information was being spread in mala fide by those with a deliberate intent to deceive. Both words have been in the soi-disant news far more frequently in recent days than has been the norm in the past. Indeed, it would almost seem that other words have dropped out of the vocabularies of our regular commentators on passing events, because they have been using these multiple times per day. It would appear, however, that the words have undergone a change in meaning. They now seem to mean anything which differs or disagrees with whatever the media’s approved experts happen to be saying at any given moment even if it conforms with what they had been saying in the moment immediately prior to that one.
This is indicative of just how far we have apostatized from the wisdom of the ancients who sought the illumination of the eternal beacons of Goodness, Beauty and Truth to light their path. To the extent that the media, the information machine which has far too much influence over how we perceive and think of the world, acknowledges truth today, it is truth in the old leftist sense of whatever advances the cause of the revolution. This, of course, is not truth at all in the proper and older sense of that permanent standard, recognized as a basic aspect of being itself, which we strive to attain by conforming our indicative or descriptive speech to reality, i.e., things as they are in themselves.
Ultimately what we are seeing is the result of centuries of assault on the foundations laid for Western thought, at least in its Classical and Christian phases, by the Attic philosophers, specifically the Socratic school and especially Socrates himself. I addressed this matter earlier this year in an essay about how Western academe has betrayed the very foundation of its venerable tradition, the first of a series that scrutinized the corruption of the various branches of the universities. It is worth revisiting now as the media is once again telling us to blindly trust the experts as they impose all sorts of invasive restrictions on us in total disregard of our prescriptive and constitutional civil rights and basic freedoms in the name of keeping us safe.
If the message of the Socrates who has come down to us primarily through the writings of Plato could be summarized in one sentence, which, of course, it cannot, that sentence would be "don’t trust the experts". For Socrates’ career as a philosopher basically consisted of going around and pestering experts, those who claimed to have authoritative knowledge about courage, justice, piety and the like, with questions that demonstrated that the experts didn’t really know what they were talking about and didn’t possess the kind of knowledge they professed. He was, in other words, someone who spent his entire life doing the exact opposite of what those who say "shut up and listen to the science" tell us to do when we question the climatologists’ prophecies of doom by pointing out holes in the theory of anthropogenic climate change or question the epidemiologists’ insistence that we must sacrifice all of our freedoms and necessary social interaction and put ourselves in house arrest for weeks and months at a time to prevent the spread of the Chinese bat flu.
"Isn’t it true that human beings have historically thrived better in warmer periods than colder periods?"
"Isn’t it true that climate has been constantly changing through history and that this has affected how people live rather than the other way around?"
"What about that Danish study from this summer in which masks were found not to reduce the spread of the virus?"
"What about all the deaths that lockdowns cause?"
"Why should we believe that the same health authorities who support abortion and euthanasia are taking our freedoms away because they want to save lives?"
"Why all this hype about a virus that is non-lethal for well over 99 percent of people under 65 and in good health, most of whom will experience only mild symptoms or none at all?"
The answer we hear to these questions and countless others like them is always "Shut up, listen to the science, and trust the experts".
Some might raise the objection to my point that today’s experts differ from the ones to whom Socrates was, in his own words as recorded by Plato in the Apologia, a "gadfly", in that they have science to back up their claims to authoritative knowledge.
Let us consider that argument and see whether it can bear up under scrutiny.
Science, although it bears the Latin word for knowledge as its name, is not synonymous with knowledge but is rather a specific type of knowledge. The admirers of Modern science see the history of its development as one of unprecedented and exponential expansion of human knowledge to the benefit of the species. This is not, however, the only way to look at it. From a different perspective Modern science can be seen as a contraction rather than an expansion of knowledge. Furthermore, it is rather difficult to deny that science has done harm to the species as well as good.
Whether science is an expansion or contraction of knowledge depends on what measuring stick you are using. Allow me to illustrate. Imagine two men with studies in their home in which their personal libraries are kept. The one man keeps all of his books in a single bookcase. The shelves are crammed full and overflowing. The other man has several bookcases around the room, but none of them is full and there is plenty of space for other books. Which of the two has the larger library?
The answer depends upon how you are determining library size. If the measurement is in bookcases the second man obviously has the larger library. If, however, we are measuring in number of books, the first man might have the larger library. Indeed, for the sake of making the point of the illustration let us stipulate that he does have more books in his one bookcase than the other in his many. Therefore the answer to the question of which has the larger library is different when size is measured by bookcases than by books.
Now here is how that illustration applies to science: pre-modern science was integrated into philosophy which concerned itself with the whole of reality. Pre-modern science like Modern science, involved specialized knowledge of different aspects of reality, but, being integrated into philosophy as it was, it recognized the general knowledge of the whole that philosophy sought after to be the higher and greater knowledge, and therefore did not exclude any part of that whole as an area of interest for its more concentrated study. The science that emerged from the transition into the Modern Age, by contrast, was far less integrated into philosophy, which itself was undergoing a radical transformation, and not, in my opinion, for the better. Neither Modern science nor Modern philosophy shared the pre-modern hierarchical ranking of general knowledge of the whole as higher and superior to specialized knowledge of the parts. Furthermore, Modern science narrowed the areas in which it was interested, excluding several parts or aspects of the whole of reality that pre-modern science had not so excluded.
In other words, when it comes to the parts of the whole of reality that science concerns itself with, Modern science is actually interested in less than pre-modern science. This is often overlooked since Modern science has subdivided those fewer parts of reality that have retained its interest into multiple fields to facilitate its scrutiny of each. Think of it as being like a food store that originally sold all different kinds of food – meat, fruit, vegetables, dairy, grains, etc. – then limited itself to fruit, but multiplied the kinds of fruit it offered, now including all the exotic varieties alongside every available type of the staple apples, oranges, pears, peaches and bananas. Although it has actually narrowed what it has to offer, someone who only ever entered the store to buy fruit might miss this because for him the variety has increased. The point is that when measured by the criteria of the portion of reality that Modern science takes an interest in compared with pre-modern science, the development of Modern science is clearly a contraction of knowledge rather than an expansion.
When it comes to the areas in which Modern science has retained an interest, it has, undeniably, expanded one type of knowledge about those areas, and that exponentially. That type of knowledge is the kind that answers such questions as “How does this work?” and “What is this made of?” That providing highly detailed answers to such questions in no way answers such questions as “what is this thing in itself?” and “what is the good of such things?” was beautifully illustrated by C. S. Lewis in the exchange on the nature of a star between Ramandu and Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and explained more prosaically in a number of his non-fictional writings.
The reason Modern science can answer the one type of question well and in great depth but is hopeless at answering the other type of question is the same reason why it is interested in some parts of the whole that is reality and not others. Finding the answers to the first type of questions with regards to the areas in which it is interested serves the end of Modern science. Finding the answers to the second type of questions does not serve that end. Nor is there anything in the areas of reality which Modern science has excluded from its interest that would serve that end.
This is because the end of Modern science, that for which it seeks and strives, is not truth at all, but power and control. As C. S. Lewis opened his lecture on “The Abolition of Man”, the third of the lectures transcribed and published together under the same title in 1943, “’Man’s conquest of Nature’ is an expression often used to describe the progress of applied science”. Lewis’ entire lecture is well worth reading to understand the implications, positive and negative of this, as is the entire book in which it can be found and, for that matter, his treatment of the same subject in That Hideous Strength, the third and longest of his “Space Trilogy” in which theological and philosophical discussion is presented in the form of science fiction. That this is the goal of Modern science, however, rests not merely on the assertion of one of its more distinguished critics. We also have the word of one of its earliest advocates. Sir Francis Bacon famously expressed the end of Modern science as the mission statement of his fictional Salomon’s House in his unfinished novel The New Atlantis (1626), “the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.”
It is because this is its purpose that Modern science is interested only in those parts of reality which it can bend to serve the human will and only in the kind of knowledge that serves that purpose, such as what those things it wishes to bend and harness into service are made of and how they work. Answers to the questions of what things are in themselves, what their good is, how they fit in to the larger whole of reality, and how they contribute to the good of that whole, are entirely irrelevant to that purpose, as indispensable as they are to Truth. Indeed, true knowledge of the good of things in themselves and the part they play in the order of reality as a whole, would in many cases run counter to the goal of Modern science for it would identify a good for all things which is not imposed upon them by the will of man, and to which man is obligated to bend his will.
The history of Modern science itself demonstrates that truth is entirely irrelevant to it at the theoretical level. Theory is the essential link between scientific fact gathering – observation and recording – and scientific application – the use of those facts to bend the nature of things into the service of the will of man. It begins as hypothesis – an interpretive explanation of what has been observed – which, if it survives testing by experimentation, becomes theory, that is to say, an explanation that is accepted and taken to be true for the purpose of devising further hypotheses and developing practical applications. This is the means whereby science has obtained its great success at manipulating the nature of things to serve man’s will. This success, however, has never required that the theories underlying human invention actually be true. Indeed, most if not all of what are considered to be Modern science’s greatest successes, are the culmination of a series of advancements, each based upon a theory that has subsequently been shown to be false. Success for Modern science is measured by whether it works, not by whether it is true. The philosophy of science took a major step towards acknowledging this in the twentieth century, when Sir Karl Popper successfully replaced “verifiability” with “falsifiability” as the litmus test of whether a theory is truly scientific or not. To be scientific, Popper argued, a theory must be falsifiable, that is, susceptible to being shown to be false. Logic, of course, would tell us that if a theory is capable of being shown to be false, it is, therefore false, and, indeed, Gordon H. Clark argued convincingly that all scientific theories are false, by the standards of logic, for they all involve the fallacy of asserting the consequent.
Now perhaps you are wondering whether any of this matters or not. Since science presumably aims at using the mastery over nature it seeks to benefit mankind is not the question of whether it works all that really matters? This objection would have more validity if everything science had accomplished had been beneficial. Some things science has given us – the ability to preserve food longer for example – are unquestionably beneficial. Other things science has given us – nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction – are decidedly not so beneficial, quite the opposite as a matter of fact.
This is directly related to everything we have seen about how Modern science has divorced its inquiries from an appreciation of things as they are in themselves, contemplation of the whole, and Truth as it was classically and traditionally understood. A science that seeks only such knowledge as can be used to bend nature to man’s will is a science that recognizes no limits on man’s will. Such a science is incapable of distinguishing between a good use of its mastery of nature and a bad use. Goodness like Truth, from which it can be distinguished but never separated, is a transcendental, an element of the permanent order of reality that cannot be bent to serve human will but which requires man to bend his will instead to his own peril if he refuses. Since Modern science is based upon an assertion of the will in rejection of these limitations it dooms itself to using its power in an evil way, as in the example given in the previous paragraph.
I offer the above as grounds for continuing the Socratic tradition of not trusting the experts. Modern science, for the reasons given, is cause for regarding today’s experts as being less reliable than those of Socrates’ day, not more.
Someone may, however, object that this does not apply to the medical experts we are being told to trust today because their science is devoted to the end of saving people’s lives and health and that this ensures that medical science cannot serve evil ends like the science that went into creating the nuclear bomb. The response that jumps to mind is to point to all the harm and destruction done – small businesses going bankrupt, massive job losses, mental health breakdowns, alcohol, opioid and other addictions, suicides, the erosion of social capital, distrust of family, friends, neighbours, the development of a snitch culture, the trampling of basic freedom and constitutional rights, the cruel locking away of people in the last days of their lives from their loved ones, the brainwashing people into regarding such things as a friendly handshake or a warm hug as sources of contagion, the cancelling of weddings, birthday parties, holidays, and all the joys of life, forcing people to merely exist rather than truly live, etc. – by the lockdowns that so many of these medical experts have been demanding and imposing for the sake of preventing the spread of a disease that most often produces only mild symptoms, has over a 99 percent survival rate for those under 65-70 and in good health, and which poses a threat mostly to the very old and very sick. Medical experts who would recommend such a thing demonstrate thereby that they are completely unworthy of our trust.
George Grant devoted his philosophical career to the contemplation of the significance of the transition from ancient to Modern thinking, focusing specifically on the shift from the view in which the permanent order of reality held us accountable to standards such as goodness, justice, and truth to the view in which the only “goodness”, “justice” and “truth” are values we impose on reality by bending it to our will. He frequently quoted Robert Oppenheimer’s statement "When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it" as encapsulating the thinking behind Modern technological science and showing why such thinking precluded bending and submitting to the order of the universe. He contrasted this unfavourably with the old adage a posse ad esse non valet consequentia as epitomizing the older and wiser way of thinking. He spoke and wrote frequently about the troubling paradox of freedom, wherein the prevalent liberalism of the Modern Age made freedom its highest value, but understood freedom as the unshackling of the will from the constraints of the order recognized by ancient wisdom, and in developing the science and technology necessary to so “free” the will as to make every desire attainable, created the conditions for unprecedented levels of social control that were eliminating freedom in the older sense of protected civil liberties and rights and ironically, in the name of freedom, were moving us closer to tyranny. That medical science was as much a part of this problem as any other he recognized when he wrote:
The proliferating power of the medical profession illustrates our drive to new technologies of human nature. This expanding power has generally been developed by people concerned with human betterment.
Yet nevertheless, the profession has become a chief instrument for tightening social control in the western world, as is made evident by the unity of the profession’s purpose with those of political administration and law enforcement, the complex organization of dependent professions it has gathered around itself, its taking over of the cure of the ‘psyche’, and the increasing correlation of psychiatry with a behaviourally and physiologically oriented psychology. It becomes increasingly necessary to adjust the masses to behave appropriately amidst such technological crises as those of population and pollution and life in the cities. (“Thinking About Technology”, in Technology and Justice, 1986, pp 16-17.