Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Decline and Fall of Reason

The State of Michigan is declining in virtually every way and certainly a great many more people are moving out than moving in. The auto industry – as represented by Ford, GM, and Chrysler – is sinking as well. The quality of the schools in appalling and the scores on standardized tests are poor and got even worse after the difficulty of the test was reduced. The state is strongly Democratic, highly taxed, and heavily unionized, but no one seems to connect the dots between these facts and the state of decline. The Reign of Reason seems to be in jeopardy – at least in Michigan, but I suspect it is throughout the US – if Howard (Mad Dog) Dean and Senator John Kerry are any example of what passes for rational thought.

The UAW has virtually built a socialist society with the auto industry so the workers absolutely believe that they are entitled to free healthcare, high salaries, full employment, low skill requirements, and of course as little work as possible. This socialist attitude has been brought into the population as a whole and is propagated by the teachers who are fully unionized. These unionized teachers are highly paid – among some of the highest paid in the country but are demanding more money. Of course they like to compare their salaries on a per annum basis rather than the per diem basis which permits a more realistic comparison. On a per diem basis teachers in Michigan are being paid wages equivalent to Computer Programmers and Engineers. But salary is only part of the problem because these unionized teachers are also strongly oriented to socialism and regularly indoctrinate their students about the virtues of socialism and the evils of capitalism. Not only that they resist any effort to measure their productivity or quality of output. Within the European socialist governments the objective is employment not productivity and this attitude seems to have infected the UAW and the other Unions in the US.

The reality is that Socialism – like Marxism – does not work. It drains the economy, stifles creativity, and certainly curtails capital investment. Europe, especially France, is dominated by Socialist governments, which are staggering under the weight of their welfare programs. In most of these countries there is a large and growing population of the unemployed, some of whom would like to work but a great many more find that they can live well on the government dole. This is a class of parasites that --like all parasites -- is slowly killing the host. These welfare programs have forced the EU to continuously reduce its defense spending to the point that their military capability is seriously impaired. Although they are strongly Anti-American they are totally dependent on the US for their defense. The fact that they can’t connect the dots between their anti-American actions and their own security is simply another illustration of the decline of reason.

But the evidence that not only is critical thinking disappearing but even the decline in rational thought is all about us. Consider science, which from where I sit is not only in decline it is virtually disappearing. The culprit is “Epidemiology” which is literally the study of epidemics, how they spread and their impact on large groups of people. Of course Epidemiology itself is merely the application of statistical analysis of a data sample, which is then projected to the larger group. However, for anyone who has actually used statistics or analyzed data for any purpose the accuracy of any analysis is suspect. When the analysis is based on an a priori assumption any reliability the analysis might have had is now dramatically reduced because only the data that supports the a priori position is considered. This is the basis for the conclusion that everything from Alar to charcoal to tobacco causes cancer. There is absolutely no science behind any of these conclusions, yet the media reports them as fact and the great majority of people accepts the conclusions as true and acts accordingly. Where is the critical thinking or rational thought?

The famous scientist Carl Sagan was accepted by PBS and thus by the public as a true scientist, when in actual fact he was a shameless self-promoter who hounded those with whom he disagreed, especially Immanuel Velikovsky who postulated several theories that were plausible but counter to the popular ideas of the time. Velikovsky has not been proven right or wrong but then neither have the theories supported by Sagan. The fact is that the popular science crowd has stated things as fact when in reality much of what they have said is open to speculation or even downright wrong. The dinosaurs were killed off by a huge meteor that changed the Earths climate was something that Sagan stated as fact when it was a theory -- certainly a plausible theory but a theory nonetheless and not the fact as reported. There is growing evidence that the Earth has indeed been struck by massive meteors but the connection between that event and the disappearance of the dinosaurs is speculative and does not address the issue that every geological epoch has ended with catastrophic mountain building, including the Cretaceous, which spelled the end of the dinosaurs .

Then we have the debacle over DDT, which has been banned from production on the basis of a book written by Rachel Carson titled “Silent Spring”. The fact that Carson was dying of cancer and was personally convinced that pesticides were responsible was never questioned at the time. Instead the usual gaggle of environmentalists – acting on nothing but emotion – succeeded in having DDT banned worldwide. Since that time all of Carson’s assumptions have been disproven but the damage has been done, malaria has once again become the scourge of Africa. . No critical thinking was employed and certainly no empirical evidence was ever offered to support her claims. The reality is that NO ONE knows precisely what causes cancer, but we DO know what causes malaria, which is carried by mosquitoes that are very effectively killed by DDT. The thinking among the environmentalists seems to be that a bird is more precious than a human life. But no one seems willing to question this, which seems to be another illustration that critical thinking and rational thought is in retreat.

Of course the most outrageous position taken by the popular science crowd and academia in general is Evolution. Evolution is a THEORY and with the advance of paleontology, not a very sturdy one. None of the tests stated by Darwin as necessary for proof have been met and current paleontologists think they will never be met. The reality is that the very foundation for Evolution is crumbling and the evidence is piling up that it is probably partially wrong if not totally wrong. In fact Darwin’s book “The Origin of Species” is still taught without any critical examination even though ironically the book doesn’t describe or address the origin of species. No transitional life forms have ever been found and several eminent paleontologists (e.g. Stephen Gould) have stated that none will ever be found. Even the vaunted example of the Eohippus has turned out to be false and the fossil record incorrect. Nevertheless, many scientists, the media, and certainly academia continue to state Evolution as fact, not as a theory, and worse – these people won’t even consider any alternative – more evidence of the death of science and the decline of reason.

Recently the United States has undergone a virtual epidemic of Diabetes. The media and the medical community are all in a dither over this and the usual Nannies are calling for all sorts of government intervention or action to correct this “threat to public health”. The Pharmaceutical companies are cranking out pills by the zillion in order to meet this threat. The reality is that the National Institute of Health lowered the threshold for Diabetes from 200 to 100, which overnight plunged the country into this “health crisis”. Of course the drug companies are cleaning up and no one in the media or in the medical community seems concerned enough to criticize or even investigate the situation. Even if you don't think science and critical thinking are in retreat at the very least you must admit that dot connection is certainly in decline.

Of course this brings us to the issue of Cholesterol and heart disease. The average untreated cholesterol for white males has historically been between 220 and 240 and it continues at that level today. Gradually the National Institute of Health has lowered the bar – first to 180 and now to some where around 100. The only correlation between heart disease and cholesterol has been statistical and no empirical connection has been established. If anything the body may self-regulate cholesterol, but that isn’t the point. The point is that once again as the desired level of Cholesterol drops the number of people taking the cholesterol lowering drugs increases as does the profits of the drug companies. That statistical correlation seems to go unreported and critical thinking doesn’t seem to apply to these health issues. Of course the proponents of these drugs point out that the life span of the average American continues to grow. I suppose the ultimate goal is to prevent cancer and heart disease, the two leading causes of death. Once that is accomplished I guess we will all have to resort to suicide or simply euthanize the old.

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