As some of you may be aware, during my more prolific days on the ‘Kog, I decried the decline in the quality of journalism, a trend which I directly attributed to the establishment of the 24-hour cable news stations. The need to fill airtime has superseded the need to inform, and has led, not to a better-informed viewership, but to an audience that lives on a steady diet of supposition, fluff masquerading as news, and political partisanship.
Now, the phenomenon has reached a low point that even I didn’t think possible. CNN, the Turner-owned Cable News Network, which at one time had at least a veneer of respectability by comparison to its laughable competition, has now embarked on a journey into the realm of fantasy.
I’m going to have to go with a ‘no’ on that.
CNN’s Headline News Channel has seen fit to inflict upon the public the idea that psychics could be enlisted to find the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which is at best disrespectful to the families of the victims and at worst an insult to the intelligence of everyone within a 5-mile radius. The interview contained the following immortal quote:
“Naturally, I don’t have hard, concrete evidence,” Lisa Williams confessed. “I think any psychic who has hard, concrete evidence can’t do their job correctly.”
That’s certainly the best description of how psychic abilities work that I’ve seen. Add to this indignity the theories that a black hole was responsible for the disappearance, as well as the all-time classic explanation: god did it. As The Daily Kos points out, “One of the problems with non-stop coverage of a particular event is that eventually… you run out of things to talk about.”
And that, my friends is the problem in a nutshell. The need to fill the endless hours have led to this type of idiocy, and the fact that the public feels better informed as a result is an indication of just how numbed our minds have become by the constant influx of background noise. This has led to the rise of ‘equal time’, which is in reality just filling time. Any scientific or authoritative claim that is made is supposedly in need of balance through the granting of airtime to representatives with an opposing view, no matter how ludicrous. This leads to the phenomenon of the ‘false equivalency’, a timeworn holdover from the proponents of postmodern thought that assert that all beliefs have validity, and we are evil white men to even question such things.
The difficulty I have with this should be obvious: while people are indeed created equal*, ideas are not. If an engineer says “Evidence says that we should shut down this nuclear reactor due to the risks involved”, that should without question be taken orders of magnitude more seriously than “God says we should keep it operating”. Unfortunately, the distinction is lost on many more people than I am comfortable admitting. Ideas are created by human beings – flawed, weak, venal, selfish, greedy, virtuous, and generous human beings. We are hardwired by evolution to seek out the best possible advantage for ourselves, and if creating an ideology that serves our interests is the way to do it, then it’s as good as done. People are flawed, therefore ideas alone are not proof of anything other than the depth of conviction of the believer.
Add systematic testing of ideas to the mix, however, and you are onto something – the realm of theory. Do tests that are reliable enough, consistently get results that are repeatable under a wide range of circumstances and settings, and the system of checks and balances on the discovery of information we call ‘science’ is doing its job. Do all this well enough and you can shift long-standing paradigms in some fields. These are ideas, but they are ideas that are independently verified by a systematic, objective method and by a community that practices that method. The opposite to this? Guesswork, sloppy attempts to imitate the scientific method to manipulate results and find exactly what you are seeking, ideology, and dogma. Not fact in any sense of the word. Is science perfect? Probably not – there are good and bad physicists, as is true of any social group; it’s nearness to perfection lies in the ability and the willingness to open up your data and your methods to scrutiny by others in your field. In time, it’s the weight of accumulated evidence either proves or disproves a theory, not popularity or volume.
Witness one of the best and most touching moments I’ve seen, wherein a scientist receives word that his life’s work in examining and trying to explain the origins of our universe in the Big Bang has been verified. He was right.
You, sir, get a cookie.
Nobody needs this ridiculous circus of misinformation thrown at them at all hours. We are less-informed rather than better-informed, and as a consequence our lives and our society are suffering. Being open-minded is a virtue, but keeping it so open that the wind whistles through on a blustery day is dangerous – and encouraging it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is irresponsible and criminal.
*No. People are not created. Relax.
As you all know, Pete Seeger died Monday night after giving us music for the past 70-odd years (he was 94). Last night CBC Radio’s Ideas with Paul Kennedy rebroadcasted a tribute to him that was originally produced a few years ago. It’s really worth a listen:
There’s a new Rob Ford video! The waiting is the hardest part.
photo credit to Johnny Ward of One Step Forward blog and yes, it was as cold there as it looks.
I love winter. I enjoy the cold and the wind. I love the watery quality to the light that you get here around 3:00pm on a sunny day and the silence of the forest around my cabin where the snow absorbs every sound. I even spent an hour or so today at Lawrencetown Beach watching the snow squalls roll in with the big combers, remembering when I used to sail for a living and how much I enjoyed steering a warship in that kind of weather.
Having said all of that, I recognize that my view on the season isn’t shared by all North Americans, particularly those who are experiencing the wonder and joy of the polar vortex and all that that entails. However, there’s good news! Rush Limbaugh, the worlds most little known meteorological genius and well known clear thinker has declared it all to be a hoax . He’s never heard of one. Apparently you haven’t either and so the Global Warming industrial complex, the one that Rush can prove controls the media, have invented it to push their own, probably socialist, purposes. Because if there’s anything Rush and his buddies are sure of it’s that things that they’ve never heard of before don’t exist. So take heart you poor freezing tea party supporters. Rush is ever ready to dig up a comforting truth for you. Climate change on a global scale isn’t happening or creating catastrophic, world-wide weather events and all is as it should be,always has been and always will. I do have one question though. Does Limbaugh really believe the stuff he dreams up or is he actually the world’s greatest performance artist with a really long term act?
Well, today was a shoveling day for this Haligonian. I chose to clear my own sidewalk, rather than allow the contractors working for the city to do it. These are the reasons:
1) Weather event one: A fairly minor freezing rain event which left a thin sheen of ice on every surface. Nothing like the latest ice storm that hit Ontario-East, but enough to make the sidewalks very slippery. No salt was deployed by these contractors. Anywhere. That was a fun walk to work.
2) Weather event two: A major snowfall (30ish cm) followed by a lot of rain, and then followed by a plunge in temperatures to the land of deep-freeze. The contractors working for the city actually got their equipment out for this one. They either didn’t have the right equipment, or didn’t know how to use it. The wet snow was not cleared to the base of the sidewalks, but was rather compacted down under the equipment, leaving a frozen mass about 2-3 cm thick on all of the sidewalks. This ice, which I referred to as the city-wide luge training facility, was not salted nor sanded, and persisted for about a week. That was a fun series of walks to the bus stop. Which is on a hill, at one of the steepest parts of the luge track. Did I mention no salt or sand was put down?
3) Weather event three: More of the same. This just added to the fun.
Which brings us to today, and weather even four. I cleared my own sidewalk today. Down to the concrete. The snow was easy to move…there was only about 10 cm of it, and it was just a little mushy on the bottom, which suited the plow-style shovel just fine. I was tempted to put a sign up in front of it for the contractors, saying “Don’t you dare! You’ll just ruin it!”, but I had to go to work. I’m glad I cleared my sidewalk, because the on the walk to work, I noticed that the contractors have once again left a 2-3 cm base of compacted wet snow and/or slush on the sidewalks they’ve gotten to, rather than clearing to the base of the sidewalk, as stipulated in their contract. If our temperatures were dipping into the deep freeze again, we would be enjoying the luge training facility for another week or more.
Somebody either fire these jokers or get them trained up on how to do the job correctly. I can’t imagine how much their incompetence is going to cost the city of Halifax, because if I injured myself on a salt- and sand-free luge track sidewalk 3 days after a weather event, I know I’d be looking for someone to sue.
Peter Van Loan worries about the effects of the so-called Reform Act:
Van Loan believes there are “real problems” with the Reform Act. He says the bill may be well-intentioned but it isn’t needed and doesn’t provide for sufficient vetting of potential candidates. Chong has suggested riding associations have the final say over selection of candidates, rather than a party leader.
“I don’t want to be on the same team as people who have been convicted of fraud, charged with influence peddling or are holocaust deniers,” Van Loan said.
All I have to say is that I’m a little surprised Mr. Van Loan holds the same low opinion of the Conservative Base as I do. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, though; this gang does engage in base-whispering on a regular basis. The Conservatives obviously are aware that most racists, fraudsters, and other unsavory types vote for their team.