Butt wiggling and the science of uncertainty.
Being a climate realist, I’m used to a certain underdog status. I’ve learnt that it’s our advantage. We don’t have many of those, so you learn to work them hard. While they yap a lot, we get told to shut up but we watch them carefully while they’re yapping. We don’t carry much in the way of baggage and we see things with a simple clarity. I sniff around the edges of the big green killing machine and it reeks of something. That something is corruption. Reek is probably too mild a word. Stench would probably be better.
I know that because I’ve worked in finance, and if you’ve done that for a few years, you know that where there’s big money, there’ll always be big thieves. Bees and honey, bears and woods, night follows day, simple as. They’re white-collar thieves but they’re still basically thieves and they’re stealing from us. When the world flings something like 89 billion dollars of research money at a problem, then believe me, the thieves are in the thick of it and salting away their own fair share of the booty. They’re carving out their steaks and living high off the hog. I look at group photos of them, and all I see is the happy smile of people thinking, I’m finally making some serious dough now.
Certainly, if I was designing a scam, the cover is perfect. They’re highly respected academics or beautiful people, just trying to save the planet from us lower types, but to my mind, they’re still just thieves. It made them invulnerable. It would be nearly immoral to accuse them of something as venial as theft. Even when you point out the obvious malfeasance, the authorities do nothing about it. The authorities report to the powers that be, who’ll never admit they were taken in by the thieves as well. Every well constructed confidence trick has that brilliant final phase. They call it the “blow off.” It makes sure nobody will ever come looking for you, not even the victim, never mind the bulls.
There is an essential dishonesty about the whole thing. It starts with the science but that’s impossible to communicate to the ordinary Joe or Jolene. As an aside, I love the culture collision inherent in that name Jolene and songwriters as talented as Miss Dolly, but that’s a topic for another day. I look at some of the papers and know whoever put their name to it, is a liar. Sure, they hide behind their idea of Heisenberg’s uncertainty and academically, they’re clean, but they’re just plain old liars. I know that and they know that too. On that one, I’m certain. They’re the whores of science and they know exactly how to sell themselves. Wiggle your butt in the right way and in the right direction, and they give you money. The harder you wiggle, the more lolly you get. The more lolly you get, the harder you wiggle. Wiggle it baby, wiggle that big fat ass. Show ‘em how it’s done. If you’ll excuse the pun, I suppose that’s the bottom line, scientists being reduced to nothing better than butt wigglers. It pays well but that’s what it actually amounts to.
It’s just a big money trough and everyone’s elbowing each other aside, to get their very own piece of it. Greed is always at the front and any sort of integrity is at the arse end, and it starves.
They play on uncertainty and they do it very well. It’s as if they’re saying science isn’t hard. It actually does have this soft side and I need your help with it. It’s squeezy and cuddly, fluffy and friendly, caring, a bit sexy but also a little bit ditzy, and all of it at the same time. It don’t have success and failure, man. Hey, don’t hog the roach, pass it. Nothing is certain and if you actually come to a definite conclusion, always attach a probability to it. Yeah man, that’s people’s science. Yeah. I’m not sure what the answer is, so let’s just take a vote on it. Consensus science is born.
Sorry, but that’s just bullshit. Nicely dressed up and everything, but it’s just your common or garden bullshit. It’s not even interesting bullshit. C’est merde ordinaire. I find it nearly un-fucking-believable that supposedly “scientific” people think science is about guessing at the amount of uncertainty. Newsflash, lads and lassies, science is all about banishing uncertainty, not enshrining it. It actually does come down to hard uncompromising things, like those squiggly things called equations and those boring old farts called the laws of nature. If you can’t hack that, then off you pop to the humanity faculties, where anything arguable goes. Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are in the humanities. Should one of my sprogs wish to marry one of them, I don’t think that’d be a problem. Sorta. Mebbe. Well, depends on the person …
Doing science well is hard. Unbelievably hard. When it comes to it, the old saying that it’s 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration is so true. It’s about believing there is an order in the universe. Somewhere, underneath whatever it is you’re looking at, there is an order. You believe that and that’s your bit of truth, which you know just isn’t good enough; you’ve got to find the proof. Wanting it to be true just doesn’t cut it, you’ve got to make the case. Connect up those simple dots; A equals B, B equals C, therefore A equals C. There is a structure, a causality and therefore a predictability about the thing. It just needs you to mine through the bedrock to find that bit of certainty and it’s always the worst, hardest and loneliest act of faith.
The compulsion is, you’ll prove that or crash and burn in the attempt. There is no middle ground. That’s why all the great original thinkers in science are veterans of several mental breakdowns. They simply go off-line for a while or it kills them. That’s just the way the thing works. Great science is cruel and it’ll break your heart in the end, because there’s always another problem to be cracked, and one day, somewhere down the road, there’ll be the biggie you’ll never crack.
I listen to so-called scientific types bleating about quantifying uncertainty, and I know I’m looking at mediocrity. They embrace each other and get published. They make a living. People think they’re very erudite but it’s just FUD, ye olde Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. They’re the play it safers of the world. They make sounds and noises. Marks on bits of paper. Lots of graphs and squiggles and the noise to signal ratio is off the scale. Big words abound and the acronyms take on a specious life of their own. Everyone is playing dice these days and magically, every roll is either snake eyes or boxcars. Seven has become the rare event.
That sort of science is an open wound that now has to be cauterised to save the whole body. We’re slapping hot iron. Don’t get in the way.
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