...a blog by Richard Flowers

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Day 1944: Thought for the Day


On Sundays we do not have to listen to the TODAY programme's usual vacuous religious drivel charming spiritual whimsy "Thought for the Day"; but we DO get "A Point of View" which is usually by BRIAN WALDEN and he is at least RATIONAL, even if he's sometimes a bit pro-Labour.

However, this week we were lucky enough to wake up on Sunday morning to Lisa Jardine telling us DOUBT is GOOD! And very WONDERFUL it was too!

I am sure that when Lord Blairimort first became Prime Minister he wanted to improve education in three key areas: literacy, numeracy AND science.

This is a GOOD aspiration: to give young people the TOOLS that they need in order to communicate, describe and explore the EXCITING world around them. An INQUIRING scientific mind is of GREAT USE in lots of situations, not JUST when sticking litmus paper into test tubes!

An ENQUIRING mind is GOOD when thinking about POLITICS as well. You can do TESTS and COMPARE results: does BRAND X say one thing and do another, for example.

It seems very SAD therefore, that ENQUIRING does not appear to interest very many people any more. "Proper" journalism would be about MORE than just the latest CELEBRITY GOSSIP or HEALTH SCARE.

(Bird Flu is NOT a "science" story any more than Godzilla is a "science" story. It is a story with scientists IN IT. Which isn't REALLY the same.)

Hand in hand with this goes the rise in importance of "OPINION" over facts. This is how the creationist nutjobs get their foot in the door: they claim that they have one "opinion" and the scientist has another "opinion" and so they should get EQUAL AIRTIME.

Think about how this might work though: suppose the FLAT EARTH society decided to take it into their heads that THEY have an opinion and it is just as valid as the opinion that the Earth is [an oblate spheroid roughly 20,000 km in diameter] ROUND. That would be VERY SILLY INDEED. And quite time consuming every time the BBC news wanted to do their title sequence if they had to do it TWICE, once with a SPHERE and once with a flat DISC! With turtle*.

(*No, NOT four elephants! Ignore the MYTH: elephants would not be STUPID enough to have anything to do with this!)

Similarly, when they are discussing the church position on GAY PEOPLE, why is it OKAY to have one person who says "the Bible says we should love and accept each other" AND another who is getting the kindling ready and thumbing LEVITICUS? Would you have one AFRICAN BISHOP and one member of KU KLUX KLAN to decide whether slavery was OKAY? I rather HOPE NOT!

The MOST tragic example of how OPINION is out of control is that NOBODY believes in STATISTICS. One STORY about waiting NINE HOURS for the emergency dentist outweighs any evidence that the NHS is better that it used to be. One ANECDOTE about gun crime and a thousand people barricade themselves into their homes in TERROR.

(I have already said how this brand of CRAZY TALK is worse than added to by our current government in their desire to look TOUGH – incidentally, isn't a TOUGH an old fashioned name for a BULLY? Just checking!)

Daddy Richard had a HISTORY teacher (in the DARK AGES when he was at SCHOOL) who was called MR CROSS and HIS favourite quotation was from MR OLIVER CROMWELL and (sorry that it is a bit RUDE) it goes like this:

"I beseech thee in the BOWELS of CHRIST, consider the possibility that you might be WRONG!"

(And as he is supposed to have said this just before ANNIHILATING the King's army, it is possible that he MAY have had a point!)

Anyway, even if you are not facing ANNIHILATION by a bunch of militant roundhead Thought-for-the-Day listeners, it is GOOD ADVICE.

We need MORE scientists.

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