Friday, 28 January 2011

Information: who do we trust to provide it?

Our world is full of vitally important issues that are beyond our personal experience and expertise. For example: Is global-warming man-made? Is cannabis a poison or a medicine? Will GM food harm us or will it help us to 'feed the world'? These are important questions for all of us and our descendants. Some such questions may affect whether or not we even have descendants. So who can you turn to for reasoned, objective guidance on such issues?

Where do most of us get such information now? The newspapers? TV programmes? The Internet? Politicians? The pub? We all know that the media and politicians are primarily interested in selling papers, raking in advertising revenue and getting elected. Everyone seems to have an angle. So: where to turn?

Firstly, you've got to accept that there is no such thing as a 100% objective opinion. Opinions come from human-beings and, even when we aren't motivated by greed and status, all of us want to be considered clever, wise, fair, correct, tough or some combination of these epithets. Some distortion is inevitable and, in the final analysis, there will always be a need for personal evaluation. However, all things considered, I suggest that we look to science and scientists for guidance. Why? Because, to date, science has been the most successful and reliable discipline in explaining the universe and our place in it. Because scientists leave no stone unturned in testing the theories of their peers. And because most academic scientists are motivated mainly by a desire to establish truths.

So what do the majority of scientists say about the issues I have raised above? Easily stated. Global warming is happening and we are making a significant contribution ourselves. Cannabis is a very useful medicine but can be harmful if used to excess. There is nothing to fear from GM food and, once it is accepted, it will indeed help us to feed the world.

Stop believing the sensational scare stories pedalled by the mass media and the self-serving opinions of the politicians. Look to the evidence and the scientists and, always, finkabowdit!

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