Friday, December 18, 2009

Scepticism is the enemy of science

Or so we are told by AP writers who have become the enemy of real journalism (in so far as there is such a thing).

James Taranto links to a couple of AP dispatches, one of which explains that we ought to return to the time when the "experts" were believed by all and there was no cacophony of criticism. There are one or two problems with that view.

The time when there are no sceptics and no critics is usually known as the Dark Ages in Europe. Not a period any of us want to go back to.

Secondly, to cite as evidence for that golden time TV dramas strikes me (though Mr Taranto does not refer to that) as being incredibly silly. So what if scientists always won in those dramas? I spent my childhood watching films and TV dramas in which the Communists always won. What does that prove?

Thirdly, the AP journalist needs a lesson in history. Galileo was not a representative of "expert" opinion, dogged by critics and sceptics. He was one of the critics and sceptics. As were others: Louis Pasteur, Joseph Lister, Ignaz Semmelweis are three that occur to me immediately.

The second AP piece Mr Taranto cites tells us that everybody, every single person at the Bali Conference (a much more pleasant place climatically speaking than Copenhagen in the winter) was furious with the Americans and President Bush for holding up that agreement. So, were they all experts or does democracy work in that case?

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