An Uncomfortable Truth – Can We Believe The Reality We Are Presented? #28 #cong23 #reality
Science is the search for truth and knowledge; it seeks to understand reality. Science is at risk of being undermined on many fronts, leaving us struggling to trust the reality we are presented with. There are the laws of Physics; everything beyond those can and should be questioned.
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- Science is the search for truth and knowledge, but science can become politicised.
- We can be given the impression of scientific consensus where none exists.
- The internet has gatekeepers who promote and suppress information to suit certain narratives.
- There are the laws of Physics; everything beyond those can and should be questioned.
About Cronan McNamara:
Cronan McNamara is the founder and CEO of Creme Global, a science and computing company formed from research at Trinity College Dublin. He is a Physics, Mathematics and Computing graduate with over 25 years of experience in health and risk science, working with leading scientists in the food, chemical and agricultural sectors (industry and government). His team in Creme Global has published over 70 peer-reviewed scientific papers in international journals.
Contacting Cronan McNamara:
By Cronan McNamara
Science is the search for truth and knowledge; it seeks to understand reality. It does this through a systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation, experimentation, and testing theories against evidence.
Science is at risk of being undermined, leaving us struggling to trust the reality we are presented with.
A new development is the emergence of a post-modern culture in which some perceive a person’s relative or subjective view to be of equal value to scientific reality and objective evidence.
In our modern culture, many people find it more important to be considered virtuous and part of a tribe rather than to think independently and critically. Politicians and organisations can suffer from this, as can individuals (or, more precisely, groups of individuals!).
Cancel culture has become prominent in recent years. People are cancelled for stating unpopular valid opinions – and even plain facts. This chilling effect on speech and debate has left people unwilling to engage, leading to a lack of rigour and balance on many topics.
Governments and organisations have learned how to use psychology to nudge us. They can use spin, fear and guilt to persuade people to take action, pushing ideas that may not have been commonly held or believed.
Media organisations, often dependent on government funding or advertising, are reluctant to bite the hand that feeds them. They can act as government cheerleaders rather than critical evaluators. Media participants are also fearful of being cancelled. This can provide cover for the activists and can lead to their narrative becoming policy without proper debate.
The emergence of fact-checkers with dubious qualifications who fact-check and de-platform reputable scientists that hold the ‘wrong’ data and views (according to who?) can give the impression that there is a scientific consensus where none exists. Dissenting voices can be positioned as “fringe” scientists or crackpots.
The internet – the great democratiser of information sharing – should have been a panacea to this, but unfortunately, it isn’t. Big tech has become a gatekeeper to the internet and information flow. It has been accused of conspiring with governments to promote various narratives and suppress others.
In war, truth is the first casualty. We seem to be in an information war almost all the time now – with polarised factions quickly forming on every topic and little mature debate or reflection taking place.
Language is weaponised as organisations double down on propaganda and spin to support their preferred narrative or protect their backs. In recent years, we have learned the meaning of the term ‘gaslighting’ as previously reputable institutions have burned their credibility by promoting falsifiable information. This leaves us in a challenging place of who and what reality we can believe.
We haven’t even talked about AI yet. Being gaslit by human technocrats is one thing; imagine when AGI (artificial general intelligence) systems that outstrip human intelligence start to gaslight us! Consider the small but non-zero probability that we already live in an advanced AGI simulation.
There is no such thing as ‘The Science’, a phrase that emerged during the Covid pandemic to try to stifle debate. There can be scientific consensus, and it can be wrong. This is how scientific discovery works. For me, there are the laws of Physics. Everything beyond those can and should be questioned. Scientists, journalists and citizens must do so so that we can distinguish reality from nonsense.