Monday, August 03, 2015

Financial Sarcasm Roundup for 08/03/15: Special Scientific Edition

I attended an excellent lecture tonight at the Commonwealth Club by Dr. Eugenie Scott, the former Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education.  The room was packed and I was lucky to get a seat way in the back.  There is no way I can be sarcastic about a distinguished senior scientist outlining a method for improving Americans' scientific understanding.  Her logic was impeccable, and her credentials for reaching out to unscientific Americans are unimpeachable.  My only challenge tonight is to get Americans to listen to her.  My fellow citizens shall thus be the object of my sarcasm.

Dr. Scott mentioned that the National Science Board's Science and Engineering Indicators track several aspects of scientific development in the United States.  Readers should note that this resource does not track creationism, intelligent design, Biblical mentions of dinosaurs, or other things that Americans may believe if they are not exposed to science.  She cited evidence that facts alone are insufficient to convert science-averse people; some emotional trigger must often be present.  I guess it works like Paul the Apostle's conversion on the road to Damascus, but in reverse . . . you know, like, away from a non-rational belief towards a belief supported by evidence.

If the main engine for climate change denial is political conservatism, and the main objectors to evolution are religious conservatives, then conservatives have a lot of work to do.  I should fault the conservative business elites (many of whom are closet agnostics) for cynically funding troglodyte local and state politicians.  Pandering to low-information voters has a cost.  Come on, conservatives, you don't need the tax breaks and zoning favors so badly that we have to hamstring the nation's scientific education as an unintended consequence.  Liberal politicians will legislate the same breaks if business elites can stomach their rhetoric.

The preferred communication method for Dr. Scott and her allies when engaging unscientific American leaders is the presentation of a messenger the denier audience finds trustworthy.  Dr. Scott wants us to find thought leaders from the same tribes as the deniers who will assuage their concerns about bad consequences.  Maybe I should offer myself as an ambassador of reason.  After all, I have a Notre Dame degree I've never used and I've met plenty of people from that school who fit the denier pattern.  I was slightly sympathetic to climate change skepticism myself until I actually read more science and less denier propaganda.  The Commonwealth Club's Climate One program really helped, although some of their experts really need to polish their arguments.  I did not need any emotional argument to move my opinions; I simply compared the two sides of the argument on their evidence and found the skeptics to be deficient.  My dual backgrounds in finance and military intelligence make that behavior a force of habit.  I never needed any convincing that evolution works as advertised, because I've met many fellow "humans" whose behavior qualifies them for the chimpanzee cage at a zoo.

Americans have rested on their scientific laurels for long enough.  The amazing output of our government and university labs leaves most Americans in the dark.  People don't grok the connection between rising living standards and commercialized research.  It's time to present American science deniers with emotional arguments that hit them in the pocketbook.  Show people how much poorer and sadder they'll be without STEM-educated experts inventing gadgets and materials they use daily.  The American way of life is not negotiable, as former President George H.W. Bush said prior to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.  That sounds like a very conservative rationale for supporting the STEM education and pro-science public dialogues that will enhance our way of life.