There is a war on and it is against science. And it is hurting us all. Don’t believe me? You don’t have to look far to see it. For instance, take a walk down any drugstore aisle in the Maritimes, or Canada for that matter, and you will see overwhelming evidence of the continued assault against science. Homeopathic remedies masquerading as medicine, anti-aging creams, detox regimes, magnetic cures, chiropractic remedies and more, promising health, vitality and better life. Really? Look closely and you discover none are true or based in real science at all. They are just sales pitches designed to confuse and fool, to obfuscate, a populace unable to differentiate between real medical science and pseudo science. Even big Pharma gets in on it with their own brands of pseudo cures, all designed to increase sales and market to an increasingly science-illiterate consumer.
And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Anti-science is no accidental offshoot of society struggling to cope with the vicissitudes of life. The war against science is all about money and power, the result of an extremely well organized and determined effort to create a pseudo-science counter stream to undermine real science, and grab a share of the extremely lucrative market. And what makes this possible, what facilitates this, is the vulnerability that we all share to PR. We are social beings, a social society and we are defined but our ability to communicate. To quote Marshall McLuhan, the "Medium is the Message" and the message is money. Money is the Lord that rules us.
We live in the most media consolidated Western country in the world. And it is the worst in our neck of the woods, in the Maritimes. Long gone are the independent and small journalistic voices, all gobbled up and squeezed into irrelevancy and the extinction, in the name of shareholder profit. With consolidation comes the so-called scale of efficiencies and increased profits. Whether it is radio, newspaper, TV or social media, we are awash with the watered-down message of a vertically integrated, consolidated media, whose propaganda is highly effective. And we are so vulnerable to propaganda The adage is that "if it appears in the media it must have some truth". Even the venerable mother corp, the CBC falls into the money trap and toes the anti-science line. Halifax “meteorologist” (not really) Peter Coade, Rex Murphy and others continuously sow the seeds of human-induced climate change, anti-science doubt from their pulpits. Why? Ratings, controversy and spectacle. Where are the science journalists, the specialists who understand the sciences and report to the public? Shouldn’t they be front and centre? They are aligned with a chorus of many other anti-science voices; Terrance Corcoran (Nat Post), Margaret Wente (Globe and Mail) are vociferous and voluminous in their climate and science denial. Even the Halifax Chronicle Herald trumpets anti-science, anti-global warming diatribes (Paul Schneidereit). We are awash in anti-science and doubt in the scientific processes.
In this light, it should come as no surprise to anyone, that the current climate of public anti-science fills me with trepidation and confusion. I have thought long and hard about the underlying factors that have given rise to the powerful anti-science lobbies that seem to spring up almost daily. It is my contention that one of the most powerful forces in humanity is its need to socialize, communicate. We have a natural proclivity to socialize and to communicate. It is perhaps our greatest attribute. And it is through socialization and communication that we as individuals and the society we live in are healthiest and most vital. The tragedy of it all is that when this socialization goes wrong, it goes very wrong.
If we shut down science dialogue, and we have, very effectively through the massive, consolidated propaganda stream that is very, very effective, then science thinking soon disappears and into the breach steps pseudo-science, opinion and quackery. We need our governments to end the anti-science discord, send a profound message to our society that science is back. In the next decade we need and must find solutions to some incredibly daunting problems, problems that only science can mitigate. We need science advisors at all levels of government. Science advisors on a provincial level and a municipal level for instance, would be a very good start. We have amazing universities in Nova Scotia, five alone in Halifax, yet they are continually shut out of the decision making processes on both the provincial and municipal matters. Imagine a city or town or even a province that that planned according to the best scientific advice out there, instead of using the rubric of patronage and vested interests and especially big money.