Nov 30, 2009

Question Reality and the Authority That Creates It: Soft Science Will Enslave Us All

Hey, that loop-de-loop video is still awesome every time I see it. Hard science creates strong challengers. Space Shuttles. Mars Explorers. Nuclear reactors. Soft science, i.e., "research shows" creates money pits. "Research shows that. . ." is the scientific way to say "stick 'em up!" to the American taxpayer.

There's really no need to trot out all the underwritten sociological studies, anthropological investigations, sex surveys (as though teenagers answer them honestly), or even opinion polls. Soft science for soft heads and bleeding hearts. I heard yesterday that one in seven of YOUR neighbors is dealing with hunger! Scary statistic! Well, which is it? Are we hungry as a nation or are we severely obese? When was the last time, outside of those who choose the skeletal look as a fashion statement, you saw a hungry adult? I worked at a food bank in a poor county and maybe one in every 500 might have been a bit peckish, or needing some variety in their meth-starved systems. It wouldn't do to actually provide hard numbers to your average guilt-laden over-taxed and generous-hearted supporters. The soft numbers are for the press and the socialites and politicians.

Who is creating our soft-scientific reality? The writers of Twilight? Because in the descending grayness of a monochromatic Media that are trapped in their own half-tones of reproducing rumors instead of reporting news, it's pretty difficult to find the contrasts that define the hard edges of reality. Is that a polar bear starving on an ice floe or an obnoxious California seal lounging on the boat docks? Are we saving the snail-darters or criminalizing human existence? Statistics point toward. . . research indicates. . .polls say. . .

Statistics say. . . bullshit.

We're running out of oil but in no danger of creating almost free, clean, efficient nuclear energy that will suck power away from special-interest groups. We're cleaning our smokestacks but China is doubling down on its factory pollutants and smog output. Or is it the other way 'round? It's a gridlock of statisticians, the political alchemists of our time, who abet the chaos of information and blur reality into unknowable and therefore politically malleable imagery.

It's up to real numbers, hard data, to provide the hockey sticks of reality up to the side of the head.

Gold is having a "hockey stick" moment to rival the CRU's alarming work at East Anglia. And employment data is providing the obverse graph of hockey stick to the knees proportions. In these times, the reality that counts, as ever, is the one you're living, no matter what the numbers say.

Feh. Hockey sticks and graphs and statistics and numbers and blurry images of how things should work in a made-up world with no underpinnings or braces or footings in reality. Where do you start to brace yourself for balance? If you're feeling a bit dizzy from all the commotion, there's a reason for it: thin air.

Thin Air. As in, where most statistics come from: the space inbetween the ears of subsidized researchers. Alchemists turning lies into a fortune.


mushroom said...

I used to feed the statisticians of the pharmaceutical industry for a living. It's a lot like sausage-making. The statisticians creed: Seek ye not the truth; be satisfied with .05.

wv says, it's freying. That thing is just damn spooky sometimes.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Figures don't lie, but liars figure!

Always good to remember that "Statistics" are not the data that supports them.

A lot of airheads in the media still don't get it; that the loss of real data makes all statistics utterly false. They're still convinced that the government has the data. Somewhere. or something. And it somehow proves that they are right.

ZZMike said...

The nice thing about statistics is that you can prove just about anything with them. And only somebody who's lived and breathed them for a decade or so can tell if any particular set is right or wrong.

samaBlog said...

You work in a liquor store???!?

Good analogy to gold. They'll tell us that we need to upend the country to stop carbon, but there's nothing to worry about with respect to the dollar...

Joan of Argghh! said...

Worked. Past tense now. Had to give it up because it was physically brutal and I like my body parts enough to not abuse them so.