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Home | 2016

The zombie staggers on

Posted by Richard on UTC 2016-10-10 09:37.

Professor Brian Cox (OBE, FRS, him off the telly) and someone called Forshaw have put forward the thesis in their book Universal: A Guide to the Cosmos that we shall never find any other life in the galaxy because the advance of technology in civilisations – 'greenhouse gases, or nuclear weapons' – inescapably leads to the destruction of civilisations, because 'science and engineering inevitably outstrips the development of political expertise'.

There is a lot of 'may be', 'could' and 'might' on the way to their conclusion that 'it is not possible to run a world that has the power to destroy itself and that needs global collaborative solutions to prevent that.' Well, if it's not possible, why bother? Fortunately, poodle Forshaw is on hand to firm things up a bit:

These seem outlandish ideas but they are based on solid evidence and reasoning. The point of the book is to show how you can use simple but strong evidence and ideas to reach very powerful conclusions.

Their solution to impending destruction?

Politicians should start thinking more like scientists and base their views on evidence and ideology instead of trying to always offer the public certainty.

Let's ignore the split infinitive and get to their conclusion:

Professor Cox said: 'What does a scientist want to be? Do we want to be right? Or do we care about understanding nature? If it is the latter, we should be delighted to be proven wrong.'

Best not even try making sense of that muddle. Poodle Forshaw to the rescue again:

Professor Forshaw added: 'In the same way, politicians should be delighted if their policies work, but just as delighted if someone comes up with something better.'

Calling this green daydreaming 'solid evidence and reasoning' and 'strong evidence and ideas' is absurd. We'll leave it to the reader to sort out the jumble of 'evidence' and 'ideas' that are 'solid' and at the same time 'strong' – perhaps such a jumble is just more of that inexplicable, post-logic mood-music of which we hear so much nowadays. Really, really scientific stuff.

The mental incapacity of these two famous professors is amusing. Chilling, however, is their infantile understanding of politics and society.

They clearly have a view of politicians as people who just 'do stuff' in accordance with policies they have dreamed up. Politicians should be just technocrats, project functionaries, managers, people with clipboards and coloured ballpoints in the top pockets of their labcoats. They should be scientists, who implement policies that they are convinced are right and then, when it turns out they are not right, dump them and implement something else. You mean, like Stalin did when he 'rationalised' agriculture in the Soviet Union, starving many millions to death? Oops, sorry about that – we have just thought of a better policy. Or every mercantilist, totalitarian, authoritarian regime before or since?

In any case, 'global collaborative solutions' are required, which implies that the 'mistake' would not just kill millions in the Soviet Union but even more millions around the globe.

Perhaps the real problem for advancing civilisations throughout the cosmos is that language and its use progressively decays and people like Cox and Forshaw emerge to finish off what little is left of the addled brains of any particular civilisation.