Expert Opinion

33 weeks ago the country voted, in an advisory capacity, to remove its cannula, jerk out its catheter and make a break out of the door marked “BREXIT”.

Almost 21 days have passed since the nation decided to jump of the EU bandwagon and reach away from the stars (of the European Union) and I feel no better about the decision.

As I’ve written before, I voted to remain in Europe.

Because of that I have been accused of so much rampant Liberalism that I have:

  • Rejoined the Liberal Democrats – may as well be hung as a Lion.
  • Signed numerous knee-jerk petitions.
  • Discussed valid “Leave” & “Remain” arguments post-Brexit.
  • Been accused of “Ageism”, “Socialism”, and of being too sensitive.
  • Been told to person-of-non-specific-gender-the-fuck-up and pull together to help the nation castrate itself.
  • Seen friends and families tear themselves apart over something that none of us have any control over.

I am still angry.

I am still disappointed/disenchanted.

I am still here & just as powerless as I was pre-referendum.

The nation of my birth is still in Europe and the people who campaigned for us to leave have still got no clue as to how we will survive post-Europe.

And so, as much as it makes no difference to the political process that was set in place months ago, we carry on and the people who, like me still give a fuck, scrutinise the arguments, write to our MPs and generally try to voice our “reason” to the world.

Which brings me to the point of this article… I’m no political pundit.

I’m no expert, I’m just a guy who’s spent 4 decades living in the foothills of the Pennines trying to defend himself against a thuggish world that don’t “get” people who actually understand “why” we rub the rocks together – as opposed to just rubbing the rocks together because “Durr! That’s what we do Doofus”.

So I suppose I am an expert.  Just not a political expert… anyway… SQL Server, business analysis, the works of Brian Lumley, the impact of British post-punk musicians on popular music and contemporary occult philosophy – I’m your guy.  The potential effects of British public opinion on the world’s economy – less so.

Which is just as well.

We are now balls-deep into the “Post Fact” age.

We’ve seen the two major political parties in the United Kingdom hosting leadership campaigns built on the back of popularity and gender, as opposed to actual policies.

The United States presidential election has been conducted no better and the aforementioned referendum actively discouraged the public from listening to the reasoned voices of experts.

pobgoveAt the beginning of June, almost a month before the nation went to the polls and decided to remove it’s nose, the former secretary of state of education – Pob Michael Gove stated that the British public had:

had enough of experts

Interestingly enough, he also stated that we should “count him out” of future leadership elections.  Like the other politicians involved in the Leave campaign, he backtracked on that pretty quickly once one the referendum was over.

Pushing the duplicity of politicians to one side, the thing that excites me now – and I mean genuinely piques my interest is that the world has changed… not just on a socio-political level… not just economically but inside.

It’s like the world is The Doctor and all of a sudden we’ve tuned in and The Doctor isn’t a crazy, bescalved, curly haired, grinning jelly baby freak… no the world is now some kind of sleek Cricketer with a hot American wife and a penchant for wooden spoons (and soup dragons).

A friend of mine recently said:

I think we have entered into a world of post fact politics. It is like people live in a world of magical reality.

And I think he’s really hit the Mankey on the nose with that statement.

The general public are now not only encouraged to ignore but are actively ignoring “expert” opinion… even I nearly wrote “so-called ‘expert’ opinion” just then.

Heck, I’ve even railed against experts in my “Church of Pfizer” posts.

“But why is this exciting Armaitus? The country of your birth is in turmoil, the economy is in ruins and the Sith elite have just taken power whilst the Jedi council devours itself from within.”, I hear you cry.

Well that’s an interesting question 700-plus-per-month-average-readership-people and one that I’m super happy to answer…

torqwoomada

I Torq-woo-mada

My friend is absolutely correct, we’re entering a world that – albeit unwittingly – accepts a magical reality.

The western world’s – or at least United Kingdom’s and United States’ – paradigm has shifted from a pro-science, pro-expert factual basis to one that I am led to believe is referred to, by the rest of the world, as “WOO“.

When writing about the Church of Pfizer, I was attempting to put forward the proposition that Science was treated by the general public as a Religion.

The majority of the IFLS crowd wouldn’t know Science from Scientology; sheesh, wrap a fictional-factoid up in a handsome enough meme and your median common denominator would lap it up as Science regardless of whether it had an empirical evidential basis or not.

For the latter part of the 20th century and into the early cyberpunk years of the 21st, we’ve been living a transition from a scientific paradigm into something new – an Idiocracy of sorts.

There’s not much of a leap from the I-Fucking-Love-Scientific thinking of the Church of Pfizer to the pseudo-scientific thinking of those of us who choose to live in a magical reality.

To best explain this I can think of no better piece of work than Ramsey DukesS.S.O.T.B.M.E – An essay on magic.

You can see the author talk about the relevant elements of this piece of work here:

The basic principle that the pseudonymous Mr. Dukes puts to us is that you can perceive the general direction that Culture is taking along one of 4 paths.  He goes on to depict this using the following cultural compass:

dukescompass

He goes on to explain:

Thought is compounded of four elements which I call intuition, observation, logic and feeling.

Any practical method of thinking demands at least two of these four elements, one to serve as an input of impressions and the other to process them.

Artistic thought uses feeling and intuition, Religious thought uses intuition and logic, Scientific thought uses logic and observation, and Magical thought uses observation and feeling.

It really is worth (in my opinion) seeking out the works of Ramsey Dukes , he explains magical thinking in terms that are easily understood, without getting bogged down in any particular dogma.

In the context of what is happening in the world today, we appear to be moving from a Science/Religious direction towards a Science/Magic direction.

If you go back as far as the industrial revolution, you could choose to see the world shifting from an Art/Religion direction towards a Religion/Science world view.

Rather than thriving on the blind dogma of the Church of Pfizer, we are now being encouraged to cast out the words of Experts and go with “gut-feeling” and “why-the-hell-not”.  We are encouraged to make emotional decisions rather than decisions based on so-called facts.

None of this stops the truly Scientific world from turning.  Sure it may well influence the scientists that turn the Scientific world but no more so than, say Newton, was influenced by his ardent belief that Christ died for our sins – or Omar Khayyám‘s scientific advancements were influenced by the Koran.

Ramsey goes on to explain why he feels that magical thinking is a likely follow on to the scientific dogma that has been prevalent through my lifetime in the video below:

But why do I find this exciting?

Simple.  We’re living the change.  A genuine paradigm shift is happening, right now!

I know we’ve been told to stop them doing it but they are, they may well be doing it right now… This could be the year that they immanentize the eschaton!

Church of Pfizer – Science as the New Priesthood

As discussed earlier, the original discussion that led to the naming of “The Church of Pfizer” was one on that started with my perceived similarities between Science and Religion in the late 20th/early 21st century. The discussion was held in the summer of 2007 and so maybe a little outdated with regards my writing style.

The overall discussion burst, alien style, out of the chest of a discussion on the supernatural and people’s beliefs in the paranormal. The latter subject being one that I was loathe to comment on at the time; discussions on paranormal topics often start out friendly enough but usually devolve into either side shouting “Prove It”, “Don’t want to prove it” at each other whilst throwing rocks around and grunting.

I inadvertently began the flame war I was hoping to avoid by responding to a poster’s tongue-in-cheek comment on religion and backing up a comment someone else had already proposed:

‘Science’ is the new church and even less open or accountable than the old one. Scientists are the new priesthood. Neither should be accorded implicit respect or faith.

My repsonse:

I see little difference between religion and the basic understanding of paranormal lore – however I do ascribe to the propositions put forward by former Eton math tutor (by nom de plume) Ramsey Dukes, that society’s guiding forces can be divided into four cyclical aspects – Science, Religion, Art and Magic(k).

I also genuinely believe that we are moving out of a Religious/Science paradigm (Therefore scientists WERE the new priesthood – look at the way the New Inquisition (American Medical Association) disposed of Wilhelm Reich and his Orgone projects) into a Science/Magickal paradigm. (Some would argue thate we are moving out of an Art/Acience paradigm, I’d disagree) – viva Generation Hex!

Looking back, I cringe at my fanboy references to Uncle Ramsey and Saint Bob, like I can’t think for myself without falling back on the works of published authors.

Following this, a fellow poster responded on the side of the rational minded scientist:

Calling scientists “the new priesthood” is nonsense. Science actively pursues knowledge of reality and when new theories or facts emerge, the old theories are dropped or modified. In religion and superstition the seeking out of facts is actively discouraged. You are supposed to have faith i.e. you are to believe things whether there is proof of them or not and indeed even if there is a mountain of evidence against them.

Unlike the priesthood, scientists aren’t handed money by the public nor would people accept scientists dictating how they should behave in their private lives e.g. whether they should use contraception. The great majority of people disregard science and understand nothing about major issues like evolution, quantum theory and relativity, even though they are happy to enjoy the fruits of science. Most scientists are not well paid.

When a scientist makes a statement about some topic, if you disagree then you are perfectly at liberty to check his research or undertake your own and prove them wrong. In religion, if you do this you are a heretic or blasphemer. If society would allow them to do it I have no doubt that the religious establishment would love to persecute anyone who disagrees with them as they do still in many Muslim nations.

My response to this is both lengthy and studded with my feeble attempts to avoid slipping into a fundamentalism of my own; whilst other responses were shorter:

No but they do a very good job at been “holier then thou”.

Also the subject of funding and money. Most scientists will tend to come to the conclusions that match the views of their pay masters.

My own response follows, edited to remove names and to better fit into a wordpress format. I’ve tried to keep editing to a minimum, to keep the feel of the original rant.
Click here to see the whole thing

Church of Pfizer – Origins

I heard a radio advert for yet another “Stop Smoking or the Bunny Gets It!” advert this morning; like most adverts it finished with some hastily-spoken-at-low-volume audio fine print:

Brought to you by Pfizer

Well that’s what it sounded like anyway, it could have been anything considering the speed of the sound-byte. Either way it reminded me of a flame war conversation that was held on the British Horror Film Forum a couple of years back, during which I coined the term “the Church of Pfizer” as a catch all way of referring to the New Inquisition – or more clearly stated, the dogma and beliefs of devout followers of Science (with a capital S).

The term appeared in reference to the medication I take on a daily basis to manage my Diabetes and associated complications;

I am a type 1 diabetic. I self-administer 2 subcutaneous injections of a mixed human analog insulin a day to “live”. I lived for years beforehand without my twice daily prayer rituals to the Church of Pfizer and have only the word of a venerable “specialist” to state that I need it.

I appreciate that out of the context of the original discussion, this sounds a little facetious. The original discussion had started when I supposed that the 20th century could be seen to have evolved into a Science/Religion paradigm and that Scientists were the new priesthood (an idea put forward far more eloquently by the dearly missed St. Bob).

The point really comes from a discussion that I had with my GP shortly after being diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic. To keep my cholesterol levels down, I am prescribed 10mg of Atorvastatin (Pfizer) to be taken orally every night. When my GP saw that I had been prescribed that particular “brand” of statin he exclaimed surprise. I probably shouldn’t have picked up on it but I did. Asking for an explanation, my GP kindly offered me one.

He explained that he would have prescribed an alternate statin; when asked why, he explained that his favoured brand had been tested on a demographic of around 10,000 men of all ages in the North of England from the 1960’s onward and that the results showed that the statin had a positive preventative effect on the complications of high cholesterol (such as Heart Disease).

My GP went on to explain that the statin I had been prescribed had been tested for a short period in the 1990’s, on a demographic of around 1,000 middle aged men and women on an island in the Mediterranean. The studies showed that the statin was highly effective at rapidly reducing blood cholesterol counts but there was not yet any evidence as to whether it was as efficacious as other statins with regards long term complications.

(I should add the caveat that the exact details of the conversation are lost to the mists of time, this is just the crux – facts and figures may be out but the point is the proportional difference between studies)

We discussed this at length and both agreed to keep the prescription as was, the Hospital presumably having its own reasons for the prescription.

I’m a scientist at heart, I studied Molecular Biology at University and work in computing (which, granted, can have its arcane moments); I also maintain an open mind to new ideas and have recently found myself sympathetic to zeteticism. That being said, the rising fundamentalism within the Church of Pfizer does worry me. We the public take everything for granted; in my case I assume that my doctors are right and the pills and needles are essential to a healthy life (despite the fact that they can no longer agree on a correct diagnosis of my condition). There are other concerns, that should become apparent when I resurrect the discussion from the BHF. I may actually edit it (to protect the innocent) and post it here for posterity.

The Flat Earth Society

I spotted this news article today, it was on Twitter – either Derren Brown‘s or Richard Wiseman‘s. (I think the former). I follow them both for very different reasons: Derren because I respect and appreciate his use of NLP etc. to produce seemingly magickal acts and Wiseman because I am torn between respecting his work on Luck and Happiness, and my lack of respect for his paranormal research.

Whilst initially lol-worthy – the idea that there are still people who honest-to-goodness believe that the Earth is not an ovoid chunk of ruck spinning in orbit around a big ball of burning gas – it did make me stop and think.

Forgetting, for the moment, the venom that people like Daniel Shenton get thrown at them, what really struck me was the way that Daniel was expected to share every other odd-ball belief out there. From the expectation that he was a nutjob anti darwinist creationist to surprise at his not being into 9/11 conspiracies, the article’s author seems to believe that if someone believes in one whacky idea then they should really believe them all. Which is probably me being a tad unfair to the author, I have no idea what his beliefs are.

Reading the article fully I was interested to see that the foundation of the Flat Earth Society was one of trusting ‘experience and reason over the “trusting acceptance of dogma”‘. This is one belief I do share with the Flat Earth Society. I’ve argued many a time that Science can be just as dogmatic as Religion – just look at the kind of rabid responses that supporters of homeopathy have had over the last week or so… compare them to the responses that creationists give to my fellow Darwinists. If you forget what these people are arguing about and compare the language and venom you might see, as I do, signs of fundamentalism.

Maybe I’m a zetetic of sorts, although I’ve always considered myself more of a gnostic. I believe there are still many things out there that Science haven’t yet adequately explained and whilst I don’t believe the earth is flat I will happily stand in support of anyone willing to stand up and question dogma.