Friday, 5 April 2013

Science - Amazing!

I lost count of the number of times the word 'amazing' was used in reporting this story on the radio news this morning. Amazing? Really? As far as I can make out, these scientists - after much toiling over a hot MRI scanner and much stoicism on the part of their three volunteers (have you tried sleeping in a scanner?) - claim they can correlate particular patterns of brain activity with particular broad groups of images visualised in dreams, with (ahem) 60 per cent accuracy.
It seems to me this tells us less about dreams than about the hyperexcitable state of the BBC (and it is not alone) when reporting science stories. It's the 'Wow, amazing!' mode pioneered - indeed embodied - by the ever-amazed Professor Brian Cox, notably in his Wonders of Life. (Life is indeed amazing - but not, I would suggest, because it demonstrates the working-out of the 'laws' of physics.)
Scientism - the prevailing pseudo-religion of our time - is no longer content with just 'explaining' everything, it is now on a mission to make us feel good about it all, to provide spurious uplift. So the BBC's reporters, who most of the time take a pretty hard-headed (if irredeemably leftist) view of things, respond to the latest 'scientific breakthrough' with all the critical acumen of a bunch of stoned hippies, sitting around saying 'Wow, man - that's amazing!'
There was another fine example of BBC science reporting on the World Service the other day, when a report on the latest refurb of the Large Hadron Collider was summarised, in awe-struck tones, as 'incredibly complicated stuff that's going on'. Yes indeed. The same programme had also uncritically reported Obama's splashing of another  $100 million of taxpayers' money on brain research, with the usual promises about cures for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, whatever. Remember how Clinton greeted the publication of the first draft of the human genome, 13 years ago? 'Without a doubt,' he proclaimed, while an admiring Tony Blair looked on, 'this is the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by mankind. It will revolutionise the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of most, if not all, human diseases... Human kind is on the verge of gaining immense, new power to heal.' Since when there has come a dawning recognition that the mapping of the genome seems to have told us remarkably little, except that, genetically, we're a lot less complicated than a rice plant. Amazing.


  1. By chance this weekend I find myself in the midst of another endless blog debate on whether Darwinist reductionist materialism can account for human consciousness. Of course I am being swarmed by bright "scienticists" (what is the word?) patting me on the head condescendingly for daring to suggest it can't. When will I ever learn? Anyway, one professes to be "amazed" I can't see his dreary truth and my response was that, given that I am equally amazed he believes he can, and also that many more people are amazed at neither of us, does he believe reductionist materialism can or someday will account for these inconsistent and conflicitng senses of amazement. No doubt he will be back to try and deflect me with some irrelevant digression into firing synapses or whatever, but I do wonder, Nige, do you think this wave of wonder and amazement sweeping the scientific world is evidence of the vacuity of scientism?

  2. I second everything you say Nige.

    The Man with the World's Most Punchable Face(TM) aka. Prof. Brian 'Babyface' Cox, has a whole page of semi-hagiography in today's Sunday Times.

    Peter, where are you doing your blogging? I'll pop along if you want a wingman; or just someone to distract the Scientismites.

  3. The only thing that marks us out from the rest of the known species is opposable thumbs! So much for science!
    As for the Hadron collider, they found that the electrical junction between each section of track was not strong enough, so they are screwing 10,000 copper plates across said junctions.... Let's face it, it's not rocket science. They're just incompetent.

  4. Gentlemen of the jury, i thought this matter settled. Evolution is not a theory, it's jus' a fac', readily explains our brains, our various faiths, our love of beauty, prof. Brian Cox's mouth (which is Amazing!), and the giant squid, which is basically one huge synapse, and can take down a ship...i rest my case...

  5. A truth well put, anon! But let's not be unkind about prof. brian cox's face, he was, after all, born like's his poor mother i pity, whar must she have thought?