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Opening Arguments

Big noise

I think opinion polling has reached a level of absurdity close to self-parody:

WASHINGTON (AP) — While scientists believe the universe began with a Big Bang, most Americans put a big question mark on the concept, an Associated Press-GfK poll found.


Yet when it comes to smoking causing cancer or that a genetic code determines who we are, the doubts disappear.

When considering concepts scientists consider truths, Americans have more skepticism than confidence in those that are farther away from our bodies in scope and time: global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and especially the Big Bang from 13.8 billion years ago.

Rather than quizzing scientific knowledge, the survey asked people to rate their confidence in several statements about science and medicine.

On some, there's broad acceptance. Just 4 percent doubt that smoking causes cancer, 6 percent question whether mental illness is a medical condition that affects the brain and 8 percent are skeptical there's a genetic code inside our cells. More — 15 percent — have doubts about the safety and efficacy of childhood vaccines.

OMG, Aemricans aren't sure about the Bib Bang theory. Send in the Marines! Call up the United Nations thought police!

There are a couple of ways of looking at this, I suppose. One is that we are the ignoramuses our betters always said we were (especially Republicans. Get this:  ". . . with Democrats more apt than Republicans to express confidence in evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change.") But the other is that we're tired of scientists and politicians ganging up on us and telling us they know what's going to happen in the next 100 years and we'd better change our ways to avoid it. Just consider this remarkable sentence:

Those results depress and upset some of America's top scientists, including several Nobel Prize winners, who vouched for the science in the statements tested, calling them settled scientific facts.

Yeah. How do you get "settled facts" our of "theory"? What this means is that the American people are more skeptical than the supposed-to-be skeptical scientists, which depresses and upsets me.

What's absurd, though, is the the poll was even taken. Opinion polling is useful for maleable circumstances -- the point is to affect things based on the pulbic mood. What's the point of having a consensus opinion about the Big Bang theory? It's either right or it isn't and what we think about it doesn't make a damn bit of difference.

Posted in: Current events