The thoughts that were thunk and the goings on of my life.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

State of Fear

Recently I read a book that produced a rather significant impact upon the way I think and upon the way that I accept what is handed to me and declared as truth. If you haven't read the book, then I suggest you start with this lecture by Michael Crichton to get an idea of the main issues mentioned in the book.

Essentially what happens during the book is Michael Crichton makes a rather weak plot to investigate what is a very important issue. The main focus of the book is a look at our current world and how there are many people preaching doomsday stuff about how the world is going to end unless we reduce our 'greenhouse gas' emissions. In fact, any kid could probably tell you that they have heard of global warming, but the truth of the matter is that this 'truth' we are told each day is suspect at its base.

A couple of points that he makes are really insightful. For example with the global warming thing, we all know (or think we know) that it's caused by CO2, and that the in a few hundred years unless we change things then the ice caps are going to melt and the Empire State Building will one day become Empire Island. But where does that knowledge come from? Well, it came from what we heard on TV. Well, where did that knowledge come from? It came from a report from the government (or somebody else's government). Well, what did the study actually say? And this is where the crux of everything lies. Because even though we claim to know what's going on, we really don't. Crichton points to many different references that show that the ice in Antarctica is actually thickening, that there has been relatively no shift in temperature if you look at data from the last 100+ years, and that there is a decent chance that even if global warming did occur it would help us by increasing crop yields and preventing the need for as much heating oil. The fact is that all of this information on future events is due to models that were created with a bias towards a particular persons ideas of what would happen and his or her own interpretations of the results. Such a system where that is allowed can never produce meaningful results. And frankly models that are unproven cannot be accepted to predict the future, period.

But the point of the book isn't to debunk global warming, that's only the outer crust of what he is getting at. The problem is deep. Our society is fed information without people checking facts. Scientists are producing literature that is filled with personal biases. And what I consider to be the key point Politicians, Media, and Lawyers are doing their best to maintain a State of Fear in society so that they can retain as much power as possible.

And in that last bit is what I find most interesting. Some interesting points are made regarding the use of emphatic words such as "disaster" and "catastrophe" have greatly increased since fall of the Berlin Wall. People are best maintained when they are in a state such that they feel like they need protection.

Politicians want to keep this state because it means citizens are more likely to relinquish the power that a Republic designates to them. Think of all the things that have happened recently, the Iraq War, Terrorism, even Gay Marraige.

Media needs to create a state of panic within society to boost its own aims. What makes people more likely to stay tuned into what they say? Something disastrous, something deadly important. The serial killer that you wouldn't spend nights worrying about if that thought wasn't placed there, the chance of El Nino destroying this year's food supply, killer bees, the list goes on... Frankly most of this stuff shouldn't matter. But we are consumed by our own need to fear something and to have somebody there to protect us.

Lawyers are the last in the chain of Fear Mongers. Hot Coffee, Tobacco, Fast Food. All of these are things that in themselves may not be the best things in the world, but they have been blown out of proportion so that a few people can keep getting more power and money. Lawyers make at least 30% profit on anything they touch, so if they can create a state of fear and make us think that we need to protect ourselves by punishing others then they can reap 3/10 of the profit, without fail. Tobacco is a personal pet peeve. While it is obviously bad, the suit opened wide the door to a barrage of frivolous suits brought on by a public that is increasingly fearful of things that it could protect itself from anyways.

The book proved to not just be an interesting book but an eye-opener to the world around me. What are the facts that I take for granted everyday? Does what I'm being told matters really matter at all? Should I maintain a State of Fear in my own life? The fact is that the things I really should fear are the things I would never expect, the things that will blindside me in the middle of an afternoon while I'm in the office, the things that will slam into the side of the WTC.

Additionally I decided to do a little research about this book and see if Crichton was giving me the facts straight. And from what I can tell he did. Granted he too had some bias, but overall the book makes some excellent points about the world around us in a plot that keeps one entertained such as to help us understand what is really going on. Definitely recommend the work. Skim the first half, but pay attention to the end because there are some very good points that he makes.

Bottom Line
Regardless of what you are doing do not blindly accept what you are told day in and day out to be the truth. Research. Learn. Think. Be humble enough to admit that if something goes against what you expected that you could be wrong.

Fact Check
What others say about the information in State of Fear.
To try to make sure you have plenty of your own information, check out the following relevant links. You will probably gather that the topic of environmentalism is very heated and passion is often the driving force behind both sides. I just wish we could accept an honest dialog from both sides.

Scientist's Review of State of Fear
Not as Glowing Review

The Petition Project means to show that there are a large number of scientists who disagree with the findings of environmentalists.
Opposing View

Is there an active campaign to smear those against mainstream?
Who is this guy?

Concept that environmentalists trying to "save people" is actually killing more
Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore says “the environmental movement has lost its objectivity, morality and humanity.”

Other things to consider:
If asbestos had been used the World Trade Center might not have fallen. Being enviro-friendly may have actually killed thousands
And it's counter argument

"Don't you understand? False fears are a plague, a modern plague!"
~Professor Norman Hoffman (p. 448)

"Social control is best managed through fear."
~Professor Norman Hoffman (p. 454)

"Once again, there can be no action without harm."
~John Kenner explaining how banning DDT has killed millions (p. 488)

If you don't feel like getting the book, then I beg of you to at least go to the bookstore and read pages 445-460.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i'm on a mission to find new books. you just aided me in my mission!