Seven Salves to Soothe the Searing Itch of Irksome Experts
My adoptive mother was an uneducated, bitter woman. Needless to say, we did not have a good relationship. She passed away over 20 years ago.
But there is one thing she said to me that has always stuck in my mind. I was about 15 years old, back in 1968, and I had mentioned that the person she worked for at that time seemed smart. She looked at me and through fumes of Salem Cigarettes said, "Jeff, she just think that reading the New York Times makes her smart. F-ck them."
Your friend carrie reads the New York Times.
Excellent piece! One thought to add: the monoculture doesn't agree with experts, it agrees with the "right" kind of experts. See, for instance, the reaction to the Great Barrington Declaration, when experts with all the right credentials (Harvard, Stanford, Oxford) were dismissed as extremists because they had the "wrong" policy prescription.
> Skepticism, however, is not nihilism.
I love this! Too many people use the term "question" as synonymous with "deny." But it's perfectly fine to question and investigate your beliefs and ideas, and end up honestly coming to the conclusion that they're OK and valid after all.
> (e.g., “That cost six BILLION dollars!!! That’s “6” followed by NINE zeros.”) Goldin’s response is to pause and ask, calmly, “Is that a big number or a small number?
My response to that is, "could someone who honestly thinks that's a small number please spot me a small amount of cash?" The fact that there are never any takers is rather telling.
Well done! Great example of civil discussion and opposing views. Adding the song at the end was brilliant. I lived outside of NYC and survived the transition from brown haze to clear skies.
Insightful, persuasive, but one small nit to pick. Tires are made of oil, in part. But also of rubber, a renewable resource. Of course the resources needed to make things out of rubber is probably oil-intensive.
When was the last time we saw a guy standing on the streets of New York, with shaggy hair and an unkempt beard, wearing a burlap smock and a crude leather belt, sandals on his feet, holding up a sign that says "The end is near... maybe... it's hard to be sure." If only we could get our experts to be more like that guy, and less like the guy who actually appears in all the cartoons.
In high school I read Grump Magazine -- Roger Price's offshoot from Mad Magazine. I remember the article "Avoidism Now!" The avoidist philosophy encouraged people to ignore the doom sayers, indeed to ignore responding to most of what bothered other people. Price asserted that "the amount of unnecessary activity in the world is rising at the alarming rate of 2.4 inches per year," and that only avoidism could confront this danger. I wish I had saved that magazine: I would be happy to share it with your friend Carrie.
Re Plastic bottles: "Estimated" 1.3Billion plastic bottles per DAY, implies that roughly 20% of the world's population uses one bottle per day. I call WAG on that statistic.
Re Quality and Length of Life. It is not an untrue generality that modern medicine relies upon pharmaceuticals, which rely on.... oil
Just a a point of interest. James II of England had 8 children. Only 2 (Mary and Anne) reached adulthood. Queen Anne (1665 - 1714) underwent seventeen (17!) pregnancies, and only one child survived infancy. Prince William was born at Hampton Palace and died, age 11 at Windsor Castle, falling ill at the party for his 11th birthday.
Life was severely tough, when even the Queen of England was unable to keep her son alive. She underwent 10 pregnancies after her son's death. None survived.
Most of the people complaining about plastic bottles are unaware of some of the benefits plastic has delivered in other areas. I worked in home remodeling and some new home construction for forty years. A lot of people think PVC in general is awful; but it has been one of the best things to come along for the drainage side of residential plumbing. The old cast-iron drain pipes rust out from the inside. The house I live in now had some copper drain pipes from the 1960s in the main line to the sewer--we just had to replace part of it today.
It has also been beneficial in electric wiring. The current insulation on electrical wire is much better than what was being used 40 years ago--and that was a drastic improvement over the fabric and rubber insulation used on wiring a century ago. And that improved insulation, which stands heat better than the old stuff, has allowed a reduction in the wire sizes needed for various uses, reducing the amount of copper and aluminum used. There has also been a major change to PVC conduit instead of galvanized steel, and plastic boxes for switches and outlets. Steel boxes will conduct electricity if something in the box shorts out--plastic does not. And the modern circuit breakers in a home's electrical panel, a mechanism in a plastic shell, are much better than the old-fashioned metal fuses they replaced.
So plastic is not just a problem. It also has uses that are very important and necessary. And some of these people demanding an end to the use of petroleum and its resulting products have no clue how much damage they will do if they get their way.
Bonus points for the Tom Lehrer link! (Though, sadly, I can't go see productions of Tomfoolery anymore, because too much explaining is necessary for younger audiences with little historical perspective.)
Your friend Carrie seems to forget that an awful lot of these plastic water bottles get recycled. They're used to replace wood in children's playground equipment construction.
There's also considerable reuse, and this reflects people srategizing for themselves how to deal with used plastic water bottles. I like carrying bottles I've refilled with tap water in the holder in my reticule (belt pack, which I no longer call a fanny pack because I've been to Australia). It keeps me from having a dry mouth in public, and helps me stay hydrated in general.
Plastic water bottles have been made thinner, and the caps reduced in height, to lessen plastic use. This, ironically, frustrates reuse. There used to be plastic water bottles with sports tops I called "nipple tops," because one can pop it up to take a drink then pop it back down. I saved those tops for reuse. These days, however, they don't fit any water bottles, so I have to carry screw tops ... I'm screwed, as it were. There are bottles with flip tops, but they are on larger sized bottles too big to carry. I have a couple in my car, though, in beverage holders in the floorboard. Hella handy for a sip while driving.
I tend to keep bottles that are handy for carrying around. I brought a 250ml squarish bottle back from Australia, and it tucks away nicely for shorter outings. My favorite, though, is a very sturdy 350ml that contained natural mineral water from Mount Fuji when I bought it in Tokyo. Sadly, the very sturdy top is slightly too big for American nipple tops.
I'm not keen on the flimsy 500ml bottles, but when I have one, before it gets too crinkly, I will fill it with enough water for transit to an event where only sealed or empty water bottles are allowed. I will refill it once inside the venue, and there are more of those imitating airports with stations for refilling bottles with filtered water.
What motivates me the most is that I'M CHEAP!!!!! Who wants to keep paying for water where the municipal supplies are good and drinking fountains are handy?
I did buy lots of bottled water, and use it to wash and especially for contact lenses, in Nepal and in Indonesia. "Morality" played into it not one bit; it was all about my vulnerability, particularly as an America tourist (though the locals drank bottled water as well). And no ice in drinks in hotel bars, even if they had filtered water for drinking. And now you know why the Brits drank their gin and tonics at ambient temperature in India ...
No more commentary is necessary.
About plastics: ask the complainer to walk into a hospital and name ONE (not two or three, just ONE) medical device or related item that could be feasible without a significant amount of plastic. Likewise: smartphones, televisions, cars, airplanes, and the list is infinite.
Carrie is just wrong about CO2 levels being the highest ever. Perhaps if she didn't begin with a falsehood, her Cassandra-esque wailing would be less laughable.
I mentioned not long ago the book - The Crisis of Expertise, by Gil Eyal. Another book in this realm is - Wrong: Why Experts* Keep Failing Us And How to Know When Not to Trust Them, by David H. Freedman.
When it comes to discrediting experts, these 2 authors are... Experts!
One of the best expositions I have read on how to think and reason critically not to mention why we should not take the word of so-called experts as the final word without discussion or debate.
Well done. Rick
As someone who has been helping endangered sea turtles, the plastics are toxic, particularly when they break down in the ocean - called micro-plastics. Fish and turtles eat them. Sea Turtle Trackers collected over a pound of micro-plastics on a twenty foot piece of beach last week. What is "micro-plastic"? It is the plastics thrown into the sea that break down into little tiny pieces small enough for marine life to eat and ingest. Meaning not only turtles, but fish eaters!