Learning through scepticism

Quite a long while ago when the thought-gods of environment were telling their drones what to believe about the evils of nuclear power back in the 1980s, I remember an ordinary guy called Ben.

Ben was completely hooked by the environmental religion of the time and on the different days I’d seen him would engage with me in the various discussions about how he was right and I was wrong in our respective world views.

Well, ok, it was really down to me provoking him after I’d seen the relevant anti-whatever badge he was wearing in with all his other anti-whatever badges. So, I asked him what he knew about how nuclear power worked.

He told me it was something to do with radioactivity which was dangerous and would build up and explode killing millions and making the place uninhabitable for millennia to come. I replied that I still wanted to know how nuclear power worked. His response was that it was unnatural and unstable and that burning coal was far less dangerous. His movement wanted an end to any nuclear power programme and the continuance of coal fired power stations, which were safe and natural.

Ironically, like most green drones, he probably won’t recall to this day that his environmental religion was so pro the burning of the same fossil fuels they’ve now decided they hate, and so anti the more cleaner ways of generating electricity, such as via nuclear reactors. Yep, his thought-gods were telling him to support doing all the things that his same environmental religion would some years later say shouldn’t be done.

Worse than that, they teach that the coal-fired power stations they once loved are behind the currently imagined ‘global warming’.

Anybody else notice this amusing complete about-turn by the environmental thought-gods? How can this be?  I thought the environmental thought-gods were always completely right about everything! Maybe not, eh?

Anyway, I still wanted to know from Ben exactly how nuclear power created electricity. After a long period of all the knee-jerk scare phrases he’d been programmed with about skin melting and slow deaths from radiation sickness he finally admitted he didn’t actually know. He assumed some radiation somehow crossed over into the national grid from some weird ‘unnatural’ nuclear reaction. In other words, he was anti and fearful of something he knew nothing about.

That puzzled me. I think it’s the same mentality that makes people fear humans with different colour skin or a completely different religion if they’ve never encountered them before. Those who protest the loudest usually know little of that which they fear and so they irrationally become anti it. I’d imagine a space alien making first contact with humanity would be met with considerable fear because they are the ‘unknown’ and so a major reaction from the far greater number of the population would be to deal with the situation by just killing them.

A smaller number would want to learn more about them and get to know them. They’d want to understand them, learn from them, get to know what they knew, and cautiously trust them until there was any real evidence that they couldn’t be trusted.

I fall into that camp. And so when it came to nuclear power back in the mid-1900s I’d looked into it and understood from a layman’s perspective how it worked. There was a logic to it, although I was actually disappointed that it wasn’t more magical. Electricity is generated by steam turbines. The steam comes from boiling water. You boil the water with a heat source. Traditionally the heat was from burning coal or oil. Setting up a natural nuclear reaction also created heat, which, exactly the same as with fossil fuel burning, heated up water to make steam. Boring really. And disappointing. No magical radiation infusing itself into the national grid. Yet, I knew how it worked whilst Ben didn’t despite him ‘knowing’ it was ‘bad’.

One of the fascinating things about those who fear whatever they’ve been told to fear (Remember only 50 years ago it was a nuclear war they were convinced was about to happen. This got replaced by the fear that we were entering a new ice age. Then it was how all the earth’s resources were running out. Then the ozone layer. After that it was ‘global warming’. That’s recently been re-branded as ‘climate change’. Who knows how many other imaginary bogey-men they’ll have been terrified of over the next 50 years!) is that they close their minds to reason or logic. Theirs is a blind faith. I’ve rightly called it a religion.

In opposition to faith, science actually works by constantly remaining sceptical and testing and re-testing a theory, and maybe fine-tuning that theory or even discarding it when it can’t be proven. However, faith sees ‘scepticism’ as an enemy. Today’s sceptics over ‘climate change’ are called ‘deniers’ by those blindly following the current environmental faith. It’s a way of associating them with those who deny that the Holocaust ever happened.  It’s a way to make sceptics evil and the idea of asking questions or challenging the thinking or re-examining the ‘science’ a bad thing.

Let’s just consider that. A world in which it is wrong to challenge excepted truths or explore alternative ideas and concepts? Well, that’s the world the environmental faith wants. If it was up to these people then ‘knowledge’ would still claim that the earth is flat and the sun moves across the sky.

Scepticism is good! We need sceptics. And we need the data behind any conclusions those with ‘faith’ adopt and close their minds to discussion about. We need to see the ‘working out’ so that we can arrive at the same conclusions or dispute them.

However, the environmental faith withholds this data from the sceptics. It loses and destroys it. Instead it shouts angrily that the newly declared truth is the only truth and anybody not accepting it is the enemy of the world and should be hounded and silenced.

Not far off what was said by the faith of the day when sceptics were starting to learn that the world was round.

Will we ever learn?