Once upon a time I needed surgery. A very difficult surgery. A one slip of the scalpel and hasta la vista, baby!
So, how do I pick a surgeon?
- I do not have technical ability to understand good surgery skills from poor surgery skills.
That leaves me dependent on the opinions of those who do have the ability to understand the difference between a good surgeon and a bad surgeon. I find as many doctors and medical professionals as I can and ask them to recommend a good surgeon. I ask them to ask their doctor friends for their recommendations to be forwarded on to me.
In other words, I pull in expert opinion, and attempt to determine the Venn diagram unions of opinion; the surgeons that are thought of highly by many other surgeons.
But, there is another tool I have at my disposal...
- I can search plain old boring data.
How many of these type operations did the surgeons perform and how many turned out well for the patient?
(Admittedly, this data might be hard to find, and the amount of data might not be sufficiently large to be of value. Nonetheless, the point remains that if available it would be of potentially great value.)
Let's change the scenario...
All the oncologists in the world have been raptured to heaven. And, I have cancer! They were kind enough to leave their drugs behind. But, I have to plot my own course of therapy.
How to do?
Well, they left behind their cars and planes and cell phones. That won't help. But, more useful to me, they left behind their statistics!
I am white, 50ish, Norwegian-German and extremely brilliant and good looking in the consensus opinion of the opposite sex. A little Klooney-like. But, I digress.
I find there are three drug protocols used for my condition by oncologists. Which to use? By analysis of the protocols, I determine that when applied to white, middle-aged Norwegian-Germans that protocol #3 is decidedly better. (Interestingly, for those of Mediterranean descent, protocol #3 is a pretty lousy choice.)
- Many scientific questions can only be answered by data and statistics.
My surgery was a success, I have been cured of cancer and my fertile mind turns to the issue of global warming. Well, actually there is no question that our planet is in a warming cycle. No one on any side of the debate questions the fact that our Earth is warming up significantly.
More specifically, my mind turns to man-made global warming. In other words, do our air-borne pollutants cause significant warming of our planet?
And, this is where I go nuts listening to many Americans. For...
- We do not have the technical ability to understand climatology.
- We almost totally ignore data.
- Science has moved out of the garage!
Increasingly larger swaths of the scientific world are incomprehensible by the non-specialist. But, yet we Plato-style reason our way to a position where we ridicule the crushing consensus of scientific opinion on man-made global warming!
Increasingly, you cannot answer scientific questions in your garage.
Increasingly, no single scientist, no matter how specialized, informed and competent, can answer many scientific questions.
Did you get that! With our best intelligence, you and I are like children playing with adult toys. And, yes, many children actually believe they are fireman and nurses. But, we are not. And, we are increasingly unable to intelligently and competently discuss scientific issues. We are increasingly unable to even understand the issues!
Don't miss my second point above. Even the individual scientist is increasingly over his head unless he is humble enough to be multi-disciplinary.
My apocalyptic conclusion...
Scientific knowledge is increasing, and increasingly increasing! Just the sheer volume of knowledge being amassed is beyond comprehension. The depth of knowledge and the ramifications of the information we have is stunning.
Us American children need to quit playing childish games. We need to understand that we are bringing the approaches and tools of the 19th century to a 21st century battlefield.
David steps forth to meet Goliath. The Israelite army represented by David. The Philistine army represented by Goliath. The winner also keeps the army of the vanquished.
You remember the story...
In this 21st century scientific battlefield, you don't have many choices left. Pick your champion! Pick the scientific expert or experts to fight your scientific battles for you. Delve into their data, their reputations, their results. Select your scientific Davids carefully. For that is about the only choice left to you.
But, please vacate the field of battle. You are only getting in David's way!