|Good News everybody ..|
A long standing debate is whether plumbing or science saved more lives last
century. Doctors may have fussed over antibiotics, vaccines and other
concoctions but plumbers did a whole lot more to actually keep the diseases at
bay. Mostly by flushing it out of mind and out of sight. As someone who spent
much of their childhood without a flush toilet I can say that I am a big fan of
modern plumbing. And plumbers too - when you can get them to turn up.
Of course the jury is back on what actually killed the most people last
century: socialism. But let's actually talk about science in this article.
Many years ago I attended to a science graduation ceremony at one of our more
esteemed universities. A famous scientist (famous in Australia anyway) gave the
keynote address, and spent pretty much the entirety of his 20 minutes bagging
the discipline of Economics. All the usual half-truths, cliches and
anti-economics jokes came out and I have to say the about-to-graduate science
students loved it. I'm not sure how the combined economics-science graduates
took it, but no-one seemed to care.
It could just have been nervous laughter of course. Perhaps the science
graduates were concerned about spending their time filling in unemployment
benefit forms, and knowing that their more economically minded colleagues would
earn $60K in their first year.
For many of those new scientists, it was the last lecture they ever
attended. And the message they took from it is that in order to be good
scientists they must ignore (and preferably belittle) the tools offered by the
discipline of Economics.
The message I took from it was that scientists can be ignorant stupid
people. Of course everyone has a preference for their own field of study
(that's why they chose it). But why would an intelligent person belittle (or
even ignore) the models, the tools and the offerings of another discipline?
Many years later, that generation of scientists now comprise the body which the
government is going to in order to advise on our water crisis.
Naively, one might think that economics (the study of the allocation of scarce
resources) might be useful giving insights into the allocation of a scarce
resource (like water), but our scientists seem to have been educated out of
taking that approach.
The scientists will presumably look for a solution in their test tubes. A
solution in the Bernoulli or Navier-Stokes equations and publish papers about
the relationship between Choas Theory and Climate Change, or whatever topic is
hot in the world of science and will get more publications, and hence the
funding which follows them.
Yet there are still calls to take water rights away from mere private owners,
and hand over the control of the river system to scientists. Muslims might call
for their ordained Mullahs to make their decisions for them. Many Australians
call for the high priests of the Religion of Science to do it for them.
Worshipping God went out of favor with the rise of communism. Worshiping
The State went out of favor with the collapse of communism. But we can still
And cuius regio, eius religio.