Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.

- George Bernard Shaw

It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.

- Thomas Sowell

Inability to see the Invisible 

Never before has the schism between the educated and the uneducated been so vast. Our modern society has become dangerously dependent on symbols for our very survival. Symbolic thinking has bootstrapped this human civilization from its humble beginnings into the epoch we call the anthropocene. Those who do not understand the power of symbols are left behind and the structures we have created affect every human (and many nonhuman) beings on the planet. Though we come from nature, the world we have created is strikingly separate from it, a result of the power ideas to manipulate and transform its surrounding to an extraordinary degree. We employ the refined conceptual tools of precision mathematical symbols and scientific and physical models to imagine and to bring to life entire realms of possibilities. Our earth moving project is so vast that there is no escape from it. There is no possibility of escaping human civilization. Even if we live in the forest by ourselves, the consequences of two centuries of geo-engineering the earth’s ecology and climate system binds us all to a common fate.

Such powerful symbolic systems now drive our entire modern economy. New ideas lead to new technologies and inventions which impact all our lives, both for better and for worse. These technologies are introduced to our children at the earliest age, conditioning our children at the earliest age into subconsciously embracing the technocrats ideology.

Today’s world is built upon objects which cannot be seen. Scientists are like alchemists from days of old, mysteriously manipulating invisible forces to manifest new forms. So much of our modern world is built upon entities invisible to the naked eye that without mastery of these highly abstract models, it is difficult to feel comfortable with these objects.  This failure to understand alienates us and not only shuts us out of higher paying jobs but also deprives us of cultural and democratic participation.

The Ramifications of an Invisible Science

Science is the foundation upon which our modern technocratic society rests but it has an Achilles Heel; it is invisible. By its very nature, science often study phenomena which is invisible to the naked eye, not observable in human time scales and fu difficult to grasp. There is an entire supply chain from pure science research that lifts the veil off of an extremely specialized part of nature all the way to a commercialized product that we interact with everyday. Ideas transform and transmute from the pure research lab, to the applied science lab, to the engineering lab, and finally to the technology prototype. This supply chain delivers the must difficult to understand concepts to the latest consumer device or, in fact any of the innumerable technologies that make up modern society.

While we all benefit from the invisible world discovered by science, sometimes, this world can also bring us harm. For by its very nature, science is an incomplete form of accumulating knowledge and decisions to exploit a scientific discovery through the creation of technology is always done with a limited amount of testing for safety. When technology results in unintended side effects, the result is a progress trap.

The widespread failure of the populus to understand science has serious social consequences. Those many scientifically illiterate who cannot understand the model of CO2 molecules are also the same people who cannot perceive them as a threat and who are the very same people who will vote for representatives who also do not perceive them as a threat. What is invisible is no threat to us.

Human beings experience a common reality. When I say “it was a sunny day with a clear blue sky” you understand what I mean because we are able to have common experiences that we can share through language. Science is nothing more than an extension of this basic human trait; it is a field which allows us to look at nature in many different ways, using instruments to allow us to extend our powers of observation and allows us to share all those experiences using a very detailed language consisting of highly accurate terms, numerical measurements and general laws.

Science is able to collect enormous numbers of individual observations and organize them into patterns called scientific laws. These laws allow us to extrapolate or generalize an observation made at one place and time, to many places and times. For instance, a scientist may observe a phenomena in New York city but extrapolate the finding to be true not just in New York city, but everywhere on the planet.

Most people who are not scientists have not made these direct observations themselves, nor have they formulated the scientific laws that generalize these observations to be universally applicable.  Unlike everyday conversation, science has little room for assumptions and unsubstantiated arguments. Without strict ability to prove and back up each finding with accurate experimental results and offering up a recipe for duplicating the results, science would lose its high degree of certainty.

It is more critical than ever that there be an effective mass education of the fundamental essence of science so that the voting public entrusts the work of scientists and are not so easily manipulated by special interests which place profit above the health of the planet.

Ignorance in Climate Change Science

Climate Change Science is a major influence on modern society yet significant numbers of citizens of the world are still alienated from it. They may have heard of science  in the media or as part of a school curriculum but there is an intrinsic  lack a fundamental appreciation and awareness of the power of science or that science is an extension of their own natural thinking process.

In many ways, the issue of anthropogenic global warming is a dramatic examples of the impact of the weaknesses of a democracy.  Dealing effectively with climate change requires participation from all sectors of all societies. In democratic societies, people hold the power to determine policies. However, if the voting public hold diametrically opposing ideologies and are also largely scientifically illiterate, science may very well end up falling on deaf ears. In a field such as climate change, where  startling and very unobvious predictions are the result of complex science, an illiterate voting public is one that can be easily persuaded to distrust the complex scientific results –  especially ones that threaten a comfortable way of life. This sets up an atmosphere of a voting public that is easily manipulated by equally uneducated and biased politicians.

Without the trust in the predictive powers of science that comes from a well grounded science education, the voting public has been duped into accepting dangerously wrongheaded policies, effectively turning the climate change molehill into an enormous mountain.  Relatively painless policy changes that could have prevented climate change from becoming a major issue have been consistently rejected by an uneducated public. We are now approaching a point where prevention is impossible (some say we have passed it) and treatment becomes the only possible option.

 Ignorance of Manufacturing and Production

Charlie Chaplin in the classic: Modern Times

We live in an increasingly abstract, specialized and divided world. Before the dawn of modern civilization, many individuals possessed the essential skills to survive. Our ancestors individually knew how to grow food, how to harvest it, store it and how cook it. They knew how to build their own homes, to create tools and operate and maintain them and knew how to find resources in their surroundings.

In less than two hundred years, we have gone from independent producers of the goods we consumed to being almost completely ignorant of how things are made. Today, we live in modern industrialized societies where goods are produced in capital intensive plants hidden from public eyes. We have become consumers of products that we know very little about. We are paying for this ignorance in the externalized pollution created by these plants as well as the toxic ingredients used to make them.

How our ignorance hurts us

The citizen of modern society is fundamentally different from the citizen of our ancestors. They were producers of multiple goods and services which made life possible.  Today, we play the role of consumers who blindly exchange money for products produced by manufacturing systems which we have absolutely no knowledge about. We don’t know where they get their raw feedstock from, how they dealt with the people who supplied them, whether it was gotten ethically, whether it harmed the environment or not, etc…We also do not know how much energy they used to produce their product and how much they polluted the environment in creating it. We are completely uninformed. Most importantly, many do not care. Most people live with blinders on, concerned only in meeting their own immediate and short term needs. The health of the environment and other people is not a concern. Those centralized producers who have the most to gain from this naturally encourage a system in which consumers are indifferent because it allows them to continually maximize their profits.

Ignorance of the Money System

One of our greatest ignorance is that one of the most commonly used items of everyday life; money. This ignorance keeps us enslaved to a system that is inherently inequitable.

Ignorance of the Sacred