Sunday, February 15, 2015

Lies and nothing but the lies

Recently months over a couple of several years ago I was asked to comment on an unoriginal pile of fermenting crap (which probably spontaneously burst into flames and is a charred cinder by now—ironic as you will see). In order to put it in its proper place (the shit house), I have to start with personal journey…

When I was a kid my mind kept slipping. It was hard to focus on things but even more disturbing was the fact that even really interesting subjects never got past the first stage for me; that is, I could think of what to think about but then couldn't actually think of anything more about it—I couldn't get past a nebulous, tantalizing concept. It was like coming up with the idea for a great novel without being able to remember pick up the pencil. My mind would go into a stall; there was no train of thought to sustain. I would experience the beginning of something over and over without ever moving past the first sentence. Being ADHD and bipolar had a lot to do with it. (see my autobio in the sidebar for more exciting details on that). The point is that I usually couldn't get past square one with many things.

I found it easy to spot small, otherwise unobserved details rather than the entire picture. And when it came to "claims" I often paid no attention to them at all. Not only was I unable to focus but subjects just sort of drifted by me. At the same time I was easily frightened by what would seem tame by today's "standards". Bad old horror movies were highly effective until I got much older. Books of ghost stories were like a train wreck that I couldn't take my eyes off of. I never got as far as asking if they were true; I was too busy being frightened into hypomania (the more horrible an idea the easier it was to think about it).

I just sort of hid in the shadows of my parents' conservative, small town world. I was smarter than everyone else but at the same time passively naïve. I just sort went along with things by not paying any attention to them (I've already said that but it belongs here, too). If something did strike me as being bogus I didn't say much about it. But in my teens I began to encounter something I had never "seen" before: grownups lying.

This had a terrific impact on me. I had always been led to believe that only criminals (of the common sort), politicians and used car salesmen lied. But this in itself was a lie. It seemed that lying grownups were all over the place. They were in the church that I was dragged to every Sunday for 18 years.

Over the decades since then I have been able to acquire more and more information about all this lying. At the time and as the years followed I was staggered by how big some of the lies were, and where they were coming from. And then there were those things that looked rather dicey but I lacked hard intel on the topic. I lacked information, period.

There was one piece of good news in all of this. I was something of a natural-born scientist. I used to watch a science program on TV every morning when I was five and six. The stuff they were demonstrating was for kids much older but it all made sense to me. Once again, I was like a passive sponge, soaking stuff up but incapable of moving beyond mere knowing.

Now it's a funny thing about science—for the most part, it's an honest endeavor. You can tell it's working because it changes. It changes because ultimately it's a search for the truth, or at least as much of it as poor human brains can discern. We started out knowing nothing and worked our way from there so change is unavoidable. Every once in a while some really startling new information becomes available and an enormous change in thinking occurs. This is how we know that science is working, as compared to, say, what goes by the term "belief system" (religions involve belief systems and the two terms are often used interchangeably). By definition, change is antithetical to some forms of religion. Everything is as it was in the beginning, believers are told. Change is a sign of error, and we certainly can't have any of that. Something must be really wrong with science because it changes. It's just another belief system, one that can't even keep itself straight—or so the believers prefer to believe.

Thus the scientific world changes but for the most part religions do not. Nor do the conservative authoritarians who claim to be the protectors of religion whilst actually using it as a carrot and stick. Curiously, they do use science after a fashion. After having pointed out how fundamentally "flawed" that slippery ol' science is they proceed to (mis)use it to prop up their own authority whenever convenient. They cherrypick science, accepting what doesn't threaten (or seems to support) their precious façade and rejecting anything that does threaten the stability of their contrived worldview. Like global warming. Like fags walking the streets. Like Jupiter having moons. The latter was what got Galileo in trouble with the Roman church, going around saying stuff that everyone knew wasn't in the Bible (not to mention Aristotle). "Hell, next he'll be claiming the Earth goes around the Sun! We can't have any of that."

Poor Galileo. Right idea, wrong place, wrong time. But in the end he was vindicated, his tale having  been told more than once since then. To hear some people talk about it now you'd think they actually agreed all along.

What set me off on this epic rant is a bunch in Australia naming themselves after Galileo. When you "assume the mantle of Galileo" you have by definition already lost the argument. Why? Because only liars do that. They don't have science on their side so they lie, identifying themselves with some poor old Galileo and hoping you won't notice the difference. If you're a nominal human you probably won't.

Yet another denialist group. Just what the world fucking needed.

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain"—Oz

What I've learned over the last 40 years is that grownups lie; blatantly, baldfacedly, spectacularly, shamelessly. And I've slowly become aware of who these liars are as I've seen the same ones over and over again. Not necessarily the same individuals, but the same types. For example, thanks to human cultural amnesia the same liars get elected every other election cycle (while higher liars pull the strings).

These liars lie about science. They lie about human existence. They lie about not being liars. They lie to themselves and accuse everyone else of being a liar.

By naming themselves after Galileo this bunch have achieved that last step. They're calling everyone else a liar when they are, in fact, the ones who are lying. Psychologists call this "projection" (curiously, I came up with the concept and even the term independently—another event from my personal saga). The world is full of projectionists. All you need to do is hold a mirror up to what they are projecting to see its opposite, i.e., something remotely resembling the truth. Turn all their claims and accusations back on them and suddenly they're caught in their own headlights.

It can be very hard to spot these people if you're not familiar with their diabolical techniques. Ultimately, they're hoping that you're ignorant, lazy or just over-busy enough to meekly accept whatever garbage they're selling (in many cases they are literally selling something).

Sometimes, scientists like myself are treated with suspicion because we dare to accuse. Fuck it, I'll say it again: grownups LIE. Liars tell big lies. They tell the same lies and the same sort of lies year after fucking year. Believe them at your peril.

This "Galileo" bunch… Bullshit. Seen it, heard it, fuck it. Same song yesterday. .