If Science Knew All the Answers, It Would Stop

By Sean Carroll | September 14, 2009 6:45 pm

I have no idea why Kieran thinks that this Dara Ó Briain video would be my cup of tea. We all know that I am devoted to the ideal of communicative reason between respectful parties speaking in good faith. None of that tawdry mockery and whacking at people with sticks for me, no sir.

Nevertheless, it’s quite charming; perhaps it’s the Irish accent. Ó Briain studied math and theoretical physics at University College Dublin, where he was an officer of the Literary and Historical Society, where I spoke not too long ago. I cannot speculate where the fashion sense came from.

  • R.

    “None of that tawdry mockery and whacking at people with sticks for me, no sir.” — very appropriate!

  • http://www.albertoconti.com Alberto

    After seeing Dana on YouTube, I purchased two of his standups. I think he is simply brilliant and one of the quickest people I have seen on stage.
    I think comedy does not have to be respectful at all. As George Carlin used to say, one can joke on about anything. So relax a little and enjoy Dana’s faster-than-brain-waves humor… I’ll go for the sticks!

  • tacitus

    Someone posted on a right-wing Christian message board just the other day that they had been diagnosed with Graves Disease which was flaring up and had been told by their doctor that their thyroid would have to be removed. Naturally she was freaking out and was asking for people what they thought (not a good idea I know).

    One of the first replies said, flat out, that she forget should conventional medicine and see a natureopath about herbal and homeopathic remedies for her condition instead. Just as alarming there was only one person who had told her this was a terrible idea — the others simply offered their own advice as to what to do. Fortunately, I think I managed to instill in her the stupidity of the ignoring her conventional doctor’s advice — I suggested she get a second and third opinion if she really isn’t happy with her own doctor, and to find a clinic that specializes in her condition if necessary, she seemed to think this was a good idea.

    But this is the danger that these nut jobs present to normal people faced with tough choices. I don’t think the homeopathic fan who posted her advice was a quack — she was probably just someone who used it for a minor ailment and (surprise, surprise) felt better after a while, and was thus convinced of the healing properties of water and herbs.

    The same is happening with the flu vaccine. On a different thread I presented the facts relating to the risk factors of taking the vaccine versus catching H1N1 this flu season. The vaccine may kill 1 in every few million people (i.e. a handful of unfortunates out of 150 million doses). H1N1 is predicted to kill 1 in even 4,000 Americans over the next few months (i.e. 90,000 deaths). You would think when presented with these number (over simplified as they are, perhaps, but they’re in the right ballpark) they would see how sensible and safe it is to get themselves and their kids vaccinated.

    But no. Merely the suspicion that the vaccine is going to be forced on people (untrue) or that it’s part of Obama’s plot to socialize healthcare (also untrue) is enough for these idiots to risk exposing themselves and their kids to the full effects of the swine flu without any protection at all.

  • http://verbsap.wordpress.com Peter Hornby

    Fashion sense? Alexei Sayle.

  • eric gisse

    Holy shit I love this guy.

    Sean, you write good textbook(s?) but this guy knows how to get a solid laff out of me.

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  • Jan
  • Charles

    Here’s a novel thought . . . no one will ever have all the answers.

    I get the gist of the article and comedy routine.

    There was a time when science was seen as something mysterious, vilified by so-called “religious” leaders, and so on.

    It was easy to sway a relatively uneducated general public, and cater to their belief systems, often with religious overtones.

    However, this social pathology takes on new meaning in current times, in which a growing percentage of the population actually prefers to remain uneducated in even the most simplistic understanding of any form of science in any field.

    There is a growing percentage of the population who literally want to go backwards in time, to a “simpler” time, when critical thinking was not required, and all answers came out of the [fill in the blank] religious text.

    If you find that sort of thing “funny” or humorous, well, good luck.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the world will proceed at its own pace.

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  • asdfhgh

    ‘Get in the fucking sack.’

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Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .


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