I read your essay, "Technical Competence Gap," and found it to be very much on the mark. However, you didn't discuss two sources of modern Luddism that I believe may be much more dangerous than religious "creationists" - whose agenda, after all, is opposed not only by the scientific community but by Big Media and by the educratic establishment that is doing its worst to education without the creationists' input, thank-you-very-much.

The two sources to which I refer would seem, to the observer who is little better than typically informed, unlikely centers of science-hatred, yet their efforts have a devastating impact on the public perception of science.

One is radical environmentalism, which has now abandoned its onetime reliance on science to promote its cause. Having discovered that a "green" image, a cadre of aggressive lawyers, and a compliant (and scientifically illiterate) news media can win battles for money and public attention that scientific discussions cannot, the radical environmentalists have turned to promoting a perpetual state of crisis, and appeals to "touchy-feely" sentiment, to win hearts (forget about minds, nobody has one who matters anymore). As a result, their claims, in order to remain marketable in this age of the ten-second sound bite as intellectual discourse, have outdistanced the willingness of serious scientists to support them. Of course, thanks to the co-opting of scientific research by the cause-oriented policymakers within the government and academia, fewer and fewer research scientists are willing to choose seriousness over a steady income. And yes, most of the harm that radical environmentalism is doing to the reputation of the scientific community is in its exploitation of the need of research scientists to eat...

The other pack of Luddites, ironically, exists within academia itself. There is in the new fad of "postmodern" thought a school which contends that the scientific method, like so much of what once underlay Western civilization, should be discarded as a mythical invention of dead white males. They do not attack science for its achievements, nor demonize it simply because of its contributions to warfare, technological progress, or overpopulation - the usual suspects of the radical Left - but because those contributions have tended to benefit the Euro-American axis that they view as the focus of evil in the world since the dawn of time. Some Afro-centrists also argue (fundamentally contradicting the other post-modernists, but they don't mind) that white civilization stole most, if not all, of its "good" guiding concepts and disciplines, including science, from some African Atlantis that had all these ideas first.

In these instances, the attacks on science do not stem from technological disadvantage, and so were probably not directly relevant to the essay, but are the result of simple greed and ambition in the former, and in the latter a deep-seated pathological hostility to the very concept of a reality independent of the will of the observer. To the extent that the one has helped encourage scientists to prostitute themselves and their work, and the other is encouraging the up-and-coming generation of "thinkers" to reject the most elementary assumptions of our civilization, they are nevertheless the much more dangerous forces. Even if there should be a resolution to the technical competence gap, the damage caused by these Luddites will continue to be done.

Kevin McGehee
North Pole, Alaska
The Armed Genius Newsletter

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