Monday, 11 May 2009

Third hand stupid

Leg-Iron is a naughty boy:

Ordinary people who, as any wander along any street will demonstrate, are mostly idiots who will believe any damn thing they're told. I have convinced several people that the Romans built straight roads because they hadn't invented steering. There are people out there now who believe it and who are probably spreading it. When it ends up on your child's history curriculum, that was me. Sorry about that.

But he makes a good point. And once again, it is the lazy, useless media who are complicit in spreading this shit until it becomes accepted as "received wisdom" and our lives are made poorer still.

Why is the press so utterly fucking useless at challenging this kind of nonsense?


RobW said...

That is priceless -- made my morning.

Rob Farrington said...

I'm hoping things'll gradually change, though...up until 3 or 4 years ago, I pretty much accepted without much question that mankind was causing global warming, and that putting too much salt on your chips would eventually cause your head to explode, much like in 'Scanners'.

I have no excuse, except that like many people, I'd watch the BBC News with my mouth open and with the personal firewall in my brain set to 'off'.

Then, a little late into the day, I discovered the blogosphere, and people like you, DK, Legiron, BOM, and many more.

I think the MSM are finished, and are in their death-throes - they're a bit like Wilde E Coyote in those cartoons where he's already run over the edge of the cliff; he's just hanging in mid-air before gravity draws him down to Earth with a satisfying 'splat'!

Chalcedon said...

Because the hacks are very often quite young. They have come through an education system that seems to have stopped teaching pupils and students how to think critically, analyse and then synthesise. They may as individuals have a goodly amount of knowledge in depth and breadth, but they are uncritical. they also don't acxtually know if that knowledge is factually correct. I mean valency in chemistry is a great way to teach about chemical bonds but it is untrue and a vast oversimplification of quantum reality.

Also everything is presented to students on a plate. Their idea of research is to click onto Google, search, read and BELIEVE. Wrong. Get in the library and read the peer reviewed papers, hard copy or on-line. Critically examine their conclusions, synthesise your perspective on the research. If they never actually knew how to conduct research they will be useless investigating anything as journalists. They will just take it off the plate, a newswire, Drudge, Ananova or Reuters. That's why bloggers are getting more attention. They are not reactive, they are pro-active.

David Gillies said...

Most journos (even, sadly, those covering the science/technology beat) are arty-farty types and quite spectacularly innumerate. How many average hacks could answer the following:

* what are the roots of the equation x^2 - 5x + 6 = 0 ?

* if the sides of a right angled triangle are 7 cm and 24 cm, how long is the hypotenuse?

* if the sides of a triangle are 4 cm, 7 cm and 10 cm, what is its area?

* if a car is travelling at 47 mph, what is its speed in m/s to two significant figures?

* if a car consumes 28 mpg, what is that in litres/100km?

* what percentage of the Earth's surface is covered by water?

* how many joules are in a kWh?

* to an order of magnitude, what is the power consumption of the average domestic dwelling?

* roughly how old is the universe

* what is the half-life of Plutonium-239?

* what does 'half-life' mean?

* which is the closest planet to the Sun?

* which is the largest planet in the Solar System?

* how long ago was the extinction of the dinosaurs?

etc etc.

It's a truism that when you read a news article concerning an area in which you have specific expertise, it is almost always riddled with errors. By extension, articles about areas where you don't have expertise are probably similarly error-strewn, but you can't tell. The ignorance of journalists is both general and specific.