American Elephants


Are We Getting Dumber? Or Does It Just Seem That Way? by The Elephant's Child

I just questioned (online) the vaguely remembered claim that most Americans cannot name the three branches of government. It was supposedly only 26% who could not name them, then it got turned around to 75% of Americans could not, and just 26 percent who could, and only 33% who could name a single branch. Well, that’s informative. No wonder President Trump speaks of “Fake News.”

It’s clear that people don’t know how to think about the climate. Popular thinking runs somewhere from total panic because the earth is ending in just 5 years, to this article I ran across today: “A Relatively Painless Guide to Cutting Plastic Out of Your Life.”

Last year may have been the beginning of the end for plastic. It may have taken a while for the average person to wake up to its dangers, but many were shaken into action by the images and videos of plastic’s impact on the natural world that flooded the media in 2018.

A viral video showed a turtle with a straw stuck up its nose. Stories about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch revealed how island-sized trash mounds had collected in the ocean between Hawaii and California. And then there was that National Geographic cover of a plastic bag floating in the water, beneath the scrawled words “Planet or Plastic?” The issue publicized a remarkable statistic: Despite the world’s efforts to recycle, 91 percent ends up in the trash.

What, you are telling me that we have these huge, expensive recycling programs, and they don’t work at all? Not to worry, the plastic in the oceans apparently comes from China, which is actually worrisome. The United States has done a remarkable job of reducing noxious emissions — more than any other country.

This is from SEPP’s weekly newsletter (Science and Environmental Policy Project’ free newsletter)

Appropriate Models: Mathematics is the language of science, but that does not mean that mathematical models correctly describe physical phenomena. Or that a mathematical process in a model used in analyzing physical evidence (data) from observations and / or experiments suitable for one phenomenon is suitable for other phenomena. The model may or may not describe the subject phenomenon. That is one reason why Richard Feynman stated that hypotheses (guesses) must be tested against all relevant data. Experimental data is preferred because other possible influences are controlled to the extent possible, but observational data may be necessary.

Benny Avni writes in the New York Sun that as America’s Democratic Presidential Candidates promote programs borrowed from Europe’s traditional left, Europeans are increasingly pushing back against them. Angela Merkel was blamed for dragging Germany’s Christian Democratic Party too far to the left. France’s National Rally Party beat President Macron’s centrist faction. In Poland, Hungary and Italy, politicians of various right-wing parties are now in power, and anti-leftist parties are on the rise. In Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau is struggling to stay in power after his Liberal party suffered parliamentary seat losses. Lot of Politics out there.

I got my hair cut yesterday, and picked up a copy of the old familiar Readers Digest  in the waiting room. No longer a big thick magazine, it had dieted down to maybe a quarter of an inch thick. Magazines and newspapers are clearly dying. I’m more concerned about the dumbing-down of society. I suspect that the online opinions flashing across computer screens suggest that people don’t read anything of length. Some websites are suggesting, beside their stories, that it is  only a 4 minute, or 6 minute read, to encourage those who have a tiny bit of time to pause long enough for their story. Reminds me to be brief and get to the point. But it suggests that we are becoming more superficial, less informed, and more open to bad information. What do you think?




%d bloggers like this: