Public reaction to the Large Hadron Collider is so ignorant and brain-dead we need a theory to explain what’s going on. I asked Charles King at Pund-IT for a theory. He offered this:
I believe that much of the public reaction to the LHC is grounded in a kind of ignorance that might be called “Faith-Based Science” or F-BS for short. The popularity of that particular discipline knows no social, political or economic bounds.
But I also think that the folks promoting the LHC could do a better job of communicating the project’s goals and aims. Sub-atomic physics isn’t the easiest subject to discuss (let alone understand) but in order for people for appreciate the importance of science they first need to understand how it will potentially improve their lives.
This doesn’t apply just to the LHC but to virtually every form of technology.
All around us we see people reacting to science in terms of what they want to believe, or what their leaders tell them to believe. Consider the anti-global warming crowd. The anti-Wi-Fi crowd. Hell, the anti-moon landing crowd. And yes, this is tied to fundamentalism. I agree with Mitch Ratcliffe:
You may have heard of Sarah Palin and her lack of experience with virtually anything having to do with national politics (except her talent in winning pork projects) and foreign relations. But she also doesn’t believe in evolution, which means that, in principle, this discovery cannot fit into her world view unless she actually thinks God designed the roseola virus into us rather than this being the product of a process of natural selection.
We don’t need a vice president or, should Senator McCain be elected and die in office, a president who disavows science. She insists Creationism be taught alongside evolution and opposes many forms of research based on her Biblical interpretations. The impact of a Palin presidency — or her influence within the administration as vice president — on U.S. research and development policy would be disastrous.
I checked in with Mitch about the whole LHC thing and he offered me this:
I don’t think it is anti-science because of the terrorism angle, like the anthrax letters, rather it is an anxiety about progress, especially big steps forward. Think about the claims that the moon landings must have been faked. People don’t like the tearing away of mystery in their lives, because they are comfortable with those mysteries. Even if the answers the LHC make the world infinitely more interesting because we have a grasp of the beginnings of time and space, it looks to many people like we are slowly being transformed into mechanical beings who live in a mechanical universe by scientific discovery. Takes the romance away, too.
Unless you embrace changing explanations for the world, in which case this is a remarkable time. More scientific education, more math and more discussion of myth in non-science classes, whether social studies, literature or sociology, would help people embrace the importance of what’s going on today.