Over on Taking Liberties last night, I read:
“No-one disputes the health risks associated with smoking but there can’t be a sane adult in the country who isn’t aware of them.”
And I immediately wrote: I dispute the health risks! And I didn’t much like the suggestion that anyone who was ‘unaware’ of them must be insane. Talk about ‘taking liberties’!
Of course, I’ve read plenty about the supposed risks. After all, it’s hard not to these days. But just because I’ve read about it umpteen times doesn’t mean I accept it or believe it. I’m not in the habit of believing everything I read. And these days I believe less and less of it.
I suppose that if someone had asked me before the smoking ban about the health risks of smoking, I would have probably conceded that there probably were risks, because enough people were saying so, but that there were risks in doing more or less anything.
But back then I couldn’t imagine that health professionals and senior doctors would lie straight-faced about the supposed dangers of secondhand smoke. Back then I trusted such people to be honest. It was almost inconceivable that they wouldn’t be.
Now I think that Tobacco Control and ASH and numerous other organisations as well as quite a few senior doctors are part of one big lie machine. It’s not just antismoking either. It’s also the whole of lifestyle medicine that seems utterly corrupt. It’s not just one or two bad apples: the rot even seems to extend to climate science and physics as well.
What I now think is that the propensity of people (like me) to trust authorities and experts and scientists has come to be abused by unscrupulous people. They appear to be people who set out to become experts and authorities so that they could advance some private or political agenda. After all, what better means is there to get your own way than by becoming the sort of expert that everyone automatically trusts, and whose word is accepted without question? And it helps a lot, when you’ve become an authoritative scientist if you’re also a professor in some university, and have a knighthood as well. It adds a little bit of lustre to your credibility. And the experts have all got them. They’re Professor this, or Sir that.
Anyway, the result in my case is that I no longer readily believe experts. And since I found Tobacco Control lying about secondhand smoke, it was only natural to wonder what else they’d been lying about. And now I think that everything they’ve ever claimed about tobacco is one big lie. And it’s a lie that has really only become the unquestionable truth for most people simply because it’s been repeated enough times that any alternative has become quite literally unthinkable. It’s a form of brain-washing.
And for the most part the result is that I have fallen back on what I used to believe before this army of ‘experts’ appeared. And back when I was a boy, I didn’t think smoking was harmful. Nobody did. My strong, robust father (who could run faster than I could when I was 15) was a 40-a-day smoker. And back then nobody worried about sugar or salt or meat or fat. And nobody went jogging, or wore trainers. And nobody worried about whether the climate was getting hotter. Such concerns were restricted to a lunatic fringe. Or to the joyless Dr W, the first antismoker I ever encountered, who I thought (and still think) was quite mad.
Or I’ve fallen back on my own personal experience. Smoking has done me no harm. And it doesn’t seem to have done anyone else I’ve known any harm either. The two people I ever knew who got lung cancer were both non-smokers. And sugar and salt and fat and meat are what I think of as good food, not some sort of poison. And I think the English climate is pretty much the same as it ever was: sometimes hot, sometimes cold – and recently colder than average. And if humans need to do exercises to keep fit, then so must animals. But I’ve never seen cats or dogs or any other animal ever doing press-ups.
If people that I knew gave up smoking, it was never because they’d had some near-death experience that they blamed on smoking. No, it was always because they’d come to trust the medical ‘authorities’ more than their own experience. They’d come to gradually believe that smoking was ‘bad for you’. They’d been successfully brain-washed.
It also helps that I can do a bit of mathematics and science. And the ‘experts’ are always ‘blinding people with science’. It’s meant that I can read research papers with a critical eye. It’s also meant that I’ve been able to write my own simple computer climate simulation model, and demonstrate to myself, if nobody else, that cloud cover is one of the primary factors governing climate. More recently I’ve been using my own solar system orbital simulation model to call into question NASA’s dismissal of any link between the half-megaton fireball over Chelyabinsk and the close approach of asteroid DA14 on the same day in February this year. After all, if people like James Hansen have senior posts in NASA, then the rot looks like it’s spread there too.
I’m more than ready to use my mathematics and science to call experts into question. But most people can’t do this, and so they end up trusting the experts with their incomprehensible equations and graphs.
Nor is it that government by such ‘experts’ is historically unheard of. A few centuries back, more or less the only people who could read Latin, and so read the Bible, were churchmen. And so, unable to understand its strange language, most people took the church’s word on trust. And some of the churchmen got very rich and powerful, selling indulgences to gullible lay people. The outcome was the Reformation, and the eclipse of the power of the church, and the rise of a Protestantism that rejected church authority. These days we need another reformation, and probably a dissolution of the universities as well, and a restoration of simple honesty and common sense. Because now the strange language is mathematics – or perhaps statistics -, and the experts in the universities use it all the time to sell indulgences like ‘carbon credits’ to gullible laymen.
It might almost be bearable, if the experts actually were expert at something. But these days they more and more seem to be so many confidence tricksters, pretending to understand what they really don’t understand at all.
Taking Liberties took the liberty of supposing that everyone believes what experts tell them. But I think that, these days, more and more people are making the journey from trust to distrust. And so I was gratified when, after I’d posted my objection, several subsequent comments agreed with the objection I posted up, and added their own additional ones. We’re not all sheep who believe everything we’re told. More and more people are learning to dispute the claims of self-styled experts, and there can’t be a sane person who doesn’t.
Nevertheless, that didn’t deter the last commenter from writing:
“Smoking is not good for one, we all know that,…”
So at least one person agreed with Simon Clark.