The morning’s thought today was: How on earth did they manage to get smoking banned in almost every country in the world in the space of barely 10 years?
It’s an extraordinary achievement.
I think that even North Korea has a smoking ban, although it doesn’t seem to apply to Rocket Man himself.
And all done without there being a single global government. I think there are still something like 200 separate nations in the world.
But it seems it doesn’t matter when it comes to things like smoking bans. They go through national borders like they don’t exist.
So how the hell did they manage to do it?
I think that the answer is that there’s pretty much a single global scientific consensus on any scientific question you may care to ask. American rocket scientists don’t think at all differently from Russian or Chinese or North Korean rocket scientists. They might all have political disagreements, but they don’t have scientific ones. Or at least not really any major ones.
Science is already globalised in the way that political society has yet to become fully globalised. There’s a global scientific consensus on everything scientific.
And medical science is part of that global scientific consensus. There’s a consensus of medical opinion just like there’s a consensus of rocket science opinion. And that means that when the scientific consensus changes, it changes everywhere, all over the world, more or less simultaneously.
I can’t remember what the old geological explanations used to be, but sometime around 1960 or 1970 the geological explanation of the world became something called Plate Tectonics. The world was suddenly decided to be made up of plates that were bumping and grinding together, and all of the volcanic events around the world were taking place along the fault lines between plates. And so whatever used to be taught stopped being taught, and everyone everywhere started being taught Plate Tectonics.
And much the same happened in about 1950 when it was discovered that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer. And again, in about 1990, when it was discovered that Carbon Dioxide Causes Global Warming. In both cases the scientific consensus flipped from one view to another, almost overnight. Anyone who disagreed was called a Denier, or even a Flat Earther.
How is this scientific consensus achieved? There doesn’t seem to be any means by which it is achieved. Scientists don’t seem to ever vote among themselves to elect a current consensus orthodoxy. It seems that there is instead a mood within any scientific discipline that favours one view more than another. Do all doctors believe that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, and do all climate scientists believe that Carbon Dioxide Causes Global Warming? Probably not.
Perhaps the consensus is actually always a fiction which is created by the mainstream media which reports on scientific developments. Perhaps it’s the media who determine what’s in and what’s out, just like they do with hemlines or hairstyles.
Fictional or not, the consensus opinion is that of the respective scientists in the various different fields. The opinions of ordinary people are irrelevant, because ordinary people know nothing about epidemiology or climate science or geology. Ordinary people are simply there to be told what the current consensus view is. For the most part they have no means of answering arguments that are often so highly mathematical that hardly anybody – apart from a few Experts – knows how to argue. In such circumstances, ordinary people are reduced to silence.
And so the consensus opinion on more or less anything is being formed among a very few people – all experts in their fields -, and it’s these people who create the consensus. There were probably only half a dozen senior geologists who decided, back in the 1960s or 70s, that Plate Tectonics was a much better explanation than the previous one. And their considered opinion became the new conventional wisdom almost overnight, firstly in the geological community, and then in public opinion all over the world. All of a sudden EVERYBODY believed in Plate Tectonics, including the bartender behind the saloon bar, and the taxi driver taking you to your next Tobacco Control conference.
Opinion changes almost overnight. One day everybody thinks one thing, with almost perfect certainty. The next day they think something else, with almost equally perfect certainty.
It doesn’t really matter who’s in government, or what country you live in, you keep waking up finding that everybody has stopped believing what they believed yesterday, and now believe something completely different today. And if you’re a “progressive”, you’ll congratulate yourself for the speed with which you changed your mind.
The Council of Nicaea under the emperor Constantine in 325 AD was called to settle questions about the triune nature of God, to write the Nicene Creed, and to establish the date of Easter. The fifth Solvay Conference, that was held in Copenhagen in 1927, discussed electrons and photons and the newly formulated quantum theory. That is to say that the 325 Council of Nicaea and the 1927 Copenhagen conference were not essentially very different in character: both discussed currently pressing but highly abstract ideas which nobody else could understand. And both conferences were equally definitive in their separate ways not just of the scientific opinion of the time, but of public opinion in general. Nothing has really changed in seventeen centuries.
And there are lots and lots of conferences being held everywhere these days. Some of them are closed to the public, like the Tobacco Control conference held in Moscow in 2014. And they all serve in small ways to shape educated (i.e. regimented) public opinion.
And this forms a sort of government of the like-minded, everywhere in the world. Yesterday they banned smoking. Then they banned carbon dioxide. And next they’ll ban cocktail sausages. And almost everybody will agree that it’s The Right Thing To Do. And the Debate Will Always Be Over before it’s even started. Because the debate only took place between a handful of geologists one afternoon in 1960.
And the more globalised any idea becomes, the more uniform public opinion becomes, and the harder it becomes to dissent from it. While there are two or three or more sides to any discussion, there is room for manoeuvre along the dimensions of the debate. When there is only one opinion, there is no room for manoeuvre, no place for dissent. Nobody wants to be a cocktail sausage denier.
And of course a uniformity of public opinion can also be manufactured simply by excluding all dissenters, refusing to allow them to speak. They are all drowned out. Like Arius in 325, or Albert Einstein in 1927.