Scientists and Relevance

Children like dinosaurs. Actually, lots of people like dinosaurs; they are the epitome of exotic creatures with their size and diversity. Also, they died out some 65 million years ago, likely the victims of a large meteor that fell onto modern day Mexico. The Alvarez Hypothesis is an fascinating story, but altogether irrelevant to day to day life. If a planet-threatening meteor or comet has not hit Earth in 65 million years, mankind can take its chances. Most people dismiss the lessons of the past century, so nearly everyone dismisses lessons from the K-T Boundary. Do not tell that to Scott Sampson, the star of the children’s dinosaur program Dinosaur Train and Chief Curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

On NPR, Sampson reasons that an interest in extinct species is essential to preserving today’s Earth. Children who do not take an interest in dinosaurs and such spend less time outdoors, and children who stay indoors will not appreciate the outdoors enough to save it from manmade disaster. So, obviously dinosaur programs for children protect the environment. Sampson’s need for relevance must be compensation for the fact that his subject matter has turned to stone, because his logic is painfully tortured. Sorry, Dr. Sampson, your profession, while interesting, is irrelevant to all aspects of the modern world.

Sampson’s ridiculous theory about dinosaurs and environmentalism is insightful as an example of why scientists poke their noses where they are not needed or welcome. Without any question, many sciences are the bedrock of technological advances that improve every human life. Physics lead to semi-conductors. Genetics lead to the green revolution that saved billions of lives around the world. But, for every serious scientific discipline, there is a faddish one with no practical purpose. Social sciences are cute, but Mao said “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Gender studies are remarkable if only for the fact they exist. If it does not move an electron around, it is probably worthless.

Paleontologists are no doubt quite smart, but their work is largely irrelevant. Knowing one’s life work is little more than a source of amusement for children must be grating, hence Sampson’s contorted theory. A few decades ago, climatologists were weathermen with PhDs, laughably irrelevant. Of course, Global Warming changed that. V.P. Al Gore may have pocked $200 million from this scam, but thousands of climatologists got what smart people truly crave – respect. From this filter, the 1970’s global cooling scare and the 2000’s global warming scare make equal sense.

Why would a white man pretend to be an Indian, and protest Columbus’s voyages from 500 years’ ago (Ward Churchill)? Perhaps the need for relevance in a field nearly everyone considers settled history. Why do so many professors pine for anarchy, socialism, and communism when those social systems are antithetical to the existence of professors? Perhaps studying systems found on the ash heap of history is not as rewarding as helping to reinstate them.

Nobody wants to be irrelevant, but scientists should resist pumping-up their studies to create relevance where none is warranted. Science is a powerful attractor of politicians who would use it as a canard to control their subjects. Even as the various AGW nightmarish predictions fail to come true, and each successive model predicts less of a disaster than the one before, politicians continue to hammer away at what should be a lost cause. The general population is not particularly concerned about AGW, but that does not slow the special interests tied to AGW alarmism. Likewise, most Americans think communism is long dead, but not to professors whose only hope for relevance is to brainwash annual crops of poli-sci graduates. To these ‘scientists:’ please just enjoy your tenure, benefits, and comfortable work schedule. Don’t ruin everything by trying to be relevant.

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