I’ve been recording the audio version of my new book, The Bug in our Thinking. In it I quote Carl Sagan from 1996:
We’ve arranged a society based on science and technology, in which nobody understands anything about science and technology. And this combustible mixture of ignorance and power, sooner or later, is going to blow up in our faces. Who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don’t know anything about it? …
Science is more than a body of knowledge, it’s a way of thinking. A way of sceptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If we are not able to ask sceptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be sceptical of those in authority, then we’re up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious, who comes ambling along.
Sagan was on the money. Every day brings news of more absurdities from charlatans in science, education, politics and media. To quote myself, from the same book: “Never have so many been so wrong about so much.”
Why is this happening?
If I could answer that in a couple of paragraphs I would not have had to write a whole book. Here, I will focus on just one element. Underneath all the dangerous and troubling beliefs about gender, climate, race, migration, medicine and vaccination lies a psychological problem. Too many people believe things that are not true. This is the new normal. Let’s call it the Pandelusion.
The Pandelusion – thinking and doing the ‘right thing’ – is the worldview relentlessly promoted by most of the media and driven by bad science and big money.
This doesn’t require a conspiracy by the way. That is just what the profit motive will do when untrammelled by conscience or virtue. For the controlling minority of society it is extremely lucrative to promote the Pandelusion. For the majority, the result is an expensive, destructive, disempowering rip-off.
It would take an encyclopaedia to itemise and refute each of the delusions one at a time. In fact it already has. On websites and Substacks and in books and scholarly journals millions of words have been written refuting every one of the dominant delusions with rational argument and factual evidence – yet the delusions are still in the ascendant. The encyclopaedia of hard evidence and common sense is ignored by most of the mainstream media and censored or ignored by complicit scientists.
It is extremely depressing to see that the majority of the population remain convinced by the Pandelusion. They are accustomed to being guided by orthodoxy. In good times that is not such a bad strategy. In hard times, and very specifically in these hard times, it does no good at all. All around us are hundreds of thousands of people who have been seriously injured by doing what they were told was ‘the right thing’. It takes time, independence, courage, humility, encouragement and good fortune to build the habit of trusting your own judgement even when all the facts are not available.
Now that lockdowns and the uptake of the staggeringly ‘safe and effective’ vaccines have set the precedent, the next bonanza is the climate emergency and orthodox opinion is being boosted, adjusted and streamlined to serve the interests of those who have positioned their investments to profit from it.
Do you remember when environmentalists used to talk about ‘externalities’? Externalities, you may recall, are the costs of a service or product which are not paid by the immediate user but by society at large. The costs of driving a car, for example, are not just purchase, fuel and maintenance. The external costs are exhaust emissions and tyre wear particulates, the motorways, the loss of mediaeval town centres to create road systems and car parks, the loss of market share for public transport, the cost of road traffic accidents, and so on and on.
It is helpful and illuminating to consider externalities when assessing the overall impact of a policy. Recently, however, the term has fallen out of favour amongst governments, environmentalists and the mainstream media. Why might that be?
The externalities of Net Zero are mind-bogglingly vast: environmental, economic, social and, for some, existential. Consider just one small element of the path to Net Zero: electric vehicles. The carbon cost of their manufacture means they have to be driven for nearly 10 years before there is a net carbon benefit. Cobalt mining in the Congo is environmentally destructive and exploitative of the local population. Dependency on manufacture in China creates huge political and economic weaknesses. I could go on, but you already know this and much, much more.
The externalities of lockdown were destructive beyond measure: the emotional abuse of elders dying alone, the sabotage of education in schools and universities, the bankruptcies and destruction of thousands upon thousands of small businesses, the depression, the abuse, the suicides and more.
The externalities of Covid vaccination, as we all know, without a shadow of a doubt, are ‘extremely rare’ because the vaccines are so very, very, very, very safe and effective. Nevertheless the vaccines have a remarkable correlation (not causation! Heaven forfend) with a plague of evil coincidence fairies and uncounted cancers, TIAs, myocarditis, heart disease, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and a huge range of other ailments, injuries and disabilities.
The externalities of catering to a tiny number of transgender activists are expensive, disproportionate and insulting and dangerous to women.
The externalities of woke policies in education include rendering academics too frightened to promote independence of thought. Not a great outcome for education.
I can stop listing externalities now – you can think of plenty of them that follow from every Government policy from migration to taxation.
No wonder the mainstream doesn’t talk about externalities any more. They are not to be mentioned.
The orthodoxy has aligned its messages across different platforms by means of helpful, fact-checking, billionaire-backed NGOs. All the bad science, the abstract thinking, the experts, the absurdities from wokery to environmental zealotry, the emotional incontinence and plain stupidity have become one overarching right think’.
It is all a single dictatorial blob of grandiose self-righteousness. The Pandelusion with its Pharisaic acolytes guides 100% of BBC output and at least 90% of media content throughout the Western world.
The power of the Pandelusion is immense.
That is terrifying and horribly depressing.
Some days I feel utterly defeated as I read, yet again, of more moronic orthodoxy.
And yet, and yet, I see a glimmer of hope.
Here is the weakness. Precisely because the Pandelusion has become a single, overarching, dominant orthodoxy, any flaw or weakness in any part of it can affect the whole thing. One tiny little crack anywhere in the whole monstrous edifice has the possibility of advancing, little by little by little, so that it will all, eventually, fall down.
All is not lost. We don’t need to challenge the whole Pandelusion or the big, embarrassing controversies about climate science confirmation bias or the magnificent safe and effective vaccines (Blessings be upon their profits forever, Amen). Now we can just chip away at one small, apparently insignificant, peripheral belief and open up one little crack. Then we can walk away and let the crack spread throughout the whole belief system – all by itself.
Those undiscussed externalities are impinging on more and more people’s everyday lives and they don’t like it. As people reject heat pumps, sabotage Ulez cameras, refuse smart meters, and electric cars, and protest against LTNs and 15-minute cities, they are discovering that those who claim to ‘know better’ know very little at all, and often, it turns out, are misrepresenting the science and even sometimes are lying. And the more they research the more inconvenient facts they unearth. In Germany a rebellion against dominant orthodoxy has gained power in a district council election. In the Netherlands the Farmer-Citizen movement (the BBB) has become the third-largest political force in the country. In Spain, Sweden and Italy there are flickers of sanity.
So let’s talk about externalities. Not the big ones, just the little ones. Like, “Oh Net Zero! Yay! but… I’m not totally sure about the cost-effectiveness of heat pumps.” Let’s say “Yay, Electric vehicles! … except how quickly, I wonder, will the authorities be able to upgrade the national grid to cope with charging them?”
Let’s talk about how 15-minute cities could be utterly brilliant – except maybe there might lots of traffic jams on the ring roads when you take your kids to karate. Let’s talk about how marvellous furlough was, it’s just a shame about inflation.
Let’s talk about how puzzled we are about the little white lies from our governments, about the police who have stopped policing, and the strange, inexplicable inaccuracy of predictions that haven’t come true.
Let us keep tap, tap, tapping away at the monolithic Pandelusion until we make the smallest little crack. Then in that crack, plant tiny little seeds of doubt – and walk away. The light of day will nourish those seeds and the seedlings will enlarge the crack and reality will finish the job. The hypnotic trance can be broken.
There has already been too much death, destruction and conflict. There will be more. But perhaps if we all keep talking we might be able to save some people and salvage a society worth living in.
The Bug in our Thinking and the Way to Fix It is available in the U.K. here. For the rest of the world, for the ebook – and in a week or two the audiobook – you can find it on your national Amazon store.
This article has been corrected. An earlier version incorrectly stated lithium rather than cobalt was mined in the Congo and that an electric car battery would need replacing after five years.