Oh, Well Done George!

This is fascinating logic. Seriously fascinating:

On almost every other weighty issue, the professional classes appear to be better informed than the rest of the population. On global warming the reverse seems to be true. The only people I have met over the past few years who haven\’t the faintest idea what man-made climate change is or how it is caused are university graduates. Not long ago, for example, I had to explain to the press officer at the government\’s department for transport what carbon dioxide is. A few weeks ago the writer Mark Lynas found a counter-intuitive revelation buried in the small print of an ICM survey. The number of people in social classes D and E who thought the government should prioritise the environment over the economy was higher (56%) than the proportion in classes A and B (47%). It is counter-intuitive only because a vast and well-funded denial industry has spent years persuading us that environmentalism is a middle-class caprice. Classes A and B are Channel 4\’s core audience.

Quite glorious logic, don\’t you think?

The professional classes are better informed on all matters except when they disagree with George. Then it\’s a conspiracy to mislead them.

That Ockham\’s Razor thing would lead to a slightly different conclusion, don\’t you think? That the professional classes are better informed on this matter too?

22 comments on “Oh, Well Done George!

  1. I’d venture to suggest that the vast majority of “professionals” with whom Monbiot interacts are drawn from “the chattering classes” – many of whom, from personal experience, are effectively mathmatically and scientifically illiterate. Certainly, the average “environment” correspondent appears to be qualified in either English or Journalism, hence their unquestioning acceptance of “scientific” reports based solely upon the conclusions laid out in the Executive Summaries, which we all know are frequently completely at odds with the body of said reports .

    As to the D’s and E’s… Thanks to HMG’s “advances” in education, they’re not educated in anything any more and consequently are unable to apply even a bit of critical thinking to the tides of “The Sky Is Falling” propaganda pumped out by politicians, the MSM and the BBC.

    Depressing really…

  2. If the professional classes manage to arrive at an informed opinion on everything else without being taken in by the spin, why are they uniquely susceptible to the spin of the eeeevil climate deniers? Especially given that the opposite spin is about 100 times more prevalent. I mean, FFS, he’s complaining about ONE programme, out of probably hundreds that explicitly or implicitly say just the opposite.

  3. I second Pogo.

    As a knuckle dragging engineer, I always found the superior sneer of those liberal arts types infuriating. I accept the idea of a well rounded education, but being considered ignorant by someone whose knowledge of maths & science is close to zero, is something else.

    The world is full of professionals who deem themselves clever, based on an education that does little to help them understand the world around them.

  4. “As a knuckle dragging engineer, I always found the superior sneer of those liberal arts types infuriating.”

    TBH I find both sides pretty tiresome – but the engineers are definitely the worst of the lot, because they believe in simple solutions, don’t understand statistics, *and* still believe that they’re scientists.

    The liberal arts types can be annoying, but at least they generally get the fact that anything based on common-sense (i.e. on generalisations that have evolved to make individuals’ interactions within small communities more effective) is almost certainly going to be wrong when extended to the realms of public policy…

  5. “engineers are definitely the worst of the lot, because they believe in simple solutions” – and, moreover, the swine may have had a career of successfully inventing simple solutions. Bastards!

  6. The liberal arts types can be annoying, but at least they generally get the fact that anything based on common-sense (i.e. on generalisations that have evolved to make individuals’ interactions within small communities more effective) is almost certainly going to be wrong when extended to the realms of public policy…

    So why do they insist on implementing them as public policy? 🙂

  7. DM – well, indeed. Simple solutions are great when you’re making girders into a building; not so good for addressing crime-and-deprivation.

    Pogo – Cos the Daily Mail tells them to 🙂

  8. We must not forget to take into account that the survey question was phrased in a comparative way: global warming versus healthy economy.

    And the D and E social groups contain most of the folk who think they have no stake in the health of the economy.

  9. Kit – OK, fair point. Stats in an engineering context are *very* different from stats in the context of sampling, surveying and polling, though, and engineers on t’Internet are among the most likely ‘educated’ types to say things like ‘how can a poll of 2000 people say anything about what 250,000,000 people believe?’.

    JP – I won some kind of award for single maths A-level, but I think that was cos the people who were properly good all did double maths (if I try talk to my friends who’ve become proper mathematicians about what they do these days my head starts spinning within a few minutes). Numeracy is definitely up there with “being a belligerent asshole” on the list of Things I Can Do, though.

  10. Just a small point; engineers (particularly electitcial, but other specialisations as well) are amongst the best versed on control theory, feedback mechanisms and the nasty, complicated mathematics involved therewith (z transforms anyone?). Society is a most complex system with myriad poorly understood feedback mechanisms and no sensible engineer looking at it in those terms would dream of making confident predictions on the effects of particular control inputs.

    This is why it is unfortunate that social engineering is practiced by socialists rather than engineers…

  11. “Society is a most complex system with myriad poorly understood feedback mechanisms and no sensible engineer looking at it in those terms would dream of making confident predictions on the effects of particular control inputs.”

    Yeah, you’d’ve thought. Counterexample: most of the US libertarian blogosphere.

  12. John B still doesn’t seem to think that Socialism has been proved false.

    Socialism is a failure, everywhere it’s tried it failed. So it’s not complex to conclude that doing something that always fails will yet again result in failure.

  13. “Socialism is a failure, everywhere it’s tried it failed.”

    Depending on your definition of socialism, either you’re wrong that it’s failed (compare: Sweden vs US. Which is better? The correct answer is a very complex dissertation, not “Sweden” or “the US”…) or you’re wrong that I don’t think it’s been proved to fail (see: the USSR, 1917-1935 and 1946-1989).

  14. “The well-funded denial industry” is another figment of George’s fertile imagination. He makes plenty of wild claims like this that never get justified, let alone apologized for.

  15. Education, by vouchers, notoriously (although still non-selective and with 90% provided by the public sector).

    Healthcare, no idea, but I’m guessing something like France with private-ish provision and government reimbursement… [checks] – ah, no, it’s 97% state funded with patient fees covering 3% of costs, although it is decentralised to local council level.

    Like I say, it depends on meaning. If by “socialism” you mean “something based on egalitarian ideals that has failed”, then obviously you’ll find socialism has failed. But if Sweden isn’t a society based on egalitarian ideals, then I’m a pot of jam.

    [and no, the US isn’t based on egalitarian ideals, before anyone gets smart. Equality of opportunity is a valid value system to hold, but it definitionally isn’t egalitarian…]

  16. Tom J:

    Socialists won’t become engineers of any sort by practicing “social engineering”; they’ll simply be authoritarian politicians or bureaucrats.

    But, on the other hand, engineers put to “social
    engineering” won’t be engineers anymore, either; they’ll also become authoritarian (and socialist!).

  17. john b:

    The problem with “egalitarian ideals” is that the phrase becomes virtually meaningless when is examined the thought-content on the matter–of even a few of its adherents.

    A certain portion of what most egalitarians believe would find no fault whatever among those anti-egalitarians favoring “equality of opportunity” or “equality before the law.” These are, indeed, matters on which very many would find at least minimal agreement. I’d even be so bold as to guess that, at least here in the US, such agreement might exceed 85%; the important point to take away is that such principle is so deeply entrenched at all levels of society that it furnishes almost no toehold for the rending of the “fabric” of civilization.

    It is entirely different with respect to egalitarianism. Here, quite apart from those differences all self-described egalitarians have with the “equal-opportunity” crowd, the fact is that there’s nothing approaching unanimity of opinion among egalitarians–on almost any subject. In fact, when laid out for inspection, the programs of various egalitarians seem to agree on nearly nothing except their original slogan.

    Its not merely a matter of justice. There are important practical matters. If all are to be the recipients of equal rewards, how are the performances of certain services vital to all to be encouraged? The market society (even pre-industrial age) answered that need by incentivizing various performances according to the intensity felt by potential consumers: it is the consumer who makes some rich and some poor. And to redress that inequity would certainly NOT be a way to maximize the quantity of such performances so their delivery could be available to the poorer but, rather, a certain way to discourage both the quantity and the quality of such services available to all.

    The thing to be kept in mind (although there are very many to whom the notion is as foreign as possible) is that it is precisely human inequality in its many major and minor variations that make HUMAN civilization even possible. If you would prefer that human society should more closely resemble an anthill or beehive, you might frankly state that preference–or in some way indicate just what degree of uniformity you’d find optimal; it would not be an unusual exercise to imagine just what benefits would need go by the wayside in order to satisfy one or another adjustment to equality.

    There’s a plain fact about the program of equality I would urge you consider. And that is, that instead of offering any rejoinder whatever to what I’ve said, try to think through the uniform application of even one or two of the policies you’d consider important aspects of such a society and the wider implications of those policies. The plain fact I referred to is any important departures in such direction will lead to consequences that even you would find more undesirable than those whose melioration you’d originally sought.

    The higher efficiency of specialized function is an ontological fact of the sphere of all life; you can see it throughout. Equality–sameness–is what makes individuals implacable foes in the struggle for existence dependent on getting a bit of what is scarce for all. In lower forms, it’s uniformly “devil take the hindmost.” Humans, on the other hand, though subject to the very same biological pressures, have, through the interposition of their unique endowment–reason–managed, to a great extent, to escape the fate of all lesser creatures. But that has been accomplished not only by exploiting the naturally-occurring differences among individuals but by actually intensifying those differences that contribute to the performance of societally-desirable functions.

    Think it through for a few weeks or even a month or more. I can’t imagine you not changing your mind on some of these topics.

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