We here at Irregular Times unashamedly admit that we're big supporters of science.
Oh, we know that there are lots of other sparkly, shiny cultural arenas that it's easier to be a fan in. Religion encourages emotional devotion by telling people that all they need to do is believe in something in order to make everything okay. Professional sports encourages the idea that the fortunes of entire cities, and perhaps Western Civilization itself, rides upon the shoulders of adult men in funny costumes who like to play with balls. Popular musicians encourage teenagers to make statements by aligning themselves with different bands, even if they can't ever articulate just what kind of statement it is that they're making. Shall I surprise you by letting you know that most of the writers and editors here at Irregular Times are not into these kinds of pasttimes?
We at Irregular Times love science because it replaces empty hype with substantive excitement. Divert your attention away from rumors about the reincarnation, and move your eyes over reports of a gigantic black hole at the center of our galaxy and you'll see what we mean.
That said, Irregular Times doesn't really publish many articles on science. Folks, there are already lots of great publications that are devoted to the study of science. What we do, instead, is apply the skeptical aspect of the scientific outlook to issues of politics and culture.
To illustrate this point, we've put together a little montage of three recent stories in the news. The first one is scientific in its focus, while the second two deal with the political issue of foreign policy. Compare the structure of the three, and you'll see why we hold scientific-style skepticism in much higher regard than more popular aspects of current American culture such as, for example, professional wrestling.
As you read the following news items, look for the struggle between the sets of beliefs that would be most emotionally satisfying to Americans at large and the sets of beliefs that are best supported by known facts.Albert G. Smith, Editor-In-Chief, Irregular Times
This October, residents of the villages of Manokotak and Togiak in southwestern Alaska have reported sighting a large creature flying over their homes. They claim that the creature has a fourteen-foot wing span, making it the size of a small airplane. A pilot has also seen the beast, which he describes as a bird so big that he believes it would be best for locals to keep their children inside, in order to escape its grasp.
Scientists consulted about the sightings believe that Alaskans have truly seen a very large bird, probably a Stellar's sea eagle, but doubt that the bird is truly as large as has been claimed.
This autumn, George W. Bush and the small army of Nixon-era bureaucrats who advise him have made it their full-time job to convince the American people that an attack by Iraq could happen any day now. Although Bush himself retains his long-standing policy not to hold any unrehearsed interactions with reporters who might ask challenging questions, Bush's spokesmen have suggested that there is no time to wait. Dick Cheney himself has stated that if America does not hurry up and invade Iraq very quickly, the United States could suffer massive terrorist attacks as a result. Administration officials emphasize the risk of small unmanned planes flying all the way from Iraq, over the Mediterranean, past Europe, over the Atlantic Ocean and to the United States to drop their payloads of biological or chemical weapons.
A recent report from the United Nations contradicted the claims of the Bush Administration, indicating that Iraq is years away from being able to develop even a single primitive nuclear weapon, and has no technology for the delivery of such as weapon outside of its immediate region. Another analysis, from the Central Intelligence Agency, revealed that Iraq shows no intentions of attacking the United States at all, much less with weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand, this analysis reported, an American attack of Iraq could well provoke a desperate use of weapons of mass destruction against American troops in Iraq as part of last ditch defensive effort.
All in all, foreign policy experts say, there is no evidence of any Iraqi plans for an attack against the United States, much less a conspiracy for an imminent attack. The Bush administration responds to this critique by saying that it doesn't need evidence of Iraqi plans to attack the United States to justify an invasion of Iraq.
When North Korea announced its nuclear program, American intelligence agencies reported an extreme likelihood that North Korea already has some nuclear weapons, as well as the missile technology to deliver these weapons to Japan and South Korea. However, George W. Bush downplayed the threat. Comparing the North Korean possession of nuclear weapons to the threat posed by Iraq, Bush administration officials explained that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is "in a class by himself" and that Iraq thus is much more dangerous than North Korea.
Arms control experts point out that the United States has traditionally regarded Iraq as less of a threat than North Korea. During the Cold War, the United States worked with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein because he was regarded as an ally in the war against the greater evil of communism. During the 1980s, the United States went so far as to send samples of anthrax to the Iraqi government. As late as the early 1990s, America's European allies were allowed to sell Iraq the very laboratory equipment that weapons inspectors now seek to destroy. Donald Rumsfeld himself met with Saddam Hussein and shook hands with him as an ally. For most of the 20th Century, North Korea was regarded by the United States as a very serious threat because of its communist identity. North Korea remains communist to this day. Nothing about North Korea has changed except that it now admits to its nuclear weapons program. Nothing about Iraq has changed except that the great communist threat of the Cold War has been defeated, and thus the strategic importance of the current Iraqi government to the United States is diminished.
In fact, arms control experts point to Pakistan and India as the most dangerous possessors of weapons of mass destruction. Both nations have developed arsenals of nuclear weapons, aimed at each other, and are currently on the brink of all-out war. Pakistan has been implicated in providing equipment North Korea needed to develop nuclear weapons. Yet, George W. Bush identifies Pakistan as a key ally in his war against evildoers.
So, where's the hype? What kind of analysis do the hard facts suggest. Of course, we think that the answer is pretty clear, although plenty of George W. Bush's advisors wouldn't agree with us. As always, it's up to you to figure out the truth for yourself. Anyone who tells you differently, well, they probably have good reason to keep you from thinking for yourself.
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