Saturday, September 30

They are neither debates nor informative programs: Spain deserves more from its television channels

“Anti-intellectualism is the cult of ignorance. It has been a constant in our political and cultural history, promoted by the false idea that democracy consists in my ignorance being as valid as your knowledge”

Issac Asimov

When we feel sick we go to our doctor’s office to be diagnosed; If the disease turns out to be serious, we may be encouraged to visit another specialist to contrast well-founded opinions. What no one with a modicum of common sense does is submit the diagnosis to the opinion of non-experts, no matter how “read and informed” they claim to be. Something similar happens when we discover problems in our home, or when we notice strange sounds in the car engine: we put ourselves in the hands of specialists to diagnose the situation and tell us how to proceed. It does not occur to anyone sensible to ask the opinion of that brother in law who proves to be so smart at family gatherings, unless he turns out to be a (really) expert on the subject.

The planet is sick. The planet is our home, it is the vehicle in which we navigate through the universe, and we are also each and every one of us as an integral part of the biosphere. The scientific community has spent decades debating ad nauseam the symptoms and origin of the disease that plagues us, while anticipating a fatal outcome if the appropriate measures are not taken with —increasingly— urgency. Scientists face a problem of enormous complexity since it involves, neither more nor less, the diagnosis of the Earth System as a whole, an extremely complex and unique system, where the living and the inert evolve over time in a delicate balance. The oceans, the atmosphere and the earth’s crust, together with the biosphere with its billions of species, continuously interact with each other through multiple interlocking processes that feed off each other while establishing intricate synergies. Understanding the problem in its entirety requires a considerable effort from scientists, because by encompassing multiple disciplines —both in the field of physics and chemistry, biology and geology— it requires an interdisciplinary vision that is anything but simple. Added to this is the mathematical complexity of modeling the system to analyze the results of this enormity of interactions, which can only be reproduced by means of computational simulations.

The debate on the climate emergency is not a discussion open to the public, nor is the diagnosis and treatment of a severe disease. We are facing a global problem whose study is carried out in laboratories, universities and research centers around the world, being debated in international conferences and through specialized journals. Literally thousands of scientists around the globe are sounding the alarm from study tables and deep knowledge, not from the spotlights of a frivolous set. Today, the consensus among specialists worldwide, both on the diagnosis and on the measures to be adopted, is overwhelming, exceeding 97%. The rest of the population, starting with the informers, could well be clear about this.

Scientists have a moral obligation to make every effort to spread their knowledge to the general public, particularly on a subject where the future of humanity is at stake. They must explain the facts over and over again without technicalities so that we can all understand them, and answer questions from citizens to resolve their doubts, a task for which they have the support of scientific disseminators who are experts in communication who help them convey the messages and make them affordable. Unfortunately, in their eagerness to inform public opinion, they are often submerged in a false debate, a populist trap that serves precisely the opposite: to misinform. Instead of answering questions from journalists, politicians or commentators, they often find themselves in the middle of a supposed “discussion of conflicting opinions” finding themselves in the position of “debating” with people who simply do not have the knowledge to do so but have constructed opinions a posteriori of an ideological positioning from superficial readings and doubtful sources. This is the case of Fran Hervías or Esperanza Aguirre, whose lack of knowledge about climate dynamics is easy to deduce. for his performance on the sets Talking about the subject. It is to recognize, of course, Aguirre’s admission of lack of knowledge, which does not prevent him from lending himself to discussing the subject. The result of these false debates is as ridiculous as forcing an astrophysicist to discuss the shape of the Earth with a flat earther, or expecting a Golden Retriever to reflect on existentialism with a philosopher. Barking, yes.

When the fake debate takes place while a third of Pakistan is flooded, adding millions of displaced people and hundreds of deaths, when in their eagerness to bring the ember to their negationist sardine the two politicians try to mock the expert who has been caught in their populist trap while they interrupt him with jokes, the false debate decays from ridiculousness to the most vulgar obscenity. The planet is sick, millions of people are already suffering the consequences, but certain representatives of the political class seem to find it very funny.

False debates are typical of false democracies. Equating ignorance with knowledge under the guise of confronting “different opinions” is a way of empowering ignorance, the most powerful tool used by populists to manipulate public opinion. It is the opposite of democracy. What the televisions and their owners gain from this is something that they will know and we can suspect or intuit. What potential viewers lose is clear: their right to be properly informed, to obtain truthful information that allows them to form their opinion in a well-founded manner. Accurate information is precisely what one would expect from the media in a democratic country and not shows of dubious taste at the service of spurious interests.

The discussion about the climatic emergency that public opinion has to keep hand in hand with the political class should focus on how to put into practice the measures to be implemented to mitigate the situation, how we can —together— with our grain of sand, Together with the great powers with their great forces, turn the tide of the situation. Scientifically proven facts are not debatable, just as your doctor’s diagnosis is not. If you want to contrast it, go to another specialist, but refrain from asking your brother-in-law.