Cast your mind back to a time when people thought (believed) that the Earth is flat. And it was so, because it was taught so at university, until all that changed. At the time, they just didn’t know what they didn’t know.

Now cast your mind back to a time when people thought (believed) that the Sun orbits the Earth. And it was so, because it was taught so as knowledge at university, until all that changed. They just didn’t know what they didn’t know. (As it happens, according to Time magazine in February 2014: “1 in 4 Americans Apparently Unaware the Earth Orbits the Sun.”)

Now go back to when HIRUDOTHERAPY – the application of leeches to the skin – was thought (believed) to be helpful in treating all sorts of conditions, from headaches to haemorrhoids. And it was so, because it was taught so as knowledge at medical universities everywhere, until all that changed. They just didn’t know what they didn’t know. For example, about pain suppressants and antibiotics.

The point is, we cannot rely on science to provide us with all the right answers all the time. It can provide us with seemingly right answers to date in time. But we still don’t know what we don’t know.

If the opposite is true (ie. we CAN rely on science to provide us with all the right answers all the time), we could shut down most research in universities on the grounds that we know all that there is to know therefore further research is pointless. We are as gods!

So, what value is there in professors and doctors telling politicians what is and what isn’t true while still wanting to be paid to continue researching? Is it an admission that they don’t know what they don’t know? None of us do. Which means that instructions to ‘lock down’, to keep xyz distance apart from others, to not sing in a pub or a church, are just the understanding we have today. We don’t know what understanding we shall have tomorrow. But, for lack of full understanding, businesses, jobs, travel and education (!) have been shut down across the world (except in Denmark, apparently) and families ruined because we trusted people who didn’t know and wouldn’t admit that they didn’t know what they didn’t know. Give him the money, Mabel. (As Wilfred Pickles used to say).

That is only partly a silly argument, of course. But it does highlight the difference between research and tuition in universities, and between those ‘students’ who just want a certificate that will lead to a job and those who have permanent curiosity about their subjects of choice. It’s when they begin to advise politicians that the troubles begin, it seems to me.

Politicians are a whole different matter, of course. Far too many seem to care more about what is expedient than what might be true. That means, if the proposed solution fits, go for it, and worry about the consequences before the next election. Oooh! How cynical does one have to be to find something that looks and feels like truth?

_ _ _ _ _

I listened to BBC Radio4 this morning as journalists interviewed all and sundry about closed theatres, opening pubs and restaurants, and what is generally referred to as ‘the return to normal(ity)’. The accepted premise is that the way we lived pre-CV19 was ‘normal’. To my mind that represents a sophisticated attitude, meaning ‘complex and probably not natural’. Maybe ‘abnormal’?

Stay with me and my thought processes on this one. Is it ‘normal’ to spend 2-3 hours a day travelling to and from a place of work? Of course not. It has ‘become normal’ but that is a different matter.

Is it normal to live in the equivalent of a small box, stacked one on top of another into a tower of ‘flats’? Of course not, but it has ‘become normal’. It most certainly isn’t ‘natural’. Put another way, it is un-natural or even ab-normal, but it seems to work for some people, some of the time.

What I’m really describing is our comfort zone. We might not like it especially, but we stay with it because it feels more acceptable and comfortable than any change might turn out to be. What timid souls we can be. How conservative.

Others don’t want change because it wasn’t their idea, and then it becomes political. We know those people as socialists, or communists or just about anything else ending in -ists or -holes. Undecideds are liberals and they are the ‘whatevers’ of this world.

And there you have it. See how easy it is to create splits and dissent simply by applying a label? Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me. HOW BIG is THAT lie?

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