This is another one of those days when something in the news just drives me crazy. In this case, it's here, on the BBC internet news: Amazing News!.
Here it is, announced by a usually reputable news source, that "Villagers in central China have been using dinosaur bones as medicine - thinking they were from dragons. These bones have been dug up, then boiled in soup or ground down to make traditional medicines for decades. The news emerged this week when scientists displayed some excavated bones at a museum in Henan Province."
I didn't actually scream in anger; but almost.
This is UTTERLY not news; basically ANYONE with a real education in any biological field SHOULD KNOW THAT. Why? Because it WAS huge, world-wide news already. In 1929. Ever hear of "Peking Man"? Know how they found him? In the drugstore, that's how. Zhoukoudian. Actually, scientists knew "dragon bones" were fossils, and were looking at them, in the late 1800's. And Zhoukoudian, the site of Peking Man's discovery, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for crying out loud. Hardly obscure.
It's an incredibly widely known story. And here it is- not only did the scientists involved in the new story apparently not know, but neither did the story writer- NOR THE EDITORS.
So why am I ranting about this here? Because this phenomenon, and all our environmental disasters, are very closely related. Through the very serious, and growing, failure of our higher education systems and institutions.
This phenomenon of ill-trained young scientists announcing "discoveries" - that are decades, or sometimes centuries old- is not only astonishingly wasteful, but dangerous. Globally, earth-threateningly, dangerous. The problem needs to be societally recognized, and very seriously addressed.
I'll give just one recent example here; in Genetic Engineering. Just last week, the NYT printed another "Scientists Astonished" article; that did NOT astonish me, nor my colleagues in evolution. What, Genes are Complex?
The morons running the genetic engineering scams out there have finally had to admit that- gosh, it just ain't as simple as they said it was in all those corporate Prospectuses. They came up with a concept called "junk DNA" - basically the concept was that MOST of any organism's DNA - must be functionless- since THEY COULDN'T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT DID. And now, after decades of profitless corporations, and billions of dollars wasted, it's dawning on them that gee-golly, apparently all that DNA does actually DO something - like turn processes on, and off, for instance.
Evolutionary biologists never thought "junk DNA" was a sensible idea; in fact there are abundant reasons to KNOW otherwise. Guess what? ALL that DNA has a function- much of it very complex regulatory stuff. The morons just have no clue how it works. The rest of biology hopes these numnums will eventually actually... GO OUTSIDE their lab, and LOOK AT A FROG - in a pond. And watch it; and the pond; for at least an hour. Instead of looking at pictures of frog cells in the library. It is not the same thing.
I don't really have to explain to this audience what the consequences of this stupidity are- beyond utterly wasted capital resources; projects launched that are doomed to fail, false hopes, and careers ending in brick walls.
I contend this whole phenomenon of utterly uneducated PhDs is one of the leading causes of environmental catastrophe. You can find one who'll believe anything the CEO wants him/her to. Because... they do NOT get a genuine education. They get trained in minutiae; and often ONLY that.
If we're going to be able to change our species' behavior (and we know we have to) we desperately need accurate information; informed judgment. And we are NOT getting it from our universities these days. Some of it, to be sure, is the result of the vastly increased amount of "information" that's out there. But some of it just because of "grade" and "degree" inflation; and the complacency of all the complicit.
Your own examples, and anger, are welcome in the comments...