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Friday, July 15, 2011

On A Friday: The Science of Opinion

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Will's beautiful picture of a treeIt’s a strange time that we live in. Not since 1975 has the Australian public formed a strong political opinion en-masse (with the possible exception of the referendum debate), yet now Cletus has his head out of the window yelling “Ma, it’s happening again!”

It is odd - most people in the country actually seem to have an opinion, or something closely resembling an opinion, about the carbon tax. It’s one topic which you can bring up with strangers on the street and hear in their response an opinion which was obviously formed before your conversation. Depending on your views, you might even get a nice run down the street with your new best friend too.

How set and how ill-informed people’s opinions are varies greatly, but that’s not the key thing to take away from this. The really weird thing is that this issue is not about football, it is not about MasterChef – it is about politics!

It is remarkable how much of a fuss this re-ordering of the tax system has caused. It has occurred to me that yearly alterations to government budgets have done more to effect household bottom lines than this tax is set to do. Indeed, a household earning $110, 000 per year would only have to pay about $10 per week with a carbon price in place; and in most cases you can end up with a huge tax break if you switch to the untaxed renewable energy sources.

Although being ranked as the second least trustworthy group of professionals in a poll of 1000 Reader’s Digest readers this year, people seem to be taking up arms on this issue after listening to, you got it, politicians.

What’s more, this “debate” is all just political rhetoric – something that I thought the Australian public was supposed to have an aversion to. Rhetoric-ridden speeches by Tony Abbott question the quality of our climatologists, our ecologists, our economists and probably even our biologists, archaeologists, zoologists and gynaecologists. At the same time, Julia Gillard levels anti-Abbott rhetoric at the nation.

This completely throws to the wind the importance of scientific research and instead makes this a debate about “who lied about what” and “which multi-millionaire should have to pay 5c extra for a hotdog.” The science is occasionally taken along for the ride.

Indeed yesterday one politician, Malcolm Turnbull, revealed that he had been receiving persistent abusive text messages from one individual about his stance on climate change; this is not in line with political debate or scientific research.

But if all this tax talk is taking its toll on you, you might want to sit back and watch the video below. The sentiment can be appreciated by everyone of every opinion and political persuasion, and even by those managing to hold no opinion.

I’m not sure if it was Terry Gilliam who was responsible for the animations. A large part of me hopes that it wasn’t.

Or maybe that song is too scientific for some people?

But oh, if only the sun were the direct source of all our power - then there’d be no need for a debate at all.


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©2011 William Kulich.

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