“Now for the long term” by Sir John Beddington & Lord Rees

6 December 2013 by Farooq Khan, posted in events, global challenges


The establishment of the Oxford Martin School is an important initiative to research the greatest global challenges facing us. I attended a featured event organised by the School, 'Now for the Long Term' where Sir John Beddington and Lord Rees outlined some of the short-term and long-term challenges that require urgent attention from governments worldwide. I was struck by both the degree of optimism and pessimism in tackling issues such as climate change, where it seems that scientific evidence is being superseded by political agendas. Indeed it would seem to some that many politicians are more concerned about winning elections. While science and engineering are integral to finding solutions to many of the issues facing our world, they fundamentally depend upon policy decisions, which are ultimately shaped by values. People's worldview and values will determine how they think about solving problems and how they prioritise, and that seems to be at the heart of the problem of why we seem unable to tackle issues affecting the future existence of humanity. As Lord Rees said there is no scientific impediment to achieving a sustainable world, however we still need to overcome the gap between knowledge and effective action.

There are some deeper issues, which have to be tackled of really getting to the reason of why we are not taking on these issues with the seriousness and commitment needed. We have brilliant scientists and engineers and more are needed but if the political culture and values aren't built upon an aspiration to discover what is true, and a culture of basing decisions upon evidence, rather than desires then it makes the task of changing our world for the better that much harder. Indeed so much of our time and energy seems to be taken up having to convince people, and even when people are confronted with overwhelming evidence there is still a reluctance to take it on board, which leaves me asking the question, why?


One Response to ““Now for the long term” by Sir John Beddington & Lord Rees”

  1. Richard Patterson Reply | Permalink

    Now neuroscience proves that people don’t necessarily falsely claim to believe in equality, for example. Instead, neuroimaging shows that decision-making AUTOMATICALLY TRIGGERS SPECIFIC REGIONS OF THE BRAIN responsible for unconscious processing, including those measured by a highly validated unconscious-bias test. This is wiring, not software or firmware. This highly implicates our own Pleistocene evolution-given brain itself. It says we are NOT necessarily outside of nature that our cultural institutions tell us we are. For those of us who observe ourselves and each other, there are in all of us many primal sourced templates that unconsciously run much of our lives, while our personal headline belief is that we are independent, rational decision-makers. In the larger framework of our post modern sophistication, reason and truth are outmoded ideas. If we are still inside of natural processes, then what we are doing to the Earth's macro systems is nature's negative feedback loop for determining the brain it did. Regardless of how much science practitioners are certain that reason can rule the day, a closer look reveals we have a long way to go to get to the introspective self that notices those unconscious templates as they fly up from our primal past to cloud or destroy what rational, reasonable, data-based information we may individually or socially be privileged to know. Poll: Nearly 8 in 10 Americans believe in angels. By using a strictly normative model, it is science that is the cult and is only tolerated because enough wealthy people have become wealthy because they are sophisticated enough to understand and appreciate science, per se. They don't necessarily care about all conclusions of science--just the ones that profit them personally. Many outcomes of the scientific process are simply inconvenient toward self aggrandizement, one of those irresistible unconscious primal templates that come slamming into our prefrontal cortex and win the battle in strategic decision-making. Sorry if it seems like an old morality play.

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