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This office will be attending the BT Young Scientist of the Year exhibition in the RDS. I can remember seeing the work of one of the early winners; he had constructed a (working) model of the human digestive system, in glass and chemicals. I was incompetent to judge the work because there was in those days a bias against biology. Biology was not real science. Consequently, I cannot say if the model had a colon or not. I believe it did not but, not knowing any biology, I could see no flaw in the model.

In fact I think that there was no flaw in the model; nobody expected the model to perfectly correspond to a real human digestive system.

This kind of judgment or expectation is common. It’s a kind of wisdom. The wise judges of the exhibition recognised the merits of the digestive system model and nobody disagreed with, or challenged, this recognition.

After all. at that very moment, the scientific establishment was finalising the articulation of a Standard Model of the physical world of the very small. Like the human digestive model, it was incomplete. It still is incomplete. If the big guns of science can work like this, who are we to say otherwise?

Well, we, the “small guns” of science, are competent to make judgments on these matters, as much as anybody, as long as we remember the nature of the judgments we make. At any single instant of time, in any small location, there is a complexity of things and events beyond the possibility of perception. We do not perceive them and we manage to fumble along without doing so. Our fumbling is very odd. It is of the type that leads us to see faces, and other things, in rain clouds or in knotty floor boards. It also allows us to believe useful, false, things such as the idea that ostriches bury their heads in sand in the face of overwhelming reality.

The faces exist and do not exist and the ostriches bury their heads and do not bury their heads.

We saw an instance of this in the UK House of Commons the other day. The UK Prime Minister suggested that recent stormy weather and flooding may have originated in climate change. His backbenchers groaned in disapproval of that acknowledgment.

These are the same people who are responsible for opening up the UK to a licensing regime of fracking for shale gas.  For them, there is no evidence that fracking is problematic, let alone a disaster.