Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Strange Website

Here is a site that I became aware of when the editor took issue with some comments I made about DDT and the Junk Science site on my local science blog, Dangerous Ideas.

The site editor claims:

"Our unique collection of editors and scientific advisers maintain an ongoing intellectual dialogue with leading thinkers in many areas, including biology, physics, space science, oceanography, nuclear energy, and ancient epigraphy. Original studies by the controversial economist Lyndon LaRouche have challenged the epistemological foundations of the von Neumann and Wiener-Shannon information theory, and located physical science as a branch of physical economy. In science policy areas, we have challenged sacred cows, from the theory of global warming to the linear threshold concept of radiation."

Lyndon LaRouche? Now having a bit of a Romantic streak, I do like rooting for the maverick but I find LaRouche incomprehensible and always did. I remember patiently listening to one of campaign speeches on the tube and going "say what?" Some times I get obscure, but LaRouche is really beyond obscure all the time.

What is curious is that he seems to have attracted a following as described in these Washington Post articles. I am sure they only present one side but they are fascinating reads.

According to the first Washington Post report:

"LaRouche, who expresses loathing for timid conformists, wears belligerence like a badge. He and his supporters accuse perceived enemies of slander, crimes, plots and perversions. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda had nothing to do with the September 11, 2001, attacks, LaRouche says. Elements within the U.S. military launched the attacks as an attempted coup. Defense Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz was one of the conspirators, LaRouche claims, along with former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and the Israeli army."

What is it that attracts people to these sorts of convoluted conspiracy theories, be it this one or any one of the many that propagate through the web? Strangely enough I don't like to completely dismiss these LaRouche sites any more than I completely dismiss creationist sites. There is a certain sense that they can ground us be making us revisit how we think know what we think we know (See, I told you I could be obscure if you didn't follow that).

That's perhaps a good thing especially for the young, but also for any one from time to time. After all, much of our conventional wisdom does turn out to be as Douglas Adams might say were he alive - almost completely unlike what is really going on. Most of us though don't get too hung up on these sorts of epistemological issues and go about with our little rules of thumb about how things work.

So what gives? Am I just, well, obtuse? Maybe its just the virus I have been fighting.
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