George Bernard Shaw: a primitive mind

By all accounts George Bernard Shaw was an literary man of some stature. I'd been lead to believe that GBS might also be intelligent. It was something of a shock, therefore, when Robert Youngson quoted GBS, here, as follows:
I mistrust laboratory methods because what happens in a laboratory is contrived and dictated. The evidence is manufactured: the cases are what reporters call frame-ups. If the evidence is unexpected or unaccountable it is re-manufactured until it proves what the laboratory controller wants it to prove.
Of course, a scientist might retire to his laboratory and toss a coin, and only record those occasions when it came up heads. Such dishonesty is not confined to the laboratory. For example, many years ago scientists would lower a long cable into the depths of the Atlantic with thermometers attached every few hundred metres. Very rarely, a thermometer would show some unexpectedly warm water at 1-2 km below the surface. Now this didn't make sense, so such unexpected measurements were conveniently discarded as "measurement error". When continuously recording probes were invented, the story changed. These things were rare but their structure was undeniable. They turned out to rotating, salty, hot blobs of water from the Mediterranean Ocean.

GBS is making quite a different type of mistake. His objection is predicated upon the notion that scientists can manipulate the laws of nature. Primitive people ascribed strange goings on to gods or whatever. A modern mind should understand that nature plays by rules that we cannot change --- or at least that has consistently been our experience thus far.

The other side of this coin is the notion that scientists are all powerful, in some way. That they change the rules of nature. Again, one can excuse the primitive mind for mistaking splitting of the atom as some sort of magic --- done by scientific demigods. But GBS was an educated man who lived in relatively modern times...

Unfortunately, many modern primates seem to have gotten no further ahead than GBS. The most glaring examples are Julian Simon and all his acolytes who believe in the assertion that: there could never be serious resource limitation because of the infinite capacity for humans to invent and adapt.

This belief is almost universal among politicians and economists --- a notably uninventive crowd. Religious leaders take an even more extreme view, that God will rearrange the laws of nature as He sees fit --- and if He doesn't, well that is His will and we must all give thanks for His benevolence and we'll see you in Heaven.

Scientists take exactly the opposite view. Invention and adaptation ARE bounded by the laws of nature --- just like everything else.

Thus, GBS, in three short sentences, embodies endemic stupidity that has undermined any prospect of an Age of Reason.