Why Do Liars Lie? And Why Do They Get Annoyed When We Don't Immediately Believe Them?

Republibot 3.0
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Back in December, NASA reported "Discovering" a Non-Carbon-based life form. This quickly turned out to be a deliberate misrepresentation: NASA *Engineered* the life form, they didn't find it. NASA then couldn't understand why the public lost interest, rolled over, and went back to sleep. This, of course, resulted in a great deal of annoyance on the part of NASA and the biological sciences: Why aren't we excited? Why are we so stupid? Obviously, it must be our fault.

Now, I need to point out that I'm as pro-science as they come: I am the scion of a family of engineers and doctors and the occasional scientist. I'm pro-space, pro-biological sciences, pro-technology, pro-school, I'm a Christian, but I believe in evolution, I don't believe in Global Warming as such, but I do believe it's worthy of further study simply because it is the nature of science to discover stuff even while running down a blind alley. So I'm Joe science here, ok? I'm not some anti-intellectual ludite. Just the same, Scientists' frequent behavior and frequently petulant reaction when criticized for said behavior does beg the question, "Seriously, dude, what the hell?"

I think the problem is one of ego. ("Yes, after spending $35 billion, I am now 62% sure there is water on the Mars, even though we've been pretty sure of that for more than a century already. Now: give me another $70 billion.") Some of it is just giddy excitement, as when that jokimo a few months or so back said it was a certainty that there was life on this new exoplanet, despite a complete and total lack of *any* evidence whatsoever. Sometimes it's just a flat-out deliberate misrepresentation, as with the "Martian Microbe Meteor" from the nineties or this Arsenic Bug thing.

Deliberate lying is, of course, the only one of these things that really bothers me. If you watch the press conference for the Arsenic-based life form, there are questions from the reporters that indicate they were under the impression I was: that it was a natural life form. There's some obvious confusion when the scientist lady explains otherwise, but this isn't just "Reporters are stupid." (Which in fact, they generally are) This is clearly a case of "Reporters were told one thing, and then the scientist contradicted it."

Of course the good thing is that the scientist lady refused to go along with the ruse, so, great for here, but what really bugs me is when NASA pulls this kind of crap, then says "Oh, it was just a misunderstanding" and then never bothers to try and clear it up afterwards. They never printed a retraction on the Martian Microbe thing, AFAIK, and most people I know who've heard of it still cite the rock as proof of martian life. So you're in the position of a scientific agency deliberately spreading misinformation, which casts a pall over science in general, and it raises very serious questions about what else them thar' double-domed eggheads is a-lying about.

I mean, we know they lied about Nuclear Winter, we know they vastly overstated the Ozone hole, we know the whole recycling thing is a crock (Excepting Aluminum), we're pretty sure the Augustine Commission was full of crap. It's not like this is an isolated incident...so are they lying about Global Warming? Evolution? Nuclear Waste? About how it's safe to eat seafood from the Gulf of Mexico? It's hard to have faith in any of that stuff if the messenger is a liar.

And that raises the huge question of *why* they're lying. I mean, the truth is easy, the truth is a one-trick pony: "This is," and then you're done with it. Lying is infinitely variable: are they lying for budgetary reasons? (Basically anything NASA's ever done) or leftist political ones (Sagan's Nuclear Winter, The Augustine Commission) or rightist political ones (Niven/Pournelle's Strategic Defense Initiative), or simply to cover up a string of colossally expensive blunders? (The Shuttle program, 1973-Present) If you fall for a lie, then you're buying into whatever their agenda is, which further erodes one's ability to have faith. And, of course it plays into the hands of the paranoid schizophrenics who believe we never went to the moon and extras from "V" rule the earth.

For the most part, NASA seems to lie for budgetary reasons. They're a government agency, they need money. If they can get a little public interest when the budget is up for review, the liars at NASA can manipulate the liars in Washington to give them a little extra jack, because, as Berke Brethed pointed out, "Scientists need Ferraris, too, you know." Likewise, most of the research coming out of universities in the world is to a greater or lesser extent subsidized by governments. Thus, this, too, is not immune from concerns of political favor. They're more likely to research things that will get 'em further grants, less likely to report things opposed to the current political views.

It's the nature of the beast: Most lies are for pecuniary reasons.

Not all, though.

So: Note to scientists: don't dumb things down, don't misrepresent stuff, don't whore your minds out for money. You do fantastic, amazing, wonderful things that would have seemed worshipful in any age before our own. You, more than any other factor, have transformed humanity from a bunch of superstitious nitwits grubbing around in ditches and poking at things with sticks into a species that has conquered the world (The good bits of it, anyway) and studied most of the solar system. You are astounding and mighty people. The keys to unlocking God's creation are in your hands, not in ours.

Just be worthy of them, ok? That's all we ask.