Article 4

Continuing Failure To Differentiate Knowledge From Belief.

Having obtained a much delayed Brexit through the belief-consensus of a general election, Dominic Cummings announced his belief-based opinion as to how such delays might be avoided in future implementations by the recruitment of ‘misfits and weirdoes’ to the civil service in such numbers as to overcome all opposition from existing and self-perpetuating establishment. In commenting on this proposal, Henry de Quetteville declared in The Daily Telegraph of 12/1/20 that ‘this dream’ arose from the success of the US post-war creation of its Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).  According to de Quetteville, Cummings wants his misfits and weirdoes to make the UK the best place to be for the production of totally transformative computer networks, GPS, self-drive cars etc. Indeed, for those who can invent the future by creating new industries and delivering £ trillions for the UK economy, ARPA/USA having created 35 trillion and counting for the US economy, while in comparison, Boris Johnson has vowed to double state funding of R&D expenditure from 34 billion per annum (2.4% of GDP) by 2027.

Meanwhile Dominic Cummings claims that no country in the world is better able to this as well as we can, but that to do so we need to overcome our tendency to short-term planning and our aversion to risk; that to reverse these tendencies we must hand our problems to the widest possible range of ‘brilliant minds’; and that to do so we must reform the UK civil service which he blames for our failures thus far. Thus, while the ARPA/USA was born of the Cold War and concentrated on defence, Cummings intends the ARPA/UK to be active across the board with no such remit or restriction; to be operative by the end of this parliament; and to be based north of the Oxbridge-London triangle.  The  de Quetteville article also indicates that this new approach will be scientific in character as exemplified by the centres set up last year (2019) at a cost of £5million each in Birmingham, Glasgow, Oxford and London. However, the article also included cautionary criticisms based on the nature of ‘scientific research which cannot produce on demand’.

My initial response to Dominic Cummings; to Henry de Quetteville; and to the public in general, is that their fore-going proposals and comments are further examples of the ubiquitous misunderstanding of science, of what it does produce, and of the means of its production, all of which I am seeking to correct by means of this website.  To these ends, I go further in stating that while Reformation of the Civil Service is long overdue, its defects are not so much related to its alleged caution, as to its failure to recognise the available which already refutes the beliefs and opinions on which it bases its policy-formulations; to its consequent failure to utilise this available knowledge in these policy-formulations; and to its failure to recognise the need further specific knowledge to be acquired if not already available prior to formulating any future policy . 

Thus, my proposal for Reformation of the Civil Service is that, it must be made to recognise already available knowledge wherever this is relevant to future policy-making; that it should  reformulate existing belief-only/opinion-only policies on the basis of already available knowledge; that it should recognise the need to acquire further knowledge if existing knowledge is insufficient for the formulation of future policies; and that it should advise ministers on the basis of available knowledge and advise them against the implementation belief-only/opinion-only policies. In this way the political system as a whole will implement policies which will actually work in reality and avoid those which will fail in reality in the absence of the relevant knowledge.  

For the convenience of my readers, I repeat here repeat my definitive differentiation of the knowledge/ belief dichotomy and with it those of truth/falsehood, wisdom/folly, right/wrong and good/bad, which I arrived at by observing that reality stimulates our imaginations through our senses to rational beliefs transformable to knowledge by evaluation of their compliance or non-compliance with reality, or to those which can only be accepted, rejected or suspended as beliefs beyond reality-validation in practice or in principle, but which cannot be accepted as knowledge. Again for the convenience of my readers, I repeat that the reality-evaluation of specific beliefs as hypotheses produced the craft and self-knowledge which secured our group-species survival from time immemorial and the science and technology which enhanced our welfare from the seventeenth century onwards, while knowledge-based social cohesion was variously disrupted by conflicting religious beliefs, by knowledge-rejecting secular beliefs or by the reaction of ignored reality in ways which belief is unable to anticipate and/or avert.

26/5/20.                     

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