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Mike RobinsonFew would argue with the proposition that how we think determines how we solve our problems. Just consider the past week.

We’ve had what the mainstream media characterizes as a scandal in Ottawa. A strong member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, Jody Wilson-Raybould, has resigned and sought legal counsel on next moves from a retired Supreme Court of Canada justice.

Arguably, she’s planning her next moves legally, as befits a person with a well-trained legal mind and the ability to stay silent while strategies are devised.

In the wake of her legal thought processes, the prime minister and his advisers have resorted to political strategies to protect three things:

  • reputations;
  • a Liberal government shortly going into election mode;
  • and to maintain hegemony with corporate elites who pay hefty taxes and make political contributions.

The political thought process is certainly aware of the legal thought process, but it’s noticeably louder, and its sequential barks often lack co-ordination and lead to unpredictable ends. For instance, the PM’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, a consummate political thinker, has resigned whilst claiming no wrongdoing whatsoever.

But if he’s innocent, why is he resigning?

The political presumption of innocence really appears to assume guilt. Pardon us members of the public for being confused.

Meanwhile, the national media, led by “Canada’s national newspaper,” The Globe and Mail, have daily ramped up coverage of the scandal, claiming undisclosed sources and drawing editorial conclusions as fact.

Their process is certainly not very legalistic nor even overtly political (at least to me). I suspect that it’s driven by their economic imperative to sell papers in a market that’s bleeding print advertising revenues and daily losing readers to sassy online opinion aggregators, TV and talk radio.

So I think their thought process is overwhelmingly driven by newspaper economics, not legal analysis or pure politics.

So what’s the net result of the conjoining of legal, political and economic thought processes in determining whether Canada is indeed facing a terrible scandal, a crisis of government and a global diminution of our nascent reputation as the ranking progressive standard-bearer of democracy and freedom?

Mostly confusion.

One could certainly argue that the whole damn thing is a tempest in a Tim Hortons coffee mug.

Do SNC-Lavalin’s odious business practices with the now-deposed Gadhafi family in Libya – over 20 years ago and led by executives long-dismissed in disgrace – merit this 2019 hubbub?

Does the introduction of remediation agreements with SNC-Lavalin to solve intractable corporate crises and forestall years of expensive, job-delaying litigation, really signal forthcoming disaster?

This is where my brain increasingly desires a decision process devoid of emotion, political subterfuge and byzantine legal procedures (and their associated costs). I’m inclined to reach decisions by study, experimentation, peer review and rational thought. Ergo the scientific method.

What I love about the scientific method is its universality, its appeal to high-achieving intellectuals, its rigorous concern with replication and verification, its dismissal of illogic foolishness, its methodological imperviousness to graft, bribery and pomposity, and its manifest teachability.

As we all consider the scale and severity of the real problems now confronting the globe, starting with climate change, do we really think that the old legal-political-economic decision-making trifecta is up to the task?

Start by considering that U.S. President Donald Trump and his base don’t believe in the science of climate change. Many, in fact, think that the world’s future is in God’s hands. In the face of scientific fact to the contrary, they seek the expansion of coal-mining jobs and hydro-carbon production.

And they characterize refugees from failing global climate zones as “drug dealers, criminals and rapists.”

This is all rooted in the old paradigm of problem solving, developed before the evolution of the scientific method.

The problems we must solve are those best tackled through scientific inquiry and solution. In favouring this thought process, we consciously need to advance more people like Rachel Carson and Stephen Hawking, and far fewer people like Brett Kavanaugh and Donald Trump as decision-makers.

Let’s hope we’re up to the task. And let’s demand that our schools are doing a stellar job of teaching the scientific method.

Troy Media columnist Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum and the Bill Reid Gallery.


scientific method problems

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