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October 22, 2008

The Problem of Knowledge

In the little over three years since this blog was started as an attempt to explain an ongoing clinical study of cannabis use started in the Fall of 2001, it has grown to include more than three hundred individual entries. While most relate to American drug policy, particularly as related to the 1937 ban on cannabis instigated by Harry Anslinger and/or the war on drugs launched in 1969 by Richard Nixon, some deal with the policy’s earlier roots in the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914.

Many individual topics were chosen because an item in the news seemed to illustrate a particular point; others, usually concerning more complex issues, were dealt with piecemeal, with an effort (not always successful) to link newer entries to the earlier ones they expanded on.

The result has been that, over time, I have been forced to literally acquire new information in public while investigating certain common themes, many of which turn out to relate directly or indirectly with what might be called the “knowledge problem” and summarized as, “how do we know what we know?” I hasten to add that to the extent possible, I have tried to focus on observations, as opposed to beliefs, while realizing that those two categories are easily confused. The most succinct generalization of what seems the study’s most controversial finding to date is not that pot use can be medical, or even the unexpected revelations that its huge popularity is related to its potency as an anxiolytic, but that the continued global endorsement of an irrational and unscientific ban on all use is evidence of a peculiar evolutionary quirk in our cognitive machinery; one that didn’t become an urgent threat until relatively recently when critical Western knowledge, preserved and further enhanced by Middle Eastern scholars during the Middle Ages, was rediscovered during the Renaissance and ultimately led to the emergence of empirical Science between the mid Sixteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries.

The developments currently threatening modern humans are generally related to global overpopulation; itself made possible only because Science has been used so uncritically by humans to pursue the wealth it made possible.

Because we may now be close to the limits of change our planetary environment will tolerate and (dangerously) resistant to their recognition, the American Presidential Election scheduled to take place in less than two weeks is clearly the most important ever.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at October 22, 2008 04:23 PM