Saturday, July 29, 2006

Abandonment of Reason

Our country's increase in partisanship has led to an abandonment of reason. Entire networks have been created to encourage shortcuts to thinking. Don't form an opinion .... we'll form it for you. They tell you that "fair and balanced" means giving a voice to unpopular but valid opinions not heard elsewhere. What it actually means -- giving a disproportionate amount of time to an ideological slant and fake science (creationism, intelligent design) ... to the exclusion of proven science.

Giving equal time to two opposing viewpoints is neither "fair" nor "balanced". Doing that assumes that both viewpoints have equal merits. It would be like having 5 experts come on FOX and say that the sky is blue and 5 other experts saying that is was pink. No one would mistake that for being a "fair and balanced" look. You would be unfairly weighing in favor of the nutjobs that said the sky was pink. This is what happens when you have shows that will have one expert saying that global warming is happening and one that doesn't. It would only be accurate if the show had 999 global warming experts and 1 dissenting expert. And that one dissenter shouldn't be a talented novelist (but not a scientist).

I've seen the abandonment of reason. People will discount facts because of bias. I don't think they are stupid. But they do allow themselves to be influenced by religious or political bias. I've read people on these very blog pages discount global warming merely because they hate Al Gore. I've seen embarrassingly specious arguments to counter valid scientific ones. One such one that I have read is the ice cube in a glass argument. It goes that the water level does not rise if the ice cube melts. So, the polar ice caps melting won't have an influence on sea levels. That people will use an argument that could be disproven by a middle school science student is sad. And that they do it with a straight face is beyond explanation. I could go into a long-winded explanation but simply put, a good deal of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are above sea level (because of land). An ice cube in a glass does not take this into account.

Global Warming Is Rapidly Raising Sea Levels

Another argument used is that ice is increasing in the interior of Greenland. These "earth-is-flat" doubters will be so proud of themselves when they say this one. Though they hate science, they'll gladly trot it out if they think it reinforces their opinion. Ice is increasing in the interior of Greenland because a warming climate increase snowfall. It is at the edges of the ice shelves that show the true story.

Another easy way to determine who is telling the truth is by following the money. Who stands to benefit monetarily for the opinions they are projecting? It is not surprising that Bush, Rove, Cheney use every opportunity to diminish the importance of global warming. They have made their money from big oil. A world that uses less fossil fuels potentially hurts their bottom line and those of their major contributors. That future generations will pay the cost of this shortsightedness does not concern them. The thing is ... they know they are wrong and it doesn't matter. People like Karl Rove are not looking to change people's opinions. They are looking to cast enough doubt in order to influence an election. This is because they are not so much bound by ideology but rather by money. They do not want to believe in global warming because they have an economic interest in not doing so.

Scientists and others that speak to the dangers of global warming have no other self-interest than for the survival of our race. If anything, people like Al Gore have paid a political cost by so enthusiastically talking about global warming for 30 years.

If you don't like the messenger, then find sources that do not have an economic or political axe to grind. Tom Brokaw has a great special on the Discovery Channel:

Global Warming: What you Need to Know with Tom Brokaw

Don't just believe things because you get them in a chain e-mail, or because your church told you to believe them. That doesn't mean don't believe anything that you hear. It just means that you should ask yourself why people are giving you a certain opinion. Do they have a genuine concern or are they pushing an agenda? Also, are your reasons for believing or disbelieving something based on financial, political or religious considerations?


CyberKitten said...

Well said. The Global Warming skeptics I come across every day just make me sad....

The 'arguments' they put forward to show that it's not happening are works of art.. they really are inventive - and yet still it melts!

greatwhitebear said...

Al Gore had a great quote in his recent Rolling Stone interview. He quoted George Orwell as talking about "mans ability to believe something long after any rational being would come to opposite conclusion"

Shawn said...

The ice cube in the glass argument sounds a lot like the banana proves there is an intelligent designer argument.

When it comes down to it, many people would rather be part of a group than express an unpopular thought.

I've met a lot of people who, like you say, '... discount global warming merely because they hate Al Gore.'

Scott said...

Oh come on.

There's certainly a rational and reasonable argument against human beings causing global warming. There's also plenty of real scientists that disagree with the findings of their peers.

The argument isn't as straight forward as either you believe in global warming or you don't. There's plenty of arguments about what causes global warming, is it caused by humans or naturally occurring? And maybe more importantly what, if anything, can be done to stop it.

Just because someone doesn't jump on Al Gore's Believe it or Not band wagon doesn't mean they've abandoned reason. It just means they don't believe everything they see on TV.

Shaw Kenawe said...


How timely you post is.

I'm having an argument over at my blog with an anti-evolutionist who refuses to believe that we have a common ancestor in the chimp.

As to the poster above me, a majority of scientists, worldwide, concur that the warming is due to the burning of fossil fuels. A majority.

What more do people need to see?

dbackdad said...

Scott said, "There's certainly a rational and reasonable argument against human beings causing global warming ..." -- by all means I would love to see it. By making fun of Al Gore, you're only proving my point. It's not about Al Gore. I'd certainly recommend Tom Brokaw's special as an alternative.

Scott said...

See I wasn't making fun of Al Gore though. If I was making fun of Al Gore I probably would have mentioned something to the effect how he claimed to invent the Internet or one of any other silly statements he's made. But what I was actually referring to with the Believe it or Not bit is the insistence of people that it's an either or issue.

We, as a species, have not had adequate technology to plot or map weather patterns globally for more than 60 years, so to proclaim the last few years are the hottest the world has ever known is ludicrous. Maybe the hottest, by global estimate, since the 40's, that'd make sense. But sounding a rational alarm doesn't cause hysteria I guess so we have to say instead, "THE HOTTEST THE PLANET HAS BEEN SINCE EVER, ACTUALLY!"

Also your comment to follow the money is good advice, but when you take into consideration the millions of federal dollars put into global climate research I don't think it's accurate to say that scientists have no other interest in mind than the survival of our race.

As far as Gore goes I look at him the same way I do Bush: the man is a do-nothing, idiotic politician who is not in a position to lecture us on any topic, let alone a ridiculously overpoliticized one like global warming.

If he wants to do something about what he perceives as human caused global warming he could actually get up and invent something (fore real this time)((Okay that was me making fun of him)), like other great innovators of history, and make your mark saving the world that way. We could even build more nuclear plants (the cleanest, least environmentally damaging source of energy which is currently viable for full-scale deployment) and reduce our reliance on coal and oil for conventional everyday electricity... *blasphemy!*

dbackdad said...


Have you actually seen the movie? If you have not, please do not purport to know what it contains. Several of your statements indicate to me that you have not.

You do not have to have mapped global weather patterns to know the trend of temperatures in the past. We ave core ice samples going back 650,000 years that show that the atmospheric concentrations of methane and carbon dioxide that we currently have are the highest during that period. Temperatures have been shown to directly correspond to increases in CO2 concentration.

Secondly, Gore spends a good deal of the movie talking about how we can reverse the trend. It is not meant so much as a gloom and doom type movie but rather a wake up call.

Thirdly, you mention global warming as being overpoliticized. Gore goes out of his way to unpoliticize it. It is not a Democratic or Republican issue. He doesn't blame Bush. Global warming has been caused by hundreds of years of industrialization ... not 5 years worth. Though, Bush certainly hasn't helped.

I won't even dignify your comparison of Bush to Gore with a comment.

Scott said...

I didn't make any claims about the movie, I made claims about climate science in general.

You could look at core samples all you want, you still aren't going to get an accurate layout of the same mean global temperatures to compare to today's global means. Today, we use technology to survey the entire globe's temperature. Back before then, we guessed using rough surveys from sparce, individual temperature statistics taken from random parts of the globe, and yet prior to that we must guess what the globe's temperature and atmosphere was like from sampling of - what again? Oh yeah, ice. Because we have no idea what the atmosphere was actually like back then, so we must use terrestrial sampling to make rough estimates based on what composite of the soil we think was once a part of the atmosphere. Right.

It's not really an exact science, certainly not enough for hysteria, and when the most hysterical can't even engage in civil debate or generate plausible courses of action... sorta makes me think it's a nonsense issue to attempt to logically debate.

Btw, how the heck did your Backs get beat by the Cubs last nite? I mean.... the Cubs?

dbackdad said...

Scott -- he-he, we'll call a truce for now.

As to the D-backs, if you saw them play in June, you wouldn't wonder how they could lose to the Cubs. We played great in July, but I think we mustered 6 wins the entire month of June. Brutal. No consistency for our team.

greatwhitebear said...

Scott pretty much proves Orwells point!

Incidentally, did you hear "Der Governator" pretty much call Dumya a member of the Flat Earth Society in his joint press conference with Blair the other day?

Scott said...

Oh right, anyone who disagrees with you is clearly irrational.

Awesome logic.

CyberKitten said...

Actually there is abundant evidence for Global Climate Change & the fact that humans are part of the problem.

What issues do you have with the idea that the world is getting warmer & that our activities are helping that increase in temperature?

Shawn said...

"If I was making fun of Al Gore I probably would have mentioned something to the effect how he claimed to invent the Internet or one of any other silly statements he's made."

I've got a great idea Scott. Perhaps you could actually find the quote where Gore claims to have invented the internet.

Good luck, it doesn't exist.

What he actually claimed was that he played a role in the development of the internet, which is actually very true. He's credited by many of the 'founding fathers' of the internet with playing a vital role in making the technology available to the public. He did so as an early proponent of government funding of the early endeavors.

As to the global warming thing. You do make a good point that it is oversimplifying things to say it is due to only one factor. Climatic cycles are a part of the planet's history. It would be disingenuous to say that fossil fuels play no role however.

It's also important to note that it only takes a few degrees either way to create enormous changes in the world, particularly if they last for more than a few years. One need look no further in history than the climate changes that helped usher in the period of human history affectionately called the Dark Ages.

Trying to find ways to eliminate some of the factors we can control isn't silly liberal talk, it's just common sense.


Scott said...

Trying to find ways to eliminate some of the factors we can control isn't silly liberal talk, it's just common sense.

To an extent I'd agree, but I think this is already happening anyway. Industry is relatively new and, largely due to consumer demand, continues to create cleaner and more efficient products. It's not government regulation or incentive based taxes that's spurring these changes though, it's big "greedy" corporations looking to line their pockets with the money of a logical society that sees that more efficient technology is cheaper in the long run.

It's already been happening for 30 years. Just look at the efficiency ratings on appliances. Or the difference between fuel injected engines vs. those with carburetors. Everything gets cleaner.

All Al Gore and his band of merry environmentalists are going doing to do is waste their time making people feel guilty for stuff they're not doing and in 10 years when everything is even cleaner than it is now, they'll look back and say, "Look at the great thing we've done making everyone happy!"

Meanwhile they've done nothing. Just like his claim that he played a role in the development of the Internet when the wheels of that train were in motion from the early 60's by people who actually did things.

Al Gore and his friends on Capital Hill will do nothing but hinder the progress of cleaner technology through more regulation (i.e. shutting down the most environmentally friendly power of all, nuclear) and more taxation (i.e. BTU tax).

Coincidently, this is another flaw in current climate models. They assume that CO2 emissions will remain stagnant or increase for 20+ years. I strongly disagree, based on history, and would contend we are on the verge of an automotive revolution with engineers racing to create competitively priced alternatively fueled engines.

dbackdad said...

I just love the free-market evangelists. Industry is the cure for everything ... not. The EPA announced that the average fuel economy of passenger vehicles in the U.S. is 21 mpg. That number has actually gotten worse since 1987, when the average was 22.1 mpg. So, in 20 years we've regressed.

We should trust the future of our environment to big oil and the auto industry? Come on!

Shawn said...

I would argue that shining a light on a problem and calling attention to it is doing something. Especially if it spurs change and reform.

In the same vein, I would argue that enabling the minds and hands that create new technologies - like, say, the internet as we know it - is nearly as important as being the developer. Arguing otherwise is a bit like arguing that someone like Kennedy didn't play a huge part in the space program because he never built a rocket.

As to the idea that perks and regulation haven't played a large part in the positive things being done environmentally...well, that's just not the case.

For example, it wasn't any great marketplace phenomenon that removed DDT from use in agriculture it was government intervention.

The house I live in has been upgraded with many energy efficiencies not because of the generosity of the owner's heart, but due to a program paid for by the government that helps to offset the costs of conversion.

The leaking fuel tanks of Oregon's aging gas stations weren't replaced because owners cared deeply about the environment and their neighbors, but because the state mandated that they be replaced and meet higher standards.

Some of the changes that are occurring today, like the rise in production of hybrid energy cars is due to a small group of people advocating them strongly enough that finally the general public was willing to accept the idea of them. Combined with rapidly rising fuel costs, those early environmental nutjobs suddenly have a message that makes sense today.

But, back to the original thought of Dbackdad that many people (particularly conservatives) are unwilling to listen to scientists sending a message that there's a problem brewing because they don't like the messenger... That, to me, is just sad. It's sad and so very second grade.

But what do I know about science? I still believe in evolution...

dbackdad said...

Great comments Shawn. "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." -- problems don't go away by ignoring them.