Monday, November 30, 2009

Do You Believe in Global Warming?

The argument is starting to remind me of a time we all go through, as kids start to ask questions about Santa Claus. Do you believe? How could you possibly believe THAT?

The Santa argument was probably never as polarized and many times, hateful, as the global warming debate, even though children always behave as, well, children. But the way people react to differing beliefs tends to be much the same.

There are only two camps that so staunchly believe in their ideology that they will only consider evidence that supports their favored hypothesis. How could there be more? On top of that, only my side is right. Only my side has supporting scientific documentation to support our claims. On one side, you have your Al Gore-types and his followers who have all agreed that "the debate is over." On the other, Rush Limbaugh and many conservatives have decided that there is no such thing as global warming and never was.

How can two polar opposite views have so much "scientific evidence?"

The only scientifically viable answer is that neither of them are completely accurate. Those of you who are familiar with the scientific method know that it only takes one piece of contradictory evidence to debunk a theory. There are no exceptions. There are no circumstances, scientifically speaking, that allow contradictory evidence to a hypothesis to be ignored in order to keep hope alive. It's just an inconvenient truth.

Yet, the debate rages on. Why? Because people use the argument for purely political purposes. There has been no raging public debate about the nature of black holes. It is possible that the earth will be destroyed completely by one of them someday. Why no debate about how to combat the black hole problem? The answer seems fairly simple:

  1. The threat is too distant for people on this little blue rock to sufficiently fear, and
  2. There is no cuddly face (polar bears, penguins, etc) to attach to the issue to help sell the masses on the idea.

Thus, it is not an effective tool one can use to garner influence. There is a great deal of power to be had and money to be made on both sides of the climate change debate. It is doubtful we will see the end of it any time soon. Even with the release of emails documenting a group of scientists fudging the numbers, and revelations of unreliable computer models, one side seems to want to take the belief to the grave. There is no way that contradictory evidence could ever be as valid as supporting evidence. In fact, it's probably fake! True believers and scientists who are desperate for research grants unite!

Meanwhile, the other side will just as obstinately insist that humans have no effect whatsoever on the environment. They point to the lack of warming over the past decade, and how disingenuous the claims because of the semantic shift from "Global Warming" to "Climate Change." Climates have changed constantly over the course of this planet's evolution (Some may not use the word "evolution," as they feel it is an affront to God. For the sake of this conversation, we will assume that we are talking about the majority of people on this side of the debate that do not believe that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago). The fact that climates have continued to change must mean that humans cannot have an affect on that or future changes! There is no way that contradictory evidence could ever be as valid as supporting evidence. In fact, it's probably fake!

Wait. Isn't that the justification the other camp just used for their beliefs?

Chances that there is no effect are very slim. Every action has a reaction. Our emissions must have some bearing on the future of the planet.

One thing that we can be more certain about: Both sides will continue to hide their true intentions. Would Al Gore still eat meat, use a private jet and live in a house that uses 20 times the amount of energy as the average house does in a year if he were a true believer? Would Sean Hannity bother to drive a Hybrid Escalade if he were a true doubter?

The reality tends to be somewhere in the middle. We have all heard the old adage: "There are three sides to every story. Your side. My side. And the truth." Chances are good that there is plenty of dishonesty to go around.

Should we all conserve and keep our environment as clean as we can? Of course! Very few of us enjoy living in a filthy habitat, and I believe that most people understand that in the long run, what is good for the environment is good for us. Should the government regulate business and tax citizens to the point where they squash productivity? I have my doubts.

Something tells me that 50 years from now, children will still be calling each other names, we will all still be here waiting to see which side can blow harder, you'll still probably be better off eating a salad in a Hummer than a cheeseburger in a Prius, and Florida will still be where America goes to die. We will have developed cleaner technologies to produce more sustainable energy, the most effective being the ones that were allowed to develop rather that the ones that were forced into development.

Welcome to the new religion. Spread the gospel and destroy the opposition. I, on the other hand, will take my science without God or politics.

That being said, I have no real or non-conflicting scientific data to back my assertions.

I should fit in just fine.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Wife Likes Purdue, Is Just Like Hitler

Most of us can agree that nothing tarnishes a moustache style faster than being responsible for 17,000,000 deaths. But does that equate to effectively tarnishing the image of a person or people with which we disagree with by comparing them to a man who was responsible for 17,000,000 deaths? The thought makes me give my premise a second thought. Perhaps a minor disagreement with my wife regarding our respective alma mater's doesn't make her deserving of a Hitler comparison.

But how much disagreement do we need to have in order to merit a Hitler comparison? If I am a pacifist, is anyone who has lad a nation in war deserving of that comparison? Would Are James Madison, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson, Bush, Bush and Obama "just like" Hitler?

The answer seems fairly obvious to me, and that answer is: No. Yet, I feel like I am a part of a dying breed, because comparing leaders, and the people who support certain contentious positions seems to have really taken off over the past decade. And before all of the Obama zombies out there get too excited, it isn't just conservatives that use this tact. Remember George W. Bush?

But that was different, right? Bush is much more like Hitler than Obama could ever be. He started not one war, but two, remember? Those wars are responsible for not only several thousand deaths within the ranks of the U.S. military, but also thousands of civilian deaths. Was not that war perpetrated under false pretenses?

Give me a break. Bush and Obama are more like each other than either is like Hitler. And the qualities that they do share with Hitler, they would appear to share with each other, and most other politicians. Belief that they are the only people that have the one, true and clear vision that will take this country to prosperity and equality? Check. Wildly out-sized Ego? Check. Willing to lie to the American people? Check.

While neither they, nor their supporters are likely to admit the above, they are true. And true of most politicians. One of the unwritten rules of Washington is that they will lie to the American public, but not each other. I would venture to guess that they don't even follow that rule very closely.

The Hitler comparison does, however, accomplish two things:

  1. It makes the people holding these signs, and professing the similarities look like fools.
  2. It drives a wedge between citizens that only helps to further the real agenda of both political parties.

But what is the real agenda of the parties? To gain and hold power, of course! Watch these people for any extended period of time, and it becomes obvious that the only thing that these people truly believe in is their own indispensability. Regardless of political philosophy, the people who run this country have shown, not with their words, but with their actions, that the populace exists only to provide them means to sustain their status and position. Perhaps someday, if they can consolidate enough power, they will bestow upon us the utopia that only they are fit to build.

In order to gain and hold power, the parties need to be able to break people down into homogeneous demographic groups. Crossover within these groups only makes it difficult to analyze the "coalition" needed to achieve victory. The focus is always placed upon what makes people different, rather than what makes them similar. Ask yourself: Why does it seem like the most utilized ideological arguments within the parties tend to boil things down to abortion? Could it be because it is an extremely emotional issue, with sides between which wedges are easily driven? But is it the issue that affects the most people?

Once they the two parties have people divided into two camps based upon this issue, they can begin to sort, and assert ideological control over them. The first step is to encourage demonization of the other side. What monster could ever support killing babies? What horrible person would ever deny a woman her choice? Could the answer be... Someone just like Hitler? This wedge has been used for a nearly a century to help "consolidate a base." It has been pushed to the point where each camp can hardly see how they could possibly have anything in common with the other. The politicians hardly need to stoke the fire anymore, we're exactly where they want us. We're so busy turning on each other that nobody has the tome to keep an eye on what they are doing. They thrive on misinformation and confusion.

I was watching a program last night where Peal Jam front-man Eddie Vedder (who has a liberal viewpoint) was asked how he felt about some of his fans having different ideologies than he and his band-mates. He responded by saying that he felt that it incumbent upon him to have strong convictions, and encouraged everyone to do their own research, and not wear blinders. And I think that it intimated something very powerful, but perhaps not exactly what he wished to convey. He has blinders of his own. He obviously feels that any logical person who does research would come to the same opinion as him. In a perfect world, that might be true. However, I am sure that he tends toward research that tends toward the conclusions in the direction of his internal compass. Unfortunately, we all do, and I will discuss this more in a later blog. The point is that while there are always vast areas of agreement, where everyone's moral compass will overlap, it is not part of the human condition to form societies of homogeneous opinion.

Does that mean that some people are "good" and some people are "bad?" Maybe. Are there people out there who the the capability to become as bad as Hitler was? Probably. Does that make people who disagree with you on points of policy "Just Like Hitler?" Probably not.

So until Obama starts to blame the country's economic woes on Jews, and starts professing that we need to invade Canada and Mexico so that our people can have "lebensraum," until our military kills every single person in Iraq on Bush's order, the only person that these comparisons will reflect on will be the people who make them. But at least they did get one thing right: It always seems to be same shit, different asshole.