Friday, August 22, 2014

Global Warming Denialism - life decisions

To survive every person must be able to make responsible life decisions.  Many aren't and find themselves in very bad situations.  I remember in 1978 reading articles in Science Magazine about a strange cancer, Kaposi's Sarcoma, being contracted by men who were gay.  I could see immediately that for gay men their life decisions needed to take this into account, that it was something far worse than other sexually transmitted diseases.  It was just a glimmer of evidence.  It was another four years before it was found that a retrovirus, HIV, was severely compromising their immune systems, enough for them to develop a serious and very rare cancer.

The problem for many critical life decisions, the science is slow.   Responsible life decisions are based on science, in evidence and observation, but sometimes critical life decisions have to move ahead of the science. Gay men had no alternative but to realize their lives were at stake years before science made that clear.

Even so for making better life decisions, science is all we have.  There are many who rely on the Christian Bible for making life decisions, but its use is very limited when it comes to, for example, disease.  A theory of disease and the relevance of hygiene were simply left out of the Bible, an argument used by atheists against it. Why indeed, if Christianity was so good for us, why did Jesus fail to tell us about simply hygiene as a way to avoid disease or even to tell us what it was. It took nearly two thousand years for the human race to figure out what disease was and what to do about it.  And it was science that accomplished this, not religion.

We are entering very difficult times, and it is science that we have to rely on.  But science is itself limited. Science is about observation and reasoning.  And it's not always right, human thought processes being human after all, and so science also must contain a process of correction and refinement.  And when there's plenty of time, science is an admirable process, arriving at some astounding views of reality such as the big bang and quantum mechanics.

But now we are beset by something even science trembles before, a planetary event with dire implications for the human race.  The underlying process, the effects of greenhouse gases, is well established scientifically and known since early 20th Century,
In 1917 Alexander Graham Bell wrote “[The unchecked burning of fossil fuels] would have a sort of greenhouse effect”, and “The net result is the greenhouse becomes a sort of hot-house.”[14][15] Bell went on to also advocate for the use of alternate energy sources, such as solar energy.[16]
But the actual playing out of this simple process is very complex, and science struggles to delineate the all of its outcomes.  Future times are very dangerous, and if science isn't going to be enough, what can we possibly do?

I believe we need to do something gay men in the late seventies should have done.  There were gay men developing a very rare cancer called Kaposi's Sarcoma, and even though it would take science four years to determine what was actually going on, that a retrovirus, HIV, was compromising their immune systems leaving them at the mercy of a rare cancer, gay men should have realized enough to change their behavior.

Science hasn't been able to provide the definitive results about global warming, but we should know enough to tell us the seriousness of our situation, and what action must be taken to preserve our civilization.

I'm afraid, though, that the distribution of methods for life decisions is not favorable.  Many, very many, people, are dependent on an apocryphally written book 2000 years old that left out just about everything we need to know about our future.  And another large group have developed conspiratorial theories such as that the government, or corporations, or some other social organization is wielding untold power over us. All of these alternate methods for making life decisions are certain to fail our civilization in these times.

I guess I'm not optimistic.