Creative Destruction

May 31, 2006

Brother Gore’s traveling salvation show

Filed under: Current Events,Politics,Science — bazzer @ 10:20 am

A friend of mine recently invited me to go see An Inconvenient Truth. I politely explained that sitting in a dark room and being lectured by Al Gore for two hours is not my idea of entertainment.

It's nothing personal, but global warming is a religion to Mr. Gore. I don't mean that as an insult, necessarily. He's clearly very passionate on the topic. But just as I don't want to hear a televangelist preach to me about how I should live my life, I don't want Gore doing it either. "Don't have an abortion" or "Don't be gay" would be replaced with "Don't drive an SUV," but at the end of the day, Al Gore is just another bible-thumper, complete with apocalyptic rhetoric about "the end of civilization."

And if there's anything that bugs me more than religious proselytizers, it's religious proselytizing masquerading as science. Science says average global temperatures currently seem to be in a warming trend. Fine. But once you've gone on to attribute Hurricane Katrina or Indonesian tsunamis to global warming, you are now squarely in the domain of religion, plain and simple.

Global warming is a serious issue, but also a political hot button. Too many people from both sides carry their ideological baggage to the debate, which is a shame. There is precious little in the way of sober, dispassionate scientific examination of the data. We need more of that, not less. We certainly won't be getting it from Al Gore, however.

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18 Comments »

  1. Global warming is a serious issue, but also a political hot button. Too many people from both sides carry their ideological baggage to the debate, which is a shame. There is precious little in the way of sober, dispassionate scientific examination of the data.

    Problem is, I don’t see Al Gore as the biggest obstacle to this. The biggest obstacle seems to be certain business intersts and lobbiers who have calculated that it is cheaper* to organize a propaganda campaign that paints those who seek to reduce pollution as religious kooks and offering often self-contradictory alternative explanations than the rather simple one that increase in heat-binding gases increases the amount of heat that stays in Earth (rather than being reflected to space), than to develop technology that would pollute less.

    Personally I’m not in the domain Gore etc. rather I trust in the capacity of humans to solve problems with technological know-how and science (make fusion power reality, damnit). But the “believing in global warming is a religion” campaign isn’t helping this at all, and one might follow the money to see who is doing this (too bad many on the environmentalist side are loons that do fit the stereotype).

    *= This is not really a criticism, but an observation.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 31, 2006 @ 12:33 pm | Reply

  2. Know whatcha mean. Last year I recall both public television and public radio did stories about how New Orleans was vulnerable to some catastrophic hurricane. You never heard so much bible-thumping apocalyptic rhetoric and “Don’t be complacent!” warnings.

    Sure, the delta had eroded. Sure, gulf storms had grown pretty strong recently. Sure, the levies were problematic. Sure, the nation’s energy supplies were peculiarly vulnerable at this point. But where was the evidence saying which SPECIFIC storm would hit New Orleans? There wasn’t any, of course. Just a lot of probabilistic handwaving and other religious mumbo-jumbo.

    Too bad we can’t find any sober, dispassionate scientific examination of the issue. Or pretty much any issue. Scientists seem to have a religious obsession with their “probabilistic analyses.” Once you start believing that junk, it’s just a short step to believing that smoking causes cancer. As if. Oh, those scientists like to wave their studies around, but when you ask them to identify specifically who will get cancer, or to prove that any given smoker would not have gotten cancer in the absence of smoking, they all clam up. Ha!

    I’m not falling for this hazy fear-mongering “doing X will contribute to the likelihood of Y” bullshit. And it’s good to see I’m in good company.

    Can I bum a cigarette?

    Comment by nobody.really — May 31, 2006 @ 12:45 pm | Reply

  3. Nobody, the “probabilistic analyses” would have a stronger claim to the title “analysis” if the models could do any of the things we expect of a scientific model. Like, for example, explaining observed facts. Or any of a number of other things that we associate with “science” rather than religion.

    Comment by Robert — May 31, 2006 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

  4. Which observed facts do you find to be beyond the power of science to explain?

    Comment by nobody.really — May 31, 2006 @ 1:02 pm | Reply

  5. Which observed facts do you find to be beyond the power of science to explain?

    (Ok, ok, I’ll quit doing that now.) 🙂

    Comment by nobody.really — May 31, 2006 @ 1:02 pm | Reply

  6. Not beyond science’s power to explain; just, not explained by the science. People who want us to cut our economic output in half and condemn five billion people to remain in poverty need to have a damn good backing for their agenda.

    Comment by Robert — May 31, 2006 @ 1:07 pm | Reply

  7. Fair enough. And people who say that a given policy would cut our economic output in half and condemn five billion people to remain in poverty need to have a damn good backing for their assertions, too, right?

    After all, George Bush committed to cutting carbon dioxide emissions. And in an administration famous for fairly and critically evaluating all the evidence before committing to catastrophically monumental policies, nothing but the purest of scientific analyses could possibly have persuaded Bush to flip-flop on this issue, right? http://www.publicintegrity.org/report.aspx?aid=307

    You can say that again. But hopefully, if I’m careful in hitting the Submit Comment button, I won’t.

    Comment by nobody.really — May 31, 2006 @ 1:29 pm | Reply

  8. Oops. Meaning well, I deleted one of N.R.’s first double-posts when I came across it. But then I read on in the thread, and realize that I had turned N.R.’s subsequent jokes about the first double-post into gibberish.

    Sorry ’bout that.

    Comment by Ampersand — May 31, 2006 @ 2:15 pm | Reply

  9. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about sustainability, specifically the sustainability of our energy consumption as a way of life (roughly 150 years old). I don’t have the scientific background to evaluate all the competing claims, but I’m disinclined to place my faith in the goodness or power of science at solving our looming (and current) problems. (Rapacious technology created the problem; we need more technology to solve it ….) I also place little faith in mankind’s ability to curb its aggregate behavior and act responsibly toward the future, i.e., with restraint now.

    I use the word “faith” not in the sense of the sacred but in the sense that anything functioning as a religion (god, technology, capitalism, consumerism, rationalism, etc.) provides a reason for living and instructions on how to be accomplish that. It’s a kind of hope against hope, considering the rational arguments that can be mustered against any type of faith.

    So at least temporarily, and for reasons different from Bazzer’s, I’ve got my head stuck in the sand. Or if you prefer Douglas Adams’ term, it’s an SEP Field (Somebody-Else’s-Problem). Right now, it’s too big for me to get my head around.

    Comment by Brutus — May 31, 2006 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

  10. Right now, it’s too big for me to get my head around.

    Good. Relax and let your descendants (well, my descendants) solve the problem. A) it’s their problem, and B) they will be way richer and way smarter than we are.

    Comment by Robert — May 31, 2006 @ 5:00 pm | Reply

  11. Robert says:

    Relax and let your descendants (well, my descendants) solve the problem. A) it’s their problem, and B) they will be way richer and way smarter than we are.

    I can never tell for certain when you’re being serious or merely glib. Usually it’s some of both.

    Anyway, the idea of shunting our problems a generation or two away is definitely what we’re doing now. Still, I can’t escape the feeling that that behavior is akin to taking a gargantuan crap on the living room carpet, fouling the air, and leaving the room to let somebody else clean up. I’m not so OK with that.

    Comment by Brutus — May 31, 2006 @ 10:49 pm | Reply

  12. Still, I can’t escape the feeling that that behavior is akin to taking a gargantuan crap on the living room carpet, fouling the air, and leaving the room to let somebody else clean up. I’m not so OK with that.

    Even worse, you aren’t even doing your bit to ensure that the “somebody” will come along and do the cleanup. You heartless bastard.

    Comment by Robert — May 31, 2006 @ 11:48 pm | Reply

  13. Robert says:

    Even worse, you aren’t even doing your bit to ensure that the “somebody” will come along and do the cleanup. You heartless bastard.

    That’s a reason to procreate?

    Comment by Brutus — June 1, 2006 @ 10:11 am | Reply

  14. There are worse reasons.

    Comment by Robert — June 1, 2006 @ 12:29 pm | Reply

  15. There are worse reasons.

    Like what?

    “Honey, you know there won’t be any Social Security when we get older, so why don’t we just crank out a few more… Just in case. I’ll get the love swing ready, you pick out the mood music. Who knows? Maybe these will actually want to support us in our old age.”

    “Sweetie, there are still people actually believe in that Zero Population Growth stuff! Even years after it was dismissed as senseless! Let’s have a few more so we can keep the ‘be fruitful and multiply’ average up!”

    You mean those reasons?

    Comment by Off Colfax — June 1, 2006 @ 3:23 pm | Reply

  16. Actually, the second reason is an excellent reason to procreate. If foolish humans are choosing to extinguish their own gene lines, and leave their resources up for grabs, it only makes sense to take advantage of the evolutionary space that is being opened up.

    Comment by Robert — June 1, 2006 @ 4:05 pm | Reply

  17. I politely explained that sitting in a dark room and being lectured by Al Gore for two hours is not my idea of entertainment

    Yeah well, it’s a pity you didn’t actually go and see the movie, because then I might have been able to take this post seriously.

    Comment by Dan Trammel — June 1, 2006 @ 5:22 pm | Reply

  18. Nobody, the “probabilistic analyses” would have a stronger claim to the title “analysis” if the models could do any of the things we expect of a scientific model. Like, for example, explaining observed facts. Or any of a number of other things that we associate with “science” rather than religion.

    Interestingly, this week’s New Scientist Magazine has a cover feature discussing the possible impact of global warming on seismic and volcanic action. Turns out that these processes are quite sensitive to changes in surface pressure as happens when, for example, billions of tonnes of water move sideways during seasonal changes to the oceans. Global warming offers the prospect of a sideways movement of trillions of tonnes of water, from continental icecaps to the oceans and continental margins. What effect this might have and might already be having is of course speculative, but can hardly be dismissed.

    I notice that the experts cited in the article were all scientists. There was not one Reverend among them. When scientists tell me that global warming is science, and ‘intelligent design’ is religion, and Republicans make the opposite claim, I side with the scientists every time.

    Comment by Daran — June 3, 2006 @ 4:11 am | Reply


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