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Willful Ignorance

Originally published at BunkBlog. You can comment here or there.

Remember the chucklehead from martial arts class? I somehow couldn’t get it through to him by my reading while he was talking, that I don’t really care to hear his wacko far-right talk radio dittohead talking points. *sigh*

I’m reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest trilogy, which hasn’t a name yet that I’m aware of but we’ll call it the Climate Change Series, absent anything better. I’m about 30 pages into the second book, and I do rather like to read books that I have open to read. But, chucklehead decided to regale me with more of his tales from the conspiracy side. Global warming may or may not be happening, and if it is it’s nothing we can fix anyway, blah blah blah. Of course, he admits that he has never read anything on the issue, and only gets his information from talk radio. Personally, I try to read the occasional article from an actual scientist, but I’m sure Laura Schlesinger is very well-read on subtle issues of climatology.

Last time I talked with this man, he told me about the evil Law of the Sea Treaty, which was going to give our sovereignty to some group of UN bad guys (it’s not). Ever notice how the far right has some sort of paranoia about the UN? Considering how completely ineffectual the UN has been in almost everything they’ve ever attempted, how scared could anyone be of them? So, this time around, his UN conspiracy is surrounding the IPCC, which of course he doesn’t even know the name of but just calls “them scientists.” There are some people who wrote pieces of the IPCC-4 report who don’t agree with the totality of that report. Surprised? Of course not. How many people wrote that document? Look up Richard Lindzen; I’m certain that’s the most prominent person that fits his description. Chuckles says that there are a lot, well, maybe a few, at least a significant number, of IPCC signers who want their names removed from the document. Let me just say, every large group has some nuts and publicity hounds. Doesn’t mean that the entire organization is wrong. The lack of any coherent alternate hypothesis to the prevailing one does not imply that there is a conspiracy which is repressing information. There aren’t a lot of coherent alternate hypotheses to the Earth being an oblate ovoid either; doesn’t mean there’s a conspiracy against Flat Earthers.

Wandering farther off the path, chucklehead then had the insane notion that one should “follow the money” to find out who is benefiting from the climate change folks. Um, if we were to follow the largest streams of money surrounding this “debate” (not really a debate in the scientific world, no matter what politicians may think), we’d find it leads to the anthropogenic climate change deniers, as backed by the most wealthy corporations in the world, the petroleum industry. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but if you want to throw around “follow the money” tropes, maybe you should have a clue what you’re talking about first.

I tried to explain thermohaline circulation, and the fact that its disruption took less than a decade but caused the 1300 year Younger Dryas period of intense cold (5 degrees Celsius drop in the North Atlantic region), but I’m sure it was pointless. He’s also oblivious to the fact that our instruments get better each year, and so do our predictive abilities. The concept that theories are refined and perfected over time is foreign to him, of course.

Somehow, he even worked abiotic petroleum into his meanderings. Remember, this is someone who quite openly admits he has read nothing about the science behind all this, but just goes with his instincts on things. Our instincts are great for catching balls and shooting at slow-moving animals; they aren’t much good at megayear musings and thousand-mile discussions. I find it interesting that the majority of abiotic petroleum believers are in Russia, which is famous for such scientific breakthroughs as Lysenkoism (Lamarckian evolution).

Seriously, it’s not hard to learn enough to be halfway cognizant of the underlying science. Chucklehead is one of a depressingly large number of people who are willfully ignorant of things that they form strong opinions about. Just because you wish something were true doesn’t mean reality must bend to your will.