Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Swings, Ebbs and Flows

Heard something on This American Life the other week about how, once someone is convinced that global warming is a theory, that it is very, very difficult to change their minds, even with widely accepted facts (Act Two. Climate Changes. People Don't). The show was fascinating and vaguely horrifying. 

The most interesting sociological moment was the exchange between a scientist, trained to teach kids about global warming, and a teenager who knew her own mind. Somehow the producers managed to convey the chasm that opened, seemingly before our eyes, between the two. The science did seem to become misty, ideological, while the teen stood firmly, arms metaphorically crossed, on ground we have hallowed as a nation: Question Authority.

So we are left with an impasse. Deep and threatening, no matter how far back we would like to stay from the edge.

What do you do when falsehoods, repeated over and over, seem to erode fact? How DO you reach people once they have decided your, or the entire scientific community's, or the government's, or the church's, or the parent's credibility is shot?

It doesn't escape my attention that growing up includes being able to see the world from more and more various points of perspective. Like a cool camera trick where the videographer spins in place, providing a 360 degree view, then suddenly the image shifts to circling something - the room, the "person" whose view started us. Surely it always makes us dizzy to do that shift, from "helio" or earth or personal-centric to spinning from the outside looking in.

I imagine this is why growing up is so damn difficult - not to mention that those frontal lobes (or whatever part of the brain it is) aren't fully developed yet. 

But just like women's brains are different from men's and our hormones deeply affect how we see things and how we think about them, so do children and kids have a great deal to offer in how we grapple with an essential (imnsho) question:

How do we "grow up" as a society without gutting all the staid, safe, reasonable institutions that we have carefully constructed over millenia? How do we not get caught up too much in the "old order" and outdated modes of thinking, while not cutting our collective nose off to spite our face(book)? lol.

There is still plenty of confusion promoted, I think, by persistent internet rumours and "urban legendesqe" (read: misleading) emails. There is also the far right's - oops, no, edit that. There is the radical's blatant interest in a misinformation 

Enter the Age of the Moderate. 

My new theory is that societies and humankind have to go thru these strange periods of vicious, vitriolic, vituperative battles of ideology - an epic clash of Beliefs.  It's Jews and Pagans, it's Greeks and Jews, it's Christians and everyone, it's Inquisitions and Renaissance, it's science and religion, it's industrial and agrarian, it's government and religion, it's communism and socialism and democracy, it's science and religion, it's conservatives and liberals, it's institutions and upstarts, it's radicals and moderates.

I know who I'll vote for :)

Anyway, this is a cool excerpt, on the topic of science and global warming:
We know that the rise in temperatures over the past five decades is abrupt and very large. We know it is consistent with models developed by other climate researchers that posit greenhouse gas emissions — the burning of fossil fuels by humans — as the cause. And now we know, thanks to Muller, that those other scientists have been both careful and honorable in their work.
Nobody’s fudging the numbers. Nobody’s manipulating data to win research grants, as Perry claims, or making an undue fuss over a “naturally occurring” warm-up, as Bachmann alleges. Contrary to what Cain says, the science is real.
from Review of the science by a skeptic who changed his mind 

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