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April 18, 2006

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Denial - Groupthink are challenging problems...

It is an interesting subject...

One must factor in the need for identity...

SO GLAD you finally posted that essay.

The Inquisition is still cutting both ways. There's this story about NASA climate scientist James Hansen being censored by the Bush administration:

http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/01/29/healthscience/web.0129nasafull.php

"The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

"The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists."

(NASA's public relations office contests his characterization of the effort, and he in turn strongly challenges their innocuous version of it.)

Strange bedfellows, or headfellows: the inquisitional scientific lockstep is usually cited in regard to Intelligent Design and the dogma of Darwinism! How do you feel about that? You agree with their Darwinism, so does their lack of openness to possible challenges to Darwinism bother you? Or do they seem quite right about that and wrong about climate change? It's fascinating and unusual that you compare global-warming dogma on the left to Intelligent Design dogma on the right!

One swallow does not a summer make, and you're quite right, four drowned bears do not equal a crisis. I did see someone on TV, though, who studied polar bears and said he'd never seen a drowned one before this year. He said they can swim 25 miles easily, and 50 in a stretch, but 80 is too much and that's how far some of them are swimming now in search of seals to eat and not finding ice to rest on.

Well, time will tell. Like you, I abhor "the horrors of groupthink" both left and right. The environmental apocalypse has a religious tinge to it, just as much as the religious apocalypses do. It is envisioned as the vindication of a worldview and the comeuppance of the infidel. What I do believe is that in any system where small changes can have large, unpredictable consequences, it's prudent not to recklessly rock the boat.

"What I do believe is that in any system where small changes can have large, unpredictable consequences, it's prudent not to recklessly rock the boat."

In general, I agree, amba. However, I'm uncertain how you determine what constitutes 'recklessly rocking the boat'. From all I've seen, the overall ecosystem of the earth is largely self-stablizing, with chaotic perturbations taking place within a given range of values.

I recall reading not long ago that a single volcanic eruption can have a more significant impact on "greenhouse gas" emissions and local temperatures than the contribution made by mankind. If that's true, wouldn't the fact the the earth has largely survived and prospered in the face of significantly larger swings in greenhouse gas concentrations and temperature variations point towards the conclusion that we're not talking about a variation that is "reckless"?

Weren't we also looking at similar doomsaying back in the seventies about global cooling, with the zealots preaching the coming ice age?

Perhaps the marginal increase in greenhouse gasses has actually forestalled that disaster. Would that not make it, on balance, a good thing?

My point is that, given a chaotic system, it seems more than a bit arrogant to assume that we know in advance whether a given change might make things worse, instead of making things better.

Fear of a theoretical change doesn't sound like a good reason to avoid technology or progress to me. Do you have any good evidence to suggest that we're somehow teetering on the edge of an unrecoverable disaster (given that our presence here suggests that none have happened before)?

If so, what prescriptive measures do you suggest to prevent natural volcanic eruptions from bringing us to extinction?

Nobody so far has said much that convinces me that global warming is even of real concern. Even within my lifetime (some 64 years) climate change has been cyclical. So maybe we should all just exercise some common sense (not so common), live our lives with due regard to civility toward our fellow planet dwellers, and very specific regard to the beautiful creatures like Tiny who permit us to share their universe, and an abiding faith in God - not science!

Jonah Goldberg has an excellent Op-Ed in the L.A. Times along the same lines, available at

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-goldberg20apr20,0,2302126.column?coll=la-news-comment-opinions

There's certainly a sense in which you could see the "explosions" of human population and technology as a sort of slow-motion volcanic eruption, bringing much of the energy and chemistry of long-dead plants long-locked-up as fossil fuels into the atmosphere. As such it is only another one of the cycles of nature. No catastrophe, short of falling into the sun, is "unrecoverable" for life on earth. From this point of view, both the great blessings and the great sufferings that have been and will be caused by our teen-age-driver careering-around with technology, and a brain too powerful for its driver, are simply another one of nature's adventures. We as a species may or may not survive. Those who do will be different; like the animals at Chernobyl, they may be radiation-resistant. Assuming this Nietzschean-Olympian-Darwinian point of view, we do not identify with our own local and temporary species but with the ruthless joy of the sovereign spirit of destruction and recreation, moving ever on. As Kafka wrote, "There is infinite hope, but not for us."

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