Monday, January 15, 2007

Inconvenience and Truths

Fair warning: I am ignoring Leah's advice and writing something not-wacky here.

Yesterday, Liz and I took a Family Circus (ie., wandering and directionless) trip around town after a wonderful breakfast at Alexa's. We ended up at Best Buy (which, I might add, had a whole skid of PlayStation 3s - so if you want one, go grab one. Incidentally, no one wanted one in the half-hour we were in the store.) I grabbed a copy of Idiocracy on DVD, Mike Judge's new movie that was kept out of theaters. Sitting close to it was An Inconvenient Truth, which I had fully intended to get around to buying eventually. So I grabbed it. Liz and I watched it last night.

Upon second viewing, I actually liked it more than I did the first time. The things that annoyed me in the movie theater as far as pacing was concerned, didn't annoy me nearly as much from my couch. But this isn't a film review.

After grabbing the movie and heading to REI to grab a backpacking sleeping bag I got on the cheaps, Liz and I were talking about global warming (or global climate change, if you prefer - potato, potatoe, but climate change is to global warming what complexity theory is to chaos theory, I suppose.) Specifically, Brandon made a post the other day about a school board decision down in Federal Way that requires "an opposing view" on global warming be presented when teachers show An Inconvenient Truth. "Score one for the skeptics," Brandon says (non-Seattleites: Brandon is one of my good friends, and although he tends to be at the opposite end of the political spectrum, we don't really let that get in the way of our friendship, much like me and Bobby or me and Meghan. I also want to make it quite clear that I'm not attacking or upset with my buddy in this post, I'm raging against a guy named Frosty. You'll meet him in a moment.) The AP story, which Brandon quoted in full on his site, is here.

But the story has another chapter. The AP story was really just a blurb, and wasn't local, so I thoguht I'd try to find what the Seattle rags had to say about it. A little Google-fu revealed a Seattle PI story about the decision. The PI story reveals some interesting context around the parent who lead the fight to the school board that lead to this decision, one Frosty Hardison:

After a parent who supports the teaching of creationism and opposes sex education complained about the film, the Federal Way School Board on Tuesday placed what it labeled a moratorium on showing the film. The movie consists largely of a computer presentation by former Vice President Al Gore recounting scientists' findings.

"Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher," said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. "The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. ... The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD."

In case you missed the really important information there, I bolded it for you.

So rather than an actual scientifically sound view "opposing" climate change, what you have is a guy who thinks the Earth is 14,000 years old - and not a scientist or a schoolteacher himself - who has now dictated curriculum for an entire school board. His argument is not based on science, nor is it based on fact. Like creationism and other faith-inspired beliefs - say, for example, Holocaust Denial - there is no evidence for its teaching in schools apart from the Bible. There is no scientific or factual basis to back this up, especially in the case of climate change, as is cited in the PI article above. The scientific consensus is overwhelming: to pull a statistic from the film itself, a study showed zero - nil, goose-egg, null set - peer-reviewed scientific articles that cast doubt that humans were a major contributing cause to global climate change. However, in the news, 53% of stories cast doubt. And people like Frosty Hardison certainly aren't submitting the Bible to peer-reviewed scientific journals.

So I think that pretty much takes care of addressing the real facts behind this case. I have to ask old Frosty though: if it's appropriate to teach the opposing point of view, the view that flies in the fact of scientific consensus simply because it conforms to your own beliefs, in a science classroom - would it then be appropriate to require students to learn about Holocaust denial before watching Schindler's List in History class?

There is no difference. Both are belief systems utterly lacking any kind of factual basis or scientific backing. So where's the requirement to teach that the Holocaust never happened? Perhaps it's floating around on an iceberg the size of Delaware that recently broke off from the Arctic ice shelf in Northern Canada? Oh right, sorry, that's not in the Bible either. My apologies, Frosty. I'll go ride my Brontosaurus to work now.

Back in reality, Brandon's post actually inspired a lengthy and interesting conversation between Liz and myself where we were trying to figure out exactly what the big deal about addressing climate change is among conservatives. To me, it seems like a no-brainer. If we're shitting up our nest, we need to fix it. Even if there is some doubt about whether humans are the cause - which for the sake of argument, I'll allow, even if it does ignore years of scientific research - there's still a chance we're fucking up the Earth, so maybe we should at least address it. Right?

That's what I just don't understand. Many conservative ideals, I can understand - and in some cases, agree with. Abortion - if you believe an unborn fetus is a life, then opposing abortion is not only understandable, it would be a moral requirement. Smaller fiscal government - a sound principle for a free market economy. Even the War in Iraq is understandable on a rational level, as is the drive to put more troops on the ground, as Bush has recently announced. (Is he right? I don't know. I frankly don't know what to think about Iraq anymore, but that's beyond this post.) But global climate change - why?

Will it cost money to implement the changes required to avoid massive climate change? Sure. But if we're wrong, will it cost even more to deal with potentially a billion displaced people and the massive amounts of infrastructure damage that could occur? Absodamnlutely. Is investing in a preventative step now to avoid a far more costly "solution" later worth the investment? I would say it is. Or at the very least, if you don't think human beings are responsible for climate change but it's occuring anyway (after all, it's hard to argue with icebergs the size of some of the original colonies), shouldn't we at least be investing in the kinds of infrastructure changes to deal with a potential rise in ocean levels? But we're doing neither.

There is a religious view, but I have a hard time believing that all conservatives (or even anywhere near a majority of them) who doubt climate change are like Frosty the Psychoman and believe that God placed radiocarbon dating in rocks as a means of testing His faithful. It's the religious right's version of snake handling: something that should be resepcted as any belief system should, sure, but isn't exactly representative of a consensus among the party.

So to quote the South Park version of Saddam Hussien: what's the big fucking deal? Even if you're dubious about the results, don't you think it's at least worth our while to try to stop shitting in our nests or at least prepare for what already seems to be starting?

I guess I really don't get it, and that seems kind of inconvenient to me.

Update 1: runs an article about Evangelical Christians and scientists working together to address global warming.
"Whether God created the Earth in a millisecond or whether it evolved over billions of years, the issue we agree on is that it needs to be cared for today," said Rich Cizik, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents 45,000 churches.

I guess not everyone who believes that the Earth is 14,000 years old have their heads planted firmly up their asses. Which frankly makes those who do all the more troubling to me. I still don't get it.

1 comment:

Leah in Chicago said...

I'm sorry. First of all, the dude's name is Frosty. That is wacky. Second of all, saying that a former VP of the USA doesn't belong in the classroom? Huh? Wacky.

"I'm gonna need you to remove all those images of presidents, they weren't teachers."

And and and...



(I'm Leah and I support this post.)