Monday, July 09, 2007

Acceptance of Ignorance - Global Warming

A recent letter to our local paper said, in essence, that we should be as children and accept man-caused global warming as the most pressing issue of our time. The 2008 presidential candidates "need to take a lesson from the children: acceptance is the key to growth."

In other words, "Shut up, global warming deniers; acceptance is knowledge, skepticism is ignorance."

That really got me going.

We do well to accept knowledge and dispel ignorance. However, acceptance of knowledge often flies in the face of the common knowledge of the day. A healthy dose of skepticism is often essential.

Charles Darwin was a skeptic. Less than 200 years ago almost all of the learned peoples, and the unlearned, accepted creationism, and by extension, rejected evolution. In fact, it is clear that the consensus of science pre-Darwin firmly accepted Creationism as truth.

Today we realize that almost all of the scientists and great thinkers prior to Darwin drew upon a great fund of ignorance to shape their deliberations about the universe and humanity’s role in it.

They were wrong, but their errors were accepted as truth.

Of course, the acceptance of evolution led great thinkers to perpetrate the abuses of eugenics. Darwinism implied that because natural selection was apparently no longer working on "civilized" people it was possible for "inferior" strains of people (who would normally be filtered out of the gene pool) to overwhelm the "superior" strains, and corrective measures would have to be undertaken. Eugenics achieved scientific consensus and was supported by prominent people, including Alexander Graham Bell, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler from its inception in 1865 until the 1930’s when it was incorporated into the racial policies of Nazi Germany.

During my own short lifetime, I learned as a child that dinosaurs were cold blooded, just as their reptilian descendents. Then I learned they were warm blooded, just as their avian descendents.

Speaking of blood, some of the most learned men, then and now called medical doctors, in the recent past still treated patients by bleeding them. This ignorant practice was the medical standard less than a century before I was born. Sometimes, but purely by accident, it actually did some good, but today we seem to get better results with medicines, IV’s, and transfusions.

However, the efficacy of modern medicine is not totally accepted within our own enlightened community. In fact, a friend and colleague was moved to point out to our community of natural medicine believers here in Northern California that she chose surgery over natural or alternative treatments of breast cancer because she knew of too many “roots and bark” cancer cures which ended in “dead and buried” cancer patients.

However, just as at one time the science of evolution was denied, so now natural global warming is denied. It is odd that something that has been demonstrated hundreds of times, for millions of years, is now doubted. It’s not like natural global warming is in hiding.

Hundreds of climate change studies show that just 1,000 years ago the Earth was much warmer. Scientists find evidence on mountains, in miles of ice core samples, in glaciers retreating world wide since 1850, and in the greatest recent increase in temperature, the early 1900’s.

Natural warming deniers declare CO2 (only 3% of total atmospheric CO2, and about 10% of the greenhouse effect) is responsible, even though its increases lag temperature increases by about 800 years, and for much of the past half century CO2 was increasing as temperatures fell – as it has done many times in the past.

However, a recent UK poll showed 70% accept that global warming is natural.

It’s a start towards acceptance.

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