Thursday, November 17, 2011

El Contrario, Hijacker

I suggested to the teacher of my global warming class that we hear both sides. He said that he'd been told that if you go there, the class will be hijacked... and you'll never get it back.

I remember my frustration in college, trying to guess what the professor thought about the subject. Did he like this or that artist? Did he like capitalism or communism? Socrates or Kant? It was a good frustration.

In Pilates today my teacher said I was holding my breath. I told her I was mad... and so I started to vent about how I was more interested in the debate than in the resolution. I told her that I'd believe in God if no one else did... just to keep things alive. She didn't believe me.

But it is also that I have a place in my heart for the underdog.

Today some were clapping because a coal plant was being shut down. I felt sorry for the plant, no longer useful to man. I Googled "clean coal" and found a nice article about how we were going to great ends to make coal more tolerable.

If I hear once more that global warning is true because "so many scientists believe in it" I think I'll ... Since when is this a test? I'm not saying that the Earth isn't warming up, or that man didn't cause the warming... I just would like to know more about how we know that.

I named myself, "Mr. Contrary" and a friend coined "El Contrario" which I like better.

So questions remain:
1) What is happening to the Earth?

2) What is the effect of what is happening?

3) If negative, how can we prevent what is happening?
I believe this is a great opportunity to learn about statistics and extrapolation.

Unfortunately (said partly in jest) I'm more interested in the examination of the knowledge and how it has polarized believers and non-believers than I am in the condition of the Earth. How could I take such a heartless position? Probably because I am so skeptical that we know the effects of our actions in such an interconnected world.

In the meantime, I remain committed to what the zen teacher Reb Anderson said, "walk on the Earth as if it is your mother's face."

7 comments:

Melanie G, Austin Zen Center said...

The definition of contrarian is interesting: "A person who opposes or rejects popular opinion, esp. in stock exchange dealing." There's a can of worms...I am interested in both the examination of the knowledge and in the condition of the earth. I've heard it said we don't have time to move slowly, but I think we need to take enough time to look really deeply. I wonder what profound changes a person would make if they were to step back from a consuming, gas-guzzling, fast-paced, fear-based, comfortable life to ponder what it would take to walk/live on the Earth as if it were your mother's face? And what exactly does it mean to look deeply? I think it's not just about two sides. Maybe it's more like a sphere with many points. I have been called a contrarian in my life, too. A knee-jerk contrarian is annoying, but aren't thoughtful questions important and more than a mere annoyance? (I'll leave the stock market out of it.) If a question comes to mind, what makes it worth asking?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you expressed yourself, Kim. Since you asked for comments, I'll leave two. To your line that, "I just want to know more about how we know that [global warming is humanmade]," I say great! Go! Learn! To your line about "being more interested in the debate than the resolution... to "just keep things alive," I have a much different position: What is important to me is keeping sentient beings alive. Perhaps this is where our approaches (currently) diverge. With a deep bow, Jared

Kim Mosley said...

To Anonymous and Melanie,

I see ignorance as our greatest threat... taking things on faith... not looking at all the sides and edges of the coin. "Keeping sentient beings alive" means to do what Socrates preached, "the unexamined life is not worth living."

Yes, the train is going toward the cliff. I think we may sometimes be doing more harm than good, esp. when we act quickly... for example, if not building the pipeline means that the oil will be transported by ship, truck, and train... is the Earth better off?

Kate Freeman said...

If one takes an evolution class, does one expect creationism to be taught along side simply because it allows students to hear both sides? Or would teaching creationism in an evolution class be hijacking the class and wasting the time of people who signed up to learn about evolution?

If I hear once more that global warning is true because "so many scientists believe in it" I think I'll ... Since when is this a test? --- Mr. Kim

I’m going to start chain smoking. If I hear once more that it’s true that smoking is bad for one’s health because “so many doctors believe it is”, I think I’ll. . . Probably end up with lung cancer.

I think what some might mean when they say that “most scientist believe in global warming” is that various researchers have looked at things like ice core data, data collected by satellites, and atmospheric samples collected over time and feel that all this data indicates that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased over time. Since CO2 absorbs and re-radiates thermal radiation, this will increase earth’s temperature. The increase in earth’s temperature will have various debatable consequences.

Unfortunately (said partly in jest) I'm more interested in the examination of the knowledge and how it has polarized believers and non-believers than I am in the condition of the Earth. --- Mr. Kim

What do the believers believe and what do the non-believers believe?

I would say that the believers think that the CO2 levels have gone up, that this increase in CO2 results significantly from certain human activity, that the increased CO2 will increase earth’s temperature, that this will have negative effects, and that human behavior needs to change in order to mitigate the damage caused by an increase in CO2.

I have more trouble defining the non-believers beliefs because I think different types of non-believers exist. One type of non-believer believes that CO2 levels have not gone up over time. Another type of non-believer believes that the CO2 levels have gone up, but that human activity is not the main cause of this rise. Another type of non-believer believes that CO2 levels have gone up and this is the result of human activity, but that this will not have negative consequences for humanity or other species. Another unbeliever believes that CO2 levels have gone up, that this is the result of human activity, that it will have negative consequences, but certain government regulations meant to curb CO2 emitions do not actually work and may in some case be used to justify oppression or exploitation of others.

I don’t know if I consider climate change/global warming a polarized issue in the same way I would consider the evolution/creationism debate a polarized issue. This one is much more murky.

Perhaps the reason the issue seems polarized results more from the current polarized climate of our political system than from what people really think about global warming or climate change.

Anonymous said...

I don't like statistics, people argue against me by making up statistics mid argument. Kim has a lot of wisdom in this Notation. H.

Kim Mosley said...

My next post is my response to Kate and others on the question of whether denial theories should be taught.

Barbara said...

Very interesting post. Because someone is a "scientist" they automatically have a mystique. But too often scientists are not creative and follow the herd. Human causation of global warming is a bandwagon upon which most scientists have jumped. Hard to know how to evaluate the accuracy of their claims. I guess time will tell. I'm with you in wanting to debate all sides.