Something disturbing is happening. Somehow, a significant percentage of Americans have decided to celebrate ignorance. It's been going on for some time, but it's really seemed to come to a head recently. In the 2008 presidential campaign, for example, Sarah Palin was presented as "aw shucks" know-nothing. And we were supposed to believe that this was preferable to Barack Obama, who as a Harvard graduate and one-time law lecturer, was an ivory tower intellectual and a fancy-pants elitist. A big chunk of the McCain/Palin campaign strategy can be summed up as "Shut up, Poindexter!"
This worked with a percentage of Americans. Don't bother us with facts, they say, we feel stuff -- truth isn't about facts, it's about the stuff you believe with all your little heart. Liberals and intellectuals and scientists with their facts and knowledge have just made the world worse. Bacon cheeseburgers are bad for you now, because "they" invented cholesterol. They invented evolution, which turned us all into stinking monkeys. And now they've invented global warming. Science just brings bad things, so we should stop listening to scientists.
Or, even better, find some sort of counter-science we can appeal to. We can build an entire belief system that revolves around the stuff we feel is true. The things that we know in our hearts is right, because we believe it so strongly. And we can use that to pull the smartypants out of their ivory towers, so we get to eat bacon cheeseburgers again. Huzzah for made-up belief!
[New York Times:]
Critics of the teaching of evolution in the nation’s classrooms are gaining ground in some states by linking the issue to global warming, arguing that dissenting views on both scientific subjects should be taught in public schools.
In Kentucky, a bill recently introduced in the Legislature would encourage teachers to discuss “the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories,” including “evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning.”
Last year, the Texas Board of Education adopted language requiring that teachers present all sides of the evidence on evolution and global warming.
Of course, if I were a teacher in one of these situations, my response to these laws would be to obey them. But I'd add the caveat, "OK kids, I'm required by law to lie to you for a while. Go ahead and read comic books if you want." Besides, the language is idiotic. Presenting "all sides" of the evolution v. creationism question would take you the rest of your life. You'd have to teach every creation story from every known religion and culture that ever existed, from Aztec to Zulu. But this isn't about what is or isn't a good idea, it's about what feels like a good idea. So "all sides" is evolution vs. the Magic Christian Ghost Living in the Sky Who Grants Wishes theory.
Don't like evolution? Then it's not true! Global warming too scary? Then it's a hoax! It's all up to you; reality conforms to your personal beliefs if you just wish hard enough and believe. We used to call this "magical thinking," now we're supposed to believe it's common sense.
If you want to see how frightening it is, let's look at what global warming's doing right now.
[University of Alaska Fairbanks:]
A section of the Arctic Ocean seafloor that holds vast stores of frozen methane is showing signs of instability and widespread venting of the powerful greenhouse gas, according to the findings of an international research team led by University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov.
The research results, published in the March 5 edition of the journal Science, show that the permafrost under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, long thought to be an impermeable barrier sealing in methane, is perforated and is leaking large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.
“The amount of methane currently coming out of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is comparable to the amount coming out of the entire world’s oceans,” said Shakhova, a researcher at UAF’s International Arctic Research Center. “Subsea permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap.”
This may be the tipping point -- the point at which warming has progressed so far it can't be reversed. If we're thinking about getting around to doing something about climate change, now would be an excellent time to get started. "Methane is a greenhouse gas more than 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide," the report tells us.
But that's why we should hate scientists. It's bad news. We don't like bad news. We like good news. So there's no such thing as global warming. Just ignore all that methane. It's not going to do anything. Maybe it's not even happening. In any case, if things get too bad, Jesus will come and save us. He's like Superman that way.
Just don't make us feel bad. If you do, we'll make up something that makes us feel good and believe that. It's the new American way.
Get updates via Twitter