Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Jon Stewart the other night did a riff on some Fox conversationalists who were using the current cold snap (or Polar Vortex, as the Klingon overlords call it with a chuckle) to poke fun at the idea that our modern civilization machine is pumping such quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as to cause relatively rapid climate disturbances. As you no doubt are aware, in earlier days this observation was quaintly termed "global warming," as the observation turned on the green house effect which already keeps things in a temperature range that makes human life possible. The critics of climate science, like six-year-olds at a birthday party, fixed on the "warming" adjective and have whined and quibbled for ten or fifteen years now every time the weather does something noteworthy. As long as it involves snow or cold that is. (And what's much worse, of course, is that this whole infantile stance is actually a rhetorical strategy which insults the public by assuming that this is all it takes to convince.)
That these people are not laughed into silence is a critique of our mass media (and particularly Fox News), and a critique as well of our general weakness as a country to educate people as to what science is and what science is doing. Meanwhile, people who are scientists carry on. They have, for one thing, a longer view, and for another, an intense need to know. Scientists know that the system of inquiry builds and builds, one block after another. This is what they're working on these days, at the juncture of cosmology, astronomy, and astrophysics:
They are photographing deep space using gravitational lensing. The photographs are published, and can be viewed here:
Next time you happen to read about the derision Galileo was subjected to when he discovered imperfections on the lunar surface, and find yourself incredulous that anyone could be so backwards, and stand so athwart the very plain visual evidence Galileo was presenting, consider that at this moment not only Fox News, but a variety of pundits including the venerable George Will, and a variety of US Congresspersons, heap the same derision and scorn on climate science every time it gets cold in places it usually doesn't.
What they are really doing is heaping scorn on scientific inquiry. They are as absurdly certain as six-year-olds arguing about who has the biggest piece of cake. They are deriding argument of the sophistication of Dr. Pettini's Lecture 14, above, with "nayah, nayah, nayah."
Hat tip to Digby for bringing the wonderful Hubble site to my attention this morning. Another hat tip to Eric Loomis at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, for his post on the "German Coast Slave Rebellion of 1811." I'll bet you never heard of this event in our exceptional American history. I'll bet it's not in any history text used in any high school, middle school, or elementary school in the United States. Here's a link to Loomis' post (he offers references to further reading in the post):
It is not really surprising that most people recoil from distasteful information that would tend to change how they feel about themselves and their country. This is human psychology. After General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox, Virginia, the little crossroads was utterly abandoned and the town moved down the road a piece, to Appomattox Station. I'm surprised the locals didn't salt the earth. Nonetheless, it is the charge of people with education and perspective to keep the truth in view, whether it be the truth of American history, or the truth of gravitational lensing.