It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Still No Progress

Only 12% of Republicans believe "global warming" (sigh) should be a high priority.

We can't address this as a substantive debate outside of formal science using the methods we use within science; the denialists have saved up plenty of pretend science and plenty of debating mojo. It's a proven loser. 

So, as I asked a bit over a year ago when I first started this blog, what should we do instead?

I think I fell into the "framing" frame a little too heavily. There are issues with framing science so as to alienate religious people. I think many biology bloggers are damaging the social fabric with their head-on approach. I also find it notable that the country which explicitly enshrines separation of church and state in the constitution is the one having the most difficulty managing it in practice. This again seems to be indicative of unintended consequences.

Even when Pielke Jr. makes little sense, it seems that what he does is about keeping the social fabric intact. It's an interesting approach. In the end I wonder if it isn't a more positive contribution than it might appear.

The wonderful documentary film The Unforeseen tells the story of the City of Austin attempting to assert environmental stewardship beyond its borders. When Governor Ann Richards supported the city against the legislature, the movie intimates that this may have been overreaching with a direct unintended role in the emergence of Karl Rove and he who shall not be named.

There's no doubt in my mind, or those of the good people of Austin (who are both Texan and not-Texan; it's hard to explain) that the Spring should be as permanent as the gods would allow.

There's also no doubt in my mind that the people of Texas are like people everywhere only perhaps a bit more so. Wise and clever, foolish and vain, kind in intent and vicious in impulse, suspicious and canny yet vulnerable to trickery. The management of Texas has to include the people of Texas, and it's best not to go directly against their closely held beliefs except when absolutely necessary.

I think what's crucial is bridging the gap and repairing the divide. Surely we still all agree on more than what we disagree about. Maybe it's best to focus on points of agreement and avoid head-to-head confrontation when we can.

Unfortunately there are clever people who promote the confrontation for their own gain. It's a problem.

It's necessary to allow people to see how they have been fooled. A direct attack on their beliefs will only harden those beliefs. We need to tell the whole story of how they have been manipulated.

In email conversation, Anna H has convinced me that Oreskes' work is a crucial component of the right approach. We need to take that work out of the cloisters of the academy and into the popular press.

Al Gore also has it right in his book "Assault on Reason". We have a problem in that democracy is not working. There are a number of reasons for that, some of which he discusses. It may be more to the point to address how our society has been damaged by manipulative and vicious trickery, that to go after the problem directly and fall into trap after trap after trap that has been set to foil us.

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