Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

No More Big Brother/ Sister $olutions


...You do hear with a frightening frequency people with green sympathies, up to and including Al Gore, suggest that global warming shouldn't be a "political issue." Drained of senseless rhetoric this seems to reduce to the view that "everyone ought to agree with my favored policies." And, of course, I think everyone really should agree with my favored policies. But, in practice, they don't. And so: Politics.

This is the world, and anyone who aspires to radically alter America's energy use patterns needs to learn to live with it. Achieving the goals requires lots of political change.

Meanwhile, both whatever degree of climate change can't be prevented and whatever prevention measures we adopt will all have different kinds of costs and benefits. Different policies will allocate these costs to different people. The mechanism by which we decide what to do is called "politics" and it exists so that individuals and organizations with somewhat divergent interests and ideas can make collective decisions about how to tackle common problems. The rhetoric of anti-politics isn't just an analytic mistake, it's part of the problem. A public that doesn't believe divergent interests can be reconciled and common solutions devised for common problems -- a public that doesn't believe in politics -- is going to be a public that doesn't believe there's anything that can or should be done to prevent catastrophic climate change.

And that's the central problem with bipartisan approaches. Al Gore does have this idea he can address this problem by bringing billionaires and billionaire wanna-bees on board. Sorry, that's not going to work.

Billionaires are that way for a reason. Their primary interest is in expanding their billions. Whether Al's got cynical reasons for doing this or not, I don't trust "Leaders" who espouse their causes as being moral issues above politics, whether it's Bu$hie pretending to be the Chosen One so he can wage a War to raid the Treasury, or Al Gore (or Clinton or Obama or Edwards or Paul or any of the other more transparent Rethuglican like Hucksterbee) claiming to be Above it All.

The Righteous generally have their hands on your wallet. Whether you knock it away or fall for the old Jedi mind trick is your choice.

As a friend of mine points out, it's not only environmental issues scientist types have a problem communicating to people about. This same kind of argument is a problem in communicating the fallacy of the intelligent design movement.

Many people have treated the evolution/creation controversy (if they think about it at all) as if it were a scientific dispute -- as if the two viewpoints were merely differing ways of interpreting scientific data. (This, in fact, is precisely how the ID/creationists wish to present it.)

Scientists in particular have tended to respond to the ID/creationist movement by first ignoring it in the hopes that it would go away, and then with long technical explanations of how the scientific conclusions of the ID/creationist arguments are unsupported, incomplete or just plain wrong.

All of the scientific refutations of ID/creationism have not, however, lessened the conflict -- if anything, they have heightened it. The reason for this is simple; ID/creationism is not science and it does not have scientific goals. The creationists/IDers are not concerned in the slightest about scientific questions, or about correctly interpreting data, or about forming better explanations and understanding of the natural world. Instead, creationism/ID is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the fundamentalist Religious Right -- it is a religious and political movement, not a scientific one, and its goals are entirely religious and political, not scientific. The ID/creationists are a part of a larger Christian Reconstructionist political movement with radical theocratic aims, and their anti-evolution and anti-science efforts are, as they themselves declare, simply the "wedge issue" which they have chosen in order to gain entry for their wider anti-democratic political goals.

Because of this, it will not be beaten by science or by scientific arguments --- these are essentially irrelevant to the real goals of the ID/creationist movement. The ID/creationist movement is a political movement with political goals, and it must be beaten the same way that every other political movement is beaten -- by out-organizing it.

The simple fact is that the creationist/IDers have a clearly articulated, deliberately planned strategy for theocracy, and virtually no one in the US agrees with the extremist political philosophy of the DI or its funders. That is power we can use. People simply don't want a theocracy. Keep pushing the IDers about it, force them to defend it publicly, and watch their public support melt away.

So it doesn't really help to focus on the science. Non-scientists trying to argue over science is a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, scientists arguing over science is a recipe for boredom. Nobody wants to listen to deadly-dull lectures on "pre-biotic polymer chemosynthesis" or "the homology between type III secretory apparatus and the bacterial flagellum" (yawn). This fight isn't a science symposium. Don't treat it as one. Treating this as a "science debate" only reinforces the false impression given by IDers that there is a legitimate scientific debate, with two equally valid sides. There isn't. It allows them to set the agenda and to fight on their own chosen terms. Don't do it. This fight is a political fight. It's simply not about science.

The only thing that will beat ID/creationism (and all its future derivatives) is an informed public that makes it clear to everyone that it does not want a fundamentalist Christian theocracy, won't support it, won't allow it, and will do whatever it takes to prevent it.

Thanks, Woody.

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