Climate Change – The Arrogance of Skepticism

It seems as if everyone is making up their own minds about climate change these days. I’ve lost count of the number of times someone comes up with facts “disproving” any number of concepts – either the climate is not changing, or else the change isn’t caused by humans. Or it is caused by humans, but it’s not significant. Or it is significant, but it doesn’t matter cause more CO2 is good for the planet.

Often these people take a certain pride in defiantly stating that they’ve “made up their own minds” and haven’t bought in to the corporate scam/misinformation campaign that everyone else has fallen for. And while I don’t disagree about the importance of using one’s mind, this sort of Ayn Randish “Oh I’m such a stud independent person” mindset is faintly nauseating. Because in plain fact, very often “finding out the facts for yourself” and making up your own mind isn’t a good idea. It fact, it’s downright foolish.

"Making up your own mind" isn't a luxury we can afford

"Making up your own mind" isn't a luxury we can afford

We live in an age of specialization. Gone are the days of Gauss when a single person could know everything about every field of scientific and mathematic endeavor. Even the most common devices today – like cell phones – are so mind bogglingly complex, that I can state with confidence there’s not a single person on earth who knows everything about how they work, including the chip design, electronics and the software stacks and protocols they implement.

And yet none of us hesitate for even a moment before entrusting our lives to an airplane – the workings of which are pretty much mysterious to most of us. We can use fancy words like “aerodynamics” to pretend that we know something, but we don’t. We don’t know the first thing about aircrafts. We don’t stop to “make up our own mind” about it.

I graduated from St. Stephen’s with a B.Sc (G) in physics. I can confidently state that my understanding of the subject is superior to the vast majority of humanity. But even I can’t prove something like the General Theory of Relativity. The mathematics is too complex for me. And yet every educated person knows about this famous theory (some even know what it means!) and people don’t doubt it’s validity or usefulness. If I were to bet my life on the theory being accurate or inaccurate, I would choose the former without a moment’s hesitation. So would everyone else. How come? Why doesn’t everyone try and “make up their own minds” about it?

I’ve played chess for a long time and a few years back, I achieved an ELO rating of around 2000-2100. It’s quite a decent rating, but not master level. Many times I’ve tried to follow a game between Grandmasters and have been totally perplexed as to why a particular move was played. And yet in the post analysis, most GMs will agree that a certain move is the correct one though for the life of me I can’t figure out why. But I believe them! I realize my limitations. I don’t go around making a fool of myself by saying “But if you do that, you’re putting your queen in danger!” I have enough intelligence to know that they would see what I see – and much more. I don’t try and “find out the truth” for myself. Not unless I spend many more years forging my skills and proving myself in battle.

There are many more examples I could give where it makes infinitely more sense to listen to competent minds instead of torturing oneself by trying to figure out the truth – with a very high probability that you’ll reach a wrong conclusion anyway. This doesn’t mean you’re giving up your intelligence or sacrificing your integrity. Quite the contrary. It means you’re using all facets of your intelligence to draw conclusions which a brute force method could never reach. It means you use your powers of observation to know your limitations and choose which battles to fight. It’s a more efficient way of gathering knowledge with a higher chance of success.

But when it comes to Climate Change, suddenly everyone wants to “make up their own mind.” And facts are there in plenty to pick and choose from – enough to support any given view! Never mind that 98% of the most active scientists in the field accept the evidence for human induced climate change. These scientists are from all over the world, from multi disciplinary backgrounds, and working for different organizations and governments. To say it’s unlikey they’re all wrong is an understatement. A skeptic will have to somehow convince me that they’ve all been deceived and that their analysis from a layman’s point of view is more valid.

Good luck with that. So let’s just stop this nonsense shall we? Enough is enough. It’s time for people to stop trying to figure out the truth of climate change for themselves and use their intelligence in a more creative manner. It’s time to use other people’s knowledge to fill the gaps in one’s own. It’s time to stop trying to reinvent the wheel. Because it’s counterproductive, and a waste of my time.

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Comments

  1. This is all quite funny…

    Someday, probably in 20-50 years, we will find out who’s right…. and the other side will probably be full of logic and argument…. and all the lobbying dollars in the world or scientific awards won’t matter anymore….

    That said, I’ve been to Shishmaraf Alaska, an island village that’s slowly going underwater, though they are building a new high school there with gov’t money, the residents themselves are looking around and trying to figure out how to move and when to move, as the shoreline keeps getting a bit smaller every year….

    I’m sure there are lots of other islands in the same circumstance….

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  2. One other crazy observation…. how many people have gottten the feeling that most of the most vocal skeptics towards global warming are often those most likely to die before it becomes more apparent…. and they’d rather have higher stock market returns than risk fixing the world within their short remaining lifetimes…

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  3. Personally I don’t know whether or not climate change/global warming is real. Like your post says my specialty is not sciences so how can I know for certain? It makes sense that the amount of pollutants e.t.c that humans are releasing into the atmosphere, combined with the fact that co2 absorbers like forests are being chopped down, has to be making some sort of negative impact. But I don’t know for sure either way, and really to me it is irrelevant. I feel either way pollution is something that needs to be reduced and people need to be less wasteful about resources, because global warming (true or not) is hardly the only negative consequence of current human lifestyles. This is why I kind of hate when climate change is brought up in environmental discussions – it is so polarizing, almost like it is a religion! Everyone gets stuck on this one issue, “it IS happening”, or “no, it is just scare-mongering” etc. I think that whether or not climate change is real, more or less the same counter measures are needed, climate change just makes implementing these more urgent.

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