Thursday, January 31, 2019

Imaginary Boogiemen Laughed At By Polar Vortex

The late, great Richard P. Feynman said:

"It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong."

Apparently, a large portion of the scientific community does not agree with Feynman on this point, as witnessed by several popular theories that continue to hold sway in the public's imagination, such as macroevolution and the multiverse.

An elegant theory is wonderful, but if you can't test it, then it belongs in the philosophy section of the bookstore, not in school textbooks.

At my place of employment, we used to use paper and plastic bags. Recently the bag-shamers accomplished one of their pious goals and our store no longer provides plastic bags.

This development has generated two responses: some bark that "it's about time," while others are patiently shaking their heads because they used the plastic bags for their smaller trash cans around the house. It apparently never occurred to the bag-shamer bullies that people are simply going to purchase the unreasonably maligned plastic bags at a department store, as no one wants to place garbage in paper bags for obvious reasons. So in effect, the bag-shamers accomplished nothing but additional virtue signalling to their fellow eco-warriors.

A lot of people are also genuinely paranoid about, and losing sleep over, global warming (I'm deliberately not using the more PR savvy name produced when the annual temperatures did not rise as quickly as we were warned they would). While past climate trends are indisputable by simply looking at the data from NOAA or NASA, it's already been clearly demonstrated that long term climate prediction models are useless, and they are only alarming when the data are 'massaged' by custom operands placed in convenient locations within predictive algorithms.

Add to that the fact global temperature trends for four thousand years have illustrated that unusually high temperature periods are always followed by unusually low temperature periods.

I often have tried to calm some of my more ecologically paranoid customers by referencing Feynman's speech "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom."

The gist of Feynman's brilliant 1959 lecture is considered the holy grail of nanotechnology: the ability to convert any matter into any other matter at the atomic level. While in 2019, this seems like just more science fiction, we've all witnessed in our own lifetimes how the master gardener known as Time eventually gets around to harvesting unrealized technologies out of the soil of imagination and placing them on our plates.

How could Feynman's lecture possibly soothe a person having an ecological panic attack?

Because once the ability to convert matter is realized, it will usher in an end to all toxic waste, pollution and a few other sustainability problems.

Does this mean then, with this knowledge of our future, we should just swagger forth and be irresponsible regarding the planet? Of course not, let's not be silly.

People who scoff at anti-plastic-straw legislation or climate prediction models that have us living in boats in 30 years, are not automatically apathetic about the environment. They are just not ready to follow each new righteous fad based on the negative prognostications of those who enjoy vilifying the 'animal' known as Man.

I know of no global warming critics who think we should abandon recycling or allow industries to pollute our environment without legal consequences. Those who think they are saving "Mother Earth" need to try some honesty and just admit they are afraid that they will not be able to assure their own futures on a planet that can get along quite well without us.

Alan Weisman's 2007 book "The World Without Us" explains in extensive detail how the world would eventually return to a paradise-like natural state and eliminate virtually all traces of us if we were all missing from the planet. And it wouldn't take millions of years, or hundreds of thousands. Try tens of thousands.

My point? We should be responsible about the planet, but honest at the same time. The Earth itself is not as fragile as Hollywood script writers would have you believe.

Mankind, on the other hand, hangs by a thread each and every day, and the responsibility for that predicament rests on all of us. This may sound dismissive, but reducing carbon dioxide emissions is one of the least of our problems. Murder, rape, sex slave trade and drug culture are much more urgent concerns than living on a planet that's a few degrees warmer and a few more feet underwater.

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