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Saturday, September 1, 2018

Science Deniers

Whenever I read some dismissive opinion from someone who is clearly misinformed, I feel like saying, “hey, just because neither you nor your parents chose to spend any money on an education, does not mean that I am going to educate you now for free.” 



The thing is people always seem to want things to be simple…...and while some things can be, others are far more complicated. But because complexity and depth are problems for our short-attention-span world, I’ve decided to continue the rest of this post in a format of brief, easy-to-understand ‘bullets’. I’ve also limited my list to ten, because everyone seems to like when a collection of points coincide with how many fingers they have. To the smart readers who will probably find the following snippets obvious: My apologies.

1: Neither the Earth nor the universe care one bit what you believe…….meaning you can choose to believe that a glass of boiling water is really just cold, bubbling seltzer, but if you try to drink it you will still burn your mouth because the water doesn’t care what you thought it was. Likewise, the universe does not care what religious or political beliefs you hold.

2: A ‘scientific theory’ is not speculation from some Sherlock Holmes in a lab coat…..meaning the “Theory of Evolution” is not comprised of the same idle speculation as your hunch on who ate the last cookie. Which brings us to…….

3: If you know nothing about scientific method, or logic, or scientific terminology, you should probably learn………...or if not, just keep your mouth shut. Remember, as the oft-misattributed saying goes: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."

4: I personally find it interesting that conservatives, who are usually the ones who dismiss the word of modern scientists, are perfectly willing to take the word of a bunch of Iron Age Jews as a basis for their beliefs. I think this may be because they are on the same academic level when it comes to science? Which brings us to…….

5: Willingness to accept science seems very conditional. It’s ironic how a conservative with cancer is way more open to even the most theoretical  treatment from a doctor or scientist, yet refuses to believe them when they warn against man-made climate change. I guess just like “there are no atheists in foxholes”, “there are no science-deniers in cancer wards”. Science-deniers also seem quite content to acquire the latest I-Phone…...even if they haven’t the slightest idea of how it works.

6: Normally I don’t care how stupid a person chooses to be, but if their ignorance endangers me or my loved ones, I do take exception. It’s not a matter of “being right”, it’s a matter of survival. I used to even have sympathy for the stupid, but now that they are so happy about it, and are gathering in number, I feel less charitable. 


IQ - I = Q........A quotient sans intelligence. Actually these are Trump-following QAnon folks.  If you are not familiar with "QAnon"  it's a deep state code word for "mind numbingly stupid".

Which brings us to……..

7: Ignorance never used to be a source of pride…..and probably still shouldn’t be.



8: Not having a complete answer does not negate the validity of looking for one.

9: Statistical correlations are not proof of causality unless causality was specifically tested for. So when you read that "a recent survey shows a correlation between health and happiness" and they try to imply that being happy leads to a healthier life, it could just as easily be that being healthy makes people happy.

10: Your legal right to an opinion is not validation of that opinion……..meaning believing something does not make it so. Just ask Galileo.

39 comments:

  1. All great thoughts! Here are a few reactions.

    1. I believe in karma, otherwise known as "what goes around comes around." Therefore, I'm not willing to concede that the Universe doesn't care about your political or religious beliefs. And, while it may be wishful thinking, I like to enjoy the belief that drought and farm price drops are examples of the Universe giving Trump voters what they have coming.

    2. Some of those Trump voters make me question the theory of Evolution, or at least to accept that evolution may stall out from time to time . . .

    3. “ Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.” - John Stuart Mill

    4. See 3.

    5. Most science deniers can't afford or can't operate an iPhone. They still use flip phones and CB radios.

    6. "I used to even have sympathy for the stupid, but now that they are so happy about it . . ." Ignorance is indeed bliss, but at least it used to be less celebratory bliss.

    7. "Ignorance never used to be a source of pride….." You clearly didn't grow up with the jocks I went to school with.

    8. I have nothing clever to add to 8 - 10, but I clap in agreement. Nothing strikes me as quite so stupid as those conservatives who say, "We admit humans may be causing some climate heating, but since we don't understand every detail, we must do nothing." On 9, correlation does not equal causation, but I am amazed how many fairly smart people really don't understand that one. But, it is a relatively useful tool for living in denial. For example, if someone tells me that drinking is correlated with living longer, I am happy to say that drinking must cause longer life, while no one can convince me of when it comes to eating vegetables. On 10, people do have a right to have opinion, but they have no right to be protected from its natural consequences (see #1, above).




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    1. Thanks, Dan. I like all of your counterpoints....except maybe the Karma one. LOL Besides I was talking more about the fact that not believing in gravity won't make the groceries you dropped float. ;-)

      I also like the John Stuart Mill quote......although it sounds more like Jon Stewart (period).

      And jocks weren't necessarily proud of their stupidity, they just were prouder of their athletic achievements which they considered more important. But I see your point.

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  2. KD, the validity of your last point calls into question the validity of some of your previous points.

    Science is always a work in progress, by its very nature. Despite its many successes, many physicists, for good reasons, think the theory of general relativity is not universally valid. In particular, it does not sit well with QM. And so it is with much of climate science, and what we presently believe in other areas of science. Being skeptical about something in today's accepted science is not equivalent to being stupid. You seem to be suggesting that it is.

    I recently received this from a feisty friend which well illustrates my point:
    Luis Alvarez was a Nobel prize winning physicist who helped his geologist son calculate how much iridium was in the layer at the KT boundary. They published a paper saying the KT extinction was due to a bolide impact. At that time, geology was very anti-catastrophism. And this upstart non-geologist was telling geologists that catastrophism had shaped the earth. They ridiculed Alvarez, who was a feisty fellow. The author of Wiki ignores the barbs from the geologic community when he seems to ascribe all the rancor to Alvarez: "Most paleontologists were unconvinced by Alvarez’s explanation of the mass-extinction’s cause. It is fair to say that the debate between paleontologists and supporters of the Alvarez theory was fierce and raw. There was a large amount of ill-feeling in the opposing camps, not helped, it must be said, by Luis Alvarez himself. Alvarez was generally cantankerous and dismissive of anyone with a view different from his own.”

    Doug

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    1. It's pretty fair to say that because scientists are people, prone to the same issues of ego, subjectivity, and even error, it's good that there is a logical system for their work called the scientific method. As you point out, even with it disagreements can take on a more emotional than logical tone.

      Also, if anything I would say skepticism is an indication of intelligence rather than the opposite. However, there is a difference between wondering if something is exactly as someone claims it is on logical grounds, and dismissing something because it is inconvenient, or cuts into short term profits, or doesn't coincide with the group-think of one's tribe.

      Specifically in the case of climate change, enough people who do this for a living seem to agree on the salient points......if not the entire picture. And while skepticism is healthy, it's value must also be weighed against consequence. Meaning, is it really wise to utterly deny a warning even if one is skeptical?

      Consider this scene: a person is standing on a railroad track at night when someone points to a light in the distance and says, 'I think a train is coming'. The person on the track replies, 'no, it's a firefly. The express isn't due past here for another hour.' The person warning says, 'maybe you're right. But what if it's not a firefly....because it sure doesn't look like one.... and what if it's not the express but a freight train? If you just step off the track......which is a smart thing to do anyway, you avoid a serious consequence in the case that I'm right. And if I'm wrong, you haven't really lost anything by being cautious.'

      The trouble with man made climate change is that even if the scientists are wrong....or maybe just partially correct, the consequences for dismissing the warning is globally catastrophic. Which brings me back to my 6th point: if you doubt vaccines work and don't want them for yourself or your children......fine with me. (It may even be good for the gene pool) But if your position endangers me and my family, we have a problem. Making environmental concessions may not have an effect on climate change, but doing nothing certainly will have no positive effect.

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  3. We all belong to a tribe,including those who think that climate change will result in a "globally catastrophic" outcome.

    There is politics behind this view, just as there is politics around the view that climate change is without merit. The truth probably lies somewhere in between, in which climate change will bring some hardships and some benefits. Humans have proven themselves to be extremely adaptable over many thousands of generations in lots of environments, and just possibly we will do it one more time. Some sarcasm intended.

    Doug

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    1. I'd be curious to know which tribe I belong to? My friends on the right don't seem to want me in theirs, and my friends on the left don't seem to want me in theirs. Does holding a view based on what seems most sensible align me with a 'tribe' just because it is also what that tribe believes?

      There are definitely politics behind this debate. And the truth may be in the middle, or somewhere, but there is definitely an objective truth to be uncovered. In the meantime, I'd prefer taking steps....even ineffectual ones......to TRY to keep the planet healthy.

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    2. Agreed, KD. It's one thing to say that people divide into tribes and become emotionally committed to their views, and quite another to say that the scientific outcome is depending on the tribes' respective emotions. In the case of climate science, you have one tribe that is much, much bigger than the other because it is comprised of scientists who are . . . practicing science. In the other camp there actually seem to be very few left who even deny that climate change is real and is at least partially caused by human activity. The few in that group just keep insisting that we shouldn't do anything until we understand everything.

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    3. Dan: Jon Meachum spoke recently about how tribalism is possibility the greatest threat to the political health of our country right now. But as I was trying to point out.....people used to hold different opinions without necessarily holding them for tribal reasons....even if those opinions occasionally coincided with a particular tribe's view.

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  4. This appears to be some attempt to side swipe or at least swerve into the "climate change" debate - although it is not directly addressed. But if you are so sure of modern climate change then certainly you can explain the CAUSATION of the most recent ice age - which ended about 10,000 BC (a mere 'blink of the eye' in geologic terms). So let's hear the science on that one.

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    1. 1: Yes, there are some references to the climate debate. It's an important issue.

      2: I am pretty sure of the change because it seems well documented.

      3: Am I 100% sure it's entirely man made? No. However, it does not seem like some of what we are doing with regard to emissions is REDUCING the issue.

      4: I am not a climate change expert, so I don't know what caused the ice age you speak of. Neither am I am oncologist or dietitian, but when one recommended a particular diet for my father, (also named Carl) we were all willing to give it a try rather than do nothing. My father had terminal lung cancer.....even though he never smoked a day in his life, and the type of carcinoma he had did not come from asbestos or anything like that. Like climate change, we knew the cancer was there, and some doctors speculated on how he might have gotten it, but no one could prove it for sure. However, as he was dying, I don't recall anyone telling him, "ya know Carl, we know you have cancer, and it's not a good thing.....but we don't really know for sure how you got it, so rather than give you any treatment, or special diet, we are just going to wait and see what happens." Turns out that nothing anyone did made any difference. The cancer was very aggressive and very resistant to chemo. He died just 6 months after being diagnosed. But our lack of complete understanding of cancer did not stop us from trying to keep him alive, maybe foolishly, definitely desperately. I would think the entire planet deserves similar regard.

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    2. Rather than run through that long winded diatribe, you cold have just stopped with "I don't know"(in #4, above), because neither you, me or anybody else does.

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    3. Hmmm, despite past disagreements, this is the first time I recall you being unnecessarily rude.

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    4. Here is something else I don't know -- what the hell point are you trying to make Carl? Is it that because (a) there isn't a scientific consensus about what caused the las major climate change (ice age), but (b) no one thinks it was caused by man, then (c) we shouldn't try to do anything about this climate change even though (d) there is strong scientific consensus that it IS caused by man? So, let me make sure I understand you> I shouldn't do anything about THIS event that my actions may be causing because I don't know EVERYTHING about some totally different event that I (and other humans) definitely did NOT cause? That is a pretty dumb syllogism Carl. Sorry, hope that wasn't a diatribe.

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    5. KD & Dan,

      The "point I was trying to make" was to get both of you to admit you don't know everything. Mission accomplished. The question on the table stands, if you don't know what caused the Ice Age, then how do you KNOW what causes "climate change", if it can even be quantified to begin with? It could be purely natural, purely anthroprogenic, or a combination thereof.

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    6. Ah, but people who know more than Dan or I.....or you......may have these answers and also tend to agree on man made climate change. So, would you like to list YOUR scientific credentials in this field so as to reassure those of us worrying that there is nothing to fear? I'd like to have a credible, expert naysayer prove their position so I could relax a bit.

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    1. If you mean 'was this prompted by your post?' then "yes". If you are teasing me about how few people participate on this blog versus yours......also true.

      I probably would not have written this piece, but when you made it clear that climate debate comments weren't welcome I respected that it was your blog and your decision, even though I felt like you had kicked open a door but refused to let the breeze blow inside. So I did a post of my own.

      A lot of my efforts here are sort of "self-therapy" LOL.

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    2. Now Julie, "triggered" is one of those loaded words that can mean either "my delicate snowflake ears can't handle hearing anything I don't like, so please don't trigger me by saying something I might not like" or it can mean "what you just said is so fucking stupid it makes me see red so I'm triggered to tell you how fucking stupid it is." ;-)

      Let's use a spanking analogy to illustrate the problem with the thinking reflected in some of these comments. I don't spank women, but for a climate change denier, I might make an exception. So, let's say I put your very pretty ass over my knee and tell you I am going to spank you until you see the error of your ways, using a brush, a paddle and a strap. I spank and spank, and your ass is getting warmer and warmer. But, instead of telling me you've learned your lesson so I might stop and your pain might end, you choose to say and do nothing because you're not quite sure which tool I am going to use and exactly how much of your bruising is attributable to each tool, or how long I may spank you, or how warm your ass may get, or how much irreparable damage I may inflict on your butt, and there is the slight chance that I just might stop on my own without you altering your behavior. And, while it's likely that pleading for mercy might make me stop and would, at the very least, make me ease up a bit, since it's not clear that I won't go on for a while anyway you decide to just gut it out, even though it is really becoming truly unbearable. Plus, you see it as kind of arrogant of me to suggest you should get spanked for thinking and doing bad things anyway, so you don't feel like giving in even if it's your ass getting beaten. So, why not just keep bearing the spanking until you know for absolutely certain how long and how hard I will spank you and how much damage each instrument will do and that I won't ever stop on my own. That in a nutshell is the logic of climate change deniers.

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    3. Dan: This is priceless. Still......using a humorous and adult analogy to accurately reflect a separate issue while also making third parties snicker? Sir, don't you know this type of mischievous wit is very much out of style? Who do you think you are? Mencken? Wilde? Shaw? Twain? Next time try expressing your view with 140 characters of lies, capital letters, and name-calling. That's the modern way. ;-) LOL

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    4. You just named four of my literary heroes. I knew there was a reason we're friends!

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    5. Dan, you had me at "So, let's say I put your very pretty ass over my knee..." Starting thinking naughty thoughts and then did not follow the logic after that!

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    6. kd, no such tease intended! No I could just picture you stomping away from my playground with your ball and then running your own ball game over here (which I find to be very, very cute and adorable - not in a condescending sort of way!) I like people talking about this stuff, but feel I did not want to alienate one side or the other on my blog. If the two sides of the debate can at least agree that spanking is a good thing, we are making progress! I was very leery of publishing that blog, but I thought Joey's story was really too good and thought the concept of being ass whupped by a Conservative Gal was a thing to explore regardless! Kisses!!!

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    7. Julie: I'm glad neither of us came out of this climate-thing offended. (We've known....and liked....each other too long.) I can appreciate your reaction to me posting here, and I can understand you not wanting your blog to head in a political direction. You have your blog goals, I have mine, others have theirs. We are all good. (And I'm OK if you and Dan want to sneak off and do some OTK climate debate too). ;-)

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    8. Given Julie’s recent explorations, I think we’d end up arguing about who gets to be Bottom. :-)

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    9. I think it's good to argue the other side of what you believe from time to time, so Dan and kd must play the vocal climate denier and I will play the alarmist and spank you both!

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    10. Julie: Now THAT I could do. Funny how a simple change-up to a pretend role changes my whole attitude about it. Though I doubt a pretty young thing like you really wants to be bothered with my old ass! LOL

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  6. KD, let’s continue with the evocative example of your father’s cancer, and see where it takes us.

    Suppose the global-warming issue is comparable to an easily diagnosed highly lethal cancer. Then spending literally trillions of dollars in a possibly futile effort to prevent it would make sense. This is your comparison, KD, so evidently you believe those who say “trust us with this global warming issue,” … “we are genuinely dealing with a lethal-like calamity down the road.” We have certainly been told this enough times by fear-monger politicians, who want our votes and our largesse.

    But there are lots of perfectly sane, rational folks like Carl H, including many knowledgeable scientists, and many other well-informed folks, who simply do not believe “Chicken Little” when she says “The sky is falling.” They properly recognize that climates fluctuate for natural, but mostly unknown, reasons over geological time, as do weather patterns over decades and hundred year periods. Many of these folks are unwilling to spend the many trillions of dollars it would cost to eliminate the use of all fossil fuels.

    Doug

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    1. Yes there are "unknowns" but levels of carbon emissions are not one of them. When much of the carbon present in the Earth's atmosphere during a prehistoric periods of much greater warmth became "trapped" as what we call "fossil fuel", the Earth cooled closer to the temperatures we are used to. Releasing that trapped carbon back into the atmosphere would logically result in a return to a warmer Earth. Scientists say this, but honestly.......do you need to be a scientist to make that connection? Now, to your point, the rate, and other variables are not fully known, but are you really going to tell me that continuing to burn fossil fuels at unprecedented rates is really a "good thing" for the planet and something we should continue without concern? (and if you say "yes" my follow-up would be: What oil company do you either work for or hold stock in?)

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    2. Exactly. I've never quite understood the position that we should keep burning fossil fuels even if we aren't 100% sure that global warming can be reversed, when we know that burning dirty fuels causes or aggravates lung disorders, killing or sickening millions of people a year and that acid rain causes billions of dollars in crop damage, and those are the tip of the iceberg where fossil fuel dependence is concerned. So, even if you take global warming completely out of the equation, why wouldn't continuing to develop and deploy sustainable, non-polluting energy sources be the right thing to do and why would continuing to depend on fossil fuels be a good thing?

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  7. Natural gas IS a fossil fuel, and burning it to produce the energy to recharge the batteries of electricity-driven cars does produce carbon dioxide -- not as much, I am told, as car that use gasoline. And it burns cleaner than gasoline. So there is no getting away from using fossil fuels all together. Strictly speaking, we could use nuclear energy. But apart from that, if we want to drive cars at current rates, we will have no choice but to burn natural gas.

    Doug

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    1. I never said it wasn't and you seem to have switched your argument, though I'm not sure to what end. Transitioning to natural gas is certainly a good first step in weaning ourselves off of dirtier fuels like oil and coal. That's why I'm personally a fracking fan, despite its downsides. It simply isn't realistic to think we'll be able to stop fossil fuel use overnight, and it doesn't really meet my point about the health and economic externalities that "cheap" coal and oil impose. Because, they aren't really cheap if you tally up the cost that taxpayers pay in higher Medicaid and Medicare costs, hospitals pay for emergency room visits and farmers pay in lower crop yields. Coal is cheap only for the coal producers and powerplants.

      But, your original point had nothing to do with natural gas and everything to do with what you saw as spending trillions to transition away from fossil fuels. Our transportation economy once consisted of mules and horses pulling wagons of various shapes and sizes. Then along came the internal combustion engine and the automobile. Building the railroad tracks, roads, highways, and gas station infrastructure to get the best use out of that new technology cost trillions and displaced many horse breeders, livery stables, hay farmers and wagon builders. But, as I drive my SUV 30 miles into work in about 20 minutes, I'm pretty glad we paid the trillions to make that transition, including through government intervention in the form of Eisenhower's interstate highway system funding.

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  8. KD, Doug has some very strong points. Perhaps you should truly embrace your 10th point. Even your apologetic comment just prior to your list presents as arrogant and stuck in your own opinions. There are plenty of "smart" people who would not agree with or find your snippets obvious. If arrogance was your goal, however, have at it.

    Tony

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    1. Welcome, Tony. I don't think you've ever posted here before, have you? What sort of lifestyle person are you? Top? Sub?

      Now, as to your comment...... It seems to me Doug has one and only one strong point: that because there is a lack of 100% complete understanding and consensus with regard to climate change we should take no action. If there is another point he is making that I am missing, please indicate it.

      I DO embrace all 10 of my 'snippets'.....(I wrote them after all). I do realize nowadays when someone....even a president......writes something, you really can't be sure he believes it, but I tend to be pretty consistent that way.

      My 10 snippets are rooted in basic scientific principle....or basic common sense and while I am sure there are plenty of self-described stable geniuses who might not find them obvious.... I stand by my statement. In fact, I'd be curious as to which of the ten you personally find problematic?

      As for arrogance.....>sigh<.....why is it that people who have difficulty with science and logic (since you seem to think at least something in my list is wrong) always think that those who don't are arrogant? See for me, doggedly refusing to accept science, while happily benefiting from it, seems pretty arrogant.

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  9. Tony: Thanks for the strong compliment.

    KD: Thanks for a fun debate (complete as far as I am concerned since you have started a new topic). Obviously, yours and Tony's assessment of how I performed in the debate cannot both be correct. LOL There are no hard feelings on my part.

    Doug

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    1. You're welcome, Doug. I don't question your performance in the debate at all. Sincerely. One goal in such a discussion is to clearly explain one's position.......which you did. Another goal (though one I have NEVER seen happen anywhere) is to persuade. In that regard neither of us succeeded. The fact that I don't agree with your position does not mean that you did not state it well or that I did not understand it.

      No hard feelings here, either, and you are always welcome here whether the topic is politics or punishment! LOL

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  10. The following is an intended post from a reader named "Graham". He claimed to have had difficulty posting directly here and emailed me his comment. I felt it was worth posting and as the blog administrator....I can do just that. Thank you, Graham.

    Graham's post:
    It is very hard to understand the degree of stubbornness displayed by the deniers. The evidence is so overwhelming and extensive that it's hard for anyone to grasp fully. Just two of hundreds of examples are the destruction of the ocean reefs and the changes of life in the mountainous rain forest in areas such as Peru and Ecuador.

    We faced atmospheric issues at least 3 times in my life, and in each case there were deniers. In each case, we took dramatic action that produced results that benefited all of us including the deniers themselves. Isn't it convenient to deny something, not want to pay for it and yet reap the benefits. Standard conservative positions these days, and I'm a former (and still somewhat) conservative.

    The three examples referenced above:

    1. Added SCR to automobiles and power plants, which has improved air quality enormously, for any of us old enough to recall how things used to be.

    2. Cap and trade program for SOx which has greatly reduced issues related to acid rain.

    3. Regulating CFCs that were destroying the upper ozone. Believe me, Deniers, you're very happy about that.

    Of course, there were "good" reasons to oppose each measure. #1 was going to destroy the car industry. Etc.

    Finally, any conservative worth her/his merit should argue strongly for full costing, including externalities, rather than passing those costs to taxpayers, the medical system, etc.

    In short, many of the deniers' arguments are conveniently framed on a shred of evidence, or lack of "sufficient" evidence, that allows these to oppose measures that tell them change is necessary.

    Apologies for my tirade, and I realize it will change no one's mind. But thanks for raising the issue.

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  11. Thank you for you thoughtful input and welcome!

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