Sunday, February 19, 2006

on the edge

"The summer of 2005 broke all records for melting in Greenland. So we may be on the edge." Chief NASA climate modeller Jim Hansen. via informant388.
Apparently a genuine global concern. But there are those presidential popularity polls, which matter more to some:
A satellite study of the Greenland ice cap shows that it is melting far faster than scientists had feared - twice as much ice is going into the sea as it was five years ago. The implications for rising sea levels - and climate change - could be dramatic.

Yet, a few weeks ago, when I - a NASA climate scientist - tried to talk to the media about these issues following a lecture I had given calling for prompt reductions in the emission of greenhouse gases, the NASA public affairs team - staffed by political appointees from the Bush administration - tried to stop me doing so. I was not happy with that, and I ignored the restrictions.
The first step is for the concatenated world to know that its leaders don't see it, hear it, care about it. They have more important matters to reckon.

The next step? Perhaps to not be blinded by what our leaders see.

6 Comments:

Blogger Chuck Pinatubo said...

I think the next step might be even more basic: to make it safer for people who are not blinded to say what they've seen. The war being waged is not against ideas or sound policies. It's being waged to enshrine faith in a personality as a valid disproof of knowledge.

2/19/2006 12:02 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

"waged to enshrine faith in a personality as a valid disproof of knowledge."

a lot in that. If one enshrines the gesture of faith, this could be the equivalent of inducing a mode of rationalist skepticism that would have the peculiar mission of undermining rationalist skepticism. "Valid disproof" purloins the core of rational processes only to convict reason. One has to approach such elegant chiasmi with some care.

If we run with it: Faith itself - as opposed to that which one has faith "in" - becomes sacred, a learned habit or mechanism of authorization that can then be rallied, say.

Anything that looks suspiciously like reasoned speech would immediately become suspect. Orwell.

"A personality." As opposed to personality per se? A specific charismatic? Don't all the politicos of both parties look kinda chewed up? Or is that chewing up preparing the ground for a yet to be glamorized redeemer?

2/20/2006 8:15 AM  
Blogger Chuck Pinatubo said...

What gives proof and disproof their mojo appears more and more to me, these days, to be dependent on charisma and the goal of perception managment to be creation of a transferable charisma -- just like the kids' created characters for role playing games. Authenticity and legitimacy as products and things you don't necessarily earn, but that are mystically imbued after participating in a charade. A lip syncing performer gets called a singer, which is an old battle, but still relevant.

After reading Informant38 for some time now, I don't think of rationalists as elevating reason as much as they try to use reasoning as a weapon to secure a station in society. There's a vulgar utilitarian sensibility to it and a corrupt trickle down aspect: the greatest good for me will turn, in good time, to the greatest good for everyone else. When they meet up with role players who are better at it than they, they get angry, as T.V. explicated.

I'm still comfortable with skepticism.

The enshrining of faith I refer to is not the formation of trust or belief, but an elimination of options and a negation of skepticism. The strongest religious thinkers have been full of doubts and anxious to find ways to drive out nonsense. I could spend happy hours with Father George Coyne. I learned as much as I know about logic and rhetoric from Sister Miriam Joseph's wonderful work on The Trivium. I would count them among the faithful, but not among the gullible.

"A personality." As opposed to personality per se? A specific charismatic? Don't all the politicos of both parties look kinda chewed up? Or is that chewing up preparing the ground for a yet to be glamorized redeemer?

The designated personality of the moment, with the transferable charisma and the kind of subsequent unpersonhood that turned Ronald Reagan into a saint. Yes the politicos do look chewed up. Part of their game is weeding the voter pool down to the most gullible and reaction-driven voters. To do that, they skunk their followers on a regular basis and keep them nervous. I think it's preparation a for redeeming new institutional order. Perhaps a pan galactic corporatism and a new managerial class. I think they want to cut their ties to nations and communities altogether. Bill Clinton might go on to manage China, if a happy and smart bubba was needed for confidence crisis.

2/22/2006 2:21 AM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

The conditions necessary to earn communal legitimation - at least hitherto - have normally been local. You make the pilgrimage, do the gruntwork, earn your spurs, acquire incremental approbation. You touch the local shrine/holy man/locus of immanence and it rubs off. The community, which has usually been local, perceives.

As it ratchets into larger scale operations, the transference, abetted by entertainment mechanisms, relies more on acts of the gods than on the labor of vetting.

Now ratchet that up again a notch to global authorizations. You have this, you order up this.

Trivium becomes Triumph. All glory, no sweat. SmrtBubbaz'R'us. What role can the unglamorous work of the skeptic play here?

2/22/2006 8:15 AM  
Blogger Chuck Pinatubo said...

The most straightforward thing for skeptics to do is run a decentralized samizdat community. Kevin Carson thinks snail-mailed DVDs could be used for people who can't get broadband. But those lack the interaction needed to build community. There's not much human feeling to getting things in the mail unless you can also talk about them.

The frontmen of bogus faith are not reluctant to give speeches, run those fake town halls or deliver public harangues. The format of those is completely unsuited for true community. The Quaker meeting is much closer. So is the pub crawl.

Ultimately some people have to travel, for several months out of the year, and have a thick enough hide to weather disappointments.

2/22/2006 2:06 PM  
Blogger Jon Husband said...

Kevin Carson thinks snail-mailed DVDs could be used for people who can't get broadband. But those lack the interaction needed to build community. There's not much human feeling to getting things in the mail unless you can also talk about them.

It's also maybe not easy enough ... one of the big appeals of blogging is that all you really have to do is click (and know how to read .. I was going to add *think*, but I am reserving judgment on that one).

A DVD means you have to care enough 1) not to throw it out or 2) just toss it on the heap, or 3) actually put it into a machine, assuming you have one (and that demands a certain amount of engagement).

2/24/2006 1:46 AM  

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