realthog: (Default)

If you're looking for a (short: 10 minutes) movie which Carl Sagan might have applauded, a staunch rebuttal of the "demon-haunted world" -- the Santa Claus view of the universe -- you could do a whole lot worse than watch Tim Minchin's Storm -- The Animated Movie.

It's animated. It's free. It's often extremely funny. Your mom might not approve of some of the language.

We live in a universe that's vast beyond understanding and of beauty that dumbfounds. Why do so many people prefer Bronze Age myths that don't capture the imagination, but kill it?

realthog: (corrupted science)

To be honest, I'm not 100% sure this falls within the remit of the Science Masterclass as I've been defining it to myself. However, it's concerned with science, and it does indeed refer to scientific idiocy/illiteracy/denial, so I guess my heading's okay . . .

There's a very good article by David S. Bernstein on the Boston Phoenix site at the moment called "Generation Green". Moderately long but well worth perusing in full, it has as its subject the way the current stalwarts of the GOP are essentially driving the Republican bandwagon over the edge of a cliff by promoting anti-scientific, non-reality-based notions concerning climate change. Why? Because the very people who're going to be hardest hit by the consequences of any continuation of the criminal inactivity
on this front (or, even worse, promotion of potentially genocidal junk science) of the Bush years are all too well aware of the hazards of the future that people of older generations have created for them. And those young people represent an already large and (obviously) steadily increasing slice of the US electorate.

As I say, Bernstein's piece is well worth reading in toto; nonetheless, here are some pertinent extracts:

Republicans have a lot to say about the immorality of saddling the next generation with our national debt. But when it comes to leaving them a wrecked, depleted, and rapidly warming planet, they are taking the exact opposite line.

That's especially odd when you consider how important that next generation is to the faltering GOP - and how broadly united those voters, known as Millennials, are in their concern over global warming and other energy and environment issues.
[. . .]

Even the most senior Republican leaders, and the top GOP lawmakers on energy and environment committees, keep shooting themselves in the foot by spewing antiquated, anti-science nonsense.
[. . .]

Global warming, more than any other issue, carries an urgency among Millennials of all backgrounds and ideologies. "That's the scary thing, if you work for the RNC [Republican National Committee]," says John della
Volpe, who studies this generation at the Harvard University Institute of Politics (IOP). "It absolutely cuts across all the demographics."

"For young people, no issue is more important," says Pat Johnson, a Suffolk University student and president of the College Democrats of Massachusetts. "We are going to have to live with the consequences of inaction."

Conventional wisdom suggests that getting bogged down over environmental legislation would distract Democrats from important issues like the economy and foreign policy.
[. . .] To this generation, this fight is not only about climate change - it is about creating green jobs and increasing national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil. [. . .]

In a stance utterly bewildering to most Beltway veterans, Millennials don't necessarily view the environment as a partisan or ideological issue. To them, it's an infrastructure problem, like wanting the New Orleans levees
fixed. That's why even those Millennials otherwise open to the GOP will get turned off if the party opposes climate-change progress.
[. . .]

But the loosest cannons in the GOP - and they are legion - simply cannot stick with the game plan. How can they? Surveys show that solid majorities of Republicans believe that global warming is either a myth or, at most, a wildly overblown media creation. Those warming deniers control the party, and their elected officials can only go along with it.

As a result, prominent Republicans regularly spew inanities on climate change ready-made for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. And it only gets worse when you move beyond the elected Republicans. The most popular conservative talk-show hosts, publications, bloggers, and pundits are almost unanimously dismissive of global warming, from columnist George F. Will, to Fox News superstar Glenn Beck, to bloggers at

After the recent EPA announcement on regulating greenhouse gases, Jonah Goldberg, National Review contributor, Fox News analyst, book author, and rising star of right-wing punditry, fumed on National Review Online, without irony, that "A federal agency has decided that it has the power to regulate everything, including the air you breathe" -- as if, under the Clean Air Act, the federal government has not been doing exactly that for the past four decades.

To almost anyone under the age of 30, all of this is similar to watching cigarette executives insist that smoking isn't harmful. "Younger voters get interested when they can choose sides," says Rasky, and the Republicans are going to make that very easy. "You give them the opportunity, they'll talk about drilling for oil, and how global warming isn't really happening."

To Millennials, that rhetoric makes the GOP nothing more than obnoxious gas.

(It's perhaps a little unfair of Bernstein to cite Goldberg, who's a man of such extraordinary stupidity that any argument he supports becomes ipso facto risible -- at least, this is what I thought on first reading the relevant passage. Thereafter, though, it dawned on me that Bernstein's choice was a bit circumscribed. Had he selected just about any of the alternatives among the rightist pundits he'd have been accused of picking too-easy targets: Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Coulter, Buchanan, Beck, Inhofe, Gingrich, Savage . . .)

My own feeling is that perhaps we're already too late to avert the onrushing climate disaster: even those politicians/political factions around the world who're trying urgently to take ameliorative steps are producing results short of what is necessary; as James Lovelock has said, by the end of this century humanity is likely to consist of at best a few million individuals living in conditions of extreme barbarism near the poles. But words like "perhaps" and "likely" leave open the smallest of cracks in the doorways ahead of us; the people who're so determined to close those cracks, slam shut those doors, are nothing short of public enemies -- as, apparently, the "Millennials" (ugly term) recognize only too well.

And, yes, I've been here before -- notably in my nonfiction Corrupted Science and my mosaic novel Leaving Fortusa, both of which have been subject to rightist vituperation. I wonder if those vituperators realize I wear their smears with pride?

March 2013

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