I was on a science and technology blog the other day that posted a piece about some new climate change findings. It was a completely unexceptional piece, a report of a tiny bit of new science, a study adding another tiny iota of evidence to the gigantic heap that already exists for anthropogenic climate change (ACC). It was mildly interesting and I should have just clicked away, but, like a fool, I went on to read the comments.
As usual, the first few comments were from religious and conservative loonies jumping in to say it was all a big conspiracy and that various of their religious and conservative loony climate change denier heroes had irrefutable evidence that climate change isn’t happening. I’m usually such a calm person but, that day, I lost my rag. I added my own comment to the effect that I was sick of fools trolling science sites, spouting psuedo-science, Murdoch press ideology, and bible quotes, and why didn’t they all just learn some science, read some research, and inform themselves about what was actually going on?
Silly, really. Not only did the fools come back, trotting out the same old, tired, long-since-refuted nonsense as if it were solid fact, but the scientists chimed in saying I shouldn’t really be calling these people “fools” but that I should engage constructively to persuade them. Dickheads! As if engaging with a fool ever got you anything but frustration. But my dander was up and I let rip with both barrels at all and sundry. I was outnumbered dozens to one but I like to think I dished out a good helping of ridicule and contempt to all comers.
The conservative types are the worst, of course. They tend to be against the idea of ACC because its existence would inevitably mean restrictions on free markets, increased government regulation and restrictions on individual freedoms. Sadly for them, a political and economic ideology that is at loggerheads with objective reality, must inevitably fail. Sadly for the world, these fools tend to be the ones with money and influence.
The religious ones are bad too, of course. Mostly they tend to be politically conservative, so have the same view as the free market ideologues, but they also bring their own unique brand of idiocy to the ‘debate’. In particular I note those who say their god wouldn’t have arranged things so that we’d suffer for following its instructions (you know, like going forth and multiplying), or, worse, that it doesn’t really matter if we trash the Earth because what really matters is following the rules in some book they favour and getting into Heaven. When you get a conservative ideologue with this kind of religious disregard for reality and human suffering, you really do have someone who has crossed the line into complete insanity. The Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, is that kind of person, for example. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t “believe” in ACC either.
A side-skirmish in my waste-of-time battle in that blog’s comment section was with a religious nut-job who wanted to prove that I’m just as crazy as he is by convincing himself that I “believe” in science the way he “believes” in his god. I hate these people. They’re so incredibly stupid and invariably ignorant that it’s quite painful to watch them parading their insecurities. Of course, I always concede to them that, yes, I do believe in physical reality. I believe in it because of the evidence of my own senses and because I am persuaded by the argument that – by Occam’s razor – solipsism should be regarded as a fallacy.
Since I believe there is a real world out there, I find the statements of other (real) people compelling when they attest to the reality of things I haven’t directly experienced (like India, for instance). Yet I do treat all such statements with a reasonable amount of scepticism. So it’s good to know there are systems of thought and practice that allow the veracity of statements to be demonstrated or, at least, strengthened. One of these systems is rationality (mathematics and logic being subsets of this broad system) and the other is science which employs rationality, observation and experimentation, along with scrutiny, replication and refutation by skilled peers.
But you try explaining that to a religious loony. “See?” they say. “You’re just the same as me. Science is just another religion!” Well, no, you twonk, there’s a bit of a difference between believing every half-arsed thing you’re told (up to the age of twelve and then nothing new thereafter) and constantly challenging every statement and assumption until you’ve pared down your beliefs to the absolute minimum that you can justify.
All right. Taking a deep breath now. I’ve got it off my chest and I’ll stop ranting for a while. But if I ever, ever, look like I’m going to check out the comments on a climate change post again, please hit me across the head with something heavy. It may seem cruel but, I assure you, you’ll be doing me a favour.