Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Friday, June 2, 2017

State of denial

My dad was talking about a public figure one time, and called the man "ignorant."  Then he looked thoughtful, and amended his assessment to "stupid."

I asked him what the difference was.

"Ignorance just means you don't know stuff," he explained.  "Ignorance can be cured.  Stupidity, on the other hand, means you're ignorant and you don't care.  Maybe you're even proud of it...  Put a different way, ignorance is only skin-deep.  Stupidity goes all the way to the bone."

Wise man, my dad.

I can't help but think that if he were alive today, he'd have applied the word "stupid" to the people currently determining the direction our country takes apropos of climate change.  There's a willfulness about the way they choose to ignore the consensus of close to 100% of trained, qualified climate scientists in favor of the self-serving nonsense coming from the fossil fuels industry (and the elected officials in their pay).

As urban designer Brent Toderian put it: "If 97% of structural engineers told you that a bridge was unsafe, would you still drive across it?"

That kind of argument doesn't resonate with the people currently running our government, unfortunately.  I woke up to the news yesterday morning (buried amongst hundreds of pieces speculating on the meaning of "covfefe") that Trump was almost certain to pull the United States out of the Paris Accord, and sure enough, yesterday afternoon Trump himself confirmed it.

Which, by the way, would throw us in with only two other countries in the world -- Syria and Nicaragua.

Because the leadership of those two countries is clearly what we want to emulate.

[image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]

But there's an added twist to the climate change denialism in the United States government, and that has come about because of the Trump administration's bizarre, if wildly successful, courting of the Religious Right.  Now, there is an increasing message coming from evangelical Christian politicians and spokespeople that okay, maybe the climate is changing, but we shouldn't worry about it...

... because god's gonna fix it.

I kid you not.  Let's start with Michigan Representative Tim Walberg, who said in a town hall meeting that he's not at all concerned:
I believe there’s climate change.  I believe there’s been climate change since the beginning of time.  I believe there are cycles.  Do I think man has some impact?  Yeah, of course.  Can man change the entire universe?  No. 
Why do I believe that?  Well, as a Christian, I believe that there is a creator in God who is much bigger than us.  And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, he can take care of it.
Okay, first, does this guy really think that scientists are saying that climate change will affect the entire universe?  Like, if we cut down the forests and pollute the atmosphere and burn up all the coal and oil here on Earth, some alien civilization in the Andromeda Galaxy will die a horrible death?  Because that goes way beyond stupid, into that rarefied atmosphere called "Holy fuck, that's idiotic."

But a deeper problem, of course, is that such a stance absolves us of any need to change our ways now.  We can continue to burn fossil fuels like there's no tomorrow, continue to give nothing more than lip service to renewable energy, continue to allow our elected officials to sit in the deep pockets of the petroleum industry.

Pretty convenient, that.

Then there's right-wing radio host Erick Erickson, who said pretty much the same thing in a series of tweets, which I string together here for the sake of space:
I worship Jesus, not Mother Earth.  He calls us all to be good stewards of the planet, but doesn't mean I have to care about global warming...  100000000% sure my kids will have a habitable planet.  This sort of hysteria is exactly why I couldn't care less about global warming...  The tweets of those upset with me on global warming have a religious fervor to them because by faith they believe so much of the doom&gloom...  Dammit, I'm gonna be drunk off the tears of people crying over the Paris Accord before my show starts.
What, do you think that the people who understand climate science want the Earth's ecosystems to destabilize?  Nutjobs like Erickson act as if coming to a conclusion and liking the conclusion are the same thing.  And now, we're supposed to take his "100000000%" assurance that everything is fine over the knowledge, expertise, and data of trained scientists?

In any case, don't worry about it, because Jesus.

Oh yeah, and liberal tears, har-de-har-har, and all that sorta stuff.

This kind of nonsense would be comical if it wasn't for the fact that people like Walberg and Erickson are currently in the driver's seat with regards to our entire country's climate policy.  So that moves it from the "comical" column to the "scary" column.

Worst, it means that the people who are making decisions for us are not just ignorant, but willfully ignorant.  I.e., what my dad would have called "stupid."  And since stupidity is so seldom limited to one subject, that should be profoundly scary to all of us, because we're all going to have to live with the consequences of where these nimrods are dragging us.


  1. To people who haven't learned the techniques of critical thought (or don't care to apply them), coming to a conclusion and liking the conclusion ARE the same thing. And since people tend to assume that everyone is like them, if someone disagrees with them it must be on the basis of personal preference, which is no better than their own preference.

  2. We won't have nearly the consequences to live with compared with what subsequent generations will have to deal with 😳


  3. Nicaragua didn't sign Paris because it didn't go far enough. This time, your own skepticism has failed and you went to snark. Here's more:

    1. Fair enough. I guess confirmation bias plagues us all....

  4. It must have been nice to have parents who could tell the difference between stupid and ignorant, rather than falling into the former category themselves.
    Here's a question. What if we made ALL our laws based on "god taking care of things"?
    We would no longer need to prosecute people who commit crimes, because god will take care of them, right?
    In fact, who needs ANY laws? Whatever happens, god's going to fix it. Problem solved!
    This is exactly how Walberg sounds.