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Intellectual Honesty and the absence of the Sacred

By       Message Carter stroud     Permalink
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From flickr.com/photos/23165290@N00/9290349928/: ]natural gas flare
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Once again humanity faces a threat to its continued existence. The first, the atomic bomb, remains in the jug but may escape at any time. Unfortunately, global warming has no jug to contain it. Under present practices, global warming will occur sooner than anyone predicts. Once the critical temperature arises, humanity will no longer find it possible to adapt to the resulting environment. Millions of years of experience in adaptation will no longer apply. We will become refugees in our own land--our genome alienated from the new environment.

There is no credible controversy in the scientific community about the consequences. Unfortunately, instead of the facts we get a media game that obfuscates any conclusions. Everything is in dispute. Intellectual honesty remains impossible when determining what the facts mean remains out of reach. Agendas rule instead. The agenda for those who wish to continue burning fuel that contaminates everything, and makes them rich, includes any means of denying global warming.

Without intellectual honesty, we cannot resolve conflicting agendas and opinions. Means of validating constructs [like E= MC2] that describe reality where it cannot otherwise be seen lie at the center of the science now under attack by agendas that cannot survive intellectual honesty. The billion dollar campaign to discredit global warming attacks the means of vetting discoveries that will help us adapt to a sustainable environment. Ignoring earth science is the most dangerous game anyone can play.

Intellectual honesty requires an agenda so inclusive that only the sanctity of life can serve as its guiding light. The global-warming debate shows no signs of applying that bottom line. Mostly, the arguments rely on magic thinking like the coming of new technologies that will do huge amounts of work with little side-effects in spite of the laws of physics and chemistry that govern the production of energy.

We have been using up the earth and ignoring the bill. Nature does not hand out free lunches; governments provide subsidies that hide the fact. New technologies praised as solutions are more likely to make the problem worse. That hypocrisy, ignoring nature's rules when it supports an argument, is one failure of intellectual honesty. These failures appear in all walks of life. During the life of my law practice of over 30 years I witnessed an increasing tendency for the trier of fact to rely on something other than intellectual honesty. Opinions get the facts right or the law right or both but come up with a wrong result, which does not follow from the facts or the law. Some agenda pre-empted the way conclusions were once drawn. All the math and experimentation science relies upon is worth nothing if the conclusions do not match the findings or the findings do not match the facts.

The unfortunate consequence of that discourse makes it easy to deny what someone does not want to hear. I have some difficulty with the denial of global warming on the most basic level. The ability of carbon deposits to generate heat is not in question, nor is the fact that we are dumping millions of tons of it in the air. One and one makes two.

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People have tried many means of overcoming bias. The scientific method has contributed much to that effort. Some see pragmatism as an answer. The President sees himself as a pragmatist, not an idealist or a man of faith. Pragmatism has its uses but in the absence of the sacred it can abandon the all important sense of proportion and adopt agendas that serve the status quo. Compromises that sacrifice one life support for another (like clean air at the expense of clean water) will not save the planet any more than bombing accused terrorists will end terrorism. Terrorists may be hard to track down but bombing their friends and families to get them makes no friends and puts the whole operation in a morally reprehensible light--safety at the expense of justice.

For a lot of people, the fact of terrorism justifies any response. The same pragmatism supports global-warming fixes that will do great damage to some for the benefit of others. If we do not view the earth and its treasures as anything other than a means of making paper wealth, nature will have the last word. Science, all too often, quite innocently, plays God because it assumes that we control nature when the reverse is true.

I define God as that which we believe we must obey to survive--be it priests or natural selection. In capitalist cultures, we must adapt to making money. We are what we adapt to. When people grew their own food, all manner of things were central to existence. One could not buy eggs in a grocery store. The value of seeds was a matter of life and death. Water did not come out of a pipe that seemed to have no end. People experienced the results of poison first hand.

Technology cannot change nature's rules. When the parameters of those rules have been exceeded, time will have come to pay the bill for ignoring the sacred. All those things which support life are sacred and require protection from the things that diminish life. Oil and water do not mix. The oil must be kept away from the water. In many cases technology has not managed to do that. Reliance on oil and coal must end for the sake of global warming and its impact on weather and water supplies. We can develop non-polluting means of producing the energy needed. What is holding that advancement down?

We are at war; a war more dangerous than anything history offers. The outlaw gene (a metaphor) defines the basis of the conflict. Darwin did not anticipate the two most important side-effects of natural selection that create evil. First, if short-term adaptations use up the resources needed for the long term, the species will become extinct. It may take a long time. A million years counts but a moment in geological time. Capitalism has been around for a few seconds. In that time it has done incalculable damage to our chance of surviving the next hundred years. Turning real wealth into paper wealth exhausts real wealth. The money, otherwise worthless, controls which adaptations we use--most of them short term.

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Second, the evil men do evolved with the choice natural selection leaves to each generation: Will we accomplish the production and distribution of wealth by divisions of labor based on merit where all share in the production and distribution, or will people take the short-term strategy of steeling other people's labor by force, fraud, or class. Will society support democracy, freedom, and equality or white supremacy (a metaphor). Lincoln did not fight the Civil War to free the slaves. He fought it to free all humanity. Color is only one convenient way to stigmatize a class of people.

White supremacy has become more subtle. Slaves and masters have been replaced by underpaid, uneducated, poverty-stricken people with no insurance or life support who have no bargaining power and who do the dirty work for overcompensated elite. The battle remains: Who will prosper and who will pay the price for other people's success? Poverty endangers civil rights as well as the biosphere. Poverty destroys democracy by eliminating choices. Starving people take what the elite grant them and that is not very much.

The increasing distance between the rich and the rest of us today leaves us fewer and fewer choices. At the center, oil and coal and gas produce so much money that the corporations that control them can buy almost anything, including good government. The scale of money invested in elections alone has reached a level best characterized as evil for it supports white-supremacy and outrageous favoritism.

The struggle to enjoy elite status centers on energy. Those resisting the destruction of the real wealth that supports their lives are being jailed, murdered, and otherwise marginalized by the evil of corrupt government and ruthless corporate culture. For years people tried to work with the "system" to address the danger of new means of extracting energy, without sufficient success. Corporations refuse to recognize the evil they do. They lie.

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I practiced law for 30 years as a city attorney. I taught elementary school before that. I became concerned with the many adaptations to our environment that I could not believe could be sustained. How could so many rational people adopt clearly (more...)

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