Monday, November 23, 2009

I heard the jury’s still out on science.

The following chart shows a direct correlation between CO2 levels in the atmosphere, and the changing talking-point stance of climate-change deniers.

Assuming a correlation will continue to hold, and then plotting against predicted CO2 levels over the next century, the following talking-points can be predicted:

Then, using sophisticated anti-global-warming skeptic social-climate modeling techniques, it is possible to generate various simulations of likely right-wing op-sci "news" items. A few of the results follow.

Simulation year 2018: Not over-hyped enough.
Over recent years, conservative response to global warming has been nothing short of appropriate. Rather than reacting in an alarmist fashion before major problems appeared, the political-right soundly waited for the problems to occur before becoming alarmist. Economists now say that this calm restraint and delayed action had a corresponding delay on the economic downturn, and that the current depression could have come earlier if not for their quick-thinking delays.

As global warming evolved from an imaginary conspiracy of left-wing nuts, to an actual problem with real economic consequences, public opinion followed precisely. But for those who have lost more than just homes, families, or their coastal cities -- those who have lost fortunes on the stock market -- there is the real problem that someone could have, and should have, done more to prevent the crash in the markets. Given that global-warming problems were inconsequential only a few years ago (affecting only bears and poor nations and continents that don't even have any people, etc), it was impossible for anyone to predict any of the economic problems we've seen. Yet, it was always possible to fear them, and this fear was sadly lacking. So while the response to global-warming has had dead-on accurate timing, the prediction of market effect has been left far behind, say Wall Street analysts. And while the threat of global-warming has been over-hyped until recently when the crisis caught up to the hype, analysts say that climate scientists could have done a lot more to over-hype the threats to a more appropriate level of over-hype.

In particular, Al Gore is being blamed for the shortfall in over-hype felt among former skeptics. His dire warnings of last decade failed miserably to sway the opinions of die-hard climate change detractors. If he had only spent more time over-hyping global warming to an appropriate degree, and less time making useless powerpoint presentations, we would have been much better prepared to weather the recent violent storms in the markets. "The scientists did nothing to force us to accept that what they told us was true," writes one angry reader. "It's their fault that all this happened."

Simulation year 2044: It's not so bad

Loss of coastal real-estate, deaths caused by inadequate food distribution, wars waged over anti-migration policy -- these problems have spelt disaster for the Dow. However, analysts say there is still plenty of room for the markets to improve. Says J. Random Analyst, "You can still survive in this world, and this financial climate, if you pick the right place to live and the right portfolio." While the economies of many countries have collapsed like giant sheets of arctic ice, the world's economic engine is still healthy enough to keep turning for the foreseeable future. And though most of us have seen our stocks burnt to a crisp that matches our skin, many are finding ways to turn a profit from the global crisis.

"Many view Earth's dwindling population as a loss of potential customer base, but we don't," says the CEO of ItsMines Corp, maker of anti-migrant PPP (personal property protection) devices, one of the new economy's most prosperous sectors. "You just have to keep up with the changing needs of humanity and carve out niche markets. In meetings we ask ourselves, 'Okay, my home is under water, my crops have all burned, and I will be shot if I try to head north... What is it that I would really want to buy?'"

Simulation year 2080: It's part of a natural cycle
Since the dawn of mankind, our species has periodically engaged in large-scale undertakings aimed at destroying a significant portion of itself and its belongings. Many scientists now accept this as a naturally occurring phenomenon, and accept mankind's current catastrophic destruction of our planet's land and biosphere as part of that natural cycle. While many left-wing nuts still claim we should have done something to stop it, more and more scientists are coming to the conclusion that it was a good thing that we didn't. It would be unnatural, they say, to interfere with mankind's natural tendency to destroy nature.

Average folk like you and I tend to agree. "I make a good living in this freakish nightmare world we live in," says one person we spoke to. "My paycheck depends on it. And the liberals want to change it all just to take that away from me! Why?"

Still, the liberal agenda continues to push the myth that things will continue to get worse. This is a preposterous idea, which is plain to see by anyone with an IQ over 80 who asks the question, "How can things possibly get worse?"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oh no, I've said too much

Recent versions of the Wikipedia entry on Buddhism began with the intro, "Buddhism, as traditionally conceived, is a path of liberation attained through insight into the ultimate nature of reality." This was enough to hook me, to tell me that this is a spiritual philosophy worth investigating further.

It struck me that different religions are based more on values than on beliefs. Beliefs are things we tend to form around those values. Buddhism is instantly appealing to me because it values understanding reality. It seems it would encourage questioning our beliefs in order to figure them out. This likely makes it popular among people seeking new faiths, especially if they are at odds with their former belief system due to questioning it. Some religions neither encourage nor deal well with questioning. Christianity for example values faith over figuring out reality. This isn't to say that one religion has a more accurate description of reality than another, but that a religion can for example be less concerned with accuracy in describing reality than another, and perhaps more concerned with things like trusting in reality, whatever it may be.

Religions can give us guidance and they can be a way of dealing with unknowns in our reality. Various religions appeal to various individuals depending on our individual values. If we feel a need to figure things out and have things make sense, we may be drawn to religions that focus on the nature of reality. If we value trusting in the unknown without needing to figure it out, we may be drawn to religions that focus on faith and deities that will take care of us. If we have a strong need for security, we may accept dogma over personal choice, and be drawn to religions with strict beliefs.

And so, if you find yourself debating religions with others, keep in mind that you're not just debating which specific beliefs are the "correct" ones, you are making judgments of others' values. Determining which beliefs are "correct" tends not to even matter -- if a person's beliefs line up well with their values, then those beliefs are likely correct for them.

If, however, one's beliefs are not working well for them, they might be considered incorrect in that case. Many religions tend to value loyalty, which discourages people from choosing a better-fitting option. Most tend to have human leaders, whose values become indoctrinated. But we each have varying values. These individual values combined with loyalty to a named religion lead to different flavors of religion that can seem strange to outsiders. If you value questioning your faith, you should do so, but if others do not value it, it may be best to just respect their choice. If you feel inclined to question your own faith, ask yourself these two questions: First, do my religious beliefs coincide with my personal beliefs? If not, then your religion may, for you, be a source of confusion and gloom, instead of understanding and hope. Second, do the values of my religion coincide with my personal values? If not, your religion may be like a prison, discouraging thoughts or behaviors that you might find more fulfilling.

It is unfortunate in my most humble of opinings, that religions tend to be evaluated more on beliefs than on values. Ironically, though I said I wanted to investigate Buddhism further, I didn't read much past the opening line, satisfied with the value and not wanting to hear about specific beliefs. Fittingly enough, that line was removed in recent edits to the Wikipedia page, due to it being a "point of view". So it looks like I might have to create my own religion, starting with the values and building on my own beliefs.

I wonder... is starting a religion still a good way to make a lot of money?

Stay tuned (but don't hold your breath) for Part II: On the Nature of God