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posted by n1 on Thursday October 30 2014, @04:59PM   Printer-friendly
from the taking-personal-responsibility-for-humanities-failings dept.

The NYT reports that Naomi Oreskes, an historian of science at Harvard University, is attracting wide notice these days for a work of science fiction called “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future,” that takes the point of view of an historian in 2393 explaining how “the Great Collapse of 2093” occurred. “Without spoiling the story,” Oreskes said in an interview, “I can tell you that a lot of what happens — floods, droughts, mass migrations, the end of humanity in Africa and Australia — is the result of inaction to very clear warnings” about climate change caused by humans." Dramatizing the science in ways traditional nonfiction cannot, the book reasserts the importance of scientists and the work they do and reveals the self-serving interests of the so called “carbon combustion complex” that have turned the practice of science into political fodder.

Oreskes argues that scientists failed us, and in a very particular way: They failed us by being too conservative. Scientists today know full well that the "95 percent confidence limit" is merely a convention, not a law of the universe. Nonetheless, this convention, the historian suggests, leads scientists to be far too cautious, far too easily disrupted by the doubt-mongering of denialists, and far too unwilling to shout from the rooftops what they all knew was happening. "Western scientists built an intellectual culture based on the premise that it was worse to fool oneself into believing in something that did not exist than not to believe in something that did."

Why target scientists in particular in this book? Simply because a distant future historian would target scientists too, says Oreskes. "If you think about historians who write about the collapse of the Roman Empire, or the collapse of the Mayans or the Incans, it's always about trying to understand all of the factors that contributed," Oreskes says. "So we felt that we had to say something about scientists."

 
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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by GeorgeScuttles on Thursday October 30 2014, @05:14PM

    by GeorgeScuttles (4499) on Thursday October 30 2014, @05:14PM (#111591)

    Seriously, FUCK YOU if you want to blame climate scientists. Large numbers of them lost their jobs or were persecuted for being too vocal. Further, the deniers aren't part of the consensus in the scientific community and are rather viewed as nut-jobs. If you want to fault something, fault the government and the way that entrenched industry has a bigger say than the individual. Scientists made the message loud and clear, some politicians even heard (e.g., Al Gore). Corporations and existing money prevents action.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by kaszz on Thursday October 30 2014, @05:30PM

    by kaszz (4211) on Thursday October 30 2014, @05:30PM (#111599) Journal

    In other words, vested interests will stay around until they have dragged the society and them self into a hellhole. Any good solution to this?

    Welcome freak weather and scorched places where anything living will be fried at daytime. Flooded coasts etc.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by edIII on Friday October 31 2014, @12:11AM

      by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Friday October 31 2014, @12:11AM (#111731)

      Any good solution to this?

      Kill them? That's about all I got really. It's pretty damn effective at removing their influence too. Even better, it's not a one trick pony. You can keep doing it.

      While I understand what he is saying that scientists need to take a stronger stand (they do), that doesn't excuse the rampant anti-intellectualism in our culture either. Who will be on the other side of the table to listen to the scientists?

      The only other solution is to evolve and change. Which is what we are desperately trying to do, and those entrenched vested interests want to go the exact opposite and create more chaos and needs for control.

      So many, many ideas we have now about how infrastructure, energy, agriculture, finances, etc. that we could be trying to do. I fully believe we are capable of feeding and clothing the entire planet and giving everyone something to do.

      Problem is the people. A lot of literally unwashed masses without education and sophistication, that sleep on the floor, and defecate in the open. I *still* believe we could even solve *that*.

      All of the technology is here. All of the knowledge has been obtained. Where is the will?

      Those that have power and influence, and can change things, have fully abrogated whatever contracts they had with society to serve society. There is no real culture of being in service to your family, community, country and then world anymore. We have become a nation of individuals, yet wholly insufficient to care for ourselves alone. A nation of obese idiots eating terrible food (while destroying food worldwide with money driven, not humanity driven, GMO programs). As long as Kardashian is on the screen, people only seem to care to get fucked up on legal & illegal drugs, fed with bad food, and enjoy hedonistic pleasures. We even celebrate those who become rich and wealthy, and then act like spoiled petulant little children. We are nation that celebrates gang bangers who figured out how to operate a camera and a microphone, and not a nation that celebrates people like Tyson creating educational videos and unraveling the mysteries of the universe. Maybe that's a bit harsh, but I see this country more and more like Idiocracy every day.

      Greed is an end in of itself now, and defends itself well by hiding itself behind complex and unable to be understood analyses of our economy and appeals to national ideals like free markets and capitalism. How do you talk about the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men, when those evil men cry foul and then inundate people with very poorly understood math and science (by the masses)? Instead of having the arguments, those evil men will just inundate their media distribution channels with more brain rot and advertisements, and basically just push out FUD and misdirection. Vested interests are very good at arguing and playing sides against each other to preserve the status quo. Combined with an apathetic populace quickly losing its intelligence and sophistication through outsourcing of production and a gradually failing educational system. This creates a situation of unimaginable inequities across the board, but particularly with information asymmetry and fair access to resources.

      Scientists *have* fought vested interests quite vocally, but those vested interests also *paid* some of those scientists to betray what they knew was right in the great and well established traditions of Keyhoe and Kettering that knowingly killed and harmed millions upon millions of people worldwide for 50 years. Only a few decades was it possible to claim ignorance and Keyhoe *knew*. So when I say kill em.... I also mean some of the scientists. Your only other option is some form of justice or social correction, whatever. Justice is heavily skewed by money (also corrupt) and can take 20 years even with very dedicated and passionate people to change just a single instance of selfish wrongdoing.

      The killing is required, because it's tragically obvious by now that the democratic process has been fully hijacked in terms of the Judicial, Executive, and Legislative. We have nobody we can trust in government to work for our benefits anymore. Every bill passed is just superficial lip service with rider bills that they hope will go unnoticed by activists. Look how hard we have to fight just for the ideal that information should be content agnostic and that businesses shouldn't have the right (period) to manipulate the flow of information to their advantage? Can't even get Net Neutrality really going, and that has major vocal support with grass roots, MegaCorp assistance, and an FCC that is ostensibly supposed to serve the *consumer*.

      Instead, we spend most of our times concerned about little bits of flesh that aren't even human yet (or external) and who's penis is going into who's hoo-hah. We argue about petty shit instead of arguing about real problems.

      If you don't want the killing, then we need to create a new intellectualism based independent party, and run for *every* political seat we can. Period. You need to *fully* unseat *both* the Democrats and Republicans to push change through non-corrupt political parties we put in office. Good news is that the Supreme Court is full of old people that could easily die soon without us doing anything. Even with that though, if we could achieve a super majority in government we could start pushing Constitutional Amendments out to enshrine some ideals and regulations in right away to make them permanent. Even just get rid of the Supreme Court in it's entirety. We don't need it, when what we need to do is rewrite the damn thing with anti-weasel speak to be explicit.

      1) Congress shall make no law, or cause to be effected in any way, attempts to serve or regulate more than a single item of interest.

      2) All information, intended to made public, shall be made to freely flow through any public channels, electronic, physical, or otherwise, without any alterations of any kind by government, other citizens, or the source itself. Information transmitted publicly shall be made equally available to all, with no attempts to control the destinations or consumption of information. Exceptions are only for false information that when released, may cause immediate undue panic and harm by misrepresenting imminent harm to life or property, or correct information that is released in such a way as to deny other citizens the same rights.

      Now, I see that as clearer and without a need for the Supreme Court to interpret. Information is free. It can be spoken by a person, or transmitted electronically. No mention of governments or Congress in there. It's free to flow unimpeded, and therefore explicitly no entity can cause it to be altered, including the speaker. You can't take back what you say. So no bullshit where a rich person tries to brow beat somebody into submission because something *true* was said, even if they were the ones making the mistake of saying it. The information itself is Constitutionally protected during transit, and just stops lawsuits in their tracks unless the information can be proven incorrect. Being very explicit it states that all information transmitted across public channels (parks or internet) is immutable, unstoppable, and every citizen has a right to consume it equally without interference or monitoring (quasi-Net Neutrality). DMCA type take downs would be utterly impossible unless the information itself was also copyrighted. No more using it as an anti-free speech tool. It also prevents you from yelling fire and performing DOS attacks against public channels. In accordance with the 1st Amendment (mine) it also *only* talks about speech, being information. You can't argue about anything other than information flowing when arguing about this version of the 1st Amendment.

      There are very reasonable things we could do to bring Democracy 2.0 to the US. Plenty of pretty good ideas. I want a pony too. Sorry to say, I don't think change is really possible. We are heading for the end and it will be brutal. Worst part is, most of the people that have an idea of what is coming and that we need to stop it, are also intellectuals and pacifists. We lack the brute force and stupid ultra violence to actually go out there and even throw a pie in the face of some of these people that need bullets instead.

      There is no solution to this that is reasonable. All of them include a great majority of us growing up, learning to be willing to sacrifice for a better future, and in short, become like Federation Citizens where almost every single one of them is super educated and could give a TED talk on something in about 30 minutes.

      Nope. On a planet full of poor starving abused people, drugged up people, greedy execs, crooked politicians, religious zealots, and tired and unhealthy people... you're fucked. Look around and realize where you are. 7 billion people on this planet, and most of them not capable of being anything close to a Federation Citizen, and millions of them are just homicidal and sociopathic like ISIS or Goldman Sachs.

      You can kill em if you want. I don't have enough Manifest Destiny in me left to give enough of a shit about humanity and this planet anymore to care if we make it 500 more years. Not enough to kill for it at least, and I'm nearly certain that is what it would take to affect actual change worldwide, or just in the US.

      I guess I'm a bit dark today. I think I made the mistake of watching raw television with commercials last week, and I was unwillingly exposed to Fox News for about an hour talking about Ebola and the President that wants to kill us.

  • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Thursday October 30 2014, @09:15PM

    by Grishnakh (2831) on Thursday October 30 2014, @09:15PM (#111674)

    I second this "FUCK YOU". Fuck this guy who blames the scientists. It's not the scientists' fault that people are stupid. Scientists are not our society's leaders; they have zero power, and worse, they have to argue against moneyed interests who don't care about long-term problems and only about short-term profits.

    The scientists had some good reasons to be conservative, too: they've made other predictions in the past which turned out to be wrong (because the science and technology was not as well developed back then), so to avoid becoming "the boy who cried wolf" and getting ignored altogether, they became more conservative with their predictions. However, at this point, all the scientists are in agreement about climate change. But it doesn't matter, because no one is listening.

    The only people who deserve blame are our leaders, the corporations who fund them, and the morons who vote for them.

    Fuck you, Naomi Orestes.

  • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Thursday October 30 2014, @11:28PM

    by HiThere (866) on Thursday October 30 2014, @11:28PM (#111719) Journal

    I don't know...blaming climate scientists for being too conservative seems about right. You have good arguments as to *why* they are so conservative, but that doesn't defend their being so conservative.

    OTOH, I believe, from the summary, that he's projecting a more drastic change than is reasonable. I occasionally envision all of Antarctica melting (unlikely, but possible) and the consequent rise in sea levels, submerging most of most islands, but I don't consider entire continents being rendered uninhabitable to be plausible. Humans, after all, are tropical apes, and every continent will continue to have a coastline, which won't get much warmer than the ocean. Also, if Antarctica melts, that will open lands for inhabitation that haven't been inhabitable since Gondwanaland broke up.

    What, however, I consider a much more likely scenario is that the stresses of adaptation will lead to a major war, and *that* might well cause a small continent to become uninhabited. Especially if it leads to biological warfare rather than (or in addition to) nuclear.

    --
    Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 31 2014, @12:52PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 31 2014, @12:52PM (#111864)

      I don't know...blaming climate scientists for being too conservative seems about right.

      1. Climate scientists are not the leading cause for climate change
      2. Climate scientists are not the ones who are ignoring the warnings of climate scientists.

      If you prefer an incorrect car analogy:
      I would love to blame someone else that I don't have a car, but having never bought a car, that's kind of ... wrong.
      Blaming scientists for something you failed to do (heed their warnings) is also kind of ... wrong.

      FakeBeldin (not bothering to reset passwd ;)

  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday October 31 2014, @12:30AM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday October 31 2014, @12:30AM (#111740) Journal

    Large numbers of them lost their jobs or were persecuted for being too vocal.

    Does this "large number" happen to be greater than zero? I googled for "lost jobs" associated with "climate researcher", "climate scientist", and "climatologist". Each time, I only found one case, Professor Lennart Bengtsson claims to have been forced out of a position with the Global Warming Policy Foundation (a skeptic-side think tank) by pressure from his fellow scientists. That's the only one.

    Corporations and existing money prevents action.

    i think you forgot to mention the bit about committing economic suicide. Corporations and existing money are the only forces that don't like dysfunctional economies.