“Who left the toilet lid up?” comes a call from the bathroom.
“It was Tim,” the answer from the lounge room.
I, in the kitchen, listen as the individual shuffles up the hallway and into the dinning room. “Tim, don’t you know it’s bad feng shui to leave the lid open?”
“I never leave the seat up though,” I reply weakly, fully aware of the futility of my answer and already kicking myself on the inside for being, as always, so passive.
“An open lid means money down the drain. Mark my words, keep that lid shut and see how much money you’ll save!”
“Okay,” is the only thing I reply.
How on Earth could an open toilet lid and the flow of my income be related, apart from regular shopping requirements of course?
Yet many people believe this, as with the unluckiness of breaking mirrors and special properties relating to black cats. These same people will agree with me on the absurdity and contradictions inherent in the holy scriptures that we were raised to believe in, but then dictate their daily activities based on cards or the arrangement of a small assortment of the visible stars. Some seem to care more about building and maintaining relationships with people who have passed rather than those living and interacting with them on a daily basis (unless if this is to get messages from “the other side” for those living people).
When arguably one of the richest and most powerful (WMD wielding) nations on Earth, allow mainstream religion to use Hell Houses to torment and scare children into accepting a certain dogmatic lifestyle, or believe that their actions (be it war) are condoned by God or they cannot possibly damage the Earth (environmental degradation) because ancient scripture says as much, you cannot help but see a parallel to the previous toilet lid/income New Age situation above.
Likewise, most might laugh at how the people alive when such scripture was written would cower at the mythical reasoning behind a solar eclipse. However, would as many of us laugh at the fear still present over the “truth” behind water fluoridation or of alien coercion of human activity or the UN-fueled Green World Order behind the “climate change hoax” or the presents of vampires and demons? I could go on in this way with many more examples and would eventually reach a nerve of almost any reader – as either a current or former believer of a “truth”.
My former “truths”
Being a teenager of the 1990’s and a fan of X-files, I remember being a believer of the “alien truth”. Laughable now, I read a bunch of the “truth” books and became quite convinced that we were not alone (and this was not based on anything reasonable like Drakes Equation). I also had a failed suicide attempt at 16 which led me to believe that there must be a reason for my being and I went on a journey of “spiritual enlightenment” in which, over the following six years, I came to understand a fair amount of many of the world’s more popular religions (which probably led to my eventual rejection of all scripture, ironically, I guess). However, I had, on many occasions, practised chakra meditations under the tall plain trees of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens.
We all have embarrassing stories of this nature.
On global belief
On the twist side, however, there are many millions who are eagerly awaiting Armageddon in one form or another. The same individual to warn me over the toilet lid was very dismissive of climate change when I had discussed it on other occasions – the usual denial arguments (however, not because they were interested in the topic, but, I suspect, all that they had really heard was of this nature) and concluded that the world would take care of itself.
For the vast majority of people, I must conclude that discussion regarding climate change is surprisingly parallel to the above situations. Too quick many start an argument off with, “I believe…”
Yet, belief is ambiguous and misleading. Does one believe because they have read, understood and evaluated the evidence, or because an authority that they trust has convinced them that they should?
In almost all situations in life, the latter case plays an important role. We can never be an expert on all matters and so we must concede on the advice of others. Medical doctors being my most common example. However, they are scientists and as we seem to hear all too often, even a small number of them get it wrong (sometimes intentionally).
Other traditional examples, who probably hold more weight than even doctors, are political / religious leaders. In both cases, there is no guarantee that the advice has any evidence, but for a personal point of view, to back it up. With the special case of religion, one can see the raging debate that has occurred from more than 150yrs following Darwin’s work. This debate is not a scientific one at all – for there are no trained biologists that make a compelling case for creation – yet it has been carrying on for a century and a half!
“I believe that God created the world and all within it over a seven day period, no more than 10,000 years ago.”
“I believe that the process of evolution has led to the current diversity of life through dynamic means, over millions of years.”
In both cases, belief hides a massive difference of basis. The same can be said of the climate change debate.
“I believe that climate change is a hoax, derived to scare us into wasting trillions of dollars – making a few fat cats super rich, while the rest of us slave in poverty under a One World Government.”
“I believe that our emissions of known greenhouse gases is causing a measurable alteration to the chemistry of the atmosphere in such a way that certain bands of longwave radiation (heat) are increasingly being trapped, increasing the global temperature anomaly, thereby leading to a change in climate equilibrium, ice cover and ultimately to the function of ecology within a given location.”
As such, we cannot hope to “win” such a debate when the basis of belief of both sides is fundamentally worlds apart, and by encouraging this debate we are in fact, dooming it to the same fate as the evolution/creationism debate.
As many of us who actively engage in this debate are no doubt aware, many that argue against anthropogenic climate change are now only arguing over the first word: if it’s our fault.
I don’t believe it’s our fault.
This strikes me not as a small victory, but more of denial burrowing itself ever deeper into its argument. This way, regardless of what evidence we provide of a changing climate, it can safely be ignored. You could also argue risk management and statistics – but again it is meaningless to this debate because it doesn’t address the cause. It is an effective way of ignoring much of the most disturbing elements of climate change.
As for the evidence that could be used to demonstrate the human impact; we could talk of long wave radiation absorption changes over time – however, the data is only 30yrs long so far and not significant enough for all; we could talk about atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases – however you will get the climate sensitivity retort (honestly, very few people really have a good understanding of climate sensitivity – especially those who fall back on it in defence) or silliness such as, “our contribution of CO2 in the atmosphere is very small.”
In many ways such a baseless argument is nothing short of pig-ignorance (as my father likes to say) of the scientific basis, but of course, we want to be reasonable and so don’t resort to name calling.
It all comes down to that one special and foggy word; belief.
“I don’t believe the scientific evidence is that strong.”
No doubt they don’t. Do they shiver involuntarily when a mirror is shattered? Maybe, maybe not.
With more than half the human race living in perpetual poverty, it’s clear that modern education (that is, the process of how to think rather than what to think) is something for a privileged few. However, that even in relatively wealthy nations such as the US, UK and here in Australia, cults and religious schools, who teach contrary to the scientific evidence, find a safe house in which to practice and misinform and that we condone the more evangelical religious leaders who worm millions of dollars out of their devout crowd, is a deplorable mark on the mental health of the nation.
In short, I am certain that we are not living in an age beyond enlightenment. As with other similar ages, where the thinking was critical, analytical and reasonable, I fear once again, dogmatic forces have derailed liberal investigation. Nowhere is it more evident than within the US where it seems that the prevailing view is that the country was created as a Christian nation and not the reality; on secular values.
Somewhere along the line, the opener, “I believe…” was never addressed. Belief didn’t get the attention that it deserved as part of the critical training in modern education. Remaining slippery, belief will forever grease the path forward for the evolution/creation debate. Likewise, the climate debate threatens to be as endless – ultimately it will be paralysing. I wonder if there are any justifiable reasons to entertain the climate debate or if, in fact, we need to dig deeper into what is overwhelmingly obvious to be flaw in the critical modern world?
Do we threaten to ignorantly flush life as we know it down the toilet by obsessing over the ramifications to our income by leaving the lid open?