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A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

Discussion in 'Environment' started by Forest Nymph, Aug 7, 2018.

  1. Forest Nymph
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    Forest Nymph Active Member

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    One of the things that I have continually observed in discussions with people who deny man-made climate change, or who cling to conspiracy theories because they "read all different sources and make up their minds for themselves" is that they are only educated just enough to understand The Basics.

    Examples of The Basics includes (but is not limited to) the process of photosynthesis, geological epochs of Earth's climate, and the role of the sun and moon impacting Earth's forces such as tides or human mood.

    It is inevitable that I encounter NEARLY EVERY DAY - mostly online but sometimes in real life - someone who argues against man-made climate change "because plants love CO2 and it causes greening in urban areas" or who says "the climate has changed many times and the sun plays a role in this" ...and if you begin to explain to them "well you're partially right because..." they automatically freak out and shut down in some way, because it's like their brain cannot or will not accept concepts like surplus of CO2 trapped in the atmosphere by water vapor, or geological evidence that the sun is currently playing such a minor role in global warming that 1) it would never happen this quickly in a few decades from things like "wobble" or "flares" and 2) we're supposed to actually be in a period of global cooling based on sun patterns, dipshits.

    It's extraordinary to speak with one of these people because they can be of average intelligence, and even be particularly skilled in some area where they are highly competent...but their knowledge of science began in 2nd grade and apparently ended before they even entered high school.

    I see it mirrored in absurd arguments against veganism too. You know, the "but insects and rodents are incidentally killed by agriculture" and "Lions tho" arguments are an oversimplification of what they may have learned in a middle school science class.

    WHY? WHY WHY WHY WHY.

    I am not sure if this is a discussion or just a rant but I can't even.
     
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  2. Forest Nymph
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    Forest Nymph Active Member

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    I realize too that it's arrogance plain and simple. Many people who deny climate science are white middle class males accustomed to assertions of dominance or being an authoritative voice in their family or community.

    So to be confronted by a woman is a joke to many of them, and they scoff when you remind them that scientists of varying races from 250 different countries are in agreement. They are terrified of female equality, people of color and any hint of globalization.

    Because frankly what beggars all belief is not their rude, insulting screams at me, but their complete disregard for the expertise of Climatologists with PhDs in glaciation or meterolgical topics that reinforces their undergrad or masters level studies in Geology. NO MR. SMITH YOUR MINOR IN UNDERGRAD GEOLOGY DOESN'T MATCH A PhD IN ARCTIC GLACIATION.

    Do I blame Al Gore's ludicrous political dishonesty in part? Sure. But there's a fundamental underlying arrogance in climate change denial that treats post-graduate geology as though it's the same as forming an opinion on modern art.

    This does differ from the anti vegan arguments then. However it makes the same mistake of treating veganism as a subjective "religion" rather than a rational ethical philosophy with foundations in scientific principles. So the arrogance still plays a role, as the lazy dismissals betray an attitude towards vegans that we are cultists and kooks who can be explained away by the most elementary of arguments, rather than acknowledging we actually are far past where they are in their understanding of topics like sentience and ecological impact.
     
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  3. Susanne A.
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    Susanne A. Member

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    It's always the best idea to fact-check and read about any matter from a wide variety of sources. If I read an article from a biased or unsound source I always try to find preferably more 'scientific' articles or at least check the sources of this article (usually there are no sources which is suspicious in itself). But I will never get people who blindly believe in everything they read in ONE suspicious article. I guess it's the matter of attitude and personal capacity some people just lack the curiosity and common sense. But the worst of all is people denying climate change with ridiculous arguments. I guess you can see it best in Facebook comments under 'controversial' articles.
     
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  4. Sax
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    Sax Active Member

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    If only global warming deniers were as harmless as creationists and flat earthers. I'm not sure engaging with them is any more worth while though.
     
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  5. Forest Nymph
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    Forest Nymph Active Member

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    I used to think that there were simpler explanations such as "I just need to show them more credible sources and reasonably intelligent people will see for themselves" or "if only I can poke holes in their straw man arguments about greening being about money or social control, they will at least question their assumptions."

    But it's not that simple. Global warming deniers will viciously and loudly defend their views, as though they were defending civil rights or freedom of speech. It's utterly bizarre. They get so MAD in the way that mentally ill people with delusions get mad when you question their delusions. OR they try to make it into a values argument, informing me that I should "respect their opinions and hear them out" as though we were debating whether to watch a certain movie together instead of talking about verifiable science.

    It's a failure or flaw in schools that these individuals cannot identify credible sources or that they would believe 3 percent non-agreement is statistically relevant world wide.

    That's where I think the arrogance comes in. There's something disturbingly narcissistic about someone with a business degree believing they're qualified to challenge the brightest minds in geology and physics.
     
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  6. Emma JC
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    Emma JC Active Member

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    The challenge, as I see it, is the same in both cases. Not 'believing' that climate change is real or that eating a whole food plant-based diet is good for you, the animals and the environment, leads to bad outcomes.

    Climate change (whether cyclical or man-made) is leading to environmental changes like extreme weather and sea levels rising. If you choose not to believe it's real then you won't prepare for these events and so catastrophes are more devasting for those affected. Coastal towns and cities are being affected in real time and extreme storms, fires and floods are destroying homes and lives.

    Diet related illnesses are a strain on the health care "systems" and people are dying needlessly; self care has become the rarity rather than the norm. Animals are also suffering needlessly and the environment is being destroyed which exacerbates the climate change.

    Being an example is one way to combat it as, I agree, arguing is rarely productive. I do have great respect for the activists.

    Emma JC
     
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  7. Forest Nymph
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    Forest Nymph Active Member

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    Being an example is definitely one way, I agree, but I do not think it is ethical to permit people to wallow in ignorant delusions, particularly since those ignorant delusions harm others. I can respect the view that it's useless to argue with them sort of like it's useless to argue with someone who still believes in racial superiority. Both are long disproven hypotheses that also hurt others. Like why bother with such a person.

    On the other hand otherwise decent people who are reasonably intelligent are out there denying climate science. They must be corrected for the sake of all life on earth. How to go about that best though is part of what I am learning in college. And sometimes the argument can't be avoided. I actually had a friend who is a nice person who cares about the environment pull this garbage on me a few days ago. He can't even discuss it calmly. He really thinks it's a values conflict. I don't know if I should write him off as someone who is incapable of rational thought who acts primarily on emotion who cannot differentiate fact from opinion and be his friend otherwise, or risk losing the friendship by insisting that his "beliefs" are scientifically inaccurate.
     
  8. Forest Nymph
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    Forest Nymph Active Member

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    I think there's potential to learn from this experience though.

    His defenses were not unique at all even though he otherwise cares about things like recycling and trees, his arguments and outbursts closely resembled what I've seen among deniers on the Internet.

    1) He used personal attacks to distract from the topic at hand. He claimed I was saying I was "better than him" when I emphasized I currently study environmental science. He also called me "brainwashed" when all of his other arguments failed him.

    2) When I brought up NASA he essentially parroted a common right wing conspiracy theory that since they make cooler climates white instead of blue that is misleading the public intentionally. When I attempted to explain that overall warming causes blizzards and massive polar vortex centers due to glacier melt, he all but covered his ears and sang lalala.

    3) He kept mentioning Al Gore. When I told him it had nothing to do with Al Gore who I think is a massive hypocrite too, he continued in the political vein, then turning around saying I'm the one being political.

    4) Upon quoting Stephen Hawking, he flat out said no he didn't say that. Immediately shut down anything I offered as support from experts.

    5) When I tried to simply explain complexities like the effect of the Sun etc he got angrier.

    It's similar to what I've experienced online but usually with conservatives instead of independents or moderates. It seemed almost verbatim cookie cutter to arguments I had in the past with Trump supporters, almost like they have a freaking script they're following. Also, the emotional dismissal. The inability to even debate the topic at all, the weird shutting down and defense, like someone desperately nurturing a delusion.

    What I need to learn from this as it applies to environmental education I'm not sure but I'm fairly certain it's not to just "let it go."
     
  9. Lou
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    Lou Active Member

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    I think up until maybe about 5 years ago I would have agreed with you. That it had more to do with education and critical thinking skills. But I don't think that could be true any longer. The educated smart people who deny climate change are probably just doing it for selfish purposes. The rest are just watching Fox News. They could be decent or they could be intelligent. They can't be both.

    We should no longer underestimate the stupidity of the average American. Trump's approval ratings are going up despite over a year's of evidence that he is the worst kind of human being.

    According to a CBS poll nearly 80% of Americans believe in Angels. I think that is the highest percentage in any first world country.
    Check out this article. no, don't. it's too depressing.
    Seven things Americans think are more plausible than global warming.
    https://www.salon.com/2014/12/20/7_...e_more_plausible_than_global_warming_partner/

    Perhaps George Carlin explained it best. "
    “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”
     
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  10. Emma JC
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    Emma JC Active Member

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    Finding that balance is always a challenge and my heart hurts, for you, that you would have such contention with a friend.

    I have been dealing with issues like this since I was a child as I was brought up in an evangelical 'born again' home/church and learned from an early age that 'we were right' and everyone else needed to be brought around to our way of believing. They all still believe it and I have been gone from those beliefs for years and years and yet I am able to visit with them and love them, despite the fact I know they are judging me and my life. I have no need to convince any of them that what I 'believe' now is 'right'. I live my life and love them for who they are and expect them to love me and they do.

    The same has to apply to veganism and all other types of issues. We believe we are right and we believe we have evidence on our side and still we have to respect others' journies toward or away what we would prefer they believe. Only 2 years ago it may have been me you were discussing these issues with and it may just be that I would have become further entrenched as your friend seems to have done. I love watching the streetside activists like Earthling Ed and That Vegan Couple who, together with a large group of vegans, stand silently and show the videos of the animal cruelty and then engage with people who chose to engage. They don't stand and preach they present the facts and then engage with the willingly.

    I certainly do not have the answers and don't know exactly where the balance is. I just know that living in love and showing that is so much more peaceful than living in contention. If you ever have a chance to read Starhawk's "The Fifth Sacred Thing" you may enjoy it. Written in 1993 it was remarkably prescient: Starhawk’s epic tale, set in 2048, California. In a time of ecological collapse, when the hideously authoritarian and corporate-driven Stewards have taken control of most of the land and set up an apartheid state, one region has declared itself independent: the Bay Area and points north. Choosing life over guns, they have created a simple but rich ecotopia, where no one wants, nothing is wasted, culture and cooperation are uppermost, and the Four Sacred Things are valued unconditionally.

    Emma JC
     
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  11. Lou
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    Lou Active Member

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    Not sure if this is relevant, but a similar novel by Hugo and Nebula award-winning, Octavia E. Butler, is the Parable series. They take place in a way to plausible near future.

    "The books depict the struggle of the Earthseed community to survive the socioeconomic and political collapse of twenty-first century America due to poor environmental stewardship, corporate greed, and the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor. The books propose alternate philosophical views and religious interventions as solutions to such dilemmas" - Wikipedia
     
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  12. Forest Nymph
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    Forest Nymph Active Member

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    Thank you for sharing this. Honestly, I have concerns because one of my professors tells us to downplay climate change in favor of promoting environmental stewardship because stewardship naturally leads to behavioral changes that counteract causes of climate change. Her idea is if deniers recycle or drive electric cars it doesn't matter what they believe because the behavior itself is useful to all.

    Yet that mentality creates people like my friend I described. A tree hugger who thinks global warming isn't really happening. Not so sure that's as helpful as my professor suggests.

    Why? Because people like him spread disinformation and downplay the dangers, acting like reducing resource usage is all we need to do. That's wrong, really wrong, it spreads a false sense of security, of complacency.

    Plus education of children is helpful but what if they'd be shouted down by a denier parent? Adults must be targeted as the responsible parties, we don't have time to just teach the children and hope for the best.

    I get that some people don't respond well when I get "teacher-y" on them. My friend obviously resisted the idea that I teach him something. But is that my fault or is he just arrogant? I defer to him when he knows something I don't, I don't pretend I know everything. So is he sexist? Or is this really about his attitude towards climate change?

    I get what you mean by saying they can be decent or intelligent and deny climate change but they can't be both. They either have to be smart yet selfish or less intelligent yet well meaning because someone who is both couldn't be THAT resistant. It's absurd like you're telling them they're living in the Matrix and they freak the hell out.

    What should I do, I feel compelled to do something. I just can't be sure of what it is.
     
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  13. Emma JC
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    Emma JC Active Member

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    That is an interesting point as I came to eating a whole food plant-based lifestyle for 'health' reasons and not for the animals or the environment initially, despite knowing the facts about all three. When I listened to Dr McDougall on C2CAM almost 2 years ago he pulled together all the information that I had in my brain and placed it in my head/heart/body in such a way that it finally made perfect sense and then I further educated myself on the health/animal/environment side of things and it has now stuck.

    If people's health and safety are threatened and the facts that show them that are revealed to them, they may be more likely to take action? How they come to believe something or take some action is not as important as the outcome?

    Which is why having the Beyond Burger in fast food restaurants and grocery stores is such a great step forward, it isn't the final step or even a conscious step for many but maybe that one step that changes their trajectory and they end up here rather than there. Maybe there are other small things that we can do that would help to influence people in a positive way. Even the simple things like cooking a delicious meal for non-vegan family or taking an amazing dish to a potluck.

    Emma JC
     
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  14. Forest Nymph
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    Forest Nymph Active Member

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    I respect you for your position and I agree it definitely works on some people. Those with your viewpoint have a strong place in activism by your own rights.

    However in any area of social change in history both approaches have been absolutely necessary whether it is racism or gender equality there are those of us who have to fight the powers that be. The same is true with veganism. We have actual enemies. Even while you're winning over the softer hearts or open minds, some of us have to fight the status quo. We each have our place.

    I'm honestly trying to figure out exactly what is most effective with my personality. Should the focus be on science curriculum in schools or shutting down government agencies. How can someone win over someone who won't even look at the facts, and if those individuals can't be won then how do those of us who know better push them out of power.

    I get what you are saying about growing up in a we are right they are wrong household in terms of philosophy. But climate change isn't philosophy. There actually is right and wrong in science.

    Thank you for the kind words and book suggestion.
     
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  15. Lou
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    Lou Active Member

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    I wish I knew.
    just take little steps in the right direction?

    Fall back on the Serenity Prayer. "Change the things I can".

    Part of my personal philosophy came from one of my favorite fictional characters.
    Never miss an opportunity to befriend or teach. ( I think I mangled that a bit).
     
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  16. Emma JC
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    Emma JC Active Member

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    Great discussion!

    Here's the thing, it is not philosophy to them, it is life in the hereafter or hell in the hereafter so, to them, it is way more important than climate change or veganism.

    To many people, climate change and veganism are philosophies.

    Science has become suspect, much of the time, because constantly changing headlines about "scientific facts" are confusing to people. Sugar is good Sugar is bad Coffee is good Coffee is bad Coconut Oil is good Coconut Oil is bad and so on and so on ad naseum.

    That is the word that is the question, in my mind, fight. And that is one of the questions addressed in the book I suggested. Do we fight? or do we live our highest truths amidst the chaos? Do we fight or live and turn the other cheek? I am not fond of thinking of anyone else as the enemy. I may not like their beliefs or their behavior or their rhetoric, but enemy? That is divisive and hurts me way more than it hurts them, in my opinion.

    Rosa Parks comes to mind - a lady, an activist, a resister - when I read the Wiki page about her I don't see the word 'fighter' anywhere. I see "Parks' act of defiance and the Montgomery bus boycott became important symbols of the movement. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. She organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders..." I see "She acted as a private citizen "tired of giving in"." I see "Parks wrote her autobiography and continued to insist that the struggle for justice was not over...." I don't see the word "fight" used and maybe it is just semantics but I don't see her as a fighter, I see her as a person that lived her truth loudly and clearly and helped and encouraged others to do the same, in her own way.

    Thank you for the discussion.

    Emma JC
     
  17. Forest Nymph
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    Forest Nymph Active Member

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    People literally fought in a war to end African American slavery. Malcolm x was a fighter and every bit as important to empowering Blacks as Rosa Parks. Whites like Parks and King because it makes for a more comfortable story. That isn't directed at you, it's just something that is readily apparent if looking at the entire history of Civil Rights and just how many people literally died in the process.

    My friend isn't religious. He hates organized religion. I get what you mean about the religious who deny man-made climate change. I'm talking about The Others. There are plenty of enemies afoot and they're not a Sunday school teacher from Des Moines, they're business men, they're petty bored middle class Trump supporters, they're conspiracy theorists and people who deny climate change just because they didn't want Hillary Clinton to be president.

    My issue is not what science means to them, it's reality itself. We don't debate over gravity or if water is wet. Global warming deniers should be subjected to the same ridicule as flat earthers.

    I appreciate your point of view. I think people who have your style are important and are essential to a certain type of activism. I also think you have good points about perception and why some people think what they do.
     
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  18. Forest Nymph
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    Forest Nymph Active Member

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    Also I think it's just that we are allowing this all too much leniency and that's what's up. Online forums will harbor and protect global warming deniers in a way they wouldn't do for flat earthers, there's no reason why except for political social norms in the far right. Downplay of climate change not to upset them is also furthering their delusions. It makes them feel empowered that they might have a valid argument. As long as we cater to their "beliefs" in a way we never would about the revolution of the Earth around the Sun, they'll stay smug in their beliefs.

    Conservatives complain about how California oppressed them by making them pay for plastic bags. Meanwhile Kenya will imprison people for up to four years for using a plastic bag at all.

    If we moved even slightly towards Kenya's policy, I think things would improve. Conservatives tend to respect laws.
     
  19. Jekyll40

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    Maybe being British makes me a bit of a cynic, but I think the way forward is to appeal to people's selfish side. Eat plants and you will feel better and live longer. Sell people that idea and all the rest will follow.
     
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  20. veganDreama

    veganDreama Active Member

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    I find the climate change is really really depressing so it's understandable that some people will want to stick their head in the sand and pretend it's not really happening.
     

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