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Few people find it easy to accept ideas that run counter to their own beliefs, prejudices and education.  We who recognize and accept the scientific evidence that our planet's climate is being dramatically altered by human actions such as greenhouse gas emissions from our reliance on fossil fuels often find ourselves at a loss to understand the stubborn denial of that evidence by otherwise intelligent, reasonable people.  Yet, paradigm shifts in our view of the world rarely come without controversy More often than not, an extended period of time must pass before the new conception of reality is accepted by a majority of not only scientists and lay people, but especially those institutions that have a vested interest in their now outdated "truth."

Case in point: The so-called Copernican revolution.

Once upon a time, Europe's greatest minds believed that the sun revolved around the earth.  Oh, they accepted that the earth was round--these were educated men after all, not for them the simple fear of sailors that the earth was flat and one could sail over the edge never to be heard from again.  Yet, in their minds, reinforced by ancient Greek texts and their theology, man was the epitome of God's creation, and thus the earth must be at the center of the universe.  Thus, it was little wonder that they fully accepted the elaborate  cosmology of the 2nd Century CE astronomer and mathematician, Klaudios Ptolemaios, commonly known as simply Ptolemy, which supported their vision of an anthropocentric universe.  Here is a graphic depiction of Ptolemy's geocentric cosmos in all its complex and intricate splendor:

As you can see, the earth is at the center, and the sun the moon and the stars all revolve around it, though to make allowances for actual observations, they do not orbit the earth is perfect circles.  Instead, to make his theory fit the data, Ptolemy posited many small loops in their orbits, or what he called epicycles.  It's a marvelous intellectual achievement.  Unfortunately, despite his genius, his model was completely wrong.  Yet for hundreds of years among Islamic and Christian scholars, it was the standard model of our universe.  It's fair to say that in Europe, Ptolemy's geocentric model, as convoluted as it was, had become the accepted dogma, not only among those who studied astronomy, but also the Catholic Church, which adopted Ptolemy's theories as if they were sacred scripture.  

It's easy to understand why.  Ptolemy's model supported their vision of man at the center of God's creation.  In short, a very powerful institution had a vested interest in seeing that Ptolemy's theory remained unchallenged as the only legitimate view of reality.

When Copernicus first concluded that we human lived in a heliocentric cosmos, one in which the earth revolved around the sun, he kept this idea to himself, and did not publish his treatise, On the Revolutions, during his lifetime.  He was wise to wait.  He knew that such ideas would be considered heretical by the Catholic Church.  Though his ideas gradually came to be accepted among astronomers, many, even the great Tycho Brache, refused to acknowledge it was a valid conception, because it contradicted, in his mind, passages in the Bible, and also contradicted the writings of Aristotle, who he revered, regarding physics.

If Tycho destroyed the dichotomy between the corrupt and ever changing sublunary world and the perfect and immutable heavens, then the new universe was clearly more hospitable for the heliocentric planetary arrangement proposed by Nicholas Copernicus in 1543. Was Tycho therefore a follower of Copernicus? He was not. Tycho gave various reasons for not accepting the heliocentric theory, but it appears that he could not abandon Aristotelian physics which is predicated on an absolute notion of place.

Brache, however, could no longer support Ptolemy either.  His own astronomical observations of comets, and of the motion of the planets, the moon and the sun had shown him that the Ptolemiac model was flawed.  So he compromised hi9s own principles:

Tycho developed a system that combined the best of both worlds. He kept the Earth in the center of the universe, so that he could retain Aristotelian physics (the only physics available). The Moon and Sun revolved about the Earth, and the shell of the fixed stars was centered on the Earth. But Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn revolved about the Sun. He put the (circular) path of the comet of 1577 between Venus and Mars.

Johannes Kepler, with his prediction of elliptical orbits and Galileo's observations of the moon and planets through his telescope, gradually brought more acceptance to the notion of a universe in which the sun was at the center, and the earth merely one of the planets that revolved around it.  Yet, as we well know, Galileo's acceptance of heliocentricity, and his publication of works in support of the ideas of Copernicus, especially his book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, led to a trial by the Inquisition on charges of heresy in 1633.  As a result, Galileo spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

It wasn't until Newton theories regarding motion and gravity that the idea of a Copernican cosmology was finally accepted, not only by scholars and astronomers, but by the majority of people.  As Steven Sherwood notes in his article, "Science controversies past and present," published in the October 13, 2011 edition of Physics Today, the slow rate of acceptance of the Copernican theory has parallels to the modern day controversy regarding human caused climate change.

At its heart, global warming is a physics problem, albeit a messy one that cannot proceed far without bringing in meteorology, oceanography, and geology. (See the article by Raymond Pierrehumbert in PHYSICS TODAY, January 2011, page 33.) The climate debate has spread far beyond the confines of any of those scientific circles and into the media and public sphere, where politicization and vitriol are legion. [...]

Although nearly all experts accept that the greenhouse gases emitted by humans have caused significant warming to the planet and will likely cause much more, only about half the US public agrees, even after years of heavy media coverage. How did we get into such a mess? What are the implications for science, for how it should be communicated, and for how debates should be interpreted? Some insights may be gained by noting that global warming is not the first “inconvenient truth” in physics. Consider this description of another, bygone debate [regarding Copernicus and his heliocentric model of the solar system]:

The decision [whether to accept the new theory] was not exclusively, or even primarily, a matter for astronomers, and as the debate spread from astronomical circles it became tumultuous in the extreme. To most of those who were not concerned with the detailed study of celestial motions, Copernicus’s innovation seemed absurd and impious. Even when understood, the vaunted harmonies seemed no evidence at all. The resulting clamor was widespread, vocal, and bitter.

Despite the power of the new theory and its observational successes, many people, even in the scientific community, could not relinquish the idea that the universe was built around them. Their belief was so strong that some scientists simply refused to look through Galileo’s telescope, and others invented ridiculous explanations for what it showed. Compromise models became popular; Tycho himself proposed that the planets orbit the Sun but maintained that the Sun and its entourage all orbit Earth. Over time such crutches fell by the wayside; Copernicus’s view was generally accepted among scientists by the late 17th century and among the public by the late 18th century.

The progression of the global warming idea so far has been quite similar to that of Copernicanism. The idea that changes in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations can and do cause significant climate changes (a notion for which I will use the shorthand term “greenhouse warming”) was proposed qualitatively in 1864 by renowned physicist John Tyndall, when he discovered carbon dioxide’s opacity to IR radiation. In 1896 Nobel laureate Svante Arrhenius quantitatively predicted the warming to be caused in the future by coal burning; the prediction was tested and promoted by steam engineer Guy Callendar in the late 1930s. At first few could accept that humans were capable of influencing the climate of an entire planet, but over time, and with more calculations, scientists found the possibility increasingly difficult to dismiss.

Much like the time of Galileo, a new scientific paradigm, the theory that climate change is rapidly occurring and results from increased emissions of greenhouse gases, threatens a powerful and influential interest: the massive corporations that extract fossil fuels, whether they be coal, methane or crude oil.  The means available to that "special interest" to promote opposition to the evidence of climate change, however, is far greater than what was available to the Church in the 16th and 17th centuries, due to our revolution in communications technologies.  I might also add that the power of those corporations, which extract, refine and/or distribute fossil fuels, to produce propaganda and fund climate change skeptics in order to confuse and befuddle people who do not have the scientific background to understand the analysis of the data that supports the claims of climate scientists is also much greater.

Furthermore, their interest in denying climate change is also far more intense.  After all, the Roman Catholic Church still exists and thrives today, despite losing the battle over heliocentricity.  The large corporations whose profits depend upon our continued reliance upon fossil fuels to produce energy, however, cannot afford to allow climate change science to go unchallenged, for its acceptance beyond the relatively small number of researchers in the field of climate studies, would directly impact their bottom line, i.e., their revenues and profits.  They have proven, and will continue to prove, a far greater adversary to acceptance of climate science than the Catholic Church ever did to Copernican ideas about the true nature of our solar system.

Copernicus's theory that the sun did not revolve around the earth, while quite disruptive to certain segments of society in his time, was not directly connected to a global crisis that threatens the extinction of millions of species, and potentially the lives of billions of human beings.  Sadly, we do not have 200 years to wait for our fellow citizens and others who do not recognize that threat to the earth and our future upon it from humankind's continued use of fossil fuels and the carbon emissions they generate.

So how do we fight the lies, half lies, falsehoods and misconceptions that any scientific theory that threatens the status quo will generate?  Well, it will take hard work (and I don't mean clearing brush at a fake ranch in Texas) by those of us not blinded by the smokescreen of propaganda and the politicization of what, under other circumstances would be a straight forward, objective and apolitical issue.  However, there are ways and means to convince people who are skeptical of climate science that they skepticism is unwarranted, and for those of you who missed it, those methods are described quite nicely in ercf's splendid diary Why debunking so often fails.  That diary provides everyone with a process to avoid the pitfalls so many of us fall into when we attempt to change the minds of those who either reject humanity's contribution to global climate change or are too confused by the mountains of denialist disinformation to know who to believe on the subject.

Why should you bother convincing people who think the pundits at Fox News ---propagandists who daily lambaste environmentalists and climate scientists as bleeding heart tree-huggers, Gaia worshipers, junk science whackos and/or greedy bastards sucking up government grant money to make themselves and Al Gore rich -- are the only fountain of truth left in America, and Exxon, et alia, have our best interests at heart, that they have it all wrong about the science of climate change?  It's simple.  We are not Copernicus.  We simply can't afford to wait 200 years for climate science to be accepted by the masses this time.

Originally posted to Steven D on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 11:54 AM PST.

Also republished by SciTech and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The good thing about science (38+ / 0-)
    is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.

    -Neil deGrasse Tyson

    If any climate deniers think they have science on their side, just laugh in their faces. Only 98% of science agrees, and the 2% is funded by oil & coal companies.

    Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

    by LaughingPlanet on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 12:02:05 PM PST

  •  what is it with the debunkers today? (6+ / 0-)

    This is a false argument and a waste of time.  A better analogy would be the anti-Semitic propaganda of the fascists before WWII.  The time for scientific arguments has passed.  Climate science denialists must be met with the same sort of societal rejection and ridicule that racists are met with.  We are fighting a well-funded propaganda war and need to fight fire with fire.  This sort of argument is kindling.

    •  Extraordinary. (5+ / 0-)
      The time for scientific arguments has passed.
      •  We can't stop making scientific arguments (5+ / 0-)

        Really, we are capable of doing more than one thing at a time.

        look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

        by FishOutofWater on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 07:55:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  don't be naive (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dianna, lostboyjim

          I get the feeling half the time we're fighting with bots anyhow, at least online.

          Arguing with those trolls gives the casual passerby the idea that their arguments have at least some scientific merit.  They don't.  The only thing to do is argue with exxonsecrets to expose the funding for the "scientists" who come up with that claptrap.  I mean, when even a Koch-funded study shows that global warming is anthropogenic, the fat lady has sung.

          •  Invade the schools (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            the number of teachers I speak with daily who don't "believe" in man's ability to affect the climate would astound you.

            If I had a wish it would be that many scientists drop their research, NOW, and become teachers. Conduct experiments on the children if you must! If science is not part of education, we will wind up with more and more situations where even the direct observation of explicable facts will not be enough to convince people to abandon dogma. Indeed, a recent diary on this site said as much: despite being confronted with the results of scientific research again and again, individuals continue to parrot dogma. (Wish I could find it-it terrified me.)

      •  Actually ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Nowhere Man, monkeybrainpolitics

        the "time for scientific arguments" is past when it comes, perhaps, to dealing with the denialist sound machine.

        Science is about inquiry and debates ... the 'arguments' within science are never 'over' but are often occurring 'on the fringe' and 'in the details'. Climate is about the most complex of all systems-of-systems challenges.  It seems impossible to conceive of 100% perfect knowledge on every single element of this complex situation thus there will always be 'argument' and 'debate' within the scientific community that will, at times, modify our understanding of climate and human impact(s) on it.

        However, those seeking to undermine the very concept of scientific inquiry are not interested in honest scientific discussions but in creating 'debate' to foster confusion in the general public and undermine efforts for political (and other) decision-making to act on the knowledge that science has developed about humanity's impact on the climate and the (increasing) risks it creates for human civilization. Is this time for "scientific argument" with these people?

        Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

        by A Siegel on Fri Dec 30, 2011 at 10:02:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  We Also Don't Have Even the 40 Years it Took (14+ / 0-)

    it took the rightwing with vast global interests backing them to win control of their own party.

    This can't be done within the political system, we're looking at half to 2/3 of a century to convince most voters and amass the political power to get the American government to act appropriately and even that probably requires a squadron of billionaires ex machina appearing out of nowhere to back it all.

    There needs to be a largely apolitical campaign direct to global owners and businesses that aren't heavily invested in accelerating the damage, and almost certainly civil disobedience by the one community that best understands the situation and is still keenly needed by the machine.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 12:12:46 PM PST

  •  Nice analogy, but surely you are aware (8+ / 0-)

    that there are Christian "scientists" (more Christian than scientist) who claim to be able to prove that the universe is geocentric, i.e., the sun - like everything else - revolves around the earth.  One is named Bouw or something like that.

    Of course, anytime I see a scientific  proof that begins with the premise that the bible states that the sun rises and sets, therefore the sun moves and not the earth . . .

    And songs be heard, instead of sighs.

    by Fiddler On A Hot Tin Roof on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 12:26:27 PM PST

  •  don't forget 1000 RW radio stations, many of (12+ / 0-)

    which are endorsed by universities that broadcast sports on them, which do global warming denial 24/7.

    fox rides the talk radio bandwagon.

    US universities contradict their mission statements and endorse climate denial, racism, sexism, and partisan lying by broadcasting sports on Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 01:33:31 PM PST

  •  An article from Physics Today (12+ / 0-)

    Science controversies past and present

    This article is a very detailed analysis of the dynamics in the science world and all of the population when an idea that is presented is counter to the prevailing ideas of the day. It begins with the details of the Copernican revolution, moves into the controversy in the science world regarding einstein's General Relativity and moves into climate change. If you are interested in this topic take the time to read it and see what the problems are and why it always takes so many years for a radical idea that generates laws that as a whole become a theory to be accepted by the general public.

    And the evolution controversy is making a laughing stock of our country among industrialized nations.

    An additional article in the same issue, Communicating the science of climate change, gives scientists some advice on how to communicate climate science. It identifies ways climate scientists can "improve the ways they convey their findings to a poorly informed and often indifferent public." Both of these articles address the issues raised in the above comments and the diary itself. Scientists are very aware of the problems they face with science deniers and the general public.

    As a high school teacher both the science and social studies departments had a great deal of trouble showing "An Inconvenient Truth" in the classroom, it being considered partisan.  Even after the IPCC had published their findings this was true. We asked the Librarian to search science journal articles supporting and denying anthropogenic climate change. (A term the second article above says should not be used because it does not have meaning to the general public.) What he found was hundreds of articles supporting climate change and a few denying it. There is no scientific controversy! But that is not the state of our advertising world today. You must sell the truth to people. If you are better salesman/saleswoman your "truth prevails. What a sad state we are in.

    •  Well, a lot of my career has been (10+ / 0-)

      around writing and I was trained in a fairly - well no very - tough environment where things I wrote would come back with devastatingly harsh commentary and ridicule.  

      Various iterations of, "What the fuck does that mean?" was not an uncommon response to find from our superiors for those of us just starting out when our work was cycled back to us to fix it.

      It was explained to me by someone a bit nicer and with more patience that you can't blame the reader for not getting what you are saying if you are a writer trying to communicate with an audience - and that that is particularly true if you are trying to reach a very, very broad audience.

      Scientists who are not breaking through do need to take a step back and figure out how to be more effective communicators or find people who can help them.

      I read that term "anthropogenic climate change" and though, oh fuck, here we go again...  I'm going to have to explain to some taxi driver what "anthropogenic" fucking means after having to explain whilst driving through some of the worst cold weather extremes that my region has ever seen that "global warming" wasn't "really" global warming as they understood it...  Ugh.

      I actually am and have been fairly frustrated with the scientists in the climate, glacial and geological worlds' inability to figure out both accurate and understandable narratives for what is going on.  It isn't that hard except that it requires a step back from the alphabet soup of acronyms and the Latin.  The Catholic Church figured it out - sermons in Latin created an opportunity for those pesky Protestants who spoke of the cause in the vernacular local language...

      Anyway, we don't have any time.  We are already going to have to cope with very negative consequences for our collective actions, but that doesn't mean we have to totally get screwed.  Scientists should be out there asking, "Do you want to deal with hard, or really fucking devastatingly horrible?"

      •  Anthropogenic climate change (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shockwave, jfromga, Gorette

        is very precise wording that is appropriate for a well educated audience.

        Those words don't work for taxi drivers unless you taxi driver is a PhD in a jobless field.

        Finding the right words for a diverse audience is a huge challenge for a writer.

        look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

        by FishOutofWater on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 08:02:00 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Really? (0+ / 0-)

          Well, either you are NOT reading the literature that circulates in the scientific community or you simply are not reading well-written articles.
           I could recommend "Global Warming" by Sir John Houghton (CUP, 2004). You might try some of McKibben's work or Professor Wolfson or, if you need something for a more popular audience, watch Gore's video or even the one produced by DiCaprio (sp?), called "The 11th Hour."
           There is a plethora of well-written literature on the subject.
            The genuine measure of our own understanding of "an issue" is the clarity of our explanation of it.

        •  Boy did you miss the point of my comment. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Nowhere Man, Gorette

          Telling people to go do homework is not a effective approach.  Very few will.  Sigh.  Really deep fucking sigh.

          You need to convince voters in the 30s and 40s who read at an eighth grade level raised on a soundbite society that they are endangering the fate of humanity.  AND you have to convince them that they can change the outcome.  What do you do?

          Conversions do not happen on the terms set exclusively by the evangelicals.  Do you get that?

  •  Geocentrists were never convinced either (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Luckily for us, they just died off without finding enough converts.

    Long you live and high you fly, but only if you ride the tide; balanced on the biggest wave, you race towards an early grave.

    by Abelian on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 05:26:26 PM PST

  •  Besides... (6+ / 0-)

    ...there is more supporting Ptolemy's theory than the man-is-the-epitome-of-everything model (which wasn't necessarily the idea in hellenistic times).  The fact is that Ptolemy's model fit the data quite well until the advent of telescopes.  Sometimes the best science is just wrong.

    Now I'm an earth scientist, and I am 100% on board with climate change theory.  I think our understanding of the planet is sophisticated enough--scientific methods have come quite a long way since the era of Alexander the Great--that we can have quite a lot of confidence in our observations and theories.

    Like with peak oil--a century ago there was no concept of plate tectonics, and no real understanding of how oil is generated.  So the "we're running out!" doomsayers spoke more or less in ignorance.  Now when we talk about peak oil, we have a much greater understanding of the planet to base it on.

    My point?  Cultural inertia is hard to change.  Sometimes the inertia is cloaked with a convenient scientific mantle (Ptolemy's universe), sometimes the inertia runs headlong into scientific theory (evolution, climate change).  Climate change is this era's evolution, and the scientific battle has already been won.

    •  Inertia. That's exactly how earthquakes work, (0+ / 0-)

      isn't it?
      Everyone sits around comfortable assuming nothing will change, until the world suddenly turns upside down?

      It seems we'd learn our lesson some day.

      Don't bother with the tear gas. We're already weeping for the loss of our country to greed and corruption.

      by mungley on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 09:08:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Most people have a conclusion, then look for (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    frostieb, GreenPA, cocinero, GoGoGoEverton

    someone who will provide facts to back them up. I agree we don't have time to make everyone understand, but we should never stop attempts at educating those who are not "on board".

    This is more like the creationism/evolution debate than the Copernican revolution. Global warming is an established theory, but unlike planetary movement, is still a work in progress. Our models, so much more refined than 30 years ago, are still very rough approximations for such dynamic and complex systems.

    “The first principle [in science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman

    by the fan man on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 07:27:35 PM PST

    •  The models could be completely wrong. (0+ / 0-)

      But thermometers aren't.

      "Don't dream it, be it" - Brad, Janet and Frank

      by captainlaser on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 08:11:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If models are completely wrong, we don't know why (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        temps are increasing or with forward projection.

        Fossils exist as fact in both evolutionary theory and creationism ; the sun rises in the east in both models of the solar system.

        “The first principle [in science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman

        by the fan man on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 11:10:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If the models are wrong, then .... (0+ / 0-)

            If "the models" are wrong - and I don't understand to which "models" you are referring - then you should stop riding elevators, stop driving your car, stop watching television, or using the phone, or drinking from your sink, or consuming the foods you regularly purchase in local supermarkets, .....

             The point is, the "science" (some call it "biogeochemistry) - which has issued the overwhelming evidence of climate change is the same "science" in whose trust you put your life every time you ride an elevator, or ignite the plugs in your internal combustion engine, or flip the switch to watch your television, or buy pharmaceuticals, or ....

             However, the truth that science affords us to calculate is completely indifferent to the convenience or no that it might cause our everyday life.

            So, if for some reason you think that the models are wrong, you had better start walking to work, taking the stairs, growing your own food, ....

          •  Don't be so snarky. I think there is a difference (0+ / 0-)

            between the underlying physics of atmospheric warming and the complex interactions of climate change.

            Planetary bio-geo-chemistry/atmospheric climate change, like evolutionary theory, is a fact, but a work in progress at the same time. I thought that was universally accepted among scientists.

            Climate change is not as straightforward as classic Newtonian physics. We don't get into an elevator car to announcements that based on updated calculations we'll be falling more quickly than anticipated or the newly discovered function of brakes may change the rate of deceleration.

            “The first principle [in science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman

            by the fan man on Fri Dec 30, 2011 at 06:46:07 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  We're way beyond models. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      the fan man

      It's getting warmer. The Arctic ice is melting. Warmer air holds more water so droughts are getting more severe and lasting longer and torrential rainfalls are more torrential and there will be more flooding.
        This goes on long enough and we won't be able to grow enough food.
         That is all obvious. You don't need models to understand it.
        The trap we've fallen into is having to debate one string of bullshit after another with climate trolls.

      •  I know and I don't debate online anymore. In (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LI Mike

        real life I do meet enough people who are content to believe: a) the weather is weird and/or global warming is real and b) human activity isn't responsible. If they are willing to entertain the notion that humans are causing this round: China is a bigger emitter and we are playing defense. In the old days you could say "eat your vegetables, think of the starving kids in China", now saying "stop using fossil fuels so China and India can become developed nations because we already blew our budget 50 years ago" you're apt not to get a great positive response. I like to think of other ways to draw their thinking around, either the Cheney 1% doctrine (if there is a 1% chance of an attack on the US, you go after the cause) or some other analogy.

        “The first principle [in science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman

        by the fan man on Fri Dec 30, 2011 at 11:19:05 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, there were Copernicus and Galilei (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And they have shown that the earth revolves around the sun.

    Then came another crazy patent registrar turned  physicist who actually showed that both models are completely compatible. After all,  all we are dealing with is relative motion.

    In one coordinate system, the earth revolves around the sun. In a different coordinate system, the sun (and one might say the universe) revolves around the earth. Laws of physics are exactly the same in both systems.

    The clash between geocentric vs the heliocentric models is a false dichotomy.

    "One might almost call it poetic, if poetry weren't the last refuge of the bearded, cricket hating sodomite."

    by The Revenge of Shakshuka on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 09:11:41 PM PST

    •  Although I'm not a physicist (0+ / 0-)

      I believe this (declaring heliocentrism and geocentrism to be equivalent) is a fallacious use of General Relativity.

      As I understand it, GR doesn't actually claim that all inertial frames of reference are equivalent. What it says is:

      There is no experiment observers can perform to distinguish whether an acceleration arises because of a gravitational force or because their reference frame is accelerating.
      Notice: It does not say that there is no experiment that one can perform that would determine whether or not acceleration is happening.

      We know that the Earth rotates around its North-South axis at a rate consistent with the Sun's perceived revolution across the Earth's sky. That rotation requires continuous centripetal acceleration, which can be measured. Now, it could be that the Earth is not rotating, and the measured centripetal acceleration is due to some other set of forces, but that requires an explanation of the origin of such forces. To the best of my knowledge, no such explanation has been seriously offered.

      (Again, I'm not a physicist, and I may have this explanation wrong; if so, I hope someone will correct me!)

      Let us all have the strength to see the humanity in our enemies, and the courage to let them see the humanity in ourselves.

      by Nowhere Man on Fri Dec 30, 2011 at 10:42:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  One Centrisim Critiques Another (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LI Mike

      A lot of ink has been spilled puzzling over the question why an increasing number of "people" deny the climate changes revealed by the Hockey Stick, IPCC documents (now easily publicly accessible), by data of biogeochemists, Gaian theorists, etc.
      One suggestion towards answering the question is implicit in the all-too-common "American-centric" position from which Steven D writes, albeit, unintentionally - which makes it all the more distasteful.
       In other words, Americans tend to see themselves as the tribunal of truth, the arbiters of significance for all that occurs on Earth. It is their beliefs only, not the beliefs of the majority of Earth's inhabitants that are important, that should be accorded any recognition. It is this "American centrism" that induces the public's hugely ignorant and indifferently unethical concern for the rest of the world. So very much of America's consumer behavior is causally linked to tragic effects (not just environmental) on the lives of hundreds of millions of human beings living elsewhere on Earth. Americans are largely indifferent - DECADES, GENERATIONS have passed since America's "consumption impacts" have been known (the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated nearly 15 years ago, when most of America's  college students were in either elementary or junior high school - and now we must wait until 2020 before an international concern will be initiated (of course, we can continue to pray)).
       In "consumer ethics," in "environmental ethics," America is a complete, utter failure.  Unfortunately, it is this ignorant, delinquent student who causes so much disruption in the classroom that the rest of us students must suffer.
        Americans forget that the United States exists on Earth, among other countries - that all countries are equal denizens on the planet. Earth does not accord special favors or privileges to some selected few of its inhabitants. However, Americans tend to assume not only that Earth does, and that America is among the selected, but that the objective nature of truth does.
       It is this "national-centric" characteristic disposition among Americans that poses the greatest threat to all of the inhabitants on Earth: truth is what Americans believe; what is contestable is what Americans don't believe. As far as Truth is concerned, it doesn't matter a speck of a speck whether or not Americans believe it: Truth recognizes no societal boundaries.
       The real tragedy concerning Americans' ignorance of climate change is that it is America's obese political influence that affects whether any action is taken about the truth.  
       Concerning the question why an increasing number of Americans do not know that climate change exists, the answer is simple. America is an enormously ignorant society - roughly, about 25% of the population can be said to have some college-level education; so, roughly, 75% have at most a high-school level education. Thus, it seems that more than 3/4 of the society have nothing near an adequate understanding of the scientific enterprise itself - the importance of repeatability, degrees of certainty, peer-review, falsifiability, cross-confirmation, .... These are largely foreign concepts to 3/4 of the society.  Their level of understanding is, I surmise, that "science" is a collection of "mere opinions" - until, of course, they require medical assistance or their is a blackout, and then they respect biochemistry or electrical engineering, etc.
       Perhaps, my fellow Americans can be "shamed" into knowing about climate change. Perhaps, if Americans knew how so much of the world has so much derision towards us, we might begin to change ...........(I am abroad much of the time, and the ridicule I experience is the rule - deservedly, because of the embarrassingly stupid commentary of Perry, Bachman, Palin, Paul, Romney, and, yes, even because of morally spineless Obama).
       Perhaps, more pressing than Americans not knowing about climate change, however, is Americans recognizing the injustice their consumer behavior exacts upon Earth's inhabitants (and, unknowingly, upon themselves as well). The fresh water and the oceans, the vegetation, the rocks and minerals, the soil, the atmosphere, ...., are not JUST resources for assembling some "device of satisfaction," but Earth's body parts primarily. We accord these body parts as much respect as smoker does his own and others lungs...

    •  Well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LI Mike

      I;m writing for an American audience that needs more convincing than the rest of the world.  In that case only am I being American-centric.  Obviously there would be less need for this type of diary in countries where the population accepts that human beings are changing the climate.

      I;d also add that because we are one of the two largest carbon emitters on the planet addressing an American audience is critical, and since I don't write in Cantonese or Mandarin, I must address the audience who might read me.

      "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

      by Steven D on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 10:35:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well "yes" and "no (0+ / 0-)

          I appreciate that you're writing for an American audience - sadly, those who need to be addressed most are not going to read your informative diary.
           I also understand that among all of Earth's inhabitants it is most desperately important that America's John Q. Public change his consumer behavior if, that is, post-2020 he wishes to deviate from a path of extinction or one leading to enormous regions of humanly intolerable habitability.
           However, the truth of climate change - just as truth generally - does not pivot on the beliefs or no of Mr Public, whatever he might think (I am reminded of the honorable ignorant congressman who said climate change was "a hoax" - it is as "violent against truth" as was the moronic politician's proposal several months back that the mathematical constant "pi" be taught as equivalent to 3).
           It was my "impression" of your article that you did not subscribe to this commitment to truth - but some self-refuting relativists' notion of "true-for-Americans" or "true-according-to-John.Q.'s-paradigm" of climate science. It was on this basis that I saw a fog, if you will, of "American-centrism" clouding your article. If that is a mistake, so much the better!!
           Although the truth doesn't care a damn about what John Q. Public believes or doesn't believe about climate change - Earth decides that issue. Unfortunately, as you correctly pointed out, his beliefs will determine what actions we as a society take to address climate change.
           It is so outrageous that so much of Life should depend on the uninformed beliefs of such a small percentage of Earth's population.

    •  Calling people "ignorant" and "delinquent".... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LI Mike an idiotic way to get them to change. All you'll do is make them so angry that they'll call white black and black white. Of course all the thunderous anathematizing will stroke your own ego to a truly wondrous extent, but as for its effect on the future of the planet, it will be a lot worse than useless.

      When we are no longer children, we are already dead. (Constantin Brancusi) And whoever gave it, thanks for the gift!

      by sagesource on Fri Dec 30, 2011 at 12:31:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My Idiocy (0+ / 0-)

          Your assumption is that the purpose of my submission is trying to change people - that wasn't the purpose of this submission.
           Be that as it may, generally speaking, I don't call people "ignorant" or "delinquent," and don't try to change them in some "idiotic way."  I attempt to appeal to "reason," to a moral sense, to an intrinsic ability to "care." Most of my time is spent "arguing" - in the discursive sense - the self-undermining nature of the consumer behavior that we generally display: the behavior expresses a kind of Kantian argument, as it were, ultimately negating the most basic reason for which the behavior is pursued, namely, survival, the well-being of humanity. This is what the behavior ultimately negates, but this is basically the "reason" we pursue it. In addition, by explaining the consequences of our appetites for "unfair" trade commodities - slavery, human trafficking, poverty, water depletion, hunger - I attempt to awaken a sense for what I call "consumer ethics": it is in our best interests to respect Earth and all of its inhabitants ...

  •  I'm old enough to remember.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DarkLadyNyara, Powered Grace

    ....when there was a significant part of the environmental movement, or perhaps better the back to nature movement, that poured scorn on the idea that mere petty human beings could have any more than a local effect on vast and majestic Nature. Sara Teasdale's poem "There will come soft rains" (1920) is an unusually graceful expression of that attitude, with its conviction that a war big enough to wipe out the whole of humanity would pass almost unnoticed by the natural world. That wasn't true even then, and it certainly isn't true now.

    When we are no longer children, we are already dead. (Constantin Brancusi) And whoever gave it, thanks for the gift!

    by sagesource on Fri Dec 30, 2011 at 12:25:59 AM PST

    •  However... (0+ / 0-)

        It might have been true around 1900 - the population was less than 2 billion, most agriculture was local - not dependent on what others are calling "ancient sunlight."

         We had no nuclear weapons - no threat of nuclear winter - trench warfare was in its infancy... If we 2 billion had died, it is conceivable that the "natural world" would not have noticed.

        However, a war that would eliminate the roughly 7 billion of us would most likely be a nuclear war, and that would very likely not go unnoticed by the "natural world."

         In short, it may have been true then, it may very well not be true now.

  •  Geocentrism was not entirely a baseless prejudice (0+ / 0-)

    There were perfectly good reasons for a rational and informed person in the fifteenth century to believe that the sun revolved around the earth.  Stellar parallax, the superposition of the earth's orbit on the position of the fixed stars, was not observable even with Galileo's telescopes.  And try explaining why we seem to be breathing the same air 365 days a year.  

  •  The earth goes around the center of our galaxy. (0+ / 0-)

    Its orbit around the sun is just a minor perturbation. As is the Earth's existence in the general universal scheme of things.

    But those minor perturbations make all the difference to us, don't they.

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Fri Dec 30, 2011 at 08:10:48 AM PST

  •  The earth is closest to the Sun in Winter (0+ / 0-)

    and farther from the earth in Summer, nobody dispute that the   the Sun has an impact on the earth atomosphere ,but   most dumb  conservative think the Sun is the only thing that impact earth enviroment

  •  Ptolemy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Steven D, unclebucky

    had a Spirograph. Go figure.

    I expect that we're headed to Pleistocene levels of warming at least, with the attendant decimation of species both above and below rapidly rising sea levels.

    But it's a small price to pay for a few fleeting moments of money and power for a few thousand greed-heads.

    The longer I live - the faster my misanthropy grows.

  •  Physics is hard. Do your homework. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I just re-read Naomi Klein's piece and read through a lot of comments:

    I see almost no useful scientific info (Klein too) and there are no links or references to actual climate science. It's all meta, and science-ey he said/she said; i.e.; mostly hot air and b.s. as far as I can tell.

    Klein is sure that the market cannot help save us while ranting Heartland, Heartland, Heartland oh my without mentioning breakthrough developments in PV cost, macro effects of peak oil, etc. The "market" is already doing much to save our butts...of course there is much more to be done.

    I've been following the AGW debate, surrounding controversies, and (crappy) reporting closely for a decade and see that effects of disinformation and science illiteracy are pervasive across the political spectrum (Cockburn, Freakonomics authors, FNC, NYT's Revkin, Tierney, and Broad, etc., etc.).

    I've also been reading about Heartland and their climate conferences for years (they've been over-covered by the NYT for years), so this topic is old news to me. This said, folks should be aware of this outfit and related energy/climate PR phenomena but mostly they will fall under their own weight after a couple of more years of extreme flooding, drought, mega-hurricanes and tornadoes.

    If you really want to know what is going on I will humbly suggest that you read climateprogress and realclimate. Grasp the science part as best you can.    

  •  And ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nowhere Man

    sadly, the climate deniers like to equate themselves to Galileo, arguing that the body of scientific knowledge is false even as their 'proofs' of problems with the Theory of Global Warming don't stand up to scrutiny and are, at their heart, anti-scientific.

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

    by A Siegel on Fri Dec 30, 2011 at 09:56:52 AM PST

  •  I'm more optimistic. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Here's why:

    The large corporations whose profits depend upon our continued reliance upon fossil fuels to produce energy, however, cannot afford to allow climate change science to go unchallenged, for its acceptance beyond the relatively small number of researchers in the field of climate studies, would directly impact their bottom line, i.e., their revenues and profits.

    Any corporation worth their salt can see what's coming, and will position themselves to profit from the increasing adoption of alternative energy.  For that matter, the changeover probably presents more profit opportunity than the status quo.

    Even among the big oil companies, their TV commercials (which is all 99% of the public hear from them) are talking about climate change and alternative energy.

  •  Conceptually, this baffles me... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is global warming a "manmade" event.

    Who cares?

    Facts are the earth's climate is changing and extreme weather events are occuring on an accelerating scale.

    Now, it would be wise of us humans to move to the next logical conversation... what to do about these facts?

    Should we all reserve a spot in Alberta, or Mannitoba?

    I live in western KY and it is the end of December and 60 F outside.  That is a fact.  "Houston we have a problem".

    I fear that it will be 120F in the US before people get it that it does.not.matter. whether the warming we see/feel everyday is caused by humans or not (which we know it is).  Point being we need to take action/cover.  "This is not a drill."

    •  What if the only action we can take (0+ / 0-)

      is to try to stop, or at least slow down, the change?

      You can't just replace millions of acres of arable land overnight -- or even in a couple of decades. You probably can't find new homes (and jobs) for billions of people in that time span, either.

      People who talk about "adjusting" to a changed global climate probably haven't thought through what that change is going to mean.

      Let us all have the strength to see the humanity in our enemies, and the courage to let them see the humanity in ourselves.

      by Nowhere Man on Fri Dec 30, 2011 at 12:01:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Changing scientific misconceptions is difficult (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nowhere Man

    even when the misconceptions have no direct consequences for individuals and no interest groups spreading and promoting the misconceptions.

    For example, many people have persistent misconceptions about what causes the phases of the moon. There is nothing preventing them from accepting the correct scientific explanation.

    There was a classic video on this, A Private Universe. (It can be viewed online if you haven't already seen it.)

    Unlike moon phases, global warming carries the threat that people may be required to change their behavior, and there is a loud, well-funded bunch of deniers.

  •  I wish it was as easy as your case-in-point. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nowhere Man

    But clearly, it's not. There are not nearly the variables that affect climate and temperature, in the determination of what heavenly body orbits which.

    Still, the point stands.

    Justified anger does not grant you unrestricted license.

    by GoGoGoEverton on Fri Dec 30, 2011 at 11:23:38 AM PST

  •  Thanks, Steve... (0+ / 0-)

    I never considered the parallel between the models.  One of the predictions of the Copernican theory is that of stellar parallax (the apparent displacement of stars caused by the earth's movement around the sun), which wasn't demonstrated until the mid-19th century.  Those looking for parallax used brightness as a measure of proximity of the stars, which was not correct. Some of the diehard Ptolemeics could cling to that for another couple of decades.

    The last sound on earth will be the squawk of an optimist.

    by CT yanqui on Fri Dec 30, 2011 at 12:27:49 PM PST

  •  The notion that the geocentric universe glorified (0+ / 0-)

    man, accepted as gospel by Steven D in his generally excellent piece, has been repeated so often in so many well-respected histories of science, that it is probably impossible to dislodge it from popular thought.  The truth, however, is far more ambiguous.  

    In the medieval cosmology, earth may have been at the "center" of the universe, but it is perhaps more accurate to say that it was at the "bottom" of the universe.

    Earth was the realm of change and decay.  The planets and stars were located in concentric circles on eternal and changeless crystal spheres, spheres which emitted glorious notes (the "music of the spheres").  The sphere of the moon, which always turned one face toward earth and the other upward toward the higher heavens, was the line of demarcation between the mutable and the changeless (this conceit remained the popular understanding of creation even after Copernicus--see E.M.W. Tillyard's indispensable "The Elizabethan World Picture").  Think of Donne's reference to "dull sublunary lovers" who inhabited the area of change and death below the moon;  i.e., sublunary.

    Above the sphere of the moon were ever larger and higher and grander spheres on which the sun and planets and the "fixed stars" were located, until you reached the "coelum empyreaum," or heaven.

    In this universe, earth's, and man's, central location was not the stuff of egoism or of Catholic hubris, and one of the sources Steven D quotes alludes to this:

    "If Tycho destroyed the dichotomy between the corrupt and ever changing sublunary world and the perfect and immutable heavens, then the new universe was clearly more hospitable for the heliocentric planetary arrangement proposed by Nicholas Copernicus in 1543."

    The Church's opposition to the Copernican theory, then, was based on what it said about the heavens, not about what it said about man.  If Tycho and Copernicus were right, the heavens were part of the same corrupt and mutable order as earth, and that was hard to accept.

    Historians of science are not usually historians of religion or philosophy or literature.  Their neat model of scientific progress goes like this:  science, or Science, first removes man from the center of the universe with Copernicus, then from uniqueness among animals with Darwin, and then from rationality with Freud.  The truth, that man was viewed during the Middle Ages as fallen, sinful, corrupt, and subject to death while the universe was changeless and deathless, is a little more complicated than they wish to understand.

    A very great historian of culture once posed the question whether the Renaissance was better thought of as the Middle Ages plus man, or the Middle Ages without God.  Jacob Burkhardt understood that the idea of man as powerful, competent, little less than the angels, was characteristic of the Renaissance, the era of Tycho, Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, not of the Catholic Middle Ages.

  •  Aristarchus of Samos (0+ / 0-)

    It should be mentioned that Aristarchus had already postulated a heliocentric system in the 3rd century B.C. His idea did not catch on, but they didn't put him to death for written about either.

    Which really just intensifies your diary.

    It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

    by se portland on Fri Dec 30, 2011 at 01:20:20 PM PST

    •  They didn't put him to death but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      se portland

      Cleanthes attempted to have him indicted for "setting the hearth of the universe in motion." Notice that was some 250 BC so whatever was driving it must go deeper than any one church.

      Michael Weissman UID 197542

      by docmidwest on Fri Dec 30, 2011 at 05:54:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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