Thursday, January 21, 2010

Updates 1.0

The problem with writing anything about ongoing events is that what one writes becomes quickly outdated. I’ve even had entries become obsolete between their being written and publishing them.

When things I have written become outdated by more recent events I could:
     1) Ignore them
     2) Delete the refereeing entry
     3) Publish an update
Of these three approaches number one is the most appealing although that is just because I am lazy. Number three is a little 1984ish. Number two remains as the last best choice.

So I am going to write this update on a couple of things I wrote about earlier.

Some of you are thinking “AOA never writes about current events. In the last post he did not even quote anyone who was alive in the last century.”

It is true that I am very effective at avoiding current events in this blog. I did slip at least four times. Twice I wrote about global climate-change meetings in Utah. Twice I wrote about the local paper’s response to an editorial questioning god in public schools. The status on all these issues has changed. I will more diligently avoid current events, and updates, in the future.

The first issue to update is the local paper’s satus. They have broken their blockage of Mr. Kline’s editorials. They missed a few before they published one. The one they did published was very non-inflamatory.

I should re-sate that my observations are not the result of any in-depth investigation into the local paper. Frankly the foibles of a small town Utah non-daily paper are not strongly motivating. I saw the original letters and response as more of an indicator of the community’s tolerance than as an attack on free expression by the newspaper. I think my original observations are still valid. Certainly my placement of the Scarlett letter on my blog still appears to be a good thing. My take on the paper’s response must be updated.

Firstly they began publishing some of Kline’s work. I’m not a big fan of Kline so this does not generate a giant “Yipeeee!” from me. It does, however, show that the paper is not categorically censoring his work just because he may have had bad thoughts once. They may be more carefully reading his work and only using it when copy is sparse. This is probably the best approach to Kline’s work that any paper could take. I do worry that the local paper will specifically be looking for anything that hints at being non-theist so that they can block it. I do not know.

The second local paper update is that there was a letter that supported kline’s no god in public school piece.

They did it in the middle of a letter about something else. They did not mention Kline or his piece by name. They did address the central controversy. Here is what they wrote about the pledge of allegiance:

was written by a socialist minister and published in a children’s magazine roughly 120 years ago. The words “under God” were added in 1954.
Barbara Vogel, Tooele

Which is something.

So the local situation for atheism is somewhat less unambiguously hostile than it appeared.

The other current event issue has also become more ambiguous. When I wrote about global warming and our new governor it appeared as if he was riding a wave of LDS driven GCC denial. In my naiveté I actually attributed several things that politicians said to their actual positions on a mater or (in the most naïve cases) the truth. I grew up in the Washington DC area, I should know better.

Environmental issues fascinate me. There appears to be a side discussion going on in America that has gained center stage. Pictures of ill informed environmentalists arguing with agenda-driven lobbyists have become the standard images of the GCC debate. How we transition from science to emotional bloodletting is a modern tale that repeatedly grips us. If decisions cannot be better informed by science, without going through the emotional census taking, we will eventually be hurt in profound and widespread ways. There is undeniably a point at which decisions need to be made based on what we know and how well we know it.

I am a scientist, but not a climate scientist. I shy away from climate science because of its enormous complexity. Just because I am not willing to go to the lengths necessary to ferret out the transition from raw data to postulated effect does not mean I put my brain on standby. The loudest source of information on this subject is a shrill collection of environmentalist gadflies.

I do not mean the Al Gore type GCC stumble. There is a great need to get processed information out to the public on GCC. Al Gore made some mistakes in his presentation entitled “an inconvenient truth”. These mistakes were identifiable and addressable. One could even access the effect removal or correction of the mistakes would have on the presentation. Mistakes like those in “An inconvenient truth” and similar presentations are expected when large amounts of data are used to make a point. The presentation of the information can be refined. The depth of the presentation can be enhanced.

I run into problems with activists who feel their way through information instead of understanding it. When a writer, like Chip Ward, suggests that scientists should be viewed as presenting information only because they are paid to argue a point of view on an issue he poisons the only well of verifiable information.

Who are we to believe? Someone like Terry Tempest Williams who wrote in Refuge of the plight of cormorants caused by human encroachment on a wetland? Since when do cormorants and people not coexist well? Look at the LA docks. Read the children’s story Ping. Someone Bill McKibben who I once heard tell an audience that “the AIDS epidemic in Africa is largely over due to NGOs giving more power to women”.

There are many GCC deniers that do not irritate me as much as the science and information denying GCC responders. The main reason for this is that I agree with the basic conclusions purported by the environmental activists. When I listen to some of their approaches, some of their made-up points, some of their ignorant prioritizations I feel stupid for agreeing with them. The issue remains as clear as ever but my feelings towards a stand on it become muddled.

This update has to do with more muddling. I could have written it earlier but I was unclear on how I wanted to approach this.

Because of various statements I had begun viewing the GCC in Utah debate as one with a religious tie-in. Therefore talking about it would be appropriate for this blog. There is still rhetoric that suggests that there is a link between certain religious groups and denial of GCC. The unity of voice for that rhetoric is weaker than I had originally thought.

Shortly after I wrote the second GCC piece a quiver of professors from BYU presented Governor Garry H with a letter decrying his GCC denier stand and stating that action to address GCC needed to be taken. BYU is THE private religious college for the LDS church. If the church significantly disagrees with one’s position at the school they can have one thrown out. Official LDS church positions are often formed as a result of activities at BYU.

The public letter contrasted with Governor Gary H’s stand showed that there was no clear church position on this issue. I did not want to investigate or write much on what portions of the positions were less unclear.

GCC is an important issue. From what I’ve ascertained there needs to be a response to this threat. My motivation for lending a voice to the response is equivocal. I no longer believe that this blog is a good place for GCC related rants.

I may change my mind at any time.

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