“What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more ... Our task is to cut back content so that we can see the thing at all.”
Susan Sontag

Against Interpretation

Society and Science through the lens of Climate Change


More evidence that the objectivity of science is more elusive then most people want to believe:

“… climate scientists have been so distracted and intimidated by the relentless campaign against them that they tend to avoid any statements that might get them labeled “alarmists”

The problem was that Box was now working for the Danish government, and even though Denmark may be the most progressive nation in the world on climate issues, its leaders still did not take kindly to one of its scientists distressing the populace with visions of global destruction. Convinced his job was in jeopardy only a year after he uprooted his young family and moved to a distant country, Box was summoned before the entire board of directors at his research institute. So now, when he gets an e-mail asking for a phone call to discuss his “recent gloomy statements,” he doesn’t answer it.

… ‘I think most scientists must be burying overt recognition of the awful truths of climate change in a protective layer of denial (not the same kind of denial coming from conservatives, of course)’ …

… and for their pains the scientists themselves—the cruelest blow of all—have been the targets of an unrelenting and well-organized attack that includes death threats, summonses from a hostile Congress, attempts to get them fired, legal harassment, and intrusive discovery demands so severe they had to start their own legal-defense fund, all amplified by a relentless propaganda campaign nakedly financed by the fossil-fuel companies.

… consumption and growth have become so central to our sense of personal identity and the fear of economic loss creates such numbing anxiety, we literally cannot imagine making the necessary changes. Worse, accepting the facts threatens us with a loss of faith in the fundamental order of the universe.

… there’s a growing, ever-stronger antiscience sentiment in the U. S. A. People get really angry and really nasty.”


Still, I believe this perspective deserves more depth. According to Robert Pirsig during the 20th century a battle was fought between social morality (superficial politeness, political correctness, etc.) and intellectual morality (acting based on what you think is right instead of based on what others think is right and as a consequence what others will think of you).

“A society that tries to restrain the truth for it’s own purpose is a lower form of evolution than a truth that restrains society for it’s own purpose. Victorians repressed the truth whenever it seemed socially unacceptable …”

Social status was supposed to be replaced by intellectual status but social moral resisted. The opposite happened … intellectual status was dragged down to social status (a PhD became more of an honorary social badge then an indicator of intellectual pursuit) leaving us with both corrupt social morals AND corrupt intellect (the hippie movement rebelled and undermined both!) … and that is where we are stuck. Caught in a corrupted, deluded intellect, feeling nice about ourselves while dangerously misinformed (and acting accordingly).

To me this isn’t just theory. It points to where actions can be best leveraged. It demonstrates that issues such as American racism and climate change have common root-causes. It indicates that we need to reject superficiality and niceties and replace them with depth and purpose. We need to respect that this kind of mental shift is more accessible earlier in life then later. I, in my early forties, who have placed my life into demanding and challenging change, can already sense, even if slight, an inclination to slow down and settle into established patterns. This means that younger generations are key to change. It isn’t political discourse, even amidst undeniable crisis, that is going to create political critical mass for change. It is in conversations over family dinners where a younger generation equipped with depth, knowledge, care and (non-violent) communication skills will replace empty, cynical, repeating political arguments with meaningful, insightful dialogue. As I write this I think of disassociated youth and realize they are a sign of progress – they are no longer buying into empty superficiality. The question is then how to introduce them to meaningful purpose … how to inspire?

However this is a double-edged sword. Intellect needs to be liberated from society, but at the same time it needs to be placed in the service of heart … otherwise intellects runs amok.


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