Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

SUNDAYS WITH BERTRAND RUSSELL







“If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.





 “There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not rational, he becomes furious when they are disputed.”Bertrand Russell, Human Society in Ethics and Politics

27 comments:

Rational Nation USA said...

Indeed!

S.W. Anderson said...

Pretty much lays waste to Faux News' raison d'etre and audience. You should send that quote to Roger Ailes. ;)

Jerry Critter said...

We take comfort where we can, logic and reason be damned.

Shaw Kenawe said...

I doubt Ailes would understand it.

Infidel753 said...

A keen-minded man, far ahead of his time. I'd love to hear what he'd say about our remaining creationist nutbars like Broun and Jindal.

Silverfiddle said...

To vulgarly sum up Kant, we don't know what we don't know, and I daresay "comfortable little myths" are not the exclusive domain of any one group.

Silverfiddle said...

It is particularly amusing to see people who bang on about "myths" and "rationality" to drop to their knees in worshipful pose at every UN pronouncement about "Global Warming," "Climate Change" or whatever they're calling it now.

No skepticism, no rational thought, just blind obeisance because Reverend Al Gore and the IPCC High Priests said so.

Solar activity anyone?

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/solar_variability.html

And, being so "rational" and impervious to "myths" I'm sure all you good liberals love internet sites such as Skeptical Science, right?

Being the scientific-minded people that you are, I am sure you assiduously seek out information that challenges orthodoxy and weeds out lazy thinking, so you probably regularly visit Watt's Up With That as well...

Of course, I'm joking. Those sites have been anathematized by the dogmatic high priests of Gaia, so no good progressive would be caught dead muddling around in such heresy.

We are human beings, and we all have our myths and irrationalities. Those who believe they are immune are fooling themselves.

Silverfiddle said...

And I say all of this with the utmost respect to Bertrand Russell's intellect. He was indeed possessed of a first-rate mind, and he expressed himself well.

Shaw Kenawe said...

From "Skeptical Science:"

Science achieves a consensus when scientists stop arguing. When a question is first asked – like ‘what would happen if we put a load more CO2 in the atmosphere?’ – there may be many hypotheses about cause and effect. Over a period of time, each idea is tested and retested – the processes of the scientific method – because all scientists know that reputation and kudos go to those who find the right answer (and everyone else becomes an irrelevant footnote in the history of science).

Nearly all hypotheses will fall by the wayside during this testing period, because only one is going to answer the question properly, without leaving all kinds of odd dangling bits that don’t quite add up. Bad theories are usually rather untidy.

But the testing period must come to an end. Gradually, the focus of investigation narrows down to those avenues that continue to make sense, that still add up, and quite often a good theory will reveal additional answers, or make powerful predictions, that add substance to the theory. When Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev constructed his periodic table of elements, not only did he fit all known elements successfully, he predicted that elements we didn’t even know about would turn up later on – and they did!

So a consensus in science is different from a political one. There is no vote. Scientists just give up arguing because the sheer weight of consistent evidence is too compelling, the tide too strong to swim against any longer. Scientists change their minds on the basis of the evidence, and a consensus emerges over time. Not only do scientists stop arguing, they also start relying on each other's work. All science depends on that which precedes it, and when one scientist builds on the work of another, he acknowledges the work of others through citations. The work that forms the foundation of climate change science is cited with great frequency by many other scientists, demonstrating that the theory is widely accepted - and relied upon.

In the scientific field of climate studies – which is informed by many different disciplines – the consensus is demonstrated by the number of scientists who have stopped arguing about what is causing climate change – and that’s nearly all of them.

A survey of all peer-reviewed abstracts on the subject 'global climate change' published between 1993 and 2003 shows that not a single paper rejected the consensus position that global warming is man caused. 75% of the papers agreed with the consensus position while 25% made no comment either way, focusing on methods or paleoclimate analysis (Oreskes 2004).

Several subsequent studies confirm that “...the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes”.
(Doran 2009).

In other words, more than 95% of scientists working in the disciplines contributing to studies of our climate, accept that climate change is almost certainly being caused by human activities.

Shaw Kenawe said...

We should also consider official scientific bodies and what they think about climate change. There are no national or major scientific institutions anywhere in the world that dispute the theory of anthropogenic climate change. Not one.

In the field of climate science, the consensus is unequivocal: human activities are causing climate change.


SOURCE

Shaw Kenawe said...

If you don't believe any of the above, perhaps you'll give some credence to NASA and its scientists?


Or maybe you believe the folks who put men on the moon and send satellites into deepest space and beyond don't know what they're talking about?

"The Earth's climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

"Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal."

- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.

Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. Studying these climate data collected over many years reveal the signals of a changing climate.

Your dismissive attitude on global warming is the result of your ideological blindness, not anything based in science. You need to heed Gov. Jindal's warning.

Silverfiddle said...

Just how significant the warming is, is in dispute, or even if the trend is continuing.

And Shaw, you speak with more certainty that many of the scientists.

BB-Idaho said...

"To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy,”
-Jon Hunstman

Shaw Kenawe said...

What I've written above is not MY opinion, it is the result of research by NASA, NOAA, American Association for the Advancement of Science,American Chemical Society,American Geophysical Union,American Meteorological Society,American Physical Society,The Geological Society of America,The Geological Society of America.

It is not I who is giving an opinion. I'm passing on information by the most prestigious scientific bodies of investigation on the planet.

It is you who seem to be banging the drum against all scientific evidence. And it appears that you're driven to do so because of rightwing ideology, not fact.

You sent me to Skeptical Science site and this is what it said about sun spot activity:

"Over the last 30 years of global warming, the sun has shown a slight cooling trend. Sun and climate are going in opposite directions. This has led a number of scientists independently concluding that the sun cannot be the cause of recent global warming.

One of the most common and persistent climate myths is that the sun is the cause. This argument is made by cherry picking the data - showing past periods when sun and climate move together but ignoring the last few decades when the two diverge."


I disagree with you on who the ideologically blind person is.


Anonymous said...

And the rationality of your Republican policies that have left us bankrupt is superior?

BB-Idaho said...

We have the deniers...and we have the letter signed by 255 leading scientists, including including 11 Nobel laureates ...

Shaw Kenawe said...

From BB-Idaho's link:

"For instance, there is compelling scientific evidence that our planet is about 4.5bn years old (the theory of the origin of Earth), that our universe was born from a single event about 14bn years ago (the Big Bang theory), and that today's organisms evolved from ones living in the past (the theory of evolution). Even as these are overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, fame still awaits anyone who could show
these theories to be wrong. Climate change now falls into this category: there is compelling,
comprehensive, and consistent objective evidence that humans are changing the climate in ways that
threaten our societies and the ecosystems on which we depend.
Many recent assaults on climate science and, more disturbingly, on climate scientists by climate change deniers, are typically driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific assessments of climate change, which involve thousands of scientists producing massive and comprehensive reports, have, quite expectedly and normally, made some
mistakes. When errors are pointed out, they are corrected."



Unfortunately, people prefer to believe "experts" like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity than the academies of science, NASA, and NOAA.

And these same climate change deniers call us "lazy thinkers."

FreeThinke said...

Expression of contempt are a complete waste of time, and evidence either of great conceit (hubris) or tremendous self-doubt.

Extreme intellectual capability is as morally neutral as fire and nuclear science. It is the uses to which we choose to put these things that determines their value.

The same is true for religious belief.

skudrunner said...

And this same scientific community was predicting another ice age several years ago. That one was missed by Algore so he made his fortune on global warming.

One thing is solid fact and undeniable. There is climate change going on. Every season, every year and that climate change has been altered every decade or so.

Shaw Kenawe said...

skudrunner, next time try backing up your statements with facts.


Here is what the site Silverfiddle sent me to, Skeptical Science, has to say about the reporting of a coming ice age:

"What was reported:

The vast majority of climate papers in the 1970s predicted warming.


"In the thirty years leading up to the 1970s, available temperature recordings suggested that there was a cooling trend. As a result some scientists suggested that the current inter-glacial period could rapidly draw to a close, which might result in the Earth plunging into a new ice age over the next few centuries. This idea could have been reinforced by the knowledge that the smog that climatologists call ‘aerosols’ – emitted by human activities into the atmosphere – also caused cooling.

In fact, as temperature recording has improved in coverage, it’s become apparent that the cooling trend was most pronounced in northern land areas and that global temperature trends were in fact relatively steady during the period prior to 1970.

At the same time as some scientists were suggesting we might be facing another ice age, a greater number published contradicting studies. Their papers showed that the growing amount of greenhouse gasses that humans were putting into the atmosphere would cause much greater warming – warming that would a much greater influence on global temperature than any possible natural or human-caused cooling effects.

By 1980 the predictions about ice ages had ceased, due to the overwhelming evidence contained in an increasing number of reports that warned of global warming. Unfortunately, the small number of predictions of an ice age appeared to be much more interesting than those of global warming, so it was those sensational 'Ice Age' stories in the press that so many people tend to remember."


People like you, skudrunner, or the conservative websites where you get your information.

It's all been debunked.

Source

Shaw Kenawe said...

AS for your claim that climate change is usual. The people at NOAA have this to say about that.

You and other conservatives keep reinforcing the idea of your party's anti-science culture.

Global warming is not a hoax; it's a fact.

You and those like you are on the wrong side of the issue--the facts are overwhelming. You're just too ideologically blinded by the anti-science culture of the GOP to see them.

Ducky's here said...



It is particularly amusing to see people who bang on about "myths" and "rationality" to drop to their knees in worshipful pose at every UN pronouncement about "Global Warming," "Climate Change" or whatever they're calling it now.

No skepticism, no rational thought, just blind obeisance because Reverend Al Gore and the IPCC High Priests said so.

----------
There you go mischaracterizing the progressive opinion.
U.N. agencies and Gore may contribute to the formation of opinions but there is far more research supporting the lefts opinion.

Note how you mention two favorite right wing bogies expecting that to be devastating outside your hermetically sealed fringe right fairy land.

skudrunner said...

You have the most common liberal trait, attack those who differ.

What I am saying is there is scientific evidence to support another ice age and global warming. It is far more profitable to support global warming as Algore and his partner Leo have shown.

Silverfiddle said...

Shaw: Thank you for appreciating the diversity of sources I've brought to you.

I enjoy reading all sides, not just what I agree with.

Please note that the NASA link disagrees with the skeptic link about solar activity, which makes my point.

The earth's climate is an extremely complex system and it has exhibited variances throughout the periods we have evidence on.

Ron Bailey asks a good question:

Do We Live in a Post-Truth Era?

In it he cites more cases of credible institutions that disagree with one another.

I don't know how many people are "denying" global warming. My question is, if it is, why? Is it a natural variation, as has ocurred in the past? Is it man-made? Is it really warming?

What is absurd is the notion that we can turn down the earth's thermostat. And the "solutions" are preposterous: Throwing trillions at the UN, as if China and others would even cooperate.

Do you really believe we can lower the earth's temperature?

If we are indeed in an inexorable warming trend, Bjorn Lomborg's model is much more tenable.

I'll repeat what I said earlier:

We are human beings, and we all have our myths and irrationalities. Those who believe they are immune are fooling themselves.

Ducky: I refer to you Shaw's comments about my links, specifically Skeptical Science.
People in "hermetically sealed fringe right fairy land" presumably would not read information they disagree with, so try again.

Shaw Kenawe said...

skudrunner, if you go back and re-read my comment, you'll see I did not attack YOU, but the statement that we're entering an ice age. And I gave you a link to show that it is not so.

Providing evidence is not attacking.

Tell us how we're experiencing a new ice age while the polar ice cap and glaciers are shrinking.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Bjorn Lomborg:

"This chapter accepts the reality of man-made global warming but questions the way in which future scenarios have been arrived at and finds that forecasts of climate change of 6 degrees by the end of the century are not plausible."

"In a 2010 interview with the New Statesman, Lomborg summarized his position on climate change: "Global warming is real – it is man-made and it is an important problem. But it is not the end of the world."

So he doesn't believe g.w. is the "end of the world."

Maybe not the end of the world, but the beginning of catastrophic weather patterns, which we humans have already experienced.

Can we change the earth's temperature? I'm not a scientist; I don't know.

We can limit green house gases. And that's something.

Silverfiddle said...

Shaw: Thank you again for illuminating a source I have provided.

Lomborg accepts that the planet is warming, is not concerned why, and advocates for spending money on adapting to the change rather than trying to turn down the earth's temperature.