Bill Maher on Global Warming
I’m usually pretty “meh” on Bill Maher. There is something about his “I’m smarter than you” style of satire that puts me off. But his recent essay on Global Warming hits one of my buttons:
That's the problem with our obsession with always seeing two sides of every issue equally -- especially when one side has a lot of money. It means we have to pretend there are always two truths, and the side that doesn't know anything has something to say. On this side of the debate: Every scientist in the world. On the other: Mr. Potato Head.
You can read the rest of the essay here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-maher/new-rule-al-gore-must-com_b_601381.html.
I think one of the reasons that progress comes so slowly is that we (and by “we” I mean all of us in the human race) can’t seem to give up on old arguments. As Maher puts it, “For progress to happen, certain things have to become not an issue anymore, so we can go on to the next issue.”
It isn’t that we don’t progress at all. The Flat Earth Society still exists (http://theflatearthsociety.org/cms/), but I don’t think they’re serious. In 1992, the Catholic Church finally apologized to Galileo for his conviction in 1633 of heresy for holding that the Earth orbited the Sun, rather than the converse. Interestingly enough, the work that got Galileo into trouble, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was actually approved for publication by the Inquisition. The book was supposed to present a balanced view of the arguments favoring a heliocentric and geocentric universe. Galileo got in trouble because his arguments for a heliocentric universe were so much stronger. See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_affair.
So the problem began almost at the very beginnings of modern science. The whole basis of science is that all theories are not equally valid and, in fact, while always keeping in mind the possibility that new facts might alter our view, once a theory becomes generally accepted by the scientific community, then it is a fact on which we can base our life.
We can reach India either by traveling east or by traveling west because the Earth is round, not flat. We can send astronauts into orbit because the Earth orbits the Sun, not vice versa. These are facts, not debating points.
It’s important to remember that what is true isn’t determined by who can best argue the point. If you don’t believe me, get into an argument with one of the professional debaters at the Flat Earth Society. You’ll likely come away either believing the Earth is flat or with a new appreciation of the difference between facts and arguments.