Sunday, August 29, 2010

All or Nothing Opinions

Reading a friends blog, I stumbled across this article, a science story about insect research potentially identifying several species that have increased in abundance (some from no previous sightings) on Baffin Island, specifically Wasps. I skimmed the first 2 pages of comments (there are a total of 216 - and I haven't got time to read that many or even skim them). However, it seemed to be that there was a rather nasty argument going on between 2 or 3 individuals about the politics of climate change - all of whom had a clear view that they were intent on putting out there on the comments forum. Not to0 much to do with wasps or science, all about whether or whether not a carbon tax would be appropriate, the impacts of climate change and its existence. Now I'm hardly an expert, but I think, that there is a lot for us to learn before we will be able to say with certainty how all of this will turn out and even what all of the causes are.... in fact, it'll be probably generations after we've lived through the phenomena before its all puzzled out... and yes its worthwhile to do science now to predict the possible outcomes and measure what is happening and even investigate all of its causes, but there is no point on being absolutely polarized about the issue either because there is so much we don't know. Its better to put energy spent disagreeing visciously into finding solutions to the mountain of problems humanity is likely to face in the next 100 years, if we hope to stay off the endangered list ourselves.

Anyways, I didn't intend to talk about climate change, just to highlight that like everything else in Science as well as in Politics, its not a black and white issue. Nothing is a black and white issue... or at least its rarely the case. I can think of lots of reasons other than climate change why a carbon tax incentive to reduce the use of fossil fuels would be a good idea, starting with.... Fossil Fuels are NON RENEWABLE and extracting them causes all kinds of environmental impacts (See oil spill in the gulf, water usage in the tar sands and acid mine drainage related to coal mining). Likewise, I can still aknowledge that there are social and economic implications of a Carbon Tax and the manner that its implemented may or may not be palatable, pleasent or easy to implement. Its not a simple issue and it doesn't have a simple answer. Its great that people have an opinion, but it worries me that some people are so focused on their opinion that they feel the need to personally attack people who have an different view. I know the internet makes people prone to saying things in ways they'd never say to your face - but I don't think it bodes well for our world that people have developed a habit of being a jerk or bullying people (even in the context of online comments) if they have a different view. The real question is whether the way some people express their opinion has to do with them being passionate about their cause or if its about being a bully and being right, or about power and money as is usually the case. As least people in the first catagory are sincere, but history makes it likely that the later options are more commonly the cause.

I think people should be thinking about, learning about, researching, discussing all of the things that aren't right in the world. People are going to see things from different prespectives and they are going to disagree about the best way to do something. People with similar points of view are going to group together and try to work towards what they feel is the best solution to the problem. This is all about people caring about the world and socieety we live in, and if people stop caring or thinking we are in a whole lot more trouble. The thing that worries me is that there is a lot of opinion forming and posturing and a lot less thinking and caring than there should be, because if we were thinking we'd realize that nothing is simple and treat those who disagree with us with respect because like as not the answer is in the middle and they are approximately as right as we are. Of course, I could be entirely wrong, right?


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