Which world view do you inhabit?

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By John Hubbuch

I am mystified by America's lack of urgency concerning the potentially existential threat posed by global warming. More than 97 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is happening and that humans are causing it. The alarm bell has been sounding for more than 50 years. 

Smoking causes lung cancer. Global warming will eventually cause extinction.

Yet one of our two major political parties takes the official platform position that global warming isn't happening, or it is only temporary, or the consequences are exaggerated. Given the choice, it is apparently better to dig and burn coal than to slow the warming of the earth by using non-fossil sources of fuel. Not only is this the position of the Republicans, but their candidates got elected to the presidency, and until this past November they held both the House and Senate. Voters have been going to the polls and electing representatives who supported a preposterous position that flies in the face of the best science we have.

How could this possibly be in 2018?

So I did a little research, and it turns out we Americans have a lot of nutty ideas:

Two-thirds of us believe that angels and demons are active in the world.

At least half of us are absolutely certain that heaven exists and is ruled by a personal God, not a vague universal force.

A quarter believe that vaccines cause autism and that Trump won the popular vote in 2016.

A quarter believe that our previous president was the Anti-Christ.

A quarter believe in witches.

For the math-challenged, I am talking about tens of millions of Americans. 

It gets crazier. According to the Pew Research Center, 42 percent of all U.S. adults believe that spiritual energy can be located in physical things like trees, mountains and crystals; 43 percent believe in psychics; 33 percent believe in reincarnation; 29 percent believe in astrology. And 62 percent of all Americans believe in at least one of these charitably-called "New Age" beliefs. Apparently, there are adults of our species who believe in reincarnation, but not astrology. Figures on belief in Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were not available.

My research was perversely comforting. It would appear that I do not live in the world I thought I lived in. Millions of my fellow Americans are still living in the Middle Ages where angels, demons and spirits roam among us. Science does not exist. The Enlightenment has somehow passed them by. In our democracy, they are represented by their duly-elected representatives of the Republican Party, who endorse and promote this medieval world view. In a democracy, perhaps we really do get what we deserve. Where is Plato's Philosopher-King or -Queen when we really need him or her?

God help us — not the intercessionary one that monitors the quotidian existence of each of the 7 billion of us. 

Rather, the cosmic mysterious unknowable one that supports science and reality.

Reader Comments

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Brian Slowiak  

Posted: January 13th, 2019 11:09 PM

"The alarm bell has been sounding for more than fifty years" I graduated West Leyden High School in 1970. I was an outstanding student, usually outstanding at the door to the principals office. Distinctly recall reading magazine articles that the world was going to go thru a global ice age, millions die, food famine, civilizations lost because of the pending global ice age. Sound familiar. I haven't read to any studies on how the scientists were wrong. . Scientists were wrong about mosquitos transmitting disease, lobotomy, and space capsules filled with oxygen that would not burn. Do you know why a medical doctor has a practice? Because they are all practicing to get the diagnosis correct.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 13th, 2019 5:09 PM

Mr. Hubbuch: You obviously have some misconceptions in regard to the underpinnings of scientific knowledge ?" and how it differs from belief. Scientific statements ?" and hence scientific knowledge ?" are based upon statements that are falsifiable. Namely they can be proven false. If it can not be proven false, it is a statement of faith or belief ?" not science. For instance, the statement that vaccines cause autism can be proven false. Same is true with the statement that Mr. Trump won the popular vote. These two statements are verifiable ?" one way or the other ?" by the preponderance of the evidence. Simply put, they are subject to testing. They are subject to falsification. That is the realm of science. On the other hand, the statement that heaven exists and is ruled by a personal God is a belief. It can never be proven false. No amount of evidence can prove ?" or for that matter ?" disprove these statements. Such statements fall within the realm of faith ?" not science. The scientific world view is indeed very powerful. But it is not the only world view; nor the only basis for human enlightenment.

Stec M Stec  

Posted: January 12th, 2019 8:22 PM

Are you suggesting that believing in Angel's, the devil, Christ, anti-christ are similar to the believing in those that deny global warming? Perhaps some believe in both. Perhaps you need some faith in both people who believe in God and global warming. You, sir, need to expand your mind and have some faith. And stop insulting people beyond your narrow scope of reasoning. You do you cause a disservice.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: January 12th, 2019 8:08 PM

It is hard for me to believe that 97% of "climate scientists" believe in global warming, when only 25% of people believe in witches.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: January 12th, 2019 10:07 AM

Here is the specific column https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexepstein/2015/01/06/97-of-climate-scientists-agree-is-100-wrong/#52ad2dfa3f9f

Ray Simpson  

Posted: January 9th, 2019 5:31 AM

I assume your "97%" research did NOT include the Forbes Magazine explanation (https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexepstein/#57ac84595a56 ) of the source of that bogus science number. Some of us were awake in high school science class where we learned that in science when you try to prove a theory and intentionally skew data, your entire argument is suspect and therefore invalid. I do not know what impact mankind has had on our earth but I do know that the dire predictions of the past have NOT materialized and the current predictions are no more "scientific" than those of 40 years ago. Am I a doubter? I guess so. Am I a denier? That is a dangerous position in any scientific study. Likewise a unquestioning acceptance of bad scientific arguments (as argued here) can be disastrous.

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