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A cartoon view of science is not funny

The editorial cartoon (“What’s the long-term forecast?” versus what will be the weekend weather) in the Nov. 2-3 weekend edition of The Citizen is neither funny nor satirical.

It is an expression of ignorance about the difference between climate and weather. It is an expression of the anti-science and, indeed, anti-enlightenment attitude that seems to pervade our national leadership and too many of the rest of us.

It appears to be an attempt to belittle the release of the latest international climate study. It appears to be an attempt to pooh-pooh the facts that the Earth’s climate is changing and that there probably is an anthropogenic (“human-caused”) component.

It seems to me that every issue that arises serves to polarize us, to push or pull us into extremist camps.

Certainly, it appears that the current administration as well as factions in the Congress are playing the American people like a fiddle, with the support of the national media, both liberal and conservative.

Whether it be abortion, gay marriage, race, economic or social status, education, or climate change, the divides are growing wider.

These extreme positions are, to paraphrase Stephen J. Gould, caricatures created to cause conflict, to generate an “us against them” mentality. They are examples of the logical fallacy, “the law of the excluded middle.” And, they’re working.

Whatever happened to “United we stand; divided we fall?”

On each side, we fall prey to selective perception: seeing only that which supports our preconceived notions; not seeing facts that might run counter to our beliefs.

On each side, we take disagreement to be an attack on our core beliefs without ever examining what those beliefs are or whether they are based on reason or on superstition.

Understanding how science uses oxygen isotope ratios in the shells of microscopic sea creatures, extracted from cores drilled hundreds of feet into the bed of the ocean as proxies for ocean water temperature thousands of years ago isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible.

Understanding how science has shown that parts of Africa, Australia, and South America were joined in a single landmass and covered by glaciers in the Permian period, some 290 million years ago isn’t easy, but it’s not all that difficult.

Understanding how science uses data such as these to project and predict future climate isn’t easy; but that, too, isn’t so difficult.

Nor is understanding the difference between weather and climate.

Paul Lentz
Peachtree City, Ga.


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