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August 09, 2008

Belief versus Knowledge

Although our contemporary world couldn't have evolved without Science, there have been delayed costs. For example the present human population depends on nitrogen fertilization for its nutrition and the plethora of modern technological developments that underpin a constantly expanding economy. Most of the critical discoveries date from the same (mostly European) Enlightenment that inspired the American Revolution and it’s fair to say that a majority of living humans, along with their national governments, have so little understanding of the underlying Science that they are now actively working against the long term survival of our species.

In fact, two major crises directly related to that ignorance were narrowly averted during the Cold War with shockingly little recognition of the dangers they posed and— depending on the degree to which the climate changes now recognized as underway result from human activity— a third disaster may already be in an advanced stage of development. Yet there still seems little recognition at a decision making level.

The two close calls in our recent past were the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962 and the less famous Able Archer affair of 1983. ironically, both were averted before Nuclear Winter was proposed as a more immediately deadly consequence of nuclear war than radioactive fallout, but It was another eight years before that scenario was dramatically reinforced when the eruption of Mount Pinatubo temporarily halted the Earth’s established warming trend.

Accelerated research, spurred by both new information and improving tools for exploring the past, is now recognizing that volcanism and sudden climate change have both played significant roles in biological evolution and, more recently, in human history.

Ironically (there’s that word again) this realization comes just as runaway human population growth has greatly magnified the size of all potential disasters, while simultaneously rendering effective mitigation more difficult.

It's my belief that among the list of potential disasters now considered either inevitable or quite likely, there are several that demand urgent attention because they are so directly related to irrational human behavior deeply rooted in human cognitve function, and therefore potentially amenable to correction.

I’m not proposing a cure” for the way we think, or that one even exists; only that there is evidence of serious problems that we still seem to favor treating with denial.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at August 9, 2008 07:29 PM