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July 10, 2012

Geo-Climatology and Politics

Weather is to climate as daily news is to history: both tend to occur in patterns that have facilitated important human activities- agriculture is perhaps the best example because it clearly allowed the first civilizations to develop.

However, science also discloses that long established patterns are occasionally punctuated by one-off events that would have been unpredictable. Perhaps the most familiar example is the extinction of the dinosaurs as first proposed in 1980 by the father and son team of Luis and Walter Alvarez, both UC Berkeley professors. They were led to predict such an event because of a thin layer of iridium found at the same geologic stratum (K-T Boundary) all over the world.

Their prediction was dramatically confirmed within a few years by the discovery of a crater near the tip of the Yucatan peninsula. It is now widely accepted that an asteroid the size of Manhattan struck near the present-day Mexican village of Chicxulub roughly sixty-five million years ago and among that event’s many consequences was the survival of a clade of mammals that was then able to evolve; thus do we modern humans owe our existence to a remote event that has become so well accepted that astronomers maintain a watch on the most likely sources of such missiles so as to anticipate not only arrival dates, but those that may graze Earth's atmosphere.

While there could have been no human observers to record the Chicxulub event, the accumulated evidence adds up to one of the best vindications of modern science one could imagine: the existence of such an impact site had been predicted by the global presence of a thin layer of iridium that corresponded to the time dinosaurs were suspected to have gone extinct.

Nevertheless, nay-sayers (usually fundamentalist defenders of the tenets of traditional "Desert" religions on rhetorical or theoretical grounds) abound. They may not have even heard of the dinosaur extinction hypothesis, but would, in any event, be required by their faith to oppose it.

What characterizes such rhetorical arguments is an ignorance that requires essential facts to be either ignored or misrepresented. Thus does ignorance support further ignorance; a rhetorical technique that essentially cancels out logic and science.

Thus is it likely that current scientific evidence casting doubt on belief in an anthropomorphic creator is either ignored or doubted by a majority of our species.

I can't think of a better reason to support an admittedly wishy-washy incumbent in November. His challenger is an unabashed fundamentalist, almost a cultist. Not only does Romney have the advantage of obscene amounts of money and the backing of four doctrinaire Catholics on the Supreme Court, he would, if elected, be able to appoint one or more assistant justices and thus guarantee both the drug war's survival and the continued implosion of our species.

As it is, the recent (and somewhat surprising) defeat of the fundamentalist wing of the Supreme Court by its Chief Justice may have been both a reprieve for Obama and a chance for me point out the drug war's largely unsuspected contributions to the decline of American health care.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at July 10, 2012 07:42 PM