Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Illusion of Knowledge


~Daniel J. Boorstin

Of Note: Mr. Boorstin was a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian. He obviously knew that those who consciously get in the way of true knowledge are more dangerous than the ignorant. The situation is usually dictated by two interconnected forces: politics and money. John Q. Public might be surprised to discover that science, for example, is not particularly interested in the pursuit of Truth. What it comes down to these days is pursuit of dollars usually from the government--directly or indirectly through universities or industry. Either way the result is the same--either tow the party line or funding is withheld. One of the current hot issues is climate change. Like any complex scientific question, a vigorous scientific debate is justified and should be expected with money funding both sides. The opposite is happening, however. Yesterday, a radio news report described many situations when scientists with legitimate disagreements about the current state of the climate were being shunned. What we have then, it seems, is faith-based science bordering on a religion--which is to say we have no science at all.

Today's Weather Report: More beautiful sunshine graces the sky. Couldn't ask for a nicer day in the twenties. According to the local electrician working at the barn, a few inches of snow will fall tonight and tomorrow, and after that we have to brace for another cold snap. 20 below zero Fahrenheit is the predication for the coming weekend! We had hoped the extreme cold was behind us, apparently not. My sister, Marie, snapped this unfurling Datura flower last summer. Isn't it elegant in its symmetrical simplicity?

Watch For Change Snippet: There may be argument that the world would benefit from a open-minded debate on climate change and other scientific matters, but there is no argument that mercury has been poisoning the seas for a long, long time. 6,000 tons of mercury settle in the oceans each year from many sources including chemical production, small scale mining and coal-fired power plants. From the oceans, the mercury climbs the food chain until ultimately reaching humans, where even small amounts can be poisonous. Children are particularly susceptible. Thus, it was refreshing when President Obama reversed the previous administration's opposition to an international legal agreement on mercury. The welcomed change was presented this week at the global conference of environmental ministers in Nairobi, Kenya. The United States will work with the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) to help countries reduce their mercury use, clean up contaminated sites and find environmentally sound ways to store mercury.

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