Reality Bias

Posted By on June 17, 2006

Or
“I’m A Liberal Because I Support Science”

.: If all it takes to be a liberal is to support science, then color me red.

.: Yesterday was my Grandparent’s 55th anniversary and most of the family joined them for dinner, myself included. Among others present was my uncle, a rather staunch supporter of his own prejudices.

.: The evening was going quite nicely; my grandmother retold the story of when she first brought me, my brother, and my cousin to this restaurant (it’s an amusing story, perhaps I’ll tell it sometime); my granddad cracked wise about his aversion to garlic; and my cousin and I traded stories about working in a bank. Then, out of nowhere, my dad mentioned politics. Sometime afterwards, Al Gore’s movie was brought up.

.: I never was a fan of Al Gore, but I am a fan of science, and it’s always nice to see a politician take science serially seriously. At this point my uncle began his snark:

Uncle: “Did you hear what scientists are saying about Gore’s movie?”

I couldn’t let him get away with his rhetorical question, so I quickly responded:

Me: “Yeah, they’re saying he basically got it right.”

Uncle: “No, they’re saying he basically got it wrong*.”

Me: “No they’re not.”

Uncle: “Yes they are. The head of the NOAA blasted the film.”

Me: “No he didn’t.”

Uncle: “Yes he did!”

Me: “What’s his name?”

Uncle: “I don’t have time to memorize petty details, I have better things to do.”

.: Since I do have plenty of time to memorize petty details, I went home and googled for anything that would even marginally support his claim that the head of the NOAA blasted Gore. (The guy is Conrad C. Lautenbacher, by the way, and a google search for his name and Al Gore’s reveals very, very little.) I don’t want to sound demeaning here, but based on my rudimentary search of the internet I must conclude that my uncle pulled that claim out of his ass.

.: I’m not sure if it was my uncle or someone else, but somebody brought up the cyclical nature of greenhouse gases, specifically carbon dioxide. At this point I couldn’t hold it in any longer, and I had to explain to everybody at the table that ice core samplings show that, yes, there is indeed a cyclical nature in the levels of carbon dioxide, but the important fact is that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now has no precendent in the historical record.

.: I could tell that I wasn’t very popular at that moment, so I didn’t really challenge any more of my uncle’s questions, among them:

“Well if there’s global warming now how is it that there are ice ages?!”

“This is Al Gore, right? Who is it? Oh, yeah, he invented the internet!”

“Is Al Gore a scientist? No. Now let me ask you something else: if you were sick, would you let me treat you? No? Why not? Because I’m not a doctor. Why would you trust a liberal arts major like Gore?”

.: Let’s see, there’s argumentum ad ignorantiam, argumentum ad hominem, and argumentum ad batshit insane.

.: My brother told me that I was pegged “liberal” by my uncle on the way home (I was in a different car when it occured). This is what happens when the same word has different meanings to different people. “Liberal” to me indicates an overal political position defined by variously held views regarding many different socioeconomic policies, whereas to my uncle it clearly means “one who is not with me on a particular issue.” That’s nice; I think I’ll go read a science book now.


* For a succinct takedown of this article, read Tim Lambert’s post.

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Comments

9 Responses to “Reality Bias”

  1. susan says:

    oh uncle les.

  2. Gigi says:

    ..There’re ice ages going on right now? Oh the things we learn!

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