Climate Change and Wikipedia

SciMethdSo, if you haven’t heard, Australia recently elected a new monkey to replace the previous head monkey in the troop based in Canberra.

Now Australia is not the first and not the only country to dabble with carbon tax, but it’s citizens are probably more vocal than most other countries in either their support or opposition of this tax.  This strong sentiment seems to be reflected in the larger political parties too (kind of a chicken and egg situation).  The one introduces a carbon tax, the next one abolishes the tax and makes some dubious claims about the science of climate change.  Who to believe?  If only we had some way of finding truth, of discovering reality.  Oh, wait… science claims to do that!?

Now I have to say firstly that science is not a dogmatic religious order that imposes new findings on the citizens of earth.  Rather, science is a method.  It is a method of discovery and inquiry.  This obviously means that scientists can be wrong, and they often are.  There are lists and lists of things scientists got wrong, just Google it.  We all understand the importance of finding out new things by using science.  It is the method that took us out of the dark middle ages and into the enlightenment.  We cannot deny it’s power.

Unfortunately there seems to be a distinct lack of understanding as to the mechanisms of inquiry which have brought us thus far, even among educated people who should know better – like politicians.  Just recently Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott accused the senior UN official of “talking through her hat”, claiming bushfires were not the consequence of climate change, just a fact of Australian life.  Hot on his heels was his environment minister Mr Hunt.  Mr Hunt said he’d spoken to Ms Figueres and she’d indicated “very clearly and strongly” that there wasn’t evidence the fires ravaging parts of NSW were caused by climate change.  “She felt that that had been misrepresented,” Mr Hunt told BBC radio.  The environment minister said he “looked up what Wikipedia” says about bushfires and it was clear they were frequent events that had occurred during hotter months in Australia since before European settlement.

Wow, Wikipedia you beast.  You have overtaken the scientific method as our modern day source of investigation and inquiry.  You provide us with peer reviewed research on which we can rely.  We can even make laws and base policy decision on Wikipedia information.  Why did we not think of this earlier?  It is so much easier for politicians to form an argument based on a platform of information that can be edited and changed by anyone.  Who wants to go through all the hassle of finding the truth?  Nope not this neoconservative bunch of dimwits.056997-tony-abbott     (Nothing against Wikipedia – best place for a quick reference, just not the source of the information)

Expectation Debt

debtI know I have not been blogging as regularly as I should.  I have the usual excuses:  holidays, Christmas, New Year, laziness, procrastination and existential crises.  With the New Year also came the time for the inevitable cyclical New Year’s resolutions.  I say cyclical because for most people, their resolutions stay the same from year to year.  You want to protest that statement, but think about it carefully.  Weight loss, better living, better listener, better husband, better wife, language learning, realizing some business idea, implementing some new life strategy, reading more, and on and on it goes.  It’s the human condition, don’t feel bad about it.  To be sure, some people do follow through on their resolutions.  Me?  I just repeat them.  Recycling is the way of the future 😉

In considering this issue of resolutions and new beginnings I realised that the success or failure of this resolution might depend quite a bit on social pressure.  This is not the only factor, just the one I want to focus on.

There is a very fine line between creating some social pressure in order to motivate yourself, and creating expectation debt.  If I want to lose weight as a resolution, and I tell all my friends and family that by April I will have a six-pack abs, it will probably motivate me in some way to achieving that goal.  On the other hand I have created a debt which needs payment come April.  I have created expectation debt (I credit the idea of expectation debt to the New Escapologist).  If you create too much expectation debt, then you create a self-fulfilling crisis.  I am naturally hesitant to create debt.  Debt has never had good public relations.  Too much debt will inevitably make you untrustworthy, because it becomes impossible to pay off.  That is why big talkers are never taken seriously.  They lose the positive effect of motivation from their debt, and people do not hold them to their resolutions, because they are never fulfilling their expectations.

The idea of a self-fulfilling crisis is explained by the example of the stock market.  The theory is that, for example, a financial crisis is not directly caused by unhealthy economic fundamentals, but rather the pessimistic expectations of the investors themselves.  So investors’ fear of the crisis makes the crisis inevitable.  If you create too much expectation debt, and people stop taking you seriously, eventually you stop taking yourself seriously.  It becomes too easy for you not to complete stuff.  By creating expectation debt we fear that we might not complete the task, which is natural, but with too much expectation debt it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and you fail.

I have resolved this year to stop talking about all the things I will be doing, and just doing them – for once.