Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I don't "believe" in climate change

"If I respect the person, then I am almost always open to listening to their ideas--even if they are different," a student remarked during discussions.

Now that explains why nobody listens to me! ;)

The student's observation is profound--am not sure if she realizes how insightful that is.  I hope she does not let go of that bottom-line; it will serve her well in life.

I am so convinced because, after all, I have my own experiences to confirm that.  Once, a stranger emailed me after reading an op-ed of mine, in which he wrote that he always reads my opinions because of my integrity.  The craziest thing is that he and I do not know each other and, yet, in his estimate from afar and based on my writings, I am a man of integrity.

I, too, behave the same way--I love to interact with people who are genuine and for whom I have respect.  Why would I want to waste my remaining time with people for whom I have no respect at all?

These begin to matter a lot on issues that bear enormous weight on society.  On the world.  Like with climate change.  Most people who are suspicious of claims about climate change, or the human triggers behind it, are also some of the more religious people in this country.  Most scientists, on the other hand, are not that much into religious beliefs.  So, we now have a problem: How could we convince them about the urgency?

This is not that much different from how public health issues--like small pox and polio--were tackled in developing countries.  Remember?  People, especially in villages, were not quite sold on the vaccination idea.  The campaign then sought out people in the communities whose words had some weight on others.  The village elders, the religious leaders, the school teachers, ... and when those people spoke to the community, the campaign was an easier sell.

Even here in climate change,
people can accept unwelcome truths much more readily if they come from within, rather than from outside, their community/family/group.
The NY Times profiled Katharine Hayhoe, who is a climate scientist as Texas Tech University, as one of those highly respected insiders:
Dr. Hayhoe has come to prominence in part because she is just so darned nice. It would be too easy to chalk that up to her Canadian background — she says it does help explain her commitment to finding consensus — and she has found that she gets her science across more effectively if she can connect with people personally. In a nation seemingly addicted to argument as a blood sport, she conciliates. On a topic so contentious that most participants snarl, she smiles. She is an evangelical Christian, and she does not flinch from using the language of faith and stewardship to discuss the fate of the planet.
She reminds us about something important:
While some climate warriors treat those who are not inclined to believe them as dupes or fools, she wants to talk. “If you begin a conversation with, ‘You’re an idiot,’ that’s the end of the conversation, too,” she said
Something similar is what another student remarked during the discussions.  Students hate it when they are treated like stupids.

Some people seem to intuit all these.  Some are like me--we learn it the hard way, after a few early years of arrogance.  It took me a while to understand and appreciate intellectual humility.  I wish I had understood that when way younger.

So, why the strange title for this post when it is intellectual humility that I wanted to reach?  It is straight out of that NY Times piece:
“I don’t believe in climate change,” she said. Belief doesn’t come into it; scientific verification does.
“Gravity doesn’t care whether you believe in it or not,” she said, “but if you step off a cliff, you’re going to go down.”
Facts and scientific verification have nothing to do with "belief."  But, facts and science alone cannot win the day.

Oh, the coolest thing of all?  I had tweeted the "belief" thing earlier:
And Katharine Hayhoe was one of the people who "liked" my tweet.  Hey, there are people who even listen to my tweets ;)


Ramesh said...

Nice post. Firstly that student of yours has , as you say, caught on to a profound idea. I suggest we should go even further. If there is a good or intriguing idea from even somebody you despise, its still worth examining. For example, Donald Trump, despite the utter nonsense of many of his policies, actually has a cogent and good policy on child care. It will take a truck load of intellectual humility to be able to accept a good idea from somebody who is hated, but I suggest that would be a lofty goal.

Katharine Hayhoe , who I had never heard of before, seems like an outstanding person. Promoting consensus, understanding people's objections, not considering the other an idiot, etc etc - wonderful approach to promoting an idea. Her only blemish seems to be that she liked your tweet :)

Sriram Khé said...

Nope. There is no way that I can even begin to engage with you about the Trump comment that you make. In fact, I should consider banning you from this blog for that comment. I am not a Hayhoe to try to engage with you ;) Thankfully, you have praised the student, for which you get a reprieve ;)

Yes, Hayhoe comes across as an outstanding *person*. I emphasize that word person because--well, more on this in the post that I just published.

Anne in Salem said...

I think we all come to intellectual humility later than we wish we had, if we gain it at all. No matter how old we are when we realize how much others have to contribute intellectually, we wish we had realized it earlier because we realize how much an idiot we must have appeared and how much we must have missed. Let's just celebrate that we made it.

If I can give Bill Clinton some credit for FMLA, you can give Trump credit for something. He managed to compliment Mrs. Clinton on her tenacity, and I think you'd agree with that.

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