Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day--Truth

In honor of Blog Action Day on the Environment, I submit my issue here and now…My issue is TRUTH: Living with it and acting upon it for the environment.

This post is dedicated to the spirit of what Al Gore has been so courageously and tenaciously doing: presenting the “truth” on Climate Change and the health and future of our beloved planet Earth, and providing numerous key solutions that we can embrace.

Many skeptics, naysayers, and self-motivated individuals have criticized Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth” as alarmist myth, perpetuated by a bitter man with ambitious motivations for office…or at the least a man who was terribly misinformed and who presented a case that was replete with inaccuracies and hence useless and untrue. Scientists and politicians and various others have cited many inaccuracies in the movie, so much so that various educational institutions have removed the film from their scholastic libraries. I find this appalling and am dismayed by the shallowness of their actions.

I submit that the hardest (actually the easiest) lesson one can learn is that a greater truth can embrace many smaller untruths—and still be true. This is the paradox of life on Earth. One we must embrace if we are going to prevail as a species on this ever-changing planet (yes, global warming being part of it). What am I talking about, you may very well ask?

I’m suggesting that we all strip down and consider our hearts in these matters, even—nay, particularly—when science is involved. The heart is where the truth really lies within each and every one of us, whether or not we are educated, informed or intelligent. The truth does not reside in your pocket book. Not in your neighbor’s opinion or in the newspaper. Not in your pride or your insecurity. Not in your knowledge, even. Don’t let ten…heck…thirty, forty, fifty “experts” persuade you or dissuade you. If your heart tells you that it’s wrong or right, then listen to it. Your heart is your true compass to the truth.

Albert Einstein, in discussions with Max Wertheimer (1959) about the theory of relativity and his thinking which led to it, said:

…during all those years there was the feeling of direction, of going straight toward something concrete. It is, of course, very hard to express that feeling in words; but it was decidedly the case, and clearly to be distinguished from later considerations about the rational form of the solution.

In 1913, the French scientist, Henri Poincaré stated that “it may be surprising to see emotional sensibility invoked a propos of mathematical demonstrations which, it would seem, can interest only the intellect. This would be to forget the feeling of mathematical beauty, of the harmony of numbers and forms, of geometric elegance. This is a true esthetic feeling that all real mathematicians know, and surely it belongs to emotional sensibility.” Poincaré also suggested that “pure logic would never lead us to anything but tautologies. It is by logic that we prove. It is by intuition that we discover.”

Rosenblueth and Wiener (1945) emphasized that:

An intuitive flair for what will turn out to be the most important general question gives a basis for selecting some of the significant among the indefinite number of trivial experiments which could be carried out at that stage. Quite vague and tacit generalizations thus influence the selection of data at the start.

What Rosenblueth and Wiener were saying is that when scientists (like me) report on the “truth” we are using our scientific judgment, along with our tools in scientific method and logic. We are using our sensibilities and our feelings (whether we like to admit it or not). In the end, science is often just the tool to prove a truth you already know through intuition. Al Gore knows. And so do you.

So, while it might be ignorant to discount the very real effects of extra-planetary and solar cycles in the current global warming phenomenon, what is it to ignore the cumulative role of 6.5 billion people and associated industry in what is happening to our planet's ecosystems on a global scale? Who are we kidding?

So, my challenge is the truth…the LARGER TRUTH. I exhort us all to seek it in our own way. Watch the movie. Make up your own mind. From the heart. Because, with truth comes conviction. With conviction comes responsibility and action. With action comes change. And each of us can change the world. In our own small but not insignificant way.

Recommended Reading/Watching:

“An Inconvenient Truth” by Al Gore.

Shavinina, Larisa & Michel Ferrari (eds). 2004. Beyond Knowledge, extracognitive aspects of developing high ability. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, London.


Anonymous said...

Nina, you have such a exquisite mind. The truth is staring us all in our faces. It is time to, not later. I applaud Al Gore for bringing this to our attention. Nina I applaud you for helping to make sense of the simple "truth" of the matter. Our hearts know - Our eyes can see - Our minds can "do" what is right.

sfgirl said...

Thanks, Deborah...I so agree...For those of you who want to read some excellent truths on Climate Change, I highly recommend you go to this post by zephyr01 at Climate of Our Future:

WalksFarWoman said...

Nina - I'm afraid I knew nothing about Al Gore's mission until he was awarded his prize but your post has encouraged me to seek out his thoughts. Great post, you have a very persuasive style! :)

Anonymous said...

I don't think that there is any doubt that the most interesting discoveries (and the most lucrative) are made through a kind of "eureka moment". The greatest skill a chemist can have is that of visualization, becuase one you can see the molecules you are manipulating you can take your work into your most pensive and meditative moments.

Once you have that, all the channels of your mind are open to the situation.

However, if you want to make it a "science", it ultimately has to come down to a repeatable experiment ala the scientific method. I can't tell you how many of my "eureka moments" proved to be wrong, but my gut has always said that the more you listen to your guts the more stuff you get to check out quietly in the lab before you tell someone about it. No one has to know about the not-so-brilliant ones. :-0

The problem with climate change is that there is no controlled experiment that can be performed, much less duplicated, to prove it one way or the other. We have to operate outside of the scientific method. That's a serious problem.

Even General Relativity was subject to tests, such as the famous solar eclipse of 1919:
A prediction was made according to GR, and the observations confirmed the hypothesis. Predictable? Yes! Duplicable? Well ... it took a while, but other similar tests all held up so it was close enough. Only then did GR become part of scientific canon.

Intuition is vital to being a good scientist, but it's only one part of the equation. I would have never gotten any patents without my intuition, but they would have laughed me out of the USPTO if I didn't have some data to show they were right. Some portion of my intuitive "eureka moments" were plain wrong, in fact. But the rest? Ah, those are the ones I'll tell you about. :-)

Jean-Luc Picard said...

The film does have an important message, but many highlight the faults it has and ignore the message.

sfgirl said...

WalksFarWoman: thanks for the kind words. If I'm persuasive, it's because I'm sincere.

Erik: yes, I agree with you on science having the responsibility of provability through designed replication and experimental reproducability. But as you so astutely said, when the number of replicates is ONE, how does the scientist conduct his/her experiment? This calls for a whole new paradigm of doing science. Einstein made a lot of mistakes too (on hunches), but that's an inherent part of learning.

Jean-Luc: you and I have said this before: we are of one-mind on many things. Thanks for the comment.

Princess Haiku said...

Nina, good post. I wish Gore would run...

Alan said...

congratulations on a great blog action day post. mine was a bit lame, I'm afraid. Though my post for tomorrow is about a guide to surviving alien abductions and I have to confess I though of you, Nina, when I ran across it this morning ;)

sfgirl said...

Princess Haiku: thanks for the comment. I think a lot of us do...

Alan: You make me laugh!!! LOL Now, I'll just have to check out your post! :)

Ric Vil Hori said...

Hi SFgirl, although the issue on climate change is an important matter that everyone should consider, a politician speaking about such sensitive topic cannot help but be greeted with apprehension. Politicians as they are, obviously the agenda of politicizing the issues for what agenda isn't far behind, and some factors can be conveniently disregarded to serve such purpose, like the main cause of climate change was the Sun itself as most scientists insist other than what politicians wanted to divert otherwise.

However, I'm with you for the environmental concern, it's just that we need to be discerning on manipulative politicking that play on our sentiments to serve someone else's agenda that may not necessarily be as sincere as we hope to.

sfgirl said...

Ric, I agree with you on being skeptical of a politian's motives. However, although Al Gore was a politician (and once a politician always one, I suppose), he is also a genuine and enlightened man who has devoted years of his time to this cause. I would posit that we avoid reverse prejudice in the case of Gore.