Dr. Gulliver explains why America has become so fearful of the future

Summary:  Why has American’s mental processing become so dysfunctional?  As described by John Boyd, our OODA loop:  observation, orientation, decision, action.  It no longer seems to work properly?  One problem is that so much of our collective wisdom is locked away, unread.  Only by uncaring scholars.  And sometimes by children.  As we see in this passage from Gulliver’s Travels.

Anyone who takes the trouble to stay informed knows that the human race, perhaps all life on Earth, is doomed.  A few minutes search using Google could find a hundred news stories like the following.  We doomed.  Beyond hope of salvation.

Examples

Sun’s protective ‘bubble’ is shrinking“, The Telegraph, 19 October 2008 — “The protective bubble around the sun that helps to shield the Earth from harmful interstellar radiation is shrinking and getting weaker, NASA scientists have warned.” Excerpt:

New data has revealed that the heliosphere, the protective shield of energy that surrounds our solar system, has weakened by 25 per cent over the past decade and is now at it lowest level since the space race began 50 years ago.

… If the heliosphere continues to weaken, scientists fear that the amount of cosmic radiation reaching the inner parts of our solar system, including Earth, will increase.  This could result in growing levels of disruption to electrical equipment, damage satellites and potentially even harm life on Earth.

Scientists are baffled at what could be causing the barrier to shrink in this way and are to launch mission to study the heliosphere.

 “Crises Likely to Spur Mass Migrations“, Inter Press Service, 9 October 2008 — Excerpt:

As climate change, sea-level rise, earthquakes and floods threaten countries such as Bangladesh, Tuvalu, Vietnam and Tajikistan, the Tokyo-based U.N. University (UNU) warns that by 2050, some 200 million people will be displaced by environmental problems.

Diagnosis is the first step towards a cure

Jonathan Swift saw and explained this phenomenon in his great work Gulliver’s Travels:  Part III, A Voyage to Laputa.  The floating island of the scientists.

These People are under continual Disquietudes, never enjoying a Minute’s Peace of Mind; and their Disturbances proceed from Causes which very little affect the rest of Mortals. Their Apprehensions arise from several Changes they dread in the Celestial Bodies.

For Instance; that the Earth by the continual Approaches of the Sun towards it, must in Course of Time be absorbed or swallowed up.

That the Face of the Sun will by Degrees be encrusted with its own Effluvia, and give no more Light to the World.

That, the Earth very narrowly escaped a Brush from the Tail of the last Comet, which would have infallibly reduced it to Ashes; and that the next, which they have calculated for One and Thirty Years hence, will probably destroy us. For, if in its Perihelion it should approach within a certain Degree of the Sun, (as by their Calculations they have Reason to dread) it will conceive a Degree of Heat ten Thousand Times more intense than that of red hot glowing Iron; and in its Absence from the Sun, carry a blazing Tail Ten Hundred Thousand and Fourteen Miles long; through which if the Earth should pass at the Distance of one Hundred Thousand Miles from the Nucleus or main Body of the Comet, it must in its Passage be set on Fire, and reduced to Ashes.

That the Sun daily spending its Rays without any Nutriment to supply them, will at last be wholly consumed and annihilated; which must be attended with the Destruction of this Earth, and of all the Planets that receive their Light from it.

They are so perpetually alarmed with the Apprehensions of these and the like impending Dangers, that they can neither sleep quietly in their Beds, nor have any Relish for the common Pleasures or Amusements of Life. When they meet an Acquaintance in the Morning, the first Question is about the Sun’s Health; how he looked at his Setting and Rising, and what Hopes they have to avoid the Stroak of the approaching Comet. This conversation they are apt to run into with the same Temper that boys discover, in delighting to hear terrible Stories of Sprites and Hobgoblins, which they greedily listen to, and dare not go to Bed for fear.

Afterword

If you are new to this site, please glance at the archives below.  You may find answers to your questions in these.

Please share your comments by posting below.  Please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling). 

Other sources of information about the climate change

(a)  To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar about Science, Nature, and Geopolitics.

(b)  Other posts on this site

  1. A look at the science and politics of global warming, 12 June 2008
  2. Global warming means more earthquakes!, 19 June 2008
  3. An article giving strong evidence of global warming, 30 June 2008
  4. Worrying about the Sun and climate change: cycle 24 is late, 10 July 2008
  5. More forecasts of a global cooling cycle, 15 July 2008
  6. Update: is Solar Cycle 24 late (a cooling cycle, with famines, etc)?, 15 july 2008
  7. Two valuable perspectives on global warming, 4 August 2008
  8. President Kennedy speaks to us about global warming and Climate Science, 7 August 2008
  9. Solar Cycle 24 is still late, perhaps signalling cool weather ahead, 2 September 2008
  10. Update on solar cycle 24 – and a possible period of global cooling, 1 October 2008
  11. Good news about global warming!, 21 October 2008

(c)  Information from other sources

  1. SURFACE TEMPERATURE RECONSTRUCTIONS FOR THE LAST 2,000 YEARS“, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Division on Earth and Life Studies, NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES (2006) — aka The North Report.
  2. Report of the “Ad Hoc Committee on the Hockey Stick Global Climate Reconstruction”, commissioned by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (July 2006) — aka The Wegman Report.  Also note this excerpt from the Q&A session of the Dr. Edward J. Wegman’s testimony.
  3. The role of statisticians in public policy debates over climate change“, Richard L. Smith, American Statistical Association – Section on Statistics & the Environment Newsletter (Spring 2007) — One of the too-few reports by statisticians on the climate change literature.
  4. A timeline of the science and politics of climate science.
  5. Bibliography by year of climate science research. 

7 thoughts on “Dr. Gulliver explains why America has become so fearful of the future

  1. This reminds me of my reputed ancestor, Michael Stifel.

    One of the great mathematicians of the 16th century and a close friend of Martin Luther’s, he dabbled in cabalistic numerology. As a result, while as rector of Annaberg, Germany, in 1533, he prophesied the end of the world.

    The entire town was convinced. They sold their possessions and gathered for the end time, which was to be – as I recall – October 8, 1533, at 8 am. By the time 9 am rolled around, Stifel had become unpopular. It took direct intervention from Luther and Melancthon to get him off the hook.

    Stifel’s was but one of such incidents at that time. Halley’s Comet had just appeared. Astrology was taken seriously back then; so comets were understood as massive cosmic disturbances. Many people were then convinced that the world was about to come to an end.

    For a 16th century intellectual, Stifel’s life was actually sedate. Kepler’s mother was accused of witchcraft; while Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake.

  2. It’s all fun and games until we hit a tipping point in our ecological system. Sure would be nice to get it figured out before we get there.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: And do we live eternally in fear of this tipping point? Since most forms of pollution are decreasing in the developed world, and probably soon the less developed world, the tipping point might be in the distant future — or perhaps never reached.

    If we can get through the next few generations, these problems will seem quaint. Our great-grandchildren might have difficulty understanding the concept of pollution. Why should industrial processes — at least those run on Earth — have harmful by-products?

  3. “What is heavier than wood, yet floats?”
    “A duck!”
    “So if she weighs more than a duck…”
    “She’s a witch!”
    “Who are you so wise in the ways of science?”
    “I am Arthur, king…”

  4. “Just think of all the poverty, the hatred and the lies. Imagine the destruction of all that you despise. Slowly, from the ashes, a phoenix will arise. It’s a brave new world. With just a handful of men, we’ll start all over again.” — War of the Worlds, Jeff Wayne musical. :)

  5. In reply to Maximus’ response to my comment (#2), I refer to the first step of the OODA loop. It is not that I wish for us to live in fear — it is that we benefit when we live in awareness. In other words, we have good reason to study intensely the single planet we currently occupy. That reason is our continued survival.

    While it is true, as FM alluded elsewhere, that in the long run we’re all dead, it is also true that right now, I’m alive, and wish to stay that way, and wish to ensure long and happy life for my descendents.

    With respect, I object to the cavalier statement that “probably soon the less developed world” will see a decrease in the pollution they produce. My objection is based on the OODA loop, in that I have yet to observe any modern western society addressing pollution problems until forced to do so. I am no master of history, and am likely wrong on this account.

    I strongly support enacting a law stating that requires all processing outflows to be reduced, re-used, and recycled — no trash goes into the ground, no trash goes into the air, no trash goes into the water, no trash in space. However, until we pass and enforce such a law, no one’s great-granchildren will have trouble understanding the concept of pollution.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: The US environmental movement started in the early 1960’s (an arbitrary line, of course). What “forced” us to do so? Ditto for Europe.

    Rather than being forced, modern (i.e., post-WWII history) suggests that concern for the environment is a function of prosperity. Another step up on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As emerging nations grow richer, they will probably follow in this path. Why would you assume otherwise?

  6. In reply to Maximus’ response to to my comment (#4), I can say only that I am deeply surprised.

    Maximus wrote, “The US environmental movement started in the early 1960’s (an arbitrary line, of course). What “forced” us to do so?”. When I read that, the first thing I thought of was when the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969, and the smog in London that killed 750 people in 1961.

    Here is some reading for those interested: Environmental History Timeline. To my way of thinking, laws don’t get passed just because someone gets an itch for a new law. All those laws were passed because we were having severe problems stemming from the completely unchecked pollution of the previous decades.

    Any system (as defined by Fuller) or network (as defined by Combs) has an inherent understanding of the need to follow the OODA loop. What I’m proposing is that we look a little more deeply into our past, ascertain our current condition, and make a fact-based decision about the near future.

    We weren’t watching the financial market as closely as we should have, and the lesson is obvious. Let us pay attention to our environment more closely, for it is even more important to our long-term survival.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: What is there in this timeline that indicates that “forced” action in the 1960’s? Other that is than stopping above-ground atomic testing (a special case). This timeline could be extended back hundreds of years, not only with no apparent increase in frequency of environmental problems — but with a decrease in problems from improved public health. Sewage treatment. Clearn water. The transition from coal to oil/natural gas/hydro/atomic power.

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