Happy New Year Cryolisters!
I hope you all had a productive, loving, and educational 2018.
A few things that I learned in 2018 include… In Science we mutually agree that the Truth is what’s left after everything else has been falsified, but to many running governments the truth is whatever they can make a sufficient majority believe. How do we educate such people or their followers so that their whacky ideas don’t inadvertently stampede us all over the cliff of ecological collapse? I really don’t know. What I do suspect is that the human capacity for self-deception is unlimited, the scientific method is the best means we know of to efficiently debunk each other’s delusions, and there’s nothing genetically different between Us and Them so their choice not to use the scientific method must be environmental. I’ve also come to learn that meditation along with some of the secular parts of Buddhism is a pretty good means of debunking your own delusions, making your colleagues’ job of vetting them easier. And if the rise and fall of nations has taught us anything it’s that large-scale social experiments based on alternative facts always fail, though that’s not much comfort if that failure leads to misery or extinction in the meantime…
So my take-away from 2018 is that while I think we need to continue to add data points to our hockey stick graphs to continue to improve our predictive power, the real challenge for 2019 is going to be applying the scientific method to understanding the environmental conditions which lead large numbers of otherwise sane people into believing insane ideas about the management of our planet and it’s inhabitants regardless of the amount of overwhelming evidence we provide to falsify those ideas, so that we can be effective in answering the question above while we still have backs to pat. That is, society has successfully disproven that our graphs and grant-mandated outreach are sufficient to stop the spread of alternative facts to globally-dangerous levels, so let’s move on and find additional techniques it can’t disprove and really have a happy new year.
Along these lines I put together some references that I enjoyed reading or rereading this year, with the hopes that others interested in the same question might share their suggestions for reading in 2019.
The Constitution of Knowledge – Jonathan Rauch, in National Affairs (37)
The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins
The Moral Animal – Robert Wright
How to Read and Understand Shakespeare – Marc Conner, in The Great Courses (Amazon video)
Why Buddhism is True – Robert Wright
10% Happier – Dan Harris
Less than Human: Why we demean, enslave and exterminate others – David Smith
The China Study – Colin Campbell
The Death of Expertise – Tom Nichols
The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth – Rachel Ignotofsky
And in the meantime if your 2019 hockey stick graphs are in need of new high-resolution topographic maps of huge areas of tundra at sea level or glaciers on 6000 m peaks or anything in between, I’d be honored to help!
Best wishes to all in 2019,
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