Reader Stormy sent me a list of questions to ponder a few days back related to global warming. Some were specific. Some were general. Sadly, right now I don’t have answers, but hopefully I will come up with good ones at some point. But I’ll open up with something I told Stormy I wasn’t going to write (wonderful – I’m now starting to lie to our readers) since the more I think about it, the more I realize its worth a topic on its own.
I believe global warming is happening, I believe a significant part of it is caused by human activity, and I believe that it probably makes sense for humans to try to do something to mitigate the problem. Why do I believe any of that when its way outside my area of expertise and I haven’t gone through any data?
It comes down to this. There is a group of folks, including some that could be called experts, on each side of this debate. If, like me, one has not been able to do any independent checking, it comes down to which group of folks you believe. And that in turn comes down to how the two groups stack up when it comes to things I can check or at least reason out.
As an example… the yes side generally seems to include those who believe in evolution, the no side those who don’t. Now, I’m not a biologist – (I did have the opportunity to play with some population ecology models for a couple years in grad school, but that only says I have some familiarity with theory, nothing more) – but I can reason a few things out. Here’s one thing I think I’ve reasoned out myself – not that I think its original biological thought, but merely that I don’t think I was exposed to any writings by any expert that actually stated things thus.
The theory of evolution implies that every species is in transition, always. Thus, it predicts that some species might not have transitioned far enough away from others to prevent them from interbreeding. The offspring of such couplings might or might not breed true themselves, depending on how far apart the two species have transitioned.
Similarly, the theory of evolution would imply the existence of certain inate behaviors in species that make no sense, but that must have had some survival benefit at some earlier date. Anyone who has seen one of these creatures must have noticed that, after doing their business, they engage in an activity that can only be described as tearing up the lawn and pelting those that get too close with debris. Senseless and completely useless behavior. But one can easily imagine how such behavior might have evolved from behavior similar to that of a cat covering up its poop in a litter box.
While it is possible to create a story involving a creator creating species in their present form that accounts for this, it seems to me to be more of a stretch. Hence, I side with those who believe in evolution based on my own ability to reason. Which means that, when I have to decide between the two sides on global warming, I pick the side that those who believe in evolution tell me makes sense.
There is one more reason I tend to side the evolution crowd – their theory is dynamic, itself evolving. Which means that obvious errors eventually get chucked out. The non-evolution crowd, well, from what I can see, its theory is unchanged over thousands of years, even including those parts of the theory that are obviously in error.
Does that mean its necessarily correct? Well, no. These folks might be mistaken about global warming. In the 1960s, I could have used the same arguments as above to side with folks that the world was heading into a new ice age. But again, these guys tend to have self-correcting theories. When data and technological sophistication improves, they change.
Anyway, I’m not really sure where I’m going with this at this point, but I thought I’d share my thought process. If I have more to say about global warming, it will be in this context, as I stated in the beginning of the second paragraph of this post.
Update. Hmmmm. Perhaps I should rethink the whole thing.