Picking and Choosing Your Science

The climate change deniers fascinate me. We know these are not people who deny science consistently, right? They pick and choose which science at which moment they will believe or disbelieve. Christian Scientists (and a tiny minority of other superstitious cults) are the only superstitious people who are even a little bit consistent. They refuse medical intervention for all health care issues, relying on prayer and luck. As a result, they die younger than the general population. Still, you have to give them some credit for actually living their beliefs and the species should thank them for their non-contributions to the gene pool as a result.

In general, though, most superstitious people hedge their bets. They might pray and even insult their healthcare practitioners by thanking gods and magic when modern medicine heals their ailments, but they accept every therapy offered without even reasonable questions. Clearly, they are terrified of death and know that prayer is just a habit; not something to be counted on. “God helps those who help themselves” they will chant, but when it comes to climate change, overpopulation, toxic air and water, mass killers in grade schools, dwindling natural resources, or even failing political and social systems, that’s when they resort to useless chants and prayers and nothing more. If that doesn’t seem inconsistent to you, you are the problem.

My favorite deluded superstitious nonsense is the dichotomy of those who rely on the daily and weekly weather report while pretending that climate scientists don’t know what they are talking about. Climate scientists are the adults among the hierarchy of people who predict weather. All of the mathematical models created to predict local and world weather (including hurricanes and winter storms) came from climate scientists. Meteorologists are the teenagers in this scientific family, simply interpreting the information provided by climate scientists for the average mindless civilian and narrowing down large scale weather observations to local predictions. The television talking heads are the family babies, unschooled or barely-educated kiddies who are too ignorant to even take the dumbed-down meteorologists’ interpretations and get that right. Worse, some of those idiots take it on themselves to make their own idiot best guesses; assuming (correctly) that anyone stupid enough to listen to their ignorant predictions will also be too damn dumb to keep track of how often they are wrong.

NOAA’s seven-day forecasts “accurately predict the weather about 80 percent of the time and a five-day forecast can accurately predict the weather approximately 90 percent of the time.” There is a cost to US disbelief in science and scientists. One cost is that as climate change (caused by human pollution, idiot) changes the large-scale weather actors the weather is becoming less predictable; based on past performance. The EU, Japan, China, and other nations have been investing resources on improving weather prediction models. The US has been concentrating on making the Koch’s happy by reducing federal spending on any activity that doesn’t make money for those corporate welfare halfwits; i.e. military waste. There is a half-funded “plan” to improve the US models, but it mostly depends on piggy-backing with other national algorithms to moderate errors in the obsolete US system.

Some of the best US-born climatologists are working and living outside of the US, thanks to the unscientific climate in their home country. Genetic engineers and scientists left the US for more civilized environments in the early 2000’s, alternative energy research and production moved out of the US during the hyper-pro-oil. Bush/Cheney years, and manufacturing mostly abandoned the US during the Reagan years. The pride that Trump’s “uneducated” take in their overall ignorance is a long-standing US tradition, but it cost us the headstart in space exploration in the 1950’s, the automotive industry in the 1970’s, the computer industry in the 1980’s, and today it is costing us the remains of our democracy as pseudo-conservatives are so easily bamboozled by Russian, Chinese, and Iranian trolls.

So, at the least, I recommend that superstitious folks be forced to live their professed faith. Do the world a favor and avoid scientific medical treatment, go back to riding horses since modern transportation technology uses far too much science for your tastes, stay off of the internet and cell phones, take your best guess at the weather and keep disbelieving climate scientists in all respects, and, by all means, pray that you and your children are not gunned down by other science-denying wingnuts.


The Bottom of the Water Slide

My sister, a devout traditional Christian, often asks me how I can face death believing it is the end of the road. The question baffles me. My father, for instance, who was also a fairly traditional Christian was terrified of death; especially at the end. So, obviously, faith isn’t enough of a comfort for some. Lack of faith in an afterlife, so far, has been incredibly comforting for me.

The image of life that comes to mind is the trip up and down a really large waterslide. The early stages of life, for many of us, are a long slog up a bunch of stairs to “the top,” which might not be much altitude in the end but the climb is pretty much the same for most of us. 

Growing up, education, career, family, friends, economic ups and downs, and the rest of life are all part of that climb up to the top. Mostly, it’s a slog for everyone but the very rich or very lucky. We all end up at the top, though. 

You could look at retirement being the time you spend on the platform waiting for your turn down the slide. Or maybe the years after the kids have (hopefully) moved away and into their own lives and you get to enjoy the remaining calm, productive years of your life. Some people get a couple of decades on the platform, some a few minutes, some get tossed headfirst from the top of the ladder to the slide. For many of us, the platform is particularly uncomfortable because of our fear of heights, discomfort from the long climb, 

The ride down the slide represents the moments at the end of life; often a few seconds to a minute or two as we slip from life to death. There is some research that indicates that there might be intense pain, fear, and/or hallucinations in those moments and that portions of the brain may live for as long as 10 minutes after “death.” Regardless of how much brain activity there is or how long it lasts, it will always be a tiny fraction of the lifetime we’ve lived and, as such, it’s a fast slide down into death and oblivion. 

And then the ride is over.

I do not see any of that as either scary or undesirable. Honestly, I feel like I’ve experienced more of life than I needed to see; especially life with other humans. The level of stupid that appears to be state-of-the-species is mostly depressing. This country has long worshipped corruption, greed, injustice, and outright evil and I’ve seen enough of that. The fact that there is no afterlife, no more requirement to put up with idiots and criminals, is damn comforting. In fact, it might be the best thing about being old and having more years behind than in front of me. If I had the slightest bit of doubt that there might be more of this bullshit after death, I would be far more afraid of death than I am in knowing that religion and superstition are man-made bits of bullshit designed more to control the masses than to comfort them.


Is It Socialism or Is It the Russians?

Trump and other small minds often like to point to Russia and China as examples of countries that “tried” communism and socialism and proved it to be an impossibly corruptible system. Russia, for example, has “tried” several forms of government; from kings to capitalism. Regardless of the political system Russia has tried, the end result has been a total clusterfuck. If you were being generous, you might pretend that Russia has a difficult climate which makes creating an organized society complicated to impossible. That would require ignoring all of the countries with similar or more harsh climates who have fashioned just, economically sound societies with a high quality of life. The only rational way to look at Russia’s failure to create anything resembling a decent quality of life is to acknowledge that Russians are, on average, dumb as bricks. 

Their current experiment with capitalism is a case-in-point. Without even a brief nod to economic equality and an attempt to approximate a middle class, Russia’s oligarchs quickly moved from being corrupt and rich government officials to being corrupt and rich “capitalists.” The Russian public and what passes for a working class accepted it and even applauded it. Russia’s huge military class can be told to march into a burning pit, dragging their spouses and children with them, without complaint. The Russian people, overwhelmingly, are the most gullible, passive, and corruptible collection of semi-humans on the planet. That is true to the point that if you are a white supremist and you have a spot of Russian blood in your veins, you are a walking, talking joke. 

Even fairly useful pieces of data like the unemployment rate are messed up in Russia. While the advertised unemployment rate is currently 4.9%, the facts are that Russian companies generally don’t fire employees, they just pay them less during down times. A LOT less. The alternatives are unemployment compensation of $24 to $124 a month, which is small but so is the Russian minimum wage of $175/month. As the Russian labor spokesman says, "The official unemployment benefits are mostly symbolic. . ." Russians generally don’t bother to register for benefits that barely exist, so their unemployment statistics are barely meaningful.
Russians are good at breaking things, though. While there is no evidence that Russian programmers could write a successful computer program regardless of how lucrative that could be, they are fairly competent hackers and computer thieves. Of course, their success is assisted by Putin’s little handmaiden, Trump, and the drain-swamping collection of idiots, racists, and traitors Trump and the Trumpanzees who do pretty much anything the Russian and US oligarchs tell them to do. Trump has opened up the US for Russian interference so blatantly that so-called “conservatives” weren’t even upset when the FBI’s cybersecurity brain-trust resigned rather than go along with Trump’s collusion. So far, it appears to be impossible for Trump and gang to do anything that will put off his loyal fans. He wasn’t joking or exaggerating when he said he could kill someone and those idiots would stick with him. 

All that said, nothing about the failure of socialism and/or communism in Russia reflects badly on either economic system. Russians can’t do anything well, let alone manage a social system that relies on competence, social justice, economic equality, and democratic principles to offset the natural human tendencies toward entropy and corruption. If you want to honestly look at functional socialist nations, you need to be making comparisons with Finland, Iceland, France, Germany, Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands. Picking the dumbest, most corrupt and mismanaged failed states to compare against ourselves might be gratifying, but that is not information if you are looking for actual data about which economic system supports and provides the best quality of life, democratic values, social and economic equality, and is most sustainable.