In the wake of the recent heat wave, more people in the U.S. now believe in “climate change” according to a recent poll. Numbers had dropped to fifty-two percent in the winter of 2010 because of record snowfall. In fact, snowfall and cold temperatures had hounded global warming conferences (known as the “Gore Effect”), so the high priests of the global environmental apocalypse changed their nomenclature from “global warming” to the more nebulous “climate change.” Apparently their linguistic sleight of hand (coupled with a few dog days of summer) is starting to produce some results.
But all this really proves is that most people have incredibly short attention spans, and this makes their opinions readily susceptible to manipulation. Should we really be basing our global conclusions on four months of personal, individual experience? Ever heard of the Little Ice Age? It was a period of time in the mid seventeenth and early eighteenth century when global temperatures dropped so significantly that populations in Europe and North America thought it was the end of the world. It coincided with the Maunder Minimum, a period of time when the sun had almost no sunspots. The sun grows hotter when it has a lot of sunspots because it overcompensates for rifts in its magnetic field. It is colder overall when it has few sunspots. Sunspots are generated by the regular cycles of the sun’s magnetic field. Every minimum in history (like the Dalton Minimum and the Spörer Minimum) has coincided with lower than average global temperatures. And every maximum has, you guessed it, coincided with a period of higher than average global temperatures. And, you guessed it again, we are in the midst of a maximum right now.
So how does our carbon footprint affect the sun’s magnetic cycle? It doesn’t. At all. The point is that charlatans have been tying macro-events to your micro-actions for millennia in order to get you to believe, and do, whatever they want. Picture some Egyptian priests using astronomy to predict an eclipse. They tell the pharaoh of the coming P.R. opportunity (no separation of church and state there). When the time for the eclipse approaches, the pharaoh tells the gathered people that he will blot out the sun forever if they do not sacrifice a small business owner in front of the Sphinx and acquire at least two shrubberies for his garden. And we’ve been falling for the same tactic ever since. The problem isn’t our ignorance per se. It is our ignorance of our ignorance. It is the illusion of being well-informed that makes us ripe for manipulation.
How could we be well-informed though? We are human. We live for maybe eighty years if we avoid fatty foods and bath-salt-zombies. How much can we really know in that time? How much can we really see? And most of us don’t even augment our small knowledge with the vicarious experience that accurate history can provide. So can we really make sweeping generalizations on a global scale based on a gap-filled soundbyte constellation of myopic factoids? They’re building a new subdivision down the street, ergo the housing market is recovering. Gas prices are down this week, ergo this president is really getting a handle on Middle Eastern relations. We haven’t had a major terrorist attack in a decade, ergo the Patriot Act was really necessary. It’s really hot out today, ergo the globe is warming. An acorn hit my head, ergo the sky is falling.
We fall for this all the time. We talk about “the economy” as if it were an object rather than a complex of relationships. We think “the economy” is directly related to the President’s present policies, for better or worse. They tell us it’s hot because we don’t carpool enough and because corporations are evil. And so we sacrifice when Pharaoh blots out the sun.
I am not arguing that we should ignore the information that is available to us. I’m just pleading for a longer attention span and a greater premium on intellectual modesty. Hold out for a bit. Let it simmer. We’re like a driver that constantly overreacts and consequently spends more time in the ditches than on the road itself. We’ve been swerving left and right every two, four, and eight years now. And yet we still find ourselves spinning our wheels in the mud. Perhaps the best sweeping generalization we can draw from all this is: We don’t know very much. There was a time when we trusted in the One who does. But that was all priestcraft and superstition, right? We’re so beyond all that now.