I’ve listened to and participated in a lot of debates in my lifetime. I love healthy debate. It is one of the best establishments of mankind that encourages sharing, peer review, and strengthening of the theories and viewpoints we formulate. Pretty much every free-thinking culture thrives on debate and uses it on a daily basis to get shit done.
Publishing a paper sparks scientific debate, inviting the community to share critical feedback in a process that strengthens the original argument in an iterative cycle. Similarly there is political debate which brings decision-makers together to publicly apply their philosophies and convictions to the very real problems of society, in the purview of their constituency. A Supreme Court decision itself is an unspoken debate between nine justices: we don’t put our trust in any single one of them, but instead the debate itself is what we entrust to best apply the meaning of our Constitution. The most important debate of all is our free market: this is a perpetual debate (spoken or unspoken) between buyers and sellers, producers and consumers. It is the perpetual search for the truth: a market price. Our economy is strong when that debate is healthy.
Debate, when done for the unbiased pursuit of truth, ultimately serves the benefit of bringing everyone just a little closer to that truth.
So now that I’ve established how awesome and powerful a good debate is, I’m going to tell you about something that totally isn’t living up to that standard right now: the debate on climate change.
Holy. Fucking. Shit. That’s not a debate. That Senator could not have made it more obvious that he gives 0 fucks about what the scientist has to say. He’s already made up his mind, and in so doing disrespected the very establishment of a Senate sub-committee hearing, an incredibly important tradition set up to promote healthy dialogue and debate. That scientist may as well have just talked to a wall. It would’ve taken less time and produced the same outcome.
What happened exactly? Why are we missing a real debate on a really important topic? Why is everything so black and white now? I say everything because that Senator isn’t the only person who acts this way in the climate change conversation (or lack thereof). And climate change is not the only issue about which people have an insanely closed-minded attitude.
I’m going to offer a theory, subject to healthy debate of course. Here’s the thesis: I don’t think Senator Ron Johnson actually denies climate change. I just don’t think he’s that devoid of reality. Instead, I think he disagrees with science for the sake of disagreeing with science.
The reason is unclear. Maybe the majority of his constituents shockingly don’t believe in science, in which case he would be forced to agree with them in order to keep his job. I hear that being a Senator is a pretty sweet job, so he certainly has at least the incentive to keep his own job as a reason to deny climate change. If so, that would be an abuse of the power of an elected office merely for personal reasons. If we follow the money, a tried and true strategy that helps law enforcement find motive, we find that the amount of money invested in unclean energy sources is substantial in Wisconsin. Although Wisconsin is not a major producer of unclean energy, it has become one of the leading providers of fracking sand and oil extraction equipment, which means its economy effectively tracks that of unclean energy. These businesses may become less profitable if the Senator avows climate change in the face of policy proposals, so he simply doesn’t. It is also possible these interests have paid the Senator to deny climate change, by funding his campaign in exchange for turning his back on science. One last theory, and this is not uncommon among climate change deniers: they simply did not do well in science in school, became insanely jealous of those who did and made more money, and disavowed science in a bitter vendetta lasting a lifetime.
Just a theory, and totally up for a good debate!