How do you know when to check the facts?

It’s a rainy day in the Northland, so, putting some thoughts together.

A a couple of good friends of mine visited recently. They have both been on the right side of history all their lives, getting arrested for issues they believe and doing non-profit work. When they arrived, they had just listened to a presentation by Joanna Macy. I’m not going to link anything. She is a translator of Buddhism, and has some biology training, but I wouldn’t call her a scientist.

In this thing they listened to, a brief list of ways the planet is endangered was presented. The first one was the worst, the possibility of a release of methane gas that could, within 20 years, kill off the human race and most other animals. They were kinda of upset by this.

I didn’t want to ruin the visit with my questions, but I’d never heard of this, and that made me want to find out about it. I had no opinion, other than the curiosity of why I hadn’t heard of it before. Turns out, the prediction was made by one person, who managed to get an article in the New Yorker. It was quickly countered with all the reasons why it was unlikely to really happen and the minimal science that it was based on. The things needed to be done to prevent it are the same things we need to do to prevent AGW. To me, it was irresponsible of her to present this as if it was science and to leave out so many details in the presentation.

All that aside, what it’s left me wondering is, what does it take? I use this environmentalist example to show it is not a politically based question, but it is the same as people hearing something, like Dominion voting machine rigging or fake ballots being shipped in the middle of the night, of faked moon landings or whatever.

Once a premise has been accepted, information can be piled on to support it. I don’t want to call that info “facts” since they aren’t, but they look very much like other facts, if you accept the premise. Psychologically, statements of fact that counter the alternative facts just drive the person deeper into their belief. For me, it’s as simple as “I never heard of that, I’d like to know more.” I don’t how to foster that simple curiosity.

I’ve heard of that methane thing and cows have been to blame for it… in the version I heard.

I read almost anything I can get my hands on, as long as it doesn’t sound totally farfetched.

The idea rests on the fact that as the earth’s permafrost warms it will release large amounts of methane from thawing and rotting fauna.

Warming Climate unlikely to cause major methane release

Researchers say ancient periods like today suggest only minor releases of methane. February 28, 2020

A long-feared scenario in which global warming causes Arctic permafrost to melt and release enough methane—a potent greenhouse gas–to accelerate warming and cause catastrophe probably won’t happen.

That is the conclusion of a study appearing in the journal Science that began more than 20 years ago as a query posed by Jeff Severinghaus, a geoscientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. A National Science Foundation-funded research team led by the University of Rochester’s Vas Petrenko that includes Severinghaus analyzed samples of gases trapped in ice during a period of deglaciation between 18,000 and 8,000 years ago. That period is considered a partial analog for the current era of global warming.

The researchers conclude that even if methane is released from permafrost and other stores known as methane hydrates, very little actually reaches the atmosphere.

“It is a rare piece of good news about climate change,” said Severinghaus, “so I’m happy to come to the public and say this is something we don’t have to worry about.”

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Things are so complicated these days, and it’s so easy to spew out information and “information”. And to top it off, there are groups out there working in a concerted fashion to purposely either make things confusing, or just insert things that pass as facts. (I’m thinking of a group I heard of awhile back, conservative of course, that actively edited wikipedia pages in subtle ways to distort and confuse and plant false info that SEEMED legit.) It’s just a total mess.

Sort of we’re awash in info and who has time to sort everything out? And let’s say you actually have all the time in the world to sort it out…then what? You vote? Lotta good that does. You get some milquetoast like Biden in there, and the rest of the Dems can’t seem to tie their own shoes. Maybe the cons have it right…you just slam ahead and cheat and steal to force your way on everyone else, democracy be damned.

My guess would be, it comes down to
A) honest curiosity.
B) critical thinking.
C) being skeptical of oneself.
D) being okay with being proven wrong and learning new stuff.
E) really wanting to know the truth for its own sake.

As for the methane threat, just cause there’s little evidence that it can trigger a fast global killing event, doesn’t mean it’s not concerning as hell, and having a negative impact as we write.

“Scientists have been shocked that the warm weather conducive to permafrost thawing is occurring roughly 70 years ahead of model projections,” the CCAG warning states. It also points out that the Arctic could lose 89 percent of its permafrost by 2100, the Moscow Times reports.

Oh and looking slightly more long term, it’s not just Methane Hydrates that will be increasing the rate of global warming.

Methane release from carbonate rock formations in the Siberian permafrost area during and after the 2020 heat wave

Nikolaus Froitzheim, Jaroslaw Majka, and Dmitry Zastrozhnov

Edited by Thure E. Cerling, The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT,
August 2, 2021

Massive Craters in Siberia Are Exploding Into Existence. What’s Causing Them?

Climate change is a likely culprit, but scientists are still determining the reason for the frozen tundra’s cavernous phenomena.

By Leslie NemoJan 27, 2021

A 2015 exploration of a gas emission crater on the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia, Russia. (Credit: Aleksandr Lutcenko/Shutterstock)

I think cc’s list is fine, but people can feel that they have those values and still accept some isolated bit of data and a conclusion when handed to them. I’ve had long conversations, where I walk through the methods, and in the end, I don’t see them being applied. There’s some earlier step, or maybe something that caps the access to the those values, like when anger caps your access to more compassionate emotions.

I couldn’t sit through the entire meeting that they watched, but Joanna Macy was getting them to focus on their feelings of guilt about how humans destroyed the environment. Once they fed into that, there was no critical thinking going on. It was as if they wanted to wallow in the feelings instead of deal with the facts.

It looks very similar to me to conspiracy theorists who only want to talk about the evil vaccine makers or lying governments.

We’re all a bit different, with different information sets.

We people are individual creatures and I hate computer metaphors, but hey they come in handy once in a while. So consider us as computers of unique original, having been programmed via in-house built in hardware, then life happens and each processed through their own unique algorithms, resulting in unique lessons and strategies.

Line up a hundred individually computers, with no two containing exactly the same architecture, or learning/experiences - then run a series of commands through them. We’d never expect the same outcome from all of them, or even a few of them.

Something like that :slight_smile:

Sitting out some rain in the tent this morning. Thinking that the problem is attaching emotions to science questions. You can’t turn off your emotions but you can be clear about them, so you can think through the difficult issues we face.

Stay tuned