I am interested in progressive politics, citizen participation, real democracy and a full range of public policy issues from an Albertan and Canadian perspective.
This is a wonderful example of the WWW and the Internet at its best.
I'm sure I wasn't the first to notice the direct use of Pascal's Wager ( see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal's_Wager ) in the arguments made in the video.Interestingly, while the methodology is similar, the notable difference is the consequences of our choices.Belief vs. Action. Disbelief vs. Inaction.In the latter case, the act of doing or not doing has far greater consequences for everyone on this tiny, blue planet than whether we believe or disbelieve in a higher power for our individual salvation. Therefore, if we all do our small part to take action with respect to environmental change we may just increase the odds against global disaster and, hopefully, win the "bet".PASS THE VIDEO ALONG ... what can it hurt?
Clearly, Mr. Chapman is very bright and has interesting things to say. I actually agree that, all things considered, we should all do our part to help the environment (or rather to help our chances of sustainability by the environment). However, I find some flaws in his reasoning. While he encourages others to try things out for themselves, add in various odds, etc., it is really this work that must be done to assess the validity of his argument. But the problem becomes circular at this point, because we cannot determine the odds of the given scenarios without more research, and it is this type of waiting ("inaction") that Mr. Chapman is speaking against. Others have made the comparison to Pascal's Wager, but have retreated, by saying that Mr. Chapman's argument is concerned with a verifiable present, not some vague future. But the connection to Pascal's Wager still holds. First, there have been many end-of-the-world predictions throughout history. I have a book whose appendix lists around 60 of them, and I have added a few to the list myself since the book's publication. Second, the risk associated with taking climate change as a serious threat (the "Yes!" with an exclamation point, as he wrote it) is not just economic, but psychological as well. It reinforces the climate of fear which has become so pervasive in this country, especially due to Bush's anti-terrorist movement. I don't know how it is in Canada, Mr. Chapman.As with Pascal's Wager, the risk in not believing is not negligible; it is quite significant, in fact. It is a question of how you live your life while you are here. With Pascal's Wager, do you spend your life in fear of eternal damnation and praying for salvation? With global warming, do you spend your life in fear of an early end to life as we know it and working desperately to undo climate change? It's true, though. We know that there is global warming. We don't know why it's happening, if it's one our planet's regular fluctuations or a response to CO2 levels from our post-industrialized society. We need more science to back either claim. So, should we just sit back in inaction? As Mr. Chapman points out, of course not. I don't argue with him that we should all make changes. BUT we should make measured changes. For instance, there is increasing evidence that recycling is inefficient and, outside of making people feel better about themselves, is not serving the purposes which we think (the exception is aluminum can recycling). However, reducing CO2 emissions seems a worthy goal. While I understand the desire to use panic to inflame an often apathetic society to act, this is an emotional device, not a logical one, and should not be disguised as one. It is therefore the exclamation point in Mr. Chapman's "YES!" that I object to. It is the reduction into all action or none (even if he passively suggests trying out other scenarios on your own). It is the fact that by putting things into 4 boxes into his video, that he suggests (without saying it) that all four scenarios are equal in weight and probability.If you are still persuaded that Mr. Chapman's argument is wholly logically sound, I would encourage you to do as he says, and reconstruct the argument with your own truth table, but with one exception! Replace global warming with alien invasion. As you'll find, without taking probability into account but only eventualities, his argument suggests that we should serious consider every threat and act (with an exclamation point) on every such threat. Encourage people to act, yes, but do not inspire more fear. We have quite enough to be going around. And if you want to make an emotional plea, then make it, but if you want to claim a logical one, then you shouldn't need to rely on a fear response in order to back your claim.Mr. Chapman, I hope that you take this post with the respect with which it was written. I think we're on the same side of this debate and I certainly enjoyed watching your video. You're a compelling speaker and a good advocate for social change, but as you did ask for commentary, this is what I have to offer after a first viewing. Sincerely, Aaron Alon
Thanks for the insightful comment Aaron. To be clear it is not me on the video nor did I produce it. I do think it is thought provoking and that is my interest in posting it.Do I understand from your comment that you have written a book? If so tell me more.I don't think we can defer to determinations based on direct cause and effect anymore. We know the inter-related world, especially the environment. To me that means we have to have prudence as a default position for behaviours, not unrestrained development as a presumptive common good.Your thought please!! Please call me Ken too
Hi, Ken. Thanks for your comments back. Do you happen to know who did make this video?I don't know what I said to imply that I've written a book, but let me correct that impression. No, I haven't published on this subject. Actually, this is well outside of my field; I'm a composer and teacher. I'm also an amateur writer, but these days, who isn't?Regarding your comments, your last paragraph left me a little perplexed. You said that we can't "defer to determinations based on direct cause and effect anymore," but I'm unclear what you're proposing instead. You also said that we "know the inter-related world, especially the environment," but again, I'm a little lost. There is so much that we don't know. In fact, if we did really know this, we would not need to guess on the best course of action over global warming. Finally, I do sympathize with your suggestion to be prudent and I don't think many would claim "unrestrained development as a presumptive common good." At least, I hope not. I do think, however, that we need to make our choices carefully. There is a world of decision between "unrestrained development" and a shutting down of industrial development and a retreat back into caves. I don't think that's what you're suggesting, but as I mentioned, one of my issues with the video was the black and white approach to the problem. The best solution relies on us determining the proper shade of gray, where we react without overreacting and neither rush forward with our decision nor wait until it is too late. Do I have that answer? No, of course not, but the video was downplaying the difficulty of the question. I don't think it's a question that politicians will answer either; this is the job of scientists. What we CAN do is to take steps that will help the problem without getting crazed over it. Reducing pollution has been a constant message for decades. Recycling, as I mentioned, is probably a bust (except for aluminum cans), so let's put our energy and money elsewhere (or look into improving our recycling program in order to make it efficient). I'm sick of seeing SUVs with "Save the Earth" bumper stickers on them. (The irony, of course, is that we may wipe ourselves out. We may even take some of the other millions of species that cohabit this planet with us. But the earth will survive.)We can also support science, both financially and politically. Some groups are alarmists and extremists. How will your donation be used? Are you donating to feel you've made a difference or to actually make one? If you make sure your money goes into peer-reviewed research, there's a lower chance of it being wasted. Thanks again for writing back and for posting the video. I agree with you; it is thought-provoking. If only the solution were as simple as he proposed!
Hi Aaron – sorry to be so long in replying to your early morning comment. I have been busy with Christmas celebrations. I don’t know who is on the video and I presume he did it too.I don’t think he offers a simple answer however. I took him to be bringing some clarity to the complexity of the large issue. He begs more questions than he answers and gives a workable but very introductory framework to the inquiry we must make in to what we must now choose as appropriate individual, cultural and species based human behaviours.My last paragraph on deferring to determinations based simply on cause and effect is really my attempt at saying a linear mechanistic Newtonian world exists but it does not explain the new (real?) world order we are now aware of that is systemically relativistic, diverse, dynamic and full of feedback loops that make the shallow and often incremental models based on cause and effect insufficient.I like the video for the questions it begs not for the answers it gives. I like your comments for the same reasons.Keep in touch!