Today, one of my co-workers claimed that global warming is an evidence-free hoax perpetuated by angst-filled hippies like Al Gore who simply can't stand the idea that some of the rest of us are having a good time. Comments like these make my blood pressure shoot up so fast that I can almost feel my veins constricting. My anger is not directed so much against the absurd falsity of the statement itself--although I'm sure that scientists who make up the The American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science would be more than a little bewildered to find out that they're all a bunch of fun-hating, spiteful hippies--but against the attitude that it represents.
It's simply a fact that a statement of such arrogance must necessarily stem from a position of ignorance, if only because no well-informed person could honestly hold it. What bothers me so much is that this attitude is so common. Many people seem more than happy to read an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal or listen to a rant from Rush Limbaugh and decide that they've done enough "research" to blithely wave away decades worth of experiments and research that they don't even understand. It's just the intellectual equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and repeating "Your wrong! I'm not listening!" over and over.
Here's an idea to keep in mind: just because you've read Michael Crichton's factually-challenged thriller about evil environmentalist conspiracies doesn't make you a climate science expert. Hell, I frequently read books and articles by scientists on the subject of climate change, and the more I learn, the more I realize that I don't know anything about it. That's just the way it is--learning new stuff requires lots of hard work and effort!
It takes a mind-bogglingly large amount of hubris--not to mention a rather under-developed set of critical thinking skills--to stand in a place of complete (or near complete) ignorance on a topic and accuse thousands of trained professionals--people who have devoted their lives and their livelihoods to the subject--of fraud and/or incompetence. And yet, I manage to come across plenty of global-warming deniers--and no small number of creationists--who are more than willing to do just that on a regular basis. It makes me sad and angry. It's okay to be ignorant; it's even okay to be arrogant, but to be both at the same time, about the same thing? That's unacceptable.
For the sake of fairness, I humbly request that if anybody catches me bloviating on a subject that I'm clueless about--and that's a long list of topics--please, please, please give me a swift kick in the ass at your earliest opportunity. I might not like it at the time, but eventually I'll come to thank you for it; and you'll be doing your part to make the world a better place.
The sole caveat to all of this are the so-called "literary theorists." Everybody who isn't an idiot knows that "literary theory" is a pile of garbage concocted by a bunch of know-nothing blowhards who wanted to make themselves feel important, but didn't have any real talent. I, of course, don't need to know anything about literary theory to make that judgment; it's just obvious.