I love reading Scott Adams blog. He is a really smart guy who talks about some really interesting topics with wit and humor, a trait I wish I had. And he usually doesn’t seem to be bothered by people’s knee-jerk reactions to his thoughts.
Except in the case of a recent post he did about cognitive dissonance. In a post last week he talked about his reaction to the appearance of Bjorn Lomborg on Real Time with Bill Maher. Bjorn is doing the talk show circuit to promote his book “Cool It“. I happened to catch his appearance on Bill Maher’s show as well as his appearance a few weeks earlier on The Colbert Report. In his post, Scott talked about the collective reaction of Bill and the panel being a little disconnected from their normal selves due to the effect of cognitive dissonance. I actually remember having the same reaction when I saw the show myself.
It’s not that I agree with everything Lomborg says. It’s that I understand his arguments and agree with some of what he says. And apparently having an open enough mind to respectfully listen to someone’s argument is a crime, as seen by the reaction (here) to Scott’s post. Scott’s subsequent rebuttal (here) is pretty cool, as he points out that the so-called enlightened crowd proved his point about cognitive dissonance with their reaction to his post about cognitive dissonance.
This particular story struck home for me because this is something I deal with a lot in my work. One of my strengths at work is my ability to understand multiple sides of the story and to be able to arbitrate the decisions that need to be made based on that. Without the complete picture, one cannot make good decisions; yet in today’s culture, taking the time to understand all sides of an argument before deciding on a course of action that balances all interests is viewed as a sign of weakness (call it the “George Bush” philosophy of life).
Do I agree with Lomborg’s view that hybrid cars are a waste of time? No. But do I agree with Lomborg’s view that the real solution to global warming is to put the money into research that makes alternative sources of renewable energy competitive with fossil fuels? Yes, I do.
Anyone who has seen what it is like in India, China or anywhere else in the developing world will understand that to the common person, a better tomorrow doesn’t matter as much as the ability to put food on the table today. That is a fundamental fact of life that the so-called environmentalists need to understand. Before being an environmentalist, you have to be a global citizen, which means valuing the quality of life for all those people just struggling to survive.
All those people pontificating to the world that we should all drive hybrids happen to be celebrities, and for a good reason. They are in that rare sphere of people who can afford to ditch their car and buy a new hybrid (I certainly can’t). Next time I buy a new car, I will be sure to make it something eco-friendly. But what would be best for the world is if someone came up with a simple, sustainable way to make our current cars eco-friendly (maybe some gizmo to attach to our engine’s). Millions around the world cannot afford to buy a new car, and we need to make something available that will work for them.
Also, dumping my current car for a hybrid doesn’t save the planet, because either my current car ends up in a dump releasing toxins into the land and water, or (more likely), someone buys it second hand and drives it more than I do now, releasing more pollutants into the air. Either way, the math of replacing my car with a hybrid doesn’t add up. But that argument doesn’t fly in a consumerist society like ours where the answer to solving problems is to buy more stuff.
Ultimately the answer to our ecological woes will come when someone realizes a solution that helps them make money, because nothing ever happens unless it is good business. That is why charitable donations are tax breaks, and why the government doesn’t work the way it should.Tags: Bill-Maher, Environment, rants, Scott-Adams, The Colbert Report