Ah, the Internet. All that wonderful information poised at your finger tips, waiting for just the right key strokes to pull it forth out of the ether for your edification and/or amusement.
But there is another side of this coin, a curse to this blessing we know as the world wide web. Because for every piece of bonified, verifiable data out there, there are probably 10 erroneous, inaccurate sources just waiting to trip us even the most intrepid of researchers.
Oh sure, they look official, citing as they do data which appears, even to the most educated of eyes, to be sound and scientific data. Don’t be too quick to accept these supposed facts, however. Because quite often they are subject to different interpretations. The reality is that for every side of an issue, you can find any number of scientists, economists, theorists and other “experts” who will swear on their doctorates (and their mothers’ graves) that theirs is the correct theory regarding that particular issue.
Not all theories are created equal.
This isn’t a new phenomenon of course. Just think of Copernicus and Galileo asserting their theory that the Earth revolved around the sun, not the other way around - which happened to be the general consensus of the day. Now we’d scoff at anyone who would posit something which we “know” to be true. Like the shape of the Earth for example. It’s interesting to note, however, that there are still people out there who believe that the Earth is flat. (A quick Internet search helped me locate the Flat Earth Society - dedicated to debunking the “myth” that the world is round. Feel free to Google it. It’s fascinating, really, but they don’t have me convinced.)
You’re probably wondering what has spurred this public service announcement about the quality and quantity of facts, figures and the like to be found out there on the information super highway. I’ll admit it’s a topic that comes up fairly frequently for me, but this particular rant was sparked by a debate about climate change.
Now, this is an issue on which my own personal opinion has oscillated on over the years. So when the topic came up in the newsroom earlier this week, I had more than a passing interest in the exchange.
It all began when a co-worker of mine mentioned he had read an article which linked the recent spate of earthquakes to global warming. The premise that the warming climate, added weight of the ocean as a result of melting ice caps, etc., were causing all the plate movement which triggers these quakes.
I didn’t buy it. Not because I know it not to be true, necessarily, but because an article based on one supposed experts’ opinion does not a sound, scientific explanation make in my opinion.
I’m the first to admit that I’m not a geologist, but I prefer not to subscribe to the Chicken Little mentality. (In other words, I’ll need a whole slew of experts to convince me the sky is falling. Unless, of course, it smacks me personally right in the noggin.)
I have a vague recollection of studying plate tectonics at some point in my academic career. I remember that those plates – on which our continents and oceans sit – move. And have been moving for billions of years. Our earth is constantly changing, and has been since it came into existence. (No matter what theory you subscribe to regarding how it was, in fact, created.)
Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes – all those things we refer to as natural disasters – have been happening since long before the first of our species decided to straighten up his or her posture, and walk upright for a change.
I admire the fact that my coworker has taken time to research climate change, which is a topic he obviously feels strongly about. I personally have always been a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of conflicting viewpoints on the topic. (A simple search I conducted yesterday using a popular search engine yielded some 28.8 million hits.)
I’m also fairly contrary. Activists in general tend to get my hackles up, and when faced with someone who only sees one side of an issue, I naturally feel compelled to dabble in a little devil’s advocacy. Not because it worked out so well for Keanu Reeves, per se, but to keep the conversation interesting.
One thing which has always bothered me about the whole global warming debate, is that proponents seem to intentionally ignore the fact that, in general, the temperature of our planet has been on the rise since, say, the end of the Little Ice Age. It was during that period – which some random source I found said spanned roughly the mid-sixteenth to mid-nineteenth century –- when the last big quake hit Haiti two centuries ago.
Is this warming part of a cycle, or is it an aberration which will lead the end of the world as we know it, I have no idea. Because not only am I not a geologist, but I’m also not a climatologist. I do know that the population on this planet has exploded during the last century or so, and with it came the exponential growth of industry and what we know affectionately as urban sprawl. Having endured a few sweltering summers in New York City, I’m not going to argue against any theory that humanity’s byproducts and, well, body heat are contributing to a heating of the earth’s surface.
But is our global climate really warming? This freakish winter seems to be evidence to the contrary for some. And what about the fact that the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado says Artic summer sea ice has actually increased 26 percent since 2007?
As with any data, it’s open to interpretation. Some experts say this is just further evidence of climate change caused by the havoc humans are wrecking on the planet. Others posit that it is all part of a cyclical cooling of the Earth’s oceans and see it as an indicator that we’re actually on the cusp of a mini-ice age.
In this, as in anything else, it’s all about the spin. The only way to know the truth, is to watch it all play out.
While I don’t have degree in either geology or climetology, I do have a highly active imagination. Which is what has prompted me to posit my own theory about the recent influx in earth quake activity. One based entirely on conjecture, and fueled by the vast quantity of action adventure novels and blockbuster films I have consumed in my life time.
My theory is this: Al Gore is to blame.
Frustrated by his failed political career, the fact that it took Barack Obama far less time and effort to earn a Nobel Peace and still bitter about that whole Florida re-count (although who can blame him); the former VP has teamed up with Al Qaida to develop a weapon capable of penetrating the earth’s crust and triggering earthquakes. They got the idea from an old comic book.
Gore’s hope is that by strategically employing the device and simultaneously spreading rumors that global warming is to blame, that his popularity will rise once more, opening the door for yet another bid for the White House.
Al Qaida sees it as a way of further draining the capital reserves of the U.S. and its allies. Plus, all those donations pouring in are helping them fill their own coffers. Yep, all those humanitarian aid organizations are really just fronts for the world’s most insidious terrorist network.
Incidentally, this isn’t the first time the two have teamed up. If you’d seen the prequel, you’d know that Gore helped plan the whole September 11th thing just to make W. look bad.
Hey Clive Cussler, if this turns up as the plot of your next Dirk Pitt novel, I’ll know you read The Evening Sun.