Followers of Zen have a word that specifically describes a special event, a recognition of some profound truth or reality – satori. Satori is often described as a sudden awakening, and I recently experienced satori for myself.
All of us have had fun with oxymorons. We laugh at them, enjoy them and then ignore them as if they were Obama speeches. The common thread that hold all oxymorons together is the use of two words that individually convey, by definition, opposite ideas or concepts.
There are so many oxymorons in everyday use that they no longer even strike us as peculiar. “Jumbo shrimp”, “military intelligence”, “common sense”, “open secret”, “negative growth” and so on are used so often that the idea that the words themselves should register as mutually exclusive is lost completely. My personal favorite is the always popular “amicable divorce.”
The more often a particular oxymoron is repeated, the less we tend to recognize the inherent contradiction that is embodied by the words used until the contradiction is often completely lost.
As I was reading an article that was floating around the blogosphere, the author used the phrase “settled science”, but in its context, the author was communicating that the science was far from being settled. That was my satori moment. The climate change shills have used the phrase again and again to reinforce their view that those of us who might actually question their conclusions are no better than poorly educated Neanderthals. And that’s what they try to communicate when they are being diplomatic.
But “settled science” may move up the list to become the most egregious oxymoron ever created. “Science” can never be considered to be “settled.”
Look, for example, at the scientific theory regarding the composition of matter itself. Prior to 400 B.C., philosophers considered all matter to be composed of only air, water, fire and earth in varying combinations. As far as they were concerned the matter was “settled.”
Then around 2,400 years ago a chap named Democritus decided to take another look at the composition of matter. He came up with this idea that everything in the universe was composed of very tiny things that he chose to call atoms. He postulated that these atoms were the smallest possible components for everything in the universe. While he admitted that you could split a log for your fireplace, he held that atoms where not divisible. In fact the word atom comes from the Greek “atomos,” meaning “not to be cut.”
So the world view changed, and the change was fairly radical. So the science was settled – again.
It took 2,300 years, until 1897, when Joseph John Thomson discovered that atoms had electrons. They had parts and were therefore divisible. The old “atoms are indivisible and that’s settled science” crowd must have uttered a muted “Oops!” at that point.
As the decades moved on there were more and more discoveries concerning the structure of the atom, and the divisible nature of atoms was demonstrated pretty conclusively at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
So much for “settled” science.
Of course one of the most famous example of “it is ‘settled science’ and you will not question it” was in the case of Galileo vs The Roman Catholic Church. The Pope at the time, Paul V, delivered an ultimatum to Galileo – renounce the Copernican model of the universe or be subject to the Inquisition for heresy. Galileo was ultimately punished by house arrest until his death.
The phrase of Mark Twain that “history never repeats itself, but it may rhyme” seems most apropos when, in the past several weeks, a professor of philosophy (not climatology) Dr. Lawrence Torcello of the Rochester Institute of Technology has demanded that those who deny the “settled science” of anthropogenic should be arrested and imprisoned.
Al Gore, James Hansen (late of NASA) and Barack Obama as well as innumerable politicians all want us to submit to their idea that the climate is changing and the proximate cause of that change is human behavior. They introduce legislation (or use their pen and phone) to coerce our compliance with what they purport to believe.
They also tell us that the science on the subject is settled.
It took centuries for the Church to publicly admit that Galileo was right. Again, oops! One wonders how long it will take Dr. Torcello, et al to repeat that part of history and admit their error.
The subject of climate change began for non-scientists back in 1974 when Time Magazine published a cover story titled Another Ice Age? In only forty years the consensus of the scientific community has swung completely around on whether the planet will go from being covered in miles thick sheets of ice to one where the seas will rise to cover the Statue of Liberty because the ice caps will melt completely.
Yet it took over 2,000 years for the concept of the atom to even begin being corrected, and further research is going on today. One has to wonder if the concept of an atom, and identifying without question how the components of neutrons, protons, electrons, innumerable sub-atomic particles all interact is vastly more complex than identifying and explaining the enormous number of variables that impact and possibly change climate.
Yet we are told that it’s “settled science.” Science is never settled. Galileo found to his dismay that the only thing that is “settled” is the ever present desire of those who are already in power to control the populace (and their wealth) by limiting their ability to evaluate information for themselves and draw their own conclusions.
Can you imagine the havoc that would ensue if the ordinary people were allowed to think for themselves?