WHEREIN your author am seduced by the Light Side
It started eighteen months and four days ago, the night I picked an argument with my wife’s Dean.
He was one of those low-information, high-adamancy climate alarmists who are in such oversupply at our tertiary institutions, they’re giving them away with any $30 purchase at the Student Union Gift Shop. The conversation was producing more BTU than cd, primarily because this drelb kept circling back to what appeared to be the only fact he’d picked up in twenty-plus years of climate: “Ninety seven percent of someone believe anthropogenic global warming is man-made, or whatever.”
“Fine, OK, let’s accept that,” I said after half an hour of this stupiderie, all the while assuring myself it was a harmless concession. “Solo ad argumentum.”
It’s not like I had to believe it. I could stop any time I wanted, right?
Wrong. There’s a good reason why hard scientists like John Cook, PhD (Blog. Psych.), have called the consensus on climate change a ‘gateway belief.’
Before long I’d graduated to harder and harder beliefs. I soon had a full-blown multiple-belief-a-day habit. At my low point, I was believing six impossible things before breakfast. (It’s hard to believe now, but if you knew me then, believe me: you’d believe me.)
How did things ever come to such an ebb?
I could go on and on about how it was the fault of everyone around me, especially my wife’s tree-molesting coworkers, for enabling my slow descent into belief-dependency.
And that’s true. It was.
With that first acknowledgement of common ground, their fear and loathing of me palpably softened. Acceptance bred acceptance. But it was never enough. I started chasing the warm tingle of belonging, and that meant agreeing with increasingly-scientific science.
So, in my defence, the believalist lifestyle does have a way of creeping up on one. But if I’m being honest with myself, which I try to avoid for obvious reasons, I was never just a social believer, was I?
There was a bigger, deeper factor at work as well, something we contrarians don’t really like to talk about in case it scares away potential recruits: denying science is hard work.
And denying this science is practically Herculean. Frankly I don’t know how we manage sometimes.
Back in the usenet days, I thought rejecting evolution was exhausting. What an innocent! Modern biology is barely 98.2% true, last time I checked—most of us here could deny that in our sleep (and according to recent fMRI studies, we do).
If you’d told me I was going to become a world-leading denier of climate science one day—a field that’s just passed the 320% true mark—I’d have said you had the wrong guy. Nobody’s that good!
Yet here we are.
But the moment you let go of all that skepticism…. well, you can probably imagine the feeling of unburdenedness. It’s as if your head has been full of molasses all these years (refractive index ~2.2), slowing down the fibre-optic signals of your ideation. But just give up and admit the truth, and it’s like your skull is suddenly full of air (~1.0), or a vacuum on a good day.
You feel three pounds lighter overnight (slightly less for a female brain). You want to skip down the street like a Pole* stepping out of an enema clinic. I speak only from rumor, of course, but I’m told the high of a colonic is real, so it’s real high on my bucket list.
Before you judge me, bear in mind that I’m not the average denier—I’m what you might call, epidemiologically, a Never Believer. I came out of the womb fighting the facts, and I never stopped. Whenever discussion used to turn, around the denialist water-cooler, to what it was that first “woke us up,” I felt left out. I never had a conversion story to share, because I was born woke.
The idiom “think for yourself” didn’t even make sense to me; it sounded two words too long. So when I surrendered, as a middle-aged man, to the lassitude of cultural cognition for the first time, it was like that virgin hit of heroin. And I think I get it now: the euphoric appeal of outsourcing your own cognition to the herd; of believing whatever you’re told just because it happens to be true.
But the iron laws of neural plasticity and synaptic adaptation catch up to you sooner or later, don’t they? The hedonic treadmill is metaphorical, but only just. There are no single-edged swords in the psychology of addiction.
Soon my climate beliefs were impacting everything: my finances, my self-esteem, my romantic life. Even my marriage.
Before I knew it I’d pwned the last of my wife’s jewelry to fill the tip jar at DeSmogBlog, an invaluable resource for people who want to protect their
belief– fact-system from assault by other opinions lies. Then I started raiding her bank account, which was easy because it was a joint account, to subsidize the Hockeymandia Climate Defense Legal Fund, all the while desperately suppressing the consciousness that I was really just robbing myself.
You grow up. You top your class at West Point. You marry the homecoming queen. You have a certain image of yourself. Then one day you’re brushing your teeth and it hits you that you don’t even recognize the junkie staring back at you in the mirror, froth-mouthed and slack-jawed with unfamiliarity.
If not for our newborn offspring Hunter, I probably never would have found my way back to the Sith of skepticism.
The story of his or her conception and birth is an epic saga that could fill a human-embryology textbook of its own. But it wouldn’t be of much interest to CliScep readers, so let me tell you about it here.
To be continued when Part 3 continues in ‘Part 4: Part 3, Part 2.’
*For ‘Pole,’ feel free to read any ethnonym you find evocative of the concept low-fibre-diet-eating, sausage-famed, non-Italian (etc.) person.
Not recommended, however, is the word I originally had there… until a US-literate friend quietly warned me that it was an ethnic slur. Which is insane. It was just a straight-line, lossless Anglicization of a certain language’s word for people who speak that language. (I’ve been using polaco all my life when I speak Spanish, and that’s not considered derogatory, which superredundantly proves my point: English is just one big case of PC gone troppo.)
But who am I to argue with usage? Lexicography is the opposite of science: in lexicography, consensus is king.
Hence the correction I made, invisibly. Beyond apologizing (without assuming any moral blame) to my readers, I don’t really want to talk about it.
English, get your word-hoard in order.