Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The principle of exactitude revisited


Recently in this space I presented my principle of exactitude, which asserts:

The more uncomfortable the truth, the more exacting will be the proofs required.

This was an opening gambit in a deep philosophical and political and psychological discussion of many, many things. I hadn't settled on just what those things would be. But it turned out they were super hard to write about! So I just went for a low joke right away and ran for the hills, one more of my thousands of daily blog posts ticked off on the great Internet scoreboard in my head.

But that never really works out.

I have continued to think about it...

The more uncomfortable the truth, the more exacting will be the proofs required.

It has been a very hot summer, regularly in the nineties here. It is 93 degrees as I write this. More than 30 states in this country are currently under heat warnings. And a devastating heatwave struck Continental Europe and then England, killing thousands of people. And while all this transpired I was reading an engaging and compelling book called The Ministry for the Future

The Ministry for the Future is perched between imagined non fiction and speculative science fiction. It starts out pretty dark, and resolves into something willfully optimistic. It is a kind of narrative imagining of what happens in the next 30 or so years of the global climate crisis.

There is your perfect poster child for my principle of exactitude: Global Warming. 

What could be a more uncomfortable truth than that we are boiling our planet and us, alive, within it? That we are literally in the process of murdering most of humanity.

That is very uncomfortable indeed.

And so, by our principle's reckoning,  we hold that absolute, unbreakable, entirely verified truth of Global Warming and its devastating realities to proofs of such perfection, of such unmitigated accuracy, that it cannot be shown to be true enough to do anything about it until it has already happened. 

After all, the only absolute proof that someone has terminal cancer is...

their death.


Curiously, though The Ministry for the Future was popularly and critically successful, I found a considerable amount of negativity towards the book online. I found it to be a terrific book, walking a terrible tightrope from our impossible nature as a species literally dooming us to death, to a possibility of us managing to barely do good enough to squeak through, maybe, in the end, by hook and crook. But possibly, in a relation to my very principle of exactitude, people objected to the book. I found people taking issue with its ideas of banking, social media, geopolitics, and to nearly every aspect of its climate science. There were even criticisms that the book could not be good because Obama and Bill Gates both famously liked it (hint: Villains do not generally recognize themselves as such, and especially so the kind of conditional villains who would actually read such a book as this).

These criticisms were not mostly leveled by climate change deniers, but that is by no means a necessary rebuttal to my principle. The Ministry for the Future throws the kitchen sink at the problem of Climate Change and at late stage capitalism itself. A science fiction, it imagines possibilities to the best of its ability out of the most plausible realities it can express. It creates a new currency based on carbon sequestering. It throws dust into the upper atmosphere for cooling. It creates assassins killing the worst climate criminals. It employs shame and politics and popular uprisings. It builds airships and solar ships to replace jets and supertankers. If some of these things are too fanciful, or are not grounded enough, and that is one's sticking point with the book, one misses the spirit of the book as badly as Obama and Bill Gates in their self-satisfied complacency have misunderstood the spirit of the book. It takes a very, very uncomfortable truth, and all it does is demand proofs.

While driving through our hot city this evening (burning fossil fuel!) we saw a man on a corner holding a sign. This sign had a picture of Donald Trump, and it said "Liar".

I think he had something there.

We may all die arguing over things we already know are true.

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