The answer to climate change? Stay stupid!
From corporate interest groups to journalists looking to sensationalize a story, to political ideologues, scientific writing is fair game: treat it, not for what it is, but as a form of rhetoric--a naive rhetoric that makes no effort to embed its statements in defensive ambiguity, and so, the victim of all the grown-up versions of playground bullies.
Evolution and climate science have been the prize targets of late. Recent posts on RealClimate HERE and HERE give you an idea of how this works, and what demands it places on scientists who take seriously their responsibility to inform the general public.
Why for me, the contributors to RealClimate--and Cosmic Variance, among others, are the heroes of our time. The service they provide to the general public in taking time from their real work is invaluable.
There's a parallel here: we complain about the coverage of literature and the arts, but compared to how the established media treats science--thoroughly corrupted in equal parts by politics and the drive to "entertain," literature comes off pretty well... only because, I suppose, for those with their claws on the levers of power, it matters so much less.
In reading a series of comments on This Space, I was struck by how we are assaulted, in a similar way, by those who launch rhetorical challenges and attacks that are impossible to answer. The most difficult (my illustration here).. are from those who have a degree of intelligence, education... but mistake engagement for confrontation... (or is it, confrontation for engagement?) impossible to know how or what to say to them.
No, science is not the model for aesthetics or critical thought--the analogy to science is just that... a richly ambiguous metaphor. What we should take seriously, is how--the different ways--that theories change. In science, the idea is that that each change leads us closer, to a more all embracing understanding. In aesthetics, no such ultimate goal is possible... or meaningful. We need to free ourselves, not of past errors, as in science, but of the past itself. Which is of course, impossible. So it isn't the past we need to break away from, but a present viewed and understood exclusively in the terms and ideas of the past, without acknowledging how much we--and our way of seeing, feeling, thinking... has changed, and so altered the "reality" we would, as writers, as "artists" represent.
And yet, in this critical debate... conflict... whatever you want to call it, I am at a loss to know how, or with whom, to engage on those elements that matter most to me, as a thinker (such as I manage to be), as a writer, as a reader.
I very much wanted to add a comment to that exchange on This Space--but when another exchange only tightens the jaws of the rhetorical bear trap... what is one to do?