Sunday, January 13, 2008

On Wagers

In the 1660s, a French philosopher named Blaise Pascal concluded that it was a better bet to believe in God and take action accordingly than to not believe and risk whatever horrible punishment a vengeful God might unleash.

A few months ago, a high school science teacher named Greg came to a philosophically related conclusion. In this YouTube video, he explains why he thinks it's a better bet to believe in Global Warming and take action accordingly than to not believe and risk whatever horrible punishment Mother Nature might unleash.

I think the video is great. It's simple and clear. It's silly. And it's asking us to do things we should be doing: considering the gravity of our climate change situation and acting to improve it. I think people should watch it. I think people will feel important urgency because of it. And I think it will have and already has had a positive impact.

Greg tells us we need to take Global Warming seriously because we're in danger: because terrible things might happen if we don't get our collective act together, overhaul our systems, and change our behavior. What's missing from Greg's message, I think, is that we should get excited about making changes and excited about the ways those changes will make our world happier and more hospitable. We should be afraid. Fear is powerful. Arguments inspiring fear are important, necessary even. But I think equally if not more important is communication about the joy we can derive from the creative endeavor before us.

We have the tools and the ability to bring into existence a sustainable world, and I think we should all be thrilled at the opportunity to contribute to the creation of that.

Now, as a little thought exercise, imagine for a second a world in which we can elegantly harness the energy of the sun, the wind, the tides, and the molten heat inside the planet. Think about that. 100,000 years ago, we were essentially chimpanzees. 10,000 years ago, we didn't have any experience with agriculture. 150 years ago, mail traveled on horseback and by sailboat.

As a species, these past couple of hundred years, we've wreaked serious havoc. But we CAN turn it around. And I think one important reason we should turn it around is that both the process and the result are going to be fun.

One quick final thought related to Pascal's Wager: If God or religion or the supernatural interest you, please go have a look at the TED Talk Richard Dawkins gave on Militant Atheism. 30 minutes well spent, I promise. If nothing else, you'll learn the definition of "Tooth Fairy Agnostic."


Bickley said...

Way to reference Pascal's Wager. You have to appreciate philosophical content.

Jake de Grazia said...

For anyone that hasn't clicked on Bickley's name above and discovered A Philosopher in a Tree, I recommend checking it out:

Bick's been getting a little slack about it lately, but maybe all he needs is a new reader or two.

I think his blog archives will be both helpful and hugely entertaining for anyone thinking of just up and moving to China.