Monday, December 07, 2009

Uncertainty and Religion

It seems to me that one of the great benefits of religion (I was raised in a Catholic Family, but do not currently subscribe to any religion) is it's ability to eliminate uncertainty. For instance, I know of no one who has first hand account of what happens when you die. I am fairly certain my body will be turned to ash, or buried in the earth and eaten by worms. But my "soul" - my consciousness - I have no idea. In the Catholic tradition, the spirit (if all goes well) rises to heaven. Whew! Uncertainty contained! Now my belief in what will happen (my soul rising to heaven after I die) has replaced the uncertainty of not knowing (no one has ever come back - at least in modern times - to tell us what happens).

The study of the earth's climate has become a religion, in that it believes that it has erased all uncertainty, and replaced it with a truth.

In both religion and climate science (or, the religion of climate science) the belief has, well, a caveat. I was perhaps a bit cavalier when I mentioned my soul would rise to heaven when I die. In fact, it could sink to hell. BUT, if I subscribe to a particular behavior attached to a moral code, I will ensure that my soul will rise to heaven.

The same holds true for the religion of climate science. Uncertainty in the data/models/predictions is replaced with concrete convictions that are already aligned with an existing and popular moral code. Then it becomes fantastically easy to garner support for policy that has a particular moral agenda, in this case the rejection of a world economy based upon carbon (i.e. the burning of fossil fuels).

I am an artist. I am OK with the fact I have no idea what will happen to my consciousness after I die. I assume it will cease to exist, just as I have no recollection any life prior to my birth. That's fine. I am OK with the idea that the earth is changing in ways that may change the way we humans live. Believing that doesn't stop me from trying to be the best person I can, nor does it deter me from trying to maintain a very simple lifestyle, with as minimal an impact as I can. I am fortunate to have a decent job, generous landlords, a beautiful fiance, and good health. We use our car very infrequently, eat almost exclusively local foods, and try to disdain the material life.

I don't need certainty about the demise of the planet to support my belief I should have as minimal an impact as possible, just as I don't need the certainty of going to hell for murdering someone to know that it would be a very bad thing to kill someone.

Try embracing uncertainty for a day or two. See how it feels. I think you might like it.

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