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Remember when truth was more than inconvenient?


I found myself surprisingly touched by this story of a 71-year-old MIT physics professor whose online lectures have become an internet sensation. The article includes the story of a florist whose interest in rainbows led him to Google, which led him to Professor Lewin’s videos, which eventually led him to take courses in physics, calculus, and differential equations just so he could better know the beauty he had appreciated but never fully understood.

“Professor Lewin was correct,” writes the florist. “He made me SEE…and it has changed my life for the better!”

High school provided my first taste of physics. I was an argumentative student. If something didn’t make sense to me, I pushed on it, hard. Of course, the laws of physics don’t bend, certainly not for a high school student, and when eventually I was able to move past my misunderstanding, I fell through to a world both more ordered and more profound than I had previously known. recently devoted over 4,000 words to unpacking the latest strange attempt to debunk global warming. The article, as always, is interesting and lucid, but basically it boils down to a single argument: you can’t wish away over 100 years of accumulated scientific theory and evidence with a single (apparently cooked) set of data. You just can’t.

This would seem to be a simple enough thing to grasp, but experience suggests otherwise. My line of work brings me into contact with a fair number of climate change “skeptics,” and what stands out most is the transparent badness of their arguments. Bad science and bad faith, congealed into a freefloating worldview unmoored from any unruly facts.

Which is just a damned shame. Obviously it’s a shame from a political and environmental standpoint, but it’s also a loss for the people themselves who cling to false but apparently comforting views. Environmentalists are sometimes accused of “worshipping science.” It’s an incoherent accusation, one that could only be made by someone who doesn’t understand science or environmentalism. But I will own up to loving science, both for the understanding and the wonderment it conveys.

“I walk with a new spring in my step and I look at life through physics-colored eyes,” writes the 62-year-old florist. “Thank you with all my heart.”

Photo available under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Nicholas T.

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