A while [read: ages] ago, Aelianus sent me a link to this video, asking for my comments:

These are the messages another blogger derived from it:

  • MSG is not unhealthy
  • Nuclear Power is the safest method of energy production there is
  • Fracking is not as bad as the media/NGOs would have us believe
  • Gas is efficient
  • NGOs market just as much as Industries

Of course, I felt flattered by this question and would, ideally, have written a pithy, succinct summary of the results of my profound meditation on the subject.

Reality intervening, I will give you my random thoughts in two posts.

1. Just to clear the air: yes, I DO think that ‘environmentalists’ exaggerate with the aim of advancing their agenda. This may be caused by ignorance, ideology, or strategy, and, in any case, is annoying.

And let us just disregard, in what follows, most of the environmental scares linked to health. Exaggerated concerns about one’s health by far pre-date any environmentalism, at least in the classes that had the leisure for it because they were not starving or regularly dying of illnesses caused by poverty. Nearly everything can kill you, depending on circumstances. If you want to avoid all possibly health-damaging stuff, life will probably not be worth living anyway. ‘You’ll just die healthy’, as my family says.

Come on, I grew up eating school meals from ALUMINIUM cutlery.
Come on, I grew up eating school meals from ALUMINIUM cutlery.

2. I guess Aelianus asked me for my opinion because I was one of the scientists amongst his friends. I would like to stress that the label ‘scientist’ does not go very far in qualifying me for judging the statements made in this talk. In fact, in nearly every case of ‘environmental-concern- against-the-rest-of-the-world’, the issue has been very – complex. No easy yes-and-no, conflicting experimental evidence, many things depending on circumstances, the whole an optimization process depending on many inputs.

You cannot have it all, snobby philosophists/theologists – this is a hazy area where we only know stuff by percentage of probability, and not absolutely. You cannot have your cake and eat it: while in your field, absolute certainty is possible, in OUR field, certainty should be proportional to actual knowledge of the field.

alpha_beta_error

THIS is what we are dealing with. (And yes, it is bad enought to split infinitives over.)

For this reason, opinions can be swayed so easily from either side. In most cases, proponents of both sides do not tell direct lies, but present a one-sided choice of known facts, blow things out of proportion, or jump upon the one new scientific study that appears to support their claim. In judging what is really more or less likely to be the truth, you have to actually have to have very, very good factual knowledge. [Which is one of the reasons why I detest all arguments about evolution.]

To cut a long story short: I try to be extremely careful about my opinions on any of these environmental topics when they do not fall into my field of expertise.

… to be kontinewed, ehem, continewed, tomorrow.

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