Thursday, December 3, 2009

OPINION: On Tiger, Climate Change & Ethics in Science, & Troops

Well, what a news-packed and sad day or two it has been. I won't even mention the health care fiasco bill that is going down in flames or the six suspects in the CA gang-rape case who are are pleading "not guilty"--despite the fact that almost a dozen people looked on as the rape of a 15-year-old girl was occurring. Disgusting.

OK, maybe I will--since I just did.

But on to the big three. I'll begin with the easiest, beause frankly, I'm not sure how I feel about it...

More troops for Afganistan. (

I am torn between wanting all the troops to come home, wanting the horrific violence and injustice to end in Afghanistan, and ambivalence toward President Obama. (What a thankless job, President of the United States. Although I have been an Obama supporter, I always have to wonder a bit about people who would run for a job like this. But back to the point.) Since Obama has been pretty much anti-war during his political career, one can only imagine the kind of intelligence he has access to that would make him want to send in the troops. Perhaps to support the troops that are already there? (Speaking of thankless jobs...) Perhaps because there is good reason to believe that "victory" is close at hand? But I weary of war, and political posturing, and the destruction of lives, families, and culture that are happening all around the globe. I feel ashamed every time I hear of a vet that returns home to the U.S., only to find lost job opportunities, broken famililes, and medical needs not being met by the very country these vets have given their lives for...

On to climate change, and ethics in science. And data. And data manipulation. (

First, I must say that I am sad and disappointed and angry. All at once. In my world, there should be a special kind of hell for a "special" kind of traitor. What kind of traitor? Traitors like women who hate women (Hello, Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter.) Like supposed liberals who do things like compromise on womens' health issues, or conservatives who decry "invasive government" but are the first to want to get into your bedroom, dictate who you can and can't marry, and force-feed you their idea of religion.

In a similar vein, I am SO mad at Phil Jones. Because I personally believe (REALLY believe, in the depths of my soul) that humans are having an impact on the climate, and that the impact is largely negative for human life and other life on which humans most rely. I also believe that a world's climate is an incredibly complex system that cannot be modeled well. However, on virtually any local level, a motivated person can find evidence that human activity is altering the world. (But for some perspective, humans always HAVE impacted their environment. It's what we do. We are animals that are consummate tool-makers, and our particular brand of intelligence motivates us to seek out what is new and novel, and adapt it to our liking. Other animals do as well. Just not on the scale we do.) So why did Phil Jones take actions that appear to be tantamount to fudging data and squashing research?

It remains to be seen the extent to which the above happened. But it does seem pretty clear that our friend Phil is probably not the greatest guy, and it is also a shame that he did not have enough faith in his research to let it speak for itself. Granted, there are global climate changes that occur irregardless of human activity--there were before humans ever got here. But again, it seems pretty clear that we are having a negative impact.

Perhaps he lost sight of what is truly important due to political pressure or his own need to be King of the Hill. Science is political. And every academic and others who collect and make sense of data for a living know that data need to be manipulated--not in the negative sense of the word--but "data manipulation" is, essentially, the process of going through your data, trying to make sense of it, and making it presentable and understandable for a variety of audiences. Most data can be made to support any position. It is a matter of what you keep, what you throw away, how you code it, and what statistics you use on it. Nevertheless, Phil has clearly now done exactly what a person in his position should NOT be doing--giving reasons for the opposition to throw out the human-environment impact theory en masse.

So I appeal to those of you who may not be convinced that we are having a negative impact--don't smugly sit back, feel vindicated, and throw your recyclables out with the trash. Do you really need scientists to tell you what you can probably see with your own eyes? What logic dictates? For example: Yes, carbon dioxide is "natural." It is in our atmosphere whether we are here or not. But we evolved within this ecosystem that had a certain ratio of CO to oxygen and other gases. If we upset that ratio when we could do otherwise, how can the result be anything but bad for us??

This is our only planet. Whether you believe we were given stewardship of it by God or Gaia; whether you believe we are here purposefully or by happenstance, we are here. Don't trash this wonderful gift that we will hand down to our children. Don't blindly decide to be "pro" or "anti" on this issue simply because your political affiliation, or religious affiliation--or any affiliation, for that matter--tells you to. Think. Feel. Then decide.

On to Tiger...

I thought I would end up writing the most about this, but I don't think that may happen after seeing everything I've already written above :-) Here is my one question to you all: Why are you surprised?

Powerful men always have--and always will--act in ways that are "outside" of what the rest of society is expected to adhere to. (Those on the "inside" however--the other power-brokers--know that they can behave any way they want, while publicly supporting "what is right.") Why do powerful men do this? They do it because they are powerful. They do it because they can. To wield power is to be attractive, and women (and some men, I don't want to discriminate *grin*)like attractive men.

So, I am not the least bit surprised that Tiger cheated on his wife. He is gorgeous, athletic, smart, and personable. He clearly has women throwing themselves at him. And at some point, the temptation must just have been too great. At some point, he decided the rules did not have to apply to him. Who can blame him? This is a person that has been told for his entire life that he is exceptional. You do the math.

I would have way more respect for Tiger and other powerful men if they were just honest from the get-go. If you fall in love with someone and want them to be your life-partner and have a family with them, but are not sure you want to be faithful, say so. There are plenty of women who, given the choice, would choose to be living a very comfortable life with someone they care about, even if it means he may not always be faithful. Not everyone of course--but let's face it--many women would.

So let's stop being so shocked when our public icons let us down. I am not saying they are necessarily bad people, I do think there is something about power and celebrity that alters a person's judgement on certain matters.

We are only animals, after all.

As an aside, take a note here Tiger et al. Don't sleep with someone you don't trust. As this situation has once again shown, today's declaration of lust is tomorrow's paycheck, talk-show circuit, and book deal.


  1. Good post, Suzanne! Regarding Tiger, on top of everything else... why does that even have to be a top headline in regular paper... I mean, it's not like any of the other important points you mentioned really need to have the news coverage that OMG TIGER WOODS CHEATED have... but,really, I got more from your post than headline news! ;) At least you had the right mind to put things in some semblance of order of importance. Keep writing!

  2. Loved your post.

    I feel disappointed in Obama for making the choice to send more troops when the government of Afghanistan is obviously corrupt and doesn't deserve another 30K of our men and women. Mike's son Joah is headed there in January and we both are feeling rather uneasy about it.

    I agree with the climate change rant. I loop that in with my conspiracy theory about that person in a coma who is "locked in"--- there is something fishy about it, and someday we are going to find out that Conservatives had something to do with it...

    As far as Tiger goes, I am not suprised, but I think there is suprise more because he doesn't look like a player. I don't buy the idea that it must be hard to have beautiful women throw themselves at you... I think that if you are going to be faithful, then you can indeed be. It definitely is the power that goes to people's heads. It was not enough to have an absolutely gorgeous wife, have millions of dollars. It seems for some people, that combination just spells boredom.

  3. Glad you liked the post, Trish. :-) I don't know why Tiger's private life has to be such a big headline, either. I think that largely people get a sick pleasure out of seeing those with "charmed" lives fall a few pegs.

    I will keep writing (at least I'm trying!) Thanks!

    Heidi, I'm sorry to hear about Jonah. :-(