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The Rational Optimist

Ever since man started living in a community, society has been plagued by a plethora of superstitions. With time, even though some superstitions have fallen from the limelight and have given centre stage to newer ones, the nature of the superstitions at any given time has remained more or less constant.

The two basic things that every superstition thrives on are fear and ignorance. Sadly, majority of the population today prefer to live in ignorance than to embark upon a path that will enlighten them, and an even greater majority lives in fear of one thing or another. I used to wonder as a child why there was so much of blind-belief persisting in an age where information was just waiting to present itself to even the most half-hearted of seekers. Now I have my answer. As long as there is fear and ignorance around, blind-belief thrives.
Let me take you as an example. If someone tells you something, the first thing you will do is ask yourself if you believe what is being told. If you do, you leave it at that (or tell more people perhaps). If you don't, then you try to convince the other party into believing your side of it. There are some people who don't even bother to do this but stay ignoring what was said by the other (which will be forgotten by next morning). Either way, a majority of such situations will result in one coercing the other into taking his opinion. Only a handful of such situations will give rise to a constructive debate that will give food for thought for both parties. This is one of the reasons why it is so easy to reach a mass opinion on most things in a very short period of time. There might be a third case where the listening party might not have any knowledge on the topic of discussion and will (majority of the time) make that his opinion on that matter for future reference. This first opinion is hard to change and gives rise to prejudices.
Coming back to blind beliefs, this is the communication process that provides a comfortable home for superstitions. Most people find it easier and more comfortable to believe what they hear the first time (on which they have no prior opinion) than to ponder over the facts and come up with a rational analysis that will (probably) lead him to a different opinion.
With this in the background, try to analyse the (myth of) global warming. I'm sure the first opinion most people would have heard about global warming is a negative one saying how it will lead to submergence of coastal areas, cause cancer through increased radiation, etc, etc, and undoubtedly this would have transformed into their own opinion on the issue (without any facts, analyses, nothing). Fewer people would have heard the other opinion.
Global warming/Climate change has been billed the biggest problem that mankind will face in the 21st century. If you wish to clamber out of ignorance and take a rational view at things and analyse for yourself what is better for mankind in the 21st century (nuclear energy or bio/wind/solar fuel, for example), I suggest you read 'THE RATIONAL OPTIMIST' by Matt Ridley.

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