Sunday, October 02, 2016

Should you have the time …

… James Gleick's Tour of Time Travel. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This is long and dense and, I confess, about something I'm not greatly interested in. I did get more than halfway through it, though, and in the discussion of causation, one sentence in particular caught my eye: "The burning of oil and coal in the air causes climate change." It caught my eye, in part, because just a few paragraphs earlier, we are told that "we’re not very good at understanding causes." And given that the very nature of climate is change — it is characterized by a nonlinear dynamic, to employ a term included in the very title of this piece — it seems we have something of a problem. To put this within the context of the topic of this article, climate was doing what it does — change— long before there was any burning of oil and coal in the air, so that earlier climatic process could not have been caused by such. (I am not, by the way, even remotely suggesting that the burning of fossil fuels has not had an effect on Earth's climate. It surely has. How great an effect is another question altogether. I think there are more significant factors involved, though reasonable steps should be taken to keep the air as clean as possible, obviously.) Anyway, had I edited this piece, I would have suggested revising that sentence somewhat.

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