Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Case for Alternate Realities

I remember a particular episode on Star Trek (the original series) called "The Alternate Factor," where Kirk and Spock tangle with an alien by the name of Lazarus who keeps exchanging places with another Lazarus in an alternate universe. One Lazarus is calm, rational, lucid and with a firm grip on reality; the other hysterical, irrational, mad and delusional.

As I go over the top news stories of the week - indeed the major issues of the last year - and I watch with horror the reaction by far-right conservatives, it's occurred to me that there might be something to this alternate universe thing after all. Whoever coined the phrase truth is stranger than fiction never met this group.

Yesterday at Fort Hood, another senseless shooting claimed more innocent lives. This is the second time in less than five years this base has been visited by such violence. Within hours of the massacre GOP representative Mike McCaul was on Fox News suggesting that personnel on military bases should be able to carry concealed weapons, because, as any "sensible" person knows, the problem with gun violence is there aren't enough of them. Remember what Wayne LaPierre said: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Unless of course you're Sarah Palin; then it's a good guy with a nuke. I swear these people won't be satisfied until we have the capability of creating another sun. Oh, wait, we do. Never mind.

But while one madman was going on his shooting rampage in Texas, earlier in the day in Washington, five more gutted what was left of the American political system. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down limits to campaign contributions.  The decision was heralded by the usual "corporations are people" brigade as a victory for freedom. Hurray!

Just a couple days before that, the IPCC (the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released its latest report on global warming. The conclusions of these scientists were anything but optimistic. Unless drastic measures are taken soon, global temperatures will rise 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century along with corresponding sea levels. The report also predicts an increase in food shortages, natural disasters and risk of wars. Even more alarming was the revelation that these effects might be irreversible.

As you might expect, it didn't take long for the global warming deniers to find their own group of "scientists" to dispute the IPCC's findings. Their conclusion? Everything is just honky dory. Nothing to see here. Just go about your business. Global warming is nothing but a hoax, and even if it isn't, mankind's not responsible for it. Case closed.

And, speaking of deniers, the Creationists have been all over Neil deGrasse Tyson, the narrator of Carl Sagan's legendary documentary series Cosmos, demanding equal time to present their side of what they think is an actual debate. What set them off?  Well it seems old Neil had the audacity to state that the age of the universe is 13.8 billion years. Adding insult to injury, he went out of his way to rip those who keep insisting it's only 6,500 years old.

To prove his point, deGrasse Tyson used something Creationists seem to have a hard time grappling with: facts. He pointed out that a light year is the distance light travels in one solar year. So if a star is 6,500 light years away, it would take 6,500 years for its light to reach us; if a star is a million light years away, it would take a million years for its light to reach us. So if your whole theory of the origins of the universe rests upon said universe being only 6,500 years old, then how do you explain the fact that we can see stars that are millions of light years away? Don't hold your breath waiting for an answer that makes sense; Creationists don't have one. They never did.

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't include the story of the week: Obamacare. The Administration released its figures and it turns out the number of people who enrolled in the ACA, either through the federal or state exchanges, is just over seven million. Despite the nightmarish start involving the website issues and the slow progress of enrollment in the first couple of months, the Administration did in fact reach its goal.

Unless you're one of the bubble people who hail from the alternate universe. In that event, there were only 858 thousand who enrolled in Obamacare. Where did the 858 thousand number come from? That's the number of people who supposedly have paid their premiums and who didn't already have insurance plans, according to the Daily Mail, who cited a Rand Corporation study.

The Rand study? Good luck finding it - I tried and couldn't. Supposedly only the L.A. Times has seen it. But that hasn't stopped the bubble people from believing it and spreading it around like fertilizer. Like the Benghazi and I.R.S. "scandals," proof is not only unnecessary; it's unwelcome. After all, why destroy a good fantasy over something as trivial as facts?

So, let's see if I can sum up the alternate universe stances on the major issues. We need more guns to deter gun violence; there's absolutely nothing wrong with our political system that more money can't help; global warming is a myth; science is overrated; Obamacare is a train wreck; Benghazi is a coverup and the I.R.S. is out to get conservative groups.

Well, I'm glad that's settled. There's just one last question remaining.

What of Lazarus?

1 comment:

steve said...

Pastors worry about their parishioners showing up late to church. Well, the church has shown up late to just about every major scientific breakthrough and human rights struggle over the past 2000 years. That does not negate the achievements and courage of individual Christian trailblazers, like Wilberforce or MLK. But on the whole, as a demographic, our record is poor.