As a scientist, I have to bite my tongue on a regular basis, as my oh-so-modern atheistic scientific colleagues routinely assail the idiocy of my religious brethren of different faiths and denominations. However, my offense isn't what you may think. It's not that they're not right. It's that they're not any different.
While almost everybody agrees - and particularly when their loved ones are in the hospital - that "faith" is useful as an artifact for improving patient prognosis, it is only the religious right who still believes that God cures upon prayer by simple, supernatural mechanisms that defy logic. Leaving aside more powerful ideas that involve a universe-dwarfing God who optimizes the universe outside its very runtime, unbeknownst to our simpler probes, there is basically no logical cause to believe that prayer makes cancer go "poof", or to doubt that radiation, surgery, and chemo are better options. When we see true-believers driving out tumors on television, their patients falling down by the power of the imagined cure, most of us see it as something ranging from hilarious to pathetic, or at best quaint. When we see a parent relying on such, however, we feel horror for the fate of the dying child, who we realize will likely perish without the aid of modern medicine.
Believing in the generalized power of God is fine and proper, and almost certainly useful - even to the thinking of the practical atheist. But don't depend on refutable specifics which defy logic. You will get burned. Big time.
As I was saying, this kind of thinking is not the exclusive property of the religious right.
With that sobering truth in mind, hear me out. The worst scientist in America, now begs Stephen Chu, arguably the best scientist in America (and politically speaking, the top scientist), to - as we say in this part of the world - do what he is being paid to do.
ADVISE THE PRESIDENT. OF THE TRUTH. NOW.
He may not want to hear it, but there's a lot of that going around at the moment. Just - deal.
Science has been political since some poor scientist in a loincloth discovered fire, and the political chiefs and religious witch doctors of his tribe got in on the act. But there was one thing which was damn certain at that time. Fire worked, and there was plenty of stuff for it to work on. The future of fire as an energy source for mankind was not in question.
Not so, solar energy. Now, in some ways, I already have to take that back. All energy available to us now, or in the relatively near future, is basically solar. Whether it's light, wind, hydroelectric, coal, gas, or nuclear, it was basically created in or by a sun. The only way to get better than that is fusion - which means using the SAME source as the sun. So one way or another, you're talking solar. The question is, which one is smartest and best for the future of this planet.
I don't really have time to go into why all the others have something that makes them viable. To make it short, there is plenty of coal, gas, uranium, thorium, and (eventually) deuterium, although they all run out according to their own clocks. But if you get cracking on things, it will all work out. They are all expendable, but as you move up the chain, there is more and more there, and the curve works.
How do I know this? Apart from my own kind of faith in the design of the universe?
As an undergraduate in Kansas, back in the early '70's, at the beginning of the "energy crisis", there was not all that much politics surrounding energy - at least not like now. Discussion at that time was sane. It was not pathological in a mathematical sense. And at that time, I saw a remarkable presentation by an academic energy expert, whose very specific data and projections created further graphs, curves, and surfaces in my mind. I wasn't so sure of what he said then, but I am now. Everything he predicted has been borne out by history. He knew how much we had, how many people there were going to be, and he did the math. And the math said you will have to use all these forms of energy, including smart use of nuclear (meaning breed as much fuel as you can), but in the end, it will work, and it will buy you enough time to develop fusion energy. At that point, you've actually gotten on board with the sun, and are making your own solar energy.
The wonderful thing about this lecture, is that it was free of political correctness. There was no "true belief". The squares, the cubes, the bar graphs, and the curves all spoke only the truth - and what they said on behalf of what we now call "clean energy" was laughable. It was puny. There was no hope of survival on this not-yet-mythical resource. And what he did not say, but what I inferred, was that this was especially true in a world which has demanded "modernity" on this continent from the very first time an American Indian was put on a reservation. Trust me - I know all the truths you are afraid to admit. If the white people don't dig up and use up all the energy, the yellow people will. It's that simple. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with white people or yellow people, I'm just saying their cultures are very unlikely to change their core behaviors after millennia of valuing those very artifacts. And you, my dear Obama administration, under the gun of a China which believes the opposite of your dreams, are probably NOT going to be changing anything, without getting your butts changed out of office, before things change right back.
Now, I was content to keep my trap shut, until I saw THIS.
Sorry - I know this "Solyndra" thing is a sore point, but we need to talk. Very badly. You can hide the truth, but you can't hide from it. I don't care so much about your having done this, as I do about WHY you had to in the first place.
Now, the Republicans are "investigating" things, or as CNN puts it....
House Republicans are spearheading an investigation of whether Solyndra received preferential treatment because a key investor was a major fundraiser for President Barack Obama.
Of course, I know better. The Obama administration is not corrupt - not by a long shot. Compared to prior administrations of both parties, this administration had basically taken corruption off the table. A jobs bill full of political payback to supporters? No, I'm not counting that. There is simply no problem with corruption in this administration by any reasonable standard.
But I know exactly why they did favor Solyndra. Why they did give them preferential treatment. Not out of any self-serving interest at all.
It's because the Obama administration BELIEVES in solar energy. In wind energy. In "clean energy".
Well - that's the bad news. Because it's like believing in unicorns. IT AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN.
The problem with the current Democrat party is that it is basically believing in a superstition. A lie. A future that cannot possibly happen. They want it to happen so badly, they simply can't bring themselves to face the awful truths. What truths, you ask? The truth that mass-energy is conserved by the first law, and expendable by the second, but that it is not and can never ever actually be "renewable". The truth that there is no type of energy that is truly "sustainable", in a universe that is not "sustainable". The truth that there is simply not enough energy from these sources to be anything but minor, secondary energy sources. The truth that a modern economy will never function around these technologies. The truth that technologies are not just birthed by necessity - they are nursed to maturity by it, and eventually marry it. The truth that if you try to force technology without necessity - or even worse without reality - those technologies will break. They will be unprofitable. They will be doomed to failure.
But most of all, the lesson of faith healing. The truth that you can't believe something into truth. Truth in theory has to be self-evident. Truth in practice has to be self-emergent.
So - anyway - this administration needs to decide if it wants to be left behind or part of the future. But whatever it does, don't plan on riding any clean energy unicorns.
To use the terminology of that other guy...
Ain't gonna happen.