Wind, Tides, Maps, Weather...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Science vs Gut Feelings

I run a web site called Fishing politics is a big deal to me, and if you want to know more about it, feel free to visit the site at your earliest convenience. If you like what we write here on ThePoliticalSandbox, you can help us a lot by “Liking” the site. It’s a commercial venture, and at the rate the environmentalists in this nation and the world are shutting fishing down, we don’t have all that much time to keep it running. You might not know this, but sport fishing the way we love it – Catch and Release for the most part, with table fare taken as desired and only taken for that night’s meals – is now illegal in two countries in Europe (Germany and Sweden, bless their well-machined souls). We do not freeze fish, nor gift it to our neighbors. No serious angler does. We’re environmentalists. If we do not protect the waters, who will?
Environmentalists, That’s who. In an effort to protect those poor fish from plebian medieval thinkers like us, they got their slimy hands into the writing of the nation’s only fishery management law – one called the Magnusson/Stevens Fishery Management Act. We’re fighting hard to rewrite it, and are getting close, with major success of late, since the Tea Party began running the house. But that’s not what this story is about.
This story is about a lump of coal, barometric pressure, and a heart valve in the chest of a little girl I’ve never had the blessing to meet. I thought you might like how it came about.
We have a section on our web site called “Ask the Captain”. On that site component, my partner, retired cop turned Make-a-Wish spokesman and complete her of mine answers a few of the many dozens of questions he gets every day from our thousands and thousands of readers (you really should check it out, and again, Like it for us). In that section last week, David answered a question about barometric pressure, and whether or not it effects the behavior of the sports fish we target. Our lives are about fishing, so questions like that – and specifically questions about barometric pressure – are common.
He answers it the way I or any (most) anglers would. “Yup! It sure does, Mr. Jones. In fact, if the barometer is falling, fish tend to eat more.” He found a very cool graphic somewhere on the web, and without asking permission of whoever drew it in the first place, put it into the story. That’s a no-no. Commonly done on the web, using stuff without specific permissions is not cool. I am a creative. I hate it when people use my stuff and do not stroke my ego. Damn it. My ego is what it is all about, right?
So we get “the” letter. It says that “I appreciate your using my artwork, but if you don’t mind, could you give me credit for it.?” The letter was from a doctor David Ross. Doctor Ross turned out to be a serious angler, and I am getting to meet him. It was Doctor Ross’s comment to my partner David that he had “Proven that barometric pressure has no effect on fish. Not if the water is deeper than a ‘few inches’”
I’m sorry. The doctor might have the best experience fishing for salmon (and stripers and whatever swims, the guy IS a serious angler, which amazes me even more), but I believe, and I think mostly anybody that fishes believes, that whatever scientific evidence the doctor might have collected and written about (he made sure I knew he’s written many books. Like two I think. And a lot of articles). I am not busting this guy, but I am sorry, Doctor. But you haven’t proven shit to me. I fish, you fish, and you count stuff. You are surely convinced that your intelligent, scientific, academic mind, heaped as it is in the lore and lure of sportfishing, has proven something to the world, but you aint. Not to me you ain’t. Fish eat more if the barometer is falling. End of story.
So I am putting a poll up on the web site in the next day or so. It asks anglers if they think – or know in their guts – that fish do bite more if the pressure is falling. I know what the poll is going to say.
I also know that recently I read a book by a guy that “proved” that there is no God. There is no heaven, there is no afterlife, and although it makes the archaic and shallow-minded feel better, that’s all it is: fake emotions and belief systems meant to make the stupid (not college educated and really best-of-all employed on tenure where you cannot get fired no matter how obnixious or anti-American your “thoughts” might be) feel good about a confusing (to them, not to the author, of course) universe. They look up at that night sky and laugh at the fact the somebody like me doesn’t see neutrons. He sees magic. He sees God.
This is an email I was gonna send to the Doctor in response. A letter about the barometer. But like often happens, my thoughts strayed. And they went to a little girl I have not met yet. A little girl with a heart valve.
I hope you enjoy reading the mail. I didn’t send it to him. I thought it better placed here.
I am doing a poll. Whether people who fish a lot believe what you very well might have proven a myth.
I anticipate 90% of the people that respond -- and we will have 1,000 at least -- will believe that without question barometric change makes fish eat. Specifically drops in pressure. I sure believe it. And like you I've been on the water all my life. 54 of 59 years, anyway.
This is fascinating. For a couple of reasons.
I am sure you got my message from last night -- about fishing politics and my experience with Drs Pauly and Worm. Doctor Worm and Pauly, as you probably know, wrote a white paper about the same time as Mann published the Hockey Stick Global warming chart for all the world to determine was the end-all in climate change. The publishing of the Pauly/Worm paper was very closely related to the publishing of the Mann materials. And got the same kind of fear-based, Al-Gore-prompted panic.Coincidence?
I am not a scientist. It's warmer this year than I remember in the years I've lived on the Bay. Two years ago mostly all our snook died from a 40-day run of the coldest weather ever. Is the climate changing? In my short life, arguably yes. But like many people, I believe in science until it becomes apparent that it is being used -- by people playing both sides of any political argument based on said numerics -- to move around vast amounts of money.
Unfortunately for the scientific community, and this is scary but definitely true -- the panic-politics of Al Gore, and many, many other fear-communicators -- they have been attached to shear madness. I am a person that believes that Al Gore saw the money on the wall, and ran with hit. His passion is not based on a willingness to consider climactic change over a million years. It's just not. And at this point it is hard to listen to what might very well be solid evidence that every man, woman, and child on the earth reverting to seventh-century utopian agricultural lifestyle, sans iPads and sans Heart Valves made from coal products will somehow save our planet from some planet-poisoning short-term event. I, like many other rational people, weigh global activity, not American and western cultural activity in a glass bubble. We live in a global world. Us throwing away our iPads is not gonna slow down the Indians (you been there, Professor? You should go if not; China, too. There are more smart people without shoes in both countries than we have people. Smart people with degrees as thick as yours or any academic I know).
So meeting a guy like Ray Hilborn from the University of Washington, or meeting you, is quite refreshing. Perhaps through relatively intelligent conversations, we can learn to agree that man is, indeed, having some impact on the world, and can always improve his stewardship.
But we might also agree that that oil industry - the one vilified daily by a rabid media hungry to diminish the power of free markets -- the power of "darwinian economics" -- gives us coal.
Do you remember that superman episode, doctor, where the Man of Steel found himself -- in his guise as Clark Kent, Mild Mannered Reporter for a Great Metropolitan Newsletter -- near an idol in some remote jungle? He was with his girlfriend and Jimmy, his trusted companion. Somebody had stolen the eye of the tribe's idol. It was a palm-sized diamond. The tribe was pissed off, as you can well imagine. Not able to just squeeze the juice out of the tribal chief, who was very close to stabbing trusted companion Jimmy in the heart with his stone-age spear without showing his true nature as the Man of Steel, son of the dead planet come to earth as a super-hero, Clark Kent saw a piece of coal on the ground. Aha!!! said he (you could see his thoughts in a bubble in the upper right corner). He was thinking squeeeeeze.
So he takes the coal, hides it in his palm, and sticks his hand into the mud underneath the statue of the (now) one-eyed idol. Under the mud, and under the cover of his mild-mannered alter ego, he squeezed that coal till it turned into a diamond. About 27 minutes into the episode, The most Super of Dudes put the now-transformed piece of coal into the hole where the thieves had purloined the original stone, and all was well. He was, as he often was, the hero to Lois Lane and Jimmy. Hurrah.
As you know, the purest and most valuable of all diamonds is simply that: a piece of coal squeezed by the super powers of Mother Earth. In my archaic mind, Doctor, by the tight hands of a brilliant, unknown, and Divine intelligence. In the Bahgavad Gita -- the "Hindi Bible" of sorts -- there is a scene where God (who is actually the key player's own consciousness unleashed to its full glory and power) is talking to the character "Arjuna" about what "he" is. What "God" is. He says "it is you, Arjuna. You are the mountains, you are the sun, and you are the oceans."
He closes by saying "The man who knows the difference between a diamond and a lump of dog shit knows not what either one is made of."
Somewhere, Doctor, there is a child. A three-year old. A little girl. I have met her, and do not know her face. But as sure as I type this message, Doctor, I know that she exists. In her chest is a heart valve. A heart valve made of plastic. Made by a man or woman whose collective intelligence reaches back to that battlefield that day. That battlefield named Kurukshetra. And just like superman, he squeezed a lump of coal to make that diamond in that little girl's chest.
Would environmentalism shut down that coal mine, Doctor? No. It would not. Not true environmentalism spawned by a love for all things. But a love that comes, first of all, for that little girl with the diamond in her chest. 
So science used by a global movement that fundamentally hates that lump of coal is something I push back from, Doctor. That lump of coal is that heart valve. And the idiots that think otherwise should only have that baby girl of which I think as their life's stewardship assignment. Because such assignments come from somewhere, Doctor. And they catch the most unsuspecting of us by surprise.
God Bless America, Doctor David. It's going to be a good thing to have you to talk to.
TO MY READERS!!! I am no replacement for Gary Anderson on this Sandbox, but it’s fun to play here. Gary is resting at Home in Northport, and would love your comments. You can email him at and he will try to respond to your mails. He knows he’s in your prayers.

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