Yale University

Sound Off !

Reply to Gordon Davis "Closing the Books on Global Climate Change"

Charles Goldman

September 19, 2013

Category: Science and Technology > Earth Sciences

First, I want to express my gratitude for the existence of this forum; I think it is a good idea, and gives me and others a chance to see what a cohort of our age group with at least one thing in common (Yale, 1964) is thinking as we approach the end of our third act. Now, I am writing mainly in response to the Sound Off article by Gordon Davis titled "Closing the Books on Global Climate Change."

While I do not disagree with anything Mr. Davis wrote, I am a little taken aback by the pessimistic tone. I notice that many Sound Off contributors have written about their spiritual journeys, and am impressed that there are so many variations (Mormon, Jewish, various Protestants, Scientology), and that they are pretty upbeat. But Mr. Davis speaks of "deluded idealists", and I can't help thinking he would include the spiritual (religious) optimists in that group.

My life's philosophical struggle is ongoing, though I don't think I will come to a satisfactory conclusion about the meaning of human existence. Like Mr. Davis, I see no reason to believe the human species will survive, and religion offers me no help. For better or worse, I am inclined to think scientifically (that is, I am skeptical of dogma, and tend to look for evidence that hypotheses are valid).

So, how to avoid despair? I can only come up with what Albert Camus, in the midst of hopeless world events, came up with: "One must imagine Sisyphus happy." That is, I actively engage my imagination, perhaps as an escape from reality, but also as a built-in (evolved) human gift. Like Camus, I think the only acceptable alternative to suicide is to embrace the absurd existence we have, and engage life with passion and a fabricated sense of purpose. And also, to the extent possible, do no harm. But I also realize, as Mr. Davis no doubt does, that I will be most useful when I no longer have a carbon footprint.