Monday, December 22, 2008

The natural mechanic

My father was a mathematics wizard. Yes, he was quite a few other things, too, not the least of which was a sports guy, as in team sports. He was extremely well-spoken, patient to a fault, and blessed with an active, not to say devilish, sense of humor.
But most of all, he was a math guy. Mathematics lived inside his mind as casually and easily as birds in the sky and fish in the sea. He saw numbers clearly and grasped their interaction so intuitively that he could practically do what might nowadays be called "amazing calculator tricks".
Long division to several places, in his head? Took a few seconds, but no problem. And no errors, either. Ordinary addition and subtraction seemed not even to need actual thought. Suddenly, there was the sum or remainder.
He spent his adult life in the insurance business, in the days before small computers and tiny calculators, and so this gift was of great assistance in daily life. He could stun customers with his lightning-fast calcs, done longhand on paper in the most beautiful cursive script you'd ever see (as the old nuns had pounded into him, he might say), and assimilate sporting statistics and rearrange them in a blink to prove a point, tag a trend, or spot a shortcoming.
In other words, he was a damned smart guy. Yes, you may misinterpret that with the other meaning as well, with no offense; he'd likely have agreed.
But what he wasn't, was a mechanic, or more specifically, a natural mechanic.
Nearly everyone will agree on that as a concept: that some humans have a brain built in a way that gives them a natural and effortless grasp of the interaction of physical objects, in much the same way as my dad seeing a page of numbers.
Some people even refer to those so equipped with a bit of, dare I say, reverence, as if the comprehension of mechanical parts interacting was some sort of special gift, like an ability to see into the future, or win at casino gambling, or to hit the curve ball. I don't think there's too many folks who don't, at one time or another, didn't wish for the appearance of a "natural mechanic" to cure some ill with a machine or structure.
It gets delicate, here, for Your Correspondent, wishing to proceed with the modesty of mien he was raised to have, but still, in his mind, being a natural mechanic himself. Fine. So I can go around the corner a little bit and mention that one of my brothers is a natural mechanic, and who followed in his father's mental footsteps by also being a gifted athlete and an exceptional mathematician.
But his father wasn't a natural mechanic. We would joke, lovingly, that he could barely operate a screwdriver, and only if you handed it to him facing the right way. A power drill was an object of great caution, and a power circular saw was simply to be shunned.
So where did his natural mechanic son come from? He can look at building and see things all the way through and top to bottom, and formulate answers to the problems as easily as putting a toothbrush in his mouth. The father? Never happened.
Two smart guys, two quick, effective thinkers, two highly analysis-capable minds. Two different sets of skills.
Quite a mystery to ponder, but one that has illumination value for some other difficult-to-understand seeming contradictions.
There, so while you, dear reader, are pondering all this, Your Correspondent is going to move on to another mystery, very much in the public square: anthropogenic global warming.
"Anthropogenic" means caused by human activity. In other words, AGW holds that humans, and specifically their "carbon" emissions, are causing a sudden, spectacular, and ultimately destructive increase in the planet's temperatures, so badly that a horrifying change in the entire planet's ecosystem is catastrophically nigh.
Like many another recasting (see post elsewhere here), this is frequently shortened both to simplify and to misdirect as "global warming". The basic tenet of AGW, and please don't drop off that "anthropogenic" part, because it's critical, is that humans are wrecking the planet. Not only that, but that the day of overwhelming cataclysm is due almost any month now, and only by reverting to the ways of our cave-dwelling, early-hominid ancestors can this light-switch-sudden change be mitigated to any degree.
AGW has become something akin to a cult. Never mind the science that has been cited to support the concept of worldwide climate catastrophe (let's call it "WCC" for fun), because the real guts of the AGW movement is the need for penitence, every bit as much as prudence.
And underlying that penitence is simple statism: the desire to put more and more of human activity under the positive control of the State; the spread and centralization of government.
The most obvious indicator of the cultiness is that now, to discuss the process of WCC via AGW in any curious or inquisitive way to commit heresy. AGW high priests have literally said, in public and being recorded, that there's "no question" to the science that proves their theory.
No, it's not even a theory: it's a proven fact, a fait accompli, a done deal.
Even the most non-scientifically-minded person should be given pause upon hearing so rash an assertion. Nowhere ever in the history of human science has any proposition been in the realm of"no question". That is exactly what scientific thought abhors: an absence of curiosity.
Insisting there's "no question" ought to, to any thinking person, delegitimize any statement purporting to be based on science.
Still, the anthropogenic global warming juggernaut roars on, crushing the curious and flattening the flouters with a righteous fury any old-time evangelist would be proud of.
But, with the actual science of AGW disintegrating week by week, and here I refer you to the reports of the NASA data most commonly cited as the true evidence being shown to be faulty, to a fatal degree (I'll take that pun, there), you would think somebody'd be starting to ask why the bum's rush, why no skepticism, why no dissent allowed?
Well, that's the way cults work, especially those emanting from the progressive corner of world view and political thought. Flagellation of America, be it the chief executive, the military, the economic system, the very concept of American exceptionalism, is the hoitiest of the toitiest, the loftiest of the most absolutely hippest, the smart set's take on just about anything about the US of A.
Well, automobiles came from the US, this thinking goes, as does large-scale electrification, and all the other horrors believed to be caused by the Great Satan, and so it must be, automatically, wrong. Not just wrong, but immoral, and for good measure, planet-wreckingly immoral.
Make no small accusations!
But, as few mainstream media consumers and Hollywood-movie-goers are aware, that factual basis for this deep belief is indeed being questioned. Real scientists, most notably those with actual experience in the natural sciences (as opposed to those with 28-million-dollar homes bought with speaking engagement fees) are either jumping off the AGW bandwagon, or still insisting there was never even a running board's worth of space on it in the first place.
The debate should be raging, but isn't. In schools, where rigid doctrinaire thought is being implanted with unconcern, children have been so drowned in the religous dictates of AGW that anything they might do that could be seen as disputatious would be stamped out in two shakes of a teacher's marker pen.
So, you may ask, what the heck does this all have to do with the concept of natural mechanics?
Simple- find one, ask him or her if he or she is good with AGW as a done deal, and I can assure you that are quite unlikely to be answered in the affirmative. Planet-wrecking warming being caused by little bitty humans spewing microscopic amounts of carbon?
Man, it just doesn't seem to figure. It's just not... natural.

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