Cognitive dissonance at the Smithsonian magazine

Smithsonian Magazine is known for its far-flung stories and diverse topics, in many respects resembling the museum itself. The magazine's stories, however, project a theme that does not  (yet) appear in all of the museum's exhibits: virtually all of the articles pontificate on AGW.One might think that tying global warming to the range of topics covered by Smithsonian would be rather challenging, and it is. But, more often than not, the authors and editors of this iconographic periodical succeed in drawing a connection. It does not matter how tortured the tie might be. (This writer has often mused that there should be a good "drinking game" tucked into this quirk.)

The March issue of the magazine provides a perfect example of the disconnect between any particular topic and the magazine's determination to interject AGW into every subject: 

In 1996, Smithsonian anthropologist Rick Potts, director of the Human Origins Program at the Natural History Museum, turned heads in scientific circles when he proposed that environmental fluctuations were the driving force in human evolution.

Mr. Potts theorizes:

"For the first four million years of human evolution our ancestors walked upright but also retained very long powerful arms and relatively short legs-which indicates that they were very comfortable climbing in the trees. This suggests that the origin of our ability to walk on two legs was not just an adaptation to grasslands, but rather an adaptation to the tendency of the environment to switch back and forth, between landscapes with many trees and very few. This means that our ability to walk upright was originally part of a very flexible adaptation to environmental fluctuation or instability, not just a single type of habitat."

 

So, the basic premise is that because the earth's climate changes frequently and dramatically, early humans' evolutionary adaptations were predicated on flexibility in adapting to climate change; the evolution of homo sapiens and ancestors belies the instability of our environment for millions of years.

The interviewer then asks Mr. Potts: "How will versatility benefit humanity as it confronts global climate change?"

Huh?!

Talk about cognitive dissonance! The scientific expert makes the case for the inherent mutability of earth's climate--and man's evolutionary genius in responding to same--and the interviewer's response is to push the idea that humanity is threatened by climate change?

Sometimes you just can't squeeze the facts into the story line.


John Peeples



Smithsonian Magazine is known for its far-flung stories and diverse topics, in many respects resembling the museum itself. The magazine's stories, however, project a theme that does not  (yet) appear in all of the museum's exhibits: virtually all of the articles pontificate on AGW.

One might think that tying global warming to the range of topics covered by Smithsonian would be rather challenging, and it is. But, more often than not, the authors and editors of this iconographic periodical succeed in drawing a connection. It does not matter how tortured the tie might be. (This writer has often mused that there should be a good "drinking game" tucked into this quirk.)

The March issue of the magazine provides a perfect example of the disconnect between any particular topic and the magazine's determination to interject AGW into every subject: 

In 1996, Smithsonian anthropologist Rick Potts, director of the Human Origins Program at the Natural History Museum, turned heads in scientific circles when he proposed that environmental fluctuations were the driving force in human evolution.

Mr. Potts theorizes:

"For the first four million years of human evolution our ancestors walked upright but also retained very long powerful arms and relatively short legs-which indicates that they were very comfortable climbing in the trees. This suggests that the origin of our ability to walk on two legs was not just an adaptation to grasslands, but rather an adaptation to the tendency of the environment to switch back and forth, between landscapes with many trees and very few. This means that our ability to walk upright was originally part of a very flexible adaptation to environmental fluctuation or instability, not just a single type of habitat."

 

So, the basic premise is that because the earth's climate changes frequently and dramatically, early humans' evolutionary adaptations were predicated on flexibility in adapting to climate change; the evolution of homo sapiens and ancestors belies the instability of our environment for millions of years.

The interviewer then asks Mr. Potts: "How will versatility benefit humanity as it confronts global climate change?"

Huh?!

Talk about cognitive dissonance! The scientific expert makes the case for the inherent mutability of earth's climate--and man's evolutionary genius in responding to same--and the interviewer's response is to push the idea that humanity is threatened by climate change?

Sometimes you just can't squeeze the facts into the story line.


John Peeples