24 April 2006

Destroying the World, or Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot

Beth and I ate lunch today (my first day of unemployment) at that fine-dining capital of the known universe, Taco Bell. After dropping her off, I drove off towards campus to look at the on-campus jobs postings (bupkiss, basically) and decided to see what AM radio was like around one PM here in Huntsville. By chance (or by design?) Rush Limbaugh's fine, fine program was on.

First off, has anyone noticed how much of the air time on these programs is filled with needless advertisements of other AM talk radio programs or other such things? The signal to noise ratio is even worse than network TV, I suspect, and may even be on the "free porn site" level. Not that Rush Limbaugh makes me think of pornography or anything...

What made me want to post, though, was that Rushie-boy was pontificating about environmentalism and so-called doomsayers in the environmental movement. He teased his audience, saying that he had coming up a list of the top ten things to destroy the Earth, and that "global warming's not on the list!" A bit later (the drive was fairly long, as I expected for the early afternoon Parkway driving), Limbaugh quoted the list by one "Sam Hughes" and went through it point-by-point. The top ten?

10. Total Existence Failure (i.e. all the molecules in the Earth just happen to spontaneously not be there anymore.)
9. Gobbled by strangelets (absorbing the earth into strange quarks.)
8. Sucked into a microscopic black hole
7. Blown up by a matter/antimatter reaction
6. Destroyed by vacuum point energy
5. Sucked into a giant black hole (I like that there are two specific black hole methods on the list)
4. Meticulously and systematically deconstructed (in essence, hurl the mass of the Earth into space using some advanced energy rail.)
3. Blown into smithereens by collision with a blunt instrument (like, say, Mars.)
2. Eaten by von Neumann machines
1. Hurled into the sun

Limbaugh included some commentary on these methods from an article that I found here, basically describing each of these methods to his audience. To any reasonable person with an interest in science or science fiction, these "methods" are really just a bunch of thought experiments meant to provide a bit of humor to geeks interested in such things, and perhaps to give some perspective as to the size and the nature of the Earth and the universe around us. The author even references Terry Pratchett, Red Dwarf and other science fiction comedy sources in compliling this list. It's a gag.

But Limbaugh, not recognizing this or not caring, seems to feel that it merits some sort of serious discussion. First of all, he clearly hasn't a clue what most of the items on the list really mean, in particular items like zero-point energy and von Neumann machines. Secondly, he uses the bizarre and horribly inconvenient nature of these "methods" to argue that environmentalism is wack, because obviously it takes a lot more than simple pollution to destroy the Earth.

Well, no shit. While we might argue that lefties worrying about human action "destroying the planet" are engaging in a bit of hysterical rhetoric, most persons would agree that the real worry such environmental concerns indicate is not the literal destruction of the ball of solid and liquid rock and metal that is the Earth, but the carbon/nitrogen-based and much more fragile life forms (most notably, that odd chordate called Homo sapiens) that live on the surface.

Limbaugh has, wittingly or unwittingly, created an enormous straw man here. And has absolutely no regard for scientific knowledge. If he weren't such a powerful personality with so many millions of listeners, I'd feel sorry for the bloviating blowhard.

(And I'm sure my title is completely original to myself. Came up with it myself, y'see?)

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