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An Inconvenient Truth and Human Skeptics in a World of Cause and Effect

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Skepticism in a World of Cause and Effect

In Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, he attempts to show all the scientific proof about global warming while conveniently using emotional images to stimulate one’s empathy. Although he is very convinced about this phenomenon, he understands that many people do not believe in this and some are indeed skeptical. This helps to tie in Hume’s role, a moderate skeptic, trying to understand Al Gore’s discourse. Hume has constructed an understanding about how the average human being reaches knowledge. He notes that most find and believe knowledge based on cause and effect matters. This is one of his main points, which is one of the things that is very useful in his understanding of Al Gore and global warming. Ultimately, Hume would not agree with all the “proof” that Al Gore has given us in his movie.

If Hume were to watch An Inconvenient Truth, he would have quite the time analyzing and critiquing a lot of the “proof” that Al Gore seems to have when talking about global warming and the implications of it. Hume, being a moderate skeptic, would not agree with the way that Al Gore tries to convince viewers of global warming. First off, Al Gore attempts to prove that global warming is a thing. Al Gore stating that the world has gotten warmer is a matter of fact statement. We only know this through experience. Therefore, this may be unreliable. Now, Hume would agree with the fact that temperatures have indeed risen in the past only if he can directly see how the thermometer does its job. Al Gore documents the temperatures with a thermometer, something that Hume would likely believe is reliable as it can be traced back down to relations of ideas, which are ideas that cannot be false and are a priori. Though Hume may agree with the fact that temperatures have risen in the past, this is not to say that Hume agrees that global warming is a futuristic thing. We cannot and should not infer that the future is guaranteed, especially when it comes to inferring something from past experiences alone. A majority of Al Gore’s proof is based on correlational data, not even causal in all the situations. According to a Psychology major such as myself, or a skeptic like Hume, correlational does not imply causality. Even if it was implied, it is not something that is guaranteed.

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As previously mentioned, cause and effect is not something we should rely on to understand the future or to even predict things about the future. The reason we believe in cause and effect so easily is because humans like stability. All creatures like custom and habit. This is another important thing that Hume notes in his essays. Although we tend to believe things that stem from custom and habit, it does not mean that habit equals knowledge. Al Gore says human activity can lead to global warming. How can we really know this? We cannot. The temperatures may be rising but we do not know if human beings have any impact on that whatsoever. Hume’s idea that nature will prevail above all is something that should be considered throughout the entire movie of An Inconvenient Truth. Watching the episode “The Midnight Sun” from The Twilight Zone series stimulated many thoughts about Hume’s belief that nature will prevail. The plot is about a hypothetical situation that truly could happen: an out of ordinary shift in the Earth’s orbital path that makes the planet move closer and closer to the sun each day. Of course, this is just a television show but this is an excellent example of how we really do not know anything about the future, especially nature wise. In all reality, once it was realized that Earth is a planet in all of infinite space, it should have been realized that anything could happen in relation to nature at any given time. People do not sit down and realize this because individuals are so uncomfortable with the idea of lack of control or as Hume would say, lack of custom and habit.

If anything does have power over us, it is nature. According to Hume, we should not assume cause and effect. This is not a reliable source to finding the truth about something. This is extremely relevant for Al Gore’s explanation of global warming as it is mostly composed on correlational scientific data. At the end of the day, a lot of things are correlated but that really does not mean anything. The only thing Hume can know of for sure is his impressions, which come from experiences. Tracing Al Gore’s ideas back to his impressions may be useful for him in order to prove to Hume that this is worthwhile. In order to find the truth about global warming, Hume would suggest a more mitigated form of skepticism. I believe he would not say to completely drop the whole global warming idea, but to go about it in a more modest and cautious way. Ultimately, Al Gore’s premises to his conclusion could have been revised to make it more believable to the skeptics of the world.


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