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The Skeptical Facilitator — A Resource for Getting Things Done

Skeptics tend to be do-it-yourselfers. It’s kind of a core tenet of skepticism — asking your own questions and not relying on others. That serves us well when parsing fiction from (something likelier to be) fact. Sadly, that DIY attitude can also make it difficult to find help when we need it.

What if there were a website or database that could connect skeptical content-creators with the skilled or knowledgeable people eager and able to help bring projects to life?

There are people out there who want to communicate about skeptical topics but think they don’t have the technical know-how to make their work presentable, or don’t know how to market it once it’s done. Everyone is an expert in something, and every something has some kind of woo that infiltrates it, just waiting to be exposed — think of the pseudoscience in high-end audio or automobile equipment for example. Those stories need to be told, and more importantly, they need to be heard.

expert_coverEthan Winer brings skepticism to the audio realm. Who will fill other niches?

On the other hand, there are plenty of people out there with highly technical skills that WANT to get involved in the skeptical movement, but maybe don’t know how they can best contribute their abilities. Folks who would love to be utilized if given the chance. Here’s the almighty anecdotal evidence to prove it!

At a SkeptiCamp promoted by the New York City Skeptics in December, at the end of a presentation on individual activism, I tentatively brought up an idea that I had just started formulating, that I gave the descriptive but clunky title of “the Facilitator.” I had talked about exposing the pseudoscience in your hobbies or career, and had mentioned that certain skill types will always be sought after by conscientious content-creators. I then left a spreadsheet open during a break in the session, saying if anyone would like to be part of something that could connect all these people and help them work together to make things happen, they could express interest by adding their contact information.

I expected only a couple people would jump in, but by the end of the day, nearly half of the 40 people in attendance had offered themselves up. And the first people to get involved? They were the ones I had warned would be in the highest demand. A video editor. A graphic designer. A software developer. A professional animator. All eager to help make the world a better, more rational place.

deepakPresentation is important. The bad guys have us beat. From

Some others expressed interest, but thought their skills weren’t a good fit. A social worker told me he didn’t want his phone ringing off the hook, which is understandable. But what else is he into? A niche form of structural art, he told me. Man, dangle that worm out there and I promise some creative person will find a way to utilize it. A professional psychologist with a book deal thought her opinion wouldn’t be of use. Really? As a credible, visible and published expert source?  They both agreed to take part after conversations that teased out how they wanted to contribute, and how they’d best be able to do so.

Journalists have beaten us to the punch on ways to get expert opinions, and even Hollywood has their own network of over 2,000 scientists that they tap to consult on projects. We have the Skeptics Stack Exchange, where people can crowdsource opinions, but that isn’t quite as good as going straight to an expert. Maybe Facilitator volunteers could list their credentials and what they’re available to consult on. Of course that’s only one function of a service that could be used to hook people up with anyone willing and able to help with anything. Point being, the precedent for this type of organized cooperation exists.

So something like this could work — upgrading to “Do it with some expert help” from “Do it yourself” — if enough people were involved. There would certainly be logistical issues to figure out (security, volunteer vs. small fee, whether people would contact each other directly or go through an intermediary, etc.), but all that is moot if there isn’t enough interest to begin with. My one-room experiment is too small a sample size, so I’d like to bring this to the attention of as many people as possible.

If you think there’s possibility in this idea and you’ve got a podcast, let’s talk and see what your audience thinks. Or contact me directly if you’re an individual interested in taking part, once something gets off the ground. Alternatively, if you’ve been in the movement for a long time, and want to tell me exactly why this wouldn’t work, please feel free to save me the time and effort. :)

And hey, if you want to utilize my knowledge of geophysics (bachelor’s degree), journalism (certificate) or geek culture (over 150 pieces on AiPT! and elsewhere), that’s how I can volunteer myself. Let’s make something happen.

Email:  skepfac[at]
Twitter:  @russdobler46

What is “practical skepticsm”? Sharon Hill and others explain

“They really want answers, and they deserve answers,” says Sharon Hill, operator of the questionable claim aggregator Doubtful News. You might think the “they” she’s referring to is the kind of skeptics who visit her site for the more critical view on hot news stories, but it’s actually the people who tend to genuinely accept those tall tales as real.

Doubtful News provides scientifically-based rebuttals to the usual targets of modern skepticism, like creationism and anti-vaccine hysteria, but it also includes a healthy dose of “Bigfoot skepticism.”

sharonSharon Hill, from Wikimedia Commons

“I got a lot of shit for that,” says Hill of her decision to continue hammering on monsters and ghosts, topics many of today’s skeptics consider too silly to bother with. Hill still sees value in addressing those issues.

“There are so many people who invest so much time, money and effort into searching for Bigfoot, looking for ghosts and chasing UFOs,” Hill says. “There has to be a counter voice for that.”

Getting the right information into people’s hands is the kind of “practical skepticism” that Hill highlighted while leading a panel discussion at the 13th annual Amaz!ng Meeting, sponsored by the James Randi Educational Foundation, this July. Joining her were British physicist Simon Singh, famous for fighting a lawsuit that eventually led to reform in the U.K.’s libel laws, and Susan Gerbic, best known for her Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia (GSoW) campaign.

Singh, who now heads up the hands-on Good Thinking Society,  spoke of his legal victory over the British Chiropractic Association, as well as his first effort to “do something about bad science,” in which he exposed the lack of concern exhibited when alternative medicine practitioners suggested homeopathic remedies to prevent malaria.

singhSimon Singh gives the TAM crowd the low-down. Photo by Brian Engler.

Singh also described his simplest action that led to better public education:  complaining. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) ran a television series on alternative medicine in 2006 that demonstrated the frightening practice of using acupuncture as an anesthetic during surgery. Many scientists who participated in the program thought the final product misrepresented what had actually happened, so Singh filed a formal complaint with the BBC. They didn’t buckle immediately, but several news articles and appeals later, the BBC finally admitted that some scenes “could have misled the audience.”

“It goes to show how one complaint can make a difference,” Singh said.

“We are out to change the world,” Susan Gerbic told the crowd. But rather than fighting City Hall, Gerbic prefers to get the best information in front of the greater public by making sure it’s on the world’s seventh most-viewed website, Wikipedia.

“We have to have it in a place to get beyond the choir,” Gerbic said.

One of the main goals of Gerbic’s Guerrilla Skepticism is to beautify, in a sense, the Wikipedia pages of prominent skeptics and skeptical conferences. That means building the pages into more than just stubs, making sure they’re well-written (in many different languages) and even including the best photographs possible.

gerbicSusan Gerbic is Big Pharma Shilling (in case you couldn’t read the shirt). Photo by Brian Engler

Anyone can volunteer for GSoW, and those are the kinds of tasks the newest members will be trained to tackle. After getting their feet wet, volunteers might move on to editing the pages of actual fringe topics to make sure the information presented is accurate, well-cited and neutral. It’s not enough to just clean up the skeptics’ pages.

“We also need to make sure the crap is off all the other ones,” Gerbic said.

“Most of what I spend my time on is aimed at the general audience,” Hill said, explaining that Doubtful News is meant to confront strange ideas in the mass media directly. Those stories could be bad interpretations of studies or ones that use “sciencey” sounding language to prop up spurious claims. Sadly, the Internet is not always kind to the skeptical perspective.

“Search engines end up kind of the becoming the mirrors of society,” Hill said, and pro-paranormal stories are almost always at the top of search engine results. Still, some presence is better than no presence.

“All I can do is put out that extra skeptical view and hope somebody reads it,” Hill said.

And if that doesn’t work, take it to the streets. Hill even goes that extra step and interacts with paranormal groups in person, with mixed results.

“They don’t usually like me around,” Hill says.

In addition to Doubtful News, Sharon Hill started the website Practical Skepticism this year to more directly address these kinds of issues.

The Role of Role Models: Massimo Pigliucci at TAM! 2015

What if it came out that Neil deGrasse Tyson believed in Bigfoot? Or that Richard Dawkins was all about astrology? Maybe Bill Nye is anti-GMO. What’s that? Oh.

Yes, Bill Nye the Science Guy, bowtied slinger of truth to a generation of children, was once a GMO skeptic — in the strictest sense of the term. Many people who describe themselves that way are actually better characterized as deniers. They see all the evidence that there’s nothing dangerous or icky about the genetic modification process itself, but refuse to accept it. Maybe they think the research is tainted, or there needs to be even more testing.

When Bill Nye finally saw those studies, he did something remarkable — he adjusted his viewpoint based on the evidence. That’s not an easy feat. Now the science advocate stands as a living example of how skepticism is done. If you say “show me” and the other side brings the goods, you’d better be ready to give up your old position. There’s no shame in saying, “I was wrong.” Nye responded in the only logically appropriate way he could have.

But what if he didn’t? What if the man who lectures against climate change denial, a hero of science communication, had doubled down on his faulty argument? What kind of message would that have sent to people outside the skeptical community, or to self-described skeptics themselves?

A True Scotsman

Not much of one, CUNY philosopher of science Massimo Pigliucci might argue. He doesn’t like the word “hero,” because everyone is fallible, and seeing a hero fall short of ideals can cause those who look up to that person an unwarranted crisis of conscience.

massimoMassimo Pigliucci at TAM! 2015. Photo by Jonathan Nelson

Pigliucci prefers the term “role model,” as he told the attendees of the 2015 James Randi Educational Foundation’s Amaz!ng Meeting! (TAM!) in Las Vegas, Nev., this July. He and several other prominent figures in the skeptical community were there to honor the late Martin Gardner, one of the pioneers of the organized skepticism movement which began in the mid-20th century.

“I’m going to use him as a role model, or [a] role model about role models in skepticism,” Pigliucci said.

Gardner’s only degree was a bachelor’s of arts in philosophy, but he became widely known for the mathematical puzzles he regularly published in Scientifc American magazine. He was a founding member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), the country’s first organized group for skeptics, and published over 100 books on pseudoscience, magic, math and other topics over the course of his life.

“Gardner epitomized the very ideal of a public intellectual,” read one of Pigliucci’s slides.

And yet, some of the views Gardner held might surprise a lot of skeptics. For instance, Gardner believed in mathematical Platonism, the idea that everything is actually made up of mathematical constructs. That sounds kind of off, and it can’t really be proven empirically, but plenty of mathematicians and philosophers believe something similar.

“Gardner’s position was weird, but not crazy,” Pigliucci said.

It gets weirder. Gardner also subscribed to mind “mysterianism,” meaning he thought the fundamental nature of human consciousness may be unknowable. Again, that might not seem so out there at first blush, but what made him think that? Have we observed anything specific that would make addressing the issue of consciousness unavoidably impossible? Not really. Mysterianism is pretty much just an assumption based on the problem appearing to be difficult. But lots of difficult-looking problems have been solved; why should this one be any different?

gardnerMartin Gardner, from

Pigliucci’s final hard-to-defend belief of Gardner’s was probably the toughest one for the average skeptic to swallow. Gardner was a philosophical theist. He didn’t belong to an organized religion, but he still believed in a personal god. In seeming defiance of his otherwise universal skepticism and desire for evidence, Gardner admitted that the atheists had all the best arguments and he was left without much of a defense for this stance. Gardner said he believed simply because it made him feel better.

Feet of Clay

Are there any lessons to be learned here?” Pigliucci asked the crowd. “I think there are three.”

Firstly, Pigliucci explained, skepticism is an attitude, not a checklist of positions everyone has to adhere to. Skeptics are taught to think for themselves, the opposite of falling in lockstep with a crowd of any kind. It’s also crucial to realize, as we’ve all seen with Bill Nye’s early misunderstanding of GMOs, role models (not “heroes”) are as fallible as everyone else, and shouldn’t be held to impossible standards. You can point to a  a person as a role model, someone whose way of thinking you’d like to emulate, but don’t despair when they turn out to be a human being like everyone else.

Perhaps most importantly, skeptics also need to admit that people can have questionable positions, ones that they came to for less-than-rational-reasons, and not be kicked out of the club. Is it so bad for the rest of the world to see a skeptic stumble now and then? It could show the community’s sympathetic side by saying, “We know this is tough; it even is for us.” The alternative of excluding anyone with a hole in their game from public participation would leave a lot fewer skeptics in a time when they might be most needed. Even one of the best ever wouldn’t qualify.

Mind Over Masters: The World Science Festival’s Strange Decisions on Free Will

The World Science Festival doesn’t shy away from heady topics. Through their “Big Idea Series,” every year they examine some of the most fundamental and often puzzling problems that science can address. On the evening of May 30, physician and journalist Emily Senay led a discussion on the concept of free will — specifically, whether we have it or not. Well, not exactly.

“The way you answer that question may say more about you than it says about whether or not free will actually exists,” she said. Given the panelists thoughts on the subject, you could tell pretty clearly none of them are physical scientists.

“I’m sort of the set up person, so I’ll start with a set-up,” said philosopher Alfred Mele, before describing the work of physiologist Benjamin Libet. Up until recently, Libet was one of the few people to experimentally test the idea of free will, and thus his research from the 1970s is brought up — and, by some, torn down — whenever the subject is mentioned.

Libet wanted to know if you could look at someone’s brain activity and tell when they were about to make a decision. It turns out you can, and that this apparent “readiness potential” actually occurs about 300 milliseconds before the person is even aware they’re making a decision.


readinessThe obvious implication there is that something in our brains is already “deciding” before we even know we’ve made a choice. Some researchers have interpreted the result differently, though, arguing that when a person realizes they’ve made a decision has no bearing on how it was made. Libet himself didn’t think his experiment smashed the facade of free will, believing that a person can “veto” a decision during the fraction of a second between the observed ramp-up of electrical activity and the action itself. He never really explained how that would work.

Neuroscientist Kristoff Koch upped Libet’s ante, describing a recent experiment that utilized electrodes implanted in the brains of epilepsy patients, which can be helpful in the treatment of severe cases. Removing the noise of an electroencephalogram and going to straight to the source replicated Libet’s result, and even pushed the time between “decision” and “realization” to a second and a half.

Despite that, Koch and Mele both insisted on their belief in free will, with Koch later quoting Invictus that he is the captain of his soul. Poetry aside, the pair made it clear they don’t actually expect there’s some non-physical entity inside us, overruling biochemistry on a whim. That’s not a trivial clarification, considering the World Science Festival is sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, an organization mistrusted by some for the perception that they try to slyly legitimize religious belief with a veneer of science.

So what’s their hang-up? Why do they continue to cling to an idea that has the evidence piling up against it? Are they worried about potential social consequences?

“What does a post-free will world look like?” asked psychologist Azim Shariff. If everyone stopped believing in it, would we “descend into some sort of lawless dystopia,” in which people indulge in bad behavior and blame it on fate?

shariffAzim Shariff, from

According to Shariff, studies show that when people are told there is no free will, they do indeed tend to cheat and steal more, and be more aggressive. But on the other hand, test subjects are also less likely to want retribution when wronged, seeking to address the cause of the problem and not punish the perpetrator as much. That’s gotta be a good thing, right?

Whether or not free will actually exists, it’s clear we all experience the feeling that it does, and that starts early in life.

“All of this begins before children can even talk,” says developmental psychologist Tamar Kushnir. Her research shows that 4-year-olds understand they can’t choose to jump and never come down, but they do believe they can choose to, say, stand rather than sit.

A typical 4-year-old does think some decisions are per-ordained, though. When presented with a tasty dish, for example, it must be consumed.

“You have to eat the noodles because it’s yummy,” one test subject revealed. But once kids reach about six years old, Kushnir says, they begin to understand they’re not powerless against tempting starches.

kushnirTamar Kushnir, from

Shariff and Kushnir were more noncommittal about the reality of free will, but all four panelists seemed to agree that if free will doesn’t exist, it’s at least a useful fiction the dispelling of which could lead to grave problems.

Of course those who don’t want to accept evolution often say something similar — if people believe in evolution, we’ll all start acting like animals. Or we’ll use the theory to justify something even more ghastly, like eugenics. Those are silly arguments to most, but are they any worse than those that defend the propping up of free will to avert anarchy?

Obviously, how humans react to a fact doesn’t make it any more or less real. If the evidence points in a particular direction, you’re kind of stuck, whether you like the consequences are not. At least if you face up to it, you can make reasoned decisions (or maybe just the appearance of such) about how to handle it. Over time, (most) people have gotten over a lot of hard truths — from not being the center of the universe to not being all that different from beasts. But a little lack of agency will wreck the whole system? That thought says more about the panelists’ confidence in humanity than it does the reality of free will.

Watch the whole discussion right here!

Wizard of Odds: Rolling the Dice at the World Science Festival

“Probability – what’s hard about that?” opened John Hockenberry, journalist and moderator for the World Science Festival’s Wizard of Odds panel discussion on Saturday, May 30. As many skeptics understand, that’s a seemingly natural question that can cause a lot of problems.

People aren’t always good at thinking about numbers intuitively, and might not automatically account for newly provided information. Hockenberry noted some folks’ disbelief when he tells them he’s the father of two sets of twins.

“What are the odds of that?” they often ask. “In my house,” Hockenberry responds, “100 per cent.”

Hockenberry’s story alludes to the idea of Bayesian statistics, which was introduced to the crowd in a prior, humorous animation. Bayesian statistics incorporates prior probabilities and additional information to refine potential outcomes as time goes on.

Unfortunately, that’s not much of a help when it comes to quantum mechanics. The first panelist, Masoud Mosehni, explained his work at Google on quantum computing, which takes advantage of the inherent probabilistic nature of particles.

quantum-computing-chipA Google quantum computing chip, from Business Insider

“It’s unlike anything you’ve experienced,” he said. Mosehni referred to the fan-favorite Schrödinger’s Cat analogy when describing how a tiny particle can be in a state of “superposition,” between two outcomes, until it’s measured. If perfected, a quantum computer could offer greatly increased data-crunching speeds compared to conventional machines, by spreading the work out over all the possibilities.

Mosehni’s research specifically aims to force superposition onto macroscopic objects, like metal rings. This can be done by cooling them to temperatures just above absolute zero, the point at which all atomic motion stops. Hockenberry worried how this might affect future smartphones, asking what the chance was that Google devices could leak liquid nitrogen and “freeze our nipples.”

“I would say zero,” Mosehni replied.

Second panelist Leonard Mlodinow, physicist and author of the book The Drunkard’s Walk:  How Randomness Rules Our Lives, tried to bring Bayes back.

“The scheme that Bayes came up with is still used today,” he said, pointing out that Mosehni’s employer utilizes Bayesian algorithms to find advertisements you might be more interested in, based on your browsing history.

Mlodinow then moved on to more familiar stories of misunderstood probability, like the Monty Hall problem. Cartoon depictions of three doors were projected behind the panel, and audience volunteer Lauren guessed that the big prize was hidden behind door number three. When the second door opened to reveal a gag prize, in classic “Let’s Make a Deal” fashion, Hockenberry asked if Lauren would like to stick with her choice or switch to door number one.


“I’m gonna stay with three,” Lauren answered, drawing groans from the crowd.

“You know too much!” Mlodinow told them.

As the audience realized, the odds are actually more in your favor if you switch. Think about it. Your chance of guessing right initially is one of out three. Of course Monty Hall will reveal a gag prize, so that means, with the additional information in this case, the probability that door number #1 hides the prize has rocketed up to 50%. Better than your initial guess. Most people stick with their first choice, and that’s how game shows stayed in business through the 1980s.

Physician and genomics researcher Robert C. Green was up next, to talk about Bayesian statistics applied to biology, A.K.A “prior probability.” He spoke of misleading data, such as in a public service announcement that claims one in eight women will develop breast cancer. Green emphasized that probability is applied for your entire lifetime, and increases the older you get. For instance, a woman in her 50s only has a one in 44 chance of developing breast cancer in the next 10 years, but a woman in her 70s has a one in 26 chance.

Hockenberry asked how much Green’s field of genomics can help a given patient. You can probably guess his response.

“A lot, but almost not at all,” Green said.

Green used his own sequenced genome as an example, showing how numbers without context can unnecessarily panic people. The testing results show he’s twice as likely to be afflicted with celiac disease as the average person. That sounds scary if you don’t realize the chance of anyone getting celiac disease is vanishingly small, and doubling a tiny number doesn’t increase the total risk much. Overall, Green has less than a 1% chance of having his wheatcakes taken away.

Some disorders are easily pinpointed – if you have the genetic marker for Huntington’s disease, you’ve got Huntington’s disease – but most are like celiac, meaning environmental factors have to be taken into account when assessing probabilities. Testing for everything probably isn’t practical, and could lead to false positive diagnoses.

Mlodinow jumped in to tell the story of how he was diagnosed with HIV in the ‘80s, even though he didn’t partake in risky behaviors. His doctor didn’t know the rate of false positives, and waiting for additional results to come in caused a very anxious couple of weeks for Mlodinow.

“That’s a nightmare,” Hockenberry said. “Let’s talk about another nightmare – driverless cars.”

The stage was thus set for electrical engineer Richard Alan Peters, who said that cars are deterministic devices operating in a probabilistic world.

“Or like my room as a teenager,” Peters said. “Things could be anywhere.”

Peters explained that a driverless car constantly collects data and updates its assumptions based on what’s actually observed – always narrowing the probability of what’s going on around it and adjusting.

dogsFrom the BBC

A video of some truly remarkable adjustments was shown, in which what appeared to be robotic dogs were forced to navigate difficult terrain, and were even kicked, without breaking stride.

Hockenberry was more amazed by what wasn’t happening, asking “why they don’t sniff each other’s butts?”

Molodinow had the last word of the afternoon, suggesting that in the face of these realities, all of us should probably (see what I did there?) recognize that our own successes and failures are often governed by cold numbers, too, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“We should realize that, be humble, and just chill a little,” he said.

Watch the entire presentation right here!

April 2013 Revisit: Super Coelacanths from Outer Space… or Something

Some quick hits before the main event.

Way back in February WDTM? touched on the idea of bacterial antibiotic resistance, what it means to people, and why it’s spreading.  As it turns out, it means something to sea life too, as the resistant strains produced by our irresponsible behavior are finding their way into the oceans and sickening the animals there, as reported in the May issue of Scientific American.  The ugly cycle can complete if we eat seafood tainted with the superbugs or when oceangoing people develop hard to treat infections if wounded.  Circle of life, I guess.

In a meeting this month of the American Physical Society, Shawn Bishop, of the Technical University of Munich, Germany, described preliminary research of new forensic techniques to confirm past offenses of supernovae trying to gun us down.  He was able to identify iron-60, an isotope with a half life too short for any from the birth of our solar system to still be present on Earth, in fossilized ocean-dwelling bacteria that use iron-rich magnetite to navigate.  Bishop found high concentrations in the bacteria from about 2.2 million years ago, leading other researchers to suggest a known supernova from this time period in the Scorpius-Centaurus stellar association as the culprit.  Busted.  Fortunately, at over 400 light years away, the perp wasn’t near enough to give as both barrels or, as Shawn himself put it, “That we’re here talking about it means it wasn’t too close.”

If you and I aren’t the pinnacles of evolution, then what about the “living fossils” that haven’t changed for ages?  They must be doing something right.  Check that, they are still changing.  A fish called the coelacanth is perhaps the most famous example, as it was only rediscovered in the waters off South Africa in 1938, after being thought long-extinct.  As seen in April’s issue of Nature, the prehistoric beast’s genome has now been fully sequenced and it reveals that while many of its genes have been slow to change, perhaps due to a lack of selective pressure deep in the ocean where it lives, a large number of non-coding parts seem to be moving around.  Although the role of these bits in shaping physiology is not really clear, we now see that even after 4 billion years of evolutionary success, the famous fish still isn’t finished.

coelacanthThe flashback of the seven seas, via

And now the unpleasant elephant in the room.  Climate change is real.  What can we do about it?  It’ll be a lot more difficult than fixing the ozone hole, and cooperative agreements with other nations may not be enough.  Lowering emissions and reforestation likely won’t turn the tide.  We’ll have to develop ways to recapture carbon dioxide as it’s produced.  It would be nice to be able to remove it from the atmosphere and reuse it, but we may have to settle for sequestering carbon dioxide deep underground in geologic formations.  New technologies for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere continue to be pioneered, but they may never be economically feasible.  Some in the past have suggested the stimulation of plankton growth to naturally help, but recent volcanic observations suggest that seeding the ocean with iron won’t get the job done.


Unfortunately, in the near term, we may have to be ready to adapt to climate change before it can be completely counteracted.  We’ll have to develop engineering solutions to deal with floods and superstorms, and agricultural innovations to continue food production.  Don’t expect our “successful evolution” to come to the rescue;  people are not birds or sea urchins.  The cost of such measures is sure to be enormous.  As we deal with the new world we’ve precipitated, perhaps the best lesson is that future consequences need to be considered for all our actions.  We don’t need another global shift while we’re cleaning up the mess we already have.