Listen for words, not the intent


David Cooper

I’ve always read The North Wind but have never bothered to respond before. But this issue is too important to ignore.

First, intent is subjective and we have no way of knowing what another’s intent is. All we have are words, which is how we communicate. I think Jessica Parsons [in her article titled, “Listen for Intent, not Words”] is saying that Michael Knowles’ “intent,” in referring to Greta Thunberg as a “mentally-ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and by the international Left,” was just a poor choice of words on his part, and that what he really intended was to point out that she was being exploited, not that she was just mentally ill.

Well I don’t know how Parsons knows what his intent was, but I think his words are a good indication of his intent. It was to undermine Thunberg’s influence over millions of people who turned out to protest the lack of concern among politicians and business tycoons for the fact that business, as currently conducted, is destroying the future for children everywhere.

His words tell it all. The “climate-hysteria movement is not about science. If it were, it would be led by scientists.”

Notice the choice of words: “climate hysteria” implies that his intent is to dismiss the whole issue as merely hysterical rantings of some people. I personally have great anxiety myself about the climate. Not because I am mentally ill or a hysterical person, but because I have grandchildren and a great granddaughter-in-law, and they deserve a future.

I do wonder what his intent really is. If it were to get at the truth he would investigate. Scientists have in fact been warning us about this for decades, but they speak at conferences and publish papers about it, they don’t lead demonstrations (although there were plenty of scientists who showed up for the recent demonstrations). Thunberg is not being exploited, she is simply doing what she can to help us fix the world. Yes, she suffers from anxiety about the issue, like any sane person does, but her “super-power” due to her Asperger syndrome is that she can see the science without being distracted by the kind of local emotional turmoil that haunts most young teens.

Like Temple Grandin, another genius with Asperger syndrome, she is not distracted by some of the emotions that distract most of us, so she can stay focused on practical scientific interventions. No one exploited her by telling her to sit outside the Swedish parliament for a year with her signs asking for action on climate change. She chose to do it because something had to be done, and her protests galvanized millions of concerned young people around the globe.

This is not about two people who just happen to have different opinions as Parsons suggests when she says, “an opinion is an opinion, which we are more than allowed to share.”

The issue is about reality, and scientific research and data are required to get at the truth of reality. Two-year-olds have opinions, but that does not mean their opinions are just as valid as adult opinions. 

You need critical thinking skills to check out the facts that are used to judge opinions. Yes, this is my opinion on this topic, and my intent is to say “you go girl,” and help us give my grandchildren a future.

Professor David Cooper

Emeritus Department of Philosophy