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Can you teach a dense dog anything?

Have you ever tried to explain algebra to your pet chimpanzee?

OK, most of you don't have a pet chimpanzee, I realize that. I was trying to think of a creature known for its intelligence, and I settled on chimpanzees. It was either that, or dolphins. And while I know good and well how unlikely it is that anyone in Idaho keeps a pet dolphin, I can't be so sure about a pet chimpanzee.

Still, I should have picked something a little less exotic. A potbellied pig, say. They're supposed to be quite intelligent, and I wouldn't a bit surprised to find out there's a dozen or two of them clip-clopping around family rooms and kitchens right here in Meridian.

Or border collies. I know for a fact border collies are smart. My dad had two of them and I swear, watching them work a bunch of cows might make you think they had figured out geometry, at least.

I have an African grey parrot, and I'm here to tell you, those birds are smart, smart, smart. Mine--Coocoo--talks to me all the time, and I talk back. I ask him what he's doing and he asks me what I'm doing. No kidding. He lets me know when he wants fed by saying "hungry" and he lets me know when he's sleepy by saying "bed." Almost every day, I find a new reason to be impressed by his intelligence. He can even count. He's only up to "seven" so far, but it's a start.

Still, as smart as Coocoo is, I wouldn't try to explain algebra to him. He'd listen, for sure. He listens to everything going on in the house: the telephone ringing, the microwave beeping, the doorbell dinging and people talking. He would watch me intently as I went through the algebra lesson, as he seems to be interested in seeing peoples' mouths move. He would even nod his head. He's always nodding his head when people talk to him. You get the impression that not only is he understanding everything being said, but that he couldn't agree more.

But listen, you could spend the rest of your life trying to teach algebra to that smart Coocoo, and he wouldn't get it. He might even pick up a few words here and there: "coefficient"... "polynomials"... "quadratic." But it's just not in his nature to take several related threads and weave them together in his little brain as a coherent whole. This phrase goes in one compartment, that phrase goes in another compartment, but there is no door or telegraph line or Internet connection connecting the compartments. Coocoo's sharp, but it's all about what's in front of him at any given moment.

If you can't put yourself in the consciousness of a bird (or a border collie or a chimpanzee)--try instead to put yourself in the consciousness of a conservative. Specifically, a conservative who denies there is such a thing as global warming. As we observed the week after New Year's, they too are incapable of grasping several related threads in their little brains and weaving them together as a coherent whole. It's all about what's right in front of them, isn't it? They see it's cold outside today, so how could the Earth be warming up?

People who have the capacity to understand the connections between this observation and that observation--scientists, among others--have tried about everything to help the deniers absorb the complexities of the global warming phenomenon. They have explained the evidence, but that didn't help. They might as well have been explaining it in Klingon.

They have described the dangers that lie ahead if nothing is done, but that didn't help. To insufficient brains, both the past and the future are irrelevant and entirely disconnected with the only thing that matters to them, the right now.

They have tried to explain that just because it's cold in one spot on the globe does not mean it's cold everywhere on the globe, but that didn't help either, as it involves geography--something else average conservatives don't get.

Experts have tried to explain that extreme cold spells--as well as extreme hurricanes and extreme outbreaks of tornadoes, along with extreme flooding, extreme drought, extreme fires and, yes, extreme heat waves--are all part of a pattern, and that it is occurring in exactly the way it was predicted to occur years ago. Of course, that didn't help, either. Conservatives have never listened to experts on any number of subjects, so why would we think they'd start now?

I once suggested that if we talked... real... slow... to conservatives, it might help. It didn't. Might as well try ex... plain... ing... al... ge... bra... to... Coo... coo... real... slowwwww. The results would be the same. Only the bird wouldn't start squawking about how algebra was some big hoax those leftist scientists were pulling for some unspecified agenda.

No, it's time to abandon any hope that conservatives will ever have an "Ah ha!" moment with the global warning conundrum. And we also must accept that if their brains were wired to properly process something so complex, they wouldn't be conservatives in the first place.

But this is not to say we should give up and let the entire world go to hell just because a few million dullards don't have the mental capacity to understand it's going to hell. We just have to think of new ways to go around them, through them, over them, and do what needs to be done. It will be a slog, for sure, and conservatives will resist every effort, but it may help to know that all the parrots and border collies, pot bellied pigs and chimpanzees and dolphins--in short, every living thing on Earth other than conservatives--will be on our side.

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