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Earth Science

Talking To the Public: the Biggest Enemy To Reducing Greenhouse Emissions 324

Lasrick writes: "Lucien Crowder is fed up with the notion that solutions for climate change would be easier to enact if only the public (especially the American public) understood the science better. Crowder looks to nuclear disarmament advocates as a model, as the move to reduce nuclear weapons has seen comparatively greater success even without public awareness and understanding: 'Indeed, in the nuclear and climate realms, desirable policy often seems to flow less from public engagement than from public obliviousness. Disarmament advocates, no matter how they try, cannot tempt most ordinary people into caring about nuclear weapons—yet stockpiles of weapons steadily, if still too slowly, decrease. Climate advocacy provokes greater passion, but passion often manifests itself as outraged opposition to climate action, and atmospheric carbon has reached levels unseen since before human beings evolved.'"
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Talking To the Public: the Biggest Enemy To Reducing Greenhouse Emissions

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  • by just_another_sean ( 919159 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @03:48PM (#46902271) Journal

    I'm not sure that's a very good comparison. Nuclear disarmament is not perceived as effecting people in their daily lives. That's why most average people can't be arsed to give a care.

    In order to enact meaningful carbon reduction legislation things have to change for everyone. Things will get more expensive or need to be rationed. People will feel put upon by these regulations. They will be effected by whatever steps are taken.

    Note, I don't really want to carry on a debate about it but I do believe in man made climate change and wish my country would do more to be a meaningful part of a solution. My statement above is just my opinion on why there is such a backlash against by the public in the USA.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      1. heating bills to go up.
      2. My cooling bills to go up.
      3. My gasoline cost to go up.
      4. My food cost to go up due to all the above costs for the food producers to go up.
      5. Local brownouts due to power plants being taken off line.

    • I'm not sure that's a very good comparison. Nuclear disarmament is not perceived as effecting people in their daily lives.

      Well, that and the whole Glasnost/collapse thing the USSR experienced removed the main impetus for stockpiling nukes in the first place...

    • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:08PM (#46902469)

      I think there's a bit of similarity (though it's still not a perfect analogy) along one particular axis: a large portion of the public, in both cases, believes that not much is going to happen on a global scale anyway, so why take unilateral action. Sure, a world with no nuclear weapons might be great, but it'll never happen, so better keep our own. Similarly, sure, a world without runaway greenhouse gas emissions might be great, but China isn't going to stop and within a few decades will burn so much coal it'll swamp anything we do, so why unilaterally handicap our own industry when it won't matter?

      That's somewhat different from visible, localized pollution like smog, where people see a differential benefit: if we clean up our particulate emissions and China doesn't, we get cities with cleaner air and they get gross haze, which we can then feel good about as a sign of our greater level of advancement and quality of life. But emitting less CO2 doesn't really give your local area a pollution advantage, because it's not a localized kind of pollution.

    • The "public" is conditioned, from birth, to defer to the established authority and prefers to live the submissive life with no obligations. Nobody is going to rock the boat until they miss a meal or two... or Facebook gets shut down.

      • The "public" is conditioned

        Wow, that makes you sound far better than the average sheeple out there. I mean, you couldn't possibly be being lead around by the nose. Said every ideologue in all of history.

        Deference to authority *and* paranoia have strong biological bases. So is thinking we're better than others. It's amazing how much of ourselves we reveal in just a few words.

    • The thing is, you're not affected by nuclear weapons until you're on the receiving end and once you are, you won't have much time to care about it.

    • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:20PM (#46902593) Homepage

      I'm not sure that's a very good comparison. Nuclear disarmament is not perceived as effecting people in their daily lives.

      More to the point, nuclear disarmament hasn't happened.

      There has been some shift in the composition of the nuclear forces, but that's primarily due to changes in the expected way that a war would proceed and thus the planned utilization of nuclear weapons, not due to disarmament.

    • In order to enact meaningful carbon reduction legislation things have to change for everyone.

      That's not really true. There will be big changes for the coal/oil industry, but most people wouldn't notice the difference of a transition to a low carbon economy. The notion that there will be huge changes and destructive regulations is just a tired little canard that gets pulled out by every industry that is facing down government interference. Remember, regulating CFCs and SO2 was also supposed to *ruin* the economy. The US government could not build one aircraft carrier to pay for the needed infrastru

    • Actually, it's an even worse comparison than that. Not only does it not disrupt major industries that employee large numbers of people and, more importantly, keep a large number of wealthy people wealthy but the nuclear disarmament process has provided a source of plentiful, already mostly processed, fuel for the nuclear power industry. For a while now, many US nuclear plants have been running off of fuel sold to them by the Russians and gotten from dismantled nuclear weapons stocks (though, last I heard

    • Sean would "wish my country would do more to be a meaningful part of a solution." Easy! Persuade Asia to stop building coal power plants & stop burning wood for cooking and heating.

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @03:58PM (#46902383)

    Hippies always start with education. But it never takes long for them to turn to laws and court cases to force their point of view on the rest of us. That's why "Let's work together to conserve water!" turned from voluntary to the point where I can't leagally buy a shower-head that doesn't have the power of warm snot.

    • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:00PM (#46902407) Journal

      to the point where I can't leagally buy a shower-head that doesn't have the power of warm snot.

      Two seconds and a small screwdriver to pop out that stupid flow restrictor works wonders. Five minutes and a drill handles anything tougher to remove.

      • Two seconds and a small screwdriver to pop out that stupid flow restrictor works wonders. Five minutes and a drill handles anything tougher to remove.

        You will take a hit on your water and heating bills.

        • by microbox ( 704317 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:44PM (#46902849)
          Not with a revenue neutral carbon tax.
        • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:44PM (#46902851) Journal

          You will take a hit on your water and heating bills.

          Not necessarily - greater flow means a faster shower; instead of having to stay in longer while waiting for that slow flow to get everything wet, then wait for it to wash off the soap, I can cut shower times down to a mere fraction of what they would otherwise take. Then you have the fact that with a restricted flow, a huge percentage of the heat in your hot water is radiating out into your walls while it sits there waiting its turn to go out the shower head (few houses insulate hot water pipes all the way from heater to bathroom, so...) Finally, you don't have to wait as long for the shower water to heat up in the first place, so you can get right in without waiting.

          To be honest, I haven't seen hardly any an increase in water or heating costs since I did it, and it saves me a bit of time.

          Also, there are folks living in areas where water flow is kind of sluggish in the first place - why should they have to suffer even more?

          • Reminds me our "water saving" toilets at work. I need to flush them 3 times to everything to go down, and have to deal with the leftovers from those that don't.
            • I had the same problem but then about a year ago I replaced the cheap toilet in my home with one that came highly recommended by Consumer Reports. It's a 1.3 gallon/flush model and it hasn't plugged once or even had any leftovers. IOW, if the toilet is properly designed the multiple flushes aren't required.

      • by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:22PM (#46902627)

        That was just one example. here are a couple more.
        1. The ban on most incandescent bulbs.
        2. The attempted ban on extra large soft drinks in NY.
        3. The ban on plastic grocery bags in many jurisdictions.

        • I assume you understand why someone might want to mandate (1), (2), and (3), and you also realize the impact to everyone. Not saying that I agree with these issues, but am saying that I think you really don't understand them, but are sure you know who the bad guys are.
        • by jafac ( 1449 )

          Well, here's your clandestine workaround then.

          Go take a hike, and start killing any and all plants and animals you see by any means necessary. Accomplishes the same thing, and works around those pesky civilized rules.

    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      I think you got your units mixed up: warm snot is a measure of temperature (can also be used as a measure of texture), not a measure of power.

    • Those old hippies are pretty astute. They're selling the "ecologically friendly" plumbing that's being mandated. It's kind of an old trick, widely practiced by the insurance industry.

    • Yes, climate regulations will have to be forced, against large and extremely well funded resistance. It won't work, quite frankly. Not because of people like you who don't want to pay 10% more on their heating and cooling bill, but because of people like the Koch brothers who will happily spend tens of millions of dollars to protect their interests.

      • Yes, climate regulations will have to be forced, against large and extremely well funded resistance. It won't work, quite frankly. Not because of people like you who don't want to pay 10% more on their heating and cooling bill, but because of people like the Koch brothers who will happily spend tens of millions of dollars to protect their interests.

        Exactly - that's why we get things like laws requiring individual citizens to install low-flow shower heads (which, in the big scheme of things, is a trivial change), but the EPA can't force large manufacturing firms to curb their water usage or limit how much they're allowed to pollute.

        Then, of course, there's the whole China issue to take into account. The EPA is a bureaucratic powerhouse compared to whatever toothless, token version exists over there.

    • That's because education doesn't do any good when people don't give a damn.

    • by Artraze ( 600366 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:58PM (#46903017)

      Yeah pretty much.

      The trouble, of course, isn't that people are too stupid or too obstinate to understand, it's that the case being made it setting off BS alarms everywhere. Global warming is a hard sell when Al Gore is guzzling gas flying around the world to talk about how bad it is and how people need to cut back. Anyone is going to look at that and see "cutting back" as what the poor need to do to sustain the lifestyles of the rich, and 'carbon credits' as the excuse. People know that nuclear power doesn't emit CO2, but the fact that it isn't being pursued as a solution indicates that global warming isn't as scary as nuclear power. And rather than reuse-reuse-recycle programs, we get consume-more programs like cash for clunkers and cell phone kill switches.

      The problem isn't with communication, it's about leadership. Show people that you're concerned, and maybe they'll start to believe you. Or don't and just fuck them over... it's a nice win-win for those in charge.

  • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @03:58PM (#46902391) Journal

    What TFA seems to fail at pointing out was that nuclear disarmament isn't happening because of anything the activists or advocates did - it's happening because one of the main cold-war aggressors was forced to give up. When the USSR collapsed, the biggest reason that the US and (let's be honest) China were stockpiling nukes was, well, gone - almost overnight. Without that reason, disarmament could get underway in earnest.

    Same story here: until something happens that makes the public at large want to do something about pollution, you're not going to get them to stop polluting as much. In this case, the ideologues aren't going to accomplish jack - like the activists of the 1970's and 1980's, all they'll manage to do is polarize and piss-off the folks whose minds they want to have changed.

    Instead, if you want a real solution, how about making a cleaner lifestyle a preferred one? Make green tech cheaper over time, and make it easier to use than the old polluting stuff (and no, not by simply levying a "carbon tax" on the existing stuff, either.) Make the preferred stuff more durable.

    For example, look at Germany - they put in some damned nice tax breaks for alternative energies, big enough (and personal enough) for Germans to shingle nearly every damned building and outhouse in the nation with solar panels, and for companies to erect wind farms wherever they could. Make biofuels cheaper than regular gasoline by not charging a federal excise tax on it (and get the states to do the same), and I bet the stuff would suddenly get competitive. Sweeten the deal on alternative fuels a bit by cutting (or eliminating) road use taxes on all vehicles fitted to use only natural gas, electricity, or suchlike.

    The idea is to not prohibit, but to entice. To remove the reasons why someone would want to stick with the old, bad ways. If you can do that, you can get somewhere, but I sincerely doubt that activists are going to blaze that trail...

    • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:14PM (#46902527)

      but I sincerely doubt that activists are going to blaze that trail...

      Activists not only want that, it's happening. There are many tax incentives for green tech. But it's hard won as the old entrenched corporate powers that use lobbying to oppose it.

      e.g. the Koch brothers funding the organisation that recently removed the incentive for solar electricity generation in one state.

    • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:24PM (#46902659)
      Look at Germany?

      3 times the electricity cost of the US, INCREASING CO2 emissions with the nuclear slowdown. Grid stability becoming a big problem. Expected increasing costs due to lack of revenues from nuclear tax. That doesn't even take in to account the costs they will start incurring in the next decade to replace/maintain aging wind and solar assets.

      Spending a huge amount of money on a marginally effective and expensive solution doesn't equate to success, although it may appear that way to those who just see the panels and turbines and think all is wonderful.
      • by mbkennel ( 97636 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:42PM (#46902835)
        The message from Germany is that if you replace nuclear power with coal then more CO2 will be emitted. Well, of course. What climate action advocates favor using more coal? None.

        If greenhouse gases emissions were actually taxed, then they wouldn't do that.

        Of course there are unscientific 'environmentalists' whose emotional reactions to nuclear power (less safe and clean than solar, more safe and clean than coal) and unwillingness to look at quantitative facts lead them to bad outcomes. Just as climate deniers do.
        • Can't argue with that. Only to add that investments in efficiency can often (not always) have a greater impact than, say, adding solar PV... but that lacks the "look how green I am" factor you get from big panels on your roof.
        • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

          Nuclear is not "less safe and clean than solar". Safety at modern nukes (when well-regulated) is top-notch, and a small amonut of manageable nuclear waste hardly qualifies as "dirty" - no dirtier than the byproducts of making solar panels.

        • Nuclear is safer than any other form of energy production.
          It's safer than hydro, and significantly safer than wind and solar - and several orders of magnitude safer than fossil fuels.

      • by jafac ( 1449 )

        3 times the electricity cost is actually pretty cheap compared to one's water-bill, or what one spends on gasoline, on average, and what we'll all be spending on electricity for running AC 24/7 everywhere when global warming really starts to kick in. (not to mention all the hundreds of millions of people who will have to relocate, and the hundreds of millions who will starve to death when we can't grow or distribute food anymore)

        How much is a livable planet worth, anyway?

        • The "at all cost" attitude is quite dangerous, particularly when folks don't really understand the feasibility of what they believe is a solution, be it driven by ignorance, fear of the unknown, political stubbornness, inaccurate risk perception, or whatever other emotionally based charges that head humans off in the wrong direction in the name of "doing good". The cleanest of the industrial economies are also those that are the strongest. Weaken an industrial economy and you freeze the move toward things l
      • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

        3 times the electricity cost of the US...

        How much would electricity cost in the USA without energy subsidies and with the negative externalities corrected?

        Grid stability becoming a big problem.

        Because they haven't yet embraced smart meters.

        • How much would electricity cost in the USA without energy subsidies and with the negative externalities corrected?

          Nowhere near 3 times. Some argue a naturalized cost approach would result in lower costs. I don't necessarily believe that either.

          Because they haven't yet embraced smart meters.

          A clear misunderstanding of what smart meters are capable of, as well as the fundamentals of grid stability and management. If you want folk's power cutting off at the whim of outside forces, or time based pricing, then there are easier and less costly ways to accomplish that. Even with some of that happening, you can't easily compensate for the huge swings of solar and unpredict

          • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

            If you want folk's power cutting off at the whim of outside forces, or time based pricing, then there are easier and less costly ways to accomplish that.

            A clear misunderstanding of what smart meters are capable of. Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) allows prices to vary with current market conditions (supply and demand), not just the time of day, and allows thermostats and smart devices to be controlled by demand response events.

            • Condition based load management can be done with load management devices that have been around for decades as well. It can get as smart as you want, but it doesn't solve grid stability issues caused by solar/wind variability, and it causes a variety of problems for many customers. When its 99 degrees, folks want their AC to run, and within one small neighborhood it already averages out to a steady load, shifting doesn't do much at that point.

              Industrial and large commercial customer's needs are a signific
    • by jopsen ( 885607 )

      For example, look at Germany...

      Germany does put high taxes on energy in order to subsidize green energy production and projects.
      They don't just hand out taxes breaks, they also raises taxes on fossil fuel...

      Taxes is a tool to be used here.. The US is using it, but not enough, and the US probably doesn't have the will/strength/ability to do because of all the money involved in politics and big corporations lobby against it...

  • Bad analogy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:09PM (#46902481)

    Drawing down strategic weapons is a part of the "peace dividend" in the public mind. What "dividend" is the public supposed to believe will appear by making energy into an expensive luxury? This analogy is just bogus.

    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      Environmentalist narcissism dividend. Plus extremely rich people like Al Gore get to profit by selling you carbon credits and other stuff you don't want but will be forced to buy.

      How are you spending your cut of the peace dividend, BTW? I'm pretty sure my peace dividend check got lost in the mail.

    • Having a future for their children?

  • Nobody I know has a regular use for nuclear warheads. The military purchased all of those with the government's stamp of approval, while the public was only told "It's for your safety and security, because we've got to match what the other countries are doing so we're not at a disadvantage!" GIven that, of COURSE the disarmament process would ALSO be something the military and the government would undertake without the public getting very involved (or given much detailed information about it).

    Asking people

    • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:23PM (#46902639)

      I, too, am willing to accept that man-made climate change is actually happening. That doesn't mean I won't remain a skeptic when it comes to government or private industries with agendas telling me I need to pay more money for their "solutions" to the problem.

      The Republican 9 step plan to Global Warming Denial.

      1) There's no such thing as global warming.
      2) There's global warming, but the scientists are exaggerating. It's not significant.
      3) There's significant global warming, but man doesn't cause it.
      4) Man does cause it, but it's not a net negative.
      5) It is a net negative, but it's not economically possible to tackle it.
      6) We need to tackle global warming, so make the poor pay for it.
      7) Global warming is bad for business. Why did the Democrats not tackle it earlier?
      8) ????
      9) Profit.

      I welcome the progression of at least accepting anthropogenic global warming is real.

  • Problems (Score:5, Insightful)

    by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:11PM (#46902503) Journal

    1) We have care overload. I have to care about global warming, and nuclear proliferation, and school shootings, and AIDS, and breast cancer awareness, and domestic spying, and and and... It's hard to get people to care about thing A when they're exhausted from being told to care about things B-Z.

    2) There is very little an individual can do about climate change. I was at Disney's Animal Kingdom once and they had a display about conserving energy and bullshit and I thought I was taking crazy pills. This park wastes more energy in a day than I could in a hundred lifetimes, and they're lecturing me? As if I'm the problem?

  • by Roogna ( 9643 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:18PM (#46902567)

    Actually isn't it the exact opposite? Nuclear disarmament happens because no one anywhere wants anything to do with nuclear anything if it's in their personal backyard. So there's no place to even store the weapons, waste, processing plants, or anything else, that doesn't make it a political storm. We're gaining nuclear disarmament mostly for the same reason we can't gain new modern nuclear power. The public simply freaks out about the word, not because there's any real logic applied.

    The problem with greenhouse emissions, is the word greenhouse just doesn't inspire any fear.

  • Nuclear disarmament is hardly the result of hard work of advocates.

    Instead it is the work of improvements in delivery/targeting technology, ongoing cost of stockpile maintenance nobody wants to bear and unnecessary risk of weapons getting into the wrong hands. There simply is no point in anyone stockpiling such absurd numbers of nukes anymore... resulting stockpile reduction agreements were predictable no-brainers.

    Likewise if you want to move the needle WRT climate change you need to deliver alternatives w

  • The majority of Americans believe that human caused global warming is happening. The majority believe we need to do something about it, but they believe that whatever actions are taken should not negatively impact their lifestyle. This means anything that would cause increased costs for them is not acceptable. This means that changing the way they go about doing things is not going to happen. That is the problem.
  • by whistlingtony ( 691548 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:53PM (#46902963)

    OK, this is going to be full of people saying climate change isn't real. They'll be saying that it's all a hoax by 99% of the world's scientists, or they're in cahoots, or they just want that sweet sweet grant money..... Then there are the folks who will say that those of us that respect scientists and science in general are just drinking the kool-aid.

    To them, I give this link. []

    On top of that, you can see the stupid data yourself with a few seconds work. Here. I'll give you that too. []

    You can quite clearly see a rise in temp that started around the 1900s(almost looks like ... some sort of.... hockey stick....). You can quite clearly see which data is from historical data, which is from readings from instruments, and which is reconstructed from tree rings and the like.

    I wonder what happened right around that time that was so different from all of our history before that? [] There's even a lag time for a hysteresis effect, which one would expect.

    In ending, I will paraphrase Dawkins when speaking of how EASY it would be to disprove evolution. All you have to do is find ONE modern fossil in the wrong era. Just one. One duck fossil next to a T-rex fossil would throw doubt on the whole thing. Just one. And it's never been found. It's EASY to disprove evolution. It's never been done, because it's right. Same thing here. Just show that tree ring growth doesn't correspond to temperature, and the entire thing goes out the window. Just show that C02 isn't a greenhouse gas. Just show that the global mean temperatures are NOT rising. Bring your data. It's so EASY to disprove, and you have nothing but FUD.

    That is all.

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:56PM (#46902993)

    Because my understanding was that the public never had them in the first place.

    So in what way are the two situations at all similar?

    They aren't.

    In the one case you have nuclear weapons in government nuclear stockpiles and silos. And in the other case you have everyone with a car in their garage. They're not remotely similar.

    But you know what... if the end result is they bitch about global warming less, then I'm all for it. That is one if the biggest mcguffins of the last 100 years.

  • by fructose ( 948996 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @05:00PM (#46903045) Homepage
    It seems it also has a lot more to do with money. When disarmament is discussed, everyone can agree that it's a good thing (even if it doesn't affect them personally). Companies agree with the politicians and see an opportunity to bid on contracts to help dismantle and dispose of nuclear weapons and eventually make a lot of money. But climate change solutions mean that many industries will have to make significant changes to their business. The coal industry could stand to loose significantly if they are forced to make truly 'clean' coal. They also have the possibility of being shut down completely. These companies respond with 'outraged opposition' to prevent either of the two. If there was no money in things like coal produced electricity, climate change solutions would probably happen much like disarmament did.
  • by DriveDog ( 822962 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @05:14PM (#46903153)
    Disarmament and reducing CO2 are just about as different as possible. People have never been inconvenienced by disarmament, in fact they have more cash than they would otherwise if the nuclear warhead race was still on. On the other hand, reducing CO2 threatens to inconvenience people and might even cost a few bucks. These two things are not comparable, though thinking about them this way might be useful.
  • Averting the consequences of climate change require people en mass to change their behaviors. No such change in behavior is required for Nuclear disarmament.
    Plus many large wealthy company will have to be satisfied making slightly less money, they aren't thrilled about that.
    Also some Jobs may be lost as a result of those diminished profits.

    All of the nuclear weapon creation jobs are long gone. All the work around them is related to maintenance and dismantling them. Some people are benefiting from the disman

  • Not the same... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by superdave80 ( 1226592 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @05:45PM (#46903361)

    Nuclear disarmament vs. greenhouse gas reduction is a poor comparison.

    How much did nuclear disarmament affect the day-to-day lives of the average person? Zilch. Zero. Nada. 50 nuclear missiles sitting in some empty part of the country vs. 200 nuclear missiles sitting in some silos in some empty part of the country affects people not at all (unless there is a nuclear war, but were all screwed anyways).

    Greenhouse gas reduction involves changing things in peoples day-to-day lives. How much is, of course, up for debate, but the perception is that we will have to sacrifice some of our standard of living to accomplish this.

    Nuclear Disarmament spokesperson: "We are going to have fewer nuclear missiles in our subs. What do you think about that?"

    Joe Blow: "Uhhhhh, OK...."

    Greenhouse Gas Reduction spokesperson: "We are going to slap a tax on the fuels you use, so now you will get to pay more at the pump. What do you think about that?"

    Joe Blow: [punches Greenhouse Gas Reduction spokesperson in the face]

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.