Dear Stevie Nicks, I’m Hearing Thunder And It’s NOT Raining

Can Climate Change Denial be Linked to Scientifically Inaccurate Songs?

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by Colin Varney

Let’s assume, without prejudice, that all climate change deniers are ageing baby boomers. Could the reason for their blithe disregard of science lie in the popular songs they boogied to in their youth? Let’s investigate a handful of these hits.

Dreams / Fleetwood Mac (1977)

Stevie Nicks is an exemplary singer, songwriter, dancer and tambourine player. But she is no meteorologist. Her assertion that thunder only occurs in the presence of falling precipitation is erroneous. Is Ms. Nicks aware that dry lightning is the cause of many forest fires? The barefaced inaccuracy of the lyric has led me – and many other researchers – to doubt the validity of her following bold assertion concerning players. Human behaviorists at Stanford attempted to verify her claim via questionnaire, but quickly became ensnared in a tangle of definitions. What, exactly, is a player? And should the time-frame in which they are playing be defined as the exact period during which they are conducting the playing activity, or be a broader length of time in which playing is a major priority? After sorting through these thorny issues, they discovered the results of the questionnaire proved statistically inconclusive. Ms Nicks’ credibility holds on her second assertion.

All You Need is Love / The Beatles (1967)

The repeated mantra of the chorus proved to be an easy dictum to test. Researchers at Yale recruited a series of couples who were besotted with each other. To preserve the objectivity of their results, they misinformed the volunteers about what they were actually researching: somewhat of an academic tradition at Yale (See the Stanley Milgram experiments). Placing them in an airtight chamber, they found that the couples complained of thirst and hunger within hours. Furthermore, their adoration for each other did not prevent them from blacking out and requiring urgent medical assistance when their air expired.

Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is? / Chicago (1970)

This tune presents a narrative in which a “pretty girl” requests a hippy to consult his watch and supply her with its reading. The hippy declines, instead posing the titular question. He infers that time is a fiction that conditions our behavior yet cannot be ultimately verified. This is both right and wrong. Yes, chronology is a man-made construct predicated by the earth rotating on its axis and, in turn, orbiting the sun, but precisely because of this we are able to measure it with astounding accuracy. Atomic clocks enable us to define it with almost godlike precision. And next time the hippy has an appointment with “the man” at midnight, he might want to reacquaint himself with some kind of chronometer. Or ask somebody the time, in which case I hope the answer is as tangential and irritating as his. (It’s my belief that the hippy was trying to impress the pretty girl by appearing enigmatic and hoping for the allure of the outlier, but in my experience, girls are unimpressed by diffuse philosophy. They are also indifferent to pedantic rationalism, I have discovered. In fact, I’m damned if I know what does impress them. But I digress.)

The Morning After / Maureen McGovern (1973)

In the theme tune to the movie The Poseidon Adventure, Maureen McGovern insisted on the inevitability of an approaching morning. Tell that to the astronaut untethered from any rotating planet and without the convenience of a rising sun to tell them when to make breakfast.

In popular song, the heart accomplishes a plethora of functions that are, quite frankly, biologically unfeasible. Let’s be clear: the heart does not experience hunger or get lonely. Groove is not in it. The heart fails, certainly, but if you drop it, it will splodge rather than “break.”

In short, do not trust songs for scientific certainty. A kiss cannot fly you to the moon: you need extensive hardware for that, including a space vehicle. Money does not cause the world to rotate. And time does not keep on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future. Paradoxically, it slips into the present.

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