Skepticism

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*Author’s Note: To set the stage for this story, let me begin by saying I’m a skeptic myself.

I find dogmatism of any kind difficult to deal with. When I hear anyone tell me certain thing are ‘settled’ it rankles me because very few things are ever settled, and that is especially true in the area of science. Were that so, Einstein wouldn’t have pursued relativity because Newton had already provided the answers in an area that was considered ‘settled’ for over a century.

This story will doubtlessly upset some people, and that’s fine. I’ve never written a story to please anyone but myself, and while I never set out to offend anyone, I write what interests me and let the chips fall where they may. If other people enjoy the story, great. If not, c’est la vie.

That said, I stopped looking at reader comments 2-3 years ago. So to anyone who’s ever taken the time to say something complimentary, I haven’t read it, but I’d like to thank you for doing so. I sincerely appreciate it.

On that note, let me also say that I write for one reason and one reason only—I enjoy it. I get emails all the time with people asking (and often telling) me what to write, how to write, and even whether or not to start with an ‘Author’s Note’.

So as gently as I can, let me say, no, I won’t shorten my stories nor will I include ‘more action’ in them in the lovemaking scenes. I also won’t ‘get an editor’ or change the way I write because someone feels the need to ‘take away two stars immediately!’ because of this, that, or the other. Were I to try and please you, I’d upset someone else.

I write for the pure enjoyment, and that means writing what interests me. I’d lose interest were I to try and please everyone—or anyone—so my stories are what they are. And, by the way, they’re free. You pay as much to read them as I get to write them. 🙂

Lastly, I’m a Libertarian who is committed to truth, with truth being defined as making my beliefs map as closely with Reality as humanly possible. I don’t put faith in so-called ‘experts’ of any kind but rather investigate claims for myself. And until I’m convinced some hypothesis or claim accurately maps with reality, I refuse to accept it, even if it might be true.

This applies to religious claims and to things like dark matter and dark energy, the ‘multiverse’, the supernatural, and to what is called ‘the neo-Darwinian synthesis’ (the theory that the diversity of life is due to Natural Selection acting on random mutation and nothing else).

And yes, I am also hugely skeptical of claims about ‘global warming’ in which we’re told that cataclysmic catastrophe awaits unless we act RIGHT NOW to lower CO2 levels when manmade contributions to CO2 levels are around 0.28—0.4% of the 5% role CO2 plays. (Water vapor accounts for about 95% of the greenhouse gas effect. CO2 is just 5% and as I just said, man’s role in that is less than half of 1%.)

After all that, I hope you can take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the story for what it is—a story; a love story between an older woman and a very young man who is skeptical of all things.

Okay, here we go!

*****

“Ms. Traxler? Do you have a moment?” her principal asked.

“Of course, Mrs. Renner. What’s going on?”

The older woman asked her to close the door and have a seat, so she did both then waited.

“I see you have Brandon Holtz in your class this year.”

“Oh. Yes. I believe that’s right. Fifth period if I’m not mistaken,” she replied as she shuffled the class rosters she’d just picked up from Guidance.

“Are you ready for that?” the 50-year old female administrator and former teacher asked.

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“Let me put it bluntly. He is quite possibly the most unique young man I’ve ever known, and I’ve been in this business for 27 years.”

“Mrs. Renner? I don’t mean to be obtuse, but I’m still not following you.”

“You do know he has a weekly podcast, don’t you?” the older woman asked.

“I heard that, but I’ve never listened to it. Is that somehow relevant?”

“Monica,” the principal said, using her first name, “Brandon is a voracious reader. He’s as well-informed as anyone I’ve ever met, and he’s smart as a whip. He’s utterly wrong but very intelligent. More importantly, this podcast is giving him a forum to, well, spew his nonsense, and unfortunately, it’s growing in popularity.”

“Okay. And?” the 30-year old teacher asked respectfully, knowing she still wasn’t getting it.

“Well, you’re a science teacher. Two of his primary topics are climate change and evolution.”

The young teacher smiled before saying, “Then we should get along just fine. Those are two areas I’m very passionate about and spend as much time on each of them as I can. If Brandon can contribute to the learning environment, that’s a good thing, right?”

The principal sighed then looked her 2nd-year teacher in the eye. Monica Traxler had been teaching for nine years, but this was only her second at Auburn High School located in the Seattle suburb of Auburn, Washington, lezbiyen porno and it was obvious she had no idea who this student of hers really was.

“You have seen him, right?” the principal asked with a clear sense of exasperation.

“Well, yes. He’s kind of hard to miss. Unless, of course, the throng of girls around him is too big to allow me to get a glimpse of him,” Ms. Traxler joked.

The principal not only didn’t laugh, she stared at the younger woman until she not only stopped laughing but felt a chill in the air.

“That’s the other thing that makes him so…dangerous. He’s incredibly intelligent, and yes, he’s very attractive. So while you are also a very intelligent and attractive young woman yourself, it can be, well, difficult—to teach when every girl is drooling over him, and every student—male or female—is hanging on every word as though he were some kind of modern-day Oracle.”

“I…I’m lost. Again,” the young teacher said apologetically.

Mrs. Renner sighed loudly then said, “I thought I was being direct, but now let me be blunt. Brandon will challenge everything you say when it comes to climate change or evolution and who knows what else. And let me tell you, he can twist you in knots with his…pseudo-science…BS! He’s no novice in spite of his age. He is, of course, wrong about everything, but he can be very persuasive where other, less well-informed students are concerned. That, plus being distractingly good looking—and even charming—make him a potentially formidable adversary.”

“Adversary? I mean no disrespect, but he’s just a high school senior. And from what little I’ve been told, he’s unfailingly polite and always respectful. So can you please help me understand what I’m missing here?” Monica asked as tactfully as she could.

The principal glared at her then said, “I’m not sure what’s beyond ‘blunt’, Ms. Traxler, but here goes.”

The principal sat up, gave Monica a very stern look, the said, “I do NOT want a local TV station in my school! And the last thing I need are parents raising the roof over someone spreading lies and disinformation in one of my classrooms!”

The veins in her thick neck were bulging as she pointed at the very attractive, much-younger woman across from her as she pointed at her and said, “And in case you haven’t broken the code yet, that means YOUR class, Ms. Traxler!”

After taking a long, slow breath, the older woman said much more calmly, “Am I clear?”

She’d stopped short of yelling, but Monica had never been spoken to like that before, let alone by someone she worked for.

Now afraid, and even more confused, the science teacher blinked several times, and hoping to make the diatribe stop, said, “Yes, ma’am. Very clear.”

“Good. Then I expect you to take charge of the discussions at all times when those topics arise, limit his comments, and move on. We don’t NOT need anyone thinking we are either ‘science deniers’ or creationist whackos!”

“Oh, no. Of…of course not,” Monica said as though she fully understood. “Will that be all?”

“Yes. Just keep this little talk of ours in mind—and private—and do not ever let him have the upper hand.”

“No. I…I won’t,” she promised as she stood up then nervously walked out.

Her closest friend at school was another female science teacher named Cynthia Shuster. Cynthia was 34, married, and had a two-year old son while Monica was still single and, and as of late, only halfheartedly looking but without any real interest or success.

“Anything important?” Cynthia asked when she saw her newest friend appear from behind closed doors.

When Monica got closer, Cynthia noticed her friend was shaking and asked if she was okay.

“I…I’m not sure,” Monica said very quietly.

Her friend seemed very sympathetic and told her, “Come on. Let’s go back to class where we can talk. Privately.”

It was the last week of August, and as always, teachers were back a week early taking care of planning and getting their classrooms ready for student arrivals the following week.

Once inside Mrs. Shuster’s room, she asked Monica what was going on.

Only slightly less shaken, Monica did her best to explain what their principal had just said.

“Oh, okay. Now I get it,” Cynthia said with a smile.

“Well that makes one of us.”

“Do you have your phone handy?”

“Of course, Why?”

“May I?” Cynthia asked as she reached for it.

She made a few clicks then started scrolling. A few seconds later she handed the phone back and said, “Start with this one. Once you listen to it, you’ll understand why Mrs. Renner gave you a ‘gun in the face’ lecture.”

Monica looked at her phone and saw it opened to YouTube then noticed a very handsome young man she immediately recognized as Brandon Holtz.

“That particular podcast has been viewed over half a million times,” Cynthia told her.

“What’s the gist of it?” Monica asked as she found herself staring at Brandon’s smiling face.

“He’s liseli porno gorgeous, isn’t he?” she almost didn’t hear Cynthia saying.

“Yes, he’s very nice looking. But what’s the podcast about and why is he so…scary? I mean, I see the title says, ‘What They Won’t Teach You About Climate Change in School’, but what’s the bottom line?”

“I’m not going to give it away. Just know that when I listened to it, I was shaking in anger! I made my husband listen to it, and even he was getting hot under the collar.”

“Will you at least tell me why?”

“When you hear it you’ll know why,” was all Cynthia would say.

“Okay.”

“Just promise me you’ll listen to it before the start of school?”

“Sure. Yes. I’ll listen to it.”

“Good. Because while I’ve never asked, I’m assuming you’re at least a Democrat like nearly everyone else around here, and my sense is you’re also a progressive like me. And because of that, you know how critically important climate change is. I mean, it’s the closest thing we have to a proven fact in science, and it will almost certainly negatively impact the future of life on earth. So let’s just say your blood, like the oceans are close to being, will be boiling before you get halfway through it!”

Monica never talked politics, so there was no way Cynthia could know she wasn’t a Democrat let alone a progressive. She wasn’t a Republican, either, let alone a conservative.

In fact, the only thing she disliked more than conservative Republicans were outspoken liberal Democrats. As a Libertarian since her first year in college, Monica had her own political beliefs, but she believed in keeping politics and religion out of the schoolhouse—both with students and her fellow teachers.

“So how are you coming along in terms of your lesson plans?” Monica asked with a smile in order to change the subject, as the shaking finally subsided.

“Excellent! But then, this is my 11th year in the same school teaching the same class, so they’d better be, right?” the older woman said with a laugh.

“Right. Yes. I’m getting there, but I’m not quite at that stage yet,” Monica told her, not wanting to say she hoped she’d never get to the point where she wasn’t revising her material as new information became available.

“Anyway, what are you doing for lunch?” Cynthia asked, changing the subject again.

They agreed to meet in Monica’s room at noon, and as the younger woman walked away, Cynthia couldn’t help but feel a pang or two of jealousy even though she was the one with a loving husband and a child.

Monica was 5’7″ and very slim and quite possibly the most attractive woman she’d ever met. She wasn’t petite, per se, but she was thin and extremely attractive. Cynthia knew her fellow teacher wore a size 6 and tried comforting herself in part by thinking that would change once Monica had had a child.

“Even then, she’ll probably gain 12 pounds and be back in a size 6 a month later,” she said to herself even as she tried not to care.

But it wasn’t just her figure. Monica had a very pretty face, perfect skin, long, shiny, very-dark hair, and bright blue yes. Adding insult to injury she had soft, puffy lips and a gorgeous white smile. And in spite of being so thin, her face wasn’t the least bit ‘sunken in’. It was as pretty as any Cynthia had ever seen, and it just seemed so…unfair.

******

The following day at the Holtz’s home

“Are you doing your pod thingy tonight?” Brandon’s mother asked when she saw him come out of the home gym he’d set up in her late daughter’s bedroom.

She’d asked him many times to put on a tee-shirt when he finished, but once again, he’d forgotten to do so, and his chest looked like someone had just inflated it with air. As did his arms and legs. And yet his stomach or ‘abs’ looked like tightly aligned squares with four of them in two tight rows and two more peeking through below.

“Sorry, Mom. I’ll go grab a shirt,” he said when he noticed her looking at his swollen pecs. “Great chest day today. I benched 315 and got six reps on my last set at 250.”

“Oh. That’s wonderful,” his mother replied, having no idea or interest what that meant beyond the fact that her son loved lifting weights as much as he loved reading.

“And yes, I’m doing my podcast this evening,” he told her as he went to grab something to cover his upper body.

When he came back in, his mother said, “I still don’t understand why you won’t go to church any more.”

Brandon put a gentle hand on his mom’s shoulder as he reached around her to get something to eat and said, “Mom. You know I need actual evidence to believe something, and I’ve explained that, after listening to you and dad all my life, and reading numerous books on evolution AND intelligent design, I still don’t find any argument for God’s existence compelling.”

His mom came very close to asking him yet again, “But what about the trees and the birds and the stars? Where do you think those things came from and how are they not proof of something mature porno greater?”

She didn’t, because she’d heard his replies enough times to know there was just no ‘reaching’ him anymore. Even so, she loved her son dearly and always would. His father did, too, but because of these changes, things had often been strained for the last two years or so between Brandon and his father. They still weren’t back to normal, but he, too, had learned to accept the new reality after the death of their only other child, a daughter named Hannah Marie.

Brandon had been raised a Mormon in a very devout home. He’d been baptized, confirmed, and ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood and eagerly bought into everything he’d been taught. But now, he no longer accepted its teachings. For that matter, he didn’t accept any religion’s tenets or beliefs, and he’d been a hardcore skeptic since the age of 15 and a half when he began reading everything he could get his hands on looking for evidence of God’s existence.

His need for answers came about after his only sister, Hannah, had died of leukemia in spite of non-stop prayers from him, his parents, and everyone they knew at church. The local ward’s (congregation) bishop had laid his hands on her head several times, along with her father, an elder in the church, and a holder of the ‘Holy Melchizedek Priesthood’, and asked ‘Heavenly Father’ to heal her. And in spite of all of that, she died after two long years of painful suffering at the age of 11.

Brandon had been inconsolable, and the only thing he found that helped was searching for answers. He began devouring information at a rate that concerned both of his still-grieving parents who worried about the only remaining child they had.

Brandon’s mother had had some kind of complication after Hannah was born, one they never discussed, and she’d been unable to have more children. Now they were afraid they might lose their only remaining child to something worse than cancer—apostasy.

As Brandon locked himself in his room night after night, except to work out, he would spend hours and hours reading, researching, taking notes, and comparing and contrasting what he found with any conflicting information.

His parents told him more than once they felt he was too narrowly focused and that he should trust the church’s General Authorities—especially the living Prophet through whom God spoke. Brandon, however, disagreed as seeking answers and working out were his only reals interests. Girls were already flocking to him, but he had no time for, or interest in, anything else.

His search for truth initially began with church-related questions. Once he was satisfied with his search, he moved on to broader, more general issues regarding religion and belief in God.

That, in turn, led him into other heavy, deep areas like global warming which, by then, had been dubbed ‘climate change’, and which was now termed ‘climate chaos’ and then Darwinian evolution.

The evolution issue only confused his parents even more because their son not only no longer believed in God, but he was also tearing apart the standard theory of evolution taught in schools. In their minds, it had to be one or the other, and even after explaining how he felt, they still couldn’t make sense of his new belief system.

One of the first things he learned in his ‘deep dive’ into global warming was that proponents of climate change weren’t actually referring to the fact that the climate changes over time. The term had taken on a very specific meaning; one that was meant to convey a sense of dire urgency, and that of all of the possible outcomes, the worst (or close to it) was inevitable unless humans stopped spewing CO2 into the atmosphere.

In all cases, to include climate change, he made sure to read everything he could find on both sides of the issue. And somewhere very early along the way, skepticism became his new guiding light as he vowed he would never again believe ANYTHING simply because someone dubbed an ‘expert’ told him it was true. That included, but was not limited to, claims made by religious authorities or even scientists, and one of those issues where experts had a lot to say was climate change.

Brandon applied his newly-found skepticism to that hot-button topic to the same degree he’d challenged everything he’d ever been taught about God and religion, and ended up with a point of view that angered a whole lot of people. They just tended to be the opposite group of people that were as deeply offended by his newly-found lack of belief in God.

Brandon liked to call himself ‘an equal-opportunity pot stirrer’ who often said he didn’t care whose ox got gored in his relentless quest for the truth.

He signed off each podcast saying, “Never be offended by the truth regardless of the source, and challenge everything. Never believe ANYTHING until you are convinced for the right reasons by actual evidence, not claims or assertions from so-called experts with the letters PhD after their names! Remember, scientists are no different than you or me. They are subject to the same pressures we are, so just because they tell you something, that doesn’t mean it’s true! It’s either true or false on its own merit, and it’s up to you to dig for the truth because human beings have motives, and again, scientists are human beings.”

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