This is commencement season and, in recent years, it has meant a series of earnest speeches by social, cultural, and political leaders about the danger of global warming or climate change. These speeches are one part hectoring and one part shaming of those who disagree (e.g., “deniers”) in order to silence dissent. Remarkably and almost invariably, those giving such speeches are not themselves scientists. The President of the United States recently gave one of these lectures at, of all places, the commencement exercises of the Coast Guard Academy and told them that fighting climate change is their duty as much as fighting terrorism or interdicting drug shipments. This is akin to re-tasking NASA to mediate with the Muslim world. The President’s academic credentials do not include a degree in science (e.g., BS or MS or PhD). He has a BA and a JD, i.e., a law degree.1 Bill Nye is not a scientist yet he invoked the authority of science to buttress his claims about “climate change” at the Rutgers commencement. Al Gore, perhaps the most notorious exemplar of this class, was a mediocre student who earned Ds in his science courses.2 Yet, in 2006, speaking at New York University (NYU) Law School, the former Vice President of the United States said:
Many scientists are now warning that we are moving closer to several “tipping points” that could — within as little as 10 years — make it impossible for us to avoid irretrievable damage to the planet’s habitability for human civilization. In this regard, just a few weeks ago, another group of scientists reported on the unexpectedly rapid increases in the release of carbon and methane emissions from frozen tundra in Siberia, now beginning to thaw because of human caused increases in global temperature. The scientists tell us that the tundra in danger of thawing contains an amount of additional global warming pollution that is equal to the total amount that is already in the earth’s atmosphere.
It is 2015 and even some of the most ardent proponents of the “Global Warming” hypothesis have moderated their rhetoric. China continues to create enough pollution for several nations and yet the predicted apocalypse does not seem any closer than when Gore gave the speech. The President, Gore, Nye, and others regularly invoke the now sacred authority of science and even the more fearsome combination “settled science” to quell dissent. The louder they yell, the shakier their intellectual foundation. The remarkable thing about this theater is how utterly unscientific it all is. Dissent is of the very essence of the scientific enterprise. In the nature of the enterprise there can be no such thing as “settled science.” At best things are temporarily settled, until new data is collected, new and new analysis performed. Whenever anyone invokes this language we may be sure that they are not actually doing or reporting on science but actually making a religious claim. The religious way science functions in the late-modern West also suggests that the older distinction between a “rational” and “scientific” view of the world and the religious is tenuous. The call to pay no attention to the men behind the curtain, who have been accused of fiddling with data to support a predetermined outcome, the demand that skeptics stop asking questions (just Google “climate skeptic”) is much more like the Enlightenment-fueled caricature of the Middle Ages than it is like science. Since when does real science tell others to stop asking questions? Isn’t critical thinking, doubt, and questioning of the essence of science? Yes, it is. Anyone who tells you to stop asking questions is telling you to stop doing science.
The noun science has not always had the cultural authority it has now. Our English noun science is comes from the Latin noun scientia, which was a general word for knowledge. In our time, however, when we think of science, we think of lab-coated priests of all that is true, reliable, and authoritative. That this is so is easily demonstrated. Advertisers constantly appropriate the cultural authority of the lab coat. In tiny letters, however, at the bottom of the screen, there is what is known in the television business as a crawl that says something to the effect that the person wearing the lab coat is not actually a physician or a scientist. At least the advertisers tell us the truth. It would be more honest were those universities that invite politicians and television hosts to intone on “science” if they would post the same crawl beneath their lectern. The lab-coated set has not always had the authority that they do today. Their cultural authority is the result of a revolution, sometimes called “the scientific revolution” and that is usually traced to the so-called, self-described “Enlightenment(s)” of the 18th and 19th centuries. Until relatively recently the story was that, prior to the Enlightenment the West was intellectually befuddled and benighted (hence “the Enlightenment”) by a great evil: religion (authoritative claims about God, man, the nature of things, Truth, and reality grounded in divine revelation and mediated through authoritative social institutions (e.g., the church). Before the Enlightenment(s), Christianity was the religion of the West and so it has become, for many moderns, the great bogeyman. Nevertheless, in the name of science claims are also made about God, man, the nature of things, Truth, and reality on the basis of speculation. It does not take long for some scientists to begin to sound quite religious.
Until the 20th century theology was called a science, an organized body of beliefs, observations, and inferences resting on axioms. What we today call “science” was called “natural philosophy” and sometimes “physics.” As a matter of history there is no such thing as science. There is this science and that science but there is no such thing as a set of indisputable facts about the natural world about which all reasonable people agree (as if science and consensus are identical) in all times and places. In fact, Christians were deeply involved in the scientific revolutions of the 16th and 17th centuries (and beyond). Indeed, there have been multiple scientific revolutions in the last 2,000 years. It was not that long ago that all reasonable people were certain that the earth was at the center of the universe. Then, gradually beginning in the mid-16th century, that ancient conviction was challenged and over the next century and a half the consensus changed to the present view, that the sun is at the center of our universe. There have been at least three revolutions in physics since the middle of the 17th century. Science changes. Through much of the 19th century phrenology (the study of the shape and size of the human cranium) was considered a science. Through phrenology, it was thought, a person’s character or probable behavior could be determined. Phrenology has been admitted as evidence in American criminal trials. One of the founders of what is today the American Psychiatric Association, Isaac Ray, was an advocate of phrenology. Today, anyone advocating phrenology would be laughed out of court.
Before the so-called, self-described Enlightenment(s), theology was regarded as a science. If we define science as something like an organized, internally coherent body of knowledge derived from observation and inference, resting on axioms, then theology can reasonably be called a science. In contrast to natural science, the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, for example, has not changed in 2,000 years. It is a much more stable set of observations and inferences based on axioms than physical science. This does not mean that physical science is not true but its truth claims are relative and provisional. In other words, the current dominant characterization of science as referring solely to the study of the natural world is more a matter of politics (civil and informal social coercion) than it is about actual knowledge or coherent beliefs. When we hear figures from politics and the entertainment business, such as Al Gore, warning us about an imminent environmental apocalypse and especially when they invoke the cultural authority of science, please bear in mind the history of science. Popes and councils err. So do scientists.
Here is some summer reading on the history of science:
- Polanyi, Michael. Science, Faith and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964.
- Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientiﬁc Revolutions. Chicago, Chicago: University of Chicago press, 1970.
- Polanyi, Michael. Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-critical Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974.
1. He was a “senior lecturer.” He did not hold a tenure-track position. It appears that he held an intermediate position with an honorific title. This Factcheck.org piece explains the difference between a tenure-track position and that held by Mr Obama. He was a part-time, non-voting, faculty member. In other words, he was not a professional, vocational scholar. Typically, in the American system, the title lecturer is used for those who teach part-time, often as visiting lecturers, who teach specialized courses. They are not reviewed for tenure. They do not have to “publish or perish.” He was made a “senior lecturer” when he was elected to the State Senate. It was an honorary title not an academic title.
2. In contrast Dr Todd Pedlar is a real scientist and wears his lab coat with justifiable pride.
In his article, “Leftism a Radical Faith,” Bruce Riggs notes that much of the political history of the extended twentieth century is that of massive extinctions of citizenries by their dictatorial governments:
“Take the engineered mass starvations, torture chambers, firing squads, and gulags of Lenin and Stalin; Nazi gas chambers; Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge killing fields; the genocides of Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”; and the tyrannical North Korean Sung dynasty, and one will find that over one hundred million people have been slaughtered. (American Thinker, Jan. 1, 2014)
These murderous pagan-state governments systematically dehumanized and murdered millions of “useless eaters” “human weeds” and other undesirables to create an imaginary earthly Eden and this is clearly irrational. In this sense totalitarianism is the secular equivalent of a pagan nature worship religion grounded in a dehumanizing man-centered universe where the majority of humanity is on a par with slugs, weeds, and apes, thus entirely expendable.
This evil religion continues today as a “scientific” “evolutionary” secular, politico-centric faith disdainful of orthodox Christian faith and contemptuous of the faithful. This evil, murderous religion,
“is a faith that, in its historical manifestation, has birthed the murderous tyrannies of the extended twentieth century—tyrannies that have marched under left-wing banners of Marxism, Communism, and National Socialism, or, more generally and descriptively, Coercive Collectivism.” (ibid, Riggs)
The current variation of this evil religion is “green” Technocracy or occult pagan and pantheist Agenda 21 grounded in evolutionary biocentrism or ecocentrism, terms synonymous with today’s sustainable development and global warming/cooling/change agenda. Evolutionary biocentrism is a revamped version of Communism’s Darwinian biological and zoological strain of thinking, the dehumanizing engine of evil that unleashed rivers of blood in Marxist controlled Russia and Nazi controlled Germany.
Global change science is synonymous with evolution. As evolution implies continuous change it is both moral relativism and nihilism. Evolution and global change science are therefore two of the Big Lies repeated over and over by today’s builders of a globally “green” socialist New World Order:
“The goal now is a socialist, redistributionist society, which is nature’s proper steward and society’s only hope.” David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth
“Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?”- Maurice Strong, founder of the UN Environment Program
“Effective execution of Agenda 21 will require a profound reorientation of all human society, unlike anything the world has ever experienced a major shift in the priorities of both governments and individuals and an unprecedented redeployment of human and financial resources. This shift will demand that a concern for the environmental consequences of every human action be integrated into individual and collective decision-making at every level.” UN Agenda 21
“I envisage the principles of the Earth Charter to be a new form of the ten commandments. They lay the foundation for a sustainable global earth community.” – Mikhail Gorbachev, co-author of The Earth Charter
“We are close to a time when all of humankind will envision a global agenda that encompasses a kind of Global Marshall Plan to address the causes of poverty and suffering and environmental destruction all over the earth.” Al Gore, Earth in the Balance
“We have reached the critical moment of decision on climate change. Failure to act to now would be deeply and unforgivably irresponsible. We urgently require a global environmental revolution.” Tony Blair,former British PM
“Climate change should be seen as the greatest challenge to ever face mankind.” Prince Charles
“Climate change is real. Not only is it real, it’s here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster.” – Barack Obama,US President
“We’ve got to ride this global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic and environmental policy.”- Timothy Wirth, President of the UN Foundation
“No matter if the science of global warming is all phony…climate change provides the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world.”- Christine Stewart, former Canadian Minister of the Environment
“Coal makes us sick. Oil makes us sick. It’s global warming. It’s ruining our country. It’s ruining our world.” Harry Reid, U.S. Senate majority leader
“By the end of this century climate change will reduce the human population to a few breeding pairs surviving near the Arctic.” – Sir James Lovelock, Revenge of Gaia
“Take the engineered mass starvations, torture chambers, firing squads, and gulags of
Lenin and Stalin; Nazi gas chambers; Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge killing fields; the genocides
of Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”; and the tyrannical North Korean Sung dynasty, and one
will find that over one hundred million people have been slaughtered. (American Thinker,
Jan. 1, 2014)
Linda, this shows that gun control works, the American public need to maintain their
2nd Amendment rights at all costs as it will result in another counter-reformation
A few years ago I wrote in a post…
Mike Hulme, founding director of the Tyndall Centre, and Professor of Climate Change at the University of East Anglia (UEA), prepared climate scenarios and reports for the UK Government (including the UKCIP98 and UKCIP02 scenarios, and reviewer for UKCP09), the European Commission, UNEP, UNDP, WWF-International and the IPCC, and was co-ordinating Lead Author for the chapter on ‘Climate scenario development’ for the Third Assessment Report of the IPCC, as well as a contributing author for several other chapters. He wrote:
“Climate change is telling the story of an idea and how that idea is changing the way in which our societies think, feel, interpret and act. And therefore climate change is extending itself well beyond simply the description of change in physical properties in our world…”
“The function of climate change I suggest, is not as a lower-case environmental phenomenon to be solved…It really is not about stopping climate chaos. Instead, we need to see how we can use the idea of climate change – the matrix of ecological functions, power relationships, cultural discourses and materials flows that climate change reveals – to rethink how we take forward our political, social, economic and personal projects over the decades to come.”
“There is something about this idea that makes it very powerful for lots of different interest groups to latch on to, whether for political reasons, for commercial interests, social interests in the case of NGOs, and a whole lot of new social movements looking for counter culture trends.”
“Climate change has moved from being a predominantly physical phenomenon to being a social one…It is circulating anxiously in the worlds of domestic politics and international diplomacy, and with mobilising force in business, law, academia, development, welfare, religion, ethics, art and celebrity.”
“Climate change also teaches us to rethink what we really want for ourselves…mythical ways of thinking about climate change reflect back to us truths about the human condition…”
“The idea of climate change should be seen as an intellectual resource around which our collective and personal identifies and projects can form and take shape. We need to ask not what we can do for climate change, but to ask what climate change can do for us…Because the idea of climate change is so plastic, it can be deployed across many of our human projects and can serve many of our psychological, ethical, and spiritual needs.”
“…climate change has become an idea that now travels well beyond its origins in the natural sciences…climate change takes on new meanings and serves new purposes…climate change has become “the mother of all issues”, the key narrative within which all environmental politics – from global to local – is now framed…Rather than asking “how do we solve climate change?” we need to turn the question around and ask: “how does the idea of climate change alter the way we arrive at and achieve our personal aspirations…?” “
“We need to reveal the creative psychological, spiritual and ethical work that climate change can do and is doing for us…we open up a way of resituating culture and the human spirit…As a resource of the imagination, the idea of climate change can be deployed around our geographical, social and virtual worlds in creative ways…it can inspire new artistic creations in visual, written and dramatised media. The idea of climate change can provoke new ethical and theological thinking about our relationship with the future….We will continue to create and tell new stories about climate change and mobilise these stories in support of our projects. Whereas a modernist reading of climate may once have regarded it as merely a physical condition for human action, we must now come to terms with climate change operating simultaneously as an overlying, but more fluid, imaginative condition of human existence.”
In early November 2009, a certain Tim Nicholson was granted permission to take his former employer Grainger to a tribunal. Commenting on this, his lawyer states:
“Essentially what the judgment says is that a belief in man-made climate change and the alleged resulting moral imperative is capable of being a philosophical belief and is therefore protected by the 2003 religion or belief regulations”
Nicholson said he had tried to set up a carbon management system for the company, but was unable to work out its carbon footprint because staff had refused to give him the necessary data. He accused the chief executive, Rupert Dickinson, of showing “contempt” for his beliefs by not minimizing carbon emissions. Commenting on this issue in ‘The Guardian’, Andrew Brown, clearly in favour of coercion, writes in an article entitled ‘We’re doomed without a green religion’:
“The justification for burning heretics was perfectly simple: dissent threatened the survival of society…not to coerce, itself becomes immoral…Compulsion will be needed but compulsion alone won’t do it…They need to believe in what they are forced to do…and that will also mean its dark side: the pressure of conformism, the force of self-righteousness, huge moral weight attached to practically useless gestures like unplugging phone chargers. They need, in fact, something that does look a lot like religion…Should that happen, the denialists, who claim that it is all a religion, will for once be telling the truth…”
The attempt to make an analogy between the Coast Guard and NASA situations is particularly unfortunate, since the Coast Guard will deal directly with the effects of climate change in fulfilling their core mission.
Here’s a true story regarding phrenology. In 1809, when the composer Joseph Haydn died, at 77, someone managed to remove his head from his body shortly after burial. He, evidently, wanted to know the secret of Haydn’s extraordinary talent. Well, Haydn’s head bounced around (so to speak) Europe for more than a century. It was mysteriously re-united with his body only in 1954, when a new grave site for Haydn was being prepared in his native Austria. Somehow, I doubt if the head-stealer discovered any of Haydn’s secrets.
Back when I was a young teen, we were assured we were heading into a new Ice Age. When I was a young man, I was assured we would be cooked by greenhouse gasses. When I was a little kid, it was positively established science that sauropods were sluggish critters that needed to spend most of their lives semi-submerged; decades later, they say they were warm-blooded, active, fully terrestrial creatures. So much for all the assurances “science” gives me (beyond a few things such as gravity).
Among circles in which I live and move, to make such observations is to invite a reaction similar to the way the Sephardim of Amsterdam treated Spinoza.
Re Linda Kimball’s comment, I also read Rudolph Rummel’s _Death by Government_, an academic study of the human cost of 20th century totalitarianism. A common denominator I noted in all the regimes Rummel examined was their “scientific” pretensions. Perhaps it is safe to say that whereas the political artefact of the Reformed Faith was constitutionally limited government, that of evolutionary materialism was 20th century totalitarianism–and the Left’s maneuverings suggest to me that the totalitarian spirit lingers despite the endings of World War II and the Cold War.
It gets better all the time. Now they’re speculating that the rover might be instigating climate change on Mars:
Never mind that Mars was at perihelion recently, having past closest to the Sun back at the end of December, some 14 million miles closer in its elliptical orbit than usual. Or the fact that the Sun is in the midst of a major activity cycle right now, one that is effecting climate here on Earth, as well. But a little rover causing climate change on an entire huge planet. OK.
At the risk of irritating the management I have to ask about your expertise in climate science that enables you to assess the current “consensus”. My own take is that “such and such” is what we now think based on the current assessment of the data. As someone with a slightly right lean politically, I also say that the science doesn’t tell us what to do. That’s a social, economic, political, aesthetic, religious question that gets decided by our social-political processes. “Science” doesn’t really care if the temperature goes up by 3° or if Bangladesh goes under water or if monarch butterflies go extinct. “Science” might tell us what happens if we do such and such, but “science” does come with any oughts.
One need not be a scientist to assess a “consensus,” which is nothing more than a phony, political, piece of propaganda. When people talk about, e.g., a 97% consensus about global warming they are referring to a highly subjective assessment.
To be sure, I did conduct an interview with a real scientist, Dr. Todd Pedlar, on the Heidelcast where we discussed this very thing:
I have done a little writing on the history of science. You can see it in Recovering the Reformed Confession.
This is not a matter of the political left or right. This is a matter of free investigation and academic freedom and, increasingly, civil liberties, when attorneys general are threatening to prosecute “climate deniers” on the basis of RICO statutes.
Oops! Science does NOT come with any oughts.
I only use the word “consensus” loosely and to identify the position. The 97% number is not the number advocating alarmism, even though often used that way. Do I would be curious though what your scientific critic of the “consensus” position might be. Do you dispute that there is warming? Do you dispute that Co2 concentrations have increased? Do you dispute that there is a connection between warming and CO2 concentrations? Do you dispute that there is sea level rise? Where exactly is the mainstream view on this wrong?
1. Assessing a consensus is essentially subjective. Who’s “in”? Who’s “? Who’s doing the counting? By what standard? What’s the data set? What are the parameters? Polanyi is spinning in his grave.
2. I rarely cite Wikis and I do so here with fear and trembling because as the page says, the list is “dynamic,” but here’s list of critics. I use it only to illustrate that there are credible critics of the whole thing. Here’s a much more detailed account of professional scientific skepticism about AGW. Here is more “heresy.” critics. I use it only to illustrate that there are credible critics of the whole thing. Here’s a much more detailed account of professional scientific skepticism about AGW. Here is more “heresy.” 3. The truly political way that “scientists” have operated in recent years, whether it’s fiddling with the data or suppressing evidence, or seeking to suppress dissent, justifies my skepticism. 4. Setting a baseline for temperatures prior the modern period is highly dubious. So the baseline is uncertain. I see “scientists” talking about medieval and pre-medieval temperatures as if we know with precision what they were. Rubbish. 5. Do you mean “critique”? My critique is methodological. If this were about “science” and not politics, the discussion is far too polemical and political to be credited as purely “scientific.” I’m old enough to remember when global cooling was a “scientific” consensus. http://denisdutton.com/newsweek_coolingworld.pdf TIME magazine reported the “settled science” about global cooling in 1974. Then it was “global warming” and now “climate change.” That’s not “science.” That’s the politics of alarmism, fear, federal funding (NASA has a scare for us every year, just ahead of their appropriation request). 6. I’m agnostic about the rise in CO2. Some “scientists” affirm and some deny. Maybe it fluctuates? Who knows? How long have we been measuring? Against what sort of baseline? As Delingpole says, there’s a difference between “climate change” and AGW.” target=”_blank”>Ian Tuttle has been chronicling dissent for a while.
3. The truly political way that “scientists” have operated in recent years, whether it’s fiddling with the data or suppressing evidence, or seeking to suppress dissent, justifies my skepticism.
4. Setting a baseline for temperatures prior the modern period is highly dubious. So the baseline is uncertain. I see “scientists” talking about medieval and pre-medieval temperatures as if we know with precision what they were. Rubbish.
5. Do you mean “critique”? My critique is methodological. If this were about “science” and not politics, the discussion is far too polemical and political to be credited as purely “scientific.” I’m old enough to remember when global cooling was a “scientific” consensus. http://denisdutton.com/newsweek_coolingworld.pdf TIME magazine reported the “settled science” about global cooling in 1974. Then it was “global warming” and now “climate change.” That’s not “science.” That’s the politics of alarmism, fear, federal funding (NASA has a scare for us every year, just ahead of their appropriation request).
6. I’m agnostic about the rise in CO2. Some “scientists” affirm and some deny. Maybe it fluctuates? Who knows? How long have we been measuring? Against what sort of baseline? As Delingpole says, there’s a difference between “climate change” and AGW.
7. You’re real question is this: how can those of us without lab coats dare challenge the priesthood? It’s easy. I’m a scholar and even though I don’t have a lab coat I know when I’m being buffaloed. As said above, I doubt the premise of the whole enterprise, because I know enough about the history of science (which you conveniently ignored). My skepticism about “science” is entirely justified.
Dr. Clark, I try to keep an open mind and, honestly, have no reputation or career to protect, but I don’t think I’ve heard a single “denialist” claim that isn’t based on a serious misunderstanding. I’ve heard reputable physicists and meteorologists explain the “average temperature anomaly” in such a way that it’s clear that they don’t understand it. I’ve heard reputable physicists explain CO2 saturation in such a way that shows they don’t understand how greenhouse gases work. I’ve seen people draw lines through the temperature data that accentuates “the pause” much more aggregiously from a data analysis perspective than anyone trying to “hide the decline”. I’ve seen people complain when scientists adjust their hypothesis to account for the data (as if scientists aren’t supposed to do this). For example, maybe atmospheric temp isn’t the best way to measure planetary heat gain but we have to consider oceanic heat and heat producing polar and glacial ice melting. I’ve heard people complain about “fudging the data” when the reality is that we are simply managing data and processing it better. Sure, there are things we may not be incorporating correctly into the models or they may be unexpected responses (in either direction) of the climate system based on things we don’t know, but the current models and predictions are based on the best knowledge to date. Whether to base policy on those things is a separate question as I indicated earlier. As an insider of sorts who has a socio-political bent to be a denier, I honestly don’t see much merit in the denialists claims as much as I want to and agree with a lot else that they say. Finally, I think you’re much too suspicious of this conspiracy. Let the skeptics overturn the “consensus”. They’ll get fame and fortune for it even if it might take extra effort to overthrow an entrenched established position. It can be and has been done. Otherwise for the here and now we teach what we think the best science says (as we seek to make ut better) and we communicate what we think is the best science to our policy makers. What more can those of us in lab coats do? There’s no need to school me in the history of science or the sociology of science. I am well aware. As with much of our understanding time will tell. The subjectivity that history and sociology teaches us about does not change the reality of Creation.