Warming Prophets Create Climate of Smear

I like Skeptic magazine; indeed, I have written an article for eSkepticabout religion in Harry Potter. Healthy skepticism is about thinking for yourself, declining to accept “established wisdom” without good evidence, and rejecting pseudo-science and appeals to non-natural explanations about the world.

Unfortunately, the latest article by geologist Donald Prothero for eSkepticpromotes group-think and smearing the opposition. Prothero accuses “climate change-deniers” of ad hominem attacks, even though the very label contains two smears.

First, Prothero clearly means to attribute guilt by association with the term “denier,” linking his opponents with other unassociated groups. Prothero explicitly likens his opponents to “evolution-deniers,” and never mind that many critical thinkers accept evolution but question climate alarmism. Ah, but some “climate change-deniers” are also “evolution-deniers,” and that’s good enough for Prothero. The argument seems to be, “Some of my opponents are idiots; therefore, all of my opponents are wrong.” But that’s not good enough, not if you claim the mantle of science.

Second, Prothero’s claim that his opponents “deny climate change” is simply a ridiculous lie. Nobody denies that the climate changes. Indeed, it is precisely the fact that the climate always changes and has been continually changing since the formation of the Earth that provides goodprima facie reason to think that modern climate change is dominated by nature rather than humans. In all the climate-change literature, the single page that most impressed me was the page from Al Gore’s first major book on the subject showing the pre-human cycles of climate change.

Only a fool would argue that modern climate change is due exclusively to human industry. (On the other hand, it is a tautology that, before humans evolved, nature was exclusively responsible for climate change.) However, nobody could sustain the view that human-caused CO2 emissions have zero impact on today’s climate. Therefore, the real debate is between the views of “human-dominated climate change” and “nature-dominated climate change.”

Given that nature obviously dominated climate change for nearly all of the Earth’s history, the idea that nature continues to dominate climate change remains a highly plausible starting point.

As to Prothero’s claims about the “scientific consensus” (which, incidentally, has been wrong before), there are a couple of good reasons to think that ideology drives much of the science. First, large sums of federal cash are awarded to scientists who promote the “consensus” view. Second, most advocates of “human-dominated climate change” advocate massive federal controls on the economy as a response, even though that political conclusion extends well beyond the scientific claims.

True skeptics will not be bowled over by the smear tactics and intimidation of the modern environmentalist movement.

1 thought on “Warming Prophets Create Climate of Smear”

  1. Comment by Anonymous October 2, 2011 at 10:03 PM

    Your statement that “the real debate is between the views of ‘human-dominated climate change’ and ‘nature-dominated climate change’ ” is false. Scientist do not claim that human actions have come to dominate climate change, only that they have come to influence climate change. I believe that is an important distinction. Human actions have nudged earth’s climate away from that which could be predicted by the patterns of nature. It is these new patterns that must be either changed or otherwise dealt with by humankind.

    Comment by Ari October 2, 2011 at 10:28 PM

    But, Anonymous, all you’re doing is again ignoring the importance of magnitude. “Influence” and “nudged” — by how much? That is the first important question. Whether or not particular “scientists” claim that humans “dominate climate change,” that is precisely the standard environmentalist case.

    Comment by Anonymous October 7, 2011 at 7:40 AM

    Totally agreed with you. About all the global warming subject, I’ve found the book “state of fear” by Micheal Crichton very illuminating: by means of a novel, he offers a rational and scientific point of view on the matter, supported by a noticeable amount of references (which are reported in the bibliography at the end of the book). His conclusions are not very different from yours.
    Among other things he pointed out that, while some areas have become hotter and hotter (for example expanding cities), others have become colder while others are just stable in the last 20-30 years; it’s very unlikely to talk about a “global warming” trend.
    Unfortunately I think this “global warming” idea is very rooted among public opinion (and as you said, its promotion by scientists is awarded with lot of money), that every other opinion is just turned down, like an “heresy”.

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