Responding to a Reader
Stephen, of On Beyond left a comment for me on Elitists and a Society of Fear over on Eric’s Grumbles. In the comments on that post, Stephen holds forth with a few things that I don’t agree with, so I responded with my own comment. I decided that my comment really deserved to be a post of its own, given the length and set of thoughts. But, since I’m now transitioning this sort of writing pretty well entirely to The Liberty Papers, I posted it here. Enjoy. Discuss. Take issue. What have you.
Stephen, pointing out that there is a lack of evidence for someone’s pet theory is not political. It is, actually, an important component of the scientific method. It is perfectly valid to say that global warming is not established fact due to the inconclusive and contradictory evidence. Calling such a position political is an act of politics that plays right into the hands of those who wish to use “global warming” for their own purposes.
Your argument about why there should be intrusive government action taken is part and parcel of the precautionary principle. Check out the link in the main post. The primary problem with this principle is that it is logically inconsistent. The second problem with it is that it creates a stasis, a fear of change, because change might be bad. The worst thing about Kyoto is that it dooms billions of people to poverty and privation permanently. The reality of human society is that change is part and parcel of it. Humans are dynamic. If you try to lock them into an unchanging environment for “their own good” forces far beyond your control will undo your every effort.
I’m always amused when people deny that the media, including newspapers, television, magazines, Hollywood, musical artists, etc. don’t have power. Information is power. The ability to put information in front of people is power. The media, as a group, has an immense amount of power and money both. In fact, Sony, AOL, Comcast, Oprah, Susan Sarandon, NYT, People, and on and on, have at least as much liquid capital as companies like Chevron and GM. Potentially, since many Hollywood artists are worth tens of millions, or more, and under no obligation to share holders to turn a profit, they have more money. And, since they get invited into our living rooms, car stereos, etc. every single day, they wield immense influence. Couple that with lawyers who stand to make enormous amounts of money (and already have) through environmental legislation and litigation. How many lawyers make enormous amounts of money from environmental impact statements every single day? How many lawyers are involved in lobbying to increase environmental regulation and legislation? Why is that? Why is it that the advent of the media and politicians taking environmental issues really seriously coincides almost perfectly with the fall of the Berlin Wall?
By the way, there’s some interesting science to suggest that global warming and increasing CO2 is good, not bad. Consider that the Earth was actually in a minor ice age until the early 19th century. Evidence, almost universally ignored by the mainstream, indicates that emerging from that minor ice age has led to increased agricultural productivity, among other things. Increases in CO2 improves plant growth. Further, the earth has been in a constant state of change since the very beginning of the planet. The reality is that the planet and the various ecologies found on it have changed dramatically over the past 20,000 years, some “natural” and some caused by humans. I’m not sure I understand how humans creating change is not “natural” but beavers causing change is, but that discussion could fill a whole bunch of posts all by itself.
As someone with a background in engineering, which includes substantial training in the scientific method, I have to seriously question investigation and research funded by organizations with serious investment in certain outcomes. I have to question whether evidence is being suppressed when major scientific journals receive funding, through advertising and donations, from those same organizations and when scientists and engineers report that papers casting doubt on the desired outcomes are suppressed. I would argue that your friend is not getting all of the data because the data is being suppressed.
Now, suppose you were Chevron, and your primary source of revenue was being attacked. Would you fund research to find out the validity of the arguments made against you? Yes, you would. Would that be suspect due to conflict of interest? Of course. So, why isn’t the research funded by environmental organizations suspect due to the conflict of interest? The majority of the research being published right now is funded by environmental organizations and the Federal government. Now, interestingly, environmental organizations have three primary sources of funding: Hollywood, the government, and the fossil fuel industry. One has to ask who has less conflict of interest. The oil industry, which is funding all sides of the research, or the environmental organizations, which are not? Just a question to ask yourself. Another question to ask yourself is why the “reputable trade publications” will publish research favorable to the theory of global warming, but not research unfavorable to it?
On your last point, the primary difference between what Crichton (and I) have to say on this topic and what the folks who believe vehemently in global warming has to say is that we are saying that global warming has too many contradictions to accept as proven. We aren’t saying it isn’t happening, or is happening. I would like to see a truly concerted effort made to understand this without the pre-determined outcomes. If you think that can happen with government funding, I would suggest looking at the history of government science, which is not good.
Finally, I don’t choose my science based on my preference for the implications and thus I have no need to be gentle in my judgement of the censorship and suppression of science by religion, whether historically, or occurring today. I don’t like the implications of research into solar and wind generated power (it can’t meet our needs and will be far more expensive than fossil fuel and nuclear power), but I don’t reject it because I don’t like it.
There is a huge difference between my position, which is that the evidence is inconclusive, contradictory and biased and the position you appear to be taking. I should also point out that one of the pluses to true scientific investigation is that any other person with reasonable intelligence, who is willing to invest the time and effort, can recreate the investigation done by someone else and draw conclusions based on that without having to take what someone tells them on faith. When you are being asked to take something on faith (which much of current global warming theory is asking you to do), then it isn’t science.
Finally, the issue of technology and your bank analogy. A bank will lend me a million dollars when I walk through the door if I have a track record that shows I can pay it back. So, is there a track record for science, technology and engineering? There absolutely is. Not only has it kept pace with the population growth of the planet, it has surged far ahead. All humans, in every quarter of the planet, are far better off, by any tangible standard, than they were in 1800. There is less disease, less starvation, fewer childhood diseases, more food, better housing, more leisure time. Every single disaster predicted by doomsayers over the past centuries has been negated by the advance of science and technology. That’s a pretty good track record. If you showed up in my bank with a record of paying off million dollar loans every time one was made, and doing it early, I’d be inclined to lend you a million dollars, knowing full well I was going to make a profit on you. When a claim is made that technology and science can solve these issues, based on the track record, I agree and I’m willing to make the loan.