Quality, not quantity

It can be lonely, being a climate change sceptic.

Firstly, you find yourself surrounded on all sides by people in government and the media telling you that anthropogenic climate change is a problem, that the country must ‘do sumfink’ about it – usually at a cost of thousands of millions of taxpayer dollars, not to mention the opportunity costs arising from misguided policies – and that anyone who indicates any scepticism about either issue is a ‘denier‘, at best to be held in contempt, at worst to be locked up or even placed on a par with the Nazis. 

And yet you hang on to your beliefs, because every time you review your thoughts and beliefs, and check the data and the scientific arguments, you come to the same conclusion – the data do not support the hypothesis of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, that science indicates that increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would actually be good for life on the planet, and that, even if the hypothesis is true, the IPCC itself says that the costs of such warming would equate to between 0.2% and 2% of annual GDP (page 19 – over what time frame we aren’t told, which doesn’t inspire confidence that these people are across their brief), which is one-tenth of buggerall, and far less than the costs of mitigation.

But you don’t say much about it. Because it can be social death. People look at you funny. Close friends that you’ve known for ages start frothing at the mouth and calling you names – nasty names. I wouldn’t have believed it till it happened to me.

So you sit there, and you wonder why a good proportion of the world’s best-educated people can’t see what you see, and insult you for having seen it. And you wait for the climate to do whatever it does, and which you are confident will create the ultimate disproof of a shoddy hypothesis.

So it is heartening to read that someone as distinguished as Freeman Dyson thinks in a similar way to me:

Are climate models getting better? You wrote how they have the most awful fudges, and they only really impress people who don’t know about them.

I would say the opposite. What has happened in the past 10 years is that the discrepancies between what’s observed and what’s predicted have become much stronger. It’s clear now the models are wrong, but it wasn’t so clear 10 years ago. I can’t say if they’ll always be wrong, but the observations are improving and so the models are becoming more verifiable.

It seems almost medieval to suppose that nature is punishing us, rather than the Enlightenment view, that we can tame nature, and still be good stewards of it.

That’s all true.

It’s now difficult for scientists to have frank and honest input into public debates. Prof Brian Cox, who is the public face of physics in the UK thanks to the BBC, has said he has no obligation to listen to “deniers,” or to any other views other than the orthodoxy.

That’s a problem, but still I find that I have things to say and people do listen to me, and people have no particular complaints.

It’s very sad that in this country, political opinion parted [people’s views on climate change]. I’m 100 per cent Democrat myself, and I like Obama. But he took the wrong side on this issue, and the Republicans took the right side.

And from his foreword to Indur Goklany’s report on carbon dioxide (to which I have linked above):

I consider myself an unprejudiced person and to me these facts are obvious. But the same facts are not obvious to the majority of scientists and politicians who consider carbon dioxide to be evil and dangerous. The people who are supposed to be experts and who claim to understand the science are precisely the people who are blind to the evidence. Those of my scientific colleagues who believe the prevailing dogma about carbon dioxide will not find Goklany’s evidence convincing. I hope that a few of them will make the effort to examine the evidence in detail and see how it contradicts the prevailing dogma, but I know that the majority will remain blind. That is to me the central mystery of climate science. It is not a scientific mystery but a human mystery. How does it happen that a whole generation of scientific experts is blind to obvious facts? In this foreword I offer a tentative solution of the mystery.

There are many examples in the history of science of irrational beliefs promoted by famous thinkers and adopted by loyal disciples. Sometimes, as in the use of bleeding as a treatment for various diseases, irrational belief did harm to a large number of human victims. George Washington was one of the victims. Other irrational beliefs, such as the phlogiston theory of burning or the Aristotelian cosmology of circular celestial motions, only did harm by delaying the careful examination of nature. In all these cases, we see a community of people happily united in a false belief that brought leaders and followers together. Anyone who questioned the prevailing belief would upset the peace of the community.

Real advances in science require a different cultural tradition, with individuals who invent new tools to explore nature and are not afraid to question authority.

Woah, wait a minute – what was that?

Real advances in science …

Dyson’s just won himself a place in our ‘No true Scotsman …’ competition. Anyway, going on:

Science driven by rebels and heretics searching for truth has made great progress in the last three centuries. But the new culture of scientific scepticism is a recent growth and has not yet penetrated deeply into our thinking. The old culture of group loyalty and dogmatic belief is still alive under the surface, guiding the thoughts of scientists as well as the opinions of ordinary citizens.

I encourage you to read the whole thing. Of course, here at the Stebbing-Heuer Project, exploring that ‘human mystery’ is our raison d’être. Dyson points at ‘groupthink’, reinforced as it often is by ‘out group stereotyping’ as being a cause of the inability of the AGW climate scientists, and the people they influence, to look anew at the facts and change their minds. This plays a part. Myself, I would also include motivated reasoning, the inertia of established ideas, and the convenience of the hypothesis for established political interests, in propelling it, and then establishing it, at the top of policy priorities, and encouraging the demonisation of those who refuse to ‘get with the programme’.

Anyway, I am perfectly happy to have thousands of experts, cultural dieticians and non-experts ranged against me in this issue, if it means that I have people of the calibre of Freeman Dyson, David Archibald, Joanne Nova, Chris Monckton and the people at the Global Warming Policy Foundation standing with me.

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About Stebbing Heuer

A person interested in exploring human perception, reasoning, judgement and deciding, and in promoting clear, effective thinking and the making of good decisions.
This entry was posted in 'No True Scotsman' Award, Democracy and freedom of mind, Freedom of speech, Groupthink, Mind-sets and Logic-Bubbles, Motivated Reasoning, Nullius in verba. Bookmark the permalink.

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