Global Warming: Religion or science?
By: Robert E. Meyer
If we have seen it once, we have seen it a thousand times: somebody writes an editorial claiming that man-made global warming is a irrefutable scientific fact, and the rest of us who are stubbornly skeptical might as well be charter members of the flat earth society.
But there are numerous problems with taking this sort of approach to any issue. As a non-scientist, it is far too easy to become psychologically bullied by those who would argue that I have no expert standing to dispute this issue. But all of us who think for ourselves have the right to philosophically cross-examine any claim its for logical cogency.
First of all, using the phrase “scientific fact” to describe conclusions about the global warming phenomenon seems to place science on the dogmatic pedestal with religious revelation, but that is not the scaffolding on which true which scientific inquiry is built. If one observes a physics textbook from a century ago, for example, they will discover that much of what was accepted as “truth” then, has been modified or even disproved. That is because science derives many conclusions through inductive methods, which can produce weak, tentative conclusions. To claim that “the science is settled,” is in principle a desperate act, much like the preacher who is advised to pound the pulpit to strengthen a weak point in his sermon. Such posturing disregards any contrary evidence without consideration. How is that scientific investigation?
A second problem is what I call “the appeal to expertise.” It goes something like this: A consensus of credentialed scientists all believe a certain thing, therefore it is true. This reasoning assumes that someone must be objective in the same proportion that they are an expert, or said another way, an expert can never be biased or affected by groupthink.
Suppose you go in for a dental examination, and while examining your mouth, your dentist says “have you considered taking out a loan?” Now are you dealing with a oral hygiene expert speaking objectively, or a businessperson speaking out of self-interest? You have to use your own judgment to discern the difference. In that case you have no difficulty seeing how bias can work contrary to knowledge. The appeal to expertise is not as strong an argument as it would appear to be, because specialized knowledge does not connote objectivity.
So what am I saying? Are all these experts liars? Of course not. I am saying that I doubt every expert comes to their own conclusions independently from scratch, and that reputations and careers are of primary consideration when such persons publicly take a position. Anyone who viewed Ben Stein’s documentary movie “Expelled” last year, was given a taste of the pressure placed upon dissenters to conform, which is the status quo within the world of academia.
It is amazing to me the number of people who put blind faith in the “consensus of experts,” yet are unable themselves to simply articulate what the overwhelming evidence these guys supposedly have. You are told that somewhere out there an irrefutable body of knowledge exists, and we must accept it regardless of the insufficiency of the explanation.
Yet another problem is a disregard for contrary or conflicting evidence, or the logical problems that confront the conclusions. If one points out that other planets in the solar system have warmed without human inference, or that other past earth temperature fluctuations have occurred without significant human CO2 emissions, etc., then these issues should be considered and debated. For advocates of made-man global warming to give simply a canned spiel, which is unmitigated by objection, is becomes like debating a pull-string talking doll.
An aspect of this whole movement I find appalling, is that certain developing nations will be exempt from treatises designed to reduce emissions. Now tell me, does the earth’s atmosphere care who the particular countries are that cause pollution? This is yet another reason to be suspicious of the whole process.
The question of doctored data is also a curious problem in this controversy. One case-in-point is the data from NASA that suggested certain years in the most recent decade were the hottest years ever recorded, when it actually turned out that they were cooler than several years in the 1930′s before CO2 levels began to rise significantly. I did only a minor study of meteorology years back, and I knew the hot years of the 1930′s had been underweighted in the study. How is it that these calculations just happened to be made in the direction of the current consensus, and later had to be retracted or amended when the error was exposed? Why do people alarmed by global warming assume that they know what the ideal mean temperature of the earth ought to be?
The phenomenon of public mass hysteria cannot be ignored either. The whole psychological outworking of the propensity to embrace man-made global warming, is so similar to past incidences of public sentimentality. I remember all sorts of “scares” in my youth and adulthood. The advent of the Jupiter Effect in 1982, the hysteria surrounding assured mutual destruction, culminating with the movie “the Day After.” Let’s not forget the ozone hole over The South Pole, or the recent Y2K panic. We could go on and on.
I don’t doubt at all that our climate could be changing; I do doubt that people have as much control over that as we are led to believe. I suspect the cataclysmic predictions are sheer recklessness.