Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Climategate: A Battle Won, Not the War

I cannot resist commenting on "Climategate", the scandal involving revelations of fraud based on the hacked emails of a group of prominent global warming scientists. James Delingpole wrote a good article and quotes a blogger saying the emails reveal:
Conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more.
These revelations comes as no surprise to those of us who have claimed for years that AGW is a junk science smokescreen serving to conceal a political agenda. Since the scandal is becoming major news, including calls for a Congressional investigation, I will try and add something that is not likely to be said. Delingpole is right when he states:
There are too many vested interests in AGW, with far too much to lose either in terms of reputation or money, for this to end without a bitter fight.
And he is narrowly right to say:
this shabby story represents a blow to the AGW lobby’s credibility from which it is never likely to recover.
However, I would caution those who think that this scandal is "the final nail in the coffin" to consider that the death and suffering of tens of millions of people have not stopped socialism's defenders nor has hundreds of years of scientific discovery tempered the passions of the religious. Similarly, since environmentalism is not about science, it is unlikely that this scandal will soften the resolve of its supporters. Environmentalism is essentially a socialist political movement resting on a religious belief in the intrinsic value of nature and the morality of altruism. As I said in a previous post, The Change to Climate Change:
Environmentalists are not concerned with saving the earth for man but saving the earth from man. In other words, because man, by his nature, must use the earth, the environmentalist who values nature "intrinsically" must, on principle, consider man to be only an enemy of the earth (which carries the status of a god to be worshipped for its own sake.) Therefore, the scientific issue of "warming" is nothing but a smokescreen - a convenient claim carrying a pseudo-scientific veneer that can more easily confuse the ignorant public as to the movement's true aims. If "warming" were wholly disproved it would not temper the environmentalist cause for a second. They would move on to something else as they are already doing with "climate change" or to a yet to be determined apocryphal fantasy aimed at scaring the public into accepting sacrifice and global government decrees thwarting production and economic progress.
Importantly, it should be noted that the truth of falsity of AGW has nothing to do with the question of what socio-economic system is moral and practical. It seems to be a foregone conclusion that if AGW were true, this fact alone would somehow imply the necessity of global government and the throttling of industrial civilization. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, as I argued in a previous post, more freedom (not less) is the solution to potential disasters. I quoted George Reisman:
The answer to the question of how best to cope with intolerable global warming caused by Nature is obviously the maintenance of the free market, not its replacement by Socialist central planning. Indeed, the answer is to make the free market freer than it now is—as much freer as is humanly possible. This is because while the primary reason for advocating a free market is the greater prosperity and enjoyment it brings to everyone in the course of his normal, everyday life, a major, secondary reason is to have the greatest possible industrial base available for coping with catastrophic events, whether those events be war, plague, meteors from outer space, intolerable global warming, or a new ice age.
If we unequivocally demonstrate that AGW is a fraud, it will not stop environmentalists from plugging in some new man-made apocalypse to justify calls for global government and the destruction of modern civilization. Man is their enemy, and until he perishes from the earth, this war will continue.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Doug,

You have been calling this for a while. Feels good to be right. Happy Thanksgiving and keep up the good work.

Rational Education said...

Doug,
Your post is the best I have read on the Climategate scandal.It puts the entire incident in the right perspective.
Thanks for the post (and Amen!).
Happy Thanksgiving!
Jasmine

Doug Reich said...

Thank you very much and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Beth said...

Doug,
I think it is fair to say that BOTH sides of the climate change controversy have advocates that leap to rapid and unsubstantiated conclusions as to the science involved. The smallest bit of disconnected data is jumped on as "proof" to the conclusion which they already hold. This is precisely why science must remain disconnected from politics.

I've previously written on this topic as well:
Science Vs. Politics
Science Vs. Politics, Part 2
Economics Vs. Environmentalism
Just Science
A Pollution to Worry About
Politics, Science and Climate Change

It's a shame that more of the prominent "good guys" don't emphasize this aspect of the battle.

Patrick Michaels' initial response to the announcement of the Climategate emails was to downplay their significance. People can say all sorts of things in private which should not be taken too seriously. We all have a need to vent. Later however, after he read more of the emails, Michaels changed his reaction to outrage. It will be important to see what develops from this as people have time to analyze the emails and interpret them in light of the relevant context. I just hope that those who comment on then will make the effort to do do just that.

Thanks for your post!

Doug Reich said...

Thanks Beth.

I think what we are seeing in this debate are epistemological cracks creeping into science. Not that scientists have ever been immune from methodological problems or have not engaged in vigourous debate, but ultimately, proof has always been the final arbiter and has kept junk science in the background.

Good method is essential when you move into the area of forecasting and computer modeling. I think it is very easy for unscrupulous or epistemologically challenged scientists to get away with junk science in today's philosophically bankrupt environment. When you throw into this millieu both government funding and politics as motive, it is recipe for exactly what has unfolded.

Beth said...

"Environmentalism is essentially a socialist political movement resting on a religious belief in the intrinsic value of nature and the morality of altruism."

The more I think about it, the more I like your synopsis of what environmentalism is, with one alteration. I would change "religious" to "faith-based" as "religious" has the connotation of pertaining to God. Many environmentalists I know are atheists--but their belief in the intrinsic value of nature is at the root based on faith, not on reality as understood through evidence and logic.

Doug Reich said...

Beth,

I used "religious" on purpose meaning pertaining to God specifically because I think environmentalists explicitly or implicitly regard the earth as a god to be worshipped or "intrinsically" valued.

I think you are right that it is technically more accurate to go with "faith" since you can distinguish a more general belief in the absence of evidence (faith) with a specific instance, in this case "religion" (specific belief in a god).

I will pay more attention to this distinction in the future, and I appreciate you pointing it out.

Beth said...

RE: "
I used "religious" on purpose meaning pertaining to God specifically because I think environmentalists explicitly or implicitly regard the earth as a god to be worshiped or "intrinsically" valued."

--Of course you are right, but I fear that many, if not most, atheist environmentalist would deny they are "religious" and then dismiss your characterization as pertaining to them. But then, they may likely do so anyway. Both formulations are correct. It just depends on your purpose and audience as to which term to use.

garret seinen said...

Doug good post. I can't resist repeating what I wrote somewhere else though, "the nail will rattle around in the bottom of the coffin until we have an Objectivist hammer to finally drive it home."

The real tragedy this fraud is causing is two fold, the discrediting of science in general and the role it plays in guiding young people's career choices.

The fact that it is sucking money out of a naive population is simply reality in action - don't think, see what happens.

On the religious thing, Gaia (James Lovelock) is the focus of their prayers.

Guy Sitting In Detroit said...

Beth on the semantics of "religion":

"Of course you are right, but I fear that many, if not most, atheist environmentalist would deny they are 'religious' and then dismiss your characterization as pertaining to them."

There's a bit of question-begging here, I think. The very point of tabbing environmentalism as religion (accurately, in my mind) is to make its proponents come to see its foibles.

Indeed, self-described atheists are the ones for whom this should be most effective: They're the ones, after all, who actively define themselves contra religion. Showing them that they actually have embraced a religious practice is exactly the sort of jarring revelation that can steer someone off a misguided path.

In other words, I think the "environmentalism as religion" meme should continue to be ciruclated not just by Doug, but by all of us. (And with no lack of respect to Doug's observation here, he's far from the first to make it. A Google search on "environmentalism as religion" will produce a feast of well-argued points -- heck, it's common enough that the phrase is even a Google "search suggestion"!)

Doug Reich said...

Guy in Detroit says:

"Indeed, self-described atheists are the ones for whom this should be most effective: They're the ones, after all, who actively define themselves contra religion."

This is a really interesting point. I'm not sure how many self-described "atheists" are atheists on logical grounds versus simply being anti-Western religion. In other words, I think many are not anti-mystical as much as they are anti-organized religion. This opens the door for them to accept virtually anything, especially if it resonates with a leftist, altruist bias in their thinking.

Interestingly, this topic connects with Garret's mention of James Lovelock. Check out his "Gaia Hypothesis" which combines some scientific arguments with very suspect claims related to earth as a sort of living organism. Of course, he appears to have distanced himself from the literal implications of his metaphorical usage but many have ridden this into a full fledge religion with pseudo-scientific window dressing.

Kind of a twofer.

Guy Sitting In Detroit said...

I have a passing familiarity with the Gaia concept, but I'll be sure to dive in and explore it a bit more. Sounds like a compelling window into this whole nasty phenomenon.

garret seinen said...

Doug, as an aside, I haven't heard the term Gaia used for years but the sentences; the earth is hurting, we are harming the planet, we are all travelers on spaceship earth and a wealth of others, always reminds me of the Lovelick 'Gaia', that fragile, utopian, garden-of-eden characteristic that justifies condemning human development.
Just pondering, cheers,gs