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Climategate

In anticipation of Steven Hayward's Weekly Standard article on the impact of hacked e-mails from East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, I suggest Ronald Bailey's article this week in Reason.  Bailey is sympathetic to man-made climate change, and offers a concise overview of the consequences and potential recovery paths from this "tragedy."

It seems, perhaps for the first time, that self-respecting global warming alarmists and skeptics are publically pursuing a common goal: transparency.  This could mark a watershed moment on several fronts.  A wide-spread, fully-transparent re-evaluation of climate-change evidence which results in findings adverse to previous conclusions would instigate a terrible public outcry.  Public opinion would continue to swing (Europeans cling to global warming with dogmatic piety, but American belief dropped 8% in the last year - and that occurred before climategate). 

Further, as global leaders have always been hesitant to actually implement policies to confront warming - a tribute to their lingering self-preservation instincts - scientific doubt could provide cover for an indefinite pause.  Paul Rahe suggests precisely this path for the Copenhagen climate summit, advising that Pres. Obama assert his devotion to principled science while divesting himself of unpopular cap-and-trade legislation.

I expect that the scandal surrounding doctored reports, suppressed dissents and hidden data in the environmental community has only begun.  This revelation, perhaps coupled with a subsequent revolt at Copenhagen, could prove to be global warming's Waterloo.

Categories > Environment

Discussions - 5 Comments

Stories like this ought, also, to remind folks that real environmental issues (like this: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091203/ap_on_bi_ge/us_great_lakes_asian_carp_7) are actually really very localized, complicated and difficult to solve to anyone's satisfaction. It is easier, I'm afraid, for politicians (and pundits) to grandstand with glittering generalities about large-scale environmental catastrophe and propose grandiose solutions that enlarge their political influence and control than it is to do the difficult (and probably boring) work of searching for solutions to real problems that are--right now--affecting the lives and livelihoods of a vast segment of citizens. Part of the reason stories like this Asian carp invasion of the great lakes and North American rivers don't get as much attention as the sexier "global warming" stories, may also be that there is no clear "right/left" divide in it. Big as those carp are, it is hard to use them as a political cudgel in an argument.

It will be a real shame if the dishonorable conduct of these "global warming" scientists causes people to turn a deaf ear in the future to all concerns voiced on behalf of protecting the environment from man's occasional and undeniable sloppiness and lapses in judgment . . . but this is also why questions of honor, morality, and justice ought to trump the questions of those who operate as if the universe should be governed by the religion of "science."

The meta-concern here is that society has lost yet another anchor point for trust investment.

Long ago God was pushed aside. The progressive movement tried to marry government with scientific competence. But government is made of people, and people fall prey to selfish interests, and that resulted in distrust in government.

Science was supposed to be the dispassionate reality, something that we could trust to at least be true.

This topples that domino.

What's left?

A society with no trust anchor point is a society that is in a LOT of trouble.

Don, have you read "The Education of Henry Adams"? That's what he says, in a nutshell , over a hundred years ago.

Surely you do not mean that we set aside science. People have put far too much faith in scientists. I think Bruus made a point in some previous thread that science is about observation, veriication of facts, experimentation to find truth; it is not truth, but a process. To have faith in science is to have faith in scientists and they are (have merely proved it again) human and therefore not worthy of suh trust and worship.

Kate, I have not read that book. My comment about losing places to invest trust is certainly not original to me ... that story is in fact as old as mankind.

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made." Genesis 3:1. That marked the transition from the only truly trustworthy thing to a never-ending search for something else.

No, I am not suggesting we set aside science. I am simply saying that collectively "we" are becoming further and further detached from any solid ground. And deep within the soul of man is a true need to be anchored.

Having given up God, we grope for something else to hold on to. What we *thought* was a place to stand -- objective science -- is proving to be not so firm a place to place our feet.

Another great discussion. One wants to root for the coming epiphany that you describe, Kate. I do wish people would come to realize that "scientists" (and bureaucrats and experts) are mere humans . . . just like politicians and celebrities and neighbors, relatives, and friends. But I take Don's point too. Such medicine was easier to take when a lack of faith in humanity left to its own designs was at least propped up by a default assumption that most humans (at least the ones worth paying attention to) were motivated, at any rate, by a desire to live more in accord with the designs of God. That is to say, they believed that there was a moral order to the universe that we could discover and work toward. Part of that meant understanding that we should not be putting a lot of stock in any one man or group of men because all of them are, in significant ways, flawed by virtue of comparison with God and His designs. The nature of man does not change just because we wish to change the rules (indeed, our wishing to change the rules rather confirms the nature of man!) So after throwing out God, we naturally look for something (but really, it's "Someone") to replace him. Worshiping government never worked . . . it always became (or, really, "becomes" . . . because we still do it) worshiping a man. Worshiping "Science" never works either . . . it always degenerates into worshiping particular scientists.

This is because as you say, Kate, man has a hard time putting faith in a "process" alone . . . we are anthropomorphic in our tendencies and thus we need to worship something to which we can relate--something that, by virtue of our association with it, makes us feel bigger and more whole. If we cannot worship God, we will not worship the "process" of science. Instead we worship "scientists" and this, of course, kills science. Science (and, by implication, scientists) turn out to need God just as much (if not more) than the rest of us mere mortals.

Maybe some atheists will suggest that it is a human conceit to imagine that we are made in the image of God. But if you think about it, it suggests that what we're really after is some idea of what we might be like if we were perfect . . . and implicit in that is an acknowledgment that we are not.

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