Like nearly everyone in the world, I don’t have the training to judge directly the pronouncements of organizations that affirm that there is:
a) Serious temperature rise on a global scale (“global warming”).
b) That it is caused by human activity (such as burning fossil fuels or keeping too many belching cattle).
c) That human beings must quickly reverse manufacturing growth and driving (and growth in cattle) or suffer devastating consequences.
Instead, I have to rely on indirect evidence to judge the claims of specialists and to decide what the appropriate action would be (including deliberate inaction). This is not a new situation. We all do this all the time. So, I am unable to assess the talent of the surgeon who is going to open up my chest but I can sure smell the booze on his breath and make the logical jump that it’s not good news. Similarly, I know little about the care of automobile engines but when I see a car mechanic banging on an engine with the back of a screwdriver, I am alerted.
The quality of specialists is not the only way indirectly to gauge the quality of a viewpoint. It’s also legitimate to infer the seriousness of a claim by assessing the quality of its believers. Thus, I am leery of so-called “alternative medicine” and other “informal” health perspectives because many of their proponents seem to live in la-la Land in matters other than health. And if marathon runners kept falling dead at 39, I would have good reason to wonder if running is that good for you. (I said “if.”) If the proponents of Chinese traditional medicine turned out to be sick all the time, I would have to think twice (thrice) about its merits. (I know, there is a causation issue in this sentence. It’s not a solution; it’s part of the problem.)
The quality of its followers say something about the credibility of a creed, I believe.
Here is an anecdote about the credibility of climate change proponents, “ccprops.” It’s only an anecdote. It may be isolated. It may represent no one but those involved. Or, it may sound familiar. Think!
I live in the Green People’s Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz. My wife and I may be the only residents with anti-Obama bumper stickers. (There is a good chance we only get away with it because leftists can’t spell: “Obamination,” mine says.) Those residents who are not greenies or leftists of some kind tend to observe a discreet silence. The voice of rationalists like me who oppose big government and the myths that support it is muffled to the point of being mostly inaudible. I am not saying that I am a victim; I am suggesting a minor degree of heroism.
One ordinary day, I am peacefully drinking coffee at my downtown coffee shop. My daughter and my five-year old grand-daughter are with me. There is a demonstration on the other side of the street, yards away, of about 200 people, most young, a few of retirement age. They have placards and they sing slogans against pipelines, all pipelines, against global warming, for the environment. I notice that some of them wear what I think is a fairly witty t-shirt sign: “Don’t frack your mother.” The usual collection of Mother-Earth loving catastroph -tropic semi-educated Santa Cruz crowd, I think.
When the demonstration disperses because of rain (the environment does not cooperate), a group of five demonstrators comes to sit under an umbrella of my coffee shop. After a while, they start making ingratiating noises toward my attractive, impossibly cute grand-daughter. I tell them in a calm voice that they may not talk to the child because I think they carry a bad, morally objectionable message.
I am just tired of letting my enemies go unchallenged. I believe they have enough influence collectively to sap what’s left of the economic life of California. They are precisely endangering my grand-daughter’s future with their anti-economic mindless message. There is no reason to waste an opportunity to show some unkindness here.
They are stupefied. This is Santa Cruz, California, after all. It’s one of the world centers of foo-foo-headedness. By locals standards, these people are 100% virtuous. More importantly, in their parochial minds, they are 100% right. They have never encountered hostility before, not even opposition. No one has ever treated them that way. They did not know anyone actually could, even legally. They kind of believe that the First Amendment protects them against criticism. They don’t know that it only enjoins the government. (“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….”) They don’t know that the First does not guarantee against a private person making you cry with unkind comments. Nowhere does the First say or suggest: “Dr D shall not say hurtful things to silly Luddite greenies.”
Many young people are in the same state of ignorance nowadays. It may be because they don’t read much. It may be because they believe wrongly that they already know the Constitution. It’s the result of many years of left liberal education that is both biased and lazy. Even a friend of mine accuses me of “starting a fight.” I did no such thing. I was peacefully drinking my coffee while reading the WSJ. A bunch of strangers began yelling empty and offensive slogans near my face and I replied very moderately. “But they have a right….” Of course, they have a right; I did not say otherwise. I only instructed them to not speak to the child for whom I am responsible. I told them why in a brief and moderate way.
Immediately, the demonstrators start using religious-sounding language: You are “deniers” they say. Boy, that hurts! Boy, I am glad there is not much firewood handy! (I am not that stupid. I know well that they are trying to compare me to with theory of evolution “deniers.”)
A frumpy woman in her forties presents herself as an expert because she is making a documentary on climate change, she says. This leaves me cold. Santa Cruz is full of self-declared, self-admiring artists. (I know this for sure, I am one.) I am thinking that if I worked on a movie about human female sexuality it would be no evidence that I know anything on the topic. Am I right?
For some mysterious reason, the film-making housewife insists on treating me as if I were a born-again Christian. Again, I have no idea what she would have done that. I don’t look the part in any way. I am sure I don’t act Christian, whatever that may be. I am absolutely certain I did not say anything leading to that kind of identification. I am an atheist of the calm, non-militant kind. Religion is not at the forefront of my preoccupations except sometimes, the silly Earth worshiping of her gang, precisely. As I said, the madness is close to the surface. The woman appears a little strange, a little twisted.
Temperatures have already risen by 1.4 degrees – the woman experts asserts in a loud voice.
Centigrade or Fahrenheit – I ask?
Yes- she says.
I ask again.
I don’t know – she brushes off my question.
In how long – I ask viciously – in what period?
I don’t know, she says with disarming honesty.
I am under the impression that her ignorance about the things she, herself, chose to evoke does not trouble her a bit.
Are you smarter than the 95.5% of scientists who believe in climate change – she challenges me with finality?
I refrain from answering out of humility. (Could well be that I am; I wouldn’t be that surprised; depends what you call a scientist; I have been reading for more than a half century; I read well; I retain better than most – not better than most at Harvard, better than most in the street. I went to an excellent or maybe just good graduate school, etc.) Also, I was seized like an overworked engine by this affirmation. I have encountered it for years with some variations in digits. I will just make again the obvious point the statement calls for:
If it were true that 95.5 % of scientists believed that there was man-made global warming that will have disastrous consequences, if it were true in reality, how in the world would anyone know this? Has there been a worldwide poll with strict definitions of who is a “scientist” ? Was it conducted according to all the known intricate rules of polling including careful, neutral wording? What qualified pollster organization accomplished such a big difficult task? Why isn’t the pollster bragging about it? 95.5% is obviously a bogus number some one made up years ago and that keeps being repeated by believers. Its precision itself crie out, “Phony.” People who assert it are asserting that they don’t know what they are talking about, that they lack ordinary criticality. They are asking to not be believed.
The woman is joined by two younger people who appear to be her children. (Craziness might be hereditary.) A young man of about twenty is using the F word loudly five feet from my grand-daughter they all thought so cute three minutes ago. I am not a prude; I am not especially clean talking but there is no chance, zero chance that I would use such language in the presence of a small child. These people are insane. I don’t mean this figuratively. I mean literally. I mean that if they showed the same loud zeal in connection with say, parking, or house painting, they would risk being institutionalized.
In addition to factual waywardness and bad logic ccprops demonstrate their moral blindness in small ways as well as in big ones. They insist on their right to kill birds, for instance, including the legally protected bald eagle, in order to continue installing wind mills that contribute essentially nothing to the resolution of the imaginary problem of global warming (WSJ 10/11/13 “Fighting Climate Change by killing Eagles,” . Robert Bryce.)
I listen to them calling the local talk shows. (I used to have a local talk show radio program myself.) They sound insane even if they are right. Most callers of talk shows are perfectly reasonable. Left-oriented ccprops are of a feather with rightists Bildeberg conspirators. Why do both kinds of callers sound regretful that it’s not yet technically feasible to murder over the airways?
Notice what I am not doing: They can go on demonstrating their irrationality, their lack of trustworthiness, their ignorance. It’s protected by the First Amendment. I will continue to try to make them cry every chance I get. It’s protected too.