I realized too late that this title is wrong. It should have been “House of Horrors.”
Recently, I had several tangles with adult or near-adult environmentally sensitive (and just sensitive) liberals. Several happened on Facebook, one happened face to face with someone I like in spite of the fact that he is an attorney.
With one of the Facebook denizens it was about being rich in America. With two (two at a time, no big deal), it was about the nuclear industry and radiation. To make a long story short, I told the one that the poor in America who are not ill have a lot of explaining to do. I told the two others that the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima nuclear plant had caused no death.
I think I have observed a common strategy of those fighting me and my – to them – surprising allegations. I also think that this common strategy speaks to their state of mind and therefore, to their future actions. In other words. the short tour of liberal Disneyland I propose here may help us, in a small way, understand what they will do next.
In the first phase, they try to dismiss me airily in the mode: “Everyone know that this is not true.” This shows parochialism, a habit of interacting only with those like themselves. Small digression: This is not a symmetrical fault, equally found on all sides. If you are a conservative living in America today, you have no choice but to be exposed to liberal viewpoints. You cannot be politically parochial even if you wish to be.
When I persist, they blame my ignorance in a specific way: “You obviously don’t know anything about radiation. ” Of course, this implies that they know about radiation even though they may be Hollywood writers or meter readers, or something like that. Usually, this is quickly followed by questioning my general intellectual and educational credentials. They decide that I must be ignorant about everything, more or less. There is no attempt to use Google which would show in seconds that my credentials are pretty much above average. This demonstrates a stubborn kind of laziness as well as a fear of the truth.
When I still refuse to relent, insisting viciously that not much of a dangerous nature happened at Fukushima as a result of radiation, quickly, the accusations fly of my being in the pay of various sinister forces, including the Waltons and , of course, the oil industry. and the nuclear industry. (For the record, I have received checks from none of the above. I look forward to one or two of those.)
This kind of accusations of venality is accompanied by personal insults, especially that of lying for mysterious reasons not necessarily connected to my venality, accusations of perverse lying, I mean. Mind you, this is from people – except the attorney who does NOT insult me- who don’t know me from Adam. This shows a primitive mind and a childish lack of control over one’s emotions. There are six-year old who are more patient with contradiction. (I know one.) The lying accusation is interesting in its own right. It shows a final inability to consider a viewpoint clashing with one’s own. It’s a personal totalitarian device.
In a final attempt to gopher-hit me, one of the two anti nuclear guys gives me a reading assignment. I usually ignore reading assignments given on-line because they are seldom both relevant to the on-going discussion and from a respectable source. (I need both qualities.) This time, my formidable intuition directs me to the reading. Also, it’s in Wikipedia which I believe is usually trustworthy on controversial topics. You can guess the rest of the story: Instead of making me cry, the first thirty lines of the assigned reading confirm my statement and amplify it. Make a long story short: No death; worst projections show a moderate number of future deaths (moderate as compared to a year of traffic accidents in the US for example, very, very moderate, moderate as compared to Japanese suicides).
What does this show? The anti-nuclear guy had not read what he assigned me? He had read but did not understand it? He counted on slamming me because he thought I would not do the reading? Laziness, stupidity, hypocrisy? I am not sure. What does it say about liberals in general? Nothing or something? Myself, I believe that extremists always tell you something about moderates of the same feather. You decide.
A detour from my main narrative:
The libertarian blogger on whose Facebook the exchange took place deleted it so, I am unable to provide samples as I had intended. I reproached him for deleting, of course. He said he did not like the incivility and the hostility exhibited by the participants. I think this is not a good reason in a situation where anyone can drop out at any second. The Internet is one of the few places where people argue with others without restraints and without cutting each others’ throats. I, for one, think of my interlocutors in this debate as criminal religious fanatics. Why should this sentiment remain hidden? We could also use the archive of this intense exchange, in the future, I believe as a former social scientist.
Return to main thread: The lawyer, who likes me in spite of my profound errors does not accuse me of lying, as I said. (That would be the day, from a lawyer!) He has discovered a method to dismiss me that is beautiful in its simplicity: As a well educated man with good credentials who does not believe in man-made global warming, I am just an “aberration.” No need to reconcile my position with his perceptions and with his beliefs, with his facts even because there are only a very few of me, maybe four or five world wide.
The lawyer also takes refuge in a superficially reasonable idea that I find is all over the place, including among national politicians. I am not an expert, he says. This display of humility is supposed to force my hand, to induce me to admit that I am not an expert either. The next inference is that being both non-experts, we must both equally bow before expert judgment. The experts, it turns out are unanimous that there is man-made global warning that threatens something or other, or everything. Now, pay attention; I am not going to to dispute now what my lawyer friend asserts. It’s false but it does not matter. Something is more important to talk about.
First, he is right that I am not an expert. I know nothing about climate except what I observed and that may be worse than nothing. I am also shockingly ignorant of basic physics. (I cut those classes in high school; I am not bragging, I am confessing.) However, my logic is very good and I have a good ear for fabrications as well as for honest mistakes. This happens through self-training.. The fact that I am not an expert has only this implication for my ability to judge the work of climate scientists:
I am unable to detect their sophisticated mistakes, as well as their sophisticated fabrications, if any.
Read this over. See if you agree.
But, my lack of expertise in no way prevents me from catching unsophisticated mistakes and crude fabrications.
This general principle applies to both data gathering and data treatment, and to the way the findings are arrived at (the logic employed). Thus if someone tells me that he got all his information from his Mom and her neighbor who both know a lot about the subject, I am quite capable of feeling suspicious and my suspicions will be legitimate. This is true regardless of the kind of data that were thus collected. Likewise, the explanation of the relationship between data and findings may be nearly all over my head. If, however, I overhear the speaker in the midst of his presentation assert that 2 plus 2 equals 22, I will infer correctly, that something is very wrong with his whole development (that I still don’t understand, on the main). In either case, I am justified in claiming that something is wrong in the findings even though I don’t understand the study overall, even though I am not an expert.
The logical implication of my lack of expertise is that I will systematically underestimate the number and seriousness of mistakes and fabrication in climate change presentations.
But, they will cry out, the stuff you describe just does not happen in science; science is exactly supposed to prevent this, in fact. Two answers. First, the frontiers of what is or not science are elastic. Thus, the first report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change included a segment on the rapid melting of Himalaya glaciers authored jointly by an activist and a journalist, both entirely innocent of formal scientific credentials. It was sandwiched between other contributions that I would have recognized as scientific without hesitation. (The “mistake” was admitted by the muckimucks in charge, eventually, after a while.)
My second response is that yes, this kind of shit happens. I have seen it with my own eyes. Science is supported, its rules enforced by institutions ( in the true sense of the word of group habits with moral force), by a collective will of watchful scientists in the relevant discipline(s). When even only some of the participants are corrupt, there is no reason to trust in “scientific” results of the whole discipline because they are not scientific anymore. Moreover, when scientists, a good number of them, are touched by a religious faith relevant to their research, all bets are off. In this case scientific findings may be simply agreed-upon miracles.
Many of the issues that agitate us today in the US and in the rest of the West are fed by scientific findings produced by research Establishments that are both corrupt and religiously tainted.
This is not the first time this happens. Experts must be kept in the straight and narrow by the relentless and, if possible, nasty vigilance of ordinary people. I am doing my best. So?