An Inconvenient Parallel

 Posted by on 7 March 2007 at 2:41 pm  Uncategorized
Mar 072007

I watched Gore’s award-winning An Inconvenient Truth the other night with some friends.

Sigh. Gore’s movie is without a doubt the strongest, slickest, most utterly dishonest piece of propaganda I have ever seen. So much so that I was getting depressed because any regular person watching it pretty much should react with something on the order of, “If even half of what Gore says is right, we’re all doomed and have to do something NOW!” It has already won Academy awards, it seems set to earn him an honorary doctorate and a Nobel peace prize, and he might even parlay all this rock-star visibility and seeming authority/vision into a winning Presidential run or perhaps some kind of UN Global Environmental Czar position.

In the ensuing discussion, one fellow observed that while he could see factual and emotional manipulation, he was “less willing to throw away Gore’s data” than I am, and that the badness he could see “isn’t enough … to say there is no baby in the bathwater.” While I wasn’t claiming Gore gets nothing right, I am indeed quick to find fault and slow to accept whatever truths he offers. As I explained:

That’s reasonable — you haven’t built up as much inductive data on the deep-green crowd, so I wouldn’t expect the same attitude in you. In my case, after seeing many and varied environmentalist scares exhibit spectacular errors and outright dishonesty aimed at harming the life and happiness of mankind (as well as an occasional bit of confirming candor), it is difficult not to draw the conclusion of a rotten philosophic driver. DDT, overpopulation, resources, nuclear energy, recycling, genetically-modified crops, acid rain, global warming, on and on. Consider how Creationists grope for the respect and power of the mantle of science (“scientific creationism”, “intelligent design”) to push their bad ideas: unlike with real science, they are not interested in discovering the truth, just in rationalizing the “truth” they already believe. Deep greens look exactly the same to me at this point: straining to don the mantle of science to defend and spread their religious convictions, rather than participating in science to discover the truth. For any religious rationalizer, the (religious) ends justify the (dishonest and damaging) means — and you will find that in spades in both movements.

This suggests a way to understand my emotional stance toward Gore, and my cognitive bias away from him in favor of his critics: picture slick Creationist presentations. They will include some solid logic and facts, but also exaggeration, distortion, error, and even intellectually dishonest material. And having identified something as Creationist in nature, you know that the entire project is not reason looking for the truth, but religious dogma looking for a rationalization — any rationalization, factual or not, logical or not, honest or not, destructive or not. Sure, the better proselytizers tend toward the good poles, but no matter where they land in the spectrum, they are still on a mission of rationalization and not of reason. So if you consider the cause of your (hopefully!) differing levels of eagerness to accept data and conclusions from “scientific” Creationists as against other scientists, you will see the cause of my analogous stance regarding the “scientific” Greens as against other scientists.

Poking around before the viewing for someone critically commenting at length on Gore’s presentation, I found CEI Fellow Marlo Lewis’ blow-by-blow commentary on the movie/book. It is pretty good and matches the above expectations. The biggest complaint I have about it is also one of its virtues: it is exhaustive to avoid the charge of cherry-picking, but that comprehensiveness also tends to pull focus away from fundamentals.

On a promising note, a documentary that apparently runs strongly against the alarmists’ scientific “consensus” is set to air this Thursday on UK TV (as well as on the web): The Great Global Warming Swindle.

Speaking of “consensus,” one of Gore’s bigger and more insidious points concerns how he and the debate-is-over crowd get a lot of mileage (up to this day) out of citing an extensive survey showing essentially NO peer-reviewed scientific dissent from the human-caused-GW position, as against close to half of non-peer-reviewed articles which do dissent. It is his primary tool to poison the well against skeptics — in his movie, on Oprah, in articles and interviews. And we hear similar intimidating claims from many quarters. Gore’s slide certainly caught my attention when we were watching his movie. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that (way back in 2005) someone tried to replicate that study and only falsified it. This researcher’s letter to Science to disclose the falsification and urge Science’s retraction of the original study to limit its damage was strangely rejected. His follow-up letter cited the original study’s large and unhelpful influence, and also discussed interesting surveys of climatologists which likewise contradicted the debate-is-over consensus position.

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