Monthly Archives: March 2017

A Quora response

A recent Quora post of mine answering a question:

Why don’t we call people who don’t believe in climate change ‘deniers’ instead of ‘skeptics’?

 

For one reason and one reason only: it is a passive-aggressive ad hominem attack on any one holding that position meant to denigrate the holder of that viewpoint by cleverly associating them in the mind of the listener with holocaust deniers. We all know holocaust deniers are truly nuts (no I’m not being sarcastic, they are) so all we have to do is pluck that “denier” word from that usage and stick it over here to the same effect. You see the term “denier” is not used _anywhere_ else until today except for holocaust denial. We don’t call creationists “evolution deniers”. We don’t call the anti-vaccine crowd “vaccine deniers”… they all get their own separate neutral term. But no, for climate skeptics its “denialism” for you.

Yes there are a handful of nutjobs that say there is no change in the climate or no evidence, but they are the tiny minority. But I suppose its like anything, the small vocal group (islamic terrorist) give a bad name to the whole rest of the group that are perfectly reasonable. The climate question is not monolithic. It’s not simply “climate change” and that’s it. It includes

  1. Is CO2 increasing? Yes
  2. Is the temperature rising? Yes
  3. What is man’s contribution to the increase in CO2?
  4. What is the contribution of CO2 to temperature change?
  5. Will the rise in temperature have overall negative, neutral or positive outcomes for humanity? for other species?
  6. Should humans try to combat the percieved causes of the temperature rise?
  7. If they do should they do so in an economicaly mindful way (ie spend more to mitigate than the estimated cost of the damage)?

The problem is, you can agree with the establishment viewpoint on 1–6 but disagree on 7, and that makes you a pariah, a denier (just ask Bjørn Lomborg if you don’t believe me)

That is just not helpful. There are a lot of people like me who have legitimate, genuine questions, but they don’t get answered by the climate folk. We’re just told to “shut up and trust us” No. I’m a scientist as well (chemist) and I’m no idiot, I can understand your answers if only you’d bother to engage us actual skeptics who have actual legitimate questions. All I see on TV are climate scientists refusing to even sit in the same room with a climate skeptic. Sad. Thats’ not science, that’s religion, that’s belief. That’s denialism.

Vain Pursuits

It is a curious artifact of American politics that the showcasing of a soldier’s widow (as Trump did during his recent address of a joint session of Congress) has the opposite effect one might imagine. If little Johnny were brought before the class by his teacher to show them how he lost a finger playing with firecrackers, one might expect that frightful outcome would instill in the other children a sense that perhaps holding a lit firecracker in your hand is perhaps not a good idea. We would not expect the children to feel emboldened to engage in the same activity.

Likewise, shouldn’t parading the grieving loved ones of fallen soldiers instill in our “leaders” an instinct to be more parsimonious when using this scarce human capital? We would hope they would become progressively less inclined to engage in bellicose rhetoric that necessitates sending soldiers into harms way. But no, it has the opposite effect. In order ensure the recently departed have not “died in vain” and to defend the “honor” of the country, the leaders become even more inclined to retaliate or engage in new overseas adventures with the supposed goal of “furthering US interests” or “consolidating US power.” Why is that? Because for all the high-minded sounding rhetoric (equality, peace, freedom) and apparently “civilized” structure of the modern democratic state these political decisions still turn on raw emotions. The same emotions that drove primitive bands of hunter-gatherers to raid each other’s villages today drive men in suits sitting under gold domes to murder people half a world away. There is no logic, there is no thought, just raw, visceral emotions of revenge, anger, and pride, all wrapped up in some twisted nationalistic package we label patriotism and uniformly applaud like trained seals when shoved in our faces.

Patriotism, literally “love of one’s country” drives not just American leaders but every other country’s ruling elite to engage in the stupidest, most ill advised behavior – from hot wars to trade wars – all to advance the goal of autarky in an “us vs. them” board game. I suppose it is true what they say, “love is blind,” but in combination with political power this aphorism becomes lethal if love of country blinds one to reason and logic. In the war on terror reason and logic would dictate that blowback and the desire to control others is the proximate cause of virtually the entire problem of terrorism. Stop throwing rocks at the hornet’s net if you want to stop getting stung; beating it harder only makes the problem worse.

You’d think we all want no more widows and orphans resulting from pursuing inane policies. That should have been the point of shoving into the face of Congress the results of their polices. If we keep wasting these fine men and women in vain political pursuits, we will one day find no one left to defend us from an actual external attack.