There is this urban myth – right up there with the one about the psycho hidden in the back seat of a car – about the dispassionate scientist who stands above the fray, oblivious to any concern but the Truth. Like Mother Theresa with a slide-rule, he doesn’t have a mortgage, does not rely on any particular constituencies for his funding, and would have no problem whatsoever being shunned, ostracized and denied tenure for findings contrary to accepted doctrine. His default reaction to revealed problems in one of his theories is: “Golly, this refutes my life’s work. No worries, what’s for lunch?”
The Left is excessively fond of this myth (not so much the other one, because after a generation of over-regulation, culminating in the GM takeover, it is the psycho in the back of your car). Like Cindy Sheehan, the Jersey Girls and other sock-puppets, guys in lab coats have “Absolute Moral Authority” and are thus immune to question or debate. When they pronounce on an issue it is settled. Anyone who disagrees is assigned a name with an “er” suffix, a pointy hat and standing room in the nearest corner.
Climategate, whose participants increasingly resemble Margaret Hamilton on the receiving end of a bucket of water, do not exactly fit this narrative. Ditto the almost daily retractions, revelations and apologies from players in the greater global warming debacle. For a group of honest brokers there seems to be an inordinate number of thumb-prints on the scales.
When challenged about this their responses, as reported by George Will, fall somewhat short of scholarly rejoinder:
Rajendra Pachauri …is chairman of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared the 2007 version of the increasingly weird Nobel Peace Prize. Denouncing persons skeptical about the shrill certitudes of those who say global warming poses an imminent threat to the planet, he says:
“They are the same people who deny the link between smoking and cancer. They are people who say that asbestos is as good as talcum powder — and I hope they put it on their faces every day.”
Okay, somebody needs a nap, but while “Let Them Eat Fire Retardant “ Dr. Pachauri called us stupid people who need to die soon, he stopped short of calling us unpatriotic. Not so Bill Nye, who took a much-needed break from the birthday party circuit to regale Rachel Maddow with this and other observations about the “deniers” (there’s one of those “er” suffixes again.)
With all due respect to Bill, and his important work with helium balloons, the fact of the matter is anyone who has read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, studied the problem of experimenter bias, or seen that part of the Singing Frog cartoon where the guy tries to make the frog dance, knows that human frailties, prejudices and agendas often intrude upon “pure” science. When politics is involved it’s more like a home invasion.
So no, Bill, we don’t think one snowstorm refutes global warming any more than we think you invented that trick with the banana and the liquid nitrogen. We older people do understand the atmosphere is very, very thin, and in fact that the earth revolves. Do you understand that condescension and use of straw man arguments kind of undercuts your gravitas?
I fully agree with President Obama that science should be restored to its proper place, which would be out the clutches of ideologues eager to use it as a front for their latest redistribution scheme. Until that happens I propose we start referring to the climate change Druids as “Warm-ers” and explain self-evident things to them very… very… slowly.