Thursday, December 10, 2009
[T]he environmentalists have seized upon global warming as a flagship issue is precisely because it is hard to understand. The better to befuddle their opponents. [minor format edit]I completely agree that this is the case. Understanding a complex piece of science like global warming is very difficult: There can be major (and perfectly honest) disagreements between experts in the field, mistakes on lower levels than the theoretical, outright fraud, and even whole areas that do not admit of ready investigation at the current level of technology.
Add to that the usual difficulties of making any political argument and the fact that laymen familiar enough with one side of such a scientific argument will often become all but unreachable because there is no way to know every detail of every nook and cranny of a scientific literature (and thus not look foolish to them). What better way could there be to cause one's opponents to waste valuable time and effort than to give them an endless reading assignment consisting of (often poorly-written) academic papers?
This is all true, but until I learned that Senator Harry Reid had "doubled down" on a particularly asinine comment likening opposition to Obamacare to opposition to the end of slavery, I felt like I was missing part of the exact method of argument, which I haven't fully conceptualized yet:
"At pivotal points in American history, the tactics of distortion and delay have certainly been present," Reid said. "They've certainly been used to stop progress. That's what we're talking about here. That's what's happening here. It's very clear. That's the point I made -- no more, no less. Anyone who willingly distorts my comments is only proving my point."One one level, Reid is not doing the same thing as the warmists. There is no package dealing of a scientific question with one of political philosophy. For example, this debate hasn't included massive reading of medical literature by both sides. Nevertheless, Reid is clearly -- like the warmists -- indulging in a species of the argument from intimidation. But he adds a twist similar to what we see from the global warming alarmists. Who wants slavery? Who doesn't value progress?
And who doesn't value the earth we live on? Reid and the alarmists are, as incredible as it might sound, using self-interest as a means of inducing unearned guilt, and they are doing it by attempting to make people doubt that they are being conscientious enough about what they value. In a culture where most people have poorly-defined values (and even senses of self) and are thus not used to thinking deeply about their own self-interest, such a tactic, I suspect, is highly effective.
To love is to value, which is to understand the full nature of that which one values. (And regarding "full nature," it is crucial to reject omniscience as the standard of knowledge.) In the case of global warming, the question everyone who tries to become a climatological expert will fail to get (along with omniscience) from the scientific literature is: "What is the earth for?" On a metaphysical level, it has no purpose, of course, but on the ethical level, it does: To help us live. And living, for rational animals, consists in much more than the "sustainable" subsistence-level existence (if that) promoted by global warming hysterics.
If we are dead (or physically alive, but miserable), we accomplish no good by adopting the warmists' recommendations. This is very interesting to note since we haven't even reached the level of politics in the philosophical hierarchy! On that level, the current proposed "solutions" to global warming are out the window on the grounds that they violate individual rights.
There is an important difference between agreeing on principles and agreeing on how to apply them. Both matters can involve honest mistakes or evasion. (And the latter, at the personal level can also involve matters of personal taste, but this is not important here.) For example, if we grant, arguendo, that Harry Reid favors progress, we would have to say at minimum that he misunderstands the nature of progress or is misapplying the concept in some way when he equates it with what is in fact physician slavery.
Fun with Gravity recently reviewed Jennifer Burns's Goddess of the Market, and The Objective Standard is making Robert Mayhew's Winter 2009 issue review of same publicly available from its web site.
I am also pleased to announce that my review of Ian Plimer's Heaven and Earth also appears in the print edition of the same issue of TOS.
More Government Corruption of Science
On the one hand, the simple fact that a scientist works for private industry as opposed to the government or academia (which is functionally almost the same thing as working for the government now) does not impugn his motives. Barring independent wealth, we all have to work for somebody, don't we?
That said, the common (and inverted) leftist premise that the government is somehow the guardian of scientific impartiality is -- finally -- being called into question by ClimateGate.
Might there now be a SwineGate to go along with ClimateGate?
World Health Organization scientists are suspected of accepting secret bribes from vaccine manufacturers to influence the U.N. organization's H1N1 pandemic declaration, according to Danish and Swedish newspapers.Yes, but only if intellectual activists make the point whenever possible that the bribery was made possible by government interference in medicine in the first place.
In a truly free medical sector, there would probably be something like WHO in its role of keeping an eye out for epidemics and the like, but that "something" would also be non-governmental, like a Consumers' Union. If it cried "wolf" enough, people would stop listening to it and be free to move to a more conscientious and reliable body of scientists for advice on such matters. Such an organization would have a financial incentive -- that WHO does not have -- to avoid bribery and it would lack the backing of government power that WHO does possess.
As things stand now, though, the pharmaceutical firms involved, though not innocent, are getting more than their share of the blame and innocent firms are unjustly suffering "guilt" by association.
Obama Warns of "Command and Control"
It's bad when President Obama warns against too much government control, and worse that neither he nor anyone else has proposed abolishing or at least severely curtailing the powers of the EPA.
Or would that fall under "frightening" the American people too much?
What Obama is really doing instead is using the impending EPA rules to make whatever the Democrats can cook up instead seem reasonable -- as if nothing can be done about the EPA.
A Smooth Road in South Africa?
There are no excuses for the American national soccer team to fail to make a respectable showing in the 2010 World Cup: They drew an easy set of first round opponents:
U.S. national soccer coach Bob Bradley usually has a permanent scowl etched across his face, his lower lip scrunched into his upper lip like he just sucked on a lemon or got a bad meat pie from a Cape Town street vendor.As an added bonus for me, anyway, England, the team I default to whenever "the Yanks" get yanked, is almost certain to make it to the next round -- especially if our side blows it again.
But yesterday he couldn’t help himself. He broke into a broad smile.
He caught himself, pursed his lips, furrowed his brow ... and lost the battle again. Another smile escaped.
Hard to fault him, though, after the draw for soccer's 2010 World Cup handed the Yanks one heavyweight (England) and two junior flyweights (Slovenia and Algeria) in Group C of the first round.
It's at Titanic Deck Chairs this week.
Today: Corrected a typo and added link to roundup.