Global warming first surfaced as a scientific question, all but devoid of ideology. Today it’s an ideological position, all but devoid of science. What happened? Nothing, really: Science has revealed itself to be human.
Science has done so before, disappointing those who confuse its ideals with its practice. Intellectual rigour may alleviate, but cannot alter, the fact that the objective findings of science are mediated through the subjective brains of scientists. “Einstein’s space is no closer to reality than Van Gogh’s sky,” as Arthur Koestler famously observed in the The Act of Creation.
“The scientist’s discoveries,” Koestler wrote in his influential 1964 book, “impose his own order on chaos, as the composer or painter imposes his; an order that always refers to limited aspects of reality, and is based on the observer’s frame of reference, which differs from period to period as a Rembrandt nude differs from a nude by Manet.”
Koestler’s sympathetic description makes the process sound inspired but hardly “scientific.” If giants of science are as arbitrary as great artists, while lesser scientists sway in the winds of fashion like women’s wear designers, it confirms that climatologists on either side may hypothesize and find “proof” for phenomena through a process in which vogue and fancy play as big a role as measurement.
The initial questions were sensible enough:
Is the Earth warming? If so, is it due to human agency or natural causes?
Whatever causes it, is global warming detrimental or beneficial to life on the planet?
If global warming is detrimental to life, what if anything can we do to stop or reverse it?
Does the likely cost, whatever it may be, justify the expected benefit?
The starter’s gun went off. While Science was fiddling with its shoelaces, Ideology was halfway around the track. Metamorphosed into polemical questions by eco-fanatics, the Green Rhetorical read:
Do we recognize the unprecedented scale and speed of environmental pollution and degradation, coupled with the diminution of natural resources?
Are we making young people and governments aware that depletion of the ozone layer and emission of “greenhouse” gases, besides threatening the survival of human and animal life, the Earth’s biodiversity and integrity, the security of nations, the heritage of future generations, are the principal causes of unrequited love?
Are we doing enough to drive home that these environmental changes are caused by inequitable and unsustainable production and consumption patterns mainly of white males that aggravate poverty in many regions of the world?
I condensed the eco-warrior’s cry from the 1990 Talloires declaration, the catechism of Green academia (true, I read “unrequited love” and “white males” into the text, but I learned reading things into texts from the Supreme Court).
Such polemical questions couldn’t be answered scientifically, and they weren’t. The Eco-Skeptics’ Rhetorical was short and to the point:
Don’t folks see that what the Greens are saying is unmitigated bunk?
Both sides had supporters among qualified scientists, although Greenies often questioned the bona fides of their Skeptic colleagues. Rabid Kyoto-propagandists coined the term “climate change denier” for skeptics to put doubts about global warming on the same footing as Holocaust denial. It was a stroke of genius and an admission of moral bankruptcy at the same time, both being par for the course for the political left, whose program of equitable sustainability (read: wealth transfer from the West to the East) championed carbon footprint repression in the West coupled with carbon footprint promotion everywhere else.
The initial question — is the Earth getting warmer; are humans causing it, and should it worry us? — has been swept away by political agendas. Climate change is statism’s Trojan Horse for boosting government, diminishing civil and property rights, and enriching the Third World at the expense of First. As for libertarians, wearing the blinkers of limited government and individual freedom, they might not glimpse the mercury rising until it broke the glass.
Both sides have supporters with academic letters arrayed after their names as governments approach next month’s UN climate change summit in Copenhagen. But how can science be so divided? After all, we’ve data. The facts must either point this way or that.
Koestler warned against overestimating the role of facts in science. “Without the hard little bits of marble which are called ‘facts’ or ‘data’ one cannot compose a mosaic,” he wrote. “[W]hat matters, however, are not so much the individual bits, but the successive patterns into which you arrange them, then break them up and rearrange them.”
Does this seem murky? Luckily, we still have English judges and one shone a light into the murk last week. He extended an eco-freak — sorry, a proselytizing acolyte of Green theology — the regulatory protection due to a religion. Said Mr. Justice Burton: “A belief in man-made climate change is … capable, if genuinely held, of being a … belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations.”
Science is only human, but that’s okay. The law has finally caught up with the obvious. A belief in man-made climate change isn’t a science. It’s a religion. Thanks, judge.