Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Friday, 18 May 2012

Finally I Agree With Something He Wrote

Long time readers (we're up to half a dozen, I think!) know that Rav Avi Shafran isn't my favourite writer.  I often portray him as a willing PR bagman for all that is wrong with the Agudah and its followers.  However, in his latest piece he points out something that I've been saying all along: there's something seriously wrong with the Global Warming crowd and all their supposed arguments.
For the record, I'm uncertain whether global warming, or climate change or whatever they're calling it now, is happening but as a resident of Canada I can't see why I should be against it.  Really, you're bringing Disney's weather up to me?  Where's the downside?
It's also important to distinguish between science and scientism.  Poor science does not make it easy to draw hard conclusions from anything.  Associations, possible relationships and the like are all fine but a hard and fast conclusion?  That's quite difficult as any intellectually honest scientist will tell you.  Scientism, on the other hand, is a new for militant atheoskepticism's religion, the spouting of half-truths and selected facts in the pursuit of a moral goal.  Unlike science, scientism is great at coming to conclusions.
When two people are having an argument, it's often difficult to determine who's got the better argument but sometimes there are clues.  For example, when someone says "Well it's already been settled that my position is right" that's a pretty big hint that the actual position is quite weak and incapable of vigorous defence.
And isn't that just what the global warmers say every time they're challenged?  Lines like "The science is settled", "all reputable scientists agree" and "the evidence is conclusive" spout forth in place of what would be an honest "We've decided it's happening and we don't want to argue with you about it."
And Rav Shafran takes them to task for this:

I think I’ve discovered what makes me so uncomfortable about the assertion that global warming is a real and urgent problem.
A front-page New York Times story on May 1 concerned (thanks, Mr. Rumsfeld, for the pithy phrase) a “known unknown”: the earth’s cloud cover. Specifically, the causes and effects of its extent, altitude, and qualities—which are only very imperfectly understood. MIT professor of meteorology Richard S. Lindzen, the article explains, considers clouds a sort of planetary self-corrective mechanism that can counter the effects of greenhouse gases, the global warming drama’s villains.
Predictably, despite his unassailable credentials and the scientific community’s ostensible commitment to objectively consider all hypotheses, Dr. Lindzen has been excoriated by many of his colleagues, who, while they concede the enormous effect of clouds on climate, say he lacks proof for his contention and that, by raising the cloud issue, he is acting, in the words of one, in a “deeply unprofessional and irresponsible” manner.
The Times reporter mirrors that negativity, beginning his piece by stating that “a small group of scientific dissenters,” having had “their arguments… knocked down by accumulating evidence,” have “seized on one last argument,” namely, “that clouds will save us.” There is a reference to “withering criticism” of Dr. Lindzen and an assertion that the renegade researcher has been “embraced” by “politicians looking for reasons not to tackle climate change.” The sneering is subtle, but it’s there.
Less subtle was the environmental zeal of Al Armendariz, the erstwhile top Environmental Protection Agency official in Texas, who recently resigned after a video emerged of him discussing how to enforce oil and gas extraction regulations. He suggested the approach of “the Romans,” who “used to conquer villages” by taking “the first five guys they saw and… crucify[ing] them,” rendering the village “really easy to manage for the next few years.”
Of course, neither the hasty dismissal of rational speculations like Dr. Lindzen’s nor the over-enthusiasm of some environmentalists like Mr. Armendariz means that climate change isn’t real or that we have no responsibility to try to deal with it. We simply don’t know. The climate alarm-raisers may turn out to have been modern-day Chicken Littles squawking that the sky is warming. But they may turn out to have been environmental prophets. To be sure, most of the scientific community believes the latter. But in something as complex and long-term as climate change, even a scientific consensus—“groupthink,” Dr. Lindzen calls it—is only a contender for truth, not its arbiter.

Environmentalism, scientism and the like are now new religions for those who have, chalilah, abandoned the belief in God and His control of the universe.  Like any religion, however, there are core beliefs and principles that divided between the believers and heretics along with self-fulfilling definitions as to who is credible and who is not.
It's not hard to guess what the goals of this new religion are.  North America and Western European countries are destroying the planet with their capitalist economies.  Not China, the world's least regulated major polluter.  Not India which is growing faster than it can control, not Russia where environmental standards are a joke.  For some reason, it's the West and the West has to pay for its "sins".  Could it be that scientism is just international communism returned in a new guise but with the same purpose of undermining the West out of jealously of it?
The planet we live on is an incredibly complex thing.  It has been around for a very long time and is influenced by a hell of a lot of factors, some of them not even originating on Earth.  For anyone to suggest that they've got something like climate figured out, that they've drawn inescapable and inarguable conclusions as to how it works, is arrogant presumption.  And what betrays this arrogance most is how condescendingly its proponents dismiss those who would discuss the matter with them.
So yes, for once I think Rav Shafran hits the nail on the head.


AztecQueen2000 said...

Where's the downside to global warming? How about Prince Edward Island being underwater? Or the Empire State Building's top half being used as beachfront condos until the foundation wears away from water damage? Melting polar ice caps cause rising sea levels, which would put smaller islands underwater.

Y. Ben-David said...

First, to clarify, the earth's climate is changing now and has changed continually in the past. In the past, it happened on its own, without man's intervention in the environment. The question is whether the change that is happening today is due to industrialization, pollution, etc. I am not at all convinced that man is responsible for what is happening and can do anything about it anyway, as Michael Chrichton pointed out in his book "State of Fear"...attempting to alter one thing can lead to unanticipated side effects so it is best to be cautious before taking any sort of drastic action.

Regarding "environmentalism"...I have been monitoring what we may call the "Radical Left" or the "Progressives" for several years, mostly regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict but also touching on matters like "global warming". What I see is that many of these people are not "humanists" or "lovers of humanity" truly worried about "Palestinian rights" or "the future of the planet". Rather they seem to be in a permanent state of rage against most of mankind and also seem to be deepy unhappy people. As the saying goes "they love humanity and they hate people". They feel they are doomed, in a personal sense, possibly due to a lack of religious faith and conviction, and they want everyone else in the world to be unhappy and to fear the future as much as they do.
It really needs a psychological explanation.

Micha Berger said...

If I were to define "scientism"...

Science is a methodology for reaching and testing theories about the empirical world, and the current collection of resulting theories. It has a limited domain of study -- it is only the empirical and it only deals in the repeatable.

Scientism is the belief that there are no truths outside of science's domain of inquiry.

IOW, it's correct to say that belief in a Creator is unscientific. It is incorrect and becomes scientism when the person saying it thinks that has anything to do with the fact that there actually is One.