August 4, 2008
The Australian's recent op-eds attacking climate change and global warming really are scrapping of the bottom the barrel. This commentary illustrates the poverty of the media as it is mere polemics, and bad polemics at that with no consideration of public reason addressing policy issues.
The latest effort is by Arthur Herman, an American historian, who plays off the fundamentalist strand in the Enlightenment tradition of religion versus science. According to Herman the climate change "sceptics" stand for science and reason whilst the main body of natural science stands for religion and superstition. Herman says that despite recent evidence that the earth is cooling:
believers in man-made global warming demand more and more money to combat climate change and still more drastic changes in our economic output and lifestyle.The reason is that precisely that they are believers, not scientists. No amount of empirical evidence will overturn what has become not a scientific theory but a form of religion.
Herman rolls out David Hume's essay Of Superstition and Enthusiasm to claim that this religion is a form of superstition based on fear and ignorance. So the main body of natural science is superstition that parades itself as science and has created a priesthood masquerading as the exponents of reason---- just like the Church in the Dark Ages, the Inquisition during the Reformation, or the race/eugenics theories of Nazi Germany.
Ooh isn't this so outrageous and decadent. Seriously though, The Australian is now living in a world turned upside down. Their central claims-- that the planet is not warming, that science is dogmatic and that we live in an age of unreason--are unsupported.
The reason for these claims is the claim that a (rationalist) science is anti-evidence. Yet the main body of the article does not consider the evidence accumulated by scientific research under the auspices of the UN. An example of the evidence being collected about the rapid changes in the Arctic and Antarctic. The ice is melting. The Arctic is warming at twice the average rate of the rest of the planet and the sea ice is now considered by many scientists to be a "coalmine canary" for monitoring the speed of global climate change.
What we see with Herman is the empiricist's prejudice about theory (of climate change) and the interpretation of data (--it's all just facts), an ignorance of the way that critical reasoning is build into the institution of science, and a bundle of superstitions about sustainable development and market failure.
And Herman is going to speak to The Centre of Independent Studies on the ideas of the Enlightenment in the 21st century! What we have is here is the poverty of reason.