What two recent "conversions" tell us about the state of rational inquiry and politics in the 21st century.
At the end of last year, the media widely trumpeted the "recantation" by Richard Muller, a physics professor at Berkeley. Muller's confession of faith was met with the unreserved glee of fanatics who believe that conversion equals validation of the True Faith. Now Dr. Fritz Vahrenholt, a prominent German chemistry professor and green activist, announced that he is coming out with a book breaking with the Warmist view. Naturally, this recantation wouldn't receive nearly the same prominence, except when the inevitable stories kick in about Vahrenholt being a tool of the oil companies.
But set aside the partisan bickering, and one professor accepting a view he had formerly rejected, while another rejects a view he had formerly accepted, is all part of the normal scientific debate. The journey from hypothesis to rock solid consensus is a long one, and it doesn't end just because Al Gore makes a documentary or a few ads show crying polar bears. Positions are argued, minds change and then a century later the graduate students have fun mocking the ignorance of both sides. That's science.
Unfortunately, the Cult of Warm doesn't accept that there is a debate. As far as they are concerned, the debate never happened because it never needed to happen because they were always right. They can't intelligently address dissent, because their science is not based on discovering the evidence needed to lead to a consensus, but on insisting that there is a consensus and that accordingly there is no need to debate the evidence.
In an ordinary scientific debate, a professor leaving one side and joining another might occasion some recriminations and name calling, but it wouldn't make him anathema. But like being gay or Muslim, hopping on board the Warm Train makes you a permanent member, and there is no room for changing your mind. Once a Warmist, always a Warmist. That's not a rational position, but then the Cult of Warm is not a rational faith.
Scientific debates have often had big stakes for human philosophy, but Global Warming is one of the few whose real world implications are as big as its philosophical consequences. At stake is nothing less than the question of whether the human presence on earth is a blight or a blessing, and whether every person must be tightly regulated by a global governance mechanism for the sake of saving the planet.
The Warmists have pushed their agenda through with alarmist claims and hysteria. They have flown jets around the world to argue that everyone must be taxed for their carbon footprint. They have smeared and intimidated anyone who stood up to them. That is not the behavior of people arguing over numbers. It's a battle of much larger ideas.
If you believe that freedom is at the core of what it means to be human, then the Warmists and what they stand for are instinctively repulsive to you. On the other hand, if you believe that human society must be organized into a moral collective for the betterment of all, then the Warmist idea provides a wake up call compelling us to form into ranks and goose step in recycled rubber boots into the green future.
It's an exaggeration, but that's what debates over the proper role of man tend to become. We don't fight wars over temperature gradients. The passions on both sides are motivated by much larger issues. This isn't science, it's the continuing battle over industrialization, the modern society and the rights of the individual dressed up in the garb of theory. And just as a debate over the IQs of minorities will never be a dispassionate inquiry, neither will a debate over whether the world would be better off if we never existed-- which is the theme of the environmentalist movement.
The place of man in the university not a question that science can answer, but like so many other controversial issues in the past, it can be aided by manufacturing a scientific consensus that supports one position or another. Nor would this be the first time that science was used in this fashion. It takes a great deal of humility to look outward without prejudging what is out there. When that humility is lacking, then instead of seeing what is out there, the learned doctors and professors come away seeing what is inside them instead.
That unfortunately is what the debate is actually about. The world is not in any danger, but human beings are, as usual, wrangling over their theories of how the world should be.
The debate is not a purely philosophical one. As with all debates about the nature of man, there's a creed and money at stake. If the Warmists win, then the environmentalist movement takes another step forward to creating a post-religious spiritual crisis for which they have the solution, and a mandate for virtually unlimited power over mankind, over every nation and every individual. That power translates into concrete wealth, which many of the "experts" are already experiencing. But their investments are on the ground floor of what is supposed to be a "green" revolution which will see everyone taxed to save us from ourselves.
It's hard to be dispassionate when the success or failure of your theory has tremendous implications for your career, your wealth, the status of your field and the triumph of your worldview over all mankind. People have murdered for less. Forging a few graphs and demonizing the opposition is small potatoes by comparison.
A creed needs a crisis. An "If This Goes On" warning that ends in doom, Armageddon and cats and dogs living together in sin. Without an actual deity, the only curses available to environmentalists are those of science. And so they pronounce their curses in science's name, which is an inconvenience when they fail to come true. An inconvenience that damages the credibility of actual research. But having cast aside reasoned inquiry, the Cult of Warm has no use for science except as a totem to wave over the crowd. They don't want to be the seekers for knowledge, but the exclusive possessors of absolute truths. And that isn't how science works.
Like Wall Street, Global Warming has gotten too big to fail. Too many prominent names have committed to it. Too many serious people have nodded their heads and accepted it as an obvious truth, who would be unacceptably embarrassed if it were proven that the whole thing was nothing more than a giant prank. Too many business leaders and governments have invested serious money into it to just shake it off. And much of American and European policy-making is now routed through Global Warming.
No matter what research emerges, the edifice of the lie cannot be allowed to come down. It might be reshaped a little, chiseled on the side, painted over in places, but it can never be toppled, because too much else would come down with it. Global Warming has become the Berlin Wall not only of the left, but of the entire establishment.
If the Cult of Warm were to come tumbling down, then the first victim of it would be the technocratic society built on an unreasonable confidence in experts and Harvard men who always know what they're doing and know how to do it better than we do. Suddenly all those smart people would no longer seem so smart at all and our Republic of the New Deal and New Frontier would be revealed for a cluster of corrupt gullible idiots who are no better at running things than anyone else would be in their place.
The worst thing you can call a presidential candidate is stupid, not because they aren't -- most of them are -- but because the present regime is built on convincing us that we have surrendered our freedom to a meritocracy of the best and the brightest. People who don't make mistakes because they have gone to all the right schools, read all the right books and nod in all the right places. If people were to realize that their only actual skill is convincingly arguing positions based on talking points with no ability to think outside the box or evaluate the merits of the system, rather than the argument, then the regime would never be the same again.
The way the system actually works is that experts tell leaders what to think, the leaders tell the lobbyists what to think, the lobbyists tell the advisers, who tell the politicians, and then the politicians get up on stage, beam their brightest smile, and tell us what to think. Compared to the absurdity of this pipeline foisting a disastrous philosophy on the world in the name of saving the planet from humanity, discovering that all the banks were playing with imaginary money is positively benign.
Global Warming is not just a failure of a sizable chunk of the scientific establishment to put theory before ideology, it represents a failure of the entire process by which the West has been governed for a frightening number of years. It is a demonstration of how a handful of people in prominent positions can push through otherwise unacceptable measures by manufacturing a crisis and pipelining it through business and government. It's a hack of our entire system of government.
If you understand the implications of that, then you begin to understand the consequences of it for the progressive technocracy and its mindless elitism that uses opinion leaders to drive actual leaders and has entire agencies dedicated to influencing opinion leaders. If Warmism fails, then it all fails. There will be no mobs in the street or squares filled with protesters, instead the entire infrastructure whose entire purpose is not to look stupid, will suddenly look very stupid.
Stupid leaders might not be too much of a problem in a democracy where people are entitled to elect any idiot they want, but it's unacceptable in a technocracy where the leaders may win elections, but mostly they win the consensus of the elites. If the elites and their technocracy no longer amount to anything, then the emperor is naked, and suddenly elections might start mattering again.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.