Monday, January 22, 2007

Group think, fear of debate and Al Gore.

Here is an excellent example of what is wrong with the political Left -- they don’t want individuals to think for themselves. Here is the context.

Science writer Ron Bailey was a skeptic on global warming questioning whether or not it was happening. He changed his mind and said it is happening (which doesn’t answer many other questions yet but puts him on record saying that it is happening whatever the cause).

Over at the Left-wing green Grist web site staff writer David Roberts wrote that “I think Bailey was obviously wrong to rely so heavily on satellite and other direct temperature measurements.” Okay. But Roberts says Bailey was also wrong to “substitute his own judgement” “for the collective judgement of the IPCC.”

How dare anyone substitute individual judgement for collective judgement!

Here though is the problem. Every single advancement in science has taken place precisely because someone substituted individual judgement for collective judgement. In fact even the favourite Green scare story of global warming started its journey as the crank theory of a small minority. Right or wrong they substituted their individual judgement for collective judgement.

And what is collective judgement? There is no collective brain that makes decisions. There are only individuals who draw conclusions. One might say that there is a consensus of some sort but not that there is such a thing as a collective judgement.

Not only was Bailey attacked for using individual judgement over collective judgement it was a very specific collective that was mentioned. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The IPCC is primarily a political body not a scientific one. It is the politicians who write the final report. Scientists get appointed to the body but it is not a scientific body open to all people in the profession. There is a selective process. The body was set up by the United Nations and as the name implies it is an “Intergovernmental” body which means that governments make the appointments. That is politicians with political agendas appoint who is on it.

Neither does the IPCC do any research at all. They don’t even monitor actual data. These political appointees merely review reports issued by others. The reviewers merely write about what other people write. They pick and choose which papers to review after they them self were picked and chosen by the politicians. They write their report and submit it to their political masters who then write a synopsis. The IPCC has been crticized because often the scientific provisos are removed and worst case scenarios are intentionally highlighted by the politicians who who approve the final press statement.

The reason this Green wants the IPCC “collective judgement” used is because it is a heavily political body which is pretty much guaranteed to give them much of what they want.

But truth is not a collective thing. The idea of collective judgement is ludicrous on the face of it. Many of the worst ideas in history were ideas held very widely at the time. There was a time when a large number of intellectuals supported eugenics. The most tyrannical movements in history often represented the collective judgement of the society and culture that surrounded them.

The very idea of group think is dangerous on the face of it. As much of the Left likes to talk about “diversity” they are some of the most conservative folks around demanding conformity. And they are most vitriolic about such conformity when there political agenda is under attack. So much of their drive for central economic planning on global scale is based on environmental scare mongering that they wish to stifle all discussion or dissent from their agenda. That is dangerous to everyone.

We need to understand what is happening in regards to climate change. And we need to understand what the real ramifications are -- not just the most extreme scary scenarios that someone with an agenda can invent. And then we need to understand how best to address these issues. We can’t do that without discussion and debate.

But it is discussion and debate that the Left is trying to shut down. Bjorn Lomborg is a well known skeptic on certain points of the environmental agenda but he is a believer in the reality of global warming. He does question the solutions offered but not the problem. Yet a global warming fundamentalist like Al Gore refuses to meet Lomborg.

Gore has been promoting his apocalyptic psuedo-documentary “The Inconvenient Truth” around the world. The film is no doubt filling his pockets nicely. No oddity there after all end time prophets often do quite well off the destruction of the planet. Denmark’s largest newspaper had an interview schedule with Mr. Gore to discuss his film. And they had arranged to have Lomborg participate in this interview/discussion.

All this was known to Gore and had been arranged months in advance. The day before the meeting Gore’s agent called. According to a column written by Lomborg and an editor from the paper, Flemming Rose, the agent “came back to tell us that Bjorn Lomborg should be excluded from the interview because he’s been very critical of Mr. Gore’s message about global warming and has questioned Mr. Gore’s even-handedness. Mr. Gore only wanted to have questions about his book and documentary, and only asked by a reporter.” Of course a reporter wouldn’t be as knowledgeable as Lomborg and wouldn’t be able to ask the hard questions. In other words his thesis would be safe from any real inspection.

The paper agreed to the new terms. But one hour later Gore pulled out of the interview completely. I suggest the reason for that would be fear that Lomborg would give the reporter some questions for Gore. And if the column by Flemming and Lomborg are any indication it was wise of Gore to cancel. He would have had a hard time standing up to scrutiny.

They point out his film speaks of sea levels rising by 20 feet over the next century. Yet the IPCC has said they expect a rise of one foot over the next century. Sea levels rose 1 foot over the last 150 years already apparently without anyone panicking. Why say 20 feet when the best estimate is 1 foot?

Flemming and Lomborg note that Gore’s film blames global warming for the spread of malaria to Nairobi. But they reveal that the World Health Organization says Nairobi is malaria free today. However some 80 years ago, before the recent warming trend, it faced regular malaria epidemics. OOPS, another very inconvenient “truth”. Flemming and Lomborg write:

He considers Antarctica the canary in the mine, but again doesn’t tell the full story. He presents pictures from the 2% of Antarctica that is dramatically warming and ignores the 98% that has largely cooled over the past 35 years. The U.N. panel estimates that Antarctica will actually increase its snow mass this century. Similarly, Mr. Gore points to shrinking sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere, but don’t mention that sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere is increasing. Shouldn’t we hear those facts? Mr. Gore talks about how the higher temperatures of global warming kill people. He specifically mentions how the European heat wave of 2003 killed 35,000. But he entirely leaves out how global warming also means less cold and saves lives. Moreover, the avoided cold deaths far outweigh the number of heat deaths. For the U.K. it is estimated that 2,000 more will die from global warming. But at the same time 20,000 fewer will die of cold. Why does Mr. Gore tell only one side of the story?

Debate and discussion is mandatory in any quest for the truth (except to fundamentalists who insist they have all the truth already). And if we ever embrace the idea that it is wrong to use individual judgement in place of collective judgement then all progress will stop. But then maybe that’s what they want?