Waiting - oil on canvas, Michael Harris

Questioning Climate Science: a sign of sanity in an increasingly mad world

I don’t believe climate scientists can do what they claim to be able to do. There. I said it. Let the angry mobs assemble – but please, pitchforks only. Burning torches are not environmentally friendly.

Let’s face it, expressing such a sentiment has become essentially taboo in our culture. We have been told repeatedly by the climate science establishment that the ‘science is settled’, therefore to question it is akin to questioning a longstanding observable fact – like the molecular composition of water or that the Earth orbits the Sun. For those of us who are not climate scientists and who have little or no understanding about how global climate actually works – that is to say, pretty much everybody on the planet – we are left with a straightforward choice: accept at face value the claims of this elite class of professional technicians as they instruct, or withhold our acquiescence pending further scrutiny.
To my mind, that leaves all of us roughly in the same boat. We’re all generally relying on the same second hand sources like the Internet and mainstream media to develop a useful perspective. And sure, some people are going to line up with the experts because….well, just because they’re the experts, right? Others will find too much about the climate consensus that is problematic to simply kick the responsibility for our thinking upstairs to a professional class of unquestionable truth givers. All things being equal, who really knows? Right?

Well, apparently not. When I look around, I see a whole bunch of people with no more expertise on the subject than I have (which is to say, none at all), flaunting unqualified certainty that the climate science consensus is beyond questioning. In fact, they are so confident in the perfection of their opinion that they go about happily affixing the contemporary version of the Scarlet Letter – a bright red capital ‘D’ for ‘DENIER’ – upon anyone who doesn’t conform to their way of thinking. Clearly for these people, not being convinced is simply not an option. Not for themselves, and not for you either.

Think about that for a second. These well intentioned, decent people evidently feel justified in categorizing you as morally, ethically and intellectually dysfunctional – even deviant – simply because you find cause not to share their opinion on something they know as little about as you do. In effect, they are declaring that there aren’t any other permissible opinions… period! That, in my view, is nuts. And for the life of me I can’t understand how otherwise rational people justify it to themselves. Nevertheless, this is now very much the mainstream position that we see reflected every day by our politicians, the media, academia, the creative classes and a good portion if not most of the educated middle-class.

What is going on here? When did we become so docile? So pliant? And when did ‘group-think’ go from being understood as the enemy of progress, truth, creativity and liberty to the prerequisite for admission to responsible society?

Back to my taboo-transgressing statement at the beginning. Obviously I don’t know the answers to whatever is supposedly going on with the climate. Like you, all I know for sure is that a particular subset of professional scientists claim they know the answer to all of that. The real question then for you and me, and the one question that all of us are completely, unequivocally qualified to answer is this: Have these professionals convincingly demonstrated that they know what they claim to know?
I find myself forced to honestly answer, no. I don’t believe they have.

Perhaps you disagree with me. Fine. That is something we can actually debate based on our own direct observations. For my part, I’ll want to know why the failures of the computer models upon which their authority is predicated isn’t by itself enough to cast doubt on their credibility? Why statements like “the science is settled” and other efforts to immunize themselves from criticism raises no suspicion in you? Why troubling issues with their methodology and conclusions are discounted when raised by similarly credentialed professionals?
And ultimately, is it more plausible that computer software written by a handful of technicians in a lab somewhere has a 1 to 1 relationship with a constantly evolving, planetary-wide natural process? Or is it conceivable that a relatively small group of privileged professionals have hubristically persisted in overstating their ability to use new technology to account for a mind-numbingly vast, profoundly complex natural phenomenon that has been unfolding over millennia but which we’ve only been using satellites to study for last forty years or so?

In his book Science and the Modern World, British mathematician and philosopher of science Alfred North Whitehead warned: “We have mistaken our abstractions for concrete realities”. Though written in 1925, Whitehead’s admonishment is strikingly pertinent in the context of today’s climate change obsession. These days, conflating digitally generated abstractions with “concrete realities” is our culture’s cognitive default position. Will they be validated in the long run? I don’t know and neither do you. Before we do anything else, maybe we should start by establishing a consensus on that.

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Michael Harris

Michael Harris is an oil painter, photographer, song writer and blogger from Toronto Canada. Michael's work is influenced by his interest in psychology, media, consciousness studies, politics and philosophy.

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