As I wrote in my last post, circumstances got in the way of small essay I had planned to write on the subject of climate science as a religion. I’m not at all suggesting that climate scientists generally have a religious view of what they do, though there are a few, like Professor Karoly, or Dr Michael Mann in the USA , about whom I sometimes wonder. There are certainly scientists who want to keep pressing what they see as the fundamental message of global warming, pushing to the side the obvious problems with that message, and describing those of us who ask questions as ‘deniers’. You can find them in the leadership roles in the academies, and they pop up whenever the IPCC presents a new report.
No, what I am about is neatly captured by a commenter to the last post: ‘What do you think drives those who still advocate the IPCC style alarmist agenda?’ My lengthy answer starts with the proposition that those who do that sincerely believe that they are right, and that they have an obligation to share their conviction with us. On the whole, they are not much interested in the science, the data, the observations or the arguments (about what causes Arctic warming, or which data to take seriously about sea levels, or whether or not a hot spot in the troposphere is a key question).
That isn’t their concern. Rather, they do sincerely believe that humanity is in crisis. They can see the looming crisis wherever they look — in what comes out of chimneys, in holes in the ground, in the parched land they see in television news broadcasts, in polar bears on ice floes, in the awful shots of fires, floods and tsunamis. What is more, they know that we, their fellow humans, are responsible for these blemishes on what ought to be a beautiful world. More still, we could do something about it! We can repent, and change our ways, and move to a decarbonised economy and society — if we do what they are asking us, instructing us, to do. I don’t think I’m overdoing it. People who tell us, for example, that humanity could become extinct if we don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions, must believe that what they are saying is true, especially if they are scientists of some kind. But to me, they sound like evangelicals, a kind of secular Jehovah’s Witness, knocking on my door and asking me to listen while they give me that superior-wisdom look that brushes aside any objection or serious question.
Why are they like it? My guess is that they are people who need to believe in something, because they can’t make sense of life and their own existence unless they can point to a purpose greater than themselves. Christianity and the other religions all do their best to provide that meaning, first about the point of it all, and second about what the afflicted human being must do to feel better about it all. The door-knockers are armoured against any criticism, because there is Holy Writ, in the form of the IPCC Reports, which are a form of superior religion. It doesn’t matter that they have not read the reports; the point is that what is said there is incontrovertible, because it comes from Science (as in ‘we accept the science’).
Science is not the new religion, exactly, but it is the new godhead. To counter it, the heretic or pagan has first to have written a paper and had it published in a peer-reviewed journal of the right kind. Having done that, he or she will find that it is promptly ‘debunked’ by the priests of Skeptical Science or other blogs of that kind. A repentant sinner, however, can buy indulgences in the form of carbon offsets, or donate to Greenpeace, or install solar power, or clamour for windmills.
It is almost pointless to argue with such people, because they are not interested in debate or argument. In a real and important sense, they do not understand that science, as it has been practised over the past several hundred years, thrives on disagreement (see the masthead to this blog), always tests hypotheses where it can, does not seek consensus, and accepts nothing on authority. The ‘religion’ of global warming or ‘climate change’ has nothing to do with science, and a great deal to do with the felt need that some people have to control what others do.
I am sure that there are hundreds, thousands of scientists out there who take a dim view of all this, and wish the AGW religionists would find something else to do. But our political system has the great virtue of allowing people to say what they like (though don’t forget 18[c] of the Racial Discrimination Act), and politicians will always take advantage of any avenue that could improve their chances of forming government.
What can be done about the evangelicals? Not much. They are not just in ‘climate change’, but in many other avenues of life — nutrition, alcohol, smoking, prostitution, pornography, you name it. They come to the fore where they see people doing something that they take objection to, but is not actually forbidden by law. There are just more of of them at the moment in ‘climate change’. I think their numbers are falling, but if we move to an el Nino condition later in the year, which looks possible, they’ll be back, crying ‘We told you so!’