Idiotae non carborundum
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2014/07/01
Common slang advice for coping with nincompoops is the pseudo-Latin phrase, “Illegitimi non carborundum” — “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”. But I grew up in Australia, where a common affectionate greeting to a friend ran, “How are ya, ya old bastard?”.
I have no friendly feelings at all for those who parrot shibboleths about matters of science without knowing anything about the particular subject, so I prefer the less friendly and more accurate “Idiotae non carborundum”: “idiota, idiotae = uneducated person, ignorant person, layman” (New College Latin& English Dictionary).
It does wear me down, though, especially when people with whom I agree over lots of important things hold forth about matters of science about which they know nothing. I don’t so much mind as they prattle on about carbs, proteins, vitamins, “getting your potassium from bananas”, and so forth, because that may harm only themselves and their dependents. But I do care when it’s about HIV/AIDS or global warming, because promulgating untruths about those does tangible damage to hordes of people.
The evidence that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS (The Case against HIV), and that human-caused release of carbon dioxide has not appreciably warmed the Earth, is very strong, and has been published by competent scientists for several decades. The most dispassionate and objective possible take on these issues is that the mainstream consensus remains to be translated into beyond-doubt-proven fact because of the competent fact-based objections raised against the mainstream interpretation. Yet most media and most pundits have been seduced into regarding HIV=AIDS and human-caused global warming (AGW, for anthropogenic GW) as “settled science”.
Sadly, people acquire their beliefs on these issues not from any acquaintance with the evidence but according to their political ideologies: left-leaners tend to believe one thing and right-leaners tend to believe the opposite (A politically liberal global-warming skeptic?). That’s a dreadful way to form views on matters of science. One wonders for how long a democracy can function when facts take second place to ideology.
I’m politically and socially left of center (though strongly critical of the politically correct extreme Left), and it saddens me deeply that President Obama is in the thrall of his ideologue Science Advisor John Holdren, that the most accurate view I heard recently on global warming came from a Republican politician (Marco Rubbio), and that my usually favorite sources of insight on television (The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, GPS) treat global warming “skeptics” as willfully ignorant denialists.
The Daily Show of Monday, 2 June 2014, labeled as equally flat-earthish those who campaign against vaccination and those who question a human cause of global warming.
But think for just a moment about what substantive commonality there might be between those two matters.
There is absolutely none.
The only commonality is the non-substantive one that both are contrary to the contemporary official mainstream consensus. Yet the lesson of history is absolutely clear, that no contemporary mainstream scientific consensus can be counted on in the long run; indeed, the greatest scientific advances have come though overturning well established scientific dogmas, even ones that had held sway for decades. If there is one fact that everyone should know, it is that contemporary scientific experts and any contemporary scientific consensus are to be trusted just as much as, but no more than, experts on economic or social or political or religious matters. When all of them agree, then they may be right (but they may still all be wrong, as history proves). But if even a few competent ones disagree with the majority, then it is far from a settled matter. Always remember Michael Crichton on consensus: No one says there’s a consensus that E = mc², “consensus” is invoked only when the matter is not settled.
The actual evidence for the efficacy of vaccination is of an entirely different order than the evidence for human-caused global warming (AGW, for anthropogenic GW). The Daily Show doesn’t understand that because it has not looked at the evidence. Vaccination against smallpox appears to have eliminated that scourge, as evidenced by the tangible fact that people don’t get smallpox nowadays. (That not all vaccinations are of proven value doesn’t gainsay that the concept has strong facts in its support — so strong, indeed, that unwarranted extrapolations of the concept have seduced large swaths of society, as with Gardasil (Deadly vaccines).
On the other hand, there is no good evidence at all that carbon dioxide causes global warming.
The trouble is that the AGW enthusiasts have managed to monopolize official agencies and the media, as illustrated by the pertinent entries at Wikipedia (The Wiles of Wiki). Furthermore, although there’s a vast literature debunking the claims of human-caused global warming, it’s of highly uneven quality. Books come from small or niche publishers (1,2), or they are self-published (3), often with incompetent copyediting (or none at all), perhaps lacking an index and with sourcing only to Internet sites (2). The best-presented as well as substantively sound works are much denigrated ad hominem because the authors or publishers are politically conservative (4-8).
A further difficulty in bringing dissenting views to public attention is that those who dissent from an entrenched mainstream dogma tend to become frustrated and to react in counterproductive ways (9,10). Some of the books mentioned above illustrate this with repetitive rants that detract from their substantive message.
As to the insinuation that funding by conservative viewpoints drives dissent from AGW dogma, it is at least equally true that funding drives the mainstream claim that global warming is significantly human-caused. Huge resources are available from governments and official agencies for research specifically on human-caused global warming because the dogma is promulgated by “The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) [which] is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It is the UN system’s authoritative voice on the state and behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources”. Together with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “the voice for the environment within the United Nations system”, in 1988 WMO established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which issues periodic reports about how human activities affect the climate.
Yet the case against the mainstream consensus includes some indisputable and easily understood points. For one, the consensus is based on computer models that are inherently, inevitably incapable of reflecting accurately the complex interactions among innumerable variables that determine global climate (2:111ff., 11). Further, the models consider only very recent times, a century or two, and fail to account properly for hotter temperatures only a millennium ago (the Medieval Warm Period) or the even more recent Little Ice Age which made it inevitable that present times would be experiencing warming from entirely natural causes. And none of the models can account for the undisputed fact that there has been no warming for at least the last 15-18 years despite significant increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide:
In ignorance of these facts, Fareed Zakaria’s GPS (CNN TV) of 29 June 2014 featured the bipartisan pair of esteemed economic experts, Henry Paulson and Richard Rubin, promulgating the Risky Business Report, “The Economic Risks of Climate Change”, which accepts without question the most dire predictions made by the proponents of worst-case AGW: “Risk catastrophic to life on Earth as we know it”, said Rubin.
What the media fail to reveal, culpably and unforgivably, is that even the IPCC’s own Scientific Reports make abundantly clear that the computer modeling is beset with inescapable uncertainties, whereas the IPCC’s “Summaries for Policy Makers”, released to press and public before the Scientific Reports, portray the role of carbon dioxide as established beyond doubt and its consequences as terrifying.
(The same tactic is used by UNAIDS, where Foreword or Preface signed by some eminent person lays out the horrible consequences of the continuing epidemic, while the actual data in the body of the Report contradict those projections [10: 197ff.]. What media and pubic need to know is that “Official reports are not scientific publications” [10: chapter 8].)
Those who insist on the catastrophic progression of human-caused global warming are either self-interested because their careers are vested in that conclusion or they are the idiotae of this blog-post’s title, people who take on faith what the mainstream scientific consensus is and then do not hesitate to parrot it and to malign dissenters who know far more about the issues than they do. Thus a lawyer holds forth about “Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change”, and a respected academic press (Oxford) publishes him (12). A compendium about “Junk Science” (13) is rightly critical of many things but is woefully ignorant about the credentials of global warming “skeptics” (and I’m always suspicious when both author and well established publisher feel the need to emphasize the author’s “Ph.D.” on the title page).
There is no lack of examples in hardcover and in softcover and in “news” reports and television punditry and internet blogs and comments that idiotae feel free to hold forth passionately for or against, depending quite predictably on political ideology and displaying no interest in the actual evidence.
Anyone who wants an informed opinion needs to dig into the evidence. Eventually, fairly well documented and fairly evenhanded sources can be found. They are easily recognized by relatively measured tone and by concentration on evidence instead of ad hominem charges. My recommendation currently goes to Warren Meyer’s site Climate Skeptic.
1 A. W. Montford, The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science, Stacey International, 2010
2 Tim Ball, The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science, Stairway Press, 2014
3 David Dilley, Natural Climate Pulse Global Warming — Global Cooling — Carbon Dioxide, free download at http://www.globalweatheroscillations.com/#!climate-pulse-e-book/cav2
4 S. Fred Singer & Frederick Seitz, Hot Talk, Cold Science Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate, The Independent Institute, 1999
5 S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery, Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years, Rowman & Littlefield, 2008
6 Patrick J. Michaels, Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media, Cato Institute, 2005
7 Roy W. Spencer, The Great Global Warming Blunder: How Mother Nature Fooled the World’s Top Climate Scientists, Encounter Books, 2010
8 Brian Sussman, Climategate: A Veteran Meteorologist Exposes the Global Warming Scam, WND Books, 2010
9 Henry H. Bauer, Confession of an “AIDS Denialist”: How I became a crank because we’re being lied to about HIV/AIDS, pp. 278-82 in YOU ARE STILL BEING LIED TO: The REMIXED Disinformation Guide to Media Distortion, Historical Whitewashes and Cultural Myths, ed. Russ Kick, The Disinformation Company, 2009
10 Henry H. Bauer, Dogmatism in Science and Medicine: How Dominant Theories Monopolize Research and Stifle the Search for Truth, McFarland, 2012, p. 251
11 Ian Plimer, Heaven and Earth: Global Warming — The Missing Science, Taylor Trade Publishing, 2009
12 Andrew T. Guzman, Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change, Oxford University Press, 2013
13 Dan Agin, Ph.D., How Politicians, Corporations, and Other Hucksters Betray Us, Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, 2006