the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Worth the Time

Posted by Jeff Id on May 21, 2011

The dubious science of the climate crusaders.
by William Happer
If you haven’t read the article already at WUWT, it is nice to hear from some in the science community that there is recognition of the problems in AGW.  William Happer goes through much of the history of global warming skepticism on blogs and the rationale behind our existence.   Why are there so many of us?  Why are we gaining ground against all that money? I don’t think readers here will learn much but it is well written and dead on target.
Actually, I don’t recall anything in it that I disagreed with.   Weird.

12 Responses to “Worth the Time”

  1. CoRev said

    Jeff, it is one of the best organized and complete rebuttal to CAGW we have seen. Well done, Dr Happer!

  2. M. Simon said

    William Happer Bracketts the Fogg. Next round – fire for effect.

  3. Pat Frank said

    The article is unfortunately an argument from authority: “Let me summarize how the key issues appear to me, a working scientist with a better background than most in the physics of climate“. William Happer is an excellent physicist and so we have good reason to trust his judgment. But then, at least on paper, Jim Hansen is an excellent physicist, too. So is Michael Mann, for that matter. Other people trust their judgment. So a good scientist knows that trust is untrustworthy and provides a few good citations to the literature to raise the level of the argument.

    First Things is a religious journal, which is a territory not averse to arguments from authority. Perhaps in a nod to the local bias, William Happer describes the more general obligation to mitigate pollution as our, “efforts to conserve the created world.

    It’s an inadvertent irony, then, but one consistent with the venue, that the very next article after Prof. Happer’s, “Fig Leaves and Falsehoods” by Janet E. Smith, makes a religious case for, “the morality of telling lies to protect innocent life.” Janet Smith is “the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan.

    And what does it mean to “protect innocent life?” For Janet Smith, the innocent life in need of protection is the developmentally early fetus. Her evil-doers are Planned Parenthood.

    But isn’t it her very argument that is being made by self-proclaimed environmental ethicists when they insist that we return to the neolithic? Isn’t it to protect future generations and for the good of the innocent children? Their evil-doers are the ExxonMobil-funded money-mongering denialist cabal.

    Enviro-ethicists can just plausibly re-define “innocent life” to be the unborn generations not yet besmirched by exposure to technology and toxic chemicals, and the full cloth of Janet Smith’s argument can be applied to their cause.

    Protecting the innocent seems to be a very fungible principle, able to conform itself to any end. Just decide who’s innocent and how ‘protect’ is actionable, and carry on with your original program, whatever it is, with an unburdened conscience.

    Thanks to Janet Smith and others like her, that terrible inner pressure of high moralizing dudgeon is channeled into the pure grounds of religion and/or ethics, and everything becomes possible. And, of course, those in opposition are doing the inverse of protecting the innocent, revealing themselves as irremediably evil and making themselves worthy of the death penalty.

    So, we have a Chair of Life Ethics, Dr. Janet Smith, making the implicit case for the high morality of lying about CO2 and climate, so as to protect the innocent, in the same journal that has William Happer decrying the claims made about CO2 and climate on the grounds that they are objective lies. E.g., “the computer programs that produce climate change models have been “tuned” to get the desired answer … [because of] the bias toward a particular result.

    William Happer’s entire case rests implicitly on the absolute ethic that lies about scientific results are never excusable. Janet Smith’s case is that if innocents are thereby protected lies are always excusable.

    That juxtaposed contradiction couldn’t provide a better example of the difference between religion (ideology) and science. The first deploys principles that have no inherent meaning. They can be plausibly directed to rationalize any personally desired end. The second deploys falsifiable theory. Falsifiable theory has only one meaning, which is why it’s falsifiable. It can’t be bent to anyone’s personally desired end.

    And in that is the reason why the Climategaters tried to wreck the process. The indifferent meanings of science were not going their way. Their solution is to subvert science. Presumably, if Janet Smith is an AGW believer, she’d ethically approve because the crime against science is protecting the innocents. Maybe that explains the NAS, the APS, and the RS.

  4. Jeff Id said


    And thus the Libertarian is born.

  5. Pat Frank said

    Jeff, your case and others prove the Libertarian is (self) made. Self-directed reconstruction in light of reason is a far more honorable estate than there by birth.

  6. Bad Andrew said

    Pat Frank,

    It seems like your comment is just opportunism to criticize First Things on the basis of an unrelated article to the one Jeff posted. All good, but odd.


  7. kuhnkat said

    Pat, relativism doesn’t always work. Youu say Janet suggests the lies will protect people. That is unproven and probably false. IF the lies actually provided some protection to people not available through other venues, we could then discuss whether the damage to the trust and workings of society was actually balanced by the protection provided.

  8. kim said

    Heh, I’ve been bellowing about the climate madness of the herd for years. But I’d forgotten about the recovery one by one. Thanks, Will.

  9. Pat Frank said

    #6, Andrew, it’s true that Janet Smith’s article provided an unanticipated opportunity. The analogy I drew wasn’t pointless criticism of First Things, however.

    Janet Smith’s argument was a classic example of subjective rationalization within the context of an unquestioned ideology.

    She provided an opportunity to show that the pseudo-ethical rationalizations made in service of green anti-industrialism are analogous to those made in service of religious anti-abortionism.

    Janet Smith found a way to make lying moral because to her it serves a good end: protecting the innocents. But ‘protect’ has no objective definition in terms of action. ‘The innocents’ is not a defined object, either. Both terms take on whatever meaning is needed by the ideologue.

    Janet Smith wants to protect developmentally early fetuses. Eco-extremists want to protect future babies. Both construct an ethic that permits taking action, i.e., lying. Same type of thinking, different ideologies. Each ideology provides an unquestioned context allowing individuals to define a unique class of innocent victims they find themselves bound to actively protect, i.e., to lie for.

    Their pseudo-ethical constructs are, in each case, merely self-serving: giving oneself permission to do as one already desires, but now with a free conscience. The burden of consciousness is that aggression needs justification. Plus demonization of the target group. The personal reward is the same, too: the distraction of a crusade.

    The parallel is almost perfect: ideological behavior. In service to her ideology, Janet Smith provides the pseudo-ethic for lying. Merely substitute in the correct ecological terms, and her argument provides the pseudo-ethic for lying about CO2 and climate: protecting the innocents.

    The practice is the same in both arenas.

    Janet Smith’s article rationalizing the lie as a moral means to her end, provided me the unexpected opportunity to illuminate the active ethical self-delusion that permits the AGW crowd their clear consciences all the while they subvert science.

    It’s not about First Things. It’s about AGW.

  10. Pat Frank said

    #7 Kuhnkat, I’m not sure I understand your point. Janet Smith is a professional ethicist who argues that lying is moral if it protects what she considers innocent life.

    My problem with her argument is that it justifies the means in terms of the end. As I recall, under that banner about 150 million people were murdered during the mid-20th century.

    If a good case exists, lying is not necessary.

  11. Bad Andrew said

    Pat Frank,

    I have thought about this issue (lying to protect someone who is in mortal danger) before and I have not come to a conclusion, other than that it is a prudential judgement issue. Lying is never “good”. But, we are confronted with “lesser of two evils” choices frequently, and can only do the best we can.

    I will not say that, for example, that O. Schindler was “wrong” to deceive Nazis to protect Jews from being shipped off to a likely death. And I can’t say that during war, when standard moral norms are tossed out the window, that everyone made “wrong” decisions.

    And I look at my friend’s new babies and my new niece and I think, “when was it OK to deprive these children of their lives?” It NEVER was at any time. And I would have chosen the lesser of two evils every time for that reason, if it came to it.


  12. Bart said

    I’m sure most here won’t appreciate the post, but Chris Colose over at SkS disagrees with Happer:

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