The Church of Climate Scientology
Written by Alex Epstein
“Science” is perhaps the most abused word in the English language.
The word used to name the method of Galileo, Newton, and Einstein has also been used to rationalize some of the most destructive political policies in human history, such as socialism and population control. The Nazis invoked the once-renowned “science” of eugenics to justify a Holocaust of “scientifically inferior” races.
How do we protect ourselves against such abuses of science? By knowing the one key difference between real scientists and science abusers. Science abusers treat science as an infallible authority to be blindly obeyed by the public. Real scientists treat science as a method to be carefully explained to the public.
By this standard, today’s vaunted “climate science consensus”—that it’s been scientifically proven that we need to dismantle the fossil fuel industry, the economic engine of the world—is more Scientology than science.
Here are three ways the Climate Scientologists abuse science.
1. They use manipulative language
If you are ever asked the incoherent question “Do you deny climate change?” you have found yourself a Climate Scientologist.
No one denies “climate change.” “Climate change” is a constant. The “climate,” which is an averaging of weather over long timespan, is an inherently changing phenomenon. There’s no “climate non-change.”
Don’t tell me “Oh, we all know what we mean by climate change”–because I don’t, and neither do you.
“Climate change” is a manipulative, rubber term used to mean anything from “the climate changes” (which everyone agrees with) to “we impact the climate at least a tiny amount” (which everyone agrees with) to “we impact the climate for the better” (yes, that’s possible) to “we are making the climate much more dangerous” (which much fewer people agree with) to “we are making the climate much more dangerous and the only response is to stop using fossil fuels but also incoherently oppose nuclear power and hydroelectric power while advocating the worst-performing energy technologies, solar and wind.”
Climate Scientologists are usually advocates of the last, bizarre position. Since they can’t argue for that view honestly and directly, they dishonestly name their view “climate change.” That’s the equivalent of a eugenics advocate calling his view “evolution.” Which is, in fact, exactly what eugenics advocates did. And just as we needed more thinkers back then, so we need more Climate Thinkers today.
2. They won’t admit when their theory fails
If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is – if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. That is all there is to it.
Modern climate science is dominated by the hypothesis that CO2 is the major driver of climate—so much so that increasing it from .03% to .04% of the atmosphere has brought us to the verge of catastrophe.
One simple question to ask about this hypothesis, which has been around for many decades, is: “Does it agree with experiment?” Since the theory uses computer models to make apocalyptic predictions about the future, one straightforward question to ask is: can the climate prediction models actually predict climate?
The answer is no. As my colleague at Center for Industrial Progress, physicist and mathematical modeler Eric Dennis, writes in a forthcoming essay on climate modeling:
the biggest phenomenon in climate modeling over the last 15 years is the spectacular failure of the models to predict what happened over this period: flat global temperatures, no significant warming trend. This was the one test the climate modelers were forced to stick their necks out for, and they have failed it.
Has this deterred the climate scientologists? No. In the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report they glossed over the failures of their hypothesis and doubled down with new apocalyptic predictions.
3. They intimidate, rather than explain
Two weeks ago I participated on an energy panel with a prominent critic of fossil fuels. Anticipating that he would raise the climate issue, I devoted much of my 5-minute opening to trying to explain the big-picture evidence about fossil fuels and climate.
Here was his response, in full. He flashed a Power Point slide with an ominous-looking picture of a desert with the text “6 Degrees Celsius” (implying it would get that much hotter) and said “We’re in trouble. The smartest people on the planet have told us that, and we’re listening to them.”
I asked him to explain to me and to the audience how the “smartest people in the world” had proven this so we could understand it for ourselves. His response? He told the audience that since these (unspecified) people are smarter than I am, they should listen to him instead of me.
In freshman logic, we are taught that this is the fallacy of “appeal to authority.” The true scientist has no need for appeal to authority—he uses his expertise to give clear explanations for anyone seeking them.
For example, if you ask a good physicist about quantum mechanics, he will give you an overview of the evidence, such as the famous double-slit experiment that classical mechanics couldn’t explain. But too often, if you ask a question about climate science, a Climate Scientologist will try to intimidate you to take his beliefs on faith.
Fortunately, many if not most scientists reject Climate Scientology privately and a growing number of them are willing to stand up. What is most striking about these scientists, many of whom I’ve had the opportunity to interview, is not that they disagree with predictions of catastrophe, but that they stress, first and foremost, that you need to think for yourself. For example, on my podcast, Power Hour, legendary MIT scientist Richard Lindzen went out of his way to tell listeners to take nothing from him on authority but rather to read the different arguments and see what made sense.”
That’s the policy of any real climate scientist—and any real Climate Thinker. Anyone who does otherwise is a Climate Scientologist.
Alex Epstein, an energy philosopher, debater, and communications consultant, is Founder and President of the Center for Industrial Progress, head of the I Love Fossil Fuels Campaign, and author of Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet and “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels: The Key to Winning Hearts and Minds.” Contact him here.
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