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The “I Won’t Debate” Tactic


We are told continually that the risk of climate change is biblical — so dangerous that it will lead to a calamity worse than (as the City Council of Berkeley, California, declared recently) the Second World War.

Such beyond-hyperbole statements are par for the course for global-warming hysteria. But here’s the thing: It makes reasonable people dubious about climate-change scientists’ assertions, the phenomenon’s current supposed manifestations, and the predicted future consequences of climate change.

Add to this the snobbish “I won’t debate” tactic of these same scientists, who bemoan the public’s lack of acute alarm — but also refuse to engage before that same public in open discussions with skeptics to persuade us that their dire warnings require heeding.

Here’s a case in point, published at the Scientific American website. From “Why I Won’t Debate Science,” by Kate Marvel:

Climate denial is like bad science fiction: there’s no internal logic, the characters aren’t compelling, and you can see the scary things coming from miles away.

So, if we’re being asked to debate things that are essentially fictional, we should respond in kind. Not by misrepresenting the science — that’s too important to mess with.

But I’m happy to debate fiction, if we’re honest that that’s what we’re doing. I happen to believe very strongly that it was a stupid idea to send Frodo into Mordor with the ring. I also feel that Killmonger had a point, Holden Caulfield is insufferable, and Jane could have done much, much better than Mr. Rochester.

Good grief, if we face total calamity by the end of the century, why in the world wouldn’t you debate the science and curative proposals? If civilization is really at risk, how can you not pursue every opportunity to persuade the public — even if you think it is beneath you?

I am agnostic on global warming. I certainly don’t think that the entire idea is a hoax. But I have also seen so much exaggeration and outright lying by climate-change hysterics that I am not willing to just obediently accept what “the scientists” claim is happening, why, and what to do about it.

In fact, I find Bjorn Lomborg to be the most reasonable voice in this entire controversy. Lomborg believes that man is indeed accelerating climate change, but he also thinks that increasing economic prosperity to allow us to cope with the potential consequences is the better course compared to what he sees as ineffectual draconian efforts to reduce carbon output.

But my mind remains open. I would be really interested in a debate by learned scientists on this issue from both sides, people who could effectively challenge each other’s assertions and engage in informed rejoinders.

Or to put it another way, I am open to persuasion. But the above-the-fray attitudes of people such as Marvel push me in the other direction. Indeed, their attitude raises the acute suspicion in my mind that the real reason they remain aloof isn’t because their hypotheses are undebatable, but precisely because they are.

Photo credit: Forest runner, via Flickr.