Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

February 25, 2014

Reality deniers are a stubborn lot, and hold beliefs no matter what

— — The number of notable people who behave as if they are endowed with special insight about the environment is an interesting element in the ongoing saga.

The most recent example of this is Secretary of State John Kerry, who fell off the diplomatic wagon and insulted millions of Americans he represents to the world who don’t agree with his narrow view of environmental issues by calling them members of the Flat Earth Society.

Arrogance of this magnitude from a public employee is not unheard of, but arrogance wasn’t Mr. Kerry’s only sin. He expressed the asinine belief that climate change is “the world’s largest weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even, the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”

Tell that to the victims and their families of true terrorism, like the 9-11 attacks and in the Boston Marathon bombing.

President Barack Obama also asserts with absolute certainty that global warming/climate change is “settled science.”

Misters Obama and Kerry are no better than the rest of us non-scientists: they have chosen to believe one side of the argument about global warming, now renamed “climate change,” since the catastrophic warming trend we were warned about ad infinitum unexpectedly disappeared.

Some might expect that President Obama is better informed than everyone else. However, given the number of rather important events that he said he learned about from the media — the IRS abuse of non-profit applicants, the capture of the Boston Marathon bomber — he probably gets his environmental news there, like the rest of us.

But Mr. Kerry’s madness and Mr. Obama’s misplaced certainty aside, real scientists understand and will tell you that science is never settled. There may be general acceptance of a particular theory, but the possibility that someone will come across something that disproves an existing theory always exists.

On that subject Charles Krauthammer — who as a medical doctor has much deeper understanding of the scientific method than either Mr. Obama or Mr. Kerry — offers this example: “Newton’s laws were considered settled for 200 years until a patent clerk [Albert Einstein] in Switzerland turned them over with a single paper in 1903 — and that was pretty settled science. The idea that this is all settled is absurd.”

Saying that science is settled is simply a way to try to suffocate dissent, says columnist George Will. “When a politician, on a subject implicating science — hard science, economic science, social science — says the debate is over, you may be sure of two things: the debate is raging, and he is losing it.”

When scientists say science is settled, they are guilty of the same sin as journalists often are: allowing their political ideology to overpower their integrity and displace professional principles. And scientists often have the added motivation of filthy lucre: federal money to fund their research, totaling $68 billion from 2008 to 2012.

There are lots of scientists, climate scientists and others, who disagree with the manmade climate change theory, but that’s something Mr. Obama won’t learn from the media, because most of the agenda media don’t report much on topics that don’t fit their leftist ideals, like man-caused climate change.

Reality deniers ignore inconvenient evidence and cling to their views. Evidence like the email scandal from November 2009, where emails between International Panel on Climate Change participants suggesting conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of information, organized resistance to disclosure, data manipulation, and private admissions of flaws in their public claims, were exposed. A second round of email revelations occurred in 2011.

And the “hockey stick” graph created in 1998 purporting to show a dramatic increase in global temperatures in the 20th century, and was a major piece of evidence supporting manmade global warming. It was created by Penn State University’s Dr. Michael Mann.

The theory has come under suspicion for data manipulation. It is a complex story, but here’s a brief version: The graph relied heavily upon data taken from 252 trees on the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia. It used data from 12 trees that showed a warming trend, while a subset of 34 different trees showed no significant warming. Further, temperatures in the Middle Ages were missing from the Mann data. So, even if there was warming, temperatures from hundreds of years before the industrial revolution were warmer than those in the 20th century.

As a result, several individuals and publications challenged the veracity of the research, and Dr. Mann sued a number of his detractors for libel. However, it appears that the suits will not go forward because Dr. Mann refuses to release the details of his research, which is necessary for him to show the defendants actually defamed him.

These things cry out for attention, but are instead explained away.

Many people don’t know much about science, a point proven by a National Science Foundation study, which shows that one in four Americans believes the sun orbits the Earth, rather than the other way around.

So, many Americans trust scientists and elected officials to tell them the truth about important matters, and when they manipulate data, or sell a particular concept as “settled science,” many believe them anyway.

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

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