At first we had Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW). That was a pretty specific threat. It spelled out the crime, the perpetrator and the result. But when it started to become clear, after 20-odd years of research, that there wasn’t actually a great deal of warming, that the Earth was greening and worldwide crop production continued to increase, something had to be done. Changing the mantra to Beneficial Anthropogenic Global Warming wasn’t going to cut it for the trough-snouters at the IPCC, so we got Climate Change and, more recently, Climate Disruption.
These latter euphemisms for something that isn’t happening are much easier to defend when Mother Nature provides an inexhaustible supply of disasters to draw upon as proof of the coming apocalypse, notwithstanding that the evidence is that these events are not increasing in either frequency or strength. And now, as the highly contrived warming predictions that are the IPCC’s stock in trade deviate ever more from its lurid modeling, yet another fresh mantra has emerged.
Neil de Grasse Tyson, for those of you who don’t know of him, is a celebrity astrophysicist. Like his British counterpart Brian Cox, is a fervent believer in CAGW. Only, of course, he now doesn’t talk about CAGW or even Climate Change. He talks about — drum roll, please — “Science!” CAGW is now, er, science. What were formerly mere “climate change deniers” are now full-blown “science deniers”. What more evidence could you possibly need to conclude that those who question the extent of global warming are, at best, deluded fools or, at worst, Gaia’s eager rapists?
Tyson argues his case in a four minute video that, as we have come to expect from warmists, relies heavily on the strawman argument. At one point he states that, up until now, he “doesn’t remember any time when people were standing in denial of what science was” – whatever that means. To back up this rather vague proposition the video refers to anti-vaxxers, anti-GMers and then, of course, climate change deniers. Oh, and he also throws in a clip of now Vice President Mike Pence arguing that evolution should be taught as theory rather than fact. (To be fair to Pence, that’s not quite the point he made in the full address to Congress, arguing that Charles Darwin’s view is but one perspective, that evolutionary theory is subject to constant and ongoing tweaking and that, as a Christian, he prefers to believe mankind and all the world were brought to their current state by Divine guidance. In this he differs not much from the Jesuit paleontologist and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whom Pope Francis cited with approval in his recent dark-green plea for the planet, Laudato si, which, funnily enough, Tyson endorsed to the fullest. Then again, why take anything Tyson says without a grain of salt? A famous mis-quoter, he also has trouble recalling his own past. But enough of Tyson, at least until he arrives in Australia later this year for a series of lectures, when someone might ask him a few pointed questions.)
The interesting thing about this line-up of ‘denialism’ is that of the four examples chosen, three come down to individual choice – you can choose to vaccinate or not, you can choose to eschew GM foods and you can reject evolution if you think that it is incompatible with creationism. These are the views of fringe dwellers which have marginal impact on society. But CAGW affects everyone; you can’t opt in or out of the theory’s consequences, as evidenced by your latest electricity bill and the rent-seekers who make it o much larger than it should be. What Tyson is doing is an example of trying to impose guilt by association. According to Neil, science never gets anything wrong.
A laughable excerpt of this video is where he describes ‘peer review’ as:
my work being double checked by a rival of mine because they think I might be wrong. They perform an even better experiment than I did and they find – hey, this experiment matches’.
In fact, peer review is not about verifying the premise of a scientific paper or finding alternative solutions. It is simply a mechanism to ensure that there are no gross or obvious errors in a paper that would prevent its publication. Passing peer review does not prove the correctness of a hypothesis. In any case, peer review may be a valuable tool in most branches of science but the views of Judith Curry, a very distinguished climatologist, suggest that she’s not quite on a unity ticket with Neil on this one, at least where climate science is concerned. Would Neil brand her a science denier, I wonder?
Next, following on from the above, he introduces a new scientific concept: the ‘emergent truth’.
…oh my gosh, we’re onto something here and out of this arises the new emergent truth…
As far as I am aware this term is pretty much the brainchild of Tyson himself. Speaking for myself, and despite having a science background, I have never heard of an ‘emergent truth’. It appears to be a mechanism by which something that has not yet been proved or quantified, but simply has some traction in the science community, is now invested with the status of holy writ.
This is science. It’s not something to toy with. It’s not something to say I choose not to believe that E=Mc2. You don’t have that option. When you have an established scientific emergent truth, it is true whether or not you believe in it.
So what is the difference between a ‘scientific truth’ and a ‘scientific emergent truth’? Is a ‘truth’ more true than an ‘emergent truth’? Why the qualification? Could it be that the latter is not quite as ironclad as Tyson would have us believe and therefore is it not validly subject to questioning? This specious terminology will appeal to the credulous but is just a more subtle version of science being settled by consensus, which isn’t the way science is done, not at all.
Finally, we come to the nub of his argument:
Once you understand that humans are warming the planet you can then have a political conversation about that.
Humans are warming the planet? That’s it, that’s the “emergent truth” he is defending? Well, fair enough, but how much are we warming the planet? Are we warming it dangerously? Are we warming it catastrophically? Indeed, are we waming it all? Tyson doesn’t actually go into that, but then he doesn’t need to, does he, because Neil, at least as far as climate goes, is not really a scientist. At best he is an insurance salesman pitching “protection” against a dubious actuarial threat.
Oh, and in a smuch as he is a scientist he’s also a celebrity scientist and in order to remain within the club he’s got to toe the party line. After all, look what happened to environmentalist and broadcaster David Bellamy when he broke ranks with catastropharians and denounced global warming as “poppycock”. Bellamy doesn’t get much airtime anymore.