Inside a True Believer’s Mind


At Slate Susan Matthews writes Bret Stephens’ First Column for the New York Times Is Classic Climate Change Denialism  It doesn’t outright reject the facts—which makes it all the more insidious.

Key Paragraphs (my bolding for emphasis)

But in reality, the goal of this column is not to help readers learn how to reason with people who are skeptical about climate change. Instead, the column reinforces the idea that those people might have a point. The New York Times push notification that went out Friday afternoon about the column said as much—“reasonable people can be skeptical about the dangers of climate change,” it read. That is not actually true, and nothing that Stephens writes makes a case for why it might be true. This column is not a lesson for people who want to advance good climate policy. Instead, it is a dog whistle to people who feel confused about climate change. It’s nothing more than textbook denialism.

The institutions Stephens questions in his column are not singular entities but entire ideas—scientists who may not see their biases, statistical models that might be skewed, liberals who may be so swayed by their ideology. His argument is convincing because the institutions he mentions can make mistakes. It’s true, there are some problems with how we use probabilities in science. We tend to be bad at distinguishing between correlation and causation. Sometimes our biases do get in the way. Stephens knows this, and he taps into it in his piece. “Much else that passes as accepted fact is really a matter of probabilities,” he suggests. You have to be an idiot or a zealot to believe climate change is certain, whispers the subtext.

The Credo

Regardless of what Stephens says in this column, and regardless of Clinton’s modeling failures, climate change is a terrible threat to life as we know it on this planet. Anyone who wants to honestly investigate the data will come to the same conclusion that the scientific establishment has—climate change is real, and dangerous. Our failures elsewhere—even in the disturbing wake of the election of Donald J. Trump—do not negate that. The questions are no longer whether and how but how soon and how bad. Climate change is happening, and “claiming total certainty about the science” does not “traduce the spirit of science.” Instead, it is a reasonable interpretation of the science at hand.

Don’t Give an Inch

What he is suggesting here is that the rational way to go forward with a conversation about climate change is to admit that climate change might not be certain. This is similar to the torturous logic he puts forward throughout the rest of the piece—the only way to be reasonable about this topic is to give in to those who are unreasonable about it. While he calmly insists he is the only logical person around, he is spewing complete bullshit.

Stephens article itself is excerpted at  NYT Opens Climate Can of Worms

One comment

  1. manicbeancounter · April 30, 2017

    A good find, illustrating how the climate community have distanced themselves from the real world, and normal ways of evaluation.
    Climate data is extremely limited, and most is somewhat less than perfect. What data we have is a far from perfect fit to any theory of how climate changes. Alternative interpretations are possible. Like in economics, the only way to evaluate competing ideas (or against the hypothesis that we just don’t know) is to compare and contrast the various explanations, both actual and potential, along with evaluating each theory against multiple data sets. This used to be the methods of understanding competing ideas in economics. Instead the method is to interpret both the real world and alternative ideas from the superior truths of the global warming paradigm.

    Liked by 1 person

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