Hint: It ain’t Science
Just a few days ago we celebrated Earth Day, 2017, during which all of us paused for a moment to share our appreciation for our home planet, this verdant and fecund oasis in the endless vacuum of space. Gaia says “Thank you,” by the way. In addition to the usual festivities, this year we were treated to something called the March for Science. It was a huge deal. Indeed something like 600 individual events took place all across the globe under its banner. Total participation was somewhere in the millions.
If you are a jaded sort, your reaction to the March for Science might be something along the lines of: Huh? After all, pretty much everyone appreciates science, as far as you can tell. Regardless of our political inclinations, most of us understand very well that science provides the foundation for this wonderfully advanced and comfortable life we are incredibly fortunate to have. Marching for Science seems sort of like Marching for Warm Fuzzies, or Three Day Weekends, or Great Sex.
Not to be a wet blanket, but the justification for the thing always seemed kind of vague. You are tempted to think that it was just an excuse for a feel-good street party, until you find that somebody has gone to an awful lot of trouble to obscure the identities of leaders and sources of funding. The organizers also handed out some, well, interesting instructions to participants.
It’s only when you peel back the layers of fluff that you realize that what this March was really about. It was intended to remind us that a crisis looms, and that dark forces are gathering. There are those who seek to sow doubt, to confuse, to divert our attention, and ultimately, to roll back decades of bright progress. These retrograde, truth-hating, nonsense-spewing reprobates, as ignorant as they are dangerous, are putting this planet and all its life forms in peril. They spread hate and falsehoods, including the simply outrageous idea that, well, maybe our planet isn’t actually moments away from self-immolation. They may use terms like “historical trends,” and “data,” and “evidence,” and have lots of impressive charts and graphs. But we all know it’s just a smokescreen for some twisted, hate-y anti-Earth agenda. One hesitates to use the word “evil,” but hey, if the shoe fits . . .
The March was also a thinly disguised “FU” to the Trump administration, which has had the temerity to publicly express doubt about the urgency of Climate Change.
The Marchers’ leader and spokesman was a fellow by the name of Bill Nye, also known as Bill Nye the Science Guy, from his kids’ television show of the same name, which ran on PBS for a few years in the 1990s. To an outsider, Bill seemed an unusual choice for a couple of reasons. For one, he’s not really a scientist. He’s a mechanical engineer, by training, who dabbled in standup comedy before finding a career as a latter-day Mister Wizard. Bill also seems to have some rather, um, unusual ideas about human biology.
Perhaps it’s his confidence. Because without a moment’s hesitation, Bill will assert, for example, that humans are “100 percent” responsible for climate change. Absolutely no gray area. And he says this in an urgent, deeply serious tone of voice, so you know it has to be true.
But this is actually a rather un-scientific argument from a couple of standpoints. First of all, there is no such thing as certainty in science, ever, and this is something a “science guy,” ought to know. But I suppose Bill could have been absent that day. Second, it is about as clear as it could possibly be that change is the norm, not the exception when it comes to the climate, which has endlessly warmed and cooled and warmed and cooled again for as long as there has been an atmosphere.
Right now we happen to be in a warm spell, a very fortunate happenstance when you consider the alternative. After all, just a few thousand years ago–a blink of an eye, geologically speaking–the place we now call Manhattan was buried under a thousand meters of ice, and woolly mammoths roamed where bananas today grow. But don’t worry, the ice will come back soon enough, again geologically speaking, just as it has dozens of times in the last couple of million years.
It’s a good thing that Bill doesn’t style himself a “manners guy,” because that could be a tough sell. Like a lot of climate activists, Bill is awfully quick to slam those who question the Global Warming Narrative, frequently wielding the rather disagreeable label “denier” like a verbal nightstick. A favorite put-down of Climate Change activists, “denier” intentionally and falsely smears with a suggested connection to the odious, delusional Holocaust deniers.
What’s it like to be the butt of such a slur? Ask William Happer, Emeritus Professor of Physics at some podunk little degree mill called Princeton. Bill took offense at the inclusion of Professor Happer on a recent panel discussion on CNN, and repeatedly, rudely slapped the man down every time he tried to get a word in edgewise. Happer’s crime? Suggesting that CO2 was a naturally occurring, beneficial gas, a byproduct of normal metabolic activity and not a pollutant, and indispensable to plant growth. He’s absolutely right, of course, but that’s beside the point. Can’t muddle the message. Apparently, Bill understood the term “panel discussion” to mean “echo chamber,” and was very upset at the inclusion of a dissenting viewpoint.
Or you might ask John Christy, highly respected scientist and prominent climate skeptic, who has endured every manner of abuse as he cheerfully but persistently pushes the nefarious agenda of using actual data to show that scary climate predictions have been dead wrong. This is very upsetting to certain people, including, apparently, the kind that Marches for Science. For some of these activists, merely labeling Dr. Christy a “denier” isn’t quite enough. They prefer a more concrete form of critique. Very shortly after the local March for Science went right by Christy’s office, someone fired seven shots from an FN 5.7 millimeter pistol at his office window, a shocking event picked up by not even one major news media outlet. Imagine the outcry if such an attack had been directed at Al Gore or Michael Mann. Or Bill Nye. Hold that thought. Savor the hypocrisy.
In point of fact, Bill Nye and the people he purports to represent march not for “science,” but for an ideology: Climate Alarmism. Ideology is to science as propaganda is to language. And Climate Alarmism is far less about Saving the Planet than it is about exerting control over the behavior of others.
Science is about gathering data, making observations, examining evidence, discerning causes and effects, uncovering explanations. Science uses data to construct a narrative. Bill and company have it exactly backward. Their version of science starts with a Narrative, and then shoehorns the data as needed to serve it. Any contrary information is ignored or suppressed, forcefully if necessary.
And when challenged, Alarmists never actually bother with a rebuttal. If they’re feeling generous they will merely recite, in a patronizing tone of voice, a litany of worn-out and discredited talking points. Eye-roll optional.
The preferred approach, however, is to shout down the offending party, to smother their argument in a chorus of well-rehearsed indignation, to fling insults and slurs over and over again until finally they stick, and the conversation comes to a forced end. That’s not science at all. It is indoctrination. And if Tomas de Torquemada were alive today, I suspect he would very much approve of such methods, and feel right at home with those who use them.