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But we can call you names

01 Apr 2020 | OP ED Watch

A spat erupted in the pages of the National Post after columnist Terence Corcoran accused various climate crusaders of welcoming the pandemic, and included academic superstar “veteran green fear-monger” Thomas Homer-Dixon just because the latter had written in the Globe & Mail that “Coronavirus will change the world. It might be a better future.” Homer-Dixon fired back that Corcoran had “cherry-picked”, tribalism is bad and “climate-change skeptics” are on a par with “anti-vaxxers” and “anti-evolutionists” in undermining public faith in experts just when we must rebuild “our collective trust in scientists, the scientific method and scientific findings”. As in, down with tribalism, you knuckle-dragging, anti-science weirdos.

We invite you to read Homer-Dixon’s piece for yourselves to decide whether he was guilty of welcoming the shakeup caused by COVID-19. Which, he says, has exposed what’s wrong with everything he hated anyway from “consumerist notions of the good life” to frequent “international travel” to “fast-food restaurants” to “brutal inequalities in health care and physical well-being”.

Homer-Dixon is a political scientist famous for realizing cleverness is good. He wrote a big book called The Ingenuity Gap that may fairly be summed up by the famous exchange in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in which the characters get the brilliant idea that what they need is a brilliant idea. He’s in huge demand in government-funded universities; the Globe byline proclaims him not just “University Research Chair in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo” but also “executive director of the soon-to-be announced Cascade Institute at Royal Roads University.” (He was formerly at the University of Toronto as, among many other things, director of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program, and later Director of the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.) And oddly, nobody seems to feel that he should not have opinions on global warming because he’s not a “climate scientist”.

To be fair, in the Globe Homer-Dixon makes some good points including the perils of uniformity in institutions as elsewhere. But in his Post letter to the editor he protests far too much about the fairly plain fact that he welcomed the crisis.

His Globe piece wrapped up “Today’s emerging pandemic could help catalyze an urgently needed tipping event in humanity’s collective moral values, priorities and sense of self and community…. COVID-19 is a collective problem that requires global collective action – just like climate change. As with climate change, we need the best science we can muster…. we need to rebuild our collective trust in scientists, the scientific method and scientific findings. So, I place my own hope in the possibility of virtuous cascades of such positive, “normative” change. The coronavirus emergency is already causing terrible human suffering. But it’s also just possible that it could put us, together, on a far better path into the future.”

Not everyone can jam that many empty clichés into such a tight space, which is why he’s in such demand. As you can see, he’s pretty upset with the pandemic, except for all the ways it delights him. And reinforces his belief in uncritically swallowing the most extreme predictions by people who don’t know what the science actually says.

Dude, the Enlightenment. You’re tipping it over.

5 comments on “But we can call you names”

  1. With that much science-devoid gobbledegook and buzzwords, it's not hard to see that the "Homer" part of his name fits perfectly. DOH!

  2. I had the misfortune of sitting through Homer-Dixon's "keynote" address at a climate conference a couple of years ago. He still peddles Michael Mann's Hockey Stick Graph as to why we need to take bold and decisive action on climate without haste. Although he did say that Mann and his graph were "controversial" but chose to use it anyway because it was a good illustration of the problem the planet faces, but avoided discussing why it was controversial. No need to get all scientific and stuff.............just stick to the script and show me the money.

  3. “Today’s emerging pandemic could help catalyze an urgently needed tipping event in humanity’s collective moral values, priorities and sense of self and community… ”. I find it amazing that anyone viewed by the world as so clever could be so utterly thick about human nature!

  4. Regain our confidence in scientists? Tell that to Micheal E. Mann. He is apparently still producing 'junk science even now. His 'Hockey stick wasn't really much to do with real science. He just applied his own dubious statistical methods to cherry-picked data from other people.

  5. “Regain our trust in scientists”? The wide disparity of opinion between public health experts on how to deal with the pandemic hopefully will remind us that reliable scientific opinion is elusive and it evolves by allowing a diversity of views. Only by challenging our previously held beliefs will we be able make true progress.

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