The postmodern approach to science is to declare objectivity, data and all the other impressive tools of inquiry to be instruments of oppression probably linked to racist patriarchy. And it’s remarkable the extent to which this lazy as well as Narcissistic approach appeals to people. For instance two protestors at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, both declaring themselves to be “climate scientists”, tried to disrupt the opening ceremonies and silence the invited presenters then, when they were forced to leave, accused the AGU of “silencing scientists” for not letting them carry out their stunt.
The ostensible justification for this disruption, and the wounded response when told that if they tried it again they’d be arrested for interrupting the plans of the 60,000 or so who’d taken the trouble and expense to come to the meeting to hear the arranged program, was:
“Our science is showing that the planet is dying. It's terrifying. Everything is at risk. As scientists, we have tremendous leverage, but we need to use it. We can wake everybody up”.
Which febrile words one of them, Peter Kalmus of NASA, yelled over the introduction of the first speaker. So the American government is already paying him generously to use his leverage and wake everyone up. But it’s not enough. He wants the world to listen to the scientists and to that end he insists that they all shut up so he can do the shouting. (As does his protest colleague Rose Abramoff, described elsewhere in the story as an “ecologist” and apparently a post-doctoral fellow with the American government-funded Berkeley Lab’s Earth & Environmental Sciences Area, who doesn’t want to wait until she has earned the respect of her peers to dictate to them.)
The degree of fundamental epistemological radicalism now infesting public discussion, of climate and a great many other issues, should not be underestimated. As Kurt Mahlburg recently wrote in Mercatornet, it is no coincidence that “ethicist” Peter Singer, he of enthusiasm for infanticide in our brave new world, is also convinced that “climate change is a life-and-death issue” and that “we are the last generation able to prevent catastrophic climate change” and that therefore it is not just acceptable but desirable to hold the world’s artistic heritage hostage to your demands. (As Mahlburg notes, there is a gruesome irony in Singer also invoking the rights of “the young and those yet to be born — both categories unrepresented in our political systems” as a justification for trampling democratic procedures given his habitual stance on the rights of those not yet born or only recently so.)
In keeping with such attitudes, and the old Leninist view that free speech means freedom to espouse Leninism and nothing else, Kalmus and Abramoff are all for open discussion provided they get to tell everyone what to say whether they agree with it or not. When sympathetically interviewed by the usual activist journalists, Kalmus explained that “If the people who know the most about Earth breakdown are still acting like everything's fine, then of course everyone else is going to keep acting like everything’s fine”.
We are unfamiliar with the planet on which everyone is acting like everything’s fine. On this one, governments of every partisan stripe are running around with their collective hair on fire crippling their own economies by destroying the reliable energy base on which they depend all in the name of stopping an alleged emergency. But Kalmus believes his colleagues are acting like everything is fine, which raises the obvious possibility that these famous “people who know most about Earth breakdown” don’t believe the “planet is dying” or anything similar. In which case Kalmus, Abramoff and their ilk are trying to bully climate scientists into saying something they do not believe.
According to Business Insider, reprinted by MSN, “Onstage, Kalmus and Abramoff unfurled a banner that read, ‘out of the lab and into the streets,’ and called for their colleagues to start taking climate action.”
Start? If you really have 60,000 learned geophysicists who are neither making lifestyle changes nor pushing climate alarmist policies, there’s hardly a scientific consensus. And if they are, in large numbers, as part of a vigorous debate in an open society, what’s the justification for hijacking it?
We also note with irritation that this notion of ceasing to do science and starting to do politics depends on the notion that the science is settled, which among other things implies that all these nits gathered to discuss scientific controversies must be fools unworthy of notice even if they do start yelling. But the underlying spirit here is indeed the petulant “We want the world and we want it now” attitude that does not tolerate dissent with respect either to substance or to methods. Which is especially shabby for Kalmus given the extraordinary platform he already enjoys.
If he’s not winning the argument anyway, maybe the problem isn’t us, or them. Maybe it’s him.