Year 3, Month 9, Day 11: Eppur Si Muove

Originally from the Guardian (UK), but reprinted in the Hindustani Times:

No one would want a novelist to perform brain surgery with her biro. No one would want a man with a PhD in political science to then write textbooks claiming that those misadventures are best medical practice.
Society understands the architecture of academia and knows there are
relevant qualifications in different fields, and the media accepts the idea of specialisations and accords greater respect to those with greater expertise. With one exception: climate science.

When it comes to this academic discipline, it seems that if you are a specialist in public sector food-poisoning surveillance or possess a zoology doctorate on sexual selection in pheasants, editors will seek your contrarian views more avidly than if you have qualifications in climate science and a lifetime’s professional expertise. The press is further littered with climate “heretics” almost all of whom have academic backgrounds in history, literature, and the classics with a diploma in media studies. (All these examples are true.) One botanist trying to argue that glaciers were advancing took his data (described as simply false by the World Glacier Monitoring Service) from a former architect.

I recently watched a debate between a climate scientist and that pheasant-expert-turned-journalist. An audience member asked: “Please could you explain how it is that you are ‘right’ while all climate scientists are ‘wrong’?” He could not. I almost felt sorry for him. I know that he has lectured publicly on scientific heresy. I think that he wants to be Galileo.

Well said. Sent September 4:

When Galileo turned his eyes outward to the stars and planets, he was setting the power of direct observation and analysis against a body of received knowledge that, although internally consistent, was unverifiable and unfalsifiable. He was also taking on the church of Rome, the most powerful institution in the world at the time.

Given that fossil-fuel corporations are the most powerful economic forces of our era, it takes no courage whatsoever to align one’s opinions with their interests. Denialists’ attempts to assume the mantle of one of the founders of modern science is ludicrous at best and deeply cynical at worst.

While it took the church many centuries to acknowledge that it was mistaken and Galileo was correct, even big oil companies are now recognizing the factuality of global warming, as witness the recent remarks of EXXON CEO Rex Tillerson. Climate-change deniers aren’t “heretics” — they’re just plain wrong.

Warren Senders

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