Unsustainable argument making

I attended Colorado College’s symposium about the expected effects of climate change upon the Rocky Mountain region. There was less discussion about adapting to the certain change than there was about hoping still to prevent it.

By focusing on trying to undo global warming, the discussion had to quantify the changes and of course explain their causes. This opened up the door to arguing the causal links, leading to the idea that perhaps we need do nothing at all.

I don’t know but I think I expected to see live scientists deny global warming. What scentist is going to deny global warming? Should be a good show! What I learned was how they deny it. It’s boring but instructive.

Our panel consisted of a student researcher who presented a study of current and forecasted climate change, a representative of the ski industry to present their plans and efforts, and two professors to explain the science. The professors were a father son team from UNC and USC respectively. While they might smilingly present themselves as advocates of environmental issues, I’d call them spoilers.

Elder Roger Pielke went into the technical gobbledegook concluding… nothing. Probably the scientific community needs those guys, but don’t put him on a public panel. His part: spirited, unquestionably qualified, perhaps even well meaning, obfuscation.

His son Robert Pielke explained the need for more unbiased research. Too many scientists have spoken out in alarm about global warming, thus they are biased and their research cannot be trusted. We’ll need more unalarmed scientists to weigh in before we can conclude anything. Follow that logic? This was Pielke’s lesson: always question the motive of a researcher.

Great lesson, in reverse! Someone seeking to deny the warming, underwritten usually by big oil, coal, and general industrial interests, that person’s research might be wise to scrutinize. What pray tell might be the ulterior motives of the 70% of scientists who are currently expressing their alarm about global warming?

Junior Pielke’s approach is the same argument we hear from the unIntelligent Design proponents. Question the motives. Scientists are biased against a deity apparently and therefore evolution findings cannot be trusted. It’s good advice to question the motives. What are the creationists’ motives? To further our understanding of the physical world or to bolster increasingly fallable-looking poppycrock?

Don’t we hear that argument everywhere? Never mind Bush’s motives for slaughtering now up to 250, 000 Iraqi civilians, question the protestor’s motives, no doubt they do not support the troops!

The 250, 000 casualty figure comes from the British medical journal The Lancet, previously unquestioned when they presented their estimates of civilian casualties in the Balkans and Africa. Question their motives. The Lancet figure, estimated to be lower than the probable casualty count, came from American, English and Iraqi doctors. No doubt their ulterior motive is to save lives.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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