Cranks and Hacks

by Henry on June 4, 2006

After telling us that we shouldn’t worry about global warming because the Denver Tribune predicted climate change in 1874, David Kopel leaps to the defence of noted loon, William Gray, in his weekly column for the Rocky Mountain News.

… former Vice President Al Gore claims that scientific skeptics of global warming are merely being paid off by big oil companies. But in fact, Colorado’s most prominent skeptic is Colorado State University professor of atmospheric science William Gray, who has directly harmed his own financial interests by speaking out … [a]s detailed in a major profile in The Washington Post, … while the Boulder Daily Camera reprinted the story of Colorado’s controversial scientist, The Denver Post – which has access to Washington Post articles – did not. … The News and The Denver Post do recognize Gray as an expert on atmospheric science, and have published dozens and dozens stories citing his hurricane forecasts and analysis … Yet in the News and Post combined, one can find only a few paragraphs even mentioning Gray’s analysis of global warming. … by little noting the evidence presented of eminent experts such as William Gray, the papers are presenting a skewed and misleading perspective on the scientific data.

Kopel curiously fails to mention Gray’s insights into the politics of global warming, which receive prominent mention in the aforementioned article.

Gray has his own conspiracy theory. He has made a list of 15 reasons for the global warming hysteria. The list includes the need to come up with an enemy after the end of the Cold War, and the desire among scientists, government leaders and environmentalists to find a political cause that would enable them to “organize, propagandize, force conformity and exercise political influence. Big world government could best lead (and control) us to a better world!” Gray admits that he has a dark take on human nature: “I have a demonic view on this.”

Cue the black helicopters (perhaps, given the subject at hand, to the music from “Thus Spake Zarathustra”)

In short, Kopel’s entirely correct in his claim that it isn’t only hacks who deny the mounting evidence for global warming. It’s cranks too.

{ 19 comments }

1

schwa 06.04.06 at 9:32 pm

You know, this is a useful taxonomy for if not the whole conservative movement then at least the Bush Administration. Take John Ashcroft compared to Alberto Gonzales, for example. Ashcroft was batshit insane, but he was noticeably less prone to out-and-out contempt for the truth than Gonzales has proven.

2

John Quiggin 06.04.06 at 9:54 pm

As a couple of people pointed out to me in response to my post on the same topic, Gray is a tragic figure, one of a kind that has recurred frequently in science.

He has made major contributions to his field, before losing his balance over an issue that’s relatively peripheral to his main work (Linus Pauling on Vitamin C comes to mind, though the distance was further in this case).

3

Christopher M 06.04.06 at 9:58 pm

Well, I hope one doesn’t become a crank merely by virtue of believing that a large group of influential elites are pushing an agenda based on apocalyptic fearmongering in order “to come up with an enemy after the end of the Cold War, and…to find a political cause that would enable them to ‘organize, propagandize, force conformity and exercise political influence….'”

If so, sign me up for crankdom.
Because it sure sounds like a good description of the pro-Iran-war neocons.

4

Robert P. 06.04.06 at 10:07 pm

The distinguished Professor Gray appears to be following a well-trodden pathway:

“Tho almost singular in my defence of _phlogiston_, and in my opinion of the fallacy of the decomposition of water, I am pretty confident of success. The _facts_ I have advanced I have no doubt will bear the strictest examination, and the _reasoning_ from them is easy enough.” – Joseph Priestley, 1800.

“The world has arisen in some way or other. How it originated is the great question, and Darwin’s theory, like all other attempts to explain the origin of life, is thus far merely conjectural. I believe he has not even made the best conjecture possible in the present state of our knowledge. The more I look at the great complex of the animal world, the more sure do I feel that we have not yet reached its hidden meaning, and the more do I regret that the young and ardent spirits of our day give themselves to speculation rather than to close and accurate investigation….we have no right to infer the disappearance of types because their absence disproves some favorite theory; and, lastly, that there is no evidence of a direct descent of later from earlier species in the geological succession of animals.” — Louis Agassiz, 1874.

“The essential difference between us concerns belief in the reality of atoms. …Planck admonishes…with Christian mildness, but finally brands me with the well-known Bible phrase as a false prophet. One sees, that physicists are on the best way to becoming a church.” – Ernst Mach, 1910.

5

Richard Harlos 06.04.06 at 10:27 pm

It’s such a sad realization that otherwise intelligent people, when confronted with “an inconvenient truth,” still find ways to rationalize and fabricate to defend their own biases.

Over the past decade, coal and oil interests have funneled more than $1 million to about a dozen individual global-warming skeptics as part of an effort to “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact,” according to industry memos first uncovered by former Boston Globe journalist Ross Gelbspan. -from The truth about global warming.

People need to stop being so d@mned willfully ignorant and just face the facts. Reality will eventually encroach upon the irrational fantasies of those who refuse to let go of their agendas; an upon those of us who allow ourselves to be overrun by those agenda-seekers.

The planet is at risk, and the changes that are taking places sometimes occur with such suddenness that by the time we might hope to realize and understand critical transitions, it truly will be too late to make a positive difference.

Kill your children and mine for the sake of ego? Sensibility and sanity forbid!

6

otto 06.05.06 at 12:13 am

William Gray seems to be filling the role for policy on global warming that Bernard Lewis plays vis-a-vis policy towards the Arab and Islamic worlds: providing intellectual cover for policy that the vast majority of scholars think is nuts or worse.

7

Raymond 06.05.06 at 6:08 am

This has sadly become a theological issue, hasn’t it?

I’m a long ways from being convinced. We can start with improper adjustments for the heat island effect and go from there.

Its just irritating when people make definitive pronouncements about something like long-term climatology.

Relax, have a drink. This will be a nonissue in 10 years and life will just keep on getting better and better.

God Bless America

8

Steve 06.05.06 at 6:52 am

I’m an agnostic on the global warming issue, but

Well, I hope one doesn’t become a crank merely by virtue of believing that a large group of influential elites are pushing an agenda based on apocalyptic fearmongering in order “to come up with an enemy after the end of the Cold War, and…to find a political cause that would enable them to ‘organize, propagandize, force conformity and exercise political influence….’”

Yep. The old ‘this is just an excuse to come up with a new enemy after the Cold War’ argument is a classic leftist argument (Radical Islam, China, the military-industrial complex, and on and on). If using that argument makes one a crank, then the entire left-wing in the West are cranks (well, I happen to believe this, but not because of this one argument).

“The planet is at risk, and the changes that are taking places sometimes occur with such suddenness that by the time we might hope to realize and understand critical transitions, it truly will be too late to make a positive difference.”

Name one instance where this has occurred in the past.

Agnostic about global warming, but I gotta agree with Raymond: this has sadly become a theological issue. And agnostic or not, I’m perfectly willing to clearly state: civilization is not going to end in the next ten years because I drive an SUV. the fact that this is an argument taken seriously by anyone indicates to me that Algore and his minions, are, well, ‘batshit crazy.’

Steve

9

RickD 06.05.06 at 7:12 am

Uh guys, you need to catch up.

Even President Bush has admitted that the Earth is getting warmer.

And no, it’s not a “theological issue”. Much as you might want it to be one, since that would spare you more careful attention to the issues.

10

Marc 06.05.06 at 7:41 am

The science behind global warming isn’t a matter of opinion. Our first “skeptic” (raymond) apparently thinks that there is a simple flaw in the temperature record, somehow missed by all of the researchers in the field. The “heat island” effect is real but limited, and it (of course) has no impact on all of the other temperature indicators. It’s a classic denialist move to dismiss an entire field based on a offhand comment; the effect in question is known, is accounted for, and does not in any way change the fact that the Earth is warming.

Our second “skeptic” casts it as a matter of religion. He wants to drive his SUV, which has nothing to do at all with the technical question of whether we are changing the composition of the atmosphere and the global climate (yes and yes).

Oh Steve – we have found strong evidence in the climate record of dramatic shifts in climate that occurred over very short timescales. Do keep up.

11

Barry 06.05.06 at 7:46 am

Raymond: “This has sadly become a theological issue, hasn’t it?”

Right-wing freudian projection – the strongest force in the known universe.

“I’m a long ways from being convinced. We can start with improper adjustments for the heat island effect and go from there.”

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/the-surface-temperature-record-and-the-urban-heat-island/

“Its just irritating when people make definitive pronouncements about something like long-term climatology.”

This is an interesting admission – why does science irritate you?

“Relax, have a drink. This will be a nonissue in 10 years and life will just keep on getting better and better.”

Over the past 10 years, this has gone from a ‘maybe’ to ‘as far as we can tell, and some things are happening faster’. As for life just getting better and better, I do have hopes. But the GOP *is* an enormous force for change – for the worse.

12

Uncle Kvetch 06.05.06 at 8:48 am

Shorter Steve: I don’t really have an opinion about the subject of this thread, but I’d just like to take the opportunity to say that liberals suck. Thanks.

13

Richard Harlos 06.05.06 at 10:00 am

raymond & steve… did you even read the quote in my comment? Please take just a moment of your time and read with the goal of comprehension:

Over the past decade, coal and oil interests have funneled more than $1 million to about a dozen individual global-warming skeptics as part of an effort to “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact,” according to industry memos first uncovered by former Boston Globe journalist Ross Gelbspan. -from The truth about global warming.

It’s already a fact, gentlemen! An industry that has an agenda that disagrees with the facts has undertaken a misinformation campaign to cast doubt on otherwise sound science and you… you… how do you so utterly, completely miss this point???

Is the asylum door again wide open?

14

Jim Harrison 06.05.06 at 12:07 pm

The technical types who make projections of energy prices for the utilities and other businesses have long since factored in some of the extra costs associated with global warming such as carbon sequestration technology. These guys are hardly lefties, but they recognize that policy will eventually have to respond to the facts.

15

Anderson 06.05.06 at 2:48 pm

The VC keeps going downhill. Randy Barnett treating Mark Steyn as a serious policy thinker. David Kopel blathering about climate change.

Meanwhile, an important First Amendment case comes down from the SCOTUS, and despite the VC’s having at least one expert on the subject, we get nothing.

“The Volokh Conspiracy–where conservatives post about what they don’t know about, and ignore what they do know about.”

16

yeti 06.05.06 at 5:22 pm

“Right-wing freudian projection – the strongest force in the known universe.”

If we could just find some way of hooking up Raymond et al. to a turbine, our energy problems would be over!

17

Nigel Sedgwick 06.06.06 at 6:10 am

Is it really only $1million over the last 10 years spent by the oil companies on “promoting” their case that there is insufficient evidence that anthopogenic global warming through CO2 is a material danger?

I would have thought that the pro AGW-danger lobby (including European governments) spend that several times over every year, largely it seems on publicity of their case. That is to the detrement of further important scientific investigation that would improve our understanding.

Best regards

18

jdkbrown 06.06.06 at 11:53 am

robert p.–

Could you tell me where to find the quotes from Priestly and Mach? Thanks.

19

Barry 06.06.06 at 12:35 pm

nigel, you should remember that there’s science, and there’s PR. Spending one’s money on PR gets more political bang for the buck than spending it on science, for obvious reasons. And that’s not counting synergy.

Comments on this entry are closed.