Because the universe is beautiful enough without having to lie about it

Climate change series on BBC Two

September 14th, 2008 Posted in Climate Change

I appreciate that (for now, at least) this is only going to be accessible for the Brits reading this page, but there’s a wonderful series on global warming on BBC Two at the moment called ‘Earth: The Climate Wars’. If you’re quick enough then you can catch the first episode on iPlayer, and then I guess the next one will be up soon.  The 3-part documentary series is presented by Dr Iain Stewart, a senior lecturer in geology from the University of Plymouth.  If you miss those, or if you’re outside the UK, then I’m sure you’ll be able to grab it on YouTube or Google Video.

This second episode showed a very important side of science – that of the media-fuelled controversy that seems to support the conspiracy theories that sneak around the fringes of real science, trying to subvert real work and tear down the establishment usually because of a few individuals’ paranoia or financial interests. The global warming skeptics are one such bunch, though ‘skeptic’ is perhaps not the best term here. Or, if it is, then I think that perhaps the skeptic movement of which I consider myself a member, ought to look for a different moniker.

Skepticism is a good thing – we should always question things that we’re told, especially if they sound strange or unlikely to us.  Without skeptics – without people trying to criticise the theories that are presented as truth – science simply wouldn’t work.  The initial climate skeptics were doing a vital job as part of the scientific process.  But that’s not the issue here –  the point of skepticism is that people should accept the solid evidence once it arrives, or else they cease to be a tool of science and start to become a hindrance to its progress.  The few remaining climate ‘skeptics’ are really now inhabiting the territory of conspiracy theories and, as we know by now, all conspiracy theories are wrong.

This is an interesting topic for conversation, though.  What is it that makes human beings fight against orthodoxy? Is it just a few people who are always on this side of every debate, or do we all have some part of us that wants to challenge the status quo? Is there a theory out there somewhere that I personally want to fight against? Maybe I haven’t found it yet, or maybe I’m just not the kind of person to think like that.

What I found especially fascinating was when, near the end of the programme, a number of conspiracy theory websites were shown basically reiterating the same arguments that the scientific evidence had long since destroyed.  This is exactly what I’ve seen time and time again with creationist websites coming up with the same straw man aarguments against evolution, and the same tired old arguments for their own beliefs.  No matter how strongly you disprove conspiracy theories, you are guaranteed to keep reading them on the web sites long after those same theories have lost any vague notion of plausibility.

The reason why I mention all this is because I found myself watching a crowd of intelligent, well-educated men who were happy to be filmed whilst claiming, in essence, that the global warming theory is a dishonest fraud perpetuated by a group of morons and liars.  And these people actually believe that this is a more plausible explanation of the facts than the possibility that their own view on the argment, which is contradicted by the evidence, is wrong.  And when your only argument against the scientific evidence presented by the opposition is to resort to calling them liars and frauds then, as was said during the programme, the scientific debate is effectively over.

At this point, one realises that what has happened is that the proponents of a theory are basing their beliefs on emotion and pride, not on the facts available.  It takes a great deal of courage to admit one’s mistakes, especially at this level, and that is probably why very few ever do.

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  1. 2 Responses to “Climate change series on BBC Two”

  2. By Steve on Sep 15, 2008

    “The proponents of a theory are basing their beliefs on emotion and pride, not on the facts available.”

    Indeed, that’s an admirable description of the supporters of the Anthropogenic Global Warming theory.

    Theories based on belief are ultimately unsustainable in the face of empirical evidence.

    I wonder how much colder it needs to get (nine years and counting) before the “believers” realize that something is not quite right?

    Your post merely demonstrates that your “rationality” and “skepticism” are extremely selective.

  3. By Colin on Sep 15, 2008

    I’m not getting into another ‘my scientists are better than yours’ argument. You believe in massive and widespread fraud or ineptitude. I believe in a very vocal minority who are desperate to cling on to their views and support them by anomaly picking, like creationists. Let’s agree to compare notes in 40 years.

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