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Climate McCarthyism


from A Shameful Climate Witch Hunt by Rich Lowry in The Wall Street Journal

Let the climate inquisition begin. The ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, Raul Grijalva of Arizona, has written to seven universities about seven researchers who harbor impure thoughts about climate change. One of the targets is Steven Hayward, an author and academic now at Pepperdine University. As Hayward puts it, the spirit of the inquiry is, “Are you now or have you ever been a climate skeptic?”

Soon’s lapse aside, the assumption of Grijalva’s fishing expedition is that anyone who questions global-warming orthodoxy is a greedy tool of Big Oil and must be harried in the name of planetary justice and survival.

Science as an enterprise usually doesn’t need political enforcers. But proponents of a climate alarmism that demands immediate action to avert worldwide catastrophe won’t and can’t simply let the science speak for itself.

Consider the plight of Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado Boulder, who has done work on extreme weather. He, too, is on the receiving end of one of Grijalva’s letters. At first blush, Pielke seems a most unlikely target. It’s not that he doubts climate change, or even doubts that it could be harmful. His offense is merely pointing to data showing that extreme weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, and droughts haven’t yet been affected by climate change. This is enough to enrage advocates who need immediate disasters as a handy political cudgel.

It can’t be Apocalypse 100 Years From Now; it has to be Apocalypse Now.

It has to be counted a small victory in this project that Pielke will no longer be an obstacle. Citing his harassment, Pielke has sworn off academic work on climate issues. And so the alarmists have hounded a serious researcher out of the climate business. All hail science! The other day, the head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, quit amid a sexual-harassment scandal and noted in his letter of resignation: “For me the protection of Planet Earth, the survival of all species and sustainability of our ecosystems is more than a mission. It is my religion.”

Is it too much to ask that the man in charge of a project supposedly marshaling the best scientific evidence for the objective consideration of a highly complex and contested phenomenon not feel that he has a religious commitment to a certain outcome?

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Benchmarks for Science


from Jonah Goldberg in The National Review, All Hail Science


Why does the Left get to pick which issues are the benchmarks for “science”? Why can’t the measure of being pro-science be the question of heritability of intelligence? Or the existence of fetal pain? Or the distribution of cognitive abilities among the sexes at the extreme right tail of the bell curve? Or if that’s too upsetting, how about dividing the line between those who are pro- and anti-science along the lines of support forgeoengineering? Or — coming soon — the role cosmic rays play in cloud formation? Why not make it about support for nuclear power? Or Yucca Mountain? Why not deride the idiots who oppose genetically modified crops, even when they might prevent blindness in children?

Some of these examples are controversial, others tendentious, but all are just as fair as the way the Left framed embryonic stem-cell research and all are more relevant than questions about evolution. (Quick: If Obama changed his mind about evolution tomorrow and became a creationist, what policies would change? I’ll wait.)

The point is that the Left considers itself the undisputed champion of “science,” but there are scads of issues where they take un-scientific points of view.

Sure they can cite dissident scientists — just as conservatives can — on this or that issue. But everyone knows that when the science directly threatens the Left’s pieties, it’s the science that must bend — or break. During the Larry Summers fiasco at Harvard, comments delivered in the classic spirit of open inquiry and debate cost Summers his job. Actual scientists got the vapors because he violated the principles not of science but of liberalism. During the Gulf oil spill, the Obama administration dishonestly claimed that its independent experts supported a drilling moratorium. They emphatically did not. The president who campaigned on basing his policies on “sound science” ignored his own hand-picked experts. According to the GAO, he did something very similar when he shut down Yucca Mountain. His support for wind and solar energy, as you suggest, isn’t based on science but on faith. And that faith has failed him dramatically.

The idea that conservatives are anti-science is self-evident and self-pleasing liberal hogwash. I see no reason why conservatives should even argue the issue on their terms when it’s so clearly offered in bad faith in the first place.

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A Moral Duty to Lie

From Kevin Williamson In The National Review, A Vaccine against Chaos

The prestige of the old elites was undermined by their excesses, and the prestige of the new elites — scientists, “experts,” politicians — has been undermined by their adventuring. One of the illuminating things about Twitter is its almost unique power to illustrate that people who are geniuses in their own fields — Neil deGrasse Tyson, Joyce Carol Oates — are ordinary imbeciles like the rest of us when they venture very far beyond them. The politicization of science has been particularly destructive. Recall Stephen Schneider’s essay in Discover in which he argued that scientists have a moral duty to lie about climate change, because the truth is so complicated as to prevent the emergence of the political consensus he believes is necessary to address the issue: “We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. . . . Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.” Economists, physicians, and social scientists of all descriptions have been seduced by the same line of thought. And of course the scientists and economists have been spectacularly wrong about any number of things that they believed — and assured the public — were absolutely certain. It does not take too much familiarity with Vox to detect that expert consensus is very often a veneer covering other motives.

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Natural, Rare and Necessary


From National Review, Lion to the Last by Larry Arnn:


Churchill agreed with the socialists, partially, on one issue: He helped invent the social safety net. But he looked for ways to implement it without threatening the free-market system, the liberal nature of the society, the advantage of labor over idleness, and the security of property. Churchill’s social safety net relied chiefly on contributions from the beneficiaries and their employers, who paid money into accounts that they could track. Benefits were limited so as not to undercut work or break the treasury. Understanding that human life would always be imperfect as long as it remained human, he did not preach or attempt utopia. The trials of living, raising a family, and following one’s conscience were essential attributes of a fully human life. Churchill believed that if these activities were socialized, life would fall under dehumanizing tyranny, like Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

He balanced these decisions — often between being popular or speaking truth, for allying with socialists during the war and fighting against them in his campaign, for changing political parties twice in his career — all with the artfulness of action called statesmanship. It required gifts “much rarer than the largest and purest of diamonds,” he said. He believed statesmanship is natural, rare, and necessary; it involves the elevation of capacities inherent in human beings and required for high citizenship. All of us must choose. All of us have ultimate purpose and principles that drive what we do, and all of us face necessities that cut in different directions from each other and from our principles.

The classics teach us that this art of choosing involves an intellectual virtue, prudence, and is best learned by studying those who have the reputation for excellence at it. Those people tend to be statesmen, because the questions of politics involve so many people, so many ultimate questions, and so much risk and opportunity. This is why we study Churchill closely.

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The Iraq Amnesia Syndrome

From National Review,  The Biggest Lie, by Victor Davis Hanson

There were all sorts of untold amnesias about Iraq. No one remembers the 23 writs that were part of the 2002 authorizations that apparently Obama believes are still in effect. They included genocide, bounties for suicide bombers, an attempt to kill a former U.S. president, the harboring of terrorists (among them one of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers), and a whole litany of charges that transcended WMD and were utterly unaffected by the latter controversy. How surreal is it that Obama is preemptively bombing Iraq on twelve-year-old congressional authorizations that he opposed as trumped up and now may be relevant in relationship to dealing with Syrian and Iraqi stockpiles of WMD?

We forget too how Harry Reid declared the surge a failure and the war lost even as it was being won. Or how Barack Obama predicted that the surge would make things worse, before scrubbing such editorializing from his website when the surge worked. Do we remember those days of General Betray Us (the ad hominem ad that the New York Times, which supposedly will not allow purchased ad hominem ads, granted at a huge discount), and the charges from Hillary Clinton that Petraeus was lying (“suspension of disbelief”)? As Obama megaphones call for national unity in damning Leon Panetta’s critiques during the present bombing, do we remember the glee with which the Left greeted the tell-all revelations of Paul O’Neill, George Tenet, and Scott McClellan during the tenure of George W. Bush, or how they disparaged the surge when Americans were dying to implement it?