There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
That about sums it up.
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First off, I need to declare my bias on this issue:
I believe with 99.99% certainty that Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is both factual and occurring. I also believe that to deny this fact makes you ignorant, impressionable, or an idiot.
I don’t make this statement lightly. My brother, a university educated, irreligious, otherwise intelligent guy, denies the human link to AGW. This really bothers me because of my declared bias above. After many arguments with my brother, I fear that he is a bit of all three. I’ll get to why I say that later, as well as his specific reasons for denying AGW, but first let me spell out the three general afflictions of climate change deniers.
- Ignorant- This is likely the most forgivable of the three afflictions. Many people who deny the science of climate change just don’t have all of the information necessary to make an informed opinion. I think most laymen can be forgiven for finding the subject a little overwhelming or boring or both, making it difficult to take the time to arm themselves with enough information. They then default to the argument of “there just is not enough proof out there so I choose not to believe it for now.” There are some really great tools out there for the layman to inform themselves with, my favorite being Peter Sinclair’s (AKA Greenman) Climate Denial Crock of the Week channel on YouTube.
- Impressionable- This affliction bleeds into the first one a bit but has some of it’s own distinct traits. Many folks not armed with enough information to make an informed opinion start looking for information. Where things go wrong is when they turn to the wrong sources to get their information. Fox News is not a good source guide to global warming. The mainstream media in general is not a good source guide to global warming. Given the wrong information, many people start droning on about a Medieval Warming Period, or how in the 1970’s scientists predicted an ice age or that it snowed in Washington DC this past winter. These arguments are easily knocked down if one takes the time to do your homework. This group of people are also the ones who say that scientists don’t agree on AGW, another great misrepresentation of the facts.
- Idiots- This is the classification that is going to invite some hate mail. I reserve this title for those that don’t believe in AGW because they distrust scientists. Alternately, they believe that a grand conspiracy by the tree-huggers and the “carbon credit industry” is driving the science of AGW. If you believe either of these two premises, then you are most certainly an idiot. Many of these type of people are not surprisingly also creationists. I suppose when you are willing to buy into a worldwide conspiracy to undermine biblical literalism with evolution, or science being so unbelievably wrong about human origins; denying the science is that much easier. It is equally likely that creationists desperately want the science of climate change to be wrong. “If science could be wrong on AGW, it could be wrong on evolution.” Most of us know the false logic in that kind of thinking, but you can see how tantalizing that possibility seems to the “goddidit”s.
This brings me back to my brother. To summarize his argument:
- The scientists are finding false correlations. Ex: The lack of Pirates is just as likely a cause of global warming.
- Global warming has a natural cause. See: Medieval Warming Period
- We still lack sufficient information to make conclusions, how can science know anything for sure?
This shows me that he is uninformed (ignorant) to the plethora of data scientists have available to them, misinformed (impressionable) as to the history of climate fluctuations, and chloroformed (an idiot) in that he honestly believes that science can’t really “know” anything.*
What keeps these AGW deniers going is that it’s harder sometimes to argue against idiots than the informed.
*This phrasing is borrowed (ironically) from an episode of City Confidential I once watched on A&E- the person quoted: Rev. Jerry Falwell. See, even fundies can enrich us sometimes!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )