Category Archives: George Will

They’re just nihilists

The Washington Post has given tenured spots on its page to a serial climate change denier (George Will), a conspiracy theorist (Charles Krauthammer), and they have offered up guest spots to the likes of Sarah Palin and other alleged global warming skeptics.  Today, finally, a little bit of balance.  Eugene Robinson goes after Palin's latest op-ed, and Anne Applebaum reaffirms the obvious and well-known facts about global warming. However, as if a part of some weird conspiracy to exacerbate the problem of the doubters, their arguments blow. 

Robinson's entire piece is directed at the alleged change in Palin's position.  As governor of Alaska, Robinson points out, Palin seemed to affirm the reality of climate change, but now she denies it.  But that's not what Robinson says:

In her administrative order, Palin instructed the sub-Cabinet group to develop recommendations on "the opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Alaska sources, including the expanded use of alternative fuels, energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, land use management, and transportation planning." She also instructed the group to look into "carbon-trading markets."

But in her op-ed last week, Palin — while acknowledging "natural, cyclical environmental trends" and the possibility that human activity might be contributing to warming – states flatly that "any potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction policies are far outweighed by their economic costs." What she once called "carbon-trading markets" she now denounces as "the Democrats' cap-and-tax proposal."

Is there nobody at the Post who can point out that this is not a contradiction.  She instructed a group to "look into" not to "endorse" carbon trade proposals.  She's clearly unhappy with the ones offered.  Robinson is so gleeful in the discovery of his alleged contradiction that he doesn't realize he hasn't found it.  Besides, what does it matter?  She can change her mind if she wants.  Further, who cares what she thinks?  She is neither a scientist nor an elected official of any consequence. 

By contrast, Anne Applebaum has found the real culprit in the whole climate change debate: scattered crazy enivronmentalists.  And she goes in the for the full weak man.  She begins, ominously enough:

There is no nihilism like the nihilism of a 9-year-old. "Why should I bother," one of them recently demanded of me, when he was presented with the usual arguments in favor of doing homework: "By the time I'm grown up, the polar ice caps will have melted and everyone will have drowned."

When I was a kid it was nuclear war.  Anyway, what lesson does she draw from this.  No, not that for many kids this will be a reality.  Rather, people who point this out are a big bringdown:

Watching the news from Copenhagen last weekend, it wasn't hard to understand where he got that idea. Among the tens of thousands demonstrating outside the climate change summit, some were carrying giant clocks set at 10 minutes to midnight, indicating the imminent end of the world. Elsewhere, others staged a "resuscitation" of planet Earth, symbolically represented by a large collapsing balloon. Near the conference center, an installation of skeletons standing knee-deep in water made a similar point, as did numerous melting ice sculptures and a melodramatic "die-in" staged by protesters wearing white, ghost-like jumpsuits.

Danish police arrested about a thousand people on Saturday for smashing windows and burning cars, and on Sunday arrested 200 more (they were carrying gas masks and seem to have been planning to shut down the city harbor). Nevertheless, in the long run it is those peaceful demonstrators, the ones who say the end is nigh, who have the capacity to do the most psychological damage.

The second group of people have nothing to do with negative messaging.  She goes on and on with examples of nutty environmentalists who just make you feel bad with all of their blaming and hyperbole (the veracity of which she doesn't question).  All of this, however, is a silly distraction.  The law of probability has it that global warming will attract no small number of people who say crazy things (if in fact they're guilty of that).  Can you really blame them, however, when you have well-paid people on the staff of the Post–not sign-carrying nutters in the streets–who deny well-established facts. 

Who is the real nihilist?  The one who says we're doomed if we do nothing?  Or the one who alleges it's all a big communist lie?  

 

Qui tacet consentire videtur

It really did not take long for George Will to engage in unwarranted triumphalism over the very selective violation of some scientists' right to engage in private and informal communication about their work.  He writes:

Disclosure of e-mails and documents from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) in Britain — a collaborator with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — reveals some scientists' willingness to suppress or massage data and rig the peer-review process and the publication of scholarly work. The CRU materials also reveal paranoia on the part of scientists who believe that in trying to engineer "consensus" and alarm about warming, they are a brave and embattled minority. Actually, never in peacetime history has the government-media-academic complex been in such sustained propagandistic lockstep about any subject.

The story basically runs like this.  Some hacker broke into a server, stole, yes, stole a bunch of emails, and published them for the selective misinterpretation of people across the media-opinion complex–which, in this case includes the usual suspects, and, sadly enough, the Daily Show.  The emails show the scientists speaking candidly about their work and their frustration at the phony skepticism they have to answer.  Now comes George WIll, writing that answering phony skepticism (such as his) means one's certainty in one's view is not "unassailable":

The Post learns an odd lesson from the CRU materials: "Climate scientists should not let themselves be goaded by the irresponsibility of the deniers into overstating the certainties of complex science or, worse, censoring discussion of them." These scientists overstated and censored because they were "goaded" by skepticism?

Were their science as unassailable as they insist it is, and were the consensus as broad as they say it is, and were they as brave as they claim to be, they would not be "goaded" into intellectual corruption. Nor would they meretriciously bandy the word "deniers" to disparage skepticism that shocks communicants in the faith-based global warming community.

Skeptics about the shrill certitudes concerning catastrophic man-made warming are skeptical because climate change is constant: From millennia before the Medieval Warm Period (800 to 1300), through the Little Ice Age (1500 to 1850), and for millennia hence, climate change is always a 100 percent certainty. Skeptics doubt that the scientists' models, which cannot explain the present, infallibly map the distant future.

The Financial Times' peculiar response to the CRU materials is: The scientific case for alarm about global warming "is growing more rather than less compelling." If so, then could anything make the case less compelling? A CRU e-mail says: "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment" — this "moment" is in its second decade — "and it is a travesty that we can't."

The travesty is the intellectual arrogance of the authors of climate-change models partially based on the problematic practice of reconstructing long-term prior climate changes. On such models we are supposed to wager trillions of dollars — and substantially diminished freedom. [such as diminished right to privacy–non seq. eds].   

For a discussion of the Post's sloppy handling of the email theft start here (and for more on this particular piece start here).  Briefly, however, no one has been goaded into intellectual corruption–that's the Post's view (which Will confuses with actual fact).

Speaking more broadly, however, it's obvious the scientists who work on this stuff–I mean the ones with bonified credentials–are frustrated by the very vocal and well-funded parade of numbskulls who think the non-geometric certainty of models and of climate science in general entails that the thesis of anthropogenic climate change is all a role of the dice and that any skepticism, even the a prioristic George Will kind, is just as warranted as accumulated empirical research.

Sadly, however, the more detached from even a third-grader's understanding of the scientific method Will becomes, the more pressing he makes his case that any critique of him amounts to an apparent lack of confidence in the person doing the critiquing.  That strategy, however, is just silly: not answering George Will's silly denialism would no doubt amount to agreeing with it–or as he would put it, qui tacet consentire videtur!

You have a right to be wrong

True story.  A few years back one of my students had confused some minor matter about a text of Plato.  When I pointed that out, another student commented: "He has a right to be wrong."  That odd justification comes out in a George Will op-ed where he, unlike his usual, argues for new rights not enumerated in the constitution.  Now of course he probably thinks he can get there with a series of individually valid inferences.  Fine, but you have to understand that any other time one maintains a right not specifically enumerated in the Constitution, Will will shout "judicial activism" or some other synonym.  Don't get me wrong, I believe in the concept of inferential rights, I just think it's funny that Will doesn't, until he does.

This is not to say, however, that Will does not have a point.  He may, but I think, as is perhaps no surprise, that his argument for it sucks.  He maintains as a kind of premise one that liberals want to coerce others to believe like they do–this is their MO, which is a word the very pretentious Will would likely spell out: Modus operandi.  It's a little ironic, since the specific topic in question concerns the desire of some (not the liberals) to limit the rights of others to engage in private, self-regarding behavior.  Some people, not happy with the structure of our democracy (where fundamental rights get interpreted out of the Constitution sometimes), gather signatures to put such matters on the ballot.  This raises an important question: are signatures on referendums like voting and therefore private? 

I think it's fair to say that such a question admits of no easy answer.  But just because it doesn't admit of an easy answer, does not mean any answer, such as the following one offered by Will, will suffice:

The Supreme Court has held that disclosure requirements serve three government interests: They provide information about the flow of political money, they deter corruption and avoid the appearance thereof by revealing large contributions, and they facilitate enforcement of contribution limits. These pertain only to financial information in candidate elections. These cannot justify compelled disclosures regarding referendums because referendums raise no issues of officials' future performance in office — being corruptly responsive to financial contributors. The only relevant information about referendums is in the text of the propositions.

In 1973, Washington's secretary of state ruled that signing an initiative or referendum petition is "a form of voting" and that violating voters' privacy could have adverse "political ramifications" for those signing. In 2009, some advocates of disclosure plan to put signers' names on the Internet in order to force "uncomfortable" conversations.

In the interest of fairness, something I'm always interested in by the way, the above two paragraphs make some attempt at arguing for the position that referendum signatures ought to be private.  I think their attempt fails: The first is irrelevant to the particular issue and the second cites the irrelevant precedent of the secretary of state.  A referendum petition by any standard is not a vote: you sign your name and put your address on it for the purposes of public inspection of its authenticity.  You do not sign your vote. 

In any case, the following arguments for the above proposition really blow:

Larry Stickney, a social conservative and president of the Washington Values Alliance, says that disclosure of the identities of petitioners will enable "ideological background checks" that will have a chilling effect on political participation. He frequently encounters people who flinch from involvement with the referendum when they learn that disclosure of their involvement is possible. He has received abusive e-mails and late-night telephone calls and has seen a stranger on his front lawn taking pictures of his house.

The Wall Street Journal's John Fund reports that some Californians who gave financial support to last year's successful campaign for Proposition 8 — it declared marriage to be only between a man and a woman — subsequently suffered significant harm. For example, the director of the Los Angeles Film Festival, who contributed $1,500, was forced to resign. So was the manager of a fashionable Los Angeles restaurant who contributed just $100.

The first paragraph offers evidence that vociferous advocates may suffer the paranoia that comes along with taking an unpopular position on a matter of public interest.  It does not establish that a private citizen whose only action was signing a petition may suffer these things.  The second paragraph shows that people who have given financial support, something about which disclosure has been determined to be legitimate (and admitted to by Will himself only a three paragraphs before) have suffered harm.  I don't think one can be fired for one's political affiliations–there are laws against that I believe.

Charles Bouley, a gay columnist, has honorably protested such bullying. He says that people "have the right to be wrong," and reminds gay activists: "Even Barack Obama said marriage was between a man and a woman at a time when we needed his voice on our side on equality. He let us down, too, remember, and many of you still gave him a job."

Indeed, people do have a right to be wrong, and others have a duty to point that out.

It’s good to be a gangster

George Will defends the crazy:

After six years in the state Legislature, she ran for Congress and now, in her second term, has become such a burr under Democrats' saddles that recently the New York Times profiled her beneath a Page One headline: "GOP Has a Lightning Rod, and Her Name Is Not Palin." She is, however, a petite pistol that occasionally goes off half-cocked.

For example, appearing on MSNBC's "Hardball" 18 days before last year's election, she made the mistake of taking Chris Matthews's bait and speculating about whether Barack Obama and some other Democrats have "anti-American" views. In the ensuing uproar — fueled by people who were not comparably scandalized when George W. Bush was sulfurously vilified — her opponent raised nearly $2 million and her lead shrank from 13 points to her winning margin of three.

Well, as Will is fond of saying as he prepares an objection, the unspecified sulfurous vilification on the part of an unidentified some does not justify the loony-toons McCarthyism of a member of the United States House of Representatives.

More funny, however, is Will's defense of Bachmann.  He writes:

Some of her supposed excesses are, however, not merely defensible, they are admirable. For example, her June 9 statement on the House floor in which she spoke of "gangster government" has been viewed on the Internet about 2 million times. She noted that, during the federal takeover of General Motors, a Democratic senator and one of her Democratic House colleagues each successfully intervened with GM to save a constituent's dealership from forced closure. One of her constituents, whose dealership had been in the family for 90 years, told her that the $15 million dealership had been rendered worthless overnight, and, Bachmann said, "GM is demanding that she hand over her customer list," probably to give it to surviving GM dealerships that once were competitors.

In her statement, Bachmann repeatedly called such politicization of the allocation of economic rewards "gangster government." And she repeatedly noted that the phrase was used by a respected political analyst, Michael Barone, principal co-author of the Almanac of American Politics, who coined it in connection with the mugging of GM bondholders in the politicized bankruptcy. Bachmann, like Barone, was accurate.

Some of Bachmann's excesses are defensible because (1) her speech on the house floor has been viewed 2 million times; (2) "respected political analyst (and not definitely right wing hack) Michael Barone coined the term she used repeatedly to describe the actions of a government run by a black guy.  I wonder if the term would have been as effective if the President were a white guy from Texas.  Probably not.  To open up a parenthesis, here's Michael Barone on the Democratic party (via Steve Benen):

that the Republican Party is the party of people who are considered, by themselves and by others, as normal Americans—Northern white Protestants in the 19th century, married white Christians more recently—while the Democratic Party is the party of the out groups who are in some sense seen, by themselves and by others, as not normal—white Southerners and Catholic immigrants in the 19th century, blacks and white seculars more recently.

Ah, normality–certainly a guy with views like that would mean gangster only in the most innocuous way. 

Anyway, back to the point.  One might concede that the bankruptcy of GM was politicized.  That's like the discovery of hot water.  Is it proper to describe political actions you don't agree with as a "mugging" or "gangster"?  I don't think so. 

UPDATE: turns out the "gangster government" allegation was shown to be false a mere two days after it was made.

Omaha Beach

Instead of pointing out the usual collection of arcane reference plus caricature plus straw man plus falsehood plus right wing thing tank evidence that is nearly every non-baseball George Will column, let's marvel at this WWII veteran–speaking in favor of equal rights for gays and lesbians.  

In case you don't have time to watch the full video–you should–here's a key passage:

I am here today because of a conversation I had last June when I was voting. A woman at my polling place asked me, "Do you believe in equal, equality for gay and lesbian people?" I was pretty surprised to be asked a question like that. It made no sense to me. Finally I asked her, "What do you think our boys fought for at Omaha Beach?" I haven't seen much, so much blood and guts, so much suffering, much sacrifice. For what? For freedom and equality. These are the values that give America a great nation, one worth dying for.

 


Fighting the war three or four wars ago

George Will is a man from another time (via Digby).  Discussing what Obama ought to do about Afghanistan, a roundtable of roundtable generals "weighed in" on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:

NOONAN:  “I think it is an old cliché in Washington that a leader, a president must be both feared and revered.  I think this president's problems don't have to do with his personality and fearsomeness.  I think it has to do with policy issues.” 

DIONNE: “It takes a lot more toughness to say to your generals, "No," or, "Tell me why you really want to do this," than it does to go along with the generals.  So I think on that front, it's wrong.

 WILL: “The danger is that this narrative about him not being tough enough occurs in the midst of, A.) the argument about Afghanistan, where to prove you're tough, you might want to escalate, and, B.) when he has to make a decision about the public option.  One thing he could do is jettison the public option, offend his left and make himself look moderate, but can he offend his left on the public option and escalate in Vietnam — in Afghanistan?” 

TAPPER: “No, I don't think so.  What you hear from — from them, when you ask them about this narrative, is, yes, we've heard this before.  Is he tough enough to beat Hillary Clinton?  Is he tough enough to beat John McCain?  I think they think that they proved — I think empirically they proved that — that he was able to do both those things. “

KRUGMAN: “I think a lot of people are basically just complaining that he's a Democrat.”

What do you think?

In Viet Nam?

Aside from that, notice the clever use of the impersonal: "this narrative about him not being tough enough occurs."  Why doesn't he say, we tell this narrative about him–in other words, we characterize him as not being tough enough, or we make this a question of cojones, or some other manly property (when it really ought to be a narrative about wise policy)?

I call “shotgun”

Today George Will is all about rights.  Rights are bad, you see:

If our vocabulary is composed exclusively of references to rights, a.k.a. entitlements, we are condemned to endless jostling among elbow-throwing individuals irritably determined to protect, or enlarge, the boundaries of their rights. Among such people, all political discourse tends to be distilled to what Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School calls "rights talk."

Witness the inability of people nowadays to recommend this or that health-care policy as merely wise or just. Each proposal must be invested with the dignity of a right. And since not all proposals are compatible, you have not merely differences of opinion but apocalyptic clashes of rights.

Rights talk is inherently aggressive, even imperial; it tends toward moral inflation and militates against accommodation. Rights talkers, with their inner monologues of preemptive resentments, work themselves into a simmering state of annoyed vigilance against any limits on their willfulness. To rights talkers, life — always and everywhere — is unbearably congested with insufferable people impertinently rights talking, and behaving, the way you and I, of course, have a real right to.

People think and speak about rights in a lot of different ways.  Some rights they see as fundamental human rights, like the right to non-human-sacrificing religious expression; some rights are less fundamental, like calling shotgun or dibs.  These are rights too, but people, normal people anyway, would be quick to tell you that they don't rise to the level of basic human rights.  In addition to these two categories of right, there are also–perhaps unfortunately–the enumerated rights of the constitution.  I say "unfortunately" because some native-born English-speaking Americans struggle with reading and so they tire out after the Second Amendment, they one that says they can keep "bear arms."  The Ninth Amendment, you see, admits that one has other rights that are not enumerated in the Constitution's listing of the previous eight or eighty.

So the concept of right, even as it is used in ordinary speech, has a lot of meanings.  One must be careful before one asserts that someone means the one rather than the other(s).  Now of course George Will doesn't care about this at all.  He never cares about honestly representing the views of people with whom he disagrees.  I can tell this because of the toss-off line about health care and rights.  He suggests that this unwarranted assertion of rights is the foundation of arguments pro or con.  By my reading of the arguments, this comes up not very often.  Even if it did come up very often, George Will ought to reference it. 

Instead, the argument for the absurdity of all of this rights talk regards speed bumps in an affluent DC suburb:

Recently Paul Schwartzman, a war correspondent for the Metro section of The Post, ventured into the combat zone that is the Chevy Chase neighborhood in the District of Columbia. It is not a neighborly place nowadays. Residents are at daggers drawn over . . . speed humps.

Chevy Chase is, Schwartzman says, "a community that views itself as the essence of worldly sophistication." Some cars there express their owner's unassuageable anger by displaying faded "Kerry/Edwards" and even "Gore/Lieberman" bumper stickers. Neighborhood zoning probably excludes Republicans, other than the few who are bused in for diversity.

Speed humps — the lumps on the pavement that force traffic to go slow — have, Schwartzman reports, precipitated "a not-so-civil war . . . among the lawyers, journalists, policymakers and wonks" of Chevy Chase — and Cleveland Park, another D.C. habitat for liberals. The problem is that a goal of liberal urbanists has been achieved: Families with young children are moving into such neighborhoods. They worry about fast-flowing traffic. Hence speed humps.

And street rage. Some people who think speed humps infringe their rights protest by honking when they drive over one. The purpose is to make life unpleasant for the people who live on the street and think they have a right to have the humps. One resident, whom Schwartzman identifies as the husband of a former campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, recently sat on his porch and videotaped an angry driver who honked 30 times. Other honkers "gave residents the finger as they drove by."

Can't liberals play nicely together? Not, evidently, when they are bristling, like furious porcupines, with spiky rights that demand respect because the rights-bearers' dignity is implicated in them.

Fortunately, it is a short drive from Chevy Chase to the mellow oasis of the River Road Whole Foods store, where comity can be rebuilt on the firm foundation of a shared reverence for heirloom tomatoes. And if you, you seething liberal, will put the pedal to the metal you can seize the store's last parking place. So damn the humps, full speed ahead.

Note that nothing in Schwartzman's account mentioned "rights."  A mind-reading Will interjected the notion of "rights" as an explanation for why people–liberal hypocritical people of course–are rude.

But even if they were asserting their rights–they're not wrong.  It is an interesting question, after all, as to who gets to determine what the street in front of your house looks like.  It's a question more interesting than calling "shotgun" but less interesting than flag-burning.

Personal pronouns

George Will has written some pretty jerky things in the time we've been reading him–usually straw men or just plain lies.  This time he gets really personal with Obama.  Here's a taste:

Both Obamas gave heartfelt speeches about . . . themselves. Although the working of the committee's mind is murky, it could reasonably have rejected Chicago's bid for the 2016 Games on aesthetic grounds — unless narcissism has suddenly become an Olympic sport.

In the 41 sentences of her remarks, Michelle Obama used some form of the personal pronouns "I" or "me" 44 times. Her husband was, comparatively, a shrinking violet, using those pronouns only 26 times in 48 sentences. Still, 70 times in 89 sentences conveyed the message that somehow their fascinating selves were what made, or should have made, Chicago's case compelling.

I actually found myself downtown for the announcement: lots of emblematic scenes of Chicago 2016 signs on the ground or in the trash.  Then of course the strange cheering from people that the Olympics were not awarded to Chicago–such is their dislike of Obama.

Imagine for a moment "Crawford Texas 2016."  I think you'd hear a little autobiography from our former President–even though he didn't grow up there and he doesn't live there anymore.  So Chicago, my adopted home town, is a great place, even if I still root for the Tigers, Lions, and Red Wings. 

The President, who still lives here, sort of, and the First Lady, is was born and raised here, are naturally going to make a personal pitch.  I don't think, considering their relationship to this place, there was really any other choice.

Ice age

Here's a video which discusses, among other things, George Will's oft-repeated claim that scientists predicted a new ice age in the 1970s.  Hate to ruin it, but it turns out they didn't, and Will, according to the video, seems to have made up, that is to say fabricated, evidence that they did.

Argumentum ad Novi Eboraci Tempora

That would be "ad New York Times" I suppose.  I take as a matter or religious faith that global warming is a scientific issue, and that arguments concerning its reality or unreality should start and end there.  So when one frames the argument about global warming either in response to a Newsweek headline many years ago, or a New York Times article quoted out of context, I think that person is either not particularly well informed about how scientists work (they don't publish their work in the newspaper) or is just plain dishonest.  So George Will today frames his argument against the existence of a well-supported phenomenon by attacking the New York Times, as well as various context free quotes, meant–the quotes–to set up a pretty silly ad hominem.  

He writes:

Plateau in Temperatures

Adds Difficulty to Task

Of Reaching a Solution

– New York Times, Sept. 23

 

In this headline on a New York Times story about the difficulties confronting people alarmed about global warming, note the word "plateau." It dismisses the unpleasant — to some people — fact that global warming is maddeningly (to the same people) slow to vindicate their apocalyptic warnings about it.

The "difficulty" — the "intricate challenge," the Times says — is "building momentum" for carbon reduction "when global temperatures have been relatively stable for a decade and may even drop in the next few years." That was in the Times's first paragraph.

Whenever this guy quotes stuff, you'd better go read the original.  Here's what it says:

The plateau in temperatures has been seized upon by skeptics as evidence that the threat of global warming is overblown. And some climate experts worry that it could hamper treaty negotiations and slow the progress of legislation to curb carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.

Scientists say the pattern of the last decade — after a precipitous rise in average global temperatures in the 1990s — is a result of cyclical variations in ocean conditions and has no bearing on the long-term warming effects of greenhouse gases building up in the atmosphere.

The part about the scientists is where the argument ought to be.  Will instead insists that the real discussion is the political question of how to keep non-scientists from wrongly concluding, as Will has in this very piece, that the leveling off of temperatures means it's all a crock.  That's the point of the argument.  Will cites this piece extensively, and he seems to have no notion of what it's about.  Here's what he says:

The Times reported that "scientists" — all of them? — say the 11 years of temperature stability has "no bearing," none, on long-term warming. Some scientists say "cool stretches are inevitable." Others say there may be growth of Arctic sea ice, but the growth will be "temporary." According to the Times, however, "scientists" say that "trying to communicate such scientific nuances to the public — and to policymakers — can be frustrating." 

The quoted bits give the impression of some kind of fudging on the Times' part (like the black and white and weird voice in political commercials).  In any case, as I understand it, the basic point is this: The globe has heated up seriously for a quite a while.  Recently it has leveled off, but it still remains much hotter, so to speak, than before.  This is not unlike a guy with a really bad fever, experiencing a bit of dip, say a dip to 102.  He's still got a fever. 

Anyway, now for the ad hominem part:

The Times says "a short-term trend gives ammunition to skeptics of climate change." Actually, what makes skeptics skeptical is the accumulating evidence that theories predicting catastrophe from man-made climate change are impervious to evidence. The theories are unfalsifiable, at least in the "short run." And the "short run" is defined as however many decades must pass until the evidence begins to fit the hypotheses.

The Post recently reported the theory of a University of Virginia professor emeritus who thinks that, many millennia ago, primitive agriculture — burning forests, creating methane-emitting rice paddies, etc. — produced enough greenhouse gases to warm the planet at least a degree. The theory is interesting. Even more interesting is the reaction to it by people such as the Columbia University professor who says it makes him "really upset" because it might encourage opponents of legislation combating global warming.

This professor emeritus fellow is the only scientist Will cites in favor of his skeptical stance.  Nonetheless, the worry among scientists, justifiable as this piece indicates, is that people with no expertise will misunderstand the significance of the data.