We certainly pick on George Will a lot.  This is because he is a recidivist.  Now despite his having been roundly and decisively refuted in his ridiculous global warming denialism, he has returned to the scene of the crime, to repeat his errors and once again to tout the virtues of his skepticism.  His skepticism has little by way of virtue, because it has no factual basis, and he has no business writing anything about a subject in which he has worse than no competence. 

Others have already amply demonstrated the factual errors again in his column.  I would just like to make two points.  Will's most basic problem lies with the inferences he draws.  He insists in his column that dire warnings about global cooling 30 years ago in the popular press have some kind of significance for whether or not one should believe the community of competent and qualified climate scientists when they assert that the globe is warming.  He writes:

Few phenomena generate as much heat as disputes about current orthodoxies concerning global warming. This column recently reported and commented on some developments pertinent to the debate about whether global warming is occurring and what can and should be done. That column, which expressed skepticism about some emphatic proclamations by the alarmed, took a stroll down memory lane, through the debris of 1970s predictions about the near certainty of calamitous global cooling.

Concerning those predictions, the New York Times was — as it is today in a contrary crusade — a megaphone for the alarmed, as when (May 21, 1975) it reported that "a major cooling of the climate" was "widely considered inevitable" because it was "well established" that the Northern Hemisphere's climate "has been getting cooler since about 1950." Now the Times, a trumpet that never sounds retreat in today's war against warming, has afforded this column an opportunity to revisit another facet of this subject — meretricious journalism in the service of dubious certitudes.

Yes, the New York Times' being wrong about global cooling is evidence against a Times' reporter's claims (problematic though they were for being too kind to Will) that scientists have questioned Will's facts.  Sheesh.  You cannot get any dumber than that by way of rejoinder.  Maybe: I know what you are, so what am I?  But this really is a version of that.  

Here's the second point.  Science, as far as I know, thrives on skepticism–qualified skepticism.  Arguing that maybe the Bible is correct and Jesus created the world (okay, it doesn't say that) does not amount to meaningful skepticism.  Neither does George Will's incompetent, ignorant, and self-important bumbling through the facts.  He writes:

The scientists at the Illinois center offer their statistics with responsible caveats germane to margins of error in measurements and precise seasonal comparisons of year-on-year estimates of global sea ice. Nowadays, however, scientists often find themselves enveloped in furies triggered by any expression of skepticism about the global warming consensus (which will prevail until a diametrically different consensus comes along; see the 1970s) in the media-environmental complex.

Nah.  Will has been fairly and roundly criticized for having been wrong in his facts and wrong in his judgments.  This does not amount to evidence of a media-environmental complex, it does, however, suggest that the Post has no interest in reality.  They say as much:

If you want to start telling me that columnists can’t make inferences which you disagree with—and, you know, they want to run a campaign online to pressure newspapers into suppressing minority views on this subject—I think that’s really inappropriate. It may well be that he is drawing inferences from data that most scientists reject — so, you know, fine, I welcome anyone to make that point. But don’t make it by suggesting that George Will shouldn’t be allowed to make the contrary point. Debate him.

That is not the point.  And it's a deliberate misconstruing of the criticism.  In the first place, Will's facts were wrong.  In the second place, his inferences are preposterous (see, for instance, above).  He has no business making them in a public forum such as this and the Post has no business publishing them.  

4 thoughts on “Recidivism”

  1. “It may well be that he is drawing inferences from data that most scientists reject”

    Yep. Hard to draw appropriate inferences from bad premises. But this plea,

    “so, you know, fine, I welcome anyone to make that point. But don’t make it by suggesting that George Will shouldn’t be allowed to make the contrary point. Debate him.”

    is missing the point entirely. There shouldn’t have to be anyone “to make that point.” Will should get his facts straight, and not use “data that most scientists reject.” Otherwise, there can be no debate about the issue.

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