It may take a few days to sort out the sheer idiocy of George Will’s Sunday Post column. The other day–with a little help from our new friends down under–my colleague discussed the argument from ignorance that Will has been flogging for quite a while now. On “This Week” last week (click here for the video) he pulled out a cheat-sheet of quotes from major media (the New York Times is his favorite) in order to give the impression of authentic scientific disagreement. Prior to this, Will favorably reviewed Michael Crichton’s science fiction (you read that right, science fiction) novel about the manufactured global warming crisis. For a discussion of that, you can see here. See also his discussion of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.
But the mental gymnastics in his piece on Sunday make those other pieces appear mere exercises in sophistry. Perhaps the *Post* editors pointed out that Crichton’s fictional novel (notwithstanding footnotes and appendices) didn’t constitute reasonable scientific evidence. So he turns within–the truth, so says Augustine, teaches from within:
Eighty-five percent of Americans say warming is probably happening, and 62 percent say it threatens them personally. The National Academy of Sciences says the rise in the Earth’s surface temperature has been about one degree Fahrenheit in the past century. Did 85 percent of Americans notice? Of course not. They got their anxiety from journalism calculated to produce it. Never mind that one degree might be the margin of error when measuring the planet’s temperature. To take a person’s temperature, you put a thermometer in an orifice or under an arm. Taking the temperature of our churning planet, with its tectonic plates sliding around over a molten core, involves limited precision.
Will’s skepticism about global warming–what republicans call “global climate change” and which is doubted by almost no qualified climatologists (as well as many science fiction writers)–beggars belief. Taking one’s temperature with one of those Walgreens thermometers (the ones you have to shake and that I can never read) hardly compares to the activity of thousands of scientists independently recording and checking and publishing (and rechecking and rerecording and editing and revising) the data of their many and diverse fields. They’re not just sticking their Walgreens thermometer where Will has put his head.