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!

6 thoughts on “Qui tacet consentire videtur”

  1. 1st of all I want to say that I do not deny Global Warming.  But from a strictly logical perspective GW is not a scientific question.  It is a political question if for no other reason than all parties are not allowed to sit at the table.  And that isn't the way science is done.  Peer review exists for a reason.  You don't get to select your peer review group.  So while I agree with the scientific community that GW is occurring there is far from consensus on the matter and it's intellectually dishonest (and a logical fallacy) to try and prove what you've already assumed.

  2. Cletus,

    If you're referring to the alleged controversy about the emails, etc., that matter has been resolved (several times) in the scientists' favor.  They were found to have done nothing improper.

  3. "there is far from consensus on the matter"
    Stuff and nonsense. And the only real lack of intellectual honesty is to be found in the people who insist on regurgitating such fact-free, propagandist tripe.
    That one can find 2% — 3% who adopt contrarian views cannot by any reasoned argument be taken to show there is anything less than overwhelming consensus. One can find that much dispute on ANY subject; but in the case of climate change one cannot even find any substantive research to support that contrarianism.
    Your statement, "It is a political question if for no other reason than all parties are not allowed to sit at the table.  And that isn't the way science is done" is manifestly incoherent. The point of peer-review is precisely to exclude parties from the table, specifically those lacking in qualification to address the issues and evaluate the research. There is nothing even  remotely democratic about science because there is nothing remotely democratic about reality. Science is not some smiley-faced, massive kumbaya group-hug let's share our opinions session; it is about discovering the facts.

  4. I think you'll find that we're more in agreement than not.  The fact that there is only 2-3% in opposition means nothing.  It was a widely held belief that the earth was flat and only a very small percentage of people thought the earth was round.  So your citation that only a small percentage of scientist disagree means absolutely nothing.    I have seen scientists who are not allowed at the table b/c their data doesn't fit the model.  These guys aren't doing GW research but their funding is constantly cut if for no other reason than their research shows other causes that are not popular to acknowledge.  So you don't have to be a "denier" to have problems with the so called GW community.  That's what I'm talking about.  Perhaps you should recall the scientific conferences (I forget their name) prior to the Solvay conferences wherein the scientific community was attempting to figure out how best to pull physics under the arm of engineering b/c, with Lagrangian dynamics and Maxwell's equations, there was nothing fundamental left to discover.  It is that kind of scientific arrogance that I mean to warn others about.  Lastly, for all the bellyaching I hear scientists do about how obvious the GW issue is I have yet to hear there is any agreement on a single model and have yet to find a single person that can tell me what the assumed boundary conditions for the model are.  So, in general I agree with you… but don't get confused.  🙂

  5. Thank you for your concern trolling, but if the premises you put forward are true, then I think you'd have a good inductive reason to think anthropogenic global warming to be false.  Why, in the light of these "reasons" do you think it's true?
    Also, your analogy between the situations in the scientific community of the physics of 1920 and that of climate scientists today doesn't hold.  There aren't two plausible competing explanations of the phenomenon, as there was then.  There's one group with broad consensus about the science and an explanatory mechanism with minor differences, and a loosely aliened group that sometimes denies the warming, sometimes the cause, but always opposes action.

  6. "So your citation that only a small percentage of scientist disagree means absolutely nothing."
    Your assertion does not gain cogency in repetition that it lacked the first time, particularly given the absolutely specious nature of the analogy you try to draw. Comparing established conclusions of peer-reviewed science to generic beliefs of medieval europe is about as nonsensical a move as you could wish to make; that is what means absolutely nothing. And particularly given your previous statement that there is no such thing as consensus on this subject, not only is your analogy specious and your claim empty, but your sudden evasion of the point I was directly addressing scarcely amounts to anything other than a cheap dodge.
    YOU stated there was no consensus; I demonstrated that that claim was false. Given that this consensus not only exists, but is a consensus of established experts employing logically well founded methods, not only does the consensus exist it is also materially relevant to the topic at hand.

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