Questionable Motives

November 18, 2010

Do your beliefs about global warming make you a champion of ignorance?

Okay, so it’s no surprise that I am a big fan of methodological naturalism and its epistemology. We call it the method of science. It’s trustworthy, practical, and yields knowledge that works. It’s what drives our technologies. Without knowledge, I don’t think we can understand, and without understanding I don’t think we can make good decisions. When we substitute belief for understanding, faith for knowledge, we are setting ourselves up to embrace ignorance and implement our questionable motives. Such motives are a disservice to others and intellectually dishonest. Hence, the name of the blog.
The latest and perhaps the most avoidable travesty of implementing policies based on such questionable motives has to do with a global problem that continues to be shuffled to the back of the room, the bottom of the agenda, behind other concerns. And that’s the issue of global warming and its effects on climate change within the halls of power… particularly in the US. This issue is an avid example of just how insidious and detrimental faith-based beliefs extended into the public domain can be, and how catastrophic might be the effects derived from such willful and malicious ignorance.
Not content to merely misunderstand and misrepresent why methodological naturalism yields knowledge that leads to understanding, which in turn empowers responsible and informed decisions, certain economic concerns and political forces have united to attack a vital source of our knowledge: the very workforce who toils on our collective behalf creating our knowledge:
For the past two decades, the United States has been officially committed to avoiding “dangerous” climate change. One Administration after another—Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama—has reaffirmed this commitment, even as they all have failed to live up to it. House Republicans and their Tea Party allies reject even the idea of concern. Not content merely to ignore the science, they have decided to go after the scientists. Before the election, congressional Republicans had talked of eliminating the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Why, after all, have a panel on energy independence and global warming if you don’t believe in either? Now James Sensenbrenner, of Wisconsin, who is likely to become the select committee’s chairman, is arguing that it should be preserved. His rationale? The panel provides an ideal platform for harassing the Environmental Protection Agency, which, in the absence of legislative action, is the only body with the power to regulate carbon emissions. At least one group of scientists is organizing a “rapid-response team” to counter climate misinformation, but, since the misinformation is now coming from the very people charged with solving the problem, that task seems a peculiarly thankless one. (Source)
It’s one thing to personally decide not to believe in gravity or germs. I will call you self-deluded if you choose to do so and suggest some honest self-testing to reveal why such a charge is fully justified. Step out a tenth story window or take a good whiff of ebola and let’s see where the evidence leads you. I’ll wait here. The choice, of course, is to submit your beliefs to personal verification and live with the personal consequences. That’s fine. I’m okay with that. More power to you for being honest enough to find out for yourself. That’s science in action.
But it’s another matter entirely for people wrapped up in the false certainties of the their faith-based beliefs to extend their delusions based on wishful and magical thinking into the public domain and subject the rest of us to the inevitable results of their chosen ignorance. Nothing good will come of it. Nothing good CAN come from it: the epistemology of faith-based beliefs is too biased to be of practical use beyond one’s self and more importantly, there is no way to know if one’s beliefs are wrong except in regards to facts. And either we’re back to science and back to relying on the methodology that empowers it or we delude ourselves to think our beliefs are equivalent because we prefer to view them this way.
The science that empowers so much evidence to be collected that yields knowledge that global warming is real, it’s a growing concern, it’s a problem that will continue to impose climatic changes at an increased rate, is as solid as any other scientific inquiry by tens of thousands of scientists around the world over decades that have produced available peer reviewed research. The science is ongoing yet for about three decades or more there has been a growing general consensus that today’s global warming is a man-made problem subject to man-made solutions… if we act sooner rather than later. We can be reasonably certain that all this science about climate change and its causes and influences has been carried out in a responsible manner and that the general conclusions reached are as valid as any other in the sciences. We know there is always quibbling about specifics in all scientific endeavors  and climate research will have its fair share. We will have some personalities we like, some we don’t, and that these kinds of discrepancies are not at all unusual for any human undertaking involving tens of thousands of people. But none of this disqualifies the science and the body of knowledge climate science has produced.
What we cannot do is simply choose to think that our personal beliefs are an equivalent and legitimate basis for coming to a different conclusion. Our beliefs are not equivalent. Our personal knowledge is not equivalent to the scientific consensus. Our cherry-picking of facts and points that favour only our contrary belief preferences without accounting for all those that do not support us is intellectually dishonest. Whether we wish to or not, we must respect the method of inquiry that yields knowledge – which we implicitly trust with our very lives in other areas like medicine and transportation and communication – in this matter of climate science if we wish to avoid the charge of hypocrisy. No matter how grudgingly we face the scientific consensus about global warming, we must respect its general conclusions  and if we wish to be responsible citizens within our various communities, we must begin to address our culpability to its root causes before we can address how we can begin to mitigate our effects on climate change through global warming.
I don’t for a minute think that we alone drive climate change or that global warming is solely the result of carbon emissions. But I respect the method of science enough to take heed when the consensus tells us that human activity is a major factor in these rapid environmental changes. Whether I want to believe it or not is not my call if I wish to continue to respect the method of science that informs the rest of my life. The results of climatic scientific research are what they are, and the science has built up a body of knowledge about the matter that I can understand. So can you. And we need to act on this understanding in a productive and positive way rather than allow the most ignorant and delusional among us to be voted into public office to then abuse the state’s public power to attack those who tell us something we believe we don’t need to hear.
If you support those who put all of us at such risk by such abusing the power of the state to undermine and attack and discredit by foul means those who produce knowledge, then I question your motives to present yourself as an intellectually honest person and someone worth listening to. As far as I can tell, if you support those who go after people whose job it is to create knowledge in the name of your beliefs, you are a danger to me, my family, my community, my nation, and my planet. You are a champion of ignorance. And that’s not something to be proud of.


  1. The trouble is too many people are short sighted and selfish to see environmental concerns. People think that global warming is about rising sea levels – but it is not, it is about the security of the food chain. The food chain is being affected by global warming right now – it is measurable.

    I think a lot of the economic issues that we are starting to see are related to the collapse of crops, and the realisation that we just can not keep growing a traditional economy with the associated waste – it really isn’t sustainable. The issue with governments is that they are swayed by economic pressure, ordinary folk are busy worrying about their mortgage, electricity bill and weekly shopping costs to give a future generation in 50 years time a second thought – this is short sighted.

    Walk a long any beach in the world and you will find plastic – literally tones of it from tooth brushes to bottles, rope, shoes and fine grains and shards of the stuff. This plastic gets ground down into fine bits which gets stuck in the digestive tract of fish, birds and sea dwelling animals which we eat. That plastic is literally entertain the food chain – we are eating it. You don’t need to a scientist to see this – just go and look with your own eyes at the waste we produce.

    There was a recent discovery in the ocean where they found a pit of plastic waste that was 10 metres deep. This is a massive problem, the environment is getting a beating on all sides. Sure nature will find away to deal with it, but that way might include the extinction of species – which may include us. The issue with the environment is that it is an eco system – a system within which we evolved, and system which is being changed faster than some species can evolve within it…

    Lets hope that humans can evolve to live in a world with no fish, polluted air and water and rising temperatures – because if we can not then the tropical human animal will die. Personally I would rather not leave this to chance – the only way forward is to study the environment, measure it and change our behaviour to preserve it – after all it is the heart and lungs of all living life including us.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — November 18, 2010 @ 2:46 pm | Reply

  2. I agree that people need to make a conscious effort to keep the earth healthy.

    There are tons of studies that also state there is no true global warming going on. The earth has done this before, etc…Have you read anything on that and what are you thoughts?

    Comment by 4amzgkids — November 18, 2010 @ 5:44 pm | Reply

    • Yes, I know this subject quite well and have followed it for many years. Environmental sustainability is, I think, a foundational principle we need to teach the young. It is the pillar upon which our future and even our very existence depends. It’s as important at the local level as it is at the international level. Thinking in terms of sustainability rather than financial cost/benefit models will go a long way in altering how we behave towards that which sustains us. Acts contrary to sustainability will eventually come to be seen as crimes against all rather than costs to some local concern. But it’s many years away. In regards to global warming, we need a few decades of drastically altered weather patterns to really begin to feel the true cost of unsustainable emissions and our grandchildren will curse us for our colossal arrogance and stupidity.

      Yes, I am well aware of many studies that question the cause and effect of global warming due to human activity. I think these have been adequately refuted many times over. The science I think is so overwhelming that human activity adds to global warming that we can call it a fact.

      I am also well aware of many climate studies that bring into question whether the climate changes we see are attributable only to global warming due to human activity. These are not so easily refuted. But what concerns me most is the rate of change we know we are undergoing. Anyone with a modicum of understanding about historical climate change should be deeply alarmed at this unprecedented change in rate. Even if all our knowledge about global warming turns out to be absolutely wrong in terms of its effect on climate change, the very least we should do is proceed with our utmost caution because these changes are dramatic and will have long term consequences in terms of human well-being.

      So to come across those who simply wave their hands like these Republican and Tea Party morons as if nothing we do really matters, I suggest they take a ride in a car and begin burning the back seats to see if the air exchange unit in the front is adequate to compensate for all the dangers introduced by the action. That’s what we’re doing to the world, which is really an enclosed space shuttle with various regulatory mechanisms that are all undergoing unprecedented rates of change. Stopping the action of burning the back seats seems to me to be a good starting position to eventually stabilize the climatic conditions inside the car. Controlling and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions we currently produce is the very least we need to do.

      Comment by tildeb — November 18, 2010 @ 9:19 pm | Reply

  3. I agree – climate change is defiantly happening, saying that it is not is being dishonest. Even in my short life time I have noticed drastic changes in the local weather. In England we now have floods every year – these floods used to be a rare ‘freak’ event – not anymore.

    The problem is that there are too many people – over population is a big problem, which I think is harder to see in larger countries – but again in the UK I have noticed this. Our cities are crowded – our roads are grid locked. London is physically warm – in winter you don’t even need a coat it is so warm – not because of the weather, but because there are so many people, cars and buildings.

    For me it is common sense – if we burn fuel, we create heat, if that fuel also creates gasses that affect the atmosphere then there must be an effect to this. And if the ice cores we take and the satellite images collate with rises and falls in temperate (which they do) then this is very strong evidence.

    The denial often comes from the greedy or people who have a short term political agenda – this can also be collated.

    Environmental disasters are good crystal ball to see what the economic and social impact of environmental collapse can be like. When a big oil well breaks under the sea (like the BP disaster) – people really do start to worry, because they can see and experience the effects directly. The trouble with climate change is that it is a creeping disease the changes are small enough for us not to notice in our short life times – but that does not mean that they are not happening or that the outcome will be any less dramatic.

    The first step with all of this is to accept modern science in nature and science as being true – people can begin with evolution, species evolve in their environment this is a fact. Evolution happens pretty slowly for most species because the environment changes slowly for most species, this is also a fact. So if we start changing the environment quickly and species can not adapt to those changes they will die – this is also a fact. Humans are an evolved species, this is also a fact – therefore climate change affects us directly.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — November 19, 2010 @ 1:50 am | Reply

  4. Tildeb, that was quite the rant. I note the generality in your quote that does not specify how many “congressional Republicans” dis-ing scientists there were, or their positions within their party. And while I don’t disagree with your “scientific consensus about global warming, we must respect its general conclusions”, you then rant on like a radical environmentalist who like the IPCC scientists are willing to assert we should/may have to ditch democracy and even freedom in order to ‘save the world’. If we in Canada were to follow the NDP targets for industrial greenhouse gas emissions to 25% below 1990 levels by 2020,it would be economic suicide that would destroy hundreds, if not thousands of jobs, and would result in no effect on the world’s climate. The big issue really is climate change policy by all governments.

    Comment by climate1 — November 20, 2010 @ 5:06 pm | Reply

    • “Issa is poised to become the chairman of the Oversight Committee. The post comes with wide-ranging subpoena powers, and Issa has already indicated how he plans to wield them. He is not, he assured a group of Pennsylvania Republicans over the summer, interested in digging around for the sort of information that might embarrass his fellow-zillionaires: “I won’t use it to have corporate America live in fear.” Instead, he wants to go where he sees the real malfeasance. He wants to investigate climate scientists. At the top of his list are the long-suffering researchers whose e-mails were hacked last year from the computer system of Britain’s University of East Anglia. Though their work has been the subject of three separate “Climategate” inquiries—all of which found that allegations of data manipulation were unfounded—Issa isn’t satisfied. “We’re going to want to have a do-over,” he said recently.”

      This is the kind of dangerous and deluded moron I’m talking about: one who – for faith-based beliefs alone – will abuse the power of a public office to intentionally go after scientists who produce data and knowledge that the deluded simply don’t want to have to hear. The harm will be incalculable, both in terms of failing to promote and then implement environmentally sustainable policies that are badly needed now as well as attacking those who provide us with the knowledge base. We need to inform these necessary policies with fact rather than more faith-based beliefs that stand in contrast to the knowledge we have. Your scare tactics about job losses and name calling are merely diversions from the important issue I have raised about the stupidity that comes from ignorance that Issa so boldly and shamelessly represents.

      Comment by tildeb — November 20, 2010 @ 7:34 pm | Reply

  5. Climate gate was a white wash. I suggest you read the National Post 6 April 2010 with articles written by Peter Foster and Lawrence Solomon. In those articles is information that shows the lack of independence by the Lead investigator, Lord Oxburgh who is chair of the multinational Flack Renewables, a European leader with major wind farms in the UK, France, Spain and Italy.In 2007 he stated; “We are sleepwalking into a global warming threat so dire that the world may need to do more to discouage carbon dioxide emitters than to simply put a price on carbon. It may be we shall need, in parallel with that, regulations which impose very severe penalties on people who emit more than specified amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.” This person hardly qualifies as being independent.

    There are further points raised by the Post’s jounalists, far too many to quote here.

    However, as Soloman states, “In the end, the panellists published hardly anything at all – A MERE 5 PAGES of observations that failed to explore a single charge made by the Climate Reseach Unit’s accusers, (from 3,000 emails numerous of which manipulated and resulted in the destruction of raw temperature data) and thus, in truth did nothing to absolve the CRU or allay public concerns.

    Comment by climate1 — November 21, 2010 @ 12:11 pm | Reply

    • Michael Mann – the East Anglia leading climate scientist whose emails supposedly exposed wrongdoing – has been exonerated not by one but three separate academic investigations as well as a host of other legal attempts to smear his and his team members’ names and question their scientific credibility. None have succeeded.

      How do we know anthropomorphic activity directly influences climate? There is a good chart comparison and clear explanation of this collated data that shows why we know we say we know here.

      Even independent journalists hot on the trail of scientific wrongdoing have realized that none has occurred.

      For anyone interested, there’s a good article here on the story from beginning to end with lots of other links here.

      The very idea that tens of thousands of climate scientists involved in dozens of the most scientifically respectable organizations in the world have somehow decided to come together, co-operate, and collude to favour some anti-oil, anti-industry, green movement (usually presented as a means to make money) seems to me to be beyond the pale of what’s reasonable, what’s probably true, probably accurate, probably correct. It also occurs to me that belief in such a vast scientific conspiracy cannot be argued because there is no evidence that will not fit neatly into some excuse box to dismiss. It’s an exercise in confirmation bias, plain and simple.

      Comment by tildeb — November 21, 2010 @ 2:08 pm | Reply

  6. I don’t believe in conspiracies, I believe in incompetence – large groups of people can not keep big secrets – because the security of the secret is vulnerable to the weakest link. Besides, I don’t need a group of scientists to tell me that climate change is happening – I can see it with my own eyes.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — November 22, 2010 @ 2:28 am | Reply


    The implication of the skeptics’ argument is that whatever warming seems to be happening on the Earth’s surface, similar warming isn’t happening in the atmosphere. This might mean that any observed surface warming is more likely due to the urban heat island effect — where the heat-retaining properties of concrete and asphalt in urban areas artificially increase local temperatures — rather than increasing atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

    Read more:,2933,166150,00.html#ixzz169ORMyYH TABLES

    Comment by 4amzgkids — November 23, 2010 @ 6:18 pm | Reply

  8. I think we would be better served by focusing on “Pollution” rather than “Global Warming”. I always get a kick out of the enviromentalists who drive fossil fuel cars. Irony at its best.

    Comment by Titfortat — November 24, 2010 @ 3:48 pm | Reply

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