Science Part I: On Global Warming and Scientism

Apr 14, 2013 at 10:00PM
Caleb Doxsey

I’m a global warming skeptic. That’s about the most politically incorrect thing you can say in today’s day and age. (Right up there with “killing your own children should be illegal” and “penises are meant for vaginas”) I guess that puts me firmly in the anti-science category, at least according to some people. Which is kinda strange, since I’ve never thought of myself as particularly anti-science.

I suppose I’m definitely anti-scientism though and maybe that’s what they’re getting at. Scientism means something like the Verifiability Criterion of Meaning:

according to which a sentence makes sense, is literally significant, or is cognitively meaningful only if it is ‘empirically verifiable’ (or falsifiable) - only if, that is, its truth (or falsehood) can be established by something like the methods of natural and empirical science. Warranted Christian Belief, Alvin Plantinga

(Incidentally if you think this sounds like a great principle I have simple question for you: Is the Verifiability Criterion of Meaning verifiable?)

Anyway, though some people confuse the two, scientism isn’t science. So maybe what’s meant by anti-science is something like:

  1. A consensus of scientists believe that the earth is warming
  2. I don’t believe the earth is warming and therefore
  3. I’m anti-science

This argument already has a couple problems: namely science is not the same thing as a consensus of belief among scientists and the earth recently stopped warming. But let’s just pretend like those problems don’t exist and take the argument at face value. It still doesn’t work. And that’s because global warming is more than simply the claim that the earth is warming. It’s at least 5 different claims:

  1. The earth is warming
  2. Man is largely responsible for the warming
  3. Warming is a bad thing
  4. We can do something about it
  5. We should do something about it

Denying any one of those makes you a global warming skeptic. But it seems to me only the first two can really be called scientific questions. The rest are ethical and political. (and dare I say it hardly have obvious answers)

So no I’m not anti-science. Anti-science is a rhetorical device used because it sounds worse than “anti-government-is-the-solution-to-every-problem”. It’s sad that we never seem to move past this and discuss 3-5. Global warming is the great anti-panacea of our age. It explains everything wrong with the world. Meanwhile we ignore all the real consequences of our “green” decisions: increased food & transportation costs, corruption & crony capitalism, draconian bureacracies which destroy your personal liberties (minor and major, the outlawing of technologies which save millions of lives over imaginary fears (new and old), etc... The road to hell was paved (er well, not paved as it were) with good intentions. Though one must wonder at the intentions of Malthusian ecofascists. Maybe they really do see mankind as a scourge on the planet and wish to eradicate it.