Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Religion is as Religion does

When poked about religion's manifest evils, their adherents immediately point at Stalin, Hitler, Mao et al as proof that as bad as religion may be, [ atheism | secularism] is worse.

This is nonsense.

Religions, particularly of the monotheistic stripe, share a broad spectrum of common characteristics:These are sufficient to establish a belief system as religious; whether the system claims to derive from a supernatural power is irrelevant. It is like establishing the criteria for membership of the class "automobile", then excluding from that class anything that would otherwise belong, simply because it has a manual transmission.

A religion can be sacred, or non-sacred, but it is a religion nonetheless.

I have been spending a fair amount of time over the last couple months reading both sides of the climate change debate. On the pro-side, primarily Real Climate.

Regardless of the objective truth behind claims for Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), there can be little doubt that AGW is now, and has been for some time, a religion in every sense of the word.

While there is plenty of ammunition to fire in support of any item on the list above, I will focus primarily on the suppression of dissent.

I have tried only twice to post on discussion threads at Real Climate. Both times, moderation so heavy handed that it would have made even Stalin's minions blush meant neither response never even saw so much as the light of day.

Most recently, A potentially useful book - Lies, Damn lies & Science decried the disconnect between the priesthood and the masses: 97% of specialists believe human activities are a significant contributor to the increase in mean global temperature, while only 58% of parishioners agreed.

The debate at RealClimate was about why the hoi polloi didn't see the light, and what should be done to further enlighten them. However, it seems that discussing why the flock is insufficiently bent at the knee need not include any reasons why the Church of Impending Doom's liturgy might be less than completely compelling.

Here is the gist of my post that never saw the light of day:
There are a good many reasons why people, including those who are scientifically literate, are not buying into Climate Change (aka AGW), as opposed to little-c climate change (aka, natural variability).

In no particular order:

  • While small-c climate change is completely uncontroversial, Big-C climate change reeks of post-hoc reasoning.

  • Even if ongoing climate change has an AGW component, it very likely will not be particularly large.

  • The catastrophism that rides along with AGW is completely overblown and basically dishonest. Why? Because it is a very rare thing indeed to read what must happen now in order to avoid catastrophic outcomes in the future.

  • Climate Change does, in fact, cherry pick, both in its choice of what to report and what to ignore, but also in forming explanations for observed changes. As an example of the former: Argo, which has shown the oceans are, if anything, cooling. For the latter, there was a widely reported study (sorry, I don't have the link) claiming to prove global warming by showing various bird species' ranges had moved further north. Certainly, that is one possible explanation. However, it isn't the only, or even the most probable. Here is another: there are more birds, and population pressure has forced the range expansion. Now, why might that be an explanation? FAA statistics show aircraft - bird strikes have been significantly increasing for years, at a rate far greater than flight hours.

  • CC advocates over-claim consequences. Glacial retreat is a perfect example. It begs credulity to attribute to anthropogenic causes something that has been going on for at least 150 years.

  • At least where I live (Anchorage), CC claims get more difficult to verify at finer detail. This 50 year study of Alaskan temperature and precipitation contradicts as many GCM claims as it supports. A 125 year study of Arctic temperature and pressure trends is similarly non-comittal. Finally, Eastern Pacific upper ocean temperatures are apparently completely uncorrelated with what GCMs. CC proponents published these studies, all of which lead to wondering whether CC might rely rather too heavily on post hoc reasoning.

  • CC has started to become resemble a religion. Some advocates actively seek to suppress heretics. Here at RealCliimate, I have attempted precisely one post devoid of rant or ad hominem (admittedly, self diagnosed). Gavin binned it.
Fortunately, AGW does make some material claims that will, or will not be, corroborated in the near-ish future. Sometime in the next five years, the Arctic will, or will not, continue melting. Argo will, or will not, show ocean temperatures increasing. Air temperatures will, or will not, continue their significantly diminished rate of increase.

There is nothing we can do now to change any human contribution to natural climate variation in that time. If I had to bet, I would place my money on the failure of the climate to obey GCMs.

Regardless of the responses to a badly phrased polling question.
All the pieces are in place: the IPCC, a cabal of Climate Scientists, invoking calamity in the future in pursuit of imposing a new order in the here and now.

And extirpating dissent that detracts from The Narrative. My post was not intended to disprove CC, only to provide reasons why scientifically literate people might, just might, not be wholeheartedly genuflecting at every mention of Dr. James Hansen's name.

Of course, I could be wrong. Perhaps my post was insulting, or I was being a troll.

Otherwise, RealClimate's inclination towards censorship puts it in a small group of blogs with similar reflexes, and which are all avowedly religious.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too much celebrity not to cause your analogy problems. Which makes me think, we haven't had a good verse contest around these parts in ages.

"I am the very model of a climate change authority,
I earn a pleasant living making panic our priority,
I’ve nine degrees and seven books and stardom on the Lehr Report,
Al Gore has sought my help in suing New York State in federal court."

"I’m known for measured speech and a near-bashful personality,
But I will tear and eat the flesh of skeptics who dare challenge me,
The UN cites me often when I vent my spleen at Uncle Sam,
Though I can slam New Zealand just as well when I’m caught in a jam".

"I jump from pictures big to small in prose my fans mistake for verse,
I counsel against babies as they only make the problem worse,
But when the childless heed and look to me in hopes of modest praise,
I chide them that the way they flush is bound to shorten all our days."

"One day I found myself competing for a grant against some peers,
With solemn diffidence they warned we’d all be gone in fifty years,
I feared that they would win and leave me broke and naked at the post-,
So I used PowerPoint to prove in FORTY years we’ll all be toast!"

"I calibrate the hour of doom with care to keep the tension crests,
I usually opine it will arrive the day my pension vests,
Much later and the world may say it’s nothing but a bunch of bunk,
But sooner and they’ll just say “What the Hell” and all get very drunk."

"When I was young I was a nerd who knew the types of clouds by name,
My mum assumed the weather on the local news would be my fame,
But now when People features me, they write "It’s plain for all to see,
He is the very model of a climate change authority." ”

April 01, 2009 10:30 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Well done Peter.

A happy little troll am I.
When the topic is low,
I doggedly claim high
Annoying the host
To the absolute most!

April 01, 2009 11:41 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

There's little to debate with what Peter said,
As it's unlikely Climate Change will leave us all dead.

April 01, 2009 12:42 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"ClimateAudit's inclination towards censorship"

Did you mean to write "Real Climate" there?

April 01, 2009 2:28 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


That is the funniest thing I have read in a month.


Thanks -- fixed.


What brought this on was a recent item on BBC's "The World" about the extremely perilous peril facing the Maldives because of rising sea levels due to climate change.

There must have been a good ten minutes of peril before reaching the tag line: the UN must spend more money protecting the Maldives.

Curiously, the program never once mentioned by how much the sea level had risen. Since that was the very thing making the peril so perilous, one would think that little factoid would show up somewhere along the line.

Here is the abstract from the first thing Google coughs up for "sea level maldives":

Novel prospects for the Maldives do not include a condemnation to future flooding. The people of the Maldives have, in the
past, survived a higher sea level of about 50 – 60 cm. The present trend lack signs of a sea level rise. On the contrary, there is
firm morphological evidence of a significant sea level fall in the last 30 years. This sea level fall is likely to be the effect of
increased evaporation and an intensification of the NE-monsoon over the central Indian Ocean

This is from the second:

... in the IPCC-scenario, the Maldives would be condemned to become flooded in the next 50-100 years. Our research data do not lend support to any such flooding scenario, however. On the contrary, we find no signs of any on-going sea level rise.

The third item, from the BBC, claims the Maldives will soon be flooded, but says not one syllable about actual sea level change.

Just like the weekly dose of AGW indoctrination from the Anchorage Daily News (a McClatchey publication) talking about melting arctic never mentions actual temperatures of anything.

I have long since gotten tired of the indoctrination, and, therefore enjoy an occasional flash of schadenfreude hearing about the MSM's travails.

April 02, 2009 9:23 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Very nice, Peter.

Skipper, you might want to compare the intelligentsia/prole disconnect over AGW with the same over CND.

RC are certainly a feeble bunch. Where is the adult voice of AGW?

April 02, 2009 3:56 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I simply don't get enslaving oneself to The Narrative.

Whether wrt AGW or religion, if The Narrative cannot withstand reasoned dissent, then what the heck good is it?

April 02, 2009 5:46 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Thinking is hard and uncomfortable. The Narrative is warm and cozy.

April 02, 2009 6:26 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Great stuff, Peter.

April 14, 2009 7:03 AM  
Blogger gaw said...

Thank you. One of the most cool-headed discussions about AGW I've read. I must say working out the psycho-historical backdrop (can't think of a less ugly way to describe it) of the warmists is a fascinating exercise. I'm sure the religion parallel is correct. Lovelock is a prophet just as much as Isaiah or Marx.

Further, I think the eschatology of this new religion has been dictated by the unsustainability of the leftist worldview. If I may be so cheeky as to quote part of a post from my blog:

'The fall of the Berlin Wall seems an even greater disjunction than it did at the time. It marks the end of the belief that there could be any sustainable difference between capitalism and modernity. Now the disaffected are attracted to ideologies which stand in opposition to the very substance of the modern world: technology, industry, cosmopolitanism, change. The only thing left to oppose is everything.'

April 18, 2009 8:58 AM  

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