As the new school year gets underway, here’s some reflection on what may be the current atmosphere of the academic scientific community.
Certain campus professors and theoreticians have cast their lofty claims of climate catastrophe out of the comfort of the credulous classroom and faculty lounge and on to the critical community of the wary general public. The result: substantial resistance.
Many campus scientists are dismayed at what they see as unreasonable skepticism of the scientific establishment and the denial of the edifice of scientific facts that include disastrous global warming resulting from excessive human carbon emissions. In the coming decades, such emissions will apparently doom the planet, according to some high-level sources.
Step off campus and confident predictions of climate calamity are confronted by the world of reality where there are no safe spaces. The reverberations from the college echo chamber are damped by wide-open reality.
Antics, such as marches on Washington for ostensibly protecting scientific integrity, only serve to accent the politics and juvenility involved with modern scientific practice. When you don’t get your way, stomp your feet in unison and shout slick slogans to get the attention of the authorities who distribute your allowance. But, oftentimes that allowance ultimately flows from the taxpayers who are suspicious of grandiose claims.
Popular economist Thomas Sowell observed in his book “Intellectuals and Society” that the population at large “may have vastly more total knowledge — in the mundane sense — than the elites, even if that knowledge is scattered in individually unimpressive fragments among the vast numbers of people” That total knowledge translates into practicality from common experience and common sense.
And, the more knowledge brought to bear on complex challenges such as the connection between human greenhouse gas emissions and long term climate change, the better. After all, society’s problems in general boil down to two conditions ignorance and arrogance. Ignorance, because complete understanding of a situation cannot usually be known; and, arrogance because we think we have complete understanding. This is especially true of future reality.
Those who believe they have all the answers and that it’s the duty of the rest of us to trust them are woefully self-deluded.
A certain amount of trust is warranted from non-experts. That’s reasonable. But, the science wizards’ ability to clearly foresee global temperature response to carbon dioxide emissions that are confounded by other climate factors, such as water vapor variability and solar radiation flux, has been shown to be quite myopic for about two decades now.
But, human brains can skew facts. In the Dec. 3-9, 2016 issue of New Scientist, a general science news weekly magazine from the U.K., the cover story article titled “Seeing Reason” explained how facts can be skewed and how the brain might be corrected to think properly.
As expected, the article in this left-leaning publication zeroed in on the general public’s reluctance to accept the “settled fact” of human-induced climate change.
According to noteworthy psychologists, it seems “motivated reasoning” drives people to reject the “unambiguous” science of climate change which “is happening and human activity is driving it. Yet despite this, and the risks it poses to our descendants, many people still deny it is happening.”
Of course, “[T]he major driver, especially in the U.S., is political ideology.”
Interestingly, one Yale University researcher found that, “in contrast to liberals, among conservatives it is the most scientifically literate who are least likely to accept climate change.”
Since probably no thinking person actually denies that climate changes, should anyone wonder why the most scientifically literate conservatives are least likely to accept anthropogenic catastrophic climate change? Could it be that those conservatives who have a more intimate knowledge of science, scientific research and practice, and the like, are better able to sort out fact from fiction and foregone conclusions?
No, not at all. Rather, according to the New Scientist article: “[T]his apparent paradox [of the scientifically literate conservatives being least likely to accept climate change conclusions] comes down to motivated reasoning: the better you are at handling scientific information, the better you’ll be at confirming your own bias and writing off inconvenient truths. In the case of climate-change deniers, studies suggest that motivation is often endorsements of free-market ideology, which fuels objections to the government regulation of business that is required to tackle climate change.”
Really? And, motivation with respect to ideology and politics doesn’t happen with leftist thinkers on the unassailable settled science of climate change? Is it at all possible that the hallowed halls of academia are subject to biases, constrained by leftist ideology and politics, and subject to elitist arrogance?
Campus science elites should at least try replacing patronizing arrogance with humble confidence. After all, there is a chance that elitist knowledge of the state of global climate decades from now might be wrong.
• Anthony J. Sadar is a certified consulting meteorologist and author of “In Global Warming We Trust: Too Big to Fail” (Stairway Press, 2016).