Friday, May 30, 2008

Charles Krauthammer: Scientific Ignoramus

Sometimes when you read Krauthammer's dishonest arguments, you can't help but think that he's talking down to an audience that he knows will not engage in critical thinking when lapping up his screeds. And there's probably some of that in today's entry, but for the most part it appears that Krauthammer believes what he says. Which is remarkable, as he presumably completed at least undergraduate level science classes as part of the preparation for his medical school training. Speaking of global warming, Krauthammer says,
Predictions of catastrophe depend on models. Models depend on assumptions about complex planetary systems - from ocean currents to cloud formation - that no one fully understands. Which is why the models are inherently flawed and forever changing.
But Charles, they're changing because they're constantly being improved. And only a scientific ignoramus would contend that we cannot rely upon a scientific model, complex or otherwise, until it is established with absolute certainty.
The doomsday scenarios posit a cascade of events, each with a certain probability. The multiple improbability of their simultaneous occurrence renders all such predictions entirely speculative.
Now you're changing the subject. We were talking about scientific models, not doomsday scenarios.
Yet on the basis of this speculation, environmental activists, attended by compliant scientists and opportunistic politicians, are advocating radical economic and social regulation.
What a dishonest claim that is, Charles. You lump environmentalists, scientists and politicians into some sort of nebulous category of... what? Enemies of the state? And you declare that any effort to address carbon emissions and global warming constitutes "advocating radical economic and social regulation"? Let me guess - your preference is to do nothing while we wait for the 100% scientific certainty that only a scientific ignoramus would believe is possible?
"The largest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity," warns Czech President Vaclav Klaus, "is no longer socialism. It is, instead, the ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology of environmentalism."
Vaclav Klaus said it? Well, there. You've changed my mind. When a politician from a small foreign country says something, particularly if it can be reduced to a sound bite, obviously we should cast away science and our own political system and simply defer to the foreign leader's judgments. We shouldn't even ask their basis - we should simply defer. Boy, Charles, you sure know how to make good policy.

You know what? I could declare, "The largest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity is Charles Krauthammer." Just saying it doesn't make it true, does it? (Would it be true if Vaclav Klaus said it?)
If you doubt the arrogance, you haven't seen that Newsweek cover story that declared the global warming debate over.
Newsweek? Have you never heard of peer reviewed scientific journals? I mean, you may as well cite a Krauthammer column to tell us that the war on al-Qaeda and the Taliban was over in 100 days and all the critics have been proved wrong. It's mainstream media - and when it comes to selling extra copies, people take license - in your case, lots of it. But you know what? If you look in those peer reviewed journals, instead of relying exclusively on sound bites from politicians (as translated from the original Czech), you may find that Newsweek is a lot closer to reality than you are.
Consider: If Newton's laws of motion could, after 200 years of unfailing experimental and experiential confirmation, be overthrown, it requires religious fervor to believe that global warming - infinitely more untested, complex and speculative - is a closed issue.
Overthrown? You mean, Newtonian physics is no longer taught in high schools and colleges as a "close enough" approximation of how things work? When apples fall from trees, they now fall up? Your statement is as ignorant as arguing, "Now that we can measure things in microns, rulers and measuring tapes are useless." They're not. They get us pretty close to where we want to be, and often all the way to where we want to be. And when we need to be more precise, we can turn to more sophisticated tools (or, if you prefer, relativity).

Further, beyond you and Newsweek, nobody seems to be calling this a "closed issue". As you previously noted, the scientists you love to malign - people who, unlike you, know what they're talking about - are constantly striving to improve their models and increase the accuracy of their predictions. You may not like the fact that the science points in a particular direction, but if you have an honest bone in your body you should be able to admit that it's you who is approaching these issues in religious terms - even describing your own mindset ("agnostic") in religious terms - even though it's a scientific question.
But declaring it closed has its rewards. It not only dismisses skeptics as the running dogs of reaction, i.e., of Exxon, Cheney and now Klaus. By fiat, it also hugely re-empowers the intellectual left.
What discredited the naysayers on the issue of global warming? Oh yes... lying, and paying for pseudoscience in order to attack competent science. Sorry, Charles - your heroes have nobody to blame but themselves. And to the extent that the "left" is empowered by relying on sound science, and by the fact that your heroes of the "right" have been proved to be liars? C'mon. Those are crocodile tears you're shedding.
For a century, an ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous knowledge class - social planners, scientists, intellectuals, experts and their left-wing political allies - arrogated to themselves the right to rule either in the name of the oppressed working class (communism) or, in its more benign form, by virtue of their superior expertise in achieving the highest social progress by means of state planning (socialism).

Two decades ago, however, socialism and communism died rudely, then were buried forever by the empirical demonstration of the superiority of market capitalism everywhere from Thatcher's England to Deng's China, where just the partial abolition of socialism lifted more people out of poverty more rapidly than ever in human history.

Just as the ash heap of history beckoned, the intellectual left was handed the ultimate salvation: environmentalism. Now the experts will regulate your life not in the name of the proletariat or Fabian socialism but - even better - in the name of Earth itself.
And now we delve into ad hominem? That didn't take long. Ah yes... the studious young people who pursue advanced degrees in science, and enter the lucrative fields of physics and climatology... They're all about amassing power and wealth for themselves. You caught 'em just in time - next week they were going to take over the country and make us all wear lab coats.
Environmentalists are Gaia's priests, instructing us in her proper service and casting out those who refuse to genuflect. (See Newsweek above.)
Ad hominem; straw man. Can't you do better?
And having proclaimed the ultimate commandment - carbon chastity - they are preparing the supporting canonical legislation that will tell you how much you can travel, what kind of light you will read by, and at what temperature you may set your bedroom thermostat.
Ad hominem; straw man. Nope, I guess you can't.
Only Monday, a British parliamentary committee proposed that every citizen be required to carry a carbon card that must be presented, under penalty of law, when buying gasoline, taking an airplane or using electricity. The card contains your yearly carbon ration to be drawn down with every purchase, every trip, every swipe.

There's no greater social power than the power to ration. And, other than rationing food, there is no greater instrument of social control than rationing energy, the currency of just about everything one does and uses in an advanced society.
So a parliamentary committee in a foreign nation proposed something that's nutty and unworkable in practice? But wait - this was a foreign government? Now I'm confused, because I thought you believed that if a foreign leader did or said something nutty and non-scientific we were supposed to immediately adopt it into our nation's norms of conduct to comport with that statement. Perhaps we only do that if the foreign leader doesn't speak English? And the danger posed by this carbon card is what? Let's look at what's happening in England:
The Government has, quite understandably, backed away with some horror from a new proposal by a committee of MPs to introduce a system of 'personal carbon credits' for every individual in Britain.
Charles, you're building a house of cards.
So what does the global warming agnostic propose as an alternative? First, more research - untainted and reliable - to determine (a) whether the carbon footprint of man is or is not lost among the massive natural forces (from sunspot activity to ocean currents) that affect climate, and (b) if the human effect is indeed significant, whether the planetary climate system has the homeostatic mechanisms (like the feedback loops in the human body, for example) with which to compensate.
By "untainted and reliable" you mean what? Particularly given that you are completely ignorant of the existing research? As a scientific ignoramus you presumably mean, "I won't believe any science that doesn't comport to my existing world view" - and for you, that's consistent with your take on pretty much everything. You are preternaturally incapable of thinking beyond the narrow confines of your tiny, closed mind. You know nothing, but you pretend yourself capable of dictating to actual scientists the criteria they should use to evaluate the documented fact of global warming? And you dare to insult others as following an "ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology" or "talking through their hats"?
Second, reduce our carbon footprint in the interim by doing the doable, rather than the economically ruinous and socially destructive. The most obvious step is a major move to nuclear power, which to the atmosphere is the cleanest of the clean.
So wait - your entire argument is a straw man, concluding with your concession that we need to "reduce our carbon footprint"? You just want to provide a fig leaf to hide your pro-industry, anti-environmental stance - an excuse to harm the environment while hiding behind ignorant, dishonest demands for scientific certainty?

As for nuclear energy, have you never heard of solar energy? Geothermal energy? Hydroelectric energy? Wind energy? I'm a proponent of nuclear energy but that doesn't mean I'm going to pretend that no other carbon-friendly sources of energy exist. Is it that you weren't aware of these other sources of energy, or are you being dishonest?
But your would-be masters have foreseen this contingency. The Church of the Environment promulgates secondary dogmas as well. One of these is a strict nuclear taboo.
Oh, come on. You're going to pretend that the only reason that G.W. Bush couldn't pass a nuclear energy program in six years of ramming pro-energy industry legislation down our throats is that he and his fellow Republicans worship at "The Church of the Environment"?
Rather convenient, is it not? Take this major coal-substituting fix off the table, and we will be rationing all the more. Guess who does the rationing.
If you have it your way, either you or an incompetent Republican administration for which you cheerlead. Either way, the rest of us lose.


  1. If you can't go six words without misspelling one, I'm afraid I'm not about to take anything that follows very seriously.

  2. Yours is one of the most absurd examples of ad hominem abusive I have seen for a long time. "You made a typo, therefore nothing you say can possibly be of value." Except I think it's fair to read between the lines - you disagree with what I said but you lack the intellectual chops to respond on the merits, so that was the best response you could muster. No wonder you're afraid to sign your name to your comment.

  3. No, really - you made a typo? Three years ago? With that type of error rate I just don't know if it's worth reading this blog any more.

  4. Ok so do I have this right? Krauthammer is an ignoramus and I will be one too if I am foolish enough to doubt the articles, the interviews, the reports on reports, all coming from the indisputable science community who knows what they are talking about? Right? So when Mr. K says the computer climate models require assumptions about things we know little about he really means the models are no good simply because they change and that we should only accept a scientific model that is accepted with certainty? And by "overthrown" he meant no longer taught in high schools, etc? And by quoting that european politician he really means we should defer everything we think and listen only to leaders from "small" and "foreign" countries? What should I do when you say...

    "Further, beyond you and Newsweek, nobody seems to be calling this a "closed issue"

    and I go and type "climate change debate is over" into google? Should I ignore that you made a blatantly false statement and stop doing any research independently, however brief, and just stick to what I am told by people like you?

    Finally, what should I do when I recognize that you are using the same classic tactics all frauds use, from Nazi's to Bernie Madoff, and I don't like scambags who do that?

    1. It's up to you to determine if Krauthammer is a fool or a fraud, but he's proved himself to be one or the other, perhaps at this point both.

      In relation to you, it's an easier question: If you choose to reject the science of climate change, you're a fool.

    2. (The fact that you can't get through a response to a blog post from 2008 without hysterically shrieking about Nazis, truly, tells us all we need to know about you.)

    3. You either didn't read what I wrote, or you didn't understand it. Either way....