Preface: The scientific method requires allowing a free-for-all of hypotheses, which then rise or fall based upon the results of actual experiments. In other words, science means that you throw out theories – no matter how good they look on paper – that are disproven by experimental results, and adopt those confirmed by the results. [Economics is supposed to do that, too … but hasn’t.]
For example, putting Galileo to death because he didn’t agree with the “accepted” consensus that the Sun revolved around the Earth was not a great example of the scientific method. Instead of conducting experiments to see whether the Earth or Sun were the center of the Solar System, those with the prevailing view simply silenced the dissenter.
Anyone who has studied the history of science knows that many theories that were universally accepted and “known” to be true turned out to be false. See these examples from the Houston Chronicle and the Guardian.
Noam Chomsky said years ago that he would submit to fascism if it would help combat global warming:
Suppose it was discovered tomorrow that the greenhouse effects has been way understimated, and that the catastrophic effects are actually going to set in 10 years from now, and not 100 years from now or something. Well, given the state of the popular movements we have today, we’d probably have a fascist takeover-with everybody agreeing to it, because that would be the only method for survival that anyone could think of. I’d even agree to it, because there’s just no other alternatives right now.”
In 2006, Grist called for Nuremberg-style trials for climate skeptics. (The article was later retracted.)
Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. lashed out at global warming skeptics in 2007, declaring “This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors.”
In 2007, a UN official – Yvo de Boer – warned that ignoring warming would be ‘criminally irresponsible’ Excerpt: The U.N.’s top climate official warned policymakers and scientists trying to hammer out a landmark report on climate change that ignoring the urgency of global warming would be “criminally irresponsible.”
The same year, another UN official – UN special climate envoy Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland – said “it’s completely immoral, even, to question” the UN’s scientific consensus on climate.
In 2008, prominent Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki called for government leaders skeptical of global warming to be “thrown into jail.”
The same year, British journalism professor Alex Lockwood said that writers questioning global warming should be banned.
In 2009, a writer at Talking Points Memo advocated that global warming “deniers” be executed or jailed. (He later retracted the threat.)
James Lovelock – environmentalist and creator of the “Gaia hypothesis” – told the Guardian in 2010:
We need a more authoritative world. We’ve become a sort of cheeky, egalitarian world where everyone can have their say. It’s all very well, but there are certain circumstances – a war is a typical example – where you can’t do that. You’ve got to have a few people with authority who you trust who are running it. And they should be very accountable too, of course.
But it can’t happen in a modern democracy. This is one of the problems. What’s the alternative to democracy? There isn’t one. But even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.
Earlier this month, an assistant philosophy professor at Rochester Institute of Technology said he wants to send people who disagree with him about global warming to jail.
And there are many other examples of threats made in regard to the climate debate.
Postscript: If we can’t have free speech and an open scientific debate, then we are no longer living in a democracy or a society which follows the scientific method. Threatening scientific debate is anti-science and anti-liberty.
It is especially troubling given the background of climate discussions. Specifically, in the 1970s, many American scientists were terrified of an imminent ice age. Obama’s top science advisor – John Holdren – was one of them. Holdren and some other scientists proposed pouring soot over the arctic to melt the ice cap and so prevent the dreaded ice age. Holdren warned of dire consequences – including starvation and the largest tidal wave in history – if mankind did not rally on an emergency basis to stop the coming ice age.
Were those who questioned the likelihood of an imminent ice age also threatened with death or imprisonment?
Moreover, it is also concerning that many of the “solutions” proposed to combat a changing climate could do more harm than good (and see this). That’s sort of like invading Iraq after 9/11 because we had to “do” something…
Let’s say that – hypothetically – 100% of all climate scientists reached a consensus that manmade global warming from carbon dioxide was an imminent threat. Shouldn’t we choose approaches that actually work – and which do more good than harm (more) – instead of messing things up even further?