How to Cut the Knot of Global Warming

With the release of the new Al Gore movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," hysteria regarding global warming has reached a fever pitch. Gore himself has gone so far as to state that a vengeful God will destroy humanity if global warming is allowed to continue.

It’s not the first time that people have abandoned reason to indulge in a self-righteous moral frenzy. For centuries, Europeans were obsessed with the idea that witches and evil spirits were responsible for all of the ills that beset mankind. Over a period of about 250 years, nearly 4 million people were executed for the crime of witchcraft.

Although the Witch Mania of Medieval Europe is today viewed as the offspring of prejudice and superstition, the intelligent opinion of the day considered the existence of witches to be based upon overwhelming empirical support beyond question by a rational person. Writing in 1588, Montaigne acknowledged this when he said that the "proofs and reasons" supporting the prosecution of witches "had no end." Therefore, he explained, he would cut the knot, as Alexander cut the Gordian Knot, because "’tis setting a man’s conjectures at a very high price, upon them to cause a man to be roasted alive."

Similarly, flushing 500 years of technological progress down the toilet is a very high price to pay for hypothetical conjectures concerning possible future climate change.

At one time, scientists were dedicated solely to the pursuit of truth, not the advocacy of social and political issues. In 1676, Robert Hooke wrote to Isaac Newton, stating "I have a mind very desirous of and very ready to embrace any truth that shall be discovered though it may much thwart and contradict any opinions or notions I have formerly embraced." But the ethic of a disinterested search for truth is foreign to many scientists working today. Too often scientists receive no education or training in philosophy or the history of science. They tend to be specialized technical workers who do not understand that when one searches only for confirming evidence it will always be found. In a word, they are ignorant; ignorant of science, ignorant of history, and ignorant of their own ignorance.

For more than a decade, both the mass media and editorial staff of major scientific journals have repressed contrarian and skeptical views regarding climate change. In 1995, a reporter for National Public Radio began his interview with me by asking if I believed that warming was due to human activities. When I told him the evidence was inconclusive, he snorted "no one is interested in that point of view," and hung up on me.

The public has no appreciation for how distorted the information is they receive. We are told that recent years are the "warmest on record," but are left ignorant of the fact that the beginning of the instrumental record coincides with the end of the Little Ice Age, or that temperatures for much of human history were warmer. We are informed that a computer model predicts drastic warming in the future. But we are not told that the model which predicts this warming is the most extreme of thirty such models, or that it is impossible to verify any computer model, all of which contain significant uncertainties and none of which actually portray past or present temperatures accurately.

We are warned that global warming will result in sea level rises, but not that warmer temperatures will have many beneficial effects, such as longer growing seasons at high latitudes. Every natural disaster that occurs, even tsunamis caused by earthquakes, is blamed on global warming. The litany of doom mongering is endless, but it is all based on either outright fraud or a dishonest and selective presentation of the facts.

So, like Montaigne, I choose to cut the knot of global warming. This rash of ignorant conceit, hysterical nonsense, and rabid demagoguery is a fanatical assault on knowledge, civilization, and human enlightenment.