History Channel Hit Piece, Take 2

Thursday, January 18th, 2007 3:41 pm by Neal

A few weeks back, I posted “My Letter to the History Channel” criticizing the program “Last Days on Earth” for deriding scientists who dare question the mass-media sensation, “Global Warming.”

My letter, posted at The History Channel Forums, generated some great responses pointing out numerous flaws in the program and concurring that the name-calling and insults were both inappropriate and impotent. A big thanks to all the readers of this blog who have responded thus far. The discussion continues if anyone wants to register an account with the History Channel and jump in.

Here’s my last post to the forum which was a response to an academic-sounding type who took a more high-brow approach to his ad hominems. My user name is c0t1, and in this post I am responding to user Doc Guy (who I quote with right pointy-brackets).

> Actually, he was saying that global warming deniers,
> such as petroleum-industry funded “skeptics” might be
> worse than holocaust deniers – and I think he has a
> point.

Straight away, you attempt to discredit skeptics through guilt by association.

Michael Crichton specifically addresses your tactic:

Next, the isolation of those scientists who won’t get with the program, and the characterization of those scientists as outsiders and “skeptics” in quotation marks – suspect individuals with suspect motives, industry flunkies, reactionaries, or simply anti-environmental nutcases. In short order, debate ends, even though prominent scientists are uncomfortable about how things are being done.

When did “skeptic” become a dirty word in science? When did a skeptic require quotation marks around it?

Scientist Richard Lindzen put it this way,

Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.

> Denying a past disaster (and I am Jewish and
> lost family members) is bad, no doubt. Denying
> something that causes future harm is worse – it is
> actively adding to the problem. Like tobacco
> executives who maintained that tobacco is not
> addictive and doesn’t cause cancer and slowed down
> public awareness and legislation to reduce smoking (I
> smoked and am not militantly anti-cigarettes, it’s
> just the point.) They likely cost thousands of lives.
> He is saying that by actively creating doubt about
> something scientists are clear about will slow down
> progress and increase the damage to the planet.

Skeptics aren’t “actively creating doubt” because they don’t accept that the science is “clear.” There is no tobacco-like conspiracy. Would you care to define what you mean by “progress?”

> Actually, the causes are settled. The clear
> scientific consensus is that the warming is a result
> of man-made greenhouse gases, period. The part of the
> equation that is uncertain is how bad the changes
> will be and how quickly or slowly they will occur.
> Look at the International Panel on Climate Change
> reports. It’s the most comprehensive, unbiased
> scientific view – and the latest one will be coming
> out beginning next month I think.

No, the causes are not settled. And saying so doesn’t make it so. The “problem” is not even settled. For a thorough rebuttal of “scientific consensus” see Crichton’s speech. The list of scientists includes quotations and links to scholarly papers which question the IPCC reports, the known and predicted effects of CO2 on warming, and more.

> You can disagree, but that doesn’t mean the data
> doesn’t clearly point to this conclusion. Most of the
> arguments that point out “controversy” are
> unscientific.

Here you try to discredit skeptics by smearing them as “unscientific.” This is yet another ad hominem. The scientists I list are highly-regarded, published experts who present credible, unbiased, scientific arguments.

> I agree, they did not present a good scientific
> argument for it. But I don’t think that’s what they
> were trying to do. I don’t think they wanted to prove
> anything, they just used the scientific consensus
> (man-made greenhouse gas emmissions are causing
> global warming) as a starting point to ask how bad
> things could be. It was a bit hamfisted but they were
> making the point that unlike most of the other ways
> the world could “end” this is a way we are
> responsible for ourselves and can do something about.

And I’m not trying to “prove” anything either. Honestly, we are not going to solve this controversy here in this forum when, as I’ve demonstrated, the experts in climate change don’t even agree.

My entire point, and I’m satisfied that I’ve made it clearly, is that the advocates of global warming in general and the producers of “Last Days” in particular routinely resort to name-calling, insults and intimidation in order to browbeat skeptics into submission. This reprehensible conduct is unbecoming of scientists, discredits those who engage in it and weakens their argument.

Lastly, note that the “Holocaust denier” slur is, sadly, a shop-worn tactic. Crichton documents this case:

We can take as an example the scientific reception accorded a Danish statistician, Bjorn Lomborg, who wrote a book called The Skeptical Environmentalist.

The scientific community responded in a way that can only be described as disgraceful. In professional literature, it was complained he had no standing because he was not an earth scientist. His publisher, Cambridge University Press, was attacked with cries that the editor should be fired, and that all right-thinking scientists should shun the press. The past president of the AAAS wondered aloud how Cambridge could have ever “published a book that so clearly could never have passed peer review.” (But of course the manuscript did pass peer review by three earth scientists on both sides of the Atlantic, and all recommended publication.) But what are scientists doing attacking a press? Is this the new McCarthyism-coming from scientists?

Worst of all was the behavior of the Scientific American, which seemed intent on proving the post-modernist point that it was all about power, not facts. The Scientific American attacked Lomborg for eleven pages, yet only came up with nine factual errors despite their assertion that the book was “rife with careless mistakes.” It was a poor display featuring vicious ad hominem attacks, including comparing him to a Holocust denier. The issue was captioned: “Science defends itself against the Skeptical Environmentalist.” Really. Science has to defend itself? Is this what we have come to?


Wikipedia listing of scientists who oppose the Global Warming “consensus.” Note that this listing only includes “scientists with a record of scholarship.”

Author Michael Crichton’s speech defending science, “Aliens Cause Global Warming.”

Scientist Richard Lindzen’s 12 April 2006 editorial, “Climate of Fear.”

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