Activist Science

Recent attention has focused on the "push to oversimplify" at the IPCC, especially in connection with its 2007 report that announced "unequivocal" evidence of man-made global warming. That report, which has been shown to contain numerous fabrications and distortions of evidence, has been increasingly challenged by prominent climate scientists. Former lead author of the agency's 2001 report John Christy has suggested that pressure of various kinds was exerted to oversimplify IPCC findings, especially in connection with the infamous "hockey stick" theory.

Anyone familiar with the history of the environmental movement would not be surprised by these revelations. The idea that leading scientists would engage in distortion and removal of data, selective use of evidence, suppression of dissenting views, and public relations tactics worthy of Steve Jobs might seem hard to grasp, but ever since the founding of the modern-day environmental movement, this activist approach has been the norm.

The first major figure to enlist in the service of ecological activism was Rachel Carson. Although she was not a research scientist, Carson possessed a remarkable talent for communicating scientific knowledge to the general reader. Her first two books were straightforward narratives that vividly conveyed the secrets of ocean life and shore life to a mass-reading public.

In Carson's last book, however, a dramatic change of perspective occurred -- a change signaled by the book's provisional title, Man Against the Earth. That book, ultimately published under the title Silent Spring, did not simply mirror the scientific literature concerning the effect of DDT and other chemicals on the environment. It took a controversial stand advocating the ultimate elimination of all man-made pesticides, and it backed up its position with a selective and oversimplified use of evidence. It was the first widely disseminated environmentalist tract, but it would not be the last.

As Mark Hamilton Lytle pointed out in his biography of Carson, The Gentle Subversive (New York, 2007), "reducing" the data "to terms that general readers could understand" (page 150) was a major consideration in the composition of Silent Spring. Carson's book, in fact, not only simplified, but biased the argument with its selective treatment of the scientific literature. As an advocate for political action rather than an objective science writer, Carson implied the existence of a consensus where none existed.

It was not just Carson's desire to reach a broad reading public that was at stake, however. Carson had enlisted her writing in the service of a growing political movement that employed public relations attacks, lawsuits, and calls for legislative restrictions on chemical and industrial companies. From the beginning, these efforts displayed a tendency to rely on biased, incomplete, or purely theoretical science.

While Carson herself was relatively prudent in her claims -- even suggesting that DDT might have a limited usefulness in certain situations -- those who followed in her footsteps became increasingly radical. Later books such as Molly Bang's Common Ground: The Water, Earth, and Air We Share and You Are Here: Exposing the Vital Link Between What We Do and What That Does to Our Planet speak freely of "global catastrophe" and "irreparable harm." Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth is a particularly egregious example of this willingness to subordinate science to political ends.

The public relations maneuvering behind Earth Day, first celebrated in 1970, is another example of the acquiescence of science to politics. Originating in the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, Earth Day was promoted by an organized cadre of political aides, media, and environmental groups. It was far from being a spontaneous, grassroots welling-up of national concern, as depicted at the time.

Convinced that the very survival of the planet is at stake, ecological activists seem to believe that practically all means of resistance are justified. In the case of ELF (the violence-prone Environmental Liberation Front), this conviction led to several deaths and the destruction of millions of dollars of property. Yet those who eschew violence have also destroyed lives and property, in some cases on a massive scale. In his novel State of Fear, Michael Crichton depicted environmentalism as a fanatical pseudo-religion -- a view that is not far from the truth. Others have estimated the damage of withholding DDT from developing nations in their fight against malaria and insect-related crop damage. It is impossible to know precisely how many human beings have died because of the reluctance of western aid agencies to fund DDT, but certainly the number runs into the millions.

All of this brings us back to the admitted oversimplification and other failures of the IPCC reports and of the underlying scientific literature upon which they are based. It is important to understand that the mistakes in the 2001 and 2007 IPCC reports are not "lapses" or minor errors: They are the tip of an iceberg of bogus science. There is simply no conclusive evidence that the earth's glaciers are melting, the oceans rising, or storms increasing in intensity as a result of anthropogenic warming.

Even Phil Jones, the British scientist at the center of Climategate, now admits that the medieval period was warmer than the present: How could the medieval period, which ended five hundred years before the invention of the internal combustion engine, have been warmer than the past hundred years if it is fossil fuels that are responsible for global warming? 

Ever since Rachel Carson decided to enlist her talents in the service of an activist agenda, an unholy alliance has existed among scientists on the one side and politicians, bureaucratic institutions, investigative journalists, and partisan non-profit agencies on the other. Working together, they have advanced the anti-growth agenda of environmental regulation, but they have done so at the expense of scientific truth.

The earth's inhabitants are asked to forgo their prosperity, security, and even survival on the basis of an inconclusive and doubtful scientific "consensus." The public is now aware of the fact that it has been conned, and it is time to move toward the next logical step: the undoing of millions of pages of laws, regulations, and restrictions on those industries upon which life and well-being depend.

Dr. Jeffrey Folks taught for thirty years in universities in Europe, America, and Japan. He has published many books and articles on American culture and politics.
Recent attention has focused on the "push to oversimplify" at the IPCC, especially in connection with its 2007 report that announced "unequivocal" evidence of man-made global warming. That report, which has been shown to contain numerous fabrications and distortions of evidence, has been increasingly challenged by prominent climate scientists. Former lead author of the agency's 2001 report John Christy has suggested that pressure of various kinds was exerted to oversimplify IPCC findings, especially in connection with the infamous "hockey stick" theory.

Anyone familiar with the history of the environmental movement would not be surprised by these revelations. The idea that leading scientists would engage in distortion and removal of data, selective use of evidence, suppression of dissenting views, and public relations tactics worthy of Steve Jobs might seem hard to grasp, but ever since the founding of the modern-day environmental movement, this activist approach has been the norm.

The first major figure to enlist in the service of ecological activism was Rachel Carson. Although she was not a research scientist, Carson possessed a remarkable talent for communicating scientific knowledge to the general reader. Her first two books were straightforward narratives that vividly conveyed the secrets of ocean life and shore life to a mass-reading public.

In Carson's last book, however, a dramatic change of perspective occurred -- a change signaled by the book's provisional title, Man Against the Earth. That book, ultimately published under the title Silent Spring, did not simply mirror the scientific literature concerning the effect of DDT and other chemicals on the environment. It took a controversial stand advocating the ultimate elimination of all man-made pesticides, and it backed up its position with a selective and oversimplified use of evidence. It was the first widely disseminated environmentalist tract, but it would not be the last.

As Mark Hamilton Lytle pointed out in his biography of Carson, The Gentle Subversive (New York, 2007), "reducing" the data "to terms that general readers could understand" (page 150) was a major consideration in the composition of Silent Spring. Carson's book, in fact, not only simplified, but biased the argument with its selective treatment of the scientific literature. As an advocate for political action rather than an objective science writer, Carson implied the existence of a consensus where none existed.

It was not just Carson's desire to reach a broad reading public that was at stake, however. Carson had enlisted her writing in the service of a growing political movement that employed public relations attacks, lawsuits, and calls for legislative restrictions on chemical and industrial companies. From the beginning, these efforts displayed a tendency to rely on biased, incomplete, or purely theoretical science.

While Carson herself was relatively prudent in her claims -- even suggesting that DDT might have a limited usefulness in certain situations -- those who followed in her footsteps became increasingly radical. Later books such as Molly Bang's Common Ground: The Water, Earth, and Air We Share and You Are Here: Exposing the Vital Link Between What We Do and What That Does to Our Planet speak freely of "global catastrophe" and "irreparable harm." Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth is a particularly egregious example of this willingness to subordinate science to political ends.

The public relations maneuvering behind Earth Day, first celebrated in 1970, is another example of the acquiescence of science to politics. Originating in the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, Earth Day was promoted by an organized cadre of political aides, media, and environmental groups. It was far from being a spontaneous, grassroots welling-up of national concern, as depicted at the time.

Convinced that the very survival of the planet is at stake, ecological activists seem to believe that practically all means of resistance are justified. In the case of ELF (the violence-prone Environmental Liberation Front), this conviction led to several deaths and the destruction of millions of dollars of property. Yet those who eschew violence have also destroyed lives and property, in some cases on a massive scale. In his novel State of Fear, Michael Crichton depicted environmentalism as a fanatical pseudo-religion -- a view that is not far from the truth. Others have estimated the damage of withholding DDT from developing nations in their fight against malaria and insect-related crop damage. It is impossible to know precisely how many human beings have died because of the reluctance of western aid agencies to fund DDT, but certainly the number runs into the millions.

All of this brings us back to the admitted oversimplification and other failures of the IPCC reports and of the underlying scientific literature upon which they are based. It is important to understand that the mistakes in the 2001 and 2007 IPCC reports are not "lapses" or minor errors: They are the tip of an iceberg of bogus science. There is simply no conclusive evidence that the earth's glaciers are melting, the oceans rising, or storms increasing in intensity as a result of anthropogenic warming.

Even Phil Jones, the British scientist at the center of Climategate, now admits that the medieval period was warmer than the present: How could the medieval period, which ended five hundred years before the invention of the internal combustion engine, have been warmer than the past hundred years if it is fossil fuels that are responsible for global warming? 

Ever since Rachel Carson decided to enlist her talents in the service of an activist agenda, an unholy alliance has existed among scientists on the one side and politicians, bureaucratic institutions, investigative journalists, and partisan non-profit agencies on the other. Working together, they have advanced the anti-growth agenda of environmental regulation, but they have done so at the expense of scientific truth.

The earth's inhabitants are asked to forgo their prosperity, security, and even survival on the basis of an inconclusive and doubtful scientific "consensus." The public is now aware of the fact that it has been conned, and it is time to move toward the next logical step: the undoing of millions of pages of laws, regulations, and restrictions on those industries upon which life and well-being depend.

Dr. Jeffrey Folks taught for thirty years in universities in Europe, America, and Japan. He has published many books and articles on American culture and politics.