Beware of False Prophets
Positive public perception of the scientist has long been powerful. The public has the tendency to defer to scientists, as it does to authority in general. It is part of the educational and socialization process inherent in societies. Scientists are in a special category in the public’s mind, since they are perceived to have specialized knowledge that, it is assumed, will benefit society in general and, more importantly, the individual concerned with his own well-being. Scientists are assumed to be the link between the mysteries of our natural world and the means to better our chances of survival in it. They are assumed to be impartial in seeking fact, as best as it can be determined or approximated. From the time of the alchemists to the present, that assumption continues.
Idealism in such scientific pursuits has had a tough time in the real world. When the scientist has convinced himself in the discovery of a new law of nature, his ability to communicate its veracity to the public is equally challenging, and often proves life-threatening. The established order (read: special interests) has been equally ingenious in using its view of the world to its financial and political ends. The ruling classes of all types are highly protective of their means of controlling the public.
When the age of enlightenment produced such an out-pouring of new scientific discoveries seeming to hold benefits for all strata of society, the scientist achieved the respectability not afforded the primitive alchemist. Karl Popper and then Richard Feynman provided the moral underpinnings of what should be the measure of truth in the scientific method.
At each step, the political classes were equally busy looking to bend the curve of new knowledge to their advantage. As dispensers of favors, fame, and funds, they can make tempting offers to those who might see reality their preferred way. In place of Feynman has come post-normal science, a sort of à-la-carte pseudo-scientific expediency in place of old-fashioned “falsifiability.”
Once a relatively obscure field of scientific interest, climatology has become front-page news, and a battleground of competing claims of theory and verifiable knowledge. The origins of this transition have been speculated upon and include post-WWII groups as the Bilderbergs, and more formally the Club of Rome. Population growth, environmental idealism, and new-age earth worship were part of the mix. Intoned guilt over societal progress in bettering bare existence became a new meme for the promoters of societal control.
Energy, increasingly abundant and cheap, literally powered this growing and more prosperous society. Parts of the world benefited unevenly in such growth, but even in the "disadvantaged" parts, energy held promise to better meager existence. The population control activists feared the consequences of such growth in both the developed and undeveloped world. They sought a common enemy, and defined it as mankind. Then they defined man-made carbon dioxide as the global scapegoat.
The recent publication of the latest National Climate Assessment Report, and the EPA proposed rule on carbon dioxide emissions by power plants, can be seen as coordinated assaults on affordable energy in the U.S. The inherent scientific contradictions within these documents and their advocacy in place of impartial scientific argument have been documented by others. The public is left confused and at the mercies of inadequate media reporting, itself a source of one-sided advocacy commentary.
Political wordsmiths have coined the term “carbon pollution.” By stringing together two scientifically unrelated words, they have crafted an emotionally charged term to fit the needs of government and propagandists. We are categorized as “carbon-based life forms.” Carbon dioxide is an inherent and necessary chemical component of all such life. Photosynthesis and the role of carbon dioxide describe the dance of nature by which the carbon dioxide produced by our bodies is part of the atmospheric carbon dioxide that feeds the plants, which in turn produce the oxygen we need to live.
The negative connotation of pollution has been grafted onto carbon in a version of Gresham’s Law – the bad driving out the good. This is not science, but propaganda.
Having defined a new hazard in the minds of public, the government has now assumed the mantle of protector and can prophesize that the new clean air regulations specifically targeting carbon dioxide (“carbon pollution”) will prevent “150,000 asthma attacks in children each year and 20,000 heart attacks,” forestall dangerous climate change, hold back sea-level rise, and prevent global warming. The lack of valid supporting scientific facts to make such claims is ignored, as political dogma has marginalized and even punished scientific dissent.
Federally mandated cures for nonexistent carbon pollution will inflict real heath harm as the less advantaged are forced to pay more for basic energy needs. More expensive heating and cooling bills will be added to more expensive basic food as farmland is used to grow fuel stock produce. More expensive gasoline will hinder trips to the doctor. More expensive transportation and manufacturing processes will increase the cost of living for all and lower the standard of living for many. Bad science kills.
The false prophets have spoken. The admonition “beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” is fair warning.
Charles Battig, M.D. is Piedmont Chapter president, VA-Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment (VA-SEEE). His website is www.climateis.com.