March 23, 2007
Why Did Global Warming Become a Moral Matter?
As a scientist, I find the current strategy of the global warming crusade to be fascinating. Particularly because I am a scientist, I also find it insulting. Everyone should find it very disturbing.
I am referring to the fact that the global warming issue is now regarded as a "moral" matter by its advocates. None other than The High Priest of Global Warming (Al Gore) has decreed it as such. Of course, there is some obvious humor in this because the liberals will also tell you that you "cannot legislate morality". Well, it does not take complicated logic to conclude that if global warming is indeed a moral matter and if it is true that you cannot legislate morality, then it should hold that you cannot legislate global warming.
But making funny distracts us from a deeper concern that should worry anyone who wants to see the truth remain relevant in the matters that face our society. To see this deeper danger, let us forget about global warming for just a moment and consider morality in very general terms.
There are numerous ways to define morality, but one that is particularly helpful here is to regard morality as the "lens" through which one views the facts. Morality should not be used to simply deny the facts; and people who really understand morality do not use it that way. Rather, they use morality to put the facts in a proper context. Morality tells them "what to make of the facts".
This sounds a little abstract, so consider a practical example:
Let us assume that Bob has just shot George dead with a shotgun and that this is an undeniable fact supported by overwhelming evidence. Now, one could use a moral argument to suggest that the shooting was justified as an act of self-defense. Alternately, one could also use a moral argument to insist that the shooting was cold-blooded murder. But one cannot use a moral argument to insist that the shooting simply did not happen. In other words, moral considerations influence how we view the facts and can be used to argue "what we should make of the facts", but they cannot be used to literally change or deny the facts. Whether a claimed fact is indeed true should be a purely intellectual question, rather than a moral one.
Now consider, in contrast, how "morality" is being employed by global warming advocates like Al Gore:
For many years, global warming seemed to be a fact-focused debate. But a persistent problem for the advocates has been dissenting scientific opinion. Some very reputable scientists hold that global warming may be attributed to natural phenomena like the intensity of solar radiation.
Others have valid questions about how much warming will actually occur and how severe the resulting effects will really be. Still others suggest that, if the problem is indeed real and serious, then serious responses are indicated. These folks propose an honest examination of real solutions (like a renewed emphasis on nuclear power) instead of the childish games of useless treaties, carbon credits, windmills and fluorescent light bulbs that seem to enamor so many of the advocates.
It is one thing to write these dissenting opinions off as factually false, but this is apparently no longer regarded as adequate by the global warming advocates. The dissent keeps popping up, it backed by some very reputable people wielding very credible facts, and the availability of alternate information outlets has made it impossible to smother the doubters and dissenters.
Now enter the moral angle. If global warming is now a moral matter, it would seem to suggest an associated implication that these inconvenient viewpoints are immoral. Apparently it is now the duty of "good" people to reject these opinions on this "moral" basis and without regard to whether they are factually true or false.
The most bizarre aspect of this strategy is that it is exactly what the liberals have always (unfairly) accused us conservatives of doing. Here, morality is not being used as a lens through which to view the facts, but rather as a hammer that can smash the inconvenient ones. Regardless of the evidence to the contrary, I must not believe it possible for Bob to have shot George because such a fact is not compatible with the accepted moral viewpoint! If I dare to believe otherwise, then I am "immoral".
The message of these pseudo-moralists is that "good" people must start by accepting the pre-ordained orthodox conclusion and then work backwards through the claimed facts, making not an intellectual assessment of whether they are indeed true, but rather a "moral" assessment of whether or not they agree with the conclusion. Things claimed as facts which are "good" (in this moral sense) should be embraced and those which are "bad" (in this same moral sense) should be discarded, not because they are factually false, but because they are "immoral".
In all honesty, this should scare the heck out of everyone. This is an atmosphere in which scientific inquiry is steered not by factual truth, but by a pre-ordained "moral" position. What is at work here is exactly what the liberals have always claimed to condemn. How is this any different from the decree of a radical theocratic dictator who will allow only those scientific conclusions which are approved by his church?
The liberals always claimed that such behavior - allowing moral considerations to trump factual ones - was the ultimate evil. But apparently, even this "ultimate evil" becomes "acceptable strategy" if the cause is justified. This is "liberal moral relativism" taken to a whole new level.