Making the Climate Change Case
Suppose someone is convinced that there is global climate change occurring; that it is man-made, and not the result of long-term natural trends; and further, that a massive transfer of power from individuals to government is called-for, as a result. What might he do?
Well, he could argue his case, for one thing. That would seem to be the proper thing, surely, but there are challenges. The case would have to come from data on long-term climate trends, including for time periods well before any systematic record-keeping.
Moreover, the climate trends would have to be world-wide, to be of any use, and obviously for many parts of the world the data is limited in geographic range, not to mention temporally.
An additional challenge to someone trying to make this case is that there are so many events that affect climate trends in difficult to measure ways; events such as volcanoes and ozone layer changes and changes in ocean currents, for examples.
In addition to all that, there is the problem of assigning causation to human burning of fossil fuel. One would have to overcome the wildly erroneous predictions of scientists predicting disaster for many years. At a minimum that suggests major problems with the climate change case thus far.
Rhetorical Use of “Science Denier”
Perhaps the challenges of making the case are too difficult. What then? Well, in a sane universe, nothing. People might feel strongly about the climate change propositions, one way or the other, but there should be nothing left to do but redouble one’s efforts to persuade those in opposition. In a sane universe we would not stoop to manipulation and deceit.
We don’t live in a sane world, alas. We are subject to lies and manipulation by those who support the climate change proposition in all three tiers: (a) that there is climate change that is not cyclical; (b) that it is man-made; and (c) that massive collectivist government intervention is necessary to curtail freedom, in order to correct it.
Here’s an instance of manipulation and deceit. In recent years those who favor a particular proposition of science have taken to calling those in opposition “science deniers.” Why? To suggest that anyone who would have the temerity to oppose their point of view must be a crackpot, like “Holocaust-deniers” or “moon-landing deniers.” And so, if you are unpersuaded about the climate change alarmism (and the implied necessity of a massive power grab in response) you’re not just a skeptic. You’re a “denier.” You’re a nut.
Dictating Language Choice
Now that’s offensive enough. But here’s where it gets creepy. An orthodoxy-imposing organization ironically called the “Committee for Skeptical Inquiry” lobbied hard for use of the phrase “climate change denier,” instead of “climate change skeptic.”
Fair enough, you might say. People use hyperbole in their rhetoric all the time. But this group has gone much further. They have pushed it as a matter of word choice onto public discourse more generally. It’s not enough for them to call a climate change skeptic a “denier.” They actually lobbied for press organizations to join them in this word choice, so that they, too, might pin the “denier” label on anyone who disagrees with the climate change propositions.
Acquiescence to the Thought Police
You might say that’s just aggressive advocacy. Happens all the time, you might think. But here’s where we go from creepy to disturbing. The aforementioned Committee for Skeptical Inquiry reports that The Associated Press has at least partially caved. (Skeptical Inquiry magazine, January/February 2016). According to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the AP doesn’t necessarily commit to “denier,” but they recommend that journalists cease using the word “skeptic.” “Skeptical” might be used of someone who rationally weighs the evidence and comes to a conclusion different from that considered more orthodox. The word “skeptic” is not freighted with the connotation of kookiness, however, so it just won’t do, for the climate change thought police.
This isn’t the first time the “science-denier” slander has been used, and probably won’t be the last. It should be considered a disturbing manipulation of language for political aims, however, regardless of what side of a particular science controversy one is on. In fact, it suggests that the skepticism (er, “denial”) is warranted. Words get manipulated when facts aren’t enough to carry the day.
As you consider the alarmists’ tactics, relish this exquisite irony from the same Committee for Skeptical Inquiry report: “Precision of language should trump political correctness.”