Friday, June 27, 2008

Troglodytes have feelings, too

Since I’m going to be doing a series of posts on Global Warming, I want to make clear where I stand. I’m a skeptic. Yes, I'm one of those people who might as well join the Flat Earth Club.

I’m not really happy about this, of course. My life would be much easier if I could be a Global Warming believer. My friends wouldn’t think I'm a knuckle-dragging troglodyte. I could smirk instead of wince when someone says that the kind of people who don't believe in Global Warming don't believe in evolution either.

Plus there’s a part of me that feels awful about not being a fervent Global Warming believer. What if they're right and I’m wrong and it's my failure to harangue my Congressional delegation that keeps something from being done and the whole world floods and humanity dies out because those few breeding pairs of humans don't make it to Antarctica in time? How bad will I feel then?

At the same time, I keep thinking that's the way I'm supposed to feel and to tell you the truth, I really resent it. I feel the Global Warming believers are pushing my emotional buttons rather than my rational ones and I'm not the slightest bit happy about that.

Not that my rational side is as much help in this as I’d like. I do think there are problems with the science of Global Warming, that a number of scientific issues seem unresolved. Yet I have to admit that I lack the requisite knowledge of math, physics, paleoclimatology, and whatever else to resolve them to my own satisfaction. It’s very frustrating. I’m reasonably bright, went to a good college, did very well in my graduate level Econometrics course. But I read about Global Warming and my head hurts and my eyes bleed. And what keeps running through my head is that stanza from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same door where in I went.

I know the conventional wisdom is that my confusion proves I’m not qualified to understand all this so I should simply accept that since everyone (well, almost everyone, but those other guys don’t count) believes in Global Warming, I should relax, admit my incompetence, and let them tell me what’s best for me and my planet.

I just can’t do it. I’ll talk about my scientific and philosophical misgivings in my upcoming posts about the steps to Global Warming. Here I want to talk about a couple of feelings that make it impossible for me to just believe and accept.

First, I really don’t like the attitude of many Global Warming advocates (by which I mostly mean “the guys who run RealClimate"). Specifically:

1) They're certain. The word "hubris" springs to mind.

2) They're apocalyptic. They remind me uncomfortably of the "Left Behind" guys.

3) They're eager to attack the supposed motives and agendas of Global Warming skeptics. I believe that if you're competent and convinced you're right, you're more likely to deal forthrightly with opposition, attacking ideas rather than people. If you're incompetent or suspect you may be wrong, you're more likely to launch personal attacks on your opponents while refusing to discuss their ideas.

The last point would be funny if this wasn’t all so serious. The Global Warming advocates are quite comfortable charging Global Warming skeptics with being lackeys of the big bad industries that want to keep pumping CO2 into the air but never quite manage to acknowledge that the whole Global Warming schtick is their own ticket to fame and fortune.

I'm far more comfortable with the Global Warming skeptics. They seem less certain and less apocalyptic and they seem to deal more gently with Global Warming believers than the advocates do with them.

Second, I simply do not accept that I am living in the End Time. I realize that is not a totally logical position but I don’t believe it’s a totally illogical one either.

So much for my feelings. Coming soon: “Step by step to Global Warming: What is, was, and will be.”

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