Oftentimes that phrase is used -- Holocaust deniers. But the Holocaust was a historical fact. We're talking here about science, and science usually welcomes opposing views. Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, December 13, 2009
Chris Wallace acts very much like the Holocaust deniers he derides, working hard to confuse any distinction between fact and fraud, opinion and lies. He and his Fox News cohorts have relentlessly touted the journalistic travesty known as "climategate," the 2009 equivalent of the notorious Leuchter report. Just over 20 years ago, Fred Leuchter took some chemical samples from the Auschwitz gas chambers, noted the absence of an iron compound, Prussian Blue, and argued the absence of that chemical proved the absence of cyanide, ergo the Jews must have died of disease, not gassing. Real scientists provided the evidence that discredited Leuchter's findings; they showed that cyanide could exist without Prussian Blue. In other words, Leuchter's irrelevant data point, taken in isolation from a mountain of scientific data, proved nothing. The Holocaust deniers retorted that Leuchter's critics were not conducting a free and open scientific debate. We've heard this kind of dishonest sophistry before, from people who question whether smoking causes cancer, or that HIV causes AIDS.
And on Sunday December 13, we heard it from Chris Wallace, who said science usually welcomes opposing views. Not quite. Science doesn't welcome crackpots who persist in pushing discredited falsehoods, or those who deceitfully conceal facts that refute their own agenda. It does not welcome someone like Wallace, who concealed from viewers any reference to the Associated Press story exposing "climategate" for what it was - a few irrelevant data points, taken in isolation from a mountain of scientific data, that proved nothing. The AP does fact checking. Fox News does not, which is why it had no qualms about touting a sham story for three weeks.
Wallace suggested those who berate the global warming deniers must be driven by some kind of religious fervor. As he told Don Imus:
Well, look, the climate warming thing is pretty interesting. One of the things I love is that people who don't believe it, and look, I'm not smart enough to know whether it's true or it isn't true, but are called deniers, like this is a religion. And they're denying a fact.
I mean, science is science. And supposedly strong science accepts the idea of skeptics and particularly a science like this that is not -- that is not -- well, I suppose that the Al Gores of the world would say it is totally proven, but it doesn't seem to be proven. And, you know, climate- gate is an example of how this has become kind of a religion. And people who are skeptics about it, I think it's fair to call them skeptics, but to call them deniers ascribes a certainty and a kind of religious certainty to climate change that I don't think exists.
Global warming "doesn't seem proven" to charlatans like Wallace, who artfully twisted the concepts of "science" and "religion." He wants viewers to think oxymoronically, because he wants them to think that Al Gore's criticisms are irrational and unfounded. Science is based on observable phenomena that are repeated with mathematical reliability. The reliability may be 100% - the sun always sets in the West - or it may be less than 100%, as with the efficacy of certain cancer medications. But it's something that everyone can observe and agree upon. Religion is about what cannot seen or mathematically tested. It goes far beyond the scope of science, which could never prove or disprove the existence of a just and loving God. Global warming deniers are like the people who deny that bacteria causes disease, not like those who deny the Papal infallibility.
They are the opposite of "skeptics," because they refuse to make an honest effort to consider and weigh evidence.
Anyone with a cursory knowledge of physics knows that the case for global warming is as certain
as death and taxes. The December issue of National Geographic
illustrated this point beautifully. It said, "It's simple, really: As long as we pour CO2 into the atmosphere faster than nature drains it out, the planet warms. And that extra carbon takes a long time to drain out of the tub." Specifically, most of the CO2 generated in the 20th century was absorbed neither by plant life nor the oceans; and it will remain in the environment for over a century, and continue to absorb the sun's heat, driving up atmospheric temperatures even if we dramatically cut back on carbon consumption.
Wallace's false insinuations dovetailed with Fox News' Climate Quiz: How Much Do You Know?
, which intersplices science with right wing propaganda. Each question is prefaced by the famous slogan, "You Decide,"
as if, you decide
whether humans walked the earth with dinosaurs.
As you would expect, a lot of the answers to the quiz are dishonest: "Are global temperatures rising?" Answer: "Coin toss." A coin toss means the probability is 50%, i.e. no more likely to true than to be false. That's the pseudoscientific approach of Fox News. If there's any small variation in the long-term trend, no matter how insignificant, then it's not a trend; it's a coin toss. Winston Churchill smoked and drank and lived till 90? Your neighbor never smoked and died at 48 of lung cancer? Then, in the bizzaro world of Fox News, the connection between cigarettes and longevity is no more than a coin toss.
That particular answer is pretty compelling evidence that Fox News wants to brainwash its audience. As Scientific American
explains, almost none of the global warming deniers actually challenge the notion that the earth's temperatures are rising; they only dispute the notion that the cause of the rising temperature is man-made. A coin toss?
"Is climate change man-made?" "¨Answer:"Coin toss." Again, Scientific American
explains that no one who has ever presented scientific evidence backing up any of the alternative theories that global warming is not man made. And an abundance of peer-reviewed scientific studies confirm our understanding that the causes for climate change are man-made.
Then there's that old right-wing canard: "Is CO2 a pollutant?" Answer:"¨"No. "
This goes to the heart of the scientific case of global warming, and to the heart of the propaganda campaign to brainwash people into thinking that the danger is neither real nor serious. Though CO2 is not toxic, it traps the sun's heat. The fact that CO2 is not a pollutant is irrelevant to the issue of climate change. It is the right wing's Prussian Blue.
On Wallace's program
last Sunday, Bill Kristol used this irrelevancy to further misinform the audience. Mara Liasson played along:
KRISTOL: Look, the one thing that happened that we're going to remember is not the Copenhagen meeting. It's the Environmental Protection Agency ruling issued on December 7th, a day that will live in infamy and that will live in infamy for the EPA, which is an attempt -- a huge regulatory scheme. This is binding. This is real, unlike Copenhagen. And this will be a huge regulatory burden on the U.S. economy. I believe Congress -- next year Congress isn't going to be debating Copenhagen.
They're going to be debating overriding this EPA regulation, which -- I think when people see the extent of it, and its intrusiveness, and the cost to the U.S. economy, people are going to be shocked. And I think Congress can really override it.
WALLACE: Well, let me just pick up on that with you, Mara, for a minute, because let's remind people that the Supreme Court...said that the EPA could regulate carbon dioxide...
LIASSON: That's right.
WALLACE: ... and other greenhouse gas emissions, and the EPA has now gone with this and has had an endangerment finding, saying it's a danger to people's health and that they're going to regulate it unless Congress...
WALLACE: ... legislates. But there's some blowback and pushback in Congress where they're saying, "You know, we may override the EPA..."
WALLACE: "... and prevent them from doing that."
LIASSON: Well, that might happen. I mean, I think right now the ball is in the Senate's court, and they have to figure out what they want to do about the EPA, what they want to do about cap and trade, and when they want to do it. And yeah, I think that's what's going to happen.
Liasson is not stupid. She knows that any talk of the Senate overriding the EPA is pure nonsense. No committee chair would ever allow any such bill to come up for a vote. No such bill could withstand a Senate filibuster, nor could it ever attain a veto-proof majority for passage. But she also knows the drill. Since the global warming deniers must have the same stature and legitimacy as those who believe in science, then the rantings of the global warming deniers on Congress must have the same stature and legitimacy as those who will to craft a cap and trade bill in the Senate.
Some are slicker than others, but all global warming deniers, and their apologists, rely on some kind of dishonest conflation or distortion. Jonah Goldberg
claims that climate scientist Judith Curry agrees with his claim that "the climate change industry is shot through with groupthink." Except that Curry
has no doubt whatsoever about the growing human influence on climate change. Newt Gingrich
says that a guide to the UN negotiations on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), is "purposefully modeled after the Chinese mass murderer Mao Tse-Tung's 'Little Red Book of Communism.'" The words "global warming" were banished from the Fox News hour-long documentary on the water shortage
Sean Hannity said the blame lay with the environmentalists.
Currently, about 300,000 people die
every year from the effects of climate change, with another 325,000 million seriously affected, primarily because of reduced access to fresh and safe drinking water. At its core, global warming denial is like Holocaust denial, an assault on common decency.
[First posted in HuffingtonPost.]
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