Sunday, June 22, 2014

Political Science

Anthropological Global Warming (AGW) is the current cause celeb of the environmental movement. It is the new acid rain or urban smog, something that must be remedied no matter what the cost. As a result, the rhetoric and tactics used to defend the anti-carbon agenda betray a definite "the-end-justifies-the-means" agenda. We live in an era when science has been politicized and made to support a specific ideological agenda. Whatever one's view about global warming or climate change, the way the issue has been "debated" in the various public forums should be of great concern. When supporters of active intervention to reduce carbon emissions call their opponents "climate deniers," or accuse them of being "anti-science," we recognize that we are not watching a reasoned discussion. Rather, we are watching a political brawl and a fight for power and control.

Steven Hayward's recent article in the Weekly Standard gives an example of this politicized "debate." He tells of the trials of a Swedish climate scientist who had the temerity to join the board of an organization that was willing to question the science behind AGW. Once his decision became public, he was inundated with denunciations which included threats to his career. Hayward quotes Lin-Art Bergtsson as he reflected on this experience. "In response to a query about the pressure campaign, Bengtsson declined to offer more detail, emailing only that 'the field of climate change has been politically distorted to a degree that I was not aware of. I very much regret this, as I am afraid that this is harming the scientific independence of climate research and perhaps for science in general.'"

Bergtsson's statement expresses the current state of the argument over AGW, it is without question "politically distorted" and stands as a powerful example of the ways that "science" can be used to further a political agenda. But global warming is not the first time that science has been enlisted in a political and ideological cause. Science was marshaled to support eugenics, racial superiority (Nazis), and dialectical materialism (Marxism). While the proper use of science and technology has been of great benefit to mankind, the political use of science has been, at best, counter productive. This is the reason that I am, in the main, suspicious of the alarmism associated with global warming (a.k.a. "Climate Change"), it is attempting to use "science" in order to silence its critics and achieve its political agenda.

The "great grand-daddy" of politicized science is the theory of evolution. It may not have been the first instance, but it certainly has been one of the most pronounced and prolonged efforts to silent opponents and sustain the political influence necessary to maintain its centrality to the modern secular worldview. As a I said in my last post, evolution is essential to the secular-naturalistic explanation of the universe and life. If evolution were ever seriously questioned and abandoned, we would be required by sheer logic to return to the argument from design. The great appeal of evolution to its proponents has always been that it explains the appearance of design in the world without having to say that this design requires a supernatural designer. If we take away evolution, we are left with the necessity of a supernatural designer. This is the reason the theory is so tenaciously defended, and the reason its counterpart, creationism and intelligent design, are not allowed to be taught in our public schools. It also explains why important critics and their books are denigrated as being "anti-science" or "religious" (meaning anti-intellectual and anti-modern).

This all appears to be the result of the influence of postmodern thought among our academics. Evolution precedes postmodernism by at least a century, yet it anticipated many of the uses of propaganda and the manipulation of evidence that we see in the global warming debate today. I would like to say more about postmodernism in the future, but for now I will just cite a statement given by Roger Kimball in the New Criterion (The essay is entitled "The Contemporary Sophist.") He writes, the postmodern project is, "a deliberate attempt to supplant reason by rhetoric, truth by persuasion. This would be bad enough if it were confined to literary texts; extended to legal texts and basic political concepts like justice, it is nothing short of disastrous." In making "truth" political (the postmodern project), it becomes a tool of manipulation for the maintenance of power and influence. The problem is that there is such a thing as truth without quotation marks, and if the "truth" is not actually true, then we can expect the disastrous results that Mr. Kimball speaks of. In the very long run of things, the folly of these ideologies are ultimately exposed, but in the mean time they are capable of terrible amounts of damage. We must, those of us who know the truth, expose the fallacies and deceptive arguments that are used to foist these beliefs and the political agenda that goes with them upon our society. We live in a dangerous age, when one of the most respected sources for the advancement of knowledge; science, has been co-opted and misused for political and ideological purposes. We must recognize this for what it is, an attempt to intimidate and to impose a set of ideological agendas upon us, and we must not stand for it.