The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Global warming, so-kalled

I almost forgot to mention the most worrying aspect of Altemeyer's book on authoritarianism: his observation that true believers will never be swayed by a little thing like reality. Which certainly explains the whole hating Bill Clinton for his sins while rooting for a serial adulterer Republican.

But that sorta goes along with the recent global warming hoax. It was responsible for the latest tidal wave of sanctimonious outrage in Wingerland, from talk radio to the blogs. Sort of a reactionary Sokal hoax.... wait, that's not really accurate. Because it's more about the mindset of the duped, and in my opinion today's trendy academic theories are every bit as reactionary as today's politics. But that's another conversation entirely.

What I'm getting at is the weird way people have of clinging to what they want to believe, even when it's demonstrably false. Or taking the more "intellectually honest" approach of saying 'even if that instance was false, my point still stands.'

The “death of manmade global warming theory” lasted 70 minutes last week, showing the amazing power of the Web to amplify, and then dismantle, fictions at light speed.

On Nov. 7, news flashed around conservative and climate-skeptic e-mail chains, some Web sites and a couple of talk-radio programs that an important new scientific paper proved that undersea bacteria, not people, were responsible for most of the recent buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

70 minutes is undoubtedly a journalistic convenience, given the many venues in which the article was presented as proof that 98% of the world's scientists know less about climatology than Rush Limbaugh, but it does speak well of the ability to correct misinformation so rapidly with the advent of the Web.

Oh, and there's a much funnier post mortem of the hoax here.