I recently came across a relative in my facebook linking this article
And I simply could not resist addressing it. As before, I’ll assume here that you’ve already read the Gizmodo article.
“and carried a laughably transparent goal: undermining support for renewable energy, and boosting support for fossil fuels. ”
He starts very early on, while claiming to be the voice of rational and neutral science, by poisoning the well (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoning_the_well). He presents the case as though it is fundamentally incorrect or improper for someone in Perry’s position to try and completely honestly prove that his methods are more effective. This is no different whatsoever from people going out of their way to promote a renewable energy agenda, as many public officials do to which he presumably has no objection. He just changes his standards of neutrality here because he doesn’t agree with Rick Perry.
“This is a risk when you do science backwards, when you put conclusions before data: observable reality might not agree with your predetermined conclusion.”
He mockingly states this, but this is precisely the argument that those who oppose climate alarmists make. That the objective data of the earth’s temperature do not match the computer generated models based on popular scientists’ hypothesis. He makes this very good point and then IMMEDIATELY disregards it in his own article.
“But the DOE study gives us a glimpse into an emerging Trump Scientific Method that places predetermined conclusions front-and-center. ”
The entire premise of the new administration, and I’m not saying that they’re correct, is that the existing scientific elite were doing precisely this. Obviously no one can defeat them rhetorically this way because they agree with it. They merely believe his side to be the one placing conclusions before process.
“Though the DOE study has already highlighted the absurdity in this approach,”
How? It tested a hypothesis, the hypothesis was shown to be incorrect. That the hypothesis was shown to be incorrect is showing that the process is working, not that it isn’t working. The success or lack therof in a scientific study isn’t determined by whether or not the hypothesis was proven, but whether or not useful data was obtained. He knows this of course, but those goal posts must move as often as is necessary for maximum ridicule of his opponents.
“the most egregious example to surface of late is EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s idea for a “red team-blue team debate” on climate science. ”
The contention here is that the scientific response is that you must agree with whatever the most popular idea is without dispute? This isn’t a scientific argument anymore from Mr. Levitan, it’s a religious one. The argument is that disagreeing with the most popular scientific view is heresy and can be dismissed out of hand. I’m sure I disagree with Scott Pruitt on a wide variety of issues, but this isn’t how you defeat them. This is how you convince an entire generation of rational thinkers that absolutely everything about climate change is a hoax because your defense of it is so irrational.
“He is apparently already staffing up toward this goal.”
Heaven forbid that the public could get to see an open debate where both sides defend their ideas. If there’s one thing the obvious objective truth should fear, it’s open discussion then, isn’t it? Now personally, as a far right conservative, I’m skeptical of major climate change claims, particularly the comically melodramatic doomsday predictions, but I’m far more open to the idea than most. I admit to not knowing the science well enough to come to an educated opinion. So what is being advertised here, when one side of the argument declares itself above open and honest debate? What does the truth have to fear from light? It suggests rather strongly that you don’t think your own ideas are as bulletproof as you’re suggesting. Let’s look at how honest apologists behave. How did Christopher Hitchens approach Atheism, a truth he felt was rather self-evident? When he wrote books attacking religion, did he sit back at a traditional book release tour and pat himself on the back for his ideas being above reproach? No, on his book tour he openly challenged any and every religious apologist of every kind to come and refute the ideas presented in his book in an open and public forum. This is how someone behaves when they are truly confident that the facts are on their side, and I say that as someone who disagrees with Hitchens about God. However unnecessary you personally feel the argument, refusing to have one makes it appear as though you have something to hide.
“Even more scientists—like, thousands and thousands of them—could study the climate over a period of decades, submit their findings to journals and subject them to robust peer review, and then collect those carefully reviewed findings into massive, thorough documents summarizing all the available knowledge on this incredibly complex topic. Just spitballing here.”
He rolls this out as though this same process doesn’t result in wildly inaccurate conclusions all the time, or that this process is immune to massive political interference. From benign examples like Pluto’s status as a planet, or the existence of any number of dinosaurs we were taught as kids that didn’t actually exist, to more substantial issues like the constant political corruption of American nuitritional organizations, science must constantly and forever be critiqued and corrected.
Ignoring all other examples, just taking climate change theories themselves, this argument gets even weaker. It was accepted science that we were going to hit peak oil 40 years ago. It was accepted science that by the time of the 21st century, we would be covered in a new ice age, not debating an increase to our temperature. For every correct statement the scientific community has made on climate change, there are twenty embarrassingly inaccurate ones they’ve made. So now, after a century of being wrong on the issue in every conceivable way, now after Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” has had nearly all of its predictions fail to pass a scant ten years later, now he argues that people are being irrational if they don’t take the popular science as absolute truth which cannot be questioned?
There’s no point in time where the truth gets to stop defending itself with a hand wave. No, there’s no rational reason to believe vaccines cause autism. No that doesn’t mean you get to avoid having the debate.
” Just to reiterate, there is zero such debate on the reality of human-caused climate change going on today in science.”
Now he’s just overtly lying. While there’s not much debate on whether or not it exists *at all*, there is constant debate over the degree to which these things are the case, or what are sensible measures, if any, to take to respond to them. Not to mention what I consider the most important part of the debate which he simply takes as assumed, “what is the role of government in forcing these policies on the public?” It is virtually impossible in a world with access to Google to tell a lie like this and retain credibility. It takes mere moments to disprove the statement.
“The EPA has put off a regulation making it harder for power plants to dump toxic metals into public waterways, ostensibly to “reconsider” the rule’s cost and feasibility—though, like every EPA reg, its costs and benefits were studied before it was finalized”
“Ryan Zinke’s Department of the Interior is “reviewing” some National Monuments, in what some fear is a smokescreen for an inevitable sell-off of public lands”
Here he lists some “sins”, but he does so with a false premise. That the people he’s criticizing would, if honest and agreeing on the same facts, agree with the proper role of government in the situation. He does this in spite of constant and extremely public rhetoric every single day on the internet, on television, and on radio, that a large portion of the country wants to limit governmnet’s involvement in just about everything. If you ignore this fundamental difference on governing philosphy, it is much easier to paint the other side as snidely whiplash twirling their collective mustaches. This is a very common tactic with the left though. On any charitable program of the day, the left wants more government involvement, the right wants less. The left responds by judging the right as though they *really* secretly did want government involvement though, and just didn’t care about whatever the charitable cause of the day is. There are versions of this from right to left of course, but they aren’t as relevant to his article.
“Congress is also getting in on this approach, with the HONEST Act, a bill that would require the EPA use only publicly-available science and data to do anything at all. It basically presumes government scientists are concocting fakeresults in underground lairs”
This is getting to the point of self parody. He just wrote several paragraphs elaborating in great detail about how spectacularly one administration has politicized science in just half a year, and is now mocking the notion that a dozen administrations over decades could possibly have politicized science even a tiny bit. Virtually every presidency, in spite of his clearly biased set of examples, has politicized science to push one social agenda or another. Being skeptical of the data being given you is a PRO science stance. Even if you assume his facts are correct, this is still something of a ridiculous position to take. So he’s saying that the Trump administration is taking over the scientific community to falsify results and implement whatever policy he wants, and his solution is to allow this set of Trump directed scientists to have the ability to do whatever research they want in total secret and free from scrutiny? It seems he’s just being contrarian now. Even a position that would help him defend his agenda from Trump must be opposed if someone on the right is the one presenting it.
” Those same scientists have said it would hamstring the agency to a damaging degree. ”
The scientists who are suspected of giving dishonest politicized results protesting that their science shouldn’t be open to the public is perhaps not the MOST convincing argument for someone who doesn’t already believe you. Just a thought.
“Scientific advisory boards have been disbanded, the Office of Science and Technology Policy remains drastically understaffed and without a director, and scientists in various corners of government have been so dicked around that they’re starting to blow the whistle on some shady practices.”
The Trump administration has actually been extremely lax on lower level staffing across the board. This isn’t a problem unique to science.
“Ronald Reagan failed to mention the AIDS crisis until 1985, in spite of clear scientific and public health imperatives to act. ”
There objectively, measurably, was not an AIDS “crisis”. It’s a completely preventable disease which effected, by disease standards, an absolutely tiny portion of the population. It’s tragic when it effects someone of course, but it is nowhere near the scale of say, diabetes which isn’t completely preventable and kills in dramatically larger numbers. Being an obvious left wing writer though, I’m sure he simply couldn’t pass up a chance to take a shot at Reagan, no matter how much of a stretch the argument is to relate to the topic at hand.
“George W. Bush’s team famously tried to mangle an EPA report on climate change in 2003, but in that case, the EPA administrator wasn’t on board with the project: Christine Todd Whitman, who was appointed by Bush, called that interference “brutal,” and resigned not long afterward.”
And nowhere to be seen are any of the examples of people mangling EPA reports to further the agenda Mr. Levitan happens to like, such as the 2015 report on fracking which, after years of study and tens of millions of dollars could find no evidence of fracking impacting drinking water, altered its conclusions due to outside political pressure https://www.heartland.org/news-opinion/news/epas-about-face-on-fracking-report-science-or-politics Again, This man isn’t the objective voice of scientific reasoning he presents. He’s doing precisely the same thing as he’s criticizing the Trump administration of doing, ignoring all the facts that don’t conform to his narrative.
He ends his article by openly calling his opponents anti-science zealots, mostly just for disagreeing with him and requiring that his conclusions be debated. I don’t mean to make any statement about climate change here. The more I read on the subject, the more clear it is that I don’t have anywhere close to the time necessary to research it properly. What I can make time for is speaking against this bigoted nonsense. You’re trying to argue that your side has a moral authority to rewrite the structure of government to give itself the power to make grand sweeping decisions that effect the lives of every American. You don’t get to do that without making your case. Yes, every single day. The environmental lobby, factually correct in their point of view or not, have been given sweeping anti-constitutional powers to get their job done. They don’t get to sneer and look down at people for questioning how they use that power.