Beware of false Prophets

mgdn92hBy Charles Battig, M.D.

Positive public perception of the scientist has long been powerful.  The public has the tendency to defer to scientists, as it does to authority in general.  It is part of the educational and socialization process inherent in societies.

Scientists are in a special category in the public’s mind, since they are perceived to have specialized knowledge that, it is assumed, will benefit society in general and, more importantly, the individual concerned with his own well-being. 

Scientists are assumed to be the link between the mysteries of our natural world and the means to better our chances of survival in it.  They are assumed to be impartial in seeking fact, as best as it can be determined or approximated.  From the time of the alchemists to the present, that assumption continues.

Idealism in such scientific pursuits has had a tough time in the real world.  When the scientist has convinced himself in the discovery of a new law of nature, his ability to communicate its veracity to the public is equally challenging, and often proves life-threatening.  The established order (read: special interests) has been equally ingenious in using its view of the world to its financial and political ends.  The ruling classes of all types are highly protective of their means of controlling the public.

When the age of enlightenment produced such an out-pouring of new scientific discoveries seeming to hold benefits for all strata of society, the scientist achieved the respectability not afforded the primitive alchemist.  Karl Popper and then Richard Feynman provided the moral underpinnings of what should be the measure of truth in the scientific method.

At each step, the political classes were equally busy looking to bend the curve of new knowledge to their advantage.  As dispensers of favors, fame, and funds, they can make tempting offers to those who might see reality their preferred way.  In place of Feynman has come post-normal science, a sort of à-la-carte pseudo-scientific expediency in place of old-fashioned “falsifiability.”

Once a relatively obscure field of scientific interest, climatology has become front-page news, and a battleground of competing claims of theory and verifiable knowledge.  The origins of this transition have been speculated upon and include post-WWII groups as the Bilderbergs, and more formally the Club of Rome.  Population growth, environmental idealism, and new-age earth worship were part of the mix.  Intoned guilt over societal progress in bettering bare existence became a new meme for the promoters of societal control.

Energy, increasingly abundant and cheap, literally powered this growing and more prosperous society.  Parts of the world benefited unevenly in such growth, but even in the “disadvantaged” parts, energy held promise to better meager existence.  The population control activists feared the consequences of such growth in both the developed and undeveloped world.  They sought a common enemy, and defined it as mankind.  Then they defined man-made carbon dioxide as the global scapegoat.

The recent publication of the latest National Climate Assessment Report, and the EPA proposed rule on carbon dioxide emissions by power plants, can be seen as coordinated assaults on affordable energy in the U.S.  The inherent scientific contradictions within these documents and their advocacy in place of impartial scientific argument have been documented by others.  The public is left confused and at the mercies of inadequate media reporting, itself a source of one-sided advocacy commentary.

Political wordsmiths have coined the term “carbon pollution.”  By stringing together two scientifically unrelated words, they have crafted an emotionally charged term to fit the needs of government and propagandists.  We are categorized as “carbon-based life forms.”  Carbon dioxide is an inherent and necessary chemical component of all such life.  Photosynthesis and the role of carbon dioxide describe the dance of nature by which the carbon dioxide produced by our bodies is part of the atmospheric carbon dioxide that feeds the plants, which in turn produce the oxygen we need to live.

The negative connotation of pollution has been grafted onto carbon in a version of Gresham’s Law – the bad driving out the good.  This is not science, but propaganda.

Having defined a new hazard in the minds of public, the government has now assumed the mantle of protector and can prophesize that the new clean air regulations specifically targeting carbon dioxide (“carbon pollution”) will prevent “150,000 asthma attacks in children each year and 20,000 heart attacks,” forestall dangerous climate change, hold back sea-level rise, and prevent global warming.  The lack of valid supporting scientific facts to make such claims is ignored, as political dogma has marginalized and even punished scientific dissent.

Federally mandated cures for nonexistent carbon pollution will inflict real heath harm as the less advantaged are forced to pay more for basic energy needs.  More expensive heating and cooling bills will be added to more expensive basic food as farmland is used to grow fuel stock produce.  More expensive gasoline will hinder trips to the doctor.  More expensive transportation and manufacturing processes will increase the cost of living for all and lower the standard of living for many.  Bad science kills.

The false prophets have spoken.  The admonition “beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” is fair warning.


 

Charles Battig, M.D. is Piedmont Chapter president, VA-Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment (VA-SEEE).  His website is www.climateis.com.

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41 Responses to Beware of false Prophets

  1. Peter Pearson says:

    Over the past 400 years, science as an institution has earned a huge amount of respect from the public — repect for its ability to deliver useful or impressive advances, and respect for its devotion (on the whole, with temporary departures) to honoring truth and ignoring politics. Over the past 30 years, though, we have seen a sustained effort to “cash in” this reputation, to convert it into a machine for cementing political power. We see scientifically outrageous behavior from prominent figures who are little more than politicians in lab coats, we hear “science says” bandied about as a blatant, logically fallacious appeal to authority, and we are bombarded with assertions that counting noses is a reliable method of establishing scientific truth. The public’s respect for science may never recover. I feel as if I’m watching a 400-year accumulation of fine brass laboratory instruments being melted down to make cannon barrels for a religious war.

  2. Pete says:

    Dr. Battig’s essay should be sent to every newspaper in the land with a challenge addressed to each: “Do you believe in reporting the truth, or not?”

  3. philjourdan says:

    “Bad science kills.”

    Better words were never spoken. CO2 is a by product of cheap energy. Cheap energy has increased the life span of most humans to the point now that they are simply dying due to wearing out (versus before when any nasty bug would lay waste to a family or clan). By throttling a by product, with no ill effects other than a perceived warming effect (unproven), they seek to throttle cheap energy. And thus force humanity back to an age of “blood letting” and leeches. Many alarmists claim we are not charging the correct price for energy due to the deleterious affect of CO2, focusing solely on a conjecture without factoring in the positive implications. And in so doing, the law of unintended consequences (they may be intended by some) will see greater misery, death and poverty than any miniscule warming that may result from the by product of cheap energy.

  4. Joseph Bastardi says:

    Outstanding

  5. Bill Taylor says:

    to me any person using the scientific method IS a “scientist”, which means those promoting that humans have taken control over the climate via releasing co2 are NOT scientists since NONE of them are using scientific method………..also only fools believe having “credentials” makes one right.

  6. PMHinSC says:

    Perhaps slightly OT but interesting:
    FiveThirtyEight has an article that shows “Global warming” ranks 24th in the list of “Most-Edited Wikipedia Articles.”
    http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/the-100-most-edited-wikipedia-articles/

  7. norah4you says:

    Good point Bill Taylor June 9 9:11 AM
    Real good points… not only one but two. The last is essential “creditentials”, titles or degrees doesn’t make anyone always right. the scientific method, here in Sweden called Theories of Science, is what’s make or brake a “cake”. With the cake rise, without it always lack risepowder no matter who say otherwise.

  8. otsar says:

    Well said.

  9. Eustace Cranch says:

    Pete says:
    June 9, 2014 at 8:27 am
    Dr. Battig’s essay should be sent to every newspaper in the land with a challenge addressed to each: “Do you believe in reporting the truth, or not?”

    But most of them sincerely believe they are doing just that. They’re wrong, of course, but they don’t see it that way.

  10. Gary says:

    To counter balance the image of beneficence and wisdom, the mad scientist meme is fully embedded in the westernized public’s mind. Waiting for the time when it gets attached to climate science. Perhaps that will come with a movie about a failed geo-engineering project.

  11. Mike Maguire says:

    “Political wordsmiths have coined the term “carbon pollution.”

    When I was in elementary school we learned about photosynthesis:

    Sunshine +H2O +CO2 = Sugar(food) + Oxygen

    Add some essential minerals, usually from the soil and it sure as hell doesn’t appear to be pollution to me!

    Great article!

  12. tm willemse says:

    Political wordsmiths have coined the term “carbon pollution.”… the new clean air regulations specifically targeting carbon dioxide (“carbon pollution”)
    I believe the use of the phrase “carbon pollution” is supposed to have the same effect on the people as the phrase “the video” was supposed to hide the true nature of the attack on Benghazi. People aren’t supposed to think of a clear gas anymore, they’re supposed to think of a black soot particulate that is genuinely harmful, even deadly. All these years they’ve been hammering on CO2, now suddenly CO2 has been dropped from the vocabulary as if it was never there to begin with, and substituted with “carbon.” The earth, is turns out, doesn’t have a fever. The Arctic ice, which was to have disappeared, is still there, the Antarctic ice is increasing and may surpass records soon. It is well nigh time to change the meme from the clear and, as it turns out, mainly impotent gas, CO2, labeled a global killer, to dirty, dangerous, and deadly “carbon.” Will it work?

  13. Brian says:

    Back in the day, Anthony Pratkanis wrote a telling (and very readable paper) called “How to Sell a Pseudoscience.” http://tinyurl.com/2v5jw The paper is a step-by-step approach to persuading people to believe something (well, to believe anything, however ridiculous it might be).

    IMO, it’s a must-read for anyone interested in how people come to believe, and then why they are unable to be persuaded out of that belief no matter the evidence.

    (Pratkanis is a psychologist who’s interest is in persuasion — as in “Holy cow! How could anyone believe that?”)

  14. Latitude says:

    Scientists are in a special category in the public’s mind…..a person that has no clue…and is trying to get one

  15. Scarface says:

    I couldn’t agree more.

    + beware of prophets making profits

  16. tm willemse says:

    Support for climate policy and societal action are linked to perceptions about scientific agreement – See more at: http://environment.yale.edu/climate-communication/article/support-climate-policy-action-linked-perceptions-about-scientific-agreement/#sthash.bqTSC4kT.nvKNBn5O.dpuf
    This builds on what you just posted, which was very interesting and appropreate .

  17. Zeke says:

    Battig writes, “When the age of enlightenment produced such an out-pouring of new scientific discoveries seeming to hold benefits for all strata of society, the scientist achieved the respectability not afforded the primitive alchemist. Karl Popper and then Richard Feynman provided the moral underpinnings of what should be the measure of truth in the scientific method.

    At each step, the political classes were equally busy looking to bend the curve of new knowledge to their advantage. As dispensers of favors, fame, and funds, they can make tempting offers to those who might see reality their preferred way. In place of Feynman has come post-normal science, a sort of à-la-carte pseudo-scientific expediency in place of old-fashioned “falsifiability.””

    Battig is a wonderful writer. I think that the ruthless, extractive, debauched aristocracy that uses laws to remove other people’s property – or perhaps worse, to command the use of other people’s property – is an ancient problem. What is interesting is to note the major inventions and discoveries which were made by accident, or by an amateur, or by an ingenious person trying to solve a simple problem. The debauched aristocracy also re-writes history to try to claim, or to give the impression, that all achievement comes from their class and their own educational back ground. This class arrogance embedded deep in the structure of the history books contributes greatly to the misplaced trust in experts. And it is truly instructive to remember that the Romans considered it entirely matter-of-course to plagiarize or rephrase other culture’s work and literature. This is another way that the extractive, ruthless aristocracy maintains its completely unwarranted image of superiority.

    But the victim is also responsible for his own powerful addiction to believing experts, to some extent.

  18. Curious George says:

    A week ago I received an email from John Podesta, Counselor to the President. It starts “Power plants currently churn out about 40 percent of the carbon pollution in the air we breathe, and contribute to hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and thousands of heart attacks.”

    I asked the Counselor what exactly a carbon pollution was. No answer so far. Maybe he does not know. I am beginning to doubt the quality of his counsel.

  19. Zeke says:

    “Federally mandated cures for nonexistent carbon pollution will inflict real heath harm as the less advantaged are forced to pay more for basic energy needs.”

    It’s not just rising prices, but instability, black outs and price volatility, which will combine to create the “need” for rationing through Smart meters. Already investors are lining up to make a lot of money placing these on homes all over the globe, by 2020. Smart meters also have remote control capabilities. And so the grid is made extremely vulnerable to centralized government control by these renewables. Next up: “If you like your home’s electric meter, you can keep your home’s electric meter.”

  20. Kevin Kilty says:

    Brian says:
    June 9, 2014 at 10:48 am
    Back in the day, Anthony Pratkanis wrote a telling (and very readable paper) called “How to Sell a Pseudoscience.” http://tinyurl.com/2v5jw The paper is a step-by-step approach to persuading people to believe something (well, to believe anything, however ridiculous it might be).

    It’s an interesting read, but I notice that Pratkanis, who is a psychologist, classifies science as an example of “pseudoscience” when George Price attacks Joseph Rhine the parapsychologist. Isn’t this too just like climate scientists defending their work against science? We all have our weaknesses–it’s difficult to be a consistent skeptic. Pratkanis says that Price attacked Rhine without sufficient data, but Irving Langmuir had whacked Rhine even harder two years earlier in his lectures at General Electric.

  21. Curious George says:

    H/t Scarface: Beware of false Prophessors.

  22. Bob Tisdale says:

    Thanks, Charles.

  23. Mickey Reno says:

    Curious George, writes: A week ago I received an email from John Podesta, Counselor to the President. It starts “Power plants currently churn out about 40 percent of the carbon pollution in the air we breathe, and contribute to hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and thousands of heart attacks.”

    Another one the many non-science claims from alarmists is that skepticism (denialism) is tied to libertarian and rightist ideology whereas alarmist positions have NO ties to leftist ideology. The leftists would say “we’re pure, we’re objective, we’re centrists, we’re scientists, we’re correct. And if you disagree with us, you ought to go to jail!”

    Let’s not lose track of this axiomatic truth. Much of the hype and alarmism in the CAGW debate is about making largely ignorant people scared enough or angry enough to vote when they otherwise might have been content enough with their personal situation to skip voting altogether. Taken in that light, all Podesta’s blather means is “vote for our side, vote for Democrats, contribute to Democrats.”

  24. noaaprogrammer says:

    As a coddled society flourishes in the many benefits of science, this unfortunately has its own negative feedback of eutrophication: lack of common sense.

  25. Gunga Din says:

    Curious George says:
    June 9, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    A week ago I received an email from John Podesta, Counselor to the President. It starts “Power plants currently churn out about 40 percent of the carbon pollution in the air we breathe, and contribute to hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and thousands of heart attacks.”

    I asked the Counselor what exactly a carbon pollution was. No answer so far. Maybe he does not know. I am beginning to doubt the quality of his counsel.

    ======================================================================
    Lets hope they don’t come after “Nitrogen Pollution”.

  26. Neo says:

    I always thought that the “Separation of Church and State” kept the government out of the armageddon like photphecy business.

  27. Kevin Kilty says:

    Zeke says:
    June 9, 2014 at 12:44 pm
    “Federally mandated cures for nonexistent carbon pollution will inflict real heath harm as the less advantaged are forced to pay more for basic energy needs.”

    Although the example of Obamacare is instructive here, these less advantaged people may not end up paying more, they may receive benefits to help them pay less, but an unintended consequence of this is to place even further out of reach any ability for them to take control of their own lives. Turning people into captives ranks among the worst ethical and moral aspects of the welfare state.

  28. @ Charles Battig

    This essay is one of the best I have read here in a long time. Good on you mate.

  29. Barbara says:

    Stanford University, Precourt Energy Efficiency Center
    Behavior & Energy Cluster
    Has information on the acceleration of the adoption & sustained use of energy-efficient technologies and climate-positive actions by individuals, groups and organizations.
    http://peec.stanford/behavior
    Behavior modification techniques used to accelerate the adoption of energy-efficient technologies.

  30. Louis Hooffstetter says:

    As Bill Taylor points out: scientists, by definition are those who follow the scientific method – period. If you don’t follow the scientific you are NOT a scientist, and no one can grant you that title. It is abundantly clear that very few of those who call themselves ‘Climatologists’ are scientists. None of the members of the ‘Real Climate’ team, none of the CMIP-5 computer modelers, and very few IPCC contributing authors are scientists. They cannot be called scientists because they consistently fail to follow the scientific method. Whatever advanced degrees they hold are irrelevant. Whatever positions they have been appointed to in Universities and professional societies are irrelevant. If you never follow the scientific method, you will never be a scientist – ever, no matter what. If you don’t follow the scientific method, advanced degrees in Physics, Mathematics, and Meteorology are of no more value than advanced degrees in Theology, Astrology, Phrenology, Numerology, Iridology, or Scatology. (My apologies to Scatologists, who actually are scientists). Professional societies that honor those who fail to follow the scientific method are simply demonstrating the depth of their corruption.

    Please point this out at every opportunity.

  31. thingadonta says:

    I don’t think science has ever really been any different. There are always radicals who migrate to where the money and power or vulneribility is, and exploit it for their own ends. The same thing occurs within religion also. And often the very fact that there is a sense of honesty and objectivity in a place is part of the reason they migrate there, so as to take advantage of basic naiveté. These things have always been around.

    What is not entirely clear to me is why societies still haven’t learnt from past mistakes. The information age certainly helps, but there is little doubt that humans are wired to take up social and moral causes and group together for mutual benefit, but which is easily taken advantage of, particularly in the young.

  32. michaelozanne says:

    Fortunately we have some secret video of the IPCC narrative selection committee in action…

  33. terrarious says:

    Thanks Charles Battig MD I cannot agree more. Magnificent I intend to keep this one

  34. Tom O says:

    As a teen, I first learned that things weren’t always whatyou were taught. A friend and I were putting little political statements – strips of paper about 2 inches tall, on every door on main street telling people to vote for N ixon for President. When the democratic sheriff saw us doing that, we were ordered to stop, although justthe day before someone had done the same thing for the Kennedy/Johnson ticket. It was my first brush with the fact that “professionals” are not always what you think.

    Later I came to realize that the eye doctor I was going to for glasses was fitting me with glasses that were strongerthan I needed, thus they were literally further weakening my eyes and insuring I would be back for more glasses.

    Still later I came to realizethat the doctor I was going to was giving me medications not for what my problem was, but for my symptoms, and when I finally started looking to find ways to attack the problem, it went away. And then, of course, there are politicians and how hard they work “for the good of the average person.”

    At that point in my life – about 40 years ago, actually – I started looking at “profesionals” not as highly regarded people, but as people specializing in their own self interests. That’s when I saw “scientists and engineers” developing things that could kill or maim better, but not actually improve life for the masses. I realized that there was no people that was to be automatically given the respect I gave professionals when I was young any more. They had to earn my respect, and few were those that did.

    Science has “earned” my disrespect and disbelief, and so called climate science has taken “science” to a whole new, lower level of respectability. Right down they’re down there with politicians and prostitutes. Well, that’s not being fair to the prostitutes since they do serve a valid purpose.

  35. herkimer says:

    On a previous track I commented on the fact that not a single scientific body or medical body had objected to carbon dioxide being erroneously called a pollutant by EPA . Charles, you are clearly an exception to that observation. Thanks for the fine article. It would appear that all these scientific and medical societies have lost their credibility and their scientific backbone. It is sad when an arm of the Federal government takes upon itself to deliberately mislead the public and those who are in the scientific and medical professions who know that this is wrong just let it happen. . .

  36. rishrac says:

    In Korea is one of the world’s first astronomical observatories built by the great queen Seondok. Of course the nobles weren’t using scientific information, like when a solar or lunar eclipse would occur, to fatten their own pockets or further their interests.

  37. wally says:

    Joint Statement on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Rule on carbon emissions

    Lutherans and Episcopalians collectively celebrate and support the release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon rule for existing power plants. As faith traditions committed to the health, flourishing, and sanctity of human communities and God’s creation, we believe that the carbon rule is a critical step toward safeguarding the lives and livelihood of future generations.

    Recent reports outline the enormous impacts that climate change is already having on our world. Multi-year droughts, sea level rise, extreme weather events, and increased flooding dramatically affect communities internationally, from the Inupiat on the north slope of Alaska to Midwestern farming families to our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. We recognize with concern that climate change particularly harms low income communities that lack the resources and technology to adapt to rapid environmental changes.

    These impacts are already affecting global agriculture, and with it, food supplies and prices. Ending hunger and alleviating global poverty are key concerns for our faith traditions. Yet our work faces the daunting and interconnected challenges of addressing hunger and poverty in a rapidly changing climate. Sustainable solutions must include both poverty alleviation and environmental conservation.

    Power plants are the single largest source of carbon dioxide pollution in the United States and major contributors to climate change. These emissions not only threaten the environmental stability of our planet, but also the health of young children and their families, disproportionally affecting the poorest among us. Yet there are currently no limits on power plant emissions of greenhouse gases.

    The carbon rule proposed this week will reduce the carbon dioxide output from existing power plants, setting a strong standard that will modernize our nation’s power plants while limiting our contribution to global climate change. Reducing carbon emissions from power plants must be a top priority for the U.S. if we hope to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and ensure a just and sustainable world for our generation and those to come.

    Our faith traditions teach us that no single person can be whole unless all have the opportunity for full and abundant life. That wholeness and collective well-being is only possible as a global community. We recognize our connections to fellow citizens and neighbors around the world who are already suffering from the consequences of climate change, and acknowledge our responsibility to those yet unborn, who will either benefit from our efforts to curb carbon emissions or suffer from our failure to address this ethical imperative. We believe that addressing climate change is a moral obligation to our neighbors and to God’s creation, so that all may enjoy full, healthy, and abundant lives.

    The proposed carbon rule for existing power plants is the single largest step that we can take now to address the pressing issue of climate change. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Episcopal Church are eager to collaborate with the EPA and states across the nation to ensure that the carbon rule is implemented fairly, particularly for low-income consumers. We will continue to pray that all involved in this good work will be graced with vision, hope, and the search for truth as they seek to implement the carbon rule swiftly and effectively.

    The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

    Presiding Bishop and Primate

    The Episcopal Church

    The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton

    Presiding Bishop

    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

  38. Alan McIntire says:

    Gunga Din says:
    June 9, 2014 at 1:57 pm
    …..
    Lets hope they don’t come after “Nitrogen Pollution”.

    Worse yet would be going after “Oxygen Pollution” – no oxygen, no forest fires .

  39. The definition Guy says:

    If carbon dioxide is now to be considered a pollutant, then all sodas, beer, champagne and carbonated water must be removed from the market. It is a violation of federal law to have anything more than miniscule amounts of known pollutants in consumables. I foresee a major class action suit, if soft drink companies and breweries are purposely injecting a known pollutant in our drinks, we have cause. Coca Cola employs over 142,000 in the United States alone. Most of them will have to be laid off. Same with employees of Pepsico. The fast food industry will be hit hard as will the owners of vending machines. The economic impact will be devastating.
    To classify carbon dioxide as a pollutant is absurd, All life on earth depends on co2 to exist. For a president to decree carbon dioxide a pollutant will have enormous economic implications while having zero impact on global temperature. Meanwhile, the media applaud his actions, ignoring the scientific truth that his actions will have zero impact on global climate. Acting out of political ideology to force unwanted taxation and energy cost increases on his constituents, from which no tangible benefit will be derived is the height of misfeasance, There is no scientific justification for this action.
    Obama claims this is for our protection. Please don’t do us any favors Mr. President, we can’t afford it,

  40. Jon Pike says:

    Great piece of writing. It partially draws on the same themes dealt with by science philosopher Paul Feyerabend, in his 1975 publication “Against Method”. Great book.

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