I was blessedly out of the country on Tuesday, so I’m belatedly catching up on post-election analysis. But I see that self-proclaimed Nobel laureate Michael Mann is hailing Virginia’s gubernatorial race as a referendum on climate science. To scroll his Twitter feed, you’d get the impression “climate change” was the No. 1 electoral issue in the state. Which would tend to suggest that the subject is political speech. Which is protected by the First Amendment, isn’t it?
Dr. Mann is a rare bird: a political activist whose politics require insulation from the Constitution.
Speaking of politics and climate science, the great John Howard, Australia’s former prime minister, gave a speech in London the other day, and touched on Mann’s favorite insult:
Increasingly offensive language is used. The most egregious example has been the term “denier”. We are all aware of the particular meaning that word has acquired in contemporary parlance. It has been employed in this debate with some malice aforethought.
An overriding feature of the debate is the constant attempt to intimidate policy makers, in some cases successfully, with the mantras of “follow the science” and “the science is truly settled”. The purpose is to create the impression that there is really no room for argument; this is not really a public policy issue; it is one on which the experts have spoken, and we would all be quite daft to do other than follow the prescriptions, it is asserted, which flow automatically from the scientific findings.
Writing recently in Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Dr Richard S. Lindzen, Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said of those with political agendas who found it useful to employ science, “This immediately involves a distortion of science at a very basic level: namely science becomes a source of authority rather than a mode of inquiry. The real utility of science stems from the latter; the political utility stems from the former.”
I’m with Dr. Lindzen on that.