The Corner

The Real Epistemic Closure

The most appalling thing about Jim Manzi’s attack on Mark Levin’s Liberty & Tyranny is its pompous invocation of “epistemic closure” as a cudgel to beat the side of the climate debate arguing for epistemic openness — and trying to make that argument against transnational scientific elites who desperately seek to enforce ontological closure in a most unscientific manner.

Timely, then, that we should be treated to an Earth Day essay in the Wall Street Journal from MIT’s Richard Lindzen, who manages to meet the Manzi standard of “very serious climate scientist” despite having been cited by Levin. Prof. Lindzen is appropriately chagrined. Global warming alarmists, he concludes, have been discredited over the past several months by the scandalous disclosures about their decades-long shenanigans, yet, you’d never know it. Why? Because purportedly serious people are ignoring, discounting, and suppressing the evidence, as well as resorting to the old stand-by of ad hominem attack against critics — “suffused,” Lindzen recounts, “by illogic, nastiness and outright dishonesty.” (He doesn’t mention whether he’s picked this up by reading the Corner in the last day or so.)

Lindzen disparages “the official scientific community” — a group that mirrors what Manzi reverentially calls the “global scientific establishment” – for its transcontinental conspiracy. He accuses it of colluding in an effort to wait until the current controversy dies down before “reasserting” unsupported claims of “climate catastrophe” to government policy makers and funding agencies. He powerfully suggests that scientific elites are (to borrow a phrase Manzi uses in ridicule mode) “too trapped by their assumptions to incorporate [contradictory] data rationally.”

Remarkable to read Lindzen spout such wingnuttery when, as Jim points out, none less than the national science academy of Mexico itself has not rejected the notion of man-made global warming. I’m ashamed to admit, though, that to me, Lindzen doesn’t seem like a kook who probably thinks the Queen of England and the Trilateral Commission are in on a farcical global science scam. But what do I know? I don’t even have a Ph.D.

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