In Greek mythology, the god Icarus tries, with his father Daedalus, to escape from Crete by flying, using wings Daedalus made from wax and feathers. Proudly ignoring his father’s warning not to fly too close to the sun lest the wax in the wings melt, Icarus did so and fell into the sea. Ever since then, Icarus has been synonymous with hubris—a foolish combination of pride and over-confidence.
Michael Hart, Professor Emeritus and inaugural holder of the Simon Reisman chair in trade policy at Carleton (2000-2015), Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, and a Cornwall Alliance contributing writer, is author of Hubris: The Troubling Science, Economics, and Politics of Climate Change, a new book about which Life Site News has published an interview.
I’ve just begun reading the book myself, and three chapters in I find it refreshing especially for Hart’s in-depth understanding of the philosophy of science and his ability, therefore, to recognize and critique the faulty foundations of climate alarmist science, from naturalism to post-normal science. I expect to write more about the book here in the future but thought I’d make just a few comments now.
Most of my reading on climate change has concentrated on the scientific data and their interpretation by competing voices. Hart does a good deal of that in the book, but in addition to his discussions of the philosophy of science he also brings his long background (as a Canadian trade negotiations official) in the social pathologies of international politics and his Christian faith to bear.
Asked why a theory supported by so little hard scientific data has become so widely embraced, even to the point of justifying trillion-dollar government initiatives, he responded to Life Site News:
More than one motivation drives the abuse of science. Among scientists, the primary reasons are money, career advancement, and prestige. In order to pursue their research programs, scientists need money from governments and foundations. They have learned that satisfying the agenda of both helps funds to flow. As a result, they have learned to adapt their research to the desired outcomes. Related to money and careers is the need to publish in so-called prestige journals on the basis of peer review of their work. As I explain in my book, over the years, much of peer review has degenerated into pal review that maintains the dominant perspective. Views that challenge that perspective are ruthlessly weeded out. Additionally, a significant amount of published research fails numerous tests of reliability due to sloppy methods, misuse and abuse of statistics, ignored negative findings, and other failings in scientific integrity. Climate change science has been particularly prone to these failings. Nobel Prize winners such as Robert Jastrow and Freeman Dyson have become increasingly critical of the course of modern science. Many indicate that the insights that led to their Nobel Prize would never have passed current peer review.
Who’s driving the climate bandwagon?
The leaders driving the climate change movement come from a variety of persuasions. The environmental movement found in the alarm about global warming – now climate change – a potent new way in which to raise funds and increase awareness of its broader concerns about the state of the environment. UN officials learned that concern about climate change could be harnessed to bolster support for UN social and economic programs and to advance the UN’s goal of world governance by experts. Left-wing politicians discovered in climate change renewed ways to press their agenda of social and economic justice through coercive government programs. As John Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire, sees it, “The alarmists have learned well from the past. They saw what motivates policy makers is not necessarily just hard science, but a well-orchestrated symphony of effort … announce a disaster; cherry pick some results; back it up with computer modeling; proclaim a consensus; stifle the opposition; take over the process and control the funding; and roll the policy makers.” In their more candid moments, movement leaders agree, as did Timothy Wirth, former U.S. Senator and chief climate envoy during the Clinton administration: “We’ve got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing.”
He also explains the deeper religio/philosophical roots of climate alarmism:
Alarm over a changing climate leading to malign results is in many ways the product of the hunger for stability and direction in a post-Christian world. Humans have a deep, innate need for a transcendent authority. Having rejected the precepts of Christianity, people in the advanced economies of the West are turning to other forms of authority. Putting aside those who cynically exploit the issue for their own gain – from scientists and politicians to UN leaders and green businesses – most activists are deeply committed to a secular, statist, anti-human, earth-centric set of beliefs which drives their claims of a planet in imminent danger from human activity. To them, a planet with fewer people is the ultimate goal, achievable only through centralized direction and control. As philosopher of science Jeffrey Foss points out, “Environmental science conceives and expresses humankind’s relationship to nature in a manner that is – as a matter of observable fact – religious.” It “prophesies an environmental apocalypse. It tells us that the reason we confront apocalypse is our own environmental sinfulness. Our sin is one of impurity. We have fouled a pure, ‘pristine’ nature with our dirty household and industrial wastes. The apocalypse will take the form of an environmental backlash, a payback for our sins. … environmental scientists tell people what they must do to be blameless before nature.”
One thing’s for sure: Those eager to see more reasonable discussion in the climate controversy should welcome this book.