If you search the Web for my name and Cornwall Alliance, you’ll see that we’ve been the target of vicious attacks over the years, including several just in the past couple of months. They’re built on fallacies like guilt by association, post hoc, ad hominem abusive, ad hominem circumstantial, straw man, hasty generalization, and more, and thoroughly misrepresent our position and our reasons for it. (Ah, but who cares about logic nowadays? They don’t teach it much in school anymore.)
That makes me increasingly hesitant to grant interviews to anyone who is interested in anything other than understanding and accurately reporting our reasoning.
It’s all too easy for people to write off those with whom they disagree by attributing their disagreements to nothing more than social/political associations while ignoring their evidence and arguments.
My involvement, like that of others in the Cornwall Alliance’s network of scholars, in debates over manmade global warming, climate policy, and energy policy arises out of our understanding of the causes and consequences of climate change, the economics and engineering of energy production and distribution, and how all those things affect people’s lives—especially the lives of the poor.
We happily cooperate with others who share our understanding and goals.
We seek to persuade with evidence and logic those who don’t.
What motivates me? I think policies founded on fears of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming will harm the world’s poor, and I want to prevent that.
The day I wrote this, my wife and I were doing our daily devotions together, and our readings included Psalm 82:
God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
I said [and here, as I understand the Hebrew poetry, God speaks ironically—ECB], “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”
Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!
The God of the Bible—the only true God—cares about the poor around the world. He calls on governing authorities (metaphorically called “gods” in verse 1, “in the midst of the gods he holds judgment”) to give justice to the weak and fatherless, to maintain the right of the afflicted and destitute, to rescue the weak and needy, to deliver them from the hand of the wicked. In order to do those things, the governing authorities need to know truth. If instead they have neither knowledge nor understanding, if they walk about in darkness, then “the foundations of the earth are shaken,” that is, the civil-social order is disrupted, bringing suffering particularly to the weak, the poor, the afflicted, the destitute. Because of that, God judges those authorities and brings them down.
Although some reporters speculate otherwise, I didn’t get into this, and I don’t continue in it, for partisan political reasons. Indeed, I despise party politics, electioneering, and everything having to do with it. I’m not involved because I’m part of some “Religious Right” or connected to any political party or organization.
That doesn’t mean I forfeit my right and shirk my responsibility to be a well-informed voter who supports candidates more likely to promote his values than candidates more likely to resist them. For that reason I’m a registered voter, registered, as our two-party system makes nearly unavoidable, in the party that actually has a non-miraculous chance of winning elections and whose platform more closely coincides with my moral commitments and my understanding of how the world works—and doesn’t work.
Neither does it mean I forfeit my right of free association—including to associate with others who embrace my goals even if for different reasons.
But it’s scientific, economic, and ethical considerations that determine my goals—not my associations.
Most reporters, though, seem wholly uninterested in the scientific, economic, and ethical arguments we marshal. It’s ever so much easier just to say (unaware of the claim’s vacuity), “97% of all scientists agree!” and leave reasoning aside. Instead, they want to major on our social network connections, usually for the purpose of concluding that our positions are determined by our (real or imagined) political associations.
Have they never imagined that we might make connections because of what we think, rather than thinking what we do because of our connections? And if they can’t imagine that of us, are they equally cynical about themselves?
The social environments in which people develop their views are a legitimate subject for inquiry. But they’re also bound to be misinterpreted, and given exaggerated importance, if studied in isolation from the scientific, economic, ethical, religious/theological, and other arguments involved.
To fail to give the arguments thorough consideration is to guarantee misunderstanding. Exclusive attention to social networks all too easily leads, intentionally or not, to a reductionist caricature of those studied.
It also leads, logically, to comprehensive skepticism. Why? Because if Jones explains Smith’s views entirely as a matter of Smith’s social networks, then it follows that he thinks Smith has no reasons for them, only causes analogous to the forces exchanged when two billiard balls collide. The trouble with that thinking is that it’s self-refuting. It applies equally to Jones’s views—including his view of Smith’s views.
I’ve read plenty of yellow-journalism, ad hominem attacks on the Cornwall Alliance and myself, some by reporters who posed as friendly when they interviewed me (shame on them), only to write with venomous ink.
The attacks are not only irrational but also morally disgusting. They almost universally fail even to mention, let alone grapple with, the arguments we present—which are the overwhelming majority of the material on our website and in the hundreds and hundreds of articles we’ve published in scores of different publications over the past decade.
Instead they attribute our conclusions solely to our (usually caricatured) religious and political views or association. That suggests that those reporters are themselves so driven by partisan politics, not evidence and logic, that they can’t imagine that anyone else could be otherwise.
So, if you’re from the media, I pray you will rise above many of your fellows and try to understand our positions and report them accurately. You don’t have to agree with an opinion to be honest about it. The best way for you to learn about those arguments will be to read the following documents on our website (listed in chronological order to show how our views have developed over time):
- An Examination of the Scientific, Ethical, and Theological Implications of Climate Change Policy
- A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming
- A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science, and Economics of Global Warming
- The Cost of Good Intentions: The Ethics and Economics of the War on Conventional Energy
- A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor 2014: The Case against Harmful Climate Policies Gets Stronger
It’s sad that there appear to be many reporters who aren’t interested in truth and simply use their profession to advance agendas. I personally know some of you in the media who work hard with integrity and sincerely want to do a fair job. But many don’t, and they soil the public’s perception of your profession—and make people like me hesitant to grant interviews. As a former journalist myself (newspaper reporter, editor, and assistant publisher) and son of a lifelong journalist, that saddens me. It doesn’t have to be this way. My earnest hope and prayer is that those of you who work in this important field will take seriously the responsibility you’ve been granted by our Lord and use your gifts for the betterment of both people and the world.
If you are a reporter, and you’ve read these documents, and you wish to interview me, I will have some questions for you, the same as you will have for me. I hope we can have an intelligent and respectful discourse, and I hope at the end, whether we agree or not, we can be friends.