The Settling of Science

In my real life job, I teach prisoners and parolees to identify the consequences of their behavior. To illustrate that some consequences are non-negotiable, I propose a bet.

In this bet, I hold a book, and I say that I’m going to let it go. If the book falls down, they have to pay me fifty bucks. But if the book falls up, then they get the fifty bucks. To date, no one has taken the bet.

Why not? Simple. The science of gravity is settled.

Nobody is willing to argue that the book might fall upward, because the mechanics and properties of gravity are verifiable and replicable, and have been proven by years of study and direct experience. If I want to drop a bowling ball off the top of the Empire State Building, a scientist can calculate precisely how long the ball will take before it hits the ground. Other factors may come into play – wind resistance, say, or some foreign object interrupting the ball’s fall – but the effect of gravity on the ball’s trajectory isn’t really open to debate, and the velocity can be reliably determined with a great degree of accuracy.

That, see, is how science is settled. Not by fiat; not by some bullying, fallacious argument from authority. It is settled by a consistent series of observed results.

By that standard, those who use names to belittle critics of anthropogenic climate change theory fail miserably. Calling people “deniers” and censoring anyone who dares to question global warming orthodoxy is indicative of a subject that people are trying to “settle” by means other than science. There are no “gravity deniers” because gravity is impossible to deny, and anyone could confront a deluded soul unwilling to accept Newtonian physics with empirical evidence that they’re wrong.

The global warming crowd, on the other hand, can’t do the same. In fact, they do just the opposite. They boast of their unanimous “consensus” in order to silence legitimate inquiry in the hopes that you’ll overlook the fact that their consensus has been demonstrably wrong for more than a decade and a half.  Yet I’m the one branded a denier, a heretic, a troglodyte, because I refuse to allow the credentials of the scientific community to persuade me to overlook the facts.

Here are some facts. Or, if you prefer, these are genuinely settled science.

1. Global warming stopped seventeen years ago.

2. None of the alarmists in the scientific community predicted that there would be no global warming from 1997 until 2014.

3. There is no unanimity among scientists or anyone else on some of the most critical tenets of climate change alarmism.

4. None of the proposals on the table to combat the (non-existent) rise in global temperatures would lower global temperatures. they would, however, keep billions of people in developing nations mired in poverty. 

Let’s address each of these in turn.

1. Global warming stopped seventeen years ago.

This is true, but it’s also heresy. Notice my word choice – the politically correct verb to describe the nearly duo-decadal absence of global warming is “paused,” not “stopped.” Inherent in the word “pause,” you see, is an assumption of temporariness. Yes, the world hasn’t warmed for 17 years, they tell you, but there’s no doubt it’s going to pick up again.

This from the boys who cried wolf who were off about how much warming there would be between ’97 and today by 300% or so. 


So, tell me again – how on earth is it “settled” that warming will pick up again? It’s the opposite of “settled.” The observed facts contradict the predictions. (Remember, gravity works every time.) I don’t care how many degrees you have, Michael Mann or James Hansen. I don’t care how famous you are, Al Gore or Leonardo DiCaprio. You were flat out, dead wrong these past seventeen years. What credential could possibly compensate for an error this huge?

2. None of the alarmists in the scientific community predicted that there would be no global warming from 1997 until 2014. 

These are the people “settling” the science –  the people who were, you know, flat out wrong. The people who demand we make radical changes to industrialized societies that will have devastating economic impacts on the poorest of the poor based on demonstrably flawed climate models which didn’t accurately reflect the past but must be militantly obeyed without question as we dismantle the future of developing nations chasing a chimera that left the scene in the last century.

3. There is no unanimity among scientists or anyone else on some of the most critical tenets of climate change alarmism.  

“No, that’s not true! 97%! 97%! 97%!”

That number is repeated, mantra-like, to silence all skeptics. 97% were wrong about the 17-year absence of warming in the past, but who are you to challenge them about the future?

I’ve already addressed that, but let’s break that 97% figure down a bit more, shall we?

The figure comes from one guy’s website, where he ran an analysis of 12,000 peer-reviewed papers, 97% of which claimed that humanity is having an impact on the climate. 

Badabing, badaboom. There’s your consensus.

So 97% think that humans are the dominant factor in climate change? Well, no. Quite the opposite. The website guy admits that, while 97% acknowledge some human impact, less than 50% of those papers maintain that humanity is the primary driver of said warming.  That’s hardly a consensus, but even that’s misleading. “Less than 50%” tacitly implies something in the 40-45% range. How much less than 50%?

Try 65 papers out of the 12,000 reviewed. 

65. Out of 12,000.

For you fans of settled mathematics, that is, indeed, less than fifty percent. In fact, it’s less than one percent. Yet every screeching news story, every Al Gore rant, every high priest of alarmism demanding that climate change heretics be burned at the stake – or disposed of by some more carbon-friendly means – is pulling a bait and switch, pretending that 97% is less than 1%, and those asking questions are going against settled science.

This makes my blood boil, thereby increasing my personal impact on the climate.

See, I’m part of that 97% consensus. I think humanity has an impact. I even think I, personally, have an impact. But I’m not arrogant or asinine to assume that when I turn on my heater on a cold January night, my contribution to the climate is greater than that big, fiery ball of flame that floods the earth with light and heat.

4. None of the proposals on the table to combat the (non-existent) rise in global temperatures would lower global temperatures.

Cap and Trade. The Kyoto Protocols. A direct carbon tax. Climate reparations for poor countries. All of these have been put forward as “solutions” to the artificial crisis of global warming. They’re each different in their approaches, but they all have one thing in common: not one of them would actually reduce global temperatures. True, we have no observed facts, but even the proponents of these misguided policies have publicly conceded that they would do nothing to the climate. You want consensus? That’s consensus. Yet these abominations are still pushed as options, even though they represent a regressive economic burden of trillions of dollars to be borne by the world’s poor.

These proposals are not only ineffective; they’re immoral.

Honestly, you want to tell an African nation with a GDP 1/100th of the United States that they can’t mine coal and drill for oil because some completely ineffectual international climate change protocol tells them they can’t? The benefits of development are prosperity, freedom and hope. That development is stifled by climate change proposals, which have the benefit of making the draftees feel morally superior while doing jack about the problem they’re designed to solve.

You back these proposals,  and you’re advocating that more people subsist and eke out their lives in grinding poverty. You pass these proposals, and you don’t prevent a theoretical warmer future. You do, however, ensure that more people die right now.

The more I watch this debate unfold, the angrier it makes me. There is no symbolic gesture, no “good start,” no “consensus” that justifies the deliberate oppression of the world’s poor. And that’s precisely what all current climate change “solutions” now on the table really are.

You want to settle the science, alarmists? Give me empirical facts, not flawed models. Show me a plethora of accurate predictions, not empty credentials. Justify your stupid, expensive, oppressive proposals by showing they’ll produce real benefits, not poverty and death.

I’ll settle for nothing less.

A (Reluctant) Capitalist Manifesto

I’m a capitalist, and so are you.

Now, you may find that statement offensive. It seems many capitalists don’t realize they’re capitalists, including My Esteemed Colleague, who has devoted a great deal of time and energy to championing the principles and ideology of the former Soviet Union. What he doesn’t realize, though, is that the Soviets were capitalists, too.The fact of the matter is that everyone who has ever set foot on this planet was and is a capitalist, regardless of the silly labels we all dress up in to make ourselves feel better.

We’re all capitalists not because we want to be, but because we have no other choice.

Keep in mind that no one is saying you have to be happy about being a capitalist. I often find it a downright miserable experience, myself. I’d much rather enjoy wealth without responsibility and live on a Caribbean cruise ship for the rest of my life. But no, capitalism requires me to get up in the morning and do something that somebody else is willing to pay for, even when, or especially when, it’s something I really, really don’t want to do.

It means I end up competing in the open market against people who are smarter, more skilled, better-looking, younger, and luckier than I am. It means I am routinely screwed over by my own incompetence or by the whims of fate, not necessarily in that order, but usually. Who wouldn’t prefer a world where such indignities weren’t necessary?

I’m not a capitalist because I dig capitalism. I rather hate it, actually. But I’m a capitalist because that’s how the world works.

Compare capitalism to any other natural law – gravity, for instance. Personally, I’m not a very big fan of gravity. I think flying without benefit of aircraft would be kind of neat, and gravity has broken my arm and back on occasions where I wasn’t mindful enough of its influence. But regardless of whatever vote we might take on repealing the law of gravity, it’s going to ever be with us. Hence, if we are going to live in a physical universe where gravity is more or less a constant, the sensible thing to do is make the most of it rather than rail against its injustices and inequities.

Capitalism operates on a similar principle.

Every economic system in the world boils down to the reality that people are rewarded for either what they have or what they can do. Redistributive systems designed to thwart capitalism invariably fail because they ignore that the wealth necessary to meet their utopian goals can only be generated by capitalistic means. Wealth redistribution only works when there’s wealth to redistribute, and wealth is only created when somebody uses their skills or resources to provide value to somebody else. When governments dilute the incentive to create wealth, they create more equality of outcome, but that equality is married inescapably to poverty. 

All that said, we have both gravity and airplanes. That’s not because airplanes foolishly try to ignore gravity, but rather incorporate the realities of gravitational principles into their designs. Similarly, people’s lives are improved when economic system recognize capitalistic realities and account for them in how they structure their societies. Thus redistribution is a poor substitute for wealth and job creation, and policies designed to use the market rather than subvert tend to result in a higher quality of living overall.

One other addendum. Too many members of the church think that capitalism is somehow divinely sanctioned, when, in fact, it’s anything but. It’s a reality, yes, but it’s the reality that exists solely because we live in a fallen world. In Eden, Adam and Eve didn’t have to be capitalists. It was only after they were expelled from paradise that suddenly the deal was that “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.” Capitalism was inflicted on us; it’s nothing to celebrate.

Yet after President Obama was reelected in 2012, an LDS Stake President addressed his congregation by lamenting the fact that this was a victory of “socialism over capitalism,” as if capitalism itself is a divine virtue. If that were the case, then we can expect capitalism to be the order of the day when the Savior returns. But he’s told us to seek a Zion society instead. In such societies, “the people are of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” Communists have tried to replicate that without the righteousness and achieved lamentable results, but the goal is to get to a place where the curse of capitalism is finally lifted from us. Mormons who think capitalism is the bee’s knees ought to spend more time reading the Doctrine and Covenants and studying the United Order.

Until such time as we are righteous enough to live the higher law, capitalism is what we’re stuck with. We need to acknowledge that, even as we yearn for something better.