Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Denialism and anthropogenic global warming

Stephen M. Barr is a Christian and a professor of physics, whose writing about the relationship of Christianity to science is invariably interesting and helpful. He has an article at First Things, "The End of Intelligent Design?," critical of ID, that, as might be expected, elicited considerable comment — especially criticism from those who have taken comfort from the theory. One of his defenders:
The common thread running through all the comments critical of Barr is the same one running through attacks on AGW: outright denial. ....
Barr isn't entirely happy about being defended in this way:
.... Are AGW "deniers" mostly "incompetents", as Mr. Dutch says? Is he talking about "deniers" among the general public? If so, then most AGW "believers" have no more competence in climatology than most AGW "deniers". Therefore, I assume Mr. Dutch is talking about scientists. There are highly competent scientists who are skeptical about the extent of AGW, such as Richard S. Lindzen of MIT, one of the top climatologists in the world, and Will Happer of Princeton. For their trouble, they have been subject to all sorts of abuse and defamation.

It would be comforting to think that the only reason the scientific community ever ignores criticism of its theories is that it comes from incompetents. Unfortunately, the history of science provides many counter-examples. It is true that science is self-correcting. But the self-correction sometimes takes a long time, during which good ideas may be ignored or suppressed, and careers destroyed. I have met quite a few very good scientists who are quite skeptical of the extent of AGW, but most keep their views to themselves. It is not a healthy climate right now in the scientific world when it comes to the AGW issue. AGW has become such a "progressive cause", that ideology has begun to to distort the ordinary processes of scientific discussion.
The End of Intelligent Design? | First Things