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Friday, February 05, 2016

Global Warming?

I just gave a talk on Laudato Si, the new encyclical from our Holy Father, Pope Francis. One of the presenting problems that Laudato Si's framework could possibly address is of course global warming. But is it real, or is it one of those progressive articles of faith that has no basis in reality?

I found this persuasive. Now, I'm a conservative. You could argue that I'm a David Brooks kind of conservative, but a conservative nonetheless. I want you to know why I was open to considering this evidence. These people she cites have no reason to lie. There may be scientific or mathematical reasons why the data is not as persuasive as it appears. That would be at the level of the premises of the argument.

But it is not reasonable to believe that men who have devoted their lives to the study of this question would falsify data, in pursuit of an ideological end. Is it possible? Of course. It's possible Donald Trump would be the most successful president in American history, but I'm not laying a wager.

It is more likely that good data which does not serve a particular ideological end will be ignored. Ideology works best when it serves as an outside vantage point in dialogue with some other view, from which I ask intelligent and critical questions that serve the advance of knowledge. It works less well when I must suppose a vast conspiracy, or resort to bad faith, to explain away a large body of information.

I can remember the days when I became a conservative. I was probably reading Crichton's The Andromeda Strain for the 30th time. He gives us a little story within the story, of a fictional scientist named Rudolph Karp. Dr. Karp believed he'd found extraterrestrial life on the inside of a meteorite. He did dozens of controlled studies, we are told, and yet could not back away from his original contention. The book tells us at length of his mockery and ostracism. It tells also of real scientists who endured the same. Indeed, the fuel of conservatism is a principled contrarianism from a conventional wisdom too passively accepted, and too uncritically examined.

And yet it may be conservatives who have their own conventional wisdom not allowed to be contravened. Who's actually doing the politicizing? For your consideration.

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