Science works through status quo challenges, through checking and rechecking, through producing evidence to counter other evidence and constantly arriving at reconsidered conclusions. Societies work best by being open and free, getting it that, in a contest between discourse and dictate, it’s time and again discourse that provides the needed wisdom.
All of this and more is why it is so astonishing and dismayingto see a group of 20 climatologists wanting to curtail debate on global warming by shutting up the opposition.They want to employ tactics fashioned to go after gangsters.
The tool would be the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, allowing trials of those only indirectly involved in crimes. It was meant to heap massive damage on such groups as the Mafia, and it did. The climatologists want to use it against those connected to fossil fuel corporations who are arguing that global warming is not the terror it is often portrayed as being.
These climatologists have sent a letter asking President Barack Obama and his administration for an investigation, and what we will get if it comes is massive damage to free speech and less discernment in coping with climate change.
As the great English philosopher John Stuart Mill said, silencing an opinion robs everybody. It just may be true or at least partially true, and, if we do not hear it, we may never profit from the multiple dividends this truth provides.
If it is false, he said, its collision with truth can lead to a “clearer perception” of what the true statement has going for it as defenders more closely examine their reasoning.
He tells us, too, that discounting an argument because it’s intemperate can be risky, seeing as how all sides in a dispute may be intemperate. Banishing opinions from people with ulterior motives is a mistake because bad actors can have correct opinions.
Throughout the history of science, consensus theories have evolved only to be sent to the shed, and the alarmist consensus is nowhere near what it is made out to be, as careful critics have shown. Most climatologists do believe in warming and human activity as a cause without always believing in certain catastrophe down the road or embracing political solutions that could do more harm than the warming itself.
Scientists and public officials will be holding a conference in Paris this December to fashion a global climate policy agreement. The more back-and-forth discussion there is on a topic, the better answers can get, as Mill also said.
We’ve had as much from members of Congress instigating investigations of the funding of supposed warming skeptics, from Sen. Sheldon Whitehousewho also called for the RICO action, and from these 20 scientists. Their proposals would make Mill blush and ought to make the American citizenry outraged.