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Pseudoscience and the stifling of debate -What promoters of climate change and evolution have in common

October 2013 | by Philip Bell

Much effort is currently being expended to persuade the general public that lavish investment in ‘green energy’ (such as wind farms) is vital for our planet’s future and is also scientifically justified.

      My purpose here is not to argue for or against the claims of pro-climate-change scientists and politicians, but to look at how prominent spokespersons are going about their task.[1]

      Promoters of the idea that people, penguins and pomegranates share a common ancestor are fond of claiming that contrary voices are ‘antiscience’ — a charge that is also being levelled at those who disagree with the party line on ‘climate change’.[2] It is instructive for us to examine the rhetoric and tactics used by the critics of the climate change sceptics because they are identical to those employed against critics of evolution.

Pseudoscience and politics

      Beliefs and claims are sometimes put forward as science, in spite of a lack of supporting evidence, and sometimes in the face of uncomfortable facts. Ideas being advanced may be too vague to be reliably tested using the scientific method. We call this ‘pseudoscience’. Ironically, while it is true that believers in evolution sometimes charge biblical creationists with pseudoscience, their ‘molecules-to-man’ evolution is far more worthy of this epithet.[3] Here are a few hallmarks of pseudoscience practitioners:

  • Withholding data from the public;
  • Telling non-scientists we must trust and believe the scientists who are making a particular set of claims;
  • Silencing dissenting voices;
  • Claiming that the ‘deniers’ are seizing on scientific uncertainty as proof the idea is wrong;
  • Saying people are wrong to question the orthodox, majority position;
  • Denouncing critics and calling them names — e.g. ‘flat-earthers’, ‘Holocaust-deniers.’

      When pseudoscience is promoted dogmatically as indisputable truth, a form of scientism may be the result. Earlier this year, Leon Wieseltier (a self-described humanist) publically stated: ‘Science is a blessing, but scientism is a curse. … scientism is dogmatic, and peddles certainties. It is always at the ready with the solution to every problem … so it gives scientific answers to non-scientific questions. Owing to its preference for totalistic explanation, scientism transforms science into an ideology …’[4] While Wieseltier wasn’t talking about evolution, his description fits evolution perfectly.

‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’ (AGW) tactics

      In looking at the manner in which AGW-supporters are promoting their agenda, we call to the witness stand several journalists — their testimony combines to underline points that I’ve bulleted above (bold emphases are mine):

      In June, the UK Government’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, severely criticised certain British newspapers ‘for giving sanctuary to deniers of climate change.’[5] The Telegraph went on to say: ‘If Mr Davey is so confident in his facts, he should surely be confident of their triumphing in a free and open debate. … Mr Davey claims sceptics “seize upon the normal expression of scientific uncertainty… as proof that all climate change policy is all hopelessly misguided”’. If evolutionists are so confident in their facts, they should surely be confident of their triumphing in a free and open debate with biblical creationists and Intelligent Design advocates. Yes, biblical creationists do highlight scientific uncertainty regarding evolutionary theories. But, that is surely a valid point to make, when people are given a false impression that there is no such uncertainty. Furthermore, we also marshal a formidable array of hard scientific facts that are more than sufficient to totally undermine the theory.

      The Daily Mail also took exception to this attempt to stifle the expression of contrary views: ‘…politicians increasingly think they have the right to tell the Press what it can print. … Yesterday it was the turn of … Ed Davey, who said it was wrong for the Press to give a “platform” to anybody daring to question the political orthodoxy on climate change.’[6] Pseudoscience in its worst incarnation can become full-on scientism[7] in that, assuming an air of orthodoxy, it too readily becomes a politicised imposition of dogma upon society. This can certainly be said of evolution, where anything perceived to weaken the secular stranglehold on public thinking on origins is quickly jumped on.[8] Name-calling is also frequently part of the mix when the argument is weak, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that sceptics of AGW have also been described by Ed Davey as ‘crackpots and conspiracy theorists’.[9]

 

      Journalists in Germany have also reacted quickly to attempted censorship of AGW’s critics. Referring to the ‘naming-and-shaming’ tactics of the German Environment Agency, Germany’s Science Press Association stated: ‘It is not the task of a government agency to determine which opinions may be expressed and which are not. … Journalists may and must voice different positions, and they may and must question well-established scientists again and again. Moreover it cannot be the task of a public institution to quasi officially declare certain scientific positions as true.’[10] If only they were as keen to question evolutionary scientists and to give voice to those who disagree with evolution!

      As recently as July, a respected senior economist wrote in The Spectator magazine: ‘“We should listen to the scientists, — and we should believe them,” said Ed Davey, the Climate Secretary, earlier this year. Yet his department has officially sanctioned the anti-scientific practice of withholding data. The climate secretary has denounced sceptics and other non-believers as “crackpots” — an attack conforming to a key feature of what the philosopher Karl Popper defined as pseudoscience. Genuine science invites refutation; pseudoscience tries to silence dissent.’[11] Substitute climate science with evolution and these words are uncannily relevant to the creation versus evolution debate.

Antidotes to evolutionary pseudoscience

Those who love truth have nothing to fear from an honest appraisal of scientific data. Familiarise yourself with helpful literature from reputable creationist organisations. Creation magazine and The Creation Answers Book are an excellent place to start (available from Creation Ministries International; creation.com). Disseminate what you have learnt in your church, and share this information with family members, colleagues and friends, at work or school.

      Pray for God’s guidance about the best ways of influencing others and for his boldness in standing firm if your efforts are unappreciated or strongly resisted. And always remember that ‘the battle is the LORD’s’ (1 Sam. 17:47).

References


[1] A shorter version of this article appears in the September 2013 issue of CMIEXTRA, a newsletter of Creation Ministries International (UK/Europe).

[2] Interestingly, vocal anti-creationist and Australian geology professor Ian Plimer (see CMI’s DVD Facing the Fire), is also a staunch sceptic of the idea that reducing carbon emissions will substantially affect global climate. Once a media darling for his fanatical pursuit of creationists, he is now experiencing similar shunning and silencing to that which he welcomed for his foes. 

[3] Is evolution pseudoscience? Creation 29(4):25–27, 2007. Also at http://creation.com/is-evolution-pseudoscience.

[4] From a talk he gave on 19 May 2013, Brandeist University, Massachusetts, USA; http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113299/leon-wieseltier-commencement-speech-brandeis-university-2013, accessed 1 August 2013..

[5] Remove the blinkers, 3 June 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/10096133/Remove-the-blinkers.html, accessed 1 August 2013.

[6] Gay marriage, peers and a vote of principle, 3 June 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2335434/Gay-marriage-peers-vote-principle.html, accessed 1 August 2013.

[7] Used here in the sense of an improper use of the perceived authority of science.

[8] See the book Slaughter of the Dissidents and the DVD Expelled: No intelligence allowed, available from creation.com/store.

[9] Ed Davey: Climate change deniers are ‘crackpots’, 19 June 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/10129372/Ed-Davey-Climate-change-deniers-are-crackpots.html, accessed 1 August 2013.

[10] Martin Schneider, CEO of Informationsdienst Wissenschaft, 3 June 2013, http://idw-online.de/pages/de/news536360 (in German).

[11] Rupert Darwall, Forecast failure: how the Met Office lost touch with reality: Ideology has corrupted a valuable British institution, 13 July 2013, http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/8959941/whats-wrong-with-the-met-office/, accessed 1 August 2013.