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Bearly true

June 30th, 2009 - 7:15 am

The Telegraph describes how a polar bear expert has been banned from attending a conference in his field in Copenhagen because his views are inimical to the orthoxy on “global warming”. The news story says:

Dr Mitchell Taylor has been researching the status and management of polar bears in Canada and around the Arctic Circle for 30 years, as both an academic and a government employee. More than once since 2006 he has made headlines by insisting that polar bear numbers, far from decreasing, are much higher than they were 30 years ago. … Taylor agrees that the Arctic has been warming over the last 30 years. But he ascribes this not to rising levels of CO2 – as is dictated by the computer models of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and believed by his PBSG colleagues – but to currents bringing warm water into the Arctic from the Pacific and the effect of winds blowing in from the Bering Sea. …

Dr Taylor had obtained funding to attend this week’s meeting of the PBSG, but this was voted down by its members because of his views on global warming. The chairman, Dr Andy Derocher, a former university pupil of Dr Taylor’s, frankly explained in an email (which I was not sent by Dr Taylor) that his rejection had nothing to do with his undoubted expertise on polar bears: “it was the position you’ve taken on global warming that brought opposition”.

Dr Taylor was told that his views running “counter to human-induced climate change are extremely unhelpful”. His signing of the Manhattan Declaration – a statement by 500 scientists that the causes of climate change are not CO2 but natural, such as changes in the radiation of the sun and ocean currents – was “inconsistent with the position taken by the PBSG”.

The really important aspect the Global Warming story isn’t the subject matter — whether or not humans are heating the Earth to death — but the process through which the findings are reached. It goes right to the heart of what it means to know something. Whatever one may think about AGW, ‘science’ that excludes views on the basis of not being “helpful” looks suspiciously like a process of fitting the evidence to the desired conclusion. It should be the other way around. When this fundamental is abandoned, knowledge is replaced by belief and science is supplanted by theology.

Caspar Melville of the New Humanist, intrigued by a recent spate of books which argue that atheism, not deism, is in decline, interviewed John Micklethwait, one of two authors of God is Back, to ask him why.  Micklethwait explained that contrary to all 19th and 20th Western expectations, religion is booming and not declining. If one were to add not only the numbers of new adherents to Christianity and Islam in the Third World, but the swarms of Western devotees to the cult of environmentalism then the numbers might be even more impressive.  The problem with concluding from declining church attendance that the Age of Faith is over in the West, is that investigators may be measuring the wrong thing. What may actually be on the downward path is rationality.  That’s an interesting subject for an enterprising author.


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