Will Obama Continue the Assault on Science During the State of the Union?
Barack Obama is not at a great moment in his presidency. His numbers are terrible. Obamacare, his signature legislation, is a fiasco. His attempts to make peace in the Middle East -- let's be charitable here -- have not borne fruit. The labor participation rate is at a thirty year low. Things are pretty bad for the president (and for the country, I am sad to say).
At moments like this people do strange things. Word is that President Obama is going to ignore the freezing weather and say something about "global warming" or "climate change" or "stormy weather," or whatever the euphemism of the moment may be, during the State of the Union address Tuesday night.
It's a sign of desperation -- fewer people believe in this now than ever -- an attempt to change the discussion and a sop to his left wing. Also, it's a power grab, in concert with his desire to circumvent a supposedly do-nothing Congress.
But it's worse than that. If he goes this way, he will be attacking and discrediting, and therefore undermining, something far more important than he , or any other president in history, could ever be -- science.
I don't know how much Barack Obama knows about science. I'm skeptical he knows much. His college and graduate school grades have been a state secret beyond anything even Eric Snowden could ferret out. But we can assume they're not terrific in the science area. They may not be as bad as Al Gore's D in geology, although Obama was attending Occidental, not Harvard, when he was required to study science. No one knows what happened when he was at Columbia. In any case, he doesn't evince a public interest in science. He hobnobs with Beyonce and Jay Z, not Nobel Prize winners in chemistry.
He relies on the advice of people like John Podesta on this. Podesta, of course, is not a scientist but a lawyer and political "pro" who exploits science for purposes of power. What men like Podesta do is use the temporary popularity of some scientific view, in this case anthropogenic global warming, for their own political goals without stopping to really examine the science (assuming they had the background to do so). They pass on this reactionary and essentially anti-scientific method to the person in power, in this case Obama, who is all too eager to adopt it for his own purposes.
In the process, science -- human inquiry itself -- is eviscerated.
I am far from the only person thinking this way. I recently (via the indispensable Wattsupwiththat.com) read an evocative article by the retired Australian atmospheric physicist Garth Paltridge. Paltridge writes: "Virtually all scientists directly involved in climate prediction are aware of the enormous uncertainties associated with their product. How is it that they can place hands over hearts and swear that human emissions of carbon dioxide are wrecking the planet?"
Of course, they can't -- and Partridge knows it (read the article -- it's worth it). Even less can our politicians, many of whom will be seen as fools by history, as absurd as the medieval prelates who insisted to Galileo that the sun revolved around the Earth. And I'm not even going to go near Lysenko for the moment, although many have. The minute someone claims that science is "settled," you know he or she is a nincompoop. Nothing is settled, just as, pace Lawrence of Arabia, nothing is written. Things change.
One of the worst (of many bad) outcomes of the Obama era is the elevation of the politician as savant. People started to think of Obama as some kind of brilliant person. How ludicrous and how idolatrous.
If he starts to pontificate about "global warming" or "climate craziness" or whatever during the SOTU, I hope some brave congressman, as before, will blurt out "You lie!" Because that congressman will be spot on.
Well, not quite. Because "spot on" would be "You lie to yourself!" How pathetic is that.
(Artwork created using multiple Shutterstock.com elements.)