Did This Climate Alarmist Just Admit His Own Position Is Propaganda?
In attempting to explain how science works to ignorant climate change skeptics, a climate alarmist unwittingly revealed his own ignorance of basic philosophy. He took a story about people being unwilling to see the truth through propaganda and argued that it proves his point that we should all believe the propaganda.
In "What Climate Skeptics Don't Get About Science," Rhett Allain, associate professor of physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, takes Plato's allegory of the cave and tries to apply it to a scientific understanding.
Science is sort of like Plato’s allegory of the cave. In it, Plato says we are like people in a cave with our backs to a wall. Objects paraded in front of a fire cast shadows on a wall. We see only shadows and must determine what the objects are. This is how scientists do things. Here’s a good example: No one has ever seen an electron. You can’t see them with the naked eye; they’re too small. However, there is great experimental evidence that electrons do exist, and scientists are pretty confident about some of their properties. But I wouldn’t call it the truth.
Allain's point about scientists only being able to deal with human experience is correct, but he should have left Plato's allegory out of it. He later goes on to explain that science is about building models, and repeats the tired old claim that there's a "consensus" on climate change. He is right about science building models, but another key aspect of science is destroying models and replacing them with better ones when old models fail to account for reality. That's what's really going on in Plato's cave.
The people seeing images on a cave wall is only the start of Plato's story — if you read on, it becomes clear that those people are being misled and it is the philosopher's job to get them to break free of their own assumptions and see the truth.
In Plato's Republic, Socrates tells of a philosopher who is raised in front of that cave wall, but then escapes the cave and discovers the world above ground. This man sees the sun, real animals and plants — the world as it really is. Full of love for the truth, he enters back into the cave in order to tell everyone else.
But they do not believe him. The people believe the shadows on the wall are true, and cannot accept the ravings of the madman who has seen the real world. Socrates concludes that the people would rather kill the philosopher than embrace a truth outside their narrow mode of thought.
By associating climate alarmists like himself with the people imprisoned in Plato's cave, Allain has unwittingly revealed a terrifying truth. Alarmists are so focused on their vision of a world in peril that they are unwilling to accept the defeat of each of their predictive models.
Indeed, they are not unlike the people holding images before the fire — propagandists in the cave misleading their prisoners about the nature of reality.