How Global Warming Denialists Are Likely to “Reason” about Berkeley Physicist Richard Muller’s Findings

I suppose Berkeley physicist Richard Muller is a fool for putting together a team that included a Nobel Prize winning scientist, revisiting all the data on climate change to date, and coming to the same conclusion as the current scientific consensus: the globe is warming, and carbon dioxide is the cause.

Muller sees no other plausible alternative thesis–indeed, none is ever consistently on offer. No other thesis accounts for all of the converging lines of evidence better than the current scientific consensus.

So Muller, in discovering this, is obviously a fool.

Global warming denialists, on the other hand, are not at all foolish, for they read the Rush Limbaugh funded American Thinker website for the lowdown on global warming.

And though global warming denialists have no competing alternative thesis that accounts for all of the converging lines of evidence better than carbon dioxide as the cause of global warming, they are in need of none. Instead, they can simply shift among a menu of theses, briefly offering one thesis, then another.

The alternative thesis, in other words, can be the kitchen sink: maybe global warming is caused by volcanoes; and if not volcanoes, maybe it’s the sun; and if not the sun, maybe it’s not happening at all. Maybe the scientists are involved in a conspiracy to promote a hoax, etc. In any case, it couldn’t possibly be the thing that happens to account for the converging lines of evidence most directly and simply: carbon dioxide from human activity. Of that, they’re 100% certain.

William of Occam was a fool, Richard Muller is a fool–but AM talk radio? Nobody’s fool.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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1 Response to How Global Warming Denialists Are Likely to “Reason” about Berkeley Physicist Richard Muller’s Findings

  1. Longtooth says:


    To state the obvious or what surely should be, it’s much more than just human contributions to the raise in global temperatures. It’s the defoliation, the deterioration in the quality of the air we breathe, and the poisoning of our rivers, lakes, and oceans, etc. We are in the midst of a mass extinction event of a magnitude not seen since the demise of the dinosaurs. And it’s the handiwork of humans, humans inordinately breeding themselves beyond nature’s ability to absorb without hugely undesirable sacrifices of the rest of the world’s living things. Even if some people think that the human role in climate change is still debatable, how can they deny the widespread environmental devastation wrought by the influence of humans and our devices of industry and resource exploitation?

    It’s a broad based matter of humanity’s consciousness about ecology. Here and there across the globe there are positive signs; a growing awareness of the practical need for environmental quality. Its awareness in its infancy but maturing as it gradually propagates through the world population. We have to wonder though, will it be enough, soon enough to stave off a complete meltdown of civilization if not some consequence even more deadly?

    As you point out, the tangible problem in America is that the grassroots social conservatives are not taking seriously, or more probably, not even listening to the Richard Muller’s, or the National Geographic’s, or any source that could actually inform them properly. They’re all good with what the Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin types say because of course the stupid scientists are either lying or don’t know what they are talking about.

    Your post inspired me to listen to a video of Sarah Palin speaking on environmental issues. The Huffington Post has it posted as Sarah Palin Compares Climate Change ‘Hysteria’ to Eugenics. The troubling thing is that I can actually see why her spiel resonates. If I didn’t possess a reasonable modicum of knowledge about the issues it very well might have appealed to me too. We are just not going to get around the rank and file social conservatives outsourcing their opinion to the fundamentalist pulpits and their antievolution talking heads. What seems shortrun doable out here in the bleachers is identify and debunk their pet arguments at every opportunity. The upside is that they pretty much all read from the same playbook, argument wise.
    For common example, the following was taken from the comments elicited by a National Geographic column labeled the Worst Drought in 1000 Years Predicted for American West.
    The comment read:

    “These idiots cannot predict next week’s weather, and we are to think they can predict it 50 years out? It’s just a scam to get more research dollars.”

    It’s mostly exactly the same argument used by Sarah Palin in her video.

    A reader responded in rebuttal:

    “There’s a difference between weather and climate. It’s hard to predict weather, it’s easier to predict climate. It’s like predicting where a baseball pitchers ball will go… It’s hard to predict an individual throw, but much easier to predict a trend over time.”

    I can imagine a somewhat blunter rebuttal such as:

    “Hey fool, try making a proper distinction between weather and climate and maybe that will get your head dislodged from between your buns. For starters check out how often the forecasters get the weather right versus how often they actually get it really wrong. And climate forecasting is easier still. All you have to do is look at the unprecedented rise in greenhouse gas emissions and raising global temperatures since the time when using fossil fuels became commonplace to see where things are going and why. And you call the scientists idiots? Well get a load of yourself and your manure for brains leaders who supply you with dumb arguments”,

    or something of similar effect. Maybe I’ll need to tone it down a bit in actual application.

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