Matt Ridley is author of The Rational Optimist, one of the main influences that turned me way from entrenched doomerism, and writes a blog of the same name. In this stunning talk he weaves together most of the main issues in the climate change debate, baldly stating how he sees much of the “consensus science” is pseudoscience- on a par with Crop Circles!
Funnily enough I was just writing about crop circles myself, and the strong influence of pseudoscience in the green movement, and had just fished down from my bookshelf The Field Guide- The Art, History and Crop Circle Making by Rob Irving and John Lundberg.
You can read one of my early forays into critical thinking on the subject here– but note that in those days I was breezily referring to “climate change denial” as pseudoscience!
The story of crop circles and the two distinct groups of the Circle Makers and the “researchers”- who “study” the circles to determine which ones are “hoaxes” and which ones are “genuine” -ie of paranormal origin- is surely one of the most fascinating in the canons of the New Age. The Circlemakers are quite open about needing the researchers and the legions of the faithful to give meaning to what they see as a sort of subversive performance art. Publicly they always stated that they believed all crop circles to be of human origin- although there were probably various teams of circle makers at different times who may not have all known each other- but had a strict rule of never confessing to the being the creator of any specific circle. The whole thing depended on the impossibility of proving that all crop circles were man-made. The steady improvement of techniques and increasing ambition and complexity of design helped perpetuate the myth.
At one point in the book I think Lundberg describes how it felt walking incognito back into a crop circle he had just spent all night creating to find a crowd of hippies standing there holding hands in a circle waiting for the Second Coming. You can see how irresistible it must have been…
Climate alarmism is similar in as much that nearly any effect in the weather can be attributed to the effects of CO2, and any prediction can be made without any certainty that it will not come about- but with little evidence to support it either:
“A theory so flexible it can rationalize any outcome is a pseudoscientific theory.”
Ridley’s point though is that things like climate change alarmism are not art or pranks, but perpetuated by vast sums of money, and vested interests and are leading to hugely costly yet ineffective and unnecessary policies- the cure is worse than the disease:
At least crop circle believers cannot almost double your electricity bills and increase fuel poverty while driving jobs to Asia, to support their fetish.
At least creationists have not persuaded the BBC that balanced reporting is no longer necessary.
At least homeopaths have not made expensive condensing boilers, which shut down in cold weather, compulsory, as John Prescott did in 2005.
At least astrologers have not driven millions of people into real hunger, perhaps killing 192,000 last year according to one conservative estimate, by diverting 5% of the world’s grain crop into motor fuel*.
That’s why it matters. We’ve been asked to take some very painful cures. So we need to be sure the patient has a brain tumour rather than a nosebleed.
What is truly scary is as Matt explains how hard it is now to distinguish between science and its pseudo-version: no longer can we rely on just quoting the peer-reviewed evidence- we will have to look much more closely than that to be sure.