Saturday, February 25, 2012
A Non-serious Analysis
I found this article by John Horgan, published in the online version of Scientific American, because of my interest in the sad tale of Warmie true believer Peter Gleick (h/t Instapundit). It makes me miss Scientific American not in the slightest.
The title is: Should Global-Warming Activists Lie to Defend Their Cause? The answer to that question is clearly no, but I dare you to find any such answer in Horgan's article.
Here is the series of OK-to-lie situations Mr. Horgan starts with:
Shouldn’t you lie if your girlfriend asks you if you like her new haircut? If your boss, who’s a vindictive bastard, asks your opinion of his new business plan? What about lying in order to reveal a plot that you believe imperils all of humanity?Of course you can lie to your girlfriend about whether you like her haircut. She can't know your true opinion unless you tell her. If she looks good but you don't like it, no one is harmed by your silence or assent. But what if her haircut makes her look horrible and it would be easy to fix? OK to lie then? Moving on from the trivial--if the business plan is so bad that it means bankruptcy for the company, you would be a fool to say it's a good plan. Finally to the meat of the article. Of course you could lie to serve the greater good of saving all mankind (You could lie to the Nazis asking if there are any Jews hidden in your basement, too). But is that what the Global Warming alarmism is about? Saving all mankind? Not according to a very persuasive MIT physicist Richard Lindzen (sorry, even the Power Point presentation is long, with a lot of science in the second half). And certainly not according to us non-scientist Deniers. It is about obtaining the left's ultimate goals through alternate means.
To clothe the global warming Hoax in the 'saving all mankind' cape is to end the debate about the propriety of lying before it begins. More on debate below, and here.
Then Mr. Horgan lies by omission, leaving out the seminal part of the story, namely that one of the documents Horgan says Gleick obtained fraudulently, was certainly not obtained by Gleick from the Heartland Institute (and probably was forged by Gleick or someone Gleick knew--for a recipient of the MacArthur "genius" grants, Gleick's proven himself at least no criminal genius). But back to Gleick being a heroic truth teller by lying to the bad guys, the "deniers" who have a "larger strategy for undermining support for global warming..." Spoken like a Warmie true believer. We Deniers think we are being appropriately skeptical of what is being sold as 'settled science--above debate.' We're only undermining a fraud, which is the same as serving the Truth.
Now to the heart of the matter according to Horgan:
Kant said that when judging the morality of an act, we must weigh the intentions of the actor. Was he acting selfishly, to benefit himself, or selflessly, to help others? By this criterion, Gleick’s lie was clearly moral, because he was defending a cause that he passionately views as righteous. Gleick, you might say, is a hero comparable to Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who in 1971 stole and released documents that revealed that U.S. officials lied to justify the war in Vietnam. (Emphasis added).And up is down and black is white, etc. So if you truly believe your cause is just, you are above normal ethics and can do anything everyone agrees is wrong to further the cause? Really? So fanatics, no matter how wrong their cause, can do anything and still remain moral? Pull the other one, John. Gleick was lying to obtain documents to use to go ad hominem on Heartland, not to aid in the 'rational public debate' he professes to want so passionately, but which, alas, he never agrees to have. As to the anti-historical description of Ellsberg as a hero who released documents (about the difficulty inherent in the war to keep South Vietnam free of Communist domination), I guess Mr. Horgan and I will have to agree to a difference of visions. And speaking of Viet Nam, in an odd congruence, Horgan and I are contemporaries, both born in 1953, although it appears it took him a long time to to get his degree. In one interview he gave on his war book, he said he was eligible to be drafted for the Viet Nam era military, but got a high number. So did I, 360, but the rest of the story is that no one in our birth year class was ever drafted, even the guys with number 1s. The draft just ended. I guess it's not as compelling a personal history to reveal that last (although in fairness maybe he did and the interview synopsis is faulty).
Under the circumstances, Gleick did not have the high moral ground while committing career seppuku, and those who seek to attribute him that do their dubius cause a great disservice. Like I said, a genius, this guy was not. And neither, it seems, is John Horgan, at least about the ethics of lying.
UPDATE: Here is a wider view of the problem, with mention of and quotes from Horgan's article, by Ed Driscoll. Also I e-mailed my piece to Mr. Horgan and he wrote back without really responding to my criticism. He wants me to read his The End of War and review it. I will, but not this Spring.
Off topic: saw Act of Valor this morning (I'm cheap: I saw the first showing for $5.75). Plot was a bit contrived (but I suspended my disbelief), and the dialog was a bit stilted in the non-action scenes (hey, they're real people, not actors: wha'd'ya want?), but the action scenes were great. HALO jumps. Live ammunition shooting scenes. Riverine rescues. Awesome shoot 'em up/blow'em up toys.
When the dedication scrolled at the end, the audience was totally silent. Dumbfounded, perhaps, at the number of SEALS who have been killed since 9/11. Me, too.
We owe these folks so much.
'Course I'm a warrior sympathizer: USAFA x-hubby went to Vietnam 3x: as a FAC, in refueling tankers, and in B-52s. He also sat SAC alert for 'way too many weeks, waiting for the command to nuke the USSR.
Different enemy now. Yet vigilance is required. Sheepdogs are needed now more than ever.
' bless 'em.