Climate Change - The New Faith

Science Heresy - October 2010

John Reid

Climate Change - The New Faith

The less a thing is known, the more fervently it is believed - Montaigne

In effect a new religion has grown out of secular humanism. Global warming is the central tenet of this new belief system in much the same way that the Resurrection is the central tenet of Christianity. Al Gore has taken a role corresponding to that of St. Paul in proselytizing the new faith.

There are major differences however. Whereas it is not possible to call oneself a Christian without entertaining the central belief in the Resurrection, it is certainly possible to be deeply concerned with the order and condition of humanity and so call oneself a humanist without entertaining a corresponding belief in anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Belief in a Resurrection which supposedly occurred some 2000 years ago is a matter of personal faith, whereas AGW is a scientific hypothesis which can and should be tested by observation. Imagine the consequences both to science and to secular humanism should this hypothesis turn out to be untrue and the dire predictions of the climate models fail to materialize.

The quasi-religious nature of AGW is evidenced by the rancour which is generated when people like me express scepticism about the theory. Scepticism is part and parcel of science which has, until recently, been a “small-l liberal” pursuit in which the opinions of doubters were respected. Now we sceptics are called “deniers” and, by implication, lumped in with neo-Nazi conspiracy theorists who question the Holocaust. The accusation that we are somehow in the sway of the oil companies and similar big business interests is commonplace and indeed is the chief argument of non-scientist supporters of the AGW theory. This echoes the “work of the Devil” argument of fundamentalist Christians; it is a mental trick by which the faithful avoid facing the real issues.

Over the last few years, with remarkable rapidity, AGW has gone from being a scientific curiosity to being a politically correct catechism. Nowadays it is not merely politically correct, it is politically essential. Somehow this nineteenth century oddity has outlasted Das Kapital to become the banner of millions of environmentally concerned westerners. It seems to fulfill a human need for sacrifice, a need to “put something back”. It is the ancient myth about guilt and sin and redemption in a new guise. People are entitled to entertain whatever apocalyptic view of the future they choose but such ideas have nothing to do with science. Climate prediction is not science, it is pseudo-science, and sooner or later more real scientists are going to wake up to this fact.

In the conduct of human affairs it is surely preferable that we base our actions on reason and evidence rather than on piety and myth.

A discussion of the supposed "evidence" for catastrophic climate change can be found in the article, Climate Modelling Nonsense which first appeared in Quadrant for October 2009.

October 2010