Religious Fanaticism about Science

Sometimes James Taranto brings politics down to the adolescent they're so lame mentality, with his clever one-liners and reassurances that if you're reading him, you're much brighter and cooler then them. Even in the midst of that, he can still make a good point:

"What Gore means to say is that no one may doubt that man is causing the earth to heat up. But this is completely at odds with the scientific method, which is founded on doubt. What Gore is offering is a form of religious fanaticism without God, in which infallible 'scientists' promulgate dogmas and politicians browbeat us into making drastic changes in our lives in order to conform to them."

I remember talking about a variation of this in high school, with Adam (hint: we were so lame). I wanted to replace God's role in society with the Quest for Truth, or something. Morality would revolve around the need for objectivity, and fairness. People's efforts would go toward increasing the understanding of the world, of people, between people... instead of towards what I cynically imagined were faith-based cliques and wars and extravagant, useless churches.

I haven't thought about it much since then, if only because Adam and others made me concede that people aren't ready, scientists aren't ready, and the Truth is not secure enough. Taranto's quotation above really captures the problem -- a cadre of 'esteemed scientists' come up with a position, crush dissent, and try to force political change. It's really no different than the worst aspects of religion, except instead of a bible we have computer modeling of climate change. Instead of suffering for personal growth and redemption, we have suffering for potential gains in saved forests. And, as Crichton suggests, when have great truths even come from committee? One person, working alone, will figure out the deal with global warming -- it will involve the wobbles, the magnetosphere, the Greenland ice core samples, the algae, the forests, the volcanoes... and the factories. It will explain the little-ice-ages of the last millenia, the big ones of the last eras, and will not be based on computer modeling.

I have a headache, and don't feel I'm making much sense, but must confess that I wrote a Vonnegut-style short story about how conservatives and the big-industry polluters and their lobbyists crushed the environmental movement, stopped the science, and masked all the foul-smelling chemicals with strawberry scent. It was the spring of 1991, I was 15 and a half, and have never before or since been more confident in my abilities or righteousness.

Next time I'll have the truth on my side.