Justified True Belief

October 8, 2009

I would absolutely love to respond to Roger’s challenge at much greater length, but I’m afraid I’m heading soon to New York for my sister’s wedding and so can only offer a few short comments.  Roger asks this:

Is belief in climate change a religion?

And the answer is… wait for it… no.  It is no more a religion than belief in the curative power of marijuana is a religion.  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what a religion is, but it seems to me that religions must involve some appeal to the supernatural.  Since one can offer perfectly feasible naturalistic explanations for both climate change and the curative power of marijuana, whether those explanations are true or false isn’t at issue.  What is at issue is the upshot of the belief.  And, in most cases, the upshot of the belief in climate change is that natural systems, coupled with the introduction of anthropogenic emissions, are affecting the climate.  Nothing supernatural about that.

Now then, none of this is to say that appeals to the supernatural can’t exist in either of the two cases. Certainly there are people who believe every manner of wacky shit, sometimes after partaking of the aforementioned wacky tabakky.  If some nincompoop believes that the Great Hippo of Quincy is manipulating our weather systems to punish us for lionizing elephants and zebras, and also that the Great Hippo of Quincy’s supernatural gesticulations are the root cause of climate change, then I daresay that yes, climate change of the great hippo variety may be a religion.  So too for marijuana.  Fortunately, I suspect there aren’t very many nincompoops of this sort (though I have my doubts).  More on that last link soon.

Moreover, if one believes in superheroes, this could easily seem, on its face, like an appeal to the supernatural.  But it is also not necessarily that.  If one believes in superheroes of the X-men variety — those who exhibit natural powers brought on through genetic mutations — then there is, in this case, no appeal to the supernatural.  Ergo, it ain’t a religion.

The confusion probably lies, I suspect, in a distinction between a genuine unjustified belief and justified beliefs.  (Be careful here to distinguish between genuine and stated beliefs.)  We tend to think that people who have genuine unjustified beliefs — perhaps beliefs that appear to be impervious to external reason exchange, maybe even that simply conflict with beliefs that we hold dear — have no external independent methodology for establishing the truth of their beliefs.  We tend to assume that such steadfast people have some extra-rational commitment.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s that easy. It appears to be a fact about the human condition that we can hold many contradictory beliefs at once, and that we can find some pretty enticing ways of weaving these together. Often we simply don’t have our justificatory apparatus set up and/or lubricated in the right way. There’s nothing religious about this. It’s just the way we keep ourselves sane. And sometimes, we make errors. We’re not terribly great critical thinkers. Until a challenge is presented that pulls the rug out of our other presiding beliefs, I suspect we all try to make sense of what we believe so that we have a mostly coherent picture.

The question about religion is about the nature of the appeal, it seems to me, and not about the steadfastness, truth, or rationality of the belief.


  1. Note that Pielke has spun and distorted this little story.

    Nicholson did not say be believed *in* climate change, he said:

    > “I have a strongly-held philosophical belief about climate change and the environment.”

    Note the word “about”. He accepts the overwhelming science – as all rational people do, but his philosophical belief determines what should be done:

    > “I believe we must urgently cut carbon emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change.”

    Note that he also only refers to this being tried under “religious law”, when the article states that it is the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003 which encompasses more than religion. Of course, if he’d mentioned that his article would look even less convincing.

    I wonder if Pielke Jr ever wonders why so many people refer to him as dishonest?

    • Honestly, I don’t see the dishonesty. It all turns on an adverb: in vs. about? Are you serious?

  2. Dr. Hale,

    If you care to examine my collection of peer reviewed science debunking Man Made Climate Change Hysteria, you can find it here:


  3. Wow. David, try the decaf.

    The phrase “religious law” is from the Guardian story. I wrote that Henderson “claims that the firm fired him due to his beliefs about climate change.” Note: “about” not “in”.

    • More cherry picking, Roger? Haven’t you done enough of that for one day?

      Lying by omission is still lying.

      • Are you trying to be ironic and show that belief in catastrophic AGW is a religious belief where you go around and call those who question things names and proclaim heresy?

        Or are you just silly?

  4. Hilarious! We cross-posted on the same topic.

  5. What do you call a belief system without formalized iconery and rituals, if not a religion? An ur-religion?

  6. For the purposes of the article cited, religion doesn’t come into it. The gentleman in this case is citing protection for his philosophy, not religion.

    More to the point, I think it is reasonable to ask, can a belief system that takes on the trappings of religion be called religion? I am confident in saying that the gentleman in the British legal case, along with millions of others, couldnt’ cite a single scientific paper to support their beliefs. Not one critical experiment, not one grand test of falsification. Their belief relies entirely on a reference to authority. Which, we learn in any good Science 101 class, is no science at all.

    Which is not to say that the science is not there. But a belief system that claims absolute certainty needs more than the voice of authority to claim a scientific basis. The gentleman in question has no greater support for his belief than the Christian who believes with absolute certainty in the Trinity because that’s what the priest/minister told him in church when he was a child. He takes it “on faith.”

  7. 1. Replace hippos for hockeysticks. There’s your iconery.
    2. Spamming blogs is a favorite alarmist ritual. A rite of passage for some, it seems.
    3. The other important aspect of organized religion is the enterprise; every parasite needs its host. Climate change, meet carbon capture & taxation.
    4. Every religion requires a demon. Something to coax financial contributions to keep the bureaucracy running. Something to occupy people’s minds while they fork over their hard-earned dough. Something to innervate and alarm them. Enter the “denialist”. He’s everywhere. And don’t underestimate the amount of cash required to root him out.
    5. Every religion needs a vehicle of permanence to sustain it through challenging financial times. The state will do. Because they need a purpose too. And a place to dump your taxes.
    6. And so it grows.

  8. Dr. Hale,

    You mention “the curative power of marijuana”.

    Again, a tangent — even more so this time. But, if you care to examine the peer reviewed science documenting the flip side of that argument, find it here:


    Do the harmful side effects outweigh any “curative power”? I think they do. But, don’t expect the media to inform anyone.

    And, don’t expect me to ever visit CU Boulder on 4/20 of any year.

  9. The question about religion is about the nature of the appeal, it seems to me, and not about the steadfastness, truth, or rationality of the belief.

    This is exactly right, though if you had added “or the content of the belief” then it would have made clearer what’s wrong with the rest of the post.

    When people ask ‘Is belief in X a religion?’ they typically are not asking whether X is supernatural. The focus is not on the content of the belief, but rather the psychology of the believer. The question might be better understood as something like, “Is belief in X held for largely symbolic social reasons, to signal one’s affiliation with a certain community or ‘tribe’, rather than as a good-faith attempt (successful or not) to respond to the evidence?”

    Of course, understood this way, just about any politically controversial belief is held “religiously” for many people. The more interesting question is whether the belief is justified, or which “tribal authorities” are doing a better job at discerning what’s (likely to be) true.

    • Well put, Richard. I agree.

  10. Ben,

    To me a religion is anything where beliefs are primarily based on faith and where challenges to those beliefs are met with denial.

    Anthropogenic climate change is a plausible scientific hypothesis that is consistent with some of the evidence that we have available. It is possible to argue that the action on CO2 is appropriate while we continue to investigate the science of climate without turning it in a religion (this is my understanding of Roger Jr. position).

    Arguing that the ‘science of settled’ and dissenters are immoral is an expression of faith that is indistinguishable from a creationist who rejects evolution because the ‘the bible has settled it’. In both cases the believer is placing blind faith an authority that tells them what they should believe instead of investigating the evidence themselves and made a rational conclusion based on that evidence.

    A simple test to distinguish between a religious belief in AGW and an scientific one would look at the person’s attitude towards skeptical views.

    If the person feels that sceptics are expressing legitimate views but that the weight of the evidence still makes the AGW case more plausible then the person has a scientific belief in AGW

    If they feel that skeptics are immoral or stupid and that their views should be suppressed because they might “harm” others then the person has a religious belief in AGW.

    The majority of politicians, journalists and activists today have a religious belief in AGW.

    • Maybe so, but as Richard notes, using your standards, is this not the way in which almost any politically controversial belief can be characterized? Is evolution a religion? Is libertarianism a religion? Is patriotism a religion?

      Seems to me that your view casts too wide a net.

      • One has to be careful about trying to dissociate independent aspects that distinguish “religion” from mere belief systems, when what really characterizes religion is the strong positive feedback amongst processes that serves to reinforce seemingly irrational (i.e. very hard to explain) patterns of human behavior (e.g. the evolution of arcane rituals, the communal worshipping of icons, the sacrificing of resources to support political activities unknown).
        Religions are icon-rich belief systems out-of-control, fuelled by institutional cash and individual emotion, and carrying inertia like a hurricane fueled by warm surface waters.
        In a time of war, one could argue that patriotism qualifies. But as long as the military crisis is temporary, the fervency can’t sustain itself. Thus patriotism comes and goes, whereas religions are more permanent than that. The positive feedbacks are persistent.
        Religions are trans-generational. Which requires that there be a trans-generational enemy and method of communicating (inculcating) hate for the enemy. The demon requires immortality for the fervency to be sustained. If the demon is inside us all, then that is the ideal enemy: as long as we live, so does he. Religions require exorcism.
        Now, about the non-disclosure of small sample sizes …

      • Note that although religions in this model are characterized by both fervency and sustainability, the two are inversely related. The most durable religions should have a low level of fervency which can ignite, when required, to sustain itself through challenging circumstances. Overly fervent religions demand too much of their patrons and either lose membership or wealth-generating-capacity or both. Ten commandments is about the right number to maintain a slow-simmering guilt and sustained capacity for opportunisitic hate.

      • This helps to contextualize what I meant by “out of control”. The most enduring religions neither fizzle out nor explode “out of control”. They explode episodically, but without ever losing “control”.
        (Have I made a mess of it yet?)

      • Pretty much.

      • I would say all of those this can be a religion. The people screaming about Nazis at health care town halls definately have a religious viewpoint when it comes health care policy.

        Part of the issue is how you want define the word religion. You could define it to require a believe in a god and that would exclude AGW and any other philosophy.

        However, the point I am making about the irrational nature of some beliefs is true even if one picks a different word to describe them.

  11. “The question about religion is about the nature of the appeal, it seems to me, and not about the steadfastness, truth, or rationality of the belief.”

    Great post.

    One can make an analogy with vegetarians – some people are vegetarians for religious reasons, others may be vegetarians simply because they believe it is better for their health. Both may be equally zealous in avoiding meat, but only one group can be described as being “religious” with respect to their vegetarian beliefs.

    To take another example, one could be fanatically anti-smoking, but that would not make being against smoking into a religion.

    It does raise the intersting question though of whether religious beliefs should be given so much more automatic respect than any other form of belief.

  12. That’s what I get for trying to cast human social networks as nonlinear dynamical systems. Please don’t revoke my license to preach!

    • No revocation of license. Some bizarre side of me likes to hear what people have to say. I teach a lot of students over the course of any year, and I hear a huge range of viewpoints. Somehow I don’t get tired of it. Keeps me on my toes. Helps me find arguments, both that I agree with and that I disagree with. When I find one that particularly vexes me, or maybe that just gets my goat, it keeps me thinking… so I like it. But I may be an odd bird like that.

      • The earth sciences are quantitative sciences, but loaded with imprecision and opportunities for biasing data. Earth scientists understand this – the everpresent need to root out biases that can lead to false premises. Rhetoriticians, well … let’s hope the good ones get it. The bad ones can’t or won’t bother to distinguish honest quantification of sampling error from the politically motivated spreading of uncertainty and doubt. Arithemtic means are lauded as “information” while confidence intervals on those means are demonized as “disinformation”. Thus Briffa’s oversight (failure to disclose sample size and confidence intervals) is lauded by hockey-stick-loving alarmists, but will be deplored by the statisticians.
        Climate alarmism has everything required for religious potential. Does it not?

      • Bender asks:

        Climate alarmism has everything required for religious potential. Does it not?

        I believe a distinguishing characteristic of religion is the explicit demand that certain claims be accepted purely on the basis of faith — that is, they demand acceptance of the claims not merely when there is no reason to believe them , but when reason revolts against them.

        Christianity, for instance, taken literally, demands that we believe that a cosmic Jewish zombie, who is his own father, can make us live forever, provided we communicate to him telepathically that we accept him as our master, so that he can remove from our souls an evil force that it present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magic tree. Faith must be invoked to swallow that claim, because reason sure won’t.

        So while some (many?) climate alarmists are no doubt irrational — some are no doubt emotion-driven and not evidence-driven — I haven’t run into any (yet) that make an explicit appeal to faith.

        Of course, one could say that if they cling to their postions regardless of the evidence, that means their beliefs are indeed faith-based and hence religious in nature, whether they admit it or not. But I don’t know if we are to that point yet. The alarmists I hear are still appealing to reason (however mistakenly) to support their positions.

        But I must say, bender, reading your comments is almost always both informative AND entertaining!

      • I forgot to mention the necessity of a central icon, represensting an omniscient and omnipresent chief authority who is also unknowable. Of course I’m talking about Steve Bloom’s Gaia, our Cruel Mistress Earth, whose truths are only partly accessible to science. This, then, fulfills Michael Smith’s faith criterion. You can learn some things about Gaia, but you can not know her fully, completely. Leading directly to the dogma of the “precautionary principle”. We can not know, we must suspend disbelief, we must act on faith. Gaia needs your money.

      • I’ll try to find time to weigh in on this a bit more later on. For now, I’ll give a bit of comparative religion from Vishal Mangalwadi, sometimes called the De Tocqueville of India.

        He posits that the difference between various religions comes down to their view of the source of absolute Truth.

        * Some say there is no Truth (or Truth is unknowable)
        * Some say everything is Truth
        * Some (most?) identify a particular person as having the Truth
        * Some say there’s an external (“God”) source of Truth

        In reality, as someone else has noted, I’m conflating theology and religion. They aren’t the same. The above is actually about theology.

        There are many potholes here for those not used to dealing with both science and religion.

        Example: if you examine Abrahamic texts (Islam/Jewish/Christian) you’ll find that G-d got sick and tired of religiosity; reason was lifted to a very high level; everything should be “tested”… yet you shouldn’t put G-d in a box limited by human reason. Not an easy tangle to untie.

  13. […] Mistress Being Human on a Harsh Planet « Justified True Belief Feeling Randy? October 8, 2009 Following up on comments earlier in the week, Brian Leiter […]

  14. Ben, being a religious brother, I think I am entitled to say something here. I will only appeal to reason. First of all, definitions; Rogers article mixes up philosphy and religion and uses them as if they were interchangeable. Philosophy is “Philosophy is the scientific knowledge that through the natural light of reason considers the first causes of all things.” (Maritain) and thus the best element to compare it with is theology (“the human effort to understand revelation intellectually…” -Figari), not religion. Religion includes not only the thoughts and beliefs (theology) but also the lifestyle that follows, as in you have Stoic philosophy and a Stoic life style, existentialist etc. Philosophy isn’t specifically concerned with the lifestyle.

    So, as to Mr. Nicholson claims. I will quote historian Chris Dawson. His fundamental thesis is that religion is at the core of every culture and that “a society that has lost its religion becomes sooner or later a society which has lost its culture… Every living culture must possess some spiritual dynamic, which provides the energy necessary for that sustained social effort which is civilization. Normally this dynamic is supplied by religion, but in exceptional circumstances the religious impulse must disguise itself under philosophical or political forms” (Dawson, 2001).

    If we define culture as “extension of humanity” (Karol Wojtyla) and go the other direction, one can substitute the religious ideas for ideologies, and make a life of it. It’s really bad religion, but a form of religion where you offer to an idea what should be given to God. We are living in very strange and exceptional times, and if you accept the secular dogma you will have crazies running around with the climate doctrine.

  15. But religions do not have to have (at least in terms of their beliefs) a supernatural component. I would refer you to the book “The Stars My Destination” for an example of such (“we are a very scientific people!”). Animism may also qualify in that the belief in spirits is a natural part of the world and not something outside of it. The Christian-Moslem-Judeo axis OTOH sees things as heaven vs earth where there is truly a supernatural component that is not held to rules consistent with physical reality as we know it.

  16. My God ’tis of Thee
    Or in Thee or for Thee or
    About Thee we sing.

  17. You have visited the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, yes?

    But as to Roger, such obfustication make him such a tasty liver treat

  18. I wonder why Eli Rabett, Steve Bloom and Hank Roberts don’t oblige the blog host and answer his question? It seems there should be lots of common ground here. Surely you guys don’t deny that the climate impact alarmist movement has all the ingredients needed for re-shaping our spiritual relationship with Gaia? I thought you guys believed in strong-action-despite-any-uncertainties a.k.a. “precautionary principle”?
    I thought this would be a safe place to talk? I thought you could put the demon-hunting aside for a day?

    • Someone should increase your meds.

  19. Someone asked a good question, which can be stated in both Alarmist and Denialist modes:

    “What evidence would convince you AGW is/isn’t real?” [i.e., contrary to the view you currently hold]

    It was suggested if a person cannot answer that question, they hold their position by faith.

  20. Human beliefs are formulated along a spectrum of evidence-based approaches.

    At one end is religion – beliefs founded on faith (i.e. evidence, data etc. plays no part)

    At the other end is the scientific method – beliefs founded on data, evidence etc.

    Any area of belief will fall roughly at some point along that spectrum.

    I think you need to address some very recent worrying issues regarding the disclosure and sharing of data and methods in the field of AGW research before trying to argue that belief in dangerous anthropogenic climate change has not/is not slipping in the direction the religious end.

    That in itself should be concern us deeply.

  21. Perhaps, if we’d used the C-word instead of “religion” it might have gone more smoothly. Is there a cult of anthropogenic warming? Well, many of the characteristics are present: a charismatic leader (James Hansen, doing his best anyway), an approved corpus of beliefs, a hated out-group (deniers”), things that must not be thought or said, in-group membership dependent on stated beliefs, appeals to emotion rather than reason (polar bears).

    Myself, I think some people exhibit the symptoms of belonging to such a cult but many who believe in AGW do not. But the same has been said about many organizations and beliefs (the US Marine Corp, Opus Dei), often simply as a term of abuse.

    Cults, like religions, seemed to belong to that class of objects where we all (mostly) know what they mean but where attempts at exact definition fail.

    Maybe we just need a bit of charity.

  22. Roy Clouser has suggested a definition of divinity along the lines of the non-dependent reality on which all else in reality depends. This definition does not determine what is reality is in fact divine, but it does point to the one feature he sees salient in all religions, theistic or not.

    He argues the consequences of this for science: that all theoretical thought, explicitly or not, either presumes the object of the thought to be non-dependant, or attempts to reduce the object to that which is non-dependant.

    He discusses mathematics at length, in particular the efforts to reduce mathematical reality to a non-dependent reality of logic, psyche, praxis, rules, etc. (Russel, Hume, Dewey, Hilbert, etc.) He discusses physics, accounting for the conflicts between physical realists, instrumentalists, etc., by what the scientists of different schools each take to be divine (“divine” in Clouser’s technical sense.)

    Clouser’s work build on the work of the 20th century Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd. Unfortunately, Dooyeweerd (despite, IMO, being among the most original thinkers since Kant) is almost unknown outside of Dutch speaking circles, so this might not be of much help. (Clouser is a good place to start in understanding Dooyeweerd.)

    Anyway, that is my 2 cents adjusted for inflation. An excerpt from Clouser’s The Myth of Religious Neutrality (a book written for a lay audience) is available, should anyone be interested.

  23. Indulge my off-topic comment but there is a new study from a couple of Canadian psychologists alleging that those who accrue indulgences to themselves by shopping ‘green’ are more likely to lie and steal on subsequent testing.

    • Don’t tell me: McIntyre & McKitrick? Published in J. Psychol. Minerol.?
      (How’s that for a drive-by?)

      • Herbis, Verbis, et Mineralis.

  24. Here’s another interesting tidbit for the mix:

    I’ve seen a demonstration that it is only by convention that “scientific” is today deemed to imply “naturalistic.” We know the origins of science were specifically intended to help us better understand G-d. (cf Bacon’s famous quote about the Two Books)

    Please don’t get sidetracked by the topic of the following reference. It’s the philosophical relationship to the faith/science issue that interests me here: Hugh Ross, in Origins of Life presents one surprising thing: a set of testable, falsifiable hypotheses for a supernaturalistic perspective.

    Until I saw this, I didn’t think that was possible.

    • I have always been interested in the role of faith among scientists in maintaining otherwise fragile logical structures from collapsing. Hypotheses that are very hard to test can take on a life of their own. The internet and the growth of the collaborative model of science serves to increase the size and dimension of logical structure that can be erected in a short period of time. But it also brings to bear more powerful forces of inquiry. These are very interesting times for those interested in the science/faith interface. Science may be the only way of getting at an objective truth, but while it is taking its sweet time meandering about (Mann was right about that, and he should know) there is a vacuum into which faith flows freely. So there is always a role to play for Divine Spiritual Truth. Chaos is the face of God.

      • “Chaos is the face of God.”
        I’m glad Bacon didn’t believe that 🙂

      • Chaos is the Masque of God, maybe?

  25. Eric Hoffer, 1951 – “The True Believer – Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements”
    “When hopes and dreams are loose in the streets, it is well for the timid to lock doors , shutter windows and lie low until the wrath has passed. For there is often a monstrous incongruity between the hopes, however noble and tender, and the actions that follows them. It is as if ivied maidens and garlanded youths were to herald the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
    And p.12
    “People who see their lives as irremediably spoiled cannot find a worth-while purpose in self-advancement…Their innermost craving is for a new life – a rebirth – or failing this, a chance to acquire new elements of pride, confidence, hope, a sense of purpose and worth by an identification with a holy cause. An active mass movement offers them opportunities for both…”
    and P. 13
    “ It is true that in the early adherents of a mass movement there are also adventurers who join in the hope that that the movement will give a spin to their wheel of fortune and whirl them to fame and power.”

  26. Weighing in on this, I think for many lay believers, global warming alarmism might represent a “secular religion,” which the Wikipedia defines as ” a term used to describe ideas, theories or philosophies which involve no spiritual component, yet possess qualities similar to those of a religion.”

    It’s pretty clear in the context that Roger Pielke wasn’t suggesting that people believe in a supernatural component to global warming alarmism (though I can imagine there are some believers for which even this is true, google “gaea” and global warming for example), but rather in this other context.

    And I think he would be right. Many believers in global warming (those who view it as an imminent catastrophic threat to human existence in particular) often have astonishingly bad grasp of the basic science facts. Like the person I know who was comparing a 1973 picture of an Alaskan glacier to a an earlier one. He got a bit flustered (and really quite angry at me), when I showed him the Gospel according to Gavin, namely GISTEMP, and demonstrated that the early 1970s was part of the plateau in temperature that followed the warming in the early 20th century. (So the logic follows, there was noway this undeniable melting of the glacier could be directly related to global warming.) Nor was he particularly happy about the climate model output showing that anthropogenic CO2 emissions were nearly balanced by anthropogenic sulfate emissions, again until roughly the mid 1970s.

    In any case, it would appear to me that Ben Hale is guilty of what he accuses Roger Pielke of, by making such a big deal about the “supernatural requirement”, namely take words out of context to imply meaning not intended by the author.

    That said, I think it’s a bit unfair to paint scientists who study the impact of anthropogenic activity from their enthusiastic but somewhat facts-challenged followers. I’m pretty sure, for the most part, they want to be viewed as high-priests of a secular cult.

  27. Er make that “don’t want” to be viewed as high-priests….

    • Global Warming or any other mass movement is great crowd control.

  28. There are only a few obvious liars. The less obvious are the balance of scientist who do not show up for fear of losing their future funding. That is a large number. The post-war publish or perish syndrome in the USA has overwhelmed the methodical advance of rigorous testing and debate. Shame…

  29. I’m with Manns. This CO2=AGW false paradigm is an evil destructive branch of a wider quasi-religious secular belief system obeisant to Mother Gaia. The branch is a ‘Popular Delusion and Madness of the Crowd’, the tree is somewhat more sane.

    • I grant the alarmists their 1.2C and all its likely impacts. It’s the proposition that the positive feedbacks will far outweigh the negative in the 21st century and beyond that I think merits investigative audit. Yet even this concession is not enough to get you out of the demon’s camp of the denier. The demonizers shut their ears and quote from the scripture of Arrhenius. And yet – I’ve already given my faith over to that proposition. How much more do you want? You can’t have it all.
      I’ve already declared my belief that the AGW hypothesis is not crumbling. At Climate Audit I am the only voice suggesting that dendrocliamtology is a legitimate science. I don’t question the warming trend in the surface record (merely ask for a full analysis of UHI effect, not accepting Parker’s result). And still I am demonized by the ironic likes of “luminous beauty”.
      Their demand of faith exceeds my capacity to believe. A less opaque accounting for the positive and negative feedbacks in the GCMs would help bridge that gap. realclimate could help; but they are not fullfilling that role. They choose to preach to the choir. IMO that is the wrong audience to target. It’s the kims and benders they need to target.

  30. Without much doubt, the increase in CO2 from man’s precipitate release of it has a climatic effect. The trouble is that we have no idea of what that effect is. CO2’s net effect all depends upon the feedback of water vapor and many other very complex processes. The hysteria about CO2 has all been predicated on the assumption that water vapor is a large and positive feedback to real Arrhenius CO2 forcing, and that assumption is not demonstrated.

    Absent this premature political distraction of demonizing CO2 we’d have a chance to figure out the real effect of CO2. Fortunately, nature has called an official’s timeout while we review the tapes. An honest and disinterested evaluation of the effect of our release of CO2 is badly needed, and it hasn’t been done yet.

  31. Let me put this issue to rest:

    I have no tangible proof that God exists. I will predict his coming, louder and louder and with ever increasing alarm, but never tell you EXACTLY he will come. I will periodically change my predictions to match current events so they look more accurate. And at your request, I can generate mathematical models, based on my personal set of assumptions, that ‘prove’ unequivocably that he exists.

    However in spite of this assertion, I doubt many of you will go rushing to church this Sunday. So how comical and curious it is that based on this same quality of evidence, you will go buy overpriced hybrids, volunteer to economy-crippling tax hikes, and proclaim yourselves more knowledgeable and honest than a world class scientist like Pielke.

    This debate isn’t even about climate. This issue is about how desperately the average human is in need of self-validation, and the lengths they will go, and things they will believe to get it. Up to and including redifining the definition of words like “religion” and naively believing that Al Gore and the UN are agents of pure good who seek only to save you from the machinations of progress.

    I don’t even consider what I see on this blog a debate. I consider it a lot of people who are REALLY incapable of dropping their prejudices and just being honest with themselves. The world will suffer as a result. Sad…

  32. One more question.

    How do you think the “thousands of the worlds leading climatologists” feel about their work being described as a “religion”, ie something that is more about fear and faith than fact. Granted, AGW thoery IS exactly that, but anything and everything they are working for on the ‘science’ side will be undermined by this religious angle. This is the problem with alarmism. Alarm becomes primary to means, consistency or method. As a result this claim, compromises so many others previously viewed as legitimate.

    As I’ve always predicted all you will need to do to see this idiotic alarmism implode on itself is grab a cold drink and wait…

  33. AGW appears to be every bit as much of a religion as Scientology and atheism [also a belief system]. Contrary to the true believers in the repeatedly falsified conjecture that a tiny trace gas controls the climate, skeptics are “Doubting Thomases”. Skeptics require proof — or at least strong verifiable, testable, falsifiable and empirical evidence — that a harmless and beneficial tiny trace gas is going to cause runaway global warming and climate catastrophe, before shoveling literally $trillions of our money into their trumped up conjecture, which is being falsified by the planet itself.

    There is no real world evidence verifying their alarmism. The CO2=AGW conjecture is taken on faith, not on testable science; the scientific method is always turned upside down by AGW believers, who demand that skeptics prove or falsify AGW, rather than attempting to falsify the long accepted theory of natural climate variability. The fact that the Earth is cooling as CO2 rises falsifies their beliefs, so cognitive dissonance takes control.

    Psychologist Leon Festinger showed that cognitive dissonance explains what occurs at this stage of true belief in his book When Prophesy Fails. Festinger recounted the actual events of a group of believers who preached that a flying saucer would appear on a specific date, and save the members of their group. The rest of the world and all its inhabitants would then be destroyed by the aliens.

    But on the appointed day, the flying saucer failed to appear. Rather than admit they were wrong, the group increased their proselytizing, insisting even more vociferously that they were right [sound familiar?]. The next flying saucer appointment also came and went with no aliens appearing.

    Did the group finally admit they were wrong, and disband? No. They explained that the aliens came to understand that the group was so good and holy that the aliens had decided to spare the entire planet on their behalf.

    True believers in the CO2=AGW conjecture exhibit the same cognitive dissonance. When irrefutable data that the planet is cooling even as CO2 rises is provided, they react by moving the goal posts: global warming is now waiting in a mysterious, hidden “heat in the pipeline.” It does not matter that no such heat has been discovered, or that the deep ocean is cooling along with the rest of the planet, or that their own predicted “fingerprint” of AGW, a warming troposphere, isn’t happening at all. They simply ratchet up their proselytizing and preach doom from CO2 even louder.

    They also move out the date for the predicted catastrophe that never occurred, exactly like Festinger’s true believers did when the flying saucer didn’t appear as predicted [in 1993 Al Gore predicted climate catastrophe within ten years; last year he predicted catastrophe within the next four years]. The new alarmist prediction is: we’re still all gonna die from global warming — but now it won’t happen until 2100.

    In the mean time, they need lots and lots more of our tax money to save the world. They are, after all, the anointed ones. And no, skeptics can not be allowed to see the raw, unadjusted data and their methodologies that claim to prove CO2=AGW. That information is only for those in the inner sanctum, and it can not be released to non-believers. We must put our trust and faith in them.

    Meanwhile, skeptical scientists are demonized for being unbelievers in aliens CO2=AGW.

    The scientific method requires skepticism of unproven claims such as CO2=AGW that are not replicable or falsifiable. Every good scientist is a skeptic; skepticism is a central requirement of the scientific method. If it were not so, we would have witch doctors in hospitals.

    It can be debated whether or not AGW true believers are part of an organized religious movement. But the fact that they are afflicted with Festinger’s cognitive dissonance is beyond dispute.

  34. …the rest of the story. The important correlation between warming and cooling is the sunspot peak frequency, not the actual number of spots. Cosmic radiation is at its highest ever measured. This is happening because the earth’s magnetic shield is down; therefore, climate is changing (and always will). The climate celebrities, however, are linking climate and the economy. We can likely kick much of the carbon economy sometime late the twenty-first century, but we must not rush to judgement for the wrong reason. Yes, there has been warming to end the Ice Age. Climate is a chaotic system; the facts, however, do not support CO2 as a serious ‘pollutant’. In fact, it is plant fertilizer and seriously important to all life on the planet. It is the red herring used to unwind our economy. That issue makes the science relevant.
    Sulphate from volcanoes can have a catastrophic effect, but water vapour is far more important. Water vapour (0.4% overall by volume in air, but 1 – 4 % near the surface) is the most effective green house blanket followed by methane (0.0001745%). The third ranking gas is CO2 (0.0383%), and it does not correlate well with global warming or cooling either; in fact, CO2 in the atmosphere trails warming which is clear natural evidence for its well-studied inverse solubility in water: CO2 dissolves rapidly in cold water and bubbles rapidly out of warm water. The equilibrium in seawater is very high; making seawater a great ’sink’; CO2 is 34 times more soluble in water than air is soluble in water.
    CO2 has been rising and Earth and her oceans have been warming. However, the correlation trails. Correlation, moreover, is not causation. The causation is under scientific review, however, and while the radiation from the sun varies only in the fourth decimal place, the magnetism is awesome.
    “Using a box of air in a Copenhagen lab, physicists traced the growth of clusters of molecules of the kind that build cloud condensation nuclei. These are specks of sulphuric acid on which cloud droplets form. High-energy particles driven through the laboratory ceiling by exploded stars far away in the Galaxy – the cosmic rays – liberate electrons in the air, which help the molecular clusters to form much faster than climate scientists have modeled in the atmosphere. That may explain the link between cosmic rays, cloudiness and climate change.”
    As I understand it, the hypothesis of the Danish National Space Center goes as follows: quiet sun allows the geomagnetic shield to drop. Incoming galactic cosmic ray flux creates more low-level clouds, more snow, and more albedo effect as more is heat reflected resulting in a colder climate. Active sun has an enhanced magnetic field which induces Earth’s geomagnetic shield response. Earth has fewer low-level clouds, less rain, snow and ice, and less albedo (less heat reflected) producing a warmer climate.
    That is how the bulk of climate change likely works, coupled with (modulated by) sunspot peak frequency there are cycles of global warming and cooling like waves in the ocean. When the waves are closely spaced, all the planets warm; when the waves are spaced farther apart, as they have been for this century, all the planets cool.
    The change in cloud cover is only a small percentage, and the ultimate cause of the solar magnetic cycle may be cyclicity in the Sun-Jupiter centre of gravity. We await more on that.
    Although the post 60s warming period appears to be over, it has allowed the principal green house gas, water vapour, to kick in with more humidity, clouds, rain and snow depending on where you live to provide the negative feedback that scientists use to explain the existence of complex life on Earth for 550 million years. Ancient sedimentary rocks and paleontological evidence indicate the planet has had abundant liquid water over the entire span. The planet heats and cools naturally and our gasses are the thermostat. Nothing unusual is going on except for the Orwellian politics.

    Check the web site of the Danish National Space Center.

  35. Fran Manns, you are beating all around it, but bear in mind that the precise mechanisms by which the sun runs our climate, if it does, are yet to be explicated. What your statement does is help highlight just how complicated a process climate regulation is. To think that a scarce trace gas has an overiding effect on all those regulating processes is about as primitive as thinking that frontal lobotomy would cure mental disease.

  36. An advertisement from The Ministry of Truth:

    (with a cameo by Rabett at 0:08)

    And an essay by Jean Brignell, Global Warming as Religion and not Science:

  37. “Tenney Naumer
    Vitoria da Conquista, Bahia, Brazil
    October 14th, 2009 1:15 pm
    Re: comment #377

    I do not “believe” in AGW, rather I read the science — go to my blog where there are about 1,500 articles on the subject.”

    So faith plays no role in Naumer’s “science”? This is laughable.

  38. […] still aim to come back to the question about religion from earlier posts (also here), but here’s Jon Stewart interviewing Jennifer Burns on Ayn […]

  39. […] Cruel Mistress Being Human on a Harsh Planet « Cheese Wagon Stripping Away the Moral Part October 28, 2009 Steven Levitt, one of the Freakonomics duo, went on last night’s Daily Show to defend himself against critics (and to stir up another million or so suckers to buy his book). Anybody paying attention knows that Levitt and Dubner’s geoengineering chapter has created a good deal of consternation around the blogosphere. John Stewart, noting the sharp criticism coming from the environmental establishment, asks whether Levitt has “stepped on a secular religion.” Roger Pielke Jr. then picks up on Stewart’s faux disbelief to ask whether Stewart will get the same treatment that others have gotten, tangentially referencing a thread discussed at length here a few weeks ago.* […]

  40. […] akin to a religion. Roger intimated at the potential fallout of such a case a few weeks back, and I picked up the thread too. Of related interest, Leo Hickman pushes the obvious line in his column […]

  41. […] and the Planetary Future. As one might expect, the question about environmentalism as a religion (here and here) came up. I asked specifically whether we can’t distinguish between presumed appeals […]

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