Mr. Crichton goes to Washington
I liked both the Parris and the Crichton articles. It is refreshing to read someone that isn't just throwing shame on all of us but rather stepping back to analyze popular belief. The arguement in the Parris article may be incomplete, but the logic is compelling.
Science is diluted when mixed with advocacy, especially political advocacy. Science becomes filtered and only catchy sound-bites are extracted. Facts (or stats - even catchier), are put through the spinner and become the popular talking points. When it comes to environmentalism this is all compounded by the fact that science has not yet encompassed all the complexity and nuance of our planet. How many systems are actually in place to keep our decadence in check?
This all is well illustrated by the issue of global warming. I am admittedly inconclusive about this issue, thanks mostly to Michael Crichton. Michael Crichton wrote a book called "State of Fear". It is a fiction novel, but Crichton did a lot of research and incorporated a lot of real facts. I only read certain sections in which he brought up evidence that gives reason to doubt global warming. One of the main points that I remember is how the calculation of the Earth's average temperature can easily yield any result one desires. Crichton inserts graphs of average temperatures of certain locations over large time spans (usually 100 years I think). Crichton shows a lot of extreme areas that were apparently used (yes, in the real world) for a widely distributed calculation of the change in the Earth’s average temperature. The impression is that the areas used for the calculation were selected deliberately rather than at random. Crichton shows data for many other regions that were not included in the calculation. Many of these even show a cooling trend. In the midwest for example, temperatures were all fairly flat. Most temperatures in this region have come nothing near as high as they were during the dust bowl. Climate trends are still largely mysterious. Using random samples from all across the globe doesn't always show a correlation with greenhouse gas measurements at Mauna Loa, but it could if you wanted it too.
This is not to say that I have no guilt when I drive my car that has no catalytic converter. I tend to take a better-safe-than-sorry approach when it comes to environmentalism. I recycle. I dispose of my motor oil correctly. I am worried. I have no doubt that we have the capacity to destroy the planet, but is our current lifestyle a real threat?
I would prefer it if we were all conscious of our relationship with the Earth, however unknowingly impactful we may be. What I don't want is to be scolded by a self-righteous hybrid driver that has done nothing more than to feed into the popular pseudoscientific conclusions about global warming (to be clear: hybrids are a good thing, but being smug about driving one isn’t). To these people, environmentalism is a religion. It gives them some meaning that they’re apparently missing as well as this obnoxious sense of self-righteousness.
Here's an excerpt from Crichton's book "State of Fear". It's called "Why Politicized Science is Dangerous". It shows parallels between global warming and the embarrassing theory of eugenics. Also check out excerpt #4 - author's message from the same site.