Why is John Tierney so skeptical, and yet so gullible? The New York Times’ science columnist is one of the most vocal global-warming doubters in the media, but when it comes to Ray Kurzweil‘s Singularity and geo-hacking, he’s suddenly wide-eyed.
People often lump Tierney together with George Will, as global-warming doubters at major newspapers who use somewhat specious arguments to downplay the scientific consensus that we’re slow-cooking our planet. But Tierney’s position as the Times’ science columnist gives him more authority than Will’s as a random TV pundit. But also, the thing I find fascinating about Tierney is that even as he goes to great lengths to paint the evidence about global warming as mere hype, he’s also eager to buy into the hype whenever there’s a claim that new technology will deliver us to a beautiful future, without having to make any hard choices. It’s hard not to believe the two things are related.
Reading Tierney’s columns and blog posts on global warming, a few things become clear. He’s a global warming skeptic, rather than an out-and-out denier. (In one blog post, he says he believes there’s “some risk” that global warming will be a danger.) But he’s given tons of exposure and legitimacy to outright deniers, including some groups with ties to the oil industry. And he’s done a lot to paint the scientific consensus on global warming as pure hype and conformism.
In Tierney’s world, the reason the majority of scientists agree that global warming is a worsening crisis is dick-measuring. In a column on Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren, Tierney spends most of the column quoting Roger Pielke, a climate researcher who’s been one of the most vocal critics of the idea that the polar ice caps are melting. According to Pielke, scientists present conclusions about global warming as definitive not because the data supports them, but just to boost their own “authority in the political debate” and tarnish their opponents.
I have noticed this also. People who dispute climate change but accept all sorts of ‘woo’ with very little scientific underpinnings.
Here he ignores a lot of hard data to follow along with one of those ‘theories’ that posits exponential curves continuing forever. That is a fun thought experiment but there is nothing to believe that this particular curve will continue.
But it sure is fun speculating. And that is what attracts some people where actually dealing with real science does not. Science tends to abhor pure speculation because it has to deal with reality.
We saw the same thing in Superfreakonomics, where fun speculation with geoengineering was touted more than the hard facts of climate change. It is the old Tinkerbell Effect, where if we just beleive hard enough,the World, I mean Tink, will get better.
We all know about wishes, horses and beggars. Trying to ignore the hard thoughts of realty with the wistful joys of speculation is not a way to fix things. It just stifles our real efforts to find solutions. It makes for fun comedy but not for good policy. I think someone is blocking their true feelings about the Tattaglia Fami…, I mean climate change.