Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thomas Hobbes on climate change

Which is the cause, that the doctrine of Right and Wrong, is perpetually disputed, both by the Pen and the Sword: whereas the doctrine of Lines, and Figures, is not so; because men care not, in that subject what be truth, as a thing that crosses no mans ambition, profit, or lust. For I doubt not, but if it had been a thing contrary to any mans right of dominion, or to the interest of men that have dominion, That The Three Angles Of A Triangle Should Be Equall To Two Angles Of A Square; that doctrine should have been, if not disputed, yet by the burning of all books of Geometry, suppressed, as farre as he whom it concerned was able.
Leviathan, Chapter XI

This incidentally, is also Thomas Hobbes's view on the debate surrounding evolution.

I'm no climate scientist, and I have no special reason to believe that the orthodox view in that field, that our planet is experiencing anthropogenic climate change, is correct. But I do note that the interests of the skeptics in climate science are pretty narrowly focussed, and incidentally, focussed on exactly those parts of it which interferes with the interests of people outside of the science.

What is suspicious about this is that the results in favour of anthropogenic climate change is part of a normal science: they have been spit out as part of the business as usual of a research programme, and fits in place with the other aspects and results of that normal science. For instance, pronouncements on anthropogenic climate change depends on tracking the greenhouse effect, of  measuring the role of carbon in said effect, of tracking climate change over time, etc. None of these things have been questioned by the climate change skeptics, except to the degree necessary to deny anthropogenic climate change. And that's strange, from a scientific point of view. It isn't quite that all these things stand and fall together, but they definitely are interlinked. But public interest in the field extends exactly as far as its results impact business as usual outside of climate science. And that arch-cynic Thomas Hobbes gives an indication of what to expect in such situations.