Monday, March 24, 2008 ... /////

ABC's eco-fundamentalists attack Fred Singer

TV segment, HTML, News Busters comments
I know this kind of TV programs too well from the era of communism - when the target wasn't Fred Singer but people like Václav Havel - and some old films I have watched indicate that the Nazis used to create a very similar stuff. The content is pretty much isomorphic. In both cases, the people who would agree with Havel or Singer are intimidated by the powerful "majorities" or a "working class". The technical arguments are not discussed at all.

Havel would be indirectly connected with the Nazi regime through his family and through the people who collaborated with it; Singer is linked with the oil industry (that currently contains a lot of dishonest and cowardly CEOs co-operating with the environmentalist ideologues anyway). The details are different but structurally speaking, it is the very same type of propaganda. While I surely admit that the communists were bad, I really don't remember a single hit piece at this degree of bloodiness, especially not against a scientist who is 84 years old.

A smiling Dan Harris asks Dr Fred Singer a highly "intelligent" question: "How would you describe yourself, as a skeptic, a denier, a doubter?" And Fred Singer is also smiling and gives him the correct answer: "a realist". We've been recently discussing these terminological matters. An alternative description is "cool heads" vs "hot heads".

I just admire Singer's nerves, balance, and courage. If I were asked the same "question", my face would turn red - in fact, it turned red even when Singer was attacked :-) - and I would probably ask the jerk: "And how would you describe yourself, a brown shirt, a religious bigot, a terrorist, or just a plain idiot?"

The whole hit piece is an amazing demonstration of brainwashing and irrationality. For example, the first sentence says:
One of the most influential scientists in what's been called "The Denial Machine," for decades, Fred Singer has argued loudly that global warming is not dangerous despite the vast majority of scientists who agree it is.
First of all, it has never been called a "Denial Machine" by any serious person, only by one or a few would-be journalists and a couple of their undemanding readers. Just because a scientifically illiterate layperson such as Sharon Begley uses an insulting term for a scientist who knows roughly 500 times more than she does, is not enough to make the statement "it has been called..." on TV honest or correct. Why did Mr Harris hide that it has been called this way only by a scientifically illiterate environmental activist, not by a serious person and certainly not by a good scientist?

Well, it is not hard to guess. An idiot from Greenpeace is later used as a kind of authority in the show. He doesn't know anything and he can't really speak but he shows the would-be journalists a page ("Exxon Secrets") with smears and irrelevant indirect "links" in a combinatorial graph. When did it exactly happen that TV channels in the U.S. consider activists from extreme environmentalist organizations to be more reliable sources of facts about science than John Wheeler's famous students from Princeton?

Second, the sentence clearly includes the assumption that scientists are determining - and have to be determining - their opinions by aligning themselves with "vast majorities": they repeat this assumption roughly four times in the program. Well, some of the scientists do it this way which is why their "scientific" opinion should be completely discarded: they haven't used the scientific method to obtain their opinion and as far as I can say, they are just worthless parrots and parasites robbing the taxpayers who simply defend a party line in science - something that shouldn't exist at all.

Moreover, it is not really the consensus that decides about the opinions of irrational propaganda makers such as Sharon Begley. Among many other disgraceful things, she has also run a hit piece against something that could also be called the "majority opinion" in high-energy physics; recall Barton Zwiebach's reply to it. How is it possible that in that case, the majority doesn't matter? What actually drives her rants is left-wing politics. The more leftist side is always the "winner" in her propaganda pieces. Whenever her opinions and interests are in a minority, she promotes clichés about the discrimination by a majority. But once her opinions become a majority somewhere, she uses the "principles" about the need to completely eliminate the minorities and heretics. There is never any substance in her writings. And these days, there are literally thousands of "journalists" of this kind around. We are all immersed in a gigantic ocean of dumb, ideological garbage.

The double standards in judging minorities and majorities is how the totalitarian ideologues have always been thinking and acting which is why they have crippled whole portions of the world so many times in the past and why they are so dangerous today, too. Those parties - such as NSDAP or the communist parties - would once pretend to be small, suppressed, and cute groups that deserved support. But once they exceeded (or fluctuated above) 50%, they took over and the competition, democracy, and debate was all over. In this respect, there is no difference whatsoever between the Nazis and the environmentalists.

Nuclear winter

The program also says that Singer has disagreed with "mainstream science" in the past. One of their shocking examples is nuclear winter. Well, it's plausible that a majority of scientists counted in a certain irrelevant way supported this theory at some moment in the past. But I wouldn't expect nuclear winter to be a good example to defend majorities or attack Singer because he has been definitely right on this one. Nuclear winter was mainly defended by media-savvy quasi-scientists such as Carl Sagan or Paul Ehrlich.

But many of those who would be labeled as "very good scientists" always agreed with Singer. Richard Feynman said "I really don't think these guys know what they're talking about" and Freeman Dyson said "it's an absolutely atrocious piece of science but ... who wants to be accused of being in favor of nuclear war?" The question was pretty much settled in 1991 when the nuclear winter theorists predicted "a year without summers" following Kuwaiti oil fires in 1991. Well, that didn't happen. See more details in Michael Crichton's speech.

Not only the scientific consensus has a bad record in science but Fred Singer himself already has a pretty good record in his disagreements with various fads sold as "consensus science".

Let us hope that the ABC's ratings will continue to plummet towards zero because in a decent society, constant promotion of this garbage should be a serious obstacle to survival.