Loose Ends (15)

Power Line Always Gets There First: Greg Weiner of Assumption College, author of a fine book about Pat Moynihan, has a fine article out today on RealClearPolitics about Trump and the complaints of the left that Trump doesn’t tell the truth. Good stuff—close to what we wrote here last week.


We are beginning to encounter middle-of-the-road politicians who will seemingly say anything. We approach a fantasized condition.

In 2016, we arrived at that condition, and the Left found itself theoretically disarmed. How was a movement that had long rejected the idea of truth to accuse Donald Trump of falsehood? For him, truth was exactly what Michel Foucault had asserted it to be: a means to power. . .

The institutions that should check every statistic are increasingly allergic to stating anything in the language of truth. The academics experiencing apoplexy over Trump’s rhetoric have in fact spent decades dismantling the philosophical infrastructure of truth. They have done so in the name of a moral relativism intended to inhibit the imposition of cultural norms. Now, finding moral objectivity suddenly useful—such as insisting on truth and civility in political conversation—it is unavailable to them.

This assumes an especially ironic cast in the case of the media, whose very objectivity becomes an excuse for refusing to state objective fact. Consider The New York Times’ obituary of Fidel Castro. A caption under a photograph of the Cuban tyrant gingerly allowed that he “was seen as a ruthless despot by some and hailed as a revolutionary hero by others.”

Power Line, last week:

It was Nietzsche who remarked that “there are no facts, only interpretation.” From this small beginning the entire contemporary world of “post-modernism” was born, reaching its apogee in the swamp of the Frankfurt School, Foucault and other nihilist thinkers who argue, among other things, that there is no objective basis for making a “truth claim”—and that even language itself it a purely subjective exercise in exerting power. “Non-foundationalism” is all the rage at the universities these days, as I explore in a certain forthcoming book. . .

Who is it that created this “post-truth” climate? Once again, it was liberalism. And just how vigorously has the mainstream media ever stood against this nihilist undertow? That would be zip, zilch, nada.

Nice to have good company on this important point, as well as a reminder that Power Line always gets there first!

Al Gore is coming out with a sequel to An Inconvenient Truth. Can we really be this lucky? First the British Labour Party picks Jeremy Corbyn as its leader, the Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton for president, re-elect Nancy Pelosi as its leader in the House, and may yet install Keith Ellison as their party chair. Did clueless liberals at the Center for American Progress and Tom Steyer’s Pacific Heights mansion really sit around wondering, “How can we be even more egregiously out of touch? I’ve got it! Let’s inflict another Al Gore climate documentary on the world!”

Good times indeed.  Problem is, it means I’m going to have to suit up agaiun, update my own climate Power Point show, and make a new video of my own. But nothing’s too big a chore when it comes to Gore.

Speaking of the climatistas, the (New Jersey) Star-Ledger last week ran a nice profile of the eminent Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson, who was Albert Einstein’s successor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton many years back. I did once get to speak with Dyson on the phone along with his equally skeptical distinguished colleague Will Happer. Here is the best part of the story:

Dyson came to this country from his native England at age 23 and immediately made major breakthroughs in quantum theory. After that he worked on a nuclear-powered rocket (see video below). Then in the late 1970s, he got involved with early research on climate change at the Institute for Energy Analysis in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

That research, which involved scientists from many disciplines, was based on experimentation. The scientists studied such questions as how atmospheric carbon dioxide interacts with plant life and the role of clouds in warming.

But that approach lost out to the computer-modeling approach favored by climate scientists. And that approach was flawed from the beginning, Dyson said.

“I just think they don’t understand the climate,” he said of climatologists. “Their computer models are full of fudge factors.”

A major fudge factor concerns the role of clouds. The greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide on its own is limited. To get to the apocalyptic projections trumpeted by Al Gore and company, the models have to include assumptions that CO-2 will cause clouds to form in a way that produces more warming.

“The models are extremely oversimplified,” he said. “They don’t represent the clouds in detail at all. They simply use a fudge factor to represent the clouds.”

Dyson goes on to lay out the view that the climate crusade has become a form of religion, which seems right. And then he ups the ante:

“There are people who just need a cause that’s bigger than themselves,” said Happer. “Then they can feel virtuous and say other people are not virtuous.”

To show how uncivil this crowd can get, Happer e-mailed me an article about an Australian professor who proposes — quite seriously — the death penalty for heretics such as Dyson. As did Galileo, they can get a reprieve if they recant.

I hope that guy never gets to hear Dyson’s most heretical assertion: Atmospheric CO-2 may actually be improving the environment.

“It’s certainly true that carbon dioxide is good for vegetation,” Dyson said. “About 15 percent of agricultural yields are due to CO-2 we put in the atmosphere. From that point of view, it’s a real plus to burn coal and oil.”

In fact, there’s more solid evidence for the beneficial effects of CO-2 than the negative effects, he said. So why does the public hear only one side of this debate? Because the media do an awful job of reporting it.

If you have 15 minutes, here’s Dyson explaining his reasons for his “heresy” about “the consensus.” It’s just one of several videos of Dyson you can find on YouTube. It would be fun to see him debate Al Gore, but Gore refuses ever to appear alongside anyone who doesn’t conform to his rigid orthodoxy.


Books to read from Power Line