Thursday, September 03, 2009

Variations in the Sun


Having graciously corrected the world's historians on a few elementary points, Jonah Goldberg shifts his attention to climatology and solar physics.

From his God's-eye view, the ant-like labor of climate scientists -- as they rush to and fro, saying this and that -- is both confusing and suggestive. Confusing, because Goldberg doesn't understand it. Suggestive, because this implies that they're trying to hide something.

Simply put, there's a new finding about sunspots, and it has something to do with climate. Don't bother asking Goldberg to explain any of this, though.

What is the significance of all this? To say I have no idea is quite an understatement, but it will have to do.
Ideally, scientists would respond to Goldberg's honest confession of cluelessness in kind, by conceding that they don't understand their pet subjects much better than he does. But instead, they insist on trying to interpret data in ways that strike Goldberg as counterintuitive.
[W]hat I find interesting is the eagerness of the authors and the media to make it clear that this doesn’t have any particular significance for the debate over climate change.
It's not that these scientists are dishonest, necessarily. It may just be that they're a little too close to the issue. What's needed is an outside opinion, preferably from someone who doesn't know the first goddamn thing about climatology, and therefore remains untainted by its rules of entry and its pompous language games.

It's more than a little pathetic, the way these scientists try to hide their sloppy thinking from the blazing searchlight of Goldberg's intellect:
“Global warming is a long-term trend, Dr. Meehl says....This study attempts to explain the processes behind a periodic occurrence.”

This overlooks the fact that solar cycles are permanent “periodic occurrences,” a.k.a. a very long-term trend.
A scientist might try to argue that sunspots are indeed cyclical, while global warming is a trend that represents a marked departure from natural cycles. But look here: If sunspots are periodic occurrences, and have something to do with climate, then why shouldn't global warming, which also has something to do with climate, also be periodic, and therefore natural, and therefore not worth worrying about, probably?

I mean, who you going to believe: A guy whose career depends on seeming to understand climate, or a guy who admits that he knows nothing about climate at all, and therefore has no other concern than strict accuracy?

Which is not to say that man-made pollution has played no role in planetary warming. But the important question to ask here is, how does this fact make Jonah Goldberg feel? Do you honestly think Goldberg would enjoy feeling guilty, or worrying about the world we're leaving for our children, supposing for the sake of argument that he were capable of doing so?

Consider his plight: The poor man can't even go shopping without imagining people attacking him for "frying the earth" by using the wrong type of bags. As if it were possible for individual choice to have some sort of aggregate effect! And all the while, the sun is roaring in the sky, sending glad tidings into our very bones, and the establishment scientists, like, can't even grok it, man!

Which means that they're ingrates. Because the sun is, on the whole, a good thing, and worthy of our notice:
[P]ay no attention to that burning ball of gas in the sky — it’s just the only thing that prevents the planet from being a lifeless ball of ice engulfed in darkness.
I'm not so sure about this. Who told him that the sun is "a big burning ball of gas," and what makes his source credible? Heraclitus said the sun is the size of a man's foot, and forms anew daily. Who is Goldberg to gainsay tradition? Furthermore, the global-warming skeptic Ian Plimer, who happens to be the World's Most Respected Geologist, suggests that the sun is made of iron. Can Goldberg prove it isn't, without resorting to hearsay and prattling about so-called "consensus"?

And if the sun were to go out, would the earth truly become "a lifeless ball of ice engulfed in darkness," or could we rely on innovative free-market solutions -- including nuclear power -- to help us adapt and thrive? And what about the planet's internal heat, as evidenced by volcanoes? Honestly, this sort of alarmism infuriates me.

After directing the attention of solar physicists to certain intriguing qualities of the sun, Goldberg goes on to quote Richard Lindzen (who's from MIT!) to the effect that the climate is not getting warmer. Oddly enough, Lindzen has also "criticized widely publicized assertions by other skeptics that variations in the sun were driving temperature changes in recent decades." Which means that Goldberg is such a ludicrous fucking dilettante that he can't even be bothered to pay serious attention to the preeminent scientist on his side of the "debate."

So what professional advice does Goldberg have for people who've spent their lives researching phenomena of which he is content to remain inexpressibly ignorant?
[M]aybe we should study a bit more before we spend billions to “solve” a problem we don’t understand so well.
Notice Goldberg's humility: Instead of attacking scientists for their pretensions, he's careful to point out that he, too, does not know quite as much as he should.

It's the human condition. We see through a glass, darkly...so you may as well wrap Goldberg's fetid underpants around your head a few times, and go play in traffic.

12 comments:

leibniz said...

Hitler lived on the liberal side of the sun

cari duit said...

Hi,
I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment.

concise and easy to understand. I like this post..

Thanks.

P. Drāno said...

It's also a bit of that attitude: "I may be ignorant, but I'm not gullible, you know. I don't have to believe just anything that scientists, scholars and experts say."

Phila said...

It's also a bit of that attitude: "I may be ignorant, but I'm not gullible, you know. I don't have to believe just anything that scientists, scholars and experts say."

True, although that outlook tends not to be applied across the board...to put it very mildly. I think it's more of a rationalization for cherrypicking appealing info than anything else.

liliannattel said...

Oh hurray for Goldberg--he has solved all my problems. I'm a writer, which is a precarious occupation. I could use some more $. And since I am not a scientist, and since I can profess to a fair bit of ignorance on the technical aspects of climate change, if he'd like to consult with me, I'd be happy to give an ignorant opinion on the subject for a suitable fee. If he consults often enough, I maybe even be able to make our creaky 100 year old house more energy efficient. But that's between you and me. Don't tell him, okay?

jaytingle said...

We can complain about Goldberg until the cows come home. Rather let us cheer ourselves with the image of William F. Buckley, Jr. (in heaven?) weeping in shame at the dreadful writing Jonah publishes National Review. When future conservatives think of the father of the modern conservative movement, will they remember the man who led the first Yale debate squad to defeat Cambridge, the man who penned McCarthy and His Enemies, the man who created Blackford Oakes? Or will they envision a bloated momma's boy who apparently likes SciFi and the Simpsons?

Phila said...

Or will they envision a bloated momma's boy who apparently likes SciFi and the Simpsons?

Good point. Although I'd argue that there's not that much difference, when you come right down with it. WFB's schtick worked in his day, and Goldberg's works now. WFB was a lot smarter than Jonah, obviously, but it's never been about brain power or the ability to reason...it's always been about striking a particular pose.

Which is why it doesn't matter how smart you are. As a movement conservative, you're gonna end up spewing illogical lies and nonsense, because there's no other way to defend the indefensible.

Phila said...

if he'd like to consult with me, I'd be happy to give an ignorant opinion on the subject for a suitable fee.

Kinda like trying to sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo, as the saying is.

DanF said...

As a movement conservative, you're gonna end up spewing illogical lies and nonsense, because there's no other way to defend the indefensible.

Too true. Sadly, I don't think the popular conservative "intellectuals" of today struggle to remain consistent with their arguments (something WFB at least attempted). They just jump to the latest position ("Medicare forever!") and abandon the past ("Medicare is tyranny!") for political expediency.

Anonymous said...

Ah, feels good to be able to type "Thank fuck for Phila" again.

--monica_nyc

grouchomarxist said...

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill...

On the other hand, if you're the pasty, pudgy, smugly ignorant whelp of a vicious wingnut harpy, there's a place reserved for you on the wingnut welfare gravy train, for life!

[M]aybe we should study a bit more before we spend billions to “solve” a problem we don’t understand so well.

Unless of course it's a problem which can be "solved" by tax cuts for the rich or killing a bunch of brown people and occupying their country, or otherwise funneling vast amounts of taxpayer cash to the Mil/Ind/Infotainment Complex. In those circumstances delay would obviously be fatal.

Phila said...

Unless of course it's a problem which can be "solved" by tax cuts for the rich or killing a bunch of brown people and occupying their country, or otherwise funneling vast amounts of taxpayer cash to the Mil/Ind/Infotainment Complex. In those circumstances delay would obviously be fatal.

You should really post that as a comment at NRO!

Oh, wait...never mind.