The ironies here are deeply layered and beautiful.
But that’s an understatement; it’s worthy of so much more. It’s like looking into the Grand Canyon of ironies at sunset. There’s warning signs so irony tourists don’t go wandering around without a map and supplies. The metaphor is very deep, and it’s a long way to the water even though it looks like you can reach out and touch it, so don’t go in without a guide.
Which, I guess, is me. (You poor bastards.)
Most of you probably have no idea what I’m talking about, so I guess I’d better explain. Back a couple of days ago, the New York Times decided to introduce a new op-ed writer, Pulitzer-winner Bret Stephens. And he chose for the subject of his first article — I shit you not — Hillary Clinton’s election loss as a metaphor for people rejecting climate change, and the shared causes of the two.
In the New York Times.
On the eve of the Climate March.
The heads of the Faithful began exploding immediately, of course. According to CNN, the phone lines were clogged with people trying to cancel their subscriptions in protest, both over the shocking infidelity to the Clinton campaign and, more tellingly, over his criticism of climate change activism. Learned articles were written to denounce the infidel and refute his points. And, amid all this, the Stephens op-ed has, unsurprisingly, enjoyed the kind of traffic that mere bloggers only dream about.
Since the article was published, Stephens has done his best to draw more outrage, pulling fire down on himself from every direction through his Twitter feed. He’s posted anti-Trump links, anti-Left responses to his detractors, and according to C.W. Cooke even some pro-Communist rhetoric. (I think Cooke is just warming his hands over the flame war with that one.)
Which is brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Every angry response he gets just draws him more traffic. Every rage-cancel the Times suffers is countered by a dozen conservatives who’ll now think, “Well, they can’t be all that bad. That’s balance, that is.” He can point to the spike in Google searches for the word “traduces” to impress his editors. What’s more, every frothing-at-the-mouth attack on the man simply validates his point.
Which is that, while science is reliable, science politics is not.
Let me be clear: In this supposedly anti-science op-ed, Stephens affirms the scientific reality of human-influenced climate change. He asserts that it is correct, and that these facts can’t be intelligently denied. What he criticizes is the use of hyperbolic exaggeration in the cause of forming public policy. My favorite quote is this: “Censoriously asserting one’s moral superiority and treating skeptics as imbeciles and deplorables wins few converts.” It’s beautiful because it’s so very true, and if you’re missing the irony it’s because you need a map.
The religious language is no accident. He uses the term “scientism” in reference to earlier thinkers on the subject, brilliant minds like Hayek and Weber, who long ago pointed out the dangers of using science for purposes for which it was never designed. There’s echoes here of Crichton’s famous speech on the subject of environmentalism before the Commonwealth Club.
When you treat the pronouncements of scientists as one would mystical religious dogma, as an article of faith the questioning of which would be heresy most foul, you’re actually being anti-science. Science is about questioning, about testing assumed facts and finding the holes and gaps in natural laws. There is no way to use science to expand knowledge without finding something we think we know and testing it to see if it’s false, or finding something we don’t think is true and demonstrating that it might be. In order to function, it must be able to oppose even and especially those beliefs that are foundational, and there can be no sacred cows.
And, when you publicly pillory a journalist for disagreeing with your politics, all you do is drive his ratings higher.
Please, for the love of God, publicly pillory me for a change. He’s already got his Pulitzer; me, I could use the bump. While you’re at it, let’s see if we can get the Westboro Baptist Church to protest me, George Takei and Patton Oswalt to call me an idiot, and Donald Trump to tweet about how wrong I am: “Failing Blogger gets it wrong again. Not Fake News so fake. Phenomenally fake. Sad.”