The Intersection


From the Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan:

During the past week’s heat wave–it hit 100 degrees in New York City Monday–I got thinking, again, of how sad and frustrating it is that the world’s greatest scientists cannot gather, discuss the question of global warming, pore over all the data from every angle, study meteorological patterns and temperature histories, and come to a believable conclusion on these questions: Is global warming real or not? If it is real, is it necessarily dangerous? What exactly are the dangers? Is global warming as dangerous as, say, global cooling would be? Are we better off with an Earth that is getting hotter or, what with the modern realities of heating homes and offices, and the world energy crisis, and the need to conserve, does global heating have, in fact, some potential side benefits, and can those benefits be broadened and deepened? Also, if global warning is real, what must–must–the inhabitants of the Earth do to meet its challenges? And then what should they do to meet them?

Well, some of these questions aren’t purely scientific…but as for the first one, this has been done already. It’s called the IPCC. Do you folks suppose that Noonan literally does not know that? Or if she does, then what’s here excuse for writing in this way?


  1. #1 Brian J
    July 24, 2006

    Maybe the point she’s trying to make is in the following paragraph:

    You would think the world’s greatest scientists could do this, in good faith and with complete honesty and a rigorous desire to discover the truth. And yet they can’t. Because science too, like other great institutions, is poisoned by politics. Scientists have ideologies. They are politicized.

    In other words, the IPCC doesn’t count (or any other institution, for that matter) because she thinks scientists are “politicized” and are therefore dishonest.

    Absolutely no evidence is given for this- she seems to just hold it as a self-evident premise.

    The really unbelievable thing for me is at the end:

    If global warming is real, and if it is new, and if it is caused not by nature and her cycles but man and his rapacity, and if it in fact endangers mankind, scientists will probably one day blame The People for doing nothing.

    But I think The People will have a greater claim to blame the scientists, for refusing to be honest, for operating in cliques and holding to ideologies. For failing to be trustworthy.

    So, if the scientists were totally right they’d still be blameworthy, because people like Noonan refused to believe them.

    I don’t know why the scientists bother.

  2. #2 Monte Davis
    July 24, 2006

    No, not the IPCC. Peggy means real science: the kind that proves the magic of the market is more powerful than your boring old ice cores and your America-hating thermodynamics…

  3. #3 Jon Winsor
    July 24, 2006

    I like the article’s comments page:

    You just know that this article got far more comments than this. And the comments they posted would hardly be representative of what they received. So this comments page seems to be pure window dressing.

    When you go to post, they do have a disclaimer, “We don’t post all responses, and we don’t post responses immediately.” But it’s been four days and I’ll be surprised if they publish very much that criticizes the paper…

  4. #4 G
    July 24, 2006

    Peggy Noonan: “I got thinking, again”

    For the second time?

    Why anyone would even read such stuff (except to debunk it), to say nothing of believe it, is beyond me.

  5. #5 quitter
    July 24, 2006

    My favorite part?

    I note here what is to me a mystery. It is that people with lower IQs somehow tend, in our age, to have a greater apprehension of the meaning of things and the reality of life, than do our high-IQ professionals, who often seem, in areas outside their immediate field, startlingly dim. I don’t know why intellectuals–or cerebralists or eggheads or IQ hegemonists–seem to miss the most obvious things, floating on untethered by common sense. If you talk to a brilliant scholar at a fine university about social policy, chances are he will say with honest perplexity that he cannot understand–really cannot understand–why people would not want men to marry men, or women women. I wish there were a name for this, for the cluelessness of the more intellectually accomplished, the simpler but truer wisdom of those who are often less lettered and less accomplished.

    Wow, educated people aren’t just less bigoted, they simply don’t understand the rational reasons to hate people for consensual behaviors that hurt no one.

  6. #6 Julie Stahlhut
    July 24, 2006

    Anybody who equates wisdom with lack of education is a kook in my book. Education doesn’t force people to behave sensibly, nor does lack of education preclude wisdom, but if Noonan doesn’t understand her own fallacy, she’s neither educated nor wise.

    Kind of reminds me of the silly old question, which I’ve heard entirely too many times: “But wouldn’t you rather have a good doctor who’s an a$$h0le than a compassionate one who’s incompetent?” Actually, I want the one who is both compassionate and an excellent physician. And, anyone who implies that the combination is nonexistent is making no sense at all.

  7. #7 G
    July 24, 2006

    Based on the post just after mine above, I simply have to further qualify my statement:

    Why anyone would even read such stuff (except to debunk it or to be sent into spasms of uncontrollable laughter), to say nothing of believe it, is beyond me.

  8. #8 Laurie Mann
    July 24, 2006

    She’s a Republican apologist – that’s why she writes that way.

    The facts don’t matter to them. Never have, never will.

  9. #9 Stefan Jones
    July 24, 2006

    I read through that editorial again, and . . . sheesh. How utterly disingenuous. How hypocritical. What a smarmy creep.

    No, Peggy, we won’t blame The People for failing to take action. We’ll blame pundits like you, for muddying the waters and poisoning the state of public discourse.

  10. #10 Mark Paris
    July 25, 2006

    ” … and come to a believable conclusion …”

    I think this is the key point. The only believable conclusion is one that supports her own presumptions, namely, that AGW does not exist. In other words, she’s telling all the climate scientists to go out and do their work again, and this time get it the way she wants it.

  11. #11 phare
    July 26, 2006

    What I find both tragic and rather common for this type of writing is the failure on her part to realize that some of the questions she wants the scientists to answer, e.g.
    “Are we better off with an Earth that is getting hotter or, what with the modern realities of heating homes and offices, and the world energy crisis, and the need to conserve, does global heating have, in fact, some potential side benefits, and can those benefits be broadened and deepened?” are not pure science questions but also heavily involve policy, and to then turn around and blame scientists for being political. We’re damned either way.

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