George Will: not so strong on the logic thing

His latest column chides the climate Cassandras, and makes a really bizarre argument. Did you know that there have been severe disruptions of human activity by non-anthropogenic climate change in the past?

And if climate Cassandras are as conscientious as they claim to be about weighing evidence, how do they accommodate historical evidence of enormously consequential episodes of climate change not produced by human activity?

We accommodate the facts of catastrophic events with no problem at all. Volcanoes have erupted and meteors have smashed into the Earth, all without any triggering or control by human beings -- does Will think that the fact that we can acknowledge that humans pump significant quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere imply that we also think every environmental disaster was caused by humans?

So he discusses two books that describe the after-effects of weather perturbations on civilization in the 14th and 17th century. We've always been at the mercy of the weather: droughts, storms, severe winters, all cause harm to agriculture and human well-being. He even almost grasps their message.

By documenting the appalling consequences of two climate changes, Rosen and Parker validate wariness about behaviors that might cause changes.

Exactly. We should be worried about climate change because we know from history that we're sensitive to the disruption it would cause. The authors of these books even know what the take-home message should be.

The last twelve of Parker’s 712 pages of text deliver a scalding exhortation to be alarmed about what he considers preventable global warming.

But what does loony George Will take away from it?

Neither book, however, supports those who believe human behavior is the sovereign or even primary disrupter of climate normality, whatever that might be. With the hands that today’s climate Cassandras are not using to pat themselves on the back for their virtuous empiricism, they should pick up such books.

Uh, what? The concern is that one of the products of the Industrial Revolution is increasing greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere, which are accumulating to the point of having serious consequences now. It is not that all climate change was caused by humans. Will's argument does not make sense. Those books make no statement about the causes of the 14th and 17th century climate changes, but do point out that such changes have cascading and complex effects on society.

But Will reads them and says to himself, "A-ha! Climate disasters that were not caused by humans! Therefore no climate disasters are caused by humans!"

He's an idiot. And he's what passes for an intellectual among conservatives? How embarrassing for them.


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William Effing George (to borrow from Charles Pierce) has written multiple essays over the decades arguing that, since (cherry-picked) past predictions of resource depletion have been wrong, all present/future predictions of resource depletion are/will be wrong and we need never change our extraction-based economy... Will could not use logic if Aristotle and Boole were coaching him.

Mr Will's latest piece manages to embarrass Oxford University, Princeton University and Trinity College all in one fell swoop. (Whatever a fell swoop is.) That's quite an achievement even for a conservative.

By Henry E. Klugh (not verified) on 08 Jan 2015 #permalink

DRickard - You would get the impression that the idea that a spherical planet has to contain finite resources is beyond Will's mathematical ability. I suspect that in fact, he just wants to make sure that the party keeps going until he's dead so nothing and nobody can make him cut his personal consumption.

Doesn't George recognize the very many climate change predictions that have already come true? Like the polar ice caps having completely melted by 2013? Or that children born after 2000 won't know what snow is? Or that by 2010 there will be hundreds of thousands of climate refugees? Or that the American Midwest will be completely destroyed by climate change dust storms? How does he ignore these predications, validated by the consensus of scientists...that never happened?

The very scholarly Mr. Will seems to have forgotten that Cassandra was always right. Her curse was that she was never believed.

By Jim Sweeney (not verified) on 08 Jan 2015 #permalink

George Will is proof that intelligence and idiocy are not mutually exclusive properties, despite the dictionary definitions.

MACDUFF: [on hearing that his family and servants have all been killed]
All my pretty ones?
Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?
What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
At one fell swoop?

Fell = dreadful
Swoop = the action of the raptor

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 08 Jan 2015 #permalink

DaveF regurgitates:
1/ Fake prediction about polar ice that was never made
2/ Fake quote deniers attribute to Dr David Viner, who said no such thing
3/ etc...

So the question is - is DaveF a liar? Or is he just a moron?

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 08 Jan 2015 #permalink

False dichotomy - those are overlapping sets.

those are overlapping sets.

Are they? I'm imagining someone moronic enough to not understand how or when to lie. Lying requires intelligence, and the bigger the lie, the smarter the liar has to be to avoid detection. Plus I don't think "lying" and "intelligence" are single-axis attributes; we all share those attributes. That's part of the problem.

PS. George Will is an ideologue, and whether or not he's also a moron or a liar is incidental.

He's not an idiot. He's just wrong. Either blind or lying.

By Zenith Hoggwarth (not verified) on 09 Jan 2015 #permalink

Mr. Will might be doing no more than viewing potential change with a jaundiced eye, reasonable given our species tendency to choose badly. He should consider how many positive changes to reduce carbon are worthwhile even if climate concerns turn out to be less than an existential threat. Accentuate the positive. For a change.

A study of nature shows that fires happen naturally. And floods happen naturally. And famines happen naturally. And death happens naturally.

Therefore, it is obvious (to people like George Will), that we don't need to take action to stop people from contributing to those "natural" events.

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