Thursday, 23 December 2004

Global Warming? Hot Air.

George Will on Michael Crichton's State of Fear:
"State of Fear," with a first printing of 1.5 million copies, resembles Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" -- about 6 million copies sold since 1957 -- as a political broadside woven into an entertaining story. But whereas Rand had only an idea -- a good one (capitalism is splendid), but only one -- Crichton has information. "State of Fear" is the world's first page turner that people will want to read in one gulp (a long gulp: 600 pages, counting appendices) even though it has lots of real scientific graphs, and footnotes citing journals such as Progress in Physical Geography and Transactions -- American Geophysical Union.

Crichton’s subject is today’s fear that global warming will cause catastrophic climate change, a belief now so conventional that it seems to require no supporting data. Crichton’s subject is also how conventional wisdom is manufactured in a credulous and media-drenched society.


Climate-change forecasts, Harvey writes, are like financial forecasts but involve a vastly more complex array of variables. The climate forecasts, based on computer models analyzing the past, tell us that we do not know how much warming is occurring, whether it is a transitory episode or how much warming is dangerous—or perhaps beneficial.

One of the good guys in “State of Fear” cites Montaigne’s axiom: “Nothing is so firmly believed as that which least is known.” Which is why 30 years ago the fashionable panic was about global cooling. The New York Times (Aug. 14, 1975) reported “many signs” that “Earth may be heading for another ice age.” Science magazine (Dec. 10, 1976) warned about “extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation.” “Continued rapid cooling of the Earth” (Global Ecology, 1971) could herald “a full-blown 10,000-year ice age” (Science, March 1, 1975). The Christian Science Monitor reported (Aug. 27, 1974) that Nebraska’s armadillos were retreating south from the cooling.

My feelings on Crichton’s book are mixed. I was pretty bothered by the movie The Day After Tomorrow and its attempt to influence people with hysterical claims about global warming. If Crichton’s book is more factual, for a fiction book, then it might be useful. Even so, I’m not crazy about the blurring of actual science and fiction.

Update: Crichton's name corrected in post.


Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.

My inner pedant kicks in here. The author of The Andromeda Strain, Five Patients, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Congo, and State of Fear (among others), spells his surname “Crichton”. As Will does, correctly, in the passage you quote.

[Permalink] 2. Barbara Skolaut wrote @ Thu, 23 Dec 2004, 7:24 pm CST:

Jeez, Len, this is why Den Beste quit blogging. Are you trying to run Robert off, too?

Robert, I prefer the “blurring of actual science and fiction” to the fictionalizing of science (i.e., lying) that passes for so much of the crap spewed by the “environmentalists.”


I never try to “run anyone off”; if I don’t like what some blogger’s saying I just stop reading them (if, indeed, I ever start reading them regularly). As I say, I was just indulging my inner pedant.

Of course, no doubt someone’s going to be throwing the same back at me; he who lives by the spelling “flame” dies by the spelling “flame”. :-)



There was no risk of me going anywhere due to a spelling error. I’ve made them before, I’ll make them again. I’ll no doubt make larger errors and have to humbly apologize for it.

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