Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Warming Oceans and Sick Skeptics

Last week we mentioned a study that showed that the Medieval Warming Period which had heretofore been thought to have been a local phenomenon was in fact global in extent and was thus an example of serious warming that could not have been caused by human activity, given the time period in which it occurred. Now Live Science reports on another study that shows that the world's oceans have been warming for at least 135 years, more than twice as long as previously thought and suggesting that ocean warming began independently of human activity.

The report also notes that warming oceans are responsible for the rise in sea level around the globe because warm water is less dense than colder water. The article makes no mention of melting ice as a source of this rise. In other words, despite fears that warmer temperatures are causing polar and glacial ice to melt there seems to be no more water in the oceans today than in the past which seems paradoxical if global ice is in fact receding.

This is all irrelevant to people like professor Kari Norgaard, however, who opined last week that anyone who hasn't yet committed himself 100% to the view that humans are responsible for climate change is sick.
According to Ms Norgaard, a sociology and environmental studies professor at Oregon University, those who do not believe that global warming is real and is being caused by human existence are sick and need to be "treated."

Comparing global warming skepticism to racism, Professor Norgaard argued that "cultural resistance" to accepting human beings as being responsible for global warming "must be recognized and treated" as an aberrant sociological behavior.
Professor Norgaard is apparently oblivious to rule #1 of sound scientific theorizing, which is to hold one's hypotheses lightly and always be leery of any conclusions, tentative or otherwise, which run counter to the full body of evidence.

The professor seems already to have her mind made up, and when such people encounter others whose minds are not made up, or who ask uncomfortable questions, the time-tested tactic is to marginalize them by labeling them heretics or "sick".

Even though this ploy is very popular it reveals something unpleasant about the person who resorts to it. It's symptomatic of a deep insecurity concerning the beliefs the person is trying to defend. When one is confident that the facts are unambiguous in support of one's position one need not defame and slander those who disagree. One simply adduces the facts. When, however, one feels the need to employ insults and name-calling, it's usually because he or she is trying to mask a lack of confidence that their arguments are compelling.