Bill Maher, in classic fashion, tore into the entire climate-science-denying, right-wing establishment over climate change. The right is full of climate deniers who would rather sacrifice the entire planet for the sake of business profits now. To that end, they’ve manufactured this huge controversy in the scientific community over whether the climate change we’re seeing is man-made, or natural, and they use it to claim that we just don’t know whether climate change is man-made.
“Mediaite” posted a video of Bill Maher pressing Bret Stephens over the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change on his show. Maher said, point-blank:
Geochemist James Lawrence Powell combed through every peer-reviewed climate article in the last two years, and found that 10,855 peer-reviewed climate articles… only two rejected the notion of man-made climate change. Two, out of 10,855. Doesn’t that persuade you, the idea of scientific consensus? Don’t you think scientists know more about science than we do?
Stephens replied with:
What doesn’t persuade me is the idea that scientists know more about public policy than we do, or that scientists ought to dictate what public policy is. Just a quick example, okay, we have limited resources in this world, right? . . . A few years ago, a Danish statistician… brought together some of the greatest scientists alive. Winners of the Nobel Prize, people who’ve thought a lot about how to remediate poverty around the world, and they asked them, ‘What are your priorities?’. . . What these scholars and experts concluded is that… what we should be devoting the least amount of resources to is trying to combat climate change with technologies that, at the very least, are inexpensive and not mature.
That sounds quite reasonable, and might even be enough to quiet some of the less ardent and vocal environmental activists that we have. But then, Bill Maher brings up Senator James Inhofe, who said that man can’t change the climate, and that we’re arrogant to think that we can.
Stephens responded to Bill Maher’s question of whether we know man can change the climate with:
Well, we don’t know. We don’t know.
There it is. We don’t have the type of concrete, absolute proof that the anti-science crowd wants, therefore we have nothing at all to go on. We have all these peer-reviewed papers, and all these scientists who say that man-made climate change is real, and then you have idiots like Sen. Inhofe and Bret Stephens who say, “We don’t know that.” We do know that. Sorry guys, but you can’t be absolutist with science.
When Bill Maher brings up the idea that it’s the height of hubris that we can’t understand scientific consensus, Stephens says:
No, what I think we know, and we ought to have known for a very long time, is that consensus should not rule science. This is not a democracy, it’s not a vote, and by the way, it’s not simply… we think of great scientific discovery as proceeding from people who are willing to break from the consensus.
Oh boy. Yes, scientific discoveries have come from people breaking with the consensus, but then, over time, we end up with… scientific consensus on the new discovery. Scientists test the new discovery to see if it’s repeatable and falsifiable. The more they test it, and come up with the same results as the initial discovery, the bigger the consensus on that discovery. Then someone somehow gets results that differ from the consensus, so scientists test that to see if it’s repeatable and falsifiable. That’s simplistic, but it’s basically how science goes. What Stephens, Inhofe and others want is absolute proof. They will never get it.
In other words, Stephens is saying, “I don’t accept the so-called ‘scientific consensus’ because science is not a democracy. I don’t want consensus, I want something absolute. Until I get it, I’m going to continue to deny the science,” just like all the rest of the anti-science crowd. Keep looking at science through those blinders, people.
Featured image via screengrab from Mediaite video