by Arthur Robinson
June 21, 2008
A peculiar and dangerous virus is currently infecting American public discourse. This virus pathologically transforms our language, so that our conversations with one another become garbled, confused, and ultimately meaningless. Words are transformed into something they never were intended to mean, or robbed of their meaning altogether. “Democracy” is set to the meaning of “republic,” “gambling” becomes “investment,” and “vice” becomes the “virtue of diversity.”
“Science” — to which I have devoted my life — is one of the most devalued words. And nowhere is it more abused than in the United Nations, where institutionalized mob rule is called “science.”
In its headlong drive to gain the power to tax and ration world energy (and thereby control world technology — sharing taxation authority with other governments in return for their support) the United Nations has created a “process,” which it calls “science.” Yet, this process is different from and, in fact, alien to science as the world has heretofore known it.
The United Nations has selected 600 willing people with formal educations in science to participate in its series of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC”) meetings and studies. A few hundred other such people — not quite so fortunate as to be in the select 600 — also participate in these meetings. Some of these people are actively engaged in scientific work. Others once did so, but are now largely retired. The primary requirement for selection is a willingness to participate in the United Nations’ new “process” and the agenda behind it.
During United Nations IPCC meetings — large and small — these people study and discuss the current and past research literature concerning climate and climate prediction, with special emphasis on the entirely unsolved problem of climate prediction for time periods decades and even centuries in the future. In addition to discussions, the participants create written accounts of their deliberations. These emanations are closely observed by a very select small group of United Nations operatives.
When the meetings and writing are completed, this small group of observers combines the products of the meeting into a large important-looking report — carefully editing the report so that it supports United Nations political objectives. At no time is this report submitted to the 600 plus “scientists” and like-number of non-scientists who participated in the meeting for their final approval. The report and its shorter summary report are disseminated to the public as “settled science,” regardless of the fact that the scientists involved do not agree upon the text. After all, scientists seem never to agree. But the elite few who oversaw the meeting and interpreted its results are special. They are the UN’s anointed messengers of the truth.
This “process” looks like “science.” After all, scientists usually have academic degrees in science; scientists often have meetings to discuss research; scientists write lots of reports; and scientific meetings usually have small groups of scientists who organize the meetings and sometimes summarize the activities. But there is an enormous difference.
Scientific truths are never determined through such meetings; unsolved scientific questions are never resolved by such meetings; and scientific articles are never published unless every putative or listed author has personally approved every word of the publication.
Science has always progressed on the basis of observations, experiments, and thoughts published by individual scientists and sometimes pairs or small groups of scientific coworkers. In the early centuries of science, this publication was largely in the form of personal letters and occasional books. Now, there are thousands of scientific journals in which scientific work is published.
A few of these published articles are especially valuable; a greater number, while not remarkable, provide relative mundane studies that add to the infrastructure of science; many are not useful at all; and some are completely wrong. As individual scientists read these articles, they use their own wisdom, knowledge, and judgment to separate new information that they find valuable from information that they find of no use.
Those who make good choices from the scientific literature and who conduct valuable work themselves push forward the frontiers of scientific knowledge. Others do not. There is an etiquette established by custom and culture in science. Those whose articles are judged of little or no value — and therefore are rarely referenced by other scientists — are treated with courtesy. Even the best scientists only occasionally produce seminal work and, moreover, it is always possible that the prevailing wisdom is wrong — that an article which appears to be without value is in fact an unrecognized important new discovery.
Sometimes this process is fast because a new seminal discovery is made. Sometimes it is slow. Always, scientific progress is a result of a large number of individual decisions that trend in a specific direction. Scientific truth is never decided by meetings organized to decide which ideas are true and which are false.
If the mob rule process of the United Nations worked, many great unsolved scientific questions could be quickly solved. United Nations observers could attend scientific meetings of cancer scientists and determined the causes and cures of cancer. With the “science settled,” this scourge could be eliminated. Likewise Alzheimer’s disease, human aging, the origin of the universe, and other great unsolved problems could be solved. The fact is that mob rule does not work in science any better than it works in nations. No scientific question has ever been resolved in this way.
In the present case in which United Nations apparatchiks have proclaimed that human activity is catastrophically warming the planet, the human cost of error is so great than many other scientists have become motivated to individually examine the evidence. Now, a total of more than 9,000 Americans with PhDs in science and therefore professional educational credentials that, on average, equal or surpass the United Nations 600 — and a total of more than 31,000 Americans with at least BS degrees in science have signed a petition to the U.S. government specifically rejecting the United Nations claim that human use of hydrocarbon energy is injuring the climate. In fact, the 31,000 scientists state that carbon dioxide released by energy production is actually beneficial to the environment. See www.petitionproject.org.
These are 31,000 individual scientific evaluations. Each scientist actually signed his name and approved the conclusion — unlike the key 600 United Nations participants who did not sign the U.N. report. Even if, however, the 31,000 had met and led each other to participate — which they did not and even if the U.N. 600 had signed the UN report which they did not, the vote is 50 to 1, or 15 to 1 if we count only PhDs. Scientific truth is not determined by vote, but if the UN likes to vote, this way does not work for them either.
It is time to kill this counterproductive virus that has sickened American science and engineering, and get on with the job of expanding the American hydrocarbon and nuclear energy industries. To do less poses a terrible risk to America’s prosperity and to her future.
This article first appeared in Human Events on 6-17-08
© 2008 – Art Robinson – All Rights Reserve
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Art Robinson was educated in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology and the University of California at San Diego. Immediately after graduation, he was appointed to the faculty of UCSD and carried out research there and at Stanford University. In 1973, Linus Pauling and Art Robinson founded a research Institute that was known as the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine. Robinson was President and Director of that Institute. In 1980, Art Robinson, his scientist wife Laurelee, and several colleagues founded the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, where he is currently President and Research Professor.