Friday, October 17, 2008

Conventional Wisdom

I am worried by the increasing weight of the dead hand of orthodoxy in our society. We are beginning to conflate "conventional wisdom" and "truth" and I, for one, am not in the least bit convinced that doing so is a good idea.
There are lots of examples: High fat diets cause heart attacks1. The National Curriculum is a good idea2. Iraq had weapons of mass destruction3. The Taliban are terrorists4. The Universe is full of Dark Matter5.
Global Warming is a good example of the triumph of orthodoxy over debate. We are told (in an infant school sort of way) that the overall warming of our planet is because we are releasing too much CO2 into the atmosphere and creating a greenhouse effect. To disagree is no longer an option. The "environmental thought police" will not countenance disagreement. It might endanger their funding.
Yet still, I disagree.
I am sure that what we are doing to the planet is not good and that releasing all the carbon dioxide that we do is not a great idea BUT I do not believe that there is an inexorable link between the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and the average global temperature.
To claim that such a link exists is to reduce the science to the level of a soundbite.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen from about 300 ppm* in 1960 to about 387 ppm now. Five hundred million years ago carbon dioxide was at least 20 times more abundant than today, slowly decreasing to "modern" levels. We know very little about what regulates the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere but we do know that the planet has survived much higher concentrations than 387 ppm.
Perhaps the eco-fascists would like to go and have a look at the work of the Serbian mathematician Milutin Milanković. His work has linked Ice Ages and the so-called Interglacial periods (like now) to the orbit and rotation of the Earth. Interesting. Non-political. Probably true.

1. Not proven and not even remotely likely to be true. Ask the Inuit and the Eskimoes (yes, there is a difference)
2. Independent schools that don't follow the National Curriculum always outperform State Sector Schools that do.
3. No they didn't; but we still have our forces over there fighting and dying because someone believed they did!
4. The Taliban have never been terrorists. We don't like them now but we cheered them on when they were kicking seven bells out of the Russians in 1980.
5. See an earlier blog.
*ppm = parts per million

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