Beyond The Fringe

James Delingpole and the Daily Caller have drawn attention to a letter in the Guardian signed by 60 assorted worthies, the thrust of which is found in one of its closing lines:

We will no longer debate those who deny that human-caused climate change is real.

Why not? Because it would seem that disbelief in Anthropogenic Global Warming is a “fringe view” beneath discussing:

Fringe voices will protest about “free speech”. No one should prevent them from expressing their views, whether held cynically or misguidedly. However, no one is obliged to provide them with a platform, much less to appear alongside them to give the misleading impression that there is something substantive to debate. When there is an article on smoking, newspapers and broadcasters no longer include lobbyists claiming there are no links to cancer. When there’s a round-the-world yacht race we don’t hear flat-earthers given airtime: “This is madness; they’ll sail off the edge!”

They’re saying: If you have a “fringe view”, you’re perfectly entitled to it, but we don’t have to listen to you.

What is a “fringe view”? I think any new idea always starts life on the fringe of society. It might be one single person’s idea. But if it attracts interest and agreement, it will become less of a fringe idea. And if more or less everybody comes to agree with it, it’ll become part of the mainstream of accepted beliefs. And after that, as other new ideas emerge and find agreement, an idea will gradually become marginal again. Eventually it will become a fringe idea once more. And in the end maybe only one person will adhere to it. So one could say that ideas or beliefs ordinarily start out on the fringe, gain  mainstream currency and support, and finally end up back on the fringe. That is to say: Ideas come and go. Or, to use what may be an apt analogy, ideas are like morsels of food which enter via the mouth, are chewed over, and either swallowed or spat out, and then digested and finally eliminated at the other end of the digestive tract.

It seems to me that these signatories have an idea of science as something that progresses in one direction only: towards ever-increasing truth and certainty and accuracy. Last year’s science isn’t as good as this year’s science, and next year’s science will be even better than this year’s science. And once science has advanced anywhere, it becomes fixed and immutable, set in stone. The river of science is one that flows evenly and steadily in one direction only. And so when scientists discovered that the world wasn’t flat, and that smoking causes lung cancer, these newly-minted scientific truths became unquestionable dogmas, and the debate was over.

But I don’t see science as being like that at all. I think scientists can and do get things wrong from time to time. In fact I think they almost always do, to start with. And I don’t think anything is set in stone. The river of science may very broadly flow in one direction, but it is full of eddies in which the water is in some places flowing in the opposite direction, and it also meanders from side to side so much that sometimes the entire river is moving in the opposite direction, and what was once the main stream of the river becomes sidelined as a motionless fringe oxbow lake.

So what happens to be the “mainstream” set of beliefs right now most likely won’t be the mainstream tomorrow. And it won’t be the day after that either. It changes all the time.

And so it seems rather silly to me characterise some ideas as fringe ideas to be discounted and ignored.

And anyway, it seems to me that the signatories of this letter themselves belong to a “misguided fringe”. For as best I understand, the general public for the most part do not regard climate change as a matter of any sort of pressing concern: it regularly comes last in opinion polls. Most people simply aren’t interested. And is it very surprising if the very first of the 60 signatories was Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission, and the second one is Executive director of Greenpeace, others are  from the Climatic Research Unit of UEA and another is Director of the Apollo-Gaia Project and so on? They’re all greenies, and they all believe the things that greenies believe. It’s more or less as if the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury and numerous other Christian clerics had written a letter affirming their belief in God, and their refusal to debate the matter any more with infidels and unbelievers. It’s only a few of the names on the list which might seem a bit surprising. Wasn’t Peter Tatchell a gay rights campaigner? When did he become a global warming alarmist? And why? And does it matter?

I rather think that these 60 signatories have more or less told the world that they have become a monastic order that has sworn a vow of silence, and they will only talk to each other. For perhaps they have sensed that fickle public opinion is shifting away from them, and their ideas and beliefs are becoming increasingly marginal. And with luck we’ll never hear from any of them ever again.

About Frank Davis

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14 Responses to Beyond The Fringe

  1. Rose says:

    Excellent, a series of names in print for posterity.
    So if they are wrong and catastrophe doesn’t happen, or it does because we were forced to take the wrong advice, can we sue them?

    Since Lalonde, It seems that you can come up with whatever tunnel-visioned prophecy you like and get away with it, if you can get government support.

    Chapter 9. Science Versus Health Promotion

    “The spirit of enquiry and skepticism, and particularly the Scientific Method,so essential to research, are, however, a problem in health promotion.
    The reason for this is that science is full of “ifs”, “buts”, and “maybes” while messages designed to influence the public must be loud, clear and unequivocal.”

    ”The scientific “yes, but” is essential to research but for modifying the behaviour of the population it sometimes produces the “uncertain sound” that is all the excuse needed by many to cultivate and tolerate an environment and lifestyle that is hazardous”

    Click to access perspect-eng.pdf

    Not everyone wants their behaviour modified, being quite capable of rational thought themselves.

    • Rose says:

      Case in point

      Cheese and red meat are back on the menu after study suggests eating twice as much as officials advise
      28 August 2018

      “Cheese and red meat are back on the menu – as an international study suggests eating around twice as much as health officials advise.
      The study of 220,000 adults found that eating three portions of dairy and one and half portions of meat a day could cut the risk of early death by one quarter.

      Scientists said the findings “challenge conventional wisdom” after decades of advice to cut down on full-fat dairy and red meat.

      Current NHS guidance says dairy should make up just eight per cent of a person’s daily recommended calorie intake – allowing just one yoghurt or two small slices of cheese.
      And red meat consumption should be limited to 70 grams (2.5 oz) a day, it says.

      The new global study by McMaster University, in Canada found that far higher levels of intake were linked to a far lower risk of early death.

      Those having three portions of dairy – which could mean two slices of cheese, a full-fat yoghurt and half a pint of whole milk – and one and half portions of red meat daily fared best. This equates to around 20-25 per cent of calories coming from dairy.

      Their rates of early death were 25 per cent lower than those of people consuming less, with 22 per cent fewer heart attacks.
      The amount of meat being consumed amounted to around 4.5 oz daily – the equivalent of a small steak.

      Dr Andrew Mente, presenting the findings at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Munich, said the saturated fat contained in meat and dairy appears to protect the heart.”

      “Until two years ago, Public Health England advised that around 15 per cent of calories should come from dairy. But two years ago it cut this to 8 per cent – and recommended consumption of low-fat versions.”

      So if people who ignored Public Health’s pronouncements on fat and red meat got 22 per cent fewer heart attacks, shouldn’t those who were unfortunate enough to have listened be compensated in some way, or are they just collateral damage?

      Or perhaps Public Health advice, like Secondhand Smoke, “is such that it does not allow to identify the victims at individual level but only populations.”

      • DP says:

        Dear Rose

        Perhaps public health Ingsoc, like government, should come with a health warning.

        Graphic warnings and faceless officials? We’ve had the last for a long, long time.


        • Rose says:

          Caveat emptor, every time they get a collective bee in their bonnets..
          Personally, I gave the whole low fat, anti dairy thing a miss from the beginning, but it was getting so difficult to find proper full fat cream cheese, I eventually attempted to make it myself, but only with partial success.

          2003 Eugenics apology
          “SACRAMENTO — It was a dark chapter in American history. For more than half a century, California and other states forcibly sterilized 60,000 mentally ill people as part of a misguided national campaign to eliminate crime, “feeblemindedness,” alcoholism, poverty and other problems blamed for dragging society down.

          On Tuesday, Gov. Gray Davis apologized, placing California in a small group of states that have issued formal regrets.

          “To the victims and their families of this past injustice,” Davis said in a statement, “the people of California are deeply sorry for the suffering you endured over the years. Our hearts are heavy for the pain caused by eugenics. It was a sad and regrettable chapter … one that must never be repeated.”

          As eugenics was practiced in California and 31 other states at various times between 1909 and 1964, when it stopped, individuals considered defective included alcoholics, petty criminals, the poor, disabled and mentally ill.

          About 20,000 people were involuntarily sterilized in an attempt to prevent their genes from being passed on to another generation.

          Eugenics was intended to “clean up the gene pool,” Paul Lombardo, an expert on the subject, said during a presentation at the Capitol only hours before Davis acted.”

  2. Smoking Lamp says:

    The suppression of dissent is a hallmark of totalitarian societies. The pained tolerance of ‘free speech’ is weak and a ruse. The diktats of health promotion don”t tolerate actual dissent. Instead they will heighten their propaganda to stimulate mass attacks on the dissenting memes or idea. The ‘thought police’ function becomes a function of mass action (at least for now)…

  3. Joe L. says:

    So one could say that ideas or beliefs ordinarily start out on the fringe, gain mainstream currency and support, and finally end up back on the fringe. That is to say: Ideas come and go.

    And this is precisely why these ideologues are currently hellbent on suppressing all “fringe views.” They know very well that their so-called “popular” beliefs are tenuous and they fear the “fringe view” gaining support and traction. They see that there is a growing portion of the population which is now questioning the information they are being fed (the increasing use of the term “fake news,” etc.), and they are afraid of being exposed as frauds.

    If they had solid evidence to back up their claims, they would be willing and eager to engage in debates. The fact that they instead feel the need to suppress the opposition speaks volumes about how fragile their foothold truly is.

  4. waltc says:

    Galileo was convicted of heresy by the Inquisition and sentenced to life in prison. At least they haven’t yet gone that far yet , tho, IIRC, some congressman suggested charging warming deniers under the RICO (racketeering conspiracy) laws–same laws used against the cancer-denying tobacco companies that , among other things, forced them to recant and “admit” –in a year long ad campaign–that secondhand smoke is lethal

  5. beobrigitte says:

    James Delingpole and the Daily Caller have drawn attention to a letter in the Guardian signed by 60 assorted worthies, the thrust of which is found in one of its closing lines:

    We will no longer debate those who deny that human-caused climate change is real.
    Why not? It is vitally important that there are debates – it provides a platform for our “human-made-climate change” advocates to disprove these people

    and others.
    It is quite interesting how many parallels there are between the human made climate change lobby and the anti-tobacco lobby. The same blueprint gets used over and over again for different “campaigns”. In the video above it gets mentioned that these campaigners act in pure self interest – the more warning and fearmongering the more government cash and employment for them.

    I rather think that these 60 signatories have more or less told the world that they have become a monastic order that has sworn a vow of silence, and they will only talk to each other. For perhaps they have sensed that fickle public opinion is shifting away from them, and their ideas and beliefs are becoming increasingly marginal. And with luck we’ll never hear from any of them ever again.
    On their way out they may as well take tobacco control and this blueprint of how-to-get-what-we-want with them.

  6. Doonhamer says:

    So two or more of them in a room will make for scintillating conversation.
    “Turned out a nice day. A bit warmer than yesterday.”
    End of debate. Nothing more to be said after a few grunts of agreement.
    Tumbleweed and crickets.

  7. smokingscot says:

    Oh boy, now it seems the greatest insult you can level a person is to say their company is as “addictive as tobacco”.

    Yes folks, it’s true. Facebook has now been landed with that awful description.

  8. jaxthefirst says:

    Interesting that they bring up “flat earthers” as an example. Didn’t the idea that the earth was spherical – now a generally-accepted view – first start out as a “fringe” idea, laughed at by all and sundry because, well, everybody knew that the world was flat, because they could see the flatness of the horizon with their own eyes? And, as Walt points out, wasn’t Gallileo’s heliocentric view of the Universe first regarded as, not just “fringe,” but actually heretical? Because everybody knew that the Sun went around the earth, because they could see its progress every day “moving” across the sky? If the authorities of the time had adopted this strategy (and indeed they tried), we’d all (including them) still be flat-earthers, convinced that the Earth itself was the centre of the Universe!

    I guess these people must find it just too awful to contemplate the fact that so many of these “fringe” ideas have, with the passage of time, become “mainstream.” Heaven forbid that they – the self-appointed “experts” – should find themselves proved wrong! The trouble is, good old-fashioned time has an irritating habit of proving them wrong – as it did in the case of the flat earth and the earth-centric theory – all by itself, with or without their attempts to stifle dissent, because no amount of effort on behalf of these know-it-alls can stop reality from biting eventually, as all their dire predictions fail to materialise. Aww, shame!

  9. Pingback: When Friends Become Enemies | Frank Davis

  10. DP says:

    Dear Mr Davis

    What a wonderful letter: it is virtually an admission that they are close to the end of their ridiculous hegemony, that there is nothing left for them to do but ridicule one small section of the anti-alarmist side, while ignoring the very full body of evidence for the modern warming period to be substantially natural, that releasing vast quantities of sequestered carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is hugely beneficial to plant life, greening the planet to the benefit of millions of people around the world in terms of extra food production.

    Global warming is good.

    Computer aided global warming is the con. Climate changes – if it hadn’t, Scotland would still be under a mile of ice. There may be a recent anthropogenic contribution, but it is likely to be very small. Any attempt to achieve anthropogenic global cooling is as likely to be a very expensive failure, and the downside of ‘success’ is that global cooling is far more likely to be catastrophic for the human race than warming ever will be: shorter growing seasons, less food, longer winters.

    These people have been successful in one regard: self-enrichment in fame, fortune and the power to abuse.

    The chance of any of them being held to account for misconduct in a public office, obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception or outright fraud, is, like the anti-smoker confidence tricksters™, pretty much zero. More likely gongs all round. They are creatures of government, pursuing the lucrative profession of tax-sponger.

    It is good of the Guardian to ignore the thrust of their letter and invite one and all to Join the debate.


    PS spot the deliberate mistake:

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