Home » Science » James Lovelock: A self-confessed climate “alarmist” changes his mind

James Lovelock: A self-confessed climate “alarmist” changes his mind

James Lovelock, father of Gaia theory and previous forecaster of humanity’s doom by global warming, now says he was an alarmist who extrapolated too far in making his predictions. More after the click.

Here is the article. Note that Lovelock still thinks that global warming is taking place, and that its effects are a reason to be concerned about it. However, he says frankly that he was wrong in the past, regards Al Gore as an alarmist as well, and now takes a more humble approach to the subject.

The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened,” Lovelock said.

The whole article is worth a read, but any ID proponent or ID sympathetic person should enjoy seeing this line in particular.

As “an independent and a loner,” he said he did not mind saying “All right, I made a mistake.” He claimed a university or government scientist might fear an admission of a mistake would lead to the loss of funding.

Man, there’s a lot to ponder in that quote, even if it’s just from one (prominent) scientist. Scientists being unwilling to cop to mistakes because of funding concerns? I mean, we all know that’s going on – but it’s nice to see a scientist of note admit it. And notice that part of Lovelock’s willingness to do so is (or so he indicates) due precisely to his not being connected to the money faucets.

One could easily add another reason a scientist may be unwilling to admit to having made a mistake: fear that doing so will detract from a pet cause or issue being advocated, or support another perspective they find distasteful.

Either way, give the article a read to see a man who once forecast doomsday for the planet now take a more mild stance.

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5 Responses to James Lovelock: A self-confessed climate “alarmist” changes his mind

  1. 1
    material.infantacy

    “One could easily add another reason a scientist may be unwilling to admit to having made a mistake: fear that doing so will detract from a pet cause or issue being advocated, or support another perspective they find distasteful.”

    In an ideal world, mistakes would be detected in peer review; and the publication would share responsibility for them. Perhaps the hive mind is preventing healthy disagreement. Would the quality of anthropogenic climate change papers improve if the review process included opponents to the theory, who had no reason to fear discrimination? Sure. But therein lies the problem: they might not make it past peer review at all. Same is true for Darwinian evolution.

    Quite a while back, I stopped believing that much of this is about the science, really. My paranoid mind leads me to suspect that, if the materialist true believers can’t have science all to themselves, they might prefer that nobody have it at all. Cue the “philosophy is dead” declarations shouted out while rushing full speed into the caring arms of the multiverse.

  2. Are my eyes going bad or is the link to the article missing?

  3. My paranoid mind leads me to suspect that, if the materialist true believers can’t have science all to themselves, they might prefer that nobody have it at all.

    Well, I don’t think it’s paranoid to admit this much: scientists are human. Shocking, I know, especially to scientists. They can have agendas. They can have bias. They can have motives for wanting to uphold one paper, not uphold another, get one result, or deny another result.

    And of course, there’s the flipside. They can also be honest, they can admit mistakes even if it costs them, they can admit to results they do not like. That’s the other part of being human.

    The problem is there’s no surefire way to tell who’s doing what at a glance. Peer review has some deep flaws and doesn’t always work as advertised – similar to tenure. Ideally people just go and read up on the subject themselves, but that’s time-consuming and can get complicated.

    Even in cases where a scientist was clearly wrong – see Krauss, getting his ass kicked all over the internet over his sham of a book – the right answer doesn’t become the universally accepted one. (See Krauss’ defenders, and Krauss himself, spinning around insisting everyone misunderstands him or is just dumb or being mean. See homeopath advocates doing the same dance elsewhere.)

    Ideally, the attitude would be ‘be skeptical, investigate claims to the extent you’re able, decide what to believe based on that’. But if it’s Really Really Important to someone that you believe X, and you believe !X, then they’re going to get the urge to badger you to keep researching until you either come up with the right belief, or claim that you’re crazy for believing !X, or stupid, or… etc.

    But at least Lovelock is doing a service. He’s showing some of the flaws in the system and practice that everyone knows is there, but some people don’t want to admit to, or others want to make too much out of. And I can already imagine what the response to Lovelock merely saying ‘I was wrong’ and ‘I was an alarmist’ and ‘We don’t know what’s going on with the climate’ will be in some quarters: “He’s old and senile. Maybe he was right once but he’s wrong now. And we made some mistakes a decade ago, but now they’re all correct and we’re real, real sure we have it right this time.”

    And so it goes.

  4. BartM,

    No, I made a mistake posting this. Should be there now.

  5. “Did exploding stars help life on Earth to thrive?”
    http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and.....-to-thrive

    “The data also support the idea of a long-term link between cosmic rays and climate, with these climatic changes underlying the biological effects. And compared with the temperature variations seen on short timescales as a consequence of the Sun’s influence on the influx of cosmic rays, the heating and cooling of the Earth due to cosmic rays varying with the prevailing supernova rate have been far larger.”

    Perhaps Lovelock backed off too soon. The problem is actually bigger than global warming…. it’s (gasp!) Galactic Warming(TM)… our kids are all gonna die!!!

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