George Will had a funny way of arguing against global warming in his Sunday column. I agree with Nate Silver at 538 that Will is usually “fairly intellectually honest,” and he’s probably my favorite conservative columnist, but when you go around spouting stuff that’s verifiably not true in a flimsy self-serving logical construction, you’re going to run into problems.
Silver tackled that right away in George F. Will Takes on Science, Loses Credibility, pointing out the factual problems with Will’s claims. Turns out, it’s worse than that — Will flat out misquoted an article from Science magazine that essentially argued the exact opposite of which Will claimed it did.
Talking Points Memo added “…it took us about ten minutes — longer, it appears, than the Post’s editors spent — to figure out that Will … was essentially making stuff up. Both of Will’s major “data points” fall apart after a moment’s scrutiny.” They are awaiting return calls from Will and the Post.
The Cato institute’s decision to hop on the anti-reality Will bandwagon prompted Matthew Yglesias to elaborate on the difference between classical liberalism with modern libertarianism:
Nowhere in the works of Adam Smith or John Stuart Mill, for example, is there anything about how if science indicates that certain form of human activity that was long thought to be harmless to others is, in fact, doing massive, hard-to-reverse damage to the long-term interests of billions of people that the correct response is to retreat into dogma and ignorance.
What’s really the answer here? If one is so emotionally motivated to disagree with the theory of global warming that he or she willfully retreats into dogma and ignorance, do facts and reason have any effect? I remember being convinced of the liberals’ global warming conspiracy when I was a kid, listening to Rush every day while out in the pasture cutting thistles. The anti-intellectual conspiracy, like most probably, was remarkably self-serving; by believing it was only a conspiracy to trick everyone into thinking the world was warming, I could excuse myself from having to read anything that supported the theory. I think I was 14.
UPDATE: Ezra Klein turns Will’s own words against him:
Will knows full well he’s not competent to judge the science, and so he doesn’t. Which is all the more galling given the good Will did his reputation as an “intellectual conservative” by attacking Sarah Palin during the general elecction. “America’s gentle populists and other sentimental egalitarians postulate that wisdom is easily acquired and hence broadly diffused; therefore anyone with a good heart can deliver good government, which is whatever the public desires,” he mocked. And yet here Will is, postulating that the scientific consensus should be dismissed because of a popular science article from the same year that Wheel of Fortune premiered on NBC. This is Sarah Palin’s argument wrapped in better word choice and made with a more graceful pen. If anything, that’s more dangerous, not less.