Silver, TPM and Yglesias (and now updated with Klein) respond to the new case against global warming

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.

2 Responses to Silver, TPM and Yglesias (and now updated with Klein) respond to the new case against global warming

  1. Jim says:

    When will newspaper editors understand that global warming is not something that you need a conservative and liberal viewpoint on? It is not something any pundit understands. It is the realm of scientists, with whom the conservatives have selective hearing, as they do when they talk about evolution. I bet you there are grassroots movements to get kids to graduate with science and climate degrees just so they can spout off the BS about creationism and undermining the green movement. They think the five scientists that are paid by corporations to say global warming is a hoax are right, whereas the 95 that say it is a serious problem are proof of a liberal conspiracy.

    I don’t understand why these geezers can’t see the economic potential of the green movement. Clean energy. Exporting that around the world, thus discouraging nuclear energy and the weapons that are a short step away.

    (read: Crossing the Rubicon. Read it about two years ago, really liked it.)

    If we can get out of an oil-based economy and into a green economy the US can thrive for another 200 years. If not, I’m afraid for our country’s future.

    The funny thing is I would imagine the more “conservative” viewpoint should be “better safe than sorry” when it comes to global warming.

    By claiming the media has a liberal bias the conservatives have made the industry more self conscious and open to their disinformation campaigns. It’s a pity. Grow some balls WaPo.

    neal replied:

    Will and the Post are still not responding to TPM, which is attempting to get answers regarding the Post’s fact-checking / editing process.

    Will’s assistant told us that Will might get back to us later in the day to talk about the column. And Hiatt said he was too busy to talk about it just then, but that he’d try to respond to emailed questions. So we emailed him yesterday’s post, with several questions about the editing process, then followed up with another email late yesterday afternoon.

    But still nothing from either of them, over twenty-four hours after the first contact was made. Nor has the online version of Will’s column been updated, even to reflect the fact that the ACRC has utterly disavowed the claim Will attributes to it.

    We’re hearing that the Post’s editing process for opinion pieces is virtually non-existent. Maybe that makes sense in some cases — it certainly seems reasonable to give most columnists a freer hand than straight news reporters get. But it’s difficult to know for sure when the Post won’t talk about it. And that approach sure didn’t serve the paper well here.

    As for Will, it’s not hard to understand why he wouldn’t want to discuss a column as misleading as Sunday’s.

    Yglesias said TPM is “being too cute by half” in its faux-naive response to the situation.

    The point of giving columns to Will and Charles Krauthammer and now hiring Bill Kristol is to show that Fred Hiatt and The Washington Post believe that whatever random crap the conservative movement wants to make up on any given day will get a hearing in The Washington Post. They’re not interested in informing their audience, they’re interested in showing that they’ll bend over backwards to be fair to the right wing. Publishing error-free articles by movement icons serves that purpose, but publishing sloppy error-filled ones serves that purpose even better.

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