The brilliant Progressives over at the Daily Kos are all atwitter about the bold wager of $10,000 offered by physicist Dr. Christopher Keating to anyone who can “prove, via the scientific method, that man-made global climate change is not occurring.”
Never mind that Dr. Keating states, in making the challenge, “I am the final judge of all entries but will provide my comments on why any entry fails to prove the point.” That of course means he’s a judge in his own cause. Ask some lawyer you know what “conflict of interest” means.
No, the bigger problem is that even if we assume that Keating would be an honest judge, he hasn’t framed the question to reflect the real debate. He’s rigged the bet. Compare it with the old-West poker player who stacks the deck, marks the cards, seats his opponents so he can see their hands in mirrors, and hides a few aces up his sleeve.
No global-warming skeptic I know denies that “man-made climate change is occurring.” Here are things many do deny:
- That human emissions of greenhouse gases have been the primary cause of global warming over the last 50 or so years.
- That the harms likely to come from those emissions will exceed the benefits.
- That the benefits of mitigating the warming by reducing the emissions will likely exceed the harms.
Keating’s challenge would have been a little more respectable if he’d said, “I will award $10,000 of my own money to anyone that can prove, via the scientific method, that human emissions of greenhouse gases have not been the primary cause of global warming over the last 50 years or so; that the harms likely to come from those emissions are not likely to exceed the benefits; and that the benefits of mitigating the warming by reducing the emissions will not likely exceed the harms.”
But really, since it’s Keating and his ilk who want us to spend trillions of dollars fighting global warming, he should shoulder the burden of proof. Rather than requiring critics to prove the negative of each of his positions, he should challenge them to show that what he considers scientific proof of 1, 2, and 3 above fails to prove one or more of them.
In either case, he should then set forth objective, publicly recognizable criteria by which to make the judgment.
Perhaps Keating and his Progressive friends are hoping this wager offer will gain the kind of fame, and teach the kinds of lessons, another one 34 years ago did. But it won’t.
Because that earlier, famous bet wasn’t rigged.
In 1980, the late Dr. Julian L. Simon, the author of The Economics of Population Growthand an economist and statistician who believed human ingenuity leads to declining resource scarcity over time, challenged Dr. Paul Ehrlich, the author of The Population Bomb and a biologist who believed human consumption leads to increasing resource scarcity over time, to a bet over whether the inflation-adjusted price of each of five commodity metals would rise (evidence that Ehrlich was right) or fall (evidence that Simon was right) over the next ten years. Simon even let Ehrlich choose the five metals. Ehrlich accepted the challenge—and lost. The prices of all five fell over the agreed period.
That bet had clearly defined terms and objective criteria of judgment. Keating’s is nothing but a publicity stunt—a stunt to which the folks not only at Daily Kos but also at Grist and Salon.com, plus many other Progressive/Left/Liberal sites fell prey (just search the web for <“Christopher Keating” bet $10,000>).
The folly of those who fell prey to that stunt is rooted in a flight from reason common around the world today, especially among environmentalists.
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