How little divergence is needed to become a heretic


Heretic, according to the Oxford Dictionary, means:

  1. A person believing in or practising religious heresy.
 1.1 A person holding an opinion at odds with what is generally accepted

Middle English: from Old French heretique, via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek hairetikos able to choose (in ecclesiastical Greek, heretical), from haireomai choose.


How interesting is the original Greek meaning: able to choose! Which implies that the orthodox are unable to choose, because they do not allow themselves, or are not allowed, freedom of choice in what they believe.

Today’s interesting article is published on Judith Curry’s blog, setting out the travails of Roger Pielke Jr., Scott Adams, Matt Ridley, and other lukewarmers and non-alarmists.

At the end of the article Judith Curry observes:

The truly astonishing thing about all this is how little climate heretics – such as myself, Roger Pielke, and Matt Ridley – actually diverge from the consensus science position: RP Jr. hews strictly to the IPCC consensus; Matt Ridley is on the lukewarm side of the IPCC consensus, and I have stated that the uncertainties are too large to justify high confidence in the consensus statements.

The point of all orthodoxies of belief is that deviation is not merely error, it is a sin. When “scientists”, people committed to evidence and disproof of theories, become heresy sniffers, they have passed outside of science into belief. To make my point clear: I do not need to believe that things drop to the ground, it is demonstrable.  Belief is reserved for things which cannot be proven. Like Darwin or God.

I remain committed to the idea that progress in  science consists of making hypotheses from observations, seeing their implications, taking the implications seriously enough to test them, and then setting out to find under what conditions the theory fails to explain the implications.   See the entry on Sir Karl Popper here for a detailed explanation of this approach.

[ A theory can be useful even it is not a complete explanation for everything within its range, such as, for instance, Darwin’s theory of  natural selection. Lest the heresy sniffers go into over-drive, the reason why natural selection is incomplete is simple: thirteen years later, Darwin wrote another theory of evolution complementary to the first, called sexual selection, in which the drivers of evolution are the sexual congregants themselves, and are non-random].

Back to the politics of climate change. It is no use denying climate change; it is like denying gravity. But the people who shout “climate change!”  assume that we humans are driving the change, preponderantly or exclusively, and that it can be abated economically, and must be abated to forestall planetary disaster.  “Climate change” is a weighted slogan more than an ever-present reality.

Hence Trump’s announcement of a climate skeptic, Scott Pruitt,  to head the Environmental Protection Agency marks a huge change from the “science” policies of the Obama regime. Without ever making a big fuss of his climate policies during the election campaign, Trump managed to evince a skepticism that gave us lukewarmers heart. Pruitt’s appointment constitutes a much needed policy change of the largest kind.

In short, you do not need to be a global warming denialist to be treated as a heretic. You need only be less frenzied in your agreement with the Party Line. A Trump cabinet full of “heretics” is welcome. Some actual thinking might be allowed in government as a result.

Bill Elder

Dalwhinnie, one of your best observations yet.

The heresy mania you cite provides an interesting illustration of a much larger issue. In the witch hunting of climate deniers by science-cult inquisitors, we see an example of a plague to reason that is widespread among those with leftist politics, namely: confirmation bias.

We see how leftist politics leaking into science has produced the predictable disaster of reason – when a science based in fallacious social theory (Leftist critical theory) taints a science based on empirical evidence and calculated probability the synthesis is conclusions which do not match measured reality. Leftist social scientists love to “discover” new examples of social injustice ( racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and all the other isms and “ophobias”) which they claim plague mankind (but seem primarily endemic to capitalist societies). Their scientific method is to enter any given situation with metaphysical certitude that some malady is present because the observed situation does not meet the perfect utopian model of their theories – the social scientist will then interpret whatever transpires in that situation in a way that confirms the predetermined conclusion. This often necessitates wild flights of fancy and unfounded assumptions and even the manufacture of evidence about the motivations of those in the situation under study.

This is why degreed social scientists in academia can posit theories which they claim have a better than 90% certainty ( the “settled science” doggerel) that they have discovered that certain types of breakfast is ecological murder and personal choice of beverage is racist or misogynistic (we are left to conclude by the same logic that lunch must be homophobic). The leftist scientist, like his social science counterpart, is oblivious to his complicity in CREATING the “discovery” his biases told him were there with cognitive confirmation bias. Politically left scientists believe that their biased or incorrect interpretations are objective reality, that the distorted models they fabricate do not match the objective realities at hand. This is an essential element in the confirmation bias process, because it’s exactly that pigheaded certainty that allows junk scientists and their cult followers to be so self-righteous and demand heretics be punished instead of heard.

One of the best examples of this “put the conclusion first, and then let confirmation bias ‘prove’ it” methodology is the fact that three separate man made global warming crisis scientists apparently decided to connect scientists formulating mathematic refutations to the climate model feedback sensitivity algorithm, and they came up with two completely contradictory, diametrically opposed refutations. This proves that if you set your mind to it, you can interpret anything as heresy, because the human mind, if it’s good for anything, is good for constructing and telling a story, taking fragments and fashioning a complete tale by filling in the gray areas with fiction and bias.

This is a problem caused by a lack of critical thinking, a discipline which is required in every science and many professions – which is why so much of it seems to originate on college campuses, where critical thinking is strongly dissuaded these days. Leftist professors encourage their students to seek new reasons to validate misanthropic Marxist critical theory – to “discover” new injustices of capitalist society that may be blind to the human eye but look great in a peer reviewed scientific essay.

It’s alarming the extent to which science and sociology have become the opposite of a critical-thinking exercise. It is total rejection of Cognitive bias mitigation in scientific and reasoning methodology. Leftist professors and scientists (adherents of Marxist critical theory) are working under and encouraging students they teach to actively employ confirmation bias, to embrace it, and to use it in order to rout out hidden “enemies” and “crisis” which need scientific/government intervention – from a critical reasoning perspective this is an appalling rejection of logical argumentation and logical scientific method.

From a social and cultural perspective it is disastrous as the rejection of the logical methodology for arriving at the truth, and the active aggression in suppressing those seeking the truth, is a bell weather of a society in decline.

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