I received an interesting paper from my old friend and mentor S. Fred Singer today. Fred may be the most knowledgeable man alive on issues of Oceans and Atmospheres–a legitimate rocket science physicist who has held every position of importance in the field, including first Director of the National Weather Satellite Service. Fred is now president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project .
The paper is a pre-published draft of State of Fear, by Prof. David Deming, a geoscientist at the University of Oklahoma; the paper will appear in the June, 2005 issue of the Journal of Scientific Exploration. You can see the paper at the SEPP website in the March 5 issue of their newsletter, The Week that Was.
Professor Deming’s paper is not about Crichton’s book; it is about what Chrichton’s book reveals about how science has been politicized. For example, the Medeival Warming Period (MWP) was the 300 year warm period between 1000 AD and the beginning of the Little Ice Age that froze the Dutch canals and drove the Vikings out of Greenland in the 14th and 15th centuries. During the MWP, rising temperatures increased crop yields, dried up swamps, and killed mosquitos, which reduced infant mortality rates and increased the population of Europe from 40 million to 60 million between 1100 AD and 1300 AD.
But the MWP had to go because it showed that mean surface global temperature over most of the last 10,000 years was significantly warmer than the late 20th-century, anathema to the global warming supporters. Professor Deming reveals the extraordinary scientific fruad that was committed by politically-motivated researchers to make this happen.
I am very skeptical of people who are too sure about what they believe about a subject, especially if their belief preceded their homework. And I am even more skeptical about people who try to sell their ideas by appealing to people’s fears. Global warmers have done both. I have not yet made up my mind on the global warming debate.
Regardless of your belief, I strongly recommend Crichton’s book, if only to increase your skepticism about believing anything you hear from strident evangelists of all colors. If you don’t agree with his ideas, so much the better. Reading things you don’t agree with is the only way to learn.
I find the success of Crichton’s State of Fear very uplifting. Not because of its viewpoint; because it shows that people are again willing to read books that challenge accepted dogma. People in America were deeply frightened by the terrorist attacks. History shows that when people are frightened they are willing to sell their soul, and their freedom, to anyone who promises order. The worst tragedies in history have occurred during the reactionary period after a major trauma. Their willingness to read this book may be a sign those fears are beginning to fade.