How did objectivity itself become partisan?
I’m not quite sure how this thought came into my mind. I was angry about what Mark Steyn is regularly allowed to write in Maclean’s (Peter Sinclair, if you’re reading, you should really use his columns as case studies for your videos – this is the most popular news magazine in Canada). Then I read his Wikipedia page and discovered that he regularly appears on Rush Limbaugh, writes for the National Post, and gets awards from Fox News. Somehow that made my anger diminish, as I started to look at his articles as case studies rather than as a reporter from a magazine I’ve grown up with. His climatology arguments are easily invalidated by the cooling stratosphere as well as tracking the warming over decades rather than years – just like S. Fred Singer. Singer’s writing doesn’t make me mad anymore, because it’s a case study, not a source.
Then I got distracted wondering what would happen to the temperature of the stratosphere if the planet was experiencing an aerosol-induced cooling. That sort of energy balance mechanism fascinates me, but I couldn’t figure it out.
Eventually I got back to politics and the media, and I started wondering how climate science became a partisan issue. It’s math and physics when you boil it all down, just like any other physical science – the very subjects which are, ideally, the pinnacles of objectivity. At what point did the public perception of the objectivity of climatology fall apart?
I trust scientists, and I trust science more than any other field to guide my decisions, so maybe I’m expecting that everyone else would feel the same way. But if I was confused about the link between the ozone hole and Antarctic temperatures, my first reaction would not be to declare that both ozone depletion and climate change were “religion, not science”. My first reaction would be to assume that I did not fully understand, and that the scientists had covered all of my misconceptions long ago. Then I would go to Google Scholar, rather than writing an erroneous editorial in a major national magazine.
However, when one frames their own scientific misconceptions as a conservative viewpoint of climate science, the more informed message of those who work in the field and keep up to date with the literature is cast as “liberal”. Then the artificial balance complex of the mainstream media kicks in. Equal time is given to contrasting conclusions, rather than to the most accurate and conscientious arguments. Space is allocated based on the ends (conclusions) rather than the means (methods and analysis).
Science is so fundamentally different from everything else the media reports. In politics and religion and musical tastes, there is no right and wrong. But in science, there is a right and wrong – at least hypothetically. We know there’s a physical truth out there, and we’re always striving to come closer to it.
The fallacies of the mainstream media make it incredibly easy to create a controversy where there is none. You can get away with misconceptions or outright lies (any guesses on how Steyn finished the phrase “hide the decline in….”?), as long as you frame it as a partisan opinion.