Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Reformation a template for "Climategate"

Well, I for one see a resemblance, if not an identity. Like all comparisons of commonality, this is a little arbitrary, but I hope you will bear with me and "get" the main point.

Tha papacy before the Reformation enjoyed:

1) Being the "default" position, and being locus of religious authority in the West
2) The ability to dictate the terms of debate such that disagreeing with Church dogma came with severe civil penalties in addition to the ecclesial penalties
3) The ability to cut opponents off from the Sacraments, depose emperors (or at least make their lives very, very difficult), tell subjects their oaths of allegiance need not be obeyed etc.

The global warmists before Climategate enjoyed

1) Being the default position and the locus of authority for human generated global warming
2) The ability to dictate terms of debate such that anyone who disagreed with AGW was more or less ostracized
3) The ability to cut opponents off from being published, and from funding for their research.

As I said, the comparisons are not exact, but what I see as the main commonality is the collapse of authority and the resulting inability to control the terms of debate and to deny opponents access to things they want or need. In the case of the Reformation, the printing press took care of 2, and the various protestant princes took care of 3. 2 meant that protestant ideas could spread despite the institutional authority and power of the RCC, while 3 means that there are different churches in Western Christianity now; broadly speaking the Lutherans, the Reformed and the Anabaptists. When these events combined, these reduced 1 to a great degree, such that the pope had to play defense for a century or two and it was no longer a strong argument to say "the pope says...".

In the case of Climategate, the "direction" of the collapse went in a different direction. First, the content of the emails made 1 quite problematic. This means that 2 is gone--it is no longer good enough to simply cite the authority of the global warmists to stop discussion. Nor can the dissemination of the emails be stopped, and they cannot just wave away the dissenter anymore or stop their ideas from getting out. This is mainly due to the Internet. 3 looks like it may be tottering, but I am not sure it has occurred yet. Some signs it has are newspaper accounts which cite warming skeptics in a more respectful, if not sympathetic light. It is probably still more difficult for a warming skeptic to get funding etc. but that may change.

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