Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming? Aliens?

The belief that there is Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) is far more widely spread than the one that there is extraterrestrial life.  Yet, neither belief has ever been corroborated by science, for which reason both are beliefs, not absolute knowledge.

“Aliens Cause Global Warming”
“My topic today sounds humorous but unfortunately I am serious. I am going to argue that extraterrestrials lie behind global warming. Or to speak more precisely, I will argue that a belief in extraterrestrials has paved the way, in a progression of steps, to a belief in global warming.”
— Michael Crichton; Caltech Michelin Lecture, January 17, 2003

A search for “Fifty percent of Americans already believe that there is some form of life on other planets” (2013 HuffPost/YouGov poll) produces 42 entries on the search-return list (as of 2017-09-01), with occurrences from items such as

About extraterrestrial life, who tell the truth?

When we don’t know, who tells the truth?

with more than 3,700 shares, to more sedate, down-to-earth, feet-on-the-ground, common-sense deliberations such as in

There is no knowledge of extraterrestrial life.

When we don’t know, beliefs cannot be knowledge, because they cannot be based on anything other than speculations.

Similar to the belief in the as of now unknowable existence of extraterrestrial life (let alone of the intelligent variety), the belief in CAGW is also widespread but far more so.  An Internet search for “catastrophic anthropogenic global warming” produces about 59,800 results (as of 2017-09-01), a consequence of a raging debate, also based on nothing more than speculation.

Contrary to some claims, the debate regarding CAGW or “climate change” (some are hard at work to change the designation to “climate disruption” — more alarmism is what seems to be sought) is not settled.  If it were, it would not be debated as hotly, no more so than orbital mechanics or the general theory of relativity, which latter is arguably far less complicated than the matters that drive the ever changing climate, although both came into existence with the beginning of time.

Global warming a boon for civilization - 4,000 years of global temperature trend

Global warming a boon for civilization
The intervals highlighted in green are warm periods during which civilization thrived.

It is fairly obvious that the climate record provides no clear evidence of CAGW at any time in the past.

Ask yourself, if we don’t understand any better what changes the climate than that we cannot predict the weather with better than 50:50 accuracy for four days into the future (using massive super computers that produce results which are more biased than the flip of a coin), then how much knowledge do we lack, and how much must we gain, before we are able to predict the magnitude of climate change with reasonable accuracy any farther into the future, let alone what it will be by the end of this century?

Here is some down-to-earth advice regarding things such as some of those promoted by many of the articles that can be found through those indicated Internet searches:

“The scientific debunker’s job may be compared to that of the trash collector. The fact that the garbage truck comes by today does not mean that there won’t be another load tomorrow. But if the garbage were not collected at all, the results would be worse, as some cities have found when the sanitation workers struck.

So let us do our best to get rid of this ideological garbage, lest it inundate the earth. Our work will never be decisive, since old cults are almost unkillable and new ones keep springing up; but that is no reason for not doing what we can. If we can save even a few from the lure of the higher nonsense, our efforts will have been worthwhile.” — L. Sprague de Camp, in “Little Green Men from Afar”

L. Sprague de Camp concluded his article with this little poem, summarizing the ideas presented in his commentary:

The Little Green Men

Ah, little green fellows from Venus
Or some other planet afar:
From Mars or Calypso or, maybe,
A world of an alien star!
According to best-selling authors-
Blavatsky to von Daniken-
They taught us the skills that were needed
To make super-apes into men.
They guided our faltering footsteps
From savagery into the dawns
Of burgeoning civilization
With cities and writing and bronze.
By them were the Pyramids builded;
They reared the first temples in Hind;
Drew lines at Peruvian Nazca
To uplift the poor Amerind.
With all of these wonders they gave us
It’s sad these divine astronauts
Revealed not the answers to questions
That foil our most rational thoughts.
Such puzzles as riches and paupers,
The problems of peace and of war,
Relations between the two sexes,
Or crime and chastisement therefore.
So when we feel dim and defeated
By problems immune to attack,
Let’s send out a prayer electronic
“O little green fellows, come back!”

The opinions of the two very well qualified writers of good science fiction, both world-renowned, set the record straight on what needs to be considered when speculating on the existence of extra-terrestrial life, given the total and absolute absence of evidence that permits anyone to speculate with an acceptable measure of accuracy and project whether extra-terrestrial life exists.

One is Michael Crichton, who stated in a lecture, “Aliens Cause Global Warming,” Caltech Michelin Lecture, January 17, 2003:

My topic today sounds humorous but unfortunately I am serious. I am going to argue that extraterrestrials lie behind global warming. Or to speak more precisely, I will argue that a belief in extraterrestrials has paved the way, in a progression of steps, to a belief in global warming….

In 1960, Drake organizes the first SETI [SETI: Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) conference, and came up with the now-famous Drake equation:

N = N* fp ne fl fi fc fL

Where N* is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is the fraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable of supporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves; fi is the fraction where intelligent life evolves; and fc is the fraction that communicates; and fL is the fraction of the planet’s life during which the communicating civilizations live.

This serious-looking equation gave SETI a serious footing as a legitimate intellectual inquiry. The problem, of course, is that none of the terms can be known, and most cannot even be estimated. The only way to work the equation is to fill in with guesses. And guesses—just so we’re clear—are merely expressions of prejudice. Nor can there be “informed guesses.” If you need to state how many planets with life choose to communicate, there is simply no way to make an informed guess. It’s simply prejudice.

As a result, the Drake equation can have any value from “billions and billions” to zero….

Full text (Note)

The other one is, of course, L. Sprague de Camp, who debunked beliefs in extra-terrestrial life in a short address, “LITTLE GREEN MEN FROM AFAR” (Winner, Grand Master Nebula of 1978; originally published in Humanist, Jul. 1976).

Four of the authors represented in this volume are here because their stories were judged the best in their class for the year in which they were published. Sprague de Camp’s award is something else. It isn’t for a story. It is for a life. The Grand Master Nebula goes only to those who are judged to have made such significant contributions to the field of science fiction that no temporally limited award will suffice. Only four have ever been given-Robert A. Heinlein, Jack Williamson and Clifford D. Simak are the previous winners. To commemorate it for this volume, we asked Sprague de Camp to let us publish the text of an address: “Little Green Men from Afar.”

In 1950, when the flying-saucer craze was enjoying its first boom, Francis F. Brahman, an instructor in general science at the University of Denver, staged an experiment to test his students’ judgment of evidence. He presented to his class a self-styled flying-saucer expert. Broman told his students to judge this man’s tale by five criteria: that the report be first-hand; that the teller show no obvious bias or prejudice; that he be a trained observer; that the data be available for checking; and that the teller be clearly identified.

The class met on March 8. Students invited friends, so the classroom was crowded with strange and eager faces. The speaker was one Silas Newton….

Full text of that address

It is your choice whether you wish to be a believer or a debunker.

Note (appended 2018 01 27): Michael Crichton recounts and explained how deplorable he found to be,

“the behavior of the Scientific American, which seemed intent on proving the post-modernist point that it was all about power, not facts. The Scientific American attacked Lomborg for eleven pages, yet only came up with nine factual errors despite their assertion that the book was “rife with careless mistakes.” It was a poor display featuring vicious ad hominem attacks, including comparing him to a Holocaust denier. The issue was captioned: “Science defends itself against the Skeptical Environmentalist.”

In 2002, Bjørn Lomborg wrote to me and asked me to post his response to the Sciam’s accusations that the “science” magazine had not permitted him to fully respond to.  Here is the link to that:

Bjørn Lomborg’s comments to the 11-page critique in January 2002 Scientific American (SA)”

Related article: Great Global Warming Swindle film tells truth, 2008 07 26

See also:

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