Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Debra Saunders: See No Dissent, Call It Science
Al Gore Bringing the Heat
January 31, 2007
The San Fransisco Chronicle
It is a sign of how politicized global warming has become when a father's push for his daughter's junior high school science class to present both sides of the global warming controversy becomes a national story -- with the father being portrayed as the villain.
To recap, Frosty Hardison, the parent of a seventh-grader who attends school in Federal Way, Wash., was troubled to learn that science teacher Kay Walls had planned on showing her class Al Gore's global-warming pic "An Inconvenient Truth" -- without presenting any contrary information.
Hardison is an evangelical Christian who, as The Washington Post reported, sees global warming as "one of the signs" of Judgment Day. That is, Hardison fits the sort of stereotype bound to attract national media attention under the rubric: religious zealot fights science in schools.
The school board put a moratorium on showing the movie -- since lifted -- while it investigated whether Wells was violating a school policy requiring that, when class materials "show bias," educators "point out the biases, and present additional information and perspectives to balance those biases."
On the one hand, it is a sad commentary that districts see a need to restrict teachers' ability to communicate -- and that this country has become so sensitive that parents feel a need to muzzle what teachers can say in class. On the other hand, we've all seen teachers who think their political views are gospel.
In this case, Walls told The Washington Post that she could not find any authoritative articles that counter "An Inconvenient Truth" -- other than a 32-year-old Newsweek article. CNN apparently went to the same school as Walls, as it aired a segment in which University of Maryland Professor Phil Arkin asserted, "I don't think there is legitimately an actual opposing viewpoint to the 'Inconvenient Truth' film."
Allow me to present a few names. Massachusetts Institute of Technollogy's Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology Richard S. Lindzen complained to the Boston Globe about the "shrill alarmism" of Gore's flick. Neil Frank, who was considered authoritative when he was the director of the National Hurricane Center, told The Washington Post that global warming is "a hoax." Hurricane expert William Gray of Colorado State University believes the Earth will start to cool within 10 years.
University of Virginia professor emeritus Fred Singer co-authored a book, "Unstoppable Global Warming -- Every 1,500 Years," that argues that global warming is not human-induced but based on a solar cycle. Last year, 60 Canadian scientists signed a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in which they argued that there is no consensus among climate scientists.
Odd, isn't it? Global warming believers heap scorn on religious zealots for not valuing science and knowledge. Yet the thrust of their argument to prove apocalyptic global warming relies on denying the existence of views and scientists who clearly exist.
A Boston Globe editorial mischaracterized the controversy as the mischief of some parents objecting "to having their children see" "An Inconvenient Truth" -- despite the fact that Hardison had told The Seattle Times that he wanted the teacher to present "a whole broad spectrum of facts." Buying into the teacher's argument that she cannot find heterodox articles, the editorial suggested that Walls find her "balancing 'data' in Michael Crichton's novel 'State of Fear.' It's science fiction." That was supposed to be clever.
It is fascinating to watch Gore's acolytes belittle Crichton for being a novelist, apparently undaunted by the fact that they're getting their science from a movie and a politician. At least Crichton is a Harvard Medical School graduate -- which suggests that he has some appreciation for the scientific method. When Gore took natural science classes at Harvard, The Washington Post has reported, he received a D as a sophomore and a C+ in his senior year.
Over the phone Monday, Lindzen remarked on Gore's grades, as he noted that global warming believers have tried to argue that there has been consensus since 1988 -- when fewer scientists believed in climatic apocalypse. And those who deny that credible scientists have opposing views are "expressing their will, not their finding. They want this to be so, so they'll ignore anything else."
So who is the real zealot -- the father who said he is happy both sides will be shown? Or the teacher who denies the existence of scientists with heterodox views?