Stop muzzling climate dissenters
Overlooked in the controversy about the California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016 is the fact that truth is not possible in science (“California Senate sidelines bill to prosecute climate change skeptics,” Web, June 2). Scientific hypotheses, and even scientific theories, are not knowledge — they are educated opinions based on interpretations of observations. Thus they can be, and often are, wrong.
This misunderstanding is encouraged by the United Nations, which often labels its science conclusions unequivocal. As evidence for this position, it presents empirical data. But observations are particular, contingent and probable, and therefore cannot be used to prove truth. Traditionally liberals have prided themselves on being tolerant of alternative points of view, supporting skepticism and relativism. Indeed, it was the German left that supported Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and the right that opposed it, believing (in retrospect, correctly) that it threatened their world view.
But this approach has been turned upside down in the global-warming debate. While many conservatives promote constructive debate about climate change, most of the left considers such debate unacceptable. Like something directly out of George Orwell’s “1984,” sponsors of California’s draconian ‘science truth’ legislation and AGs United for Clean Power, a coalition of 16 Democratic state attorneys general, even want skepticism about the causes of climate change made into a criminal offense.
History demonstrates that it is far easier to lose freedom of speech than to reacquire it once it has been lost. This is why people from across the political spectrum must object loudly when eco-extremists try to convince our elected officials to suppress debate about climate change.