Saturday, March 19, 2016

How The Mensa Bulletin Has Abdicated Its Responsiblities Re: Global Warming

It was understandably shocking to many of us some months ago on learning, from a note attached to a letter in the Mensa Bulletin by the editor, that global warming can no longer be a topic for discussion - either in the letters section or as an article.  (One single sentence mentioning global warming did sneak into the last (March)  issue, tied to the "cause of global warming" being the population tripling since 1900,  but this was in connection with an article entitled 'Medical Marvels and Moral Dilemmas' - not on global warming per se. The writer himself, a Mike Irrgang, made no reference at all to the connection of higher CO2 concentrations to more population.)

 This current Bulletin policy can probably be traced to frequently heated exchanges, mostly between those of us with a background in physics and even climate science, and a gaggle of noisy, irrepressible know nothings (who believed their Mensa level IQ alone justified their opinions). Much of this was covered in a blog post of mine from seven years ago ('How Can So Many Smart People Be So Dumb?')  e.g.

As I noted in the post:

"Three months after The Mensa Bulletin published a letter of mine reinforcing the prevalent scientific view of global warming – that it was anthropogenic and continually exacerbated by increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a whole swatch of attack letters were published in the recent (June) issue. Not one supported me, and this from a society that claims it represents the top 2% of IQs (e.g. > 130 on Stanford-Binet). One person even affirmed that my letter showed Mensa to be just a “propaganda front” for global warming purveyors and so he was quitting! Now, how smart is that?

The others went off on multiple tangents, though there were at least two letters that were somewhat sensible and made cogent points, though many of these points had so many holes it was like trying to parse a message scribbled on Swiss cheese."

I've also specifically rebutted nonsense from other Mensans, including educator Marty Nemko,, e.g.

As well as a clown named Evan J. Wright who actually pooh-poohed the idea that the oceans could absorb C02 without "turning into soda pop", see e.g.

Most of the opposing blabber I traced to the writers being victims of  Agnotology, which  is derived from the Greek 'agnosis' and hence the study of culturally constructed ignorance. This was exposed in research by Stanford historian of science Robert Proctor, who tagged it to the trend of skeptic science sown for political or economic ends - e.g. in imparting ignorance and faux skepticism. We now know almost all of this has been hatched in documents outed from the fossil fuel propaganda mills and exposed by the Union of Concerned Scientists, e.g.

This was even referenced by me in a reply letter to the Bulletin, before the "shut down" but which was never published. In the letter I pointed out that if Mensa truly represents the upper 2 percent of intelligence then it is incumbent on the Bulletin to embrace genuine science and not the pseudo-science of the hacks and purveyors of disinformation.

But clearly the Editor, not seeking to stir up any more heat, took the position (false as I will show) that there existed "two sides to the arguments" and he wasn't about to filter out the warming naysayers, OR give the valid respondents (including scientists) space to make the case.  By refusing to publish any letters from the latter, and in effect totally closing down the information flow via any discussion, he essentially abdicated responsibility and "punked out" in the parlance of some.

The other  problem? A slack, PR-governed media has fallen down on its job and often portrayed global warming as having "two sides". It does not, no more than the existence of the Holocaust has two sides. But in an “argument”/ "Crossfire" culture where polarization and passion naturally dominates reason, most people assume there are inevitably “two-sided” issues. 

As a corollary to this, the general false assumption follows that both sides "deserve hearings" and a balanced presentation is preferred over a “one-sided” one. The latter is always termed “biased”. This leads to the egregious media conviction that presenting "two sides" implies "Objectivity" - which is an abuse of the term.   Denying that the Holocaust occurred could never be "objective" just as denying anthropogenic global warming with its massive scientific evidence compiled over thirty years.

 In effect, there’s a colossal advantage to creating the misperception that a two-sided issue exists. For one, it confers credibility on a specious position that ordinarily would be dismissed at the outset. Thus, human global warming deniers – like Holocaust deniers – earn a gravitas, forum and respect (often via the media) they otherwise wouldn’t have.   Having achieved an essentially unearned credibility, the global warming deniers are at liberty to basically eschew evidence they can’t refute, minimize or spin the projected dire consequences into some ambiguous benefit, or exaggerate the uncertainties implicit in climatic science.
 They need only sit back and nitpick, or criticize the hard won original research without doing an ounce of creative labor on their own. This factors into their plan because they’re not out to create a counter-theory so much as induce enough doubt – via PR – to destroy the existing theory. Hence, all they need do is sit back and cast aspersions and sow seeds of doubt – and let the other side play interminable defense.
But my point is that a forum for the more intelligent in the society ought to be able to rise above this noise level, and given at least many of its members are climate specialists or know a lot more than other members, they ought to have a preponderant voice.

The Bulletin's ostrich act is especially disturbing given that climate scientists have now described February variously as featuring temperatures that were  "astronomical", "staggering" and "strange" (Denver Post, p. 13 A, Mar. 18).  February was the most above-normal month since meteorologists began keeping track in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In addition, the past three months have been the most above normal months on record  according to Jessica Blunden of the NOAA. Scientists from both NOAA and NASA have noted this departure from norms and warned the climate "may have moved into a new and hotter neighborhood".  This would likely be the cusp of the runaway Greenhouse effect.

For a so-called "high IQ society" to ignore this - as if it doesn't exist - is to act unconscionably, even if it invokes the usual excuse that "Mensa  supports no particular political or religious positions". Well, this is a scientific position, it isn't based on personal opinions. Now, with human life likely in the balance, how can a supposed society of high IQ people remain stone  silent on this critical issue? Only Mensa and its illustrious Bulletin editor, alas, will be able to answer this - but I doubt in any satisfactory way. Because IF you profess intelligence of any degree you ought to be able to recognize objective physical truth - especially when it's burning your ass off and drenching your cities with "thousand year events" from super-heated, moisture-laden atmosphere.

Hopefully, the Mensa Bulletin will rethink its position in the near future. At least Integra, the journal of Intertel, the top 1 percent IQ society, hasn't mutated into this "see no evil" nonsense.....yet.

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