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Global warming scepticism as an instance of Quinian indeterminism

Published 30th September 2009 - 3 comments - 1677 views -

Regardless of our different backgrounds and views, we're going to keep it civil and classy here during the coming weeks, right? To this end, a little philosophy now and again might not go amiss during the heated debates that are bound to take place on this blog. The excellent 3quarksdaily points the way with a prize it put up recently for the best philosophical blog post. The renowned American atheist Daniel Dennett was given the judging job and, after much musing, he gave the "Oscar", as it were, to Tomkow for "Blackburn, Truth and other Hot Topics". In his erudite verdict, Dennett wrote: 

3quarks"The idea that Global Warming skepticism could be seen as an instance of Quinian indeterminism is provocative, and the case is very deftly constructed, introduced in terms accessible to readers who aren't already steeped in the lore. I'm not persuaded by the argument, but it is the one blog post that I am seriously considering assigning to my students, since it is an excellent introduction to this very important and counterintuitive idea, particularly valuable because it shows that Quine is not talking about an idle or merely philosophical possibility (like grue and bleen, or Twin Earth) but a real world quandary that might have actual examples. Actual examples, I have argued, are apt to be unstable, like a tossed coin landing on its edge instead of falling heads or tails, and I suspect that Global Warming will eventually tumble one way or another, but that doesn't prevent it from being a nicely worrisome phenomenon in the meantime. And Quine's point — that there is no guarantee of a resolution in such cases — is untouched by the likelihood that there will be one, sooner or later."

Will the "nicely worrisome phenomenon" of global warming be perceived as "a real world quandary" by our dear leaders come December in Denmark? And, if it is, which way will it "tumble"? 

Category: Climate Politics, | Tags: dennett, philosophy,


Daniel on 30th September 2009:

Hm… I am not sure if I really got this. Anyway, in the blogpost Blacburn is quoted critizising the scinetific measurements of data, and countering them with philosophical arguments.

I think many “climate sceptics” do exactly this, and in this way avoid commenting the myriads of statements from eyewitnesses about melting glaziers, changing weather, dissapearing islands etc.

On the other hand I think it is correct that this condlict is more about morals and politics than about science (after all it is very easy to choose whhat science you read aand regard as relevant). As you might have noticed there are groups that always “believe” in climate warming, these are the groups that don’t belive in free markets, environmentalists, leftwing etc.

There is also a group that never believes in global warming - neoliberals and conservatives to the right of the center.

Why is this so? Because global warming doesn’t fit in a liberal universe. Liberalism states that an individual is free to do whateverhe wants, as long that it doesn’thurt anyone else. This presumes that there are some actions that don’t effect others, and that we can forsee how our actions affect others.

The actions against global warming are based on a thinking that everything we does affects others. By buying milk in the store I might add to pollution and CO2 emissions and destroy the lives of people in the pacific ocean. It is simply ont my business what I do.

Vitezslav Kremlik on 30th September 2009:

a) Philosophical view? Heissenberg principle? Schrödinger cat? In quantum theory - we cannot know, what will happen, until it actually happens.OK. But in astronomy we can easily precit events (like comets, sunspot cycles).

b) Daniel (not David) makes a good point. The disgust of the neoliberals towards environmentalism reallys tems from fact, that the right wing people treasure liberty the most. And they fear mankind might lose the freedoms, that the bourgeoise revolutions of the 18th century brought to us.

Eamonn Fitzgerald on 30th September 2009:

Daniel, I’m not sure if I got it either, but I was fascinated by the language used (“grue and bleen”!!!!!) by Dennett. Vitezslav, I agree with you wholeheartedly. The freedoms we take for granted could disappear in an instant.

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