Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Last Straw for Alfred Nobel

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish inventor, chemist, industrialist and when he had reached the end of his life of incredible achievement he left a legacy of philanthropy directed toward the awarding, year in and year out, of the greatest possible merit in the physical sciences, literature, and diplomacy. The Nobel Peace Prize, since its establishment after Nobel's death in 1896 (the first was awarded in 1901), has since becomes one of the pinnacles of modern human glory (even enshrined for board game players everywhere as a seminal lifetime achievement in the game of LIFE). Unfortunately, the process for choosing who wins the prizes, particularly the peace prize, has always been open to wide latitudes of opinion and standards for what constitutes sound peacemaking. Often it is awarded to whoever can steal headlines in any particular year for a peace treaty or accord, hence it was awarded to American President Theodore Roosevelt, and to heads of states and even terrorists who decided to try to make peace (or fool those desirous of peace of their good intentions) the world over. It has also occasionally been awarded to a dissident suffering under an oppressive regime who is trying to create a civil society, one that will not be prone towards aggressive war making. These were all, whether properly awarded or not, the precedents and largely accepted ways one could earn a once prestigious prize.

I use the word "once" because the most recent winner, former Vice-President Albert Gore, Jr., has "earned" the prize in a novel and problematic way. The Nobel committee awarded him the most recent Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to raise global awareness to an alleged problem which supposedly promises, if unchecked, to promote global conflict and war over resources. The alleged problem is, of course, what Gore has been crying wolf over ever since 1992 when he published his alarmist book, Earth in the Balance. Gore is being awarded a prize for advancing world peace without actually having done anything at all to advance world peace. This has been true of former winners in far different contexts, i.e. Yasser Arafat won through his own duplicitous efforts to achieve peace (some saw through him at the time), and dissidents in oppressed countries are working for internal peace and long-term international peace, but usually aren't achieving anything in the short-term.

However, Gore's "peace-making" achievement lies mainly in frightening the non-scientific community with dire predictions of worldwide doom and making absurd causal linkages between variations in global temperatures and weather phenomenon (like Hurricane Katrina which was cruelly used like a piece of propaganda in his sleazy ad campaign for An Inconvenient Truth). Actual temperature measurements, by this I mean actual day-by-day measurements of the actual temperature on earth, don't even go back two centuries which is not only a blip in human history but an infinitesimally small speck of a blip in the history of the earth. To attempt to generalize from current data and make claims, knowing full well that the earth has had numerous temperature fluctuations over its history without the involvement of any human beings (both to much much cooler than present temperatures, and to much much hotter than present) is not scientific caution, but criminally reckless scaremongering.

I say this not because I think it impossible for what Gore and his supporters assert is true to be true (though I think it is absurdly improbable) but because they are more concerned about political activism inimical to liberty than about the problems in their causal reasoning and the problems with computer modeling based on imperfect data and equally imperfect assumptions. Scientists do not shout down opponents and declare debate on questions is dead. Certainly, some issues are "put to rest" empirically or due to a preponderance of evidence, or because nothing else makes as much sense, but Gore and no other proponents of man made global warming have come anywhere near that standard of evidence. Asserting that one's opponents are either nuts or bought off by the "evil corporations" allegedly most responsible for the supposed problem is not an argument, but a pathetic combination of several logical fallacies.

So back to the related but different issue of Gore winning a Nobel Peace Prize. With this action, the Nobel Committee has merely taken a further step towards making a once sought after and prestigious prize a trapping of political orthodoxy. This is fine if that's what the committee wishes the prize to become, but do not continue to refer to it in the memory of fine man or refer to it as an award to promote a noble goal. Call it what it is, something like "The Prize awarded for being in line with a select group of Swedish leftists" because that is, unfortunately, what Alfred Nobel's legacy is becoming.