Bill Maher: Global warming is not a debate

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There is no debate here, just scientists and non-scientists. And since the subject is science, the non-scientists don’t get a vote.

Video, June 8, 2010


  • I think Maher’s comments are the best retort I’ve ever seen to the anti-science blather of global warming deniers. I suspect that it won’t be too long before people will be embarrassed to admit that they ever disputed the obvious reality of global climate change.

  • Two separate points here:

    1) the media coverage of the original climategate furor was huge. The media coverage of the eventual inquiry and its findings that there really was no scandal, no factual distortion of science was much, much smaller.

    2) There cannot be am assumption that there is a direct dynamic between population and the production of greenhouse gases. The highly affluent North American who eats steaks, has a house and a cottage, one car and one SUV, one speedboat and one powered snow sled is producing massively more greenhouse gases than the North African farmer producing a small crop of sorghum.

  • If I were to base my opinion not on what scientists say or the public says about Global Warming, I would conclude that climate change is a definite possibility. Based on the fact that in the past we went through an ice age without exact proof as to why, it is entirely possible that we may go through another extreme weather change at some point. Just as humans have evolved and changed, the earth has also evolved and changed. We will continue to evolve and so will the earth. Whether it is man made or man has sped up the change, bears no point on the fact that the earth will undergo change. If it is entirely man made, perhaps we can negate some of the ill effects. The number one reasonable thing to do would be to stop procreating. I believe this is the true reason why people will turn a blind eye to the idea that climate change is occurring.

  • Hey Ian,

    I was referring specifically to your headlined quote. However, as a scientist, I don’t think it does our side much good to reinforce science’s aura of ivory tower objectivity. The aura of objectivity, itself, delegitimizes equally valid forms of social knowledge (which, removed from what is acceptable to bourgeois academia, might be seen as scientific, small ‘s’). What makes global warming valid as a theory is not the imprimatur of the man (usually) in the lab coat, but that it is true. And, that truth is just as tangible and testable and repeatable to the Pakistani peasant as it is to the man (usually) in the lab coat (beyond issues of scale). therefore, why (but for the class function of academia) should “science” be seen as more valid than the observations (“votes”) of those Pakistani peasant?

    • Hi Bill:
      Mike — Thank you for a well-reasoned response.

      But don’t we have to take into account the importance of education and experience in evaluating the world? For example, I would not presume to question the judgement of a Pakistani peasant on the most effective ways to cultivate and harvest crops — nor, I think, would any serious climate scientist. That’s not to say that the knowledge isn’t in principle accessible to me, only that I have not done the work and spent the time necessary to acquire it.

      Similarly, while knowledge about climate change is in principle just as tangible and testable and repeatable by a non-scientist, in practice the person who has actually studied it has a pretty obvious edge. And in our world, with a few possible exceptions, such people are scientists. In fact, if the Pakistani peasant did that study and work, it would be reasonable to call her a scientist, with or without a white coat.

      What Maher was objecting to (and what the C&C headline expressed badly) was the cult of ignorance that has been fostered around climate change. It’s a kind of pop post-modernism — the view all opinions about the world are equally valuable. I always wonder if people who think that way take their cars to a dentist for repairs.

      I like the approach Barry Commoner insisted on — it’s the duty of scientists to share their knowledge as widely as possible, so that people who don’t have the opportunity to “do science” will have the information needed to make political/social decisions. In his books, Commoner always distinguished between when he was speaking as a scientist, and when he was stating his political/moral views.

  • A note to several people whose comments have been deleted today. The Climate and Capitalism comments policy reads:

    There are many sites where you can argue that global warming isn’t real, or that the nearly universal scientific consensus about the role of greenhouse gases is wrong, or that capitalism is superior to socialism. Climate and Capitalism isn’t one of them.

  • I think the pointy end of the argument is directed at the deniers, not the victims. It’s true science is not ruled by consensus or majority vote or whatever: it’s determined by method and observation.

  • Sorry Ian, but Maher is an Obamite liberal and the statement you quoted reflects his elitism of the liberal intelligentsia. What about the Pakistani flood victims? They don’t get a vote in the climate debate?

    • I appreciate your thought, Mike, and I hold no brief for Maher in general. But you are missing the point.

      Maher is saying, correctly, that voting on science makes no sense. Global warming is real no matter how many non-scientists say they doubt it. Pakistani flood victims should have 100% control over what is to be done to mitigate future flooding, how they should be compensated for the horrors they have gone through and so on. But any opinions they may have on the long term trends affecting the global climate have no scientific standing.