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Wobbly [from the LRB blog]

November 4, 2009

by Jenny Diski

Let me say immediately that I don’t doubt that Planet Earth is on its way out. I couldn’t be more gloomy about its future. I’m also not much of a fan of Clive James, in fact I was involved in an angry lunchtime argument with him on the subject of Iraq and what he called ‘the triumph of Democracy’ the last time I saw him, some years ago.

I am, on the other hand, constantly interested in how I can know whether what I read and hear is reliable. I couldn’t for example put my hand on my heart and say that my belief that climate change is irreversible is based on anything very much more substantial than a tendency to trust in the green and the left, and the fact that I know from history and experience that human beings are inclined to do what they want to do until they use up the ability to do it. I’m certainly not equipped to verify the scientific arguments for or against climate change. I can’t do the maths. In much the same way, I ‘believe’ in Darwinian evolutionary theory, which, although I’ve read a good deal on the subject, I’m only minimally able to verify for myself. Ditto the link between cigarettes and lung cancer. I read the reports and assume the science is right, but the truth is I don’t really know.

In the Guardian, George Monbiot berates Clive James speaking on Radio 4 about scepticism for saying: ‘the number of scientists who voice scepticism [about climate change] has lately been increasing’. Monbiot comments: ‘He presented no evidence to support this statement and, as far as I can tell, none exists.’ more

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