WSJ Columnist’s View: ‘Mass Neurosis …. Sick-Souled Religion’

Wall Street Journal ‘Global View’ columnist and WSJ editorial board member Bret Stephens, consistent with generally approved practices for columnists and opinion writers, was taking no prisoners.

Stephens’ July 1 “Global Warming as Mass Neurosis” column opened with what many scientists likely would find an unfounded claim: “Much of the science” on climate change, Stephens maintained, has been “discredited” since NASA scientist Jim Hansen’s congressional testimony two decades ago brought the issue to the fore? and to newspaper front pages and broadcast news programs.

“Thousands of scientists insist otherwise,” Stephens wrote of the current scientific consensus, offering points he thinks make his case.

Stephens said even a recent forecast of a decade-long break in warming is seen as evidence of warming. “What isn’t evidence of global warming?” he asked rhetorically. “What we have here is a nonfalsifiable hypothesis, logically indistinguishable from claims for the existence of God. This doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist, or that global warming isn’t happening. It does mean it isn’t science.”

Saying belief rather than science is the proper forum for considering climate change, Stephens pointed to three “compatible explanations” for those worried about the issue:

  1. “… ideological convenience. Socialism may have failed as an economic theory, but global warming alarmism, with its dire warnings about the consequences of industry and consumerism, is equally a rebuke to capitalism.”
  2. “… theological …. Surely it is not a coincidence that modern-day environmentalists are awfully biblical in their critique of the depredations of modern society …. A light carbon footprint has become the 21st-century equivalent of sexual abstinence.”
  3. “There is a psychological explanation …. the main theme that emerges is that the developed world needs a large dose of penance …. In this view, global warming is nature’s great comeuppance, affirming as nothing else our guilty conscience for our worldly success.”

Stephens’ pointed closer: He refers to William James’ “The Varieties of Religious Experience” and concludes that “global warming is sick-souled religion.”

Where and how, a climate scientist might wonder, does one begin contesting such an assessment? Not clear. Maybe social scientists, and not just physical scientists, will pick up the challenge.

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