What would Dante say – about Inhofe for example?

Posted April 12th, 2007 by Sylvia S Tognetti and filed in Civics 101


Perhaps someone at Vanity Fair reads this blog, or perhaps great minds just think alike but you will have to go find a hard copy of this month’s green issue to see the Green Edition of Dante’s Inferno. In one of the early posts on this blog, I pondered: in which of the 10 Bolge of the Malebolge we might find the so-called Climate Skeptics? The Malebolge is in the eighth circle of hell, where we find various kinds of The Fraudulent. The Vanity Fair analysis has them all over hell, from The Indifferent “50,456,062 Americans who voted to Elect George W. Bush president in 2000” – found in The Vestibule, to James Inhofe, found at the bottom with Bush and Cheney, dangling from the three mouths of Satan – just below The Traitors in the ninth circle. Among the latter, Gail Norton. In between, most of the so-called skeptics can also be found among the various kinds of fraudsters. For lazy clickers, below is a repost of what I posted in May 2005:

Over at Prometheus, Naomi Oreskes and Roger Pielke are being far too polite when they refer to arguments (of the so-called Climate Skeptics) about uncertainty and whether there is consensus about the science of climate change, as a proxy for political debates and as a distraction from real issues, such as how to best respond. As is explained in a previous post, given what we know, the above argument is simply a case of fraud and abuse, because it uses irrelevant technical-sounding debate that would never make it through peer review, as a stooge for a disagreement about values that are not widely shared. Polite scientific discourse only works when everybody accepts and follows the same rules of the game. Although not a perfect process, the rules of peer review are fine when there is an agreed upon definition of the problem. When there are value conflicts we enter the realm of science and policy, for which the rules are less well defined. Whether and how to best respond is a legitimate area of uncertainty and disagreement. We are in uncharted territory.

So, to get on with the real issues, first we need to respond to the denialists, not as a question of climate science but as one of fraud, or at best, delusion – that it doesn’t matter because human intellect and ingenuity are infallible. Note that I referred to “so-called” Skeptics because it is the role of scientists to be skeptical about anything until presented with evidence, which is a good thing. Then, when they actually reach a consensus it means we need to at least pay attention and take it seriously. It was once also the role of journalists, but I digress. One response would simply be to refer the so-called Climate Skeptics to a circle of Real Skeptics, who have just crossed into the Malebolge with the 8th edition of the Skeptics Circle, hosted by Pharyngula – a territory inhabited by strange devils who are standing by, ready to torment them. They ask, where are the environmentalists this time around, from whom they only have one accepted submission? Too late to submit this post but I do have a question regarding another issue of uncertainty.

There are 10 Bolge (aka, trenches) in the Malebolge, a place found in the 8th circle of Hell – as told by Dante – who actually made it there and back alive. In which of the Bolge should Climate-Skeptics be found?

  • the 5th, as Deceivers, for the illegitimate and fraudulent use of public trust,
  • the 6th, with the hypocrites for failing to retract and apologize for their own misstatements while demanding them from others,
  • the 8th, with those who have given fraudulent counsel to serve their own narrow interests,
  • the 9th, with those who have disseminated scandal and division – for creating a false impression of disagreement with irrelevant arguments, the 10th, for being liars.

Another response¬† options would be mandatory civics classes. In closing, I propose the following rule for science & policy: don’t bother arguing with somebody who doesn’t play by the rules. Or, to be somewhat redundant, “mai discutere co’ un grullo! Ti abbassa i livello dialettico e poi ti vince coll’ esperienza.” (Sifossifoco, post of 4-21-2004)

[Translation: Never argue with a fool! He will lower the level of discourse and beat you with experience.]

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