Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Doubt is Not a Sin

When did “Question Authority” stop being applicable – and 21st-century activists turn into 1950s bigots?


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In my late teens, I wore an activist button that read: Question Authority. It looked much like the one above, currently for sale at the website.

Described there as an “historic” button, we’re told it bears “A statement that started many of us on our journey.” Fittingly enough, it’s accompanied by an Albert Einstein quote: “A foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of truth.”

My, oh my, how times have changed. These days, according to large numbers of climate activists, we’re no longer supposed to question authority. We’re expected to fall into line obediently, to accept without murmur the proclamations of UN entities and a parade of eminent organizations.

The science has spoken. The debate is over. Doubt not lest ye be cast into the fires of the eco-apocalypse.

When I began researching climate change, that servile “trust the experts” posture was a warning beacon. Anyone who expects me to check my brain at the door for the sake of the planet (aka communal salvation), is no friend of mine. Nor are they a friend of that pesky precept known as free speech.

A poster child of the doubt-is-a-sin brigade is the 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. In the world inhabited by authors Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, “the Truth” has been established. Only the wicked attempt to defy it.

Those who “sow seeds of public doubt on matters of settled science” – to quote a phrase used by a review of that book excerpted on – must be tarred-and-feathered, drawn-and-quartered.

According to another excerpted review, certain individuals “sprinkled doubt-dust in the offices of regulators, politicians and journalists.” Heavens, we can’t have any doubt-dust.

Greenpeace, which started out asking questions the authorities didn’t want to hear, now denounces thought crimes. This past September, it released a 66-page report titled Dealing in Doubt: the Climate Denial Machine vs Climate Science.

In October, Eric Pooley – a “senior vice president for strategy and communications” at the Environmental Defense Fund – referred three times in a newspaper op-ed to “peddlers of doubt.” According to him, the future can be foretold. Climate change will cause “stronger and more expensive storms, the spread of insect borne diseases, longer droughts, worse floods, and less international stability.” (To me, that sounds like the year 2000 prediction about snow becoming “a very rare and exciting event” within a few years. Mother Nature had other ideas.)

The climate world is one in which those who think differently are despised. They’re said to deal in doubt – like drug lords. They’re dismissed as merchants and peddlers. There’s nothing respectable about them, so don’t hesitate to slam the door in their face – as any virtuous housewife once would have done in an all-white neighbourhood had a ragged, non-white person knocked at the door.

How did the left become so intolerant? So smugly certain it possesses the not-to-be-challenged truth? So eager to stifle minority viewpoints?

When did Question Authority stop being applicable – and 21st-century activists turn into 1950s bigots?



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