SciAm columnist can’t decide whether Gleick’s lying was wrong

“Even if Gleick’s lie was morally right, it was strategically wrong.”

In “Should Global-Warming Activists Lie to Defend Their Cause?“, Scientific American columnist John Horgan writes:

When, if ever, is lying justified? I talked about this conundrum this week in a freshmen humanities class, in which we were reading Immanuel Kant on morality. Kant proposed that we judge the rightness or wrongness of an act, such as breaking a promise, by considering what happens if everyone does it. If you don’t want to live in a world in which everyone routinely breaks promises, then you shouldn’t do so.

That’s a fine principle, in the abstract, but my students and I agreed that in certain situations lying is excusable. Shouldn’t you lie if your girlfriend asks you if you like her new haircut? If your boss, who’s a vindictive bastard, asks your opinion of his new business plan? What about lying in order to reveal a plot that you believe imperils all of humanity?

That brings me to the latest scandal to emerge from the debate over global warming…

Kant said that when judging the morality of an act, we must weigh the intentions of the actor. Was he acting selfishly, to benefit himself, or selflessly, to help others? By this criterion, Gleick’s lie was clearly moral, because he was defending a cause that he passionately views as righteous. Gleick, you might say, is a hero comparable to Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who in 1971 stole and released documents that revealed that U.S. officials lied to justify the war in Vietnam.

But another philosopher my students and I are reading, the utilitarian John Stuart Mill, said that judging acts according to intentions is not enough. We also have to look at consequences. And if Gleick’s deception has any consequences, they will probably be harmful. His exposure of the Heartland Institute’s plans, far from convincing skeptics to reconsider their position, will probably just confirm their suspicions about environmentalists. Even if Gleick’s lie was morally right, it was strategically wrong.

I’ll give the last word to one of my students. The Gleick incident, he said, shows that the “debate” over global warming is not really a debate any more. It’s a war, and when people are waging war, they always lie for their cause.

4 thoughts on “SciAm columnist can’t decide whether Gleick’s lying was wrong”

  1. Thus John Horgan would also excuse Rachel Carson’s lies about D.D.T., because she wanted to protect the Bald Eagles from extinction and concocted the theory, that D.D.T. also causes cancer
    in humans. Because of her lies, it was banned from production and sale in 1972 and since then some 58 million people died from typhus and malaria in the 3rd World Countries. It was also ironic, that statistics going back to the 1920’s showed, that the number of Bald Eagles had already plummeted because of farmers and hunters despising that breed and nearly annihilated the birds long before D.D.T. was introduced in 1942. Marx, Lenin, Hitler, Mao tse Tung and others also lied because they were passionate about “saving the people” to give them a better world and look how many people have died because of their “passion”. I wonder, how people with distorted views ever have gotten into positions with so much power as lecturers, “scientists”, bureaucrats, journalists, laywers etc.
    Lying in order not to hurt somebody’s feeling can not be put on the same level as doing so in regards to religion, politics or ideology. AGW is purely based on a false ideology and backed up with politics and is too destructive to allow in our lives. And John Horgan, what is wrong with a truthful existence?

  2. I don’t HAVE…to lie for “my cause”. The immature THINK one HAS to lie. A scientific-cause has its OWN parameters, “lying” in cases of poorly-framed questions:– inaccurate, un-repeatable data;–hidden data, inaccurate conclusions, and “Consensus-agreements” where scientists can “make-war” on themselves and their professions, cheaping both. But are they LYING…or are they “sloppy”, and simply making mis-takes that can’t prove what they imagine they’ve proved? As a student of politics and history, I DAMN FDR’s fore-knowledge of the Pearl Harbor Attack, WHILE I celebrate our Righteous Victory in that War. Had he (FDR) survived the war, “charges” should have been brought, and the SAME with the otherwise Noble Gen.MacArthur, because he could have HID/dispersed the B-17s at Clark and elsewhere, before most of them were destroyed on the ground, preventing them from sinking the Jap Phillipine invasion force, via bombing. And two separate attempts were made, via cargo ships, to reinforce first Bataan, and then Corrigador, and those ships were torpedo’d, but aid to Russia should have been delayed to save the Phillipines, but it was NOT delayed, so the ‘pines could not do anything, BUT, FALL, for which, imo, FDR was directly to blame. I will be “wrong” in places, in this debate, and I’ll have to take the consequence of inaccuracy, when I’m wrong, but I’ll NOT, “HAVE” to LIE! I’ve seen many movies, where the Nazis, their backs to the walls, “rationalize” that they were trying to “save” Europe from Communist hegonomy, and in the West, the Nazis often expressed confusion that the USA & Britain wouldn’t declare a separate peace in the West and continue WITH Nazi-Germany against the “greater-enemy,–the Soviets.” While we pretended it didn’t exist until the camps were liberated, the Shoah prevented a rapproachment(Nazis-to-western allies), because we hadn’t had “death-camps” here, and the “gap of malovence” over the Jews(–WE didn’t consider them vermin) was too great to be breached, even though the Soviets had killed more, and would assist the Red Chinese to kill more, each, than the Nazis did overall. So via the attack-on-Science by the “warmists” via consensus, the greater numbers of LIARS and the greater EXTENT of those LIES, is encompassed by the “warmers”, which should re-define the “war” due to the hidden “End-goal” of the Left. The Political Left, –scientists or not, are more PRONE to Prevaricate, so a significant factor in Lying is NOT “hot-war”, but it’s “war” by other means, POLITICS, and specifically, LEFTIST POLITICS. I don’t have to LIE, because I’m NOT a murdering Leftist, as Nazis…Communists…and Globalists…are! The Globalists, if successful in their lying, will kill BILLIONS, ostensibly to SAVE the Earth. The TRUTH–even the Political Truth, is that those Billions don’t have to be murdered by their Statist govenments on the Political Left, and that…is no lie!

  3. Horgan completely misses the point as Steve points out. Instead of following scientific process to search for the truth of AGW, warmists have embraced the post modern philosophy that the end justifies the means. Their ideology “just knows” AGW will destroy the Earth and life on it because. Just because! So, in the Gleik incident, the lie is justified in the mind of progressives, since the lie is essential to move a population to spend their treasure and effort to avoid disaster.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.