Of the several ages we might inhabit, we surely live in the Age of Sheer Numbers. This also applies to science and global warming. Consider the following from Michelle Malkin’s December 2nd column “All The President’s Climategate Deniers.”

“(climate czar Carol Browner) is now leading the “science is settled” stonewalling in the wake of Climategate. “I’m sticking with the 2,500 scientists,” she said. “These people have been studying this issue for a very long time and agree this problem is real.”

According to CNN, backing up Browner, to a degree: “Human-induced global warming is real, according to a recent U.S. survey based on the opinions of 3,146 scientists. However there remains divisions between climatologists and scientists from other areas of earth sciences as to the extent of human responsibility.” No list of names was given.

In any case, writes Michelle, “last year, more than 31,000 scientists — including 9,021 Ph.D.s — signed a petition sponsored by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine rejecting claims of human-caused global warming.” Further to that:

“Bob Unruh of WorldNetDaily reported that 31,000 U.S. scientists – 9,000 with doctorate degrees in atmospheric science, climatology, Earth science, environment and other specialties – have signed a petition rejecting global warming.

The list of scientists includes 9,021 Ph.D.s, 6,961 at the master’s level, 2,240 medical doctors and 12,850 carrying a bachelor of science or equivalent academic degree.”
The Petition Project seems to be the home of these signatures. I have read criticisms of this project, that non-scientists and celebrities have signed the list. However, you can read the names online for yourself, listed alphabetically with their degrees.

My point in reporting this is not to take sides–although I do think the case for human-caused global warming has been overstated, contains data anomalies, and is being hurt by true believers as witness in Climategate—but to point out that high profile spokespersons in this debate have turned to sheer numbers of scientists to state their case.

I’m sure there are prominent scientists in this debate who are more often quoted than other scientists. But do individuals have the authority they once enjoyed?
Consider the numbers of scientists who have signed A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism petition. It runs for 18 pages in fine print with name, degree, institution. Example: Paul Ashby, PhD., Harvard University. Quite an impressive list.

How about this one from The Union For Concerned Scientists:

“On February 18, 2004, 62 leading scientists–Nobel laureates, leading medical experts, former federal agency directors, and university chairs and presidents–signed a scientist’s statement on scientific integrity in policymaking. Over the next four years, 15,000 U.S. scientists voiced their concern about the misuse of science by the George W. Bush administration.” Again, impressive numbers. The question is: What do we do with statistics of this magnitude? How do we evaluate them, me and you?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 6.8 billion people alive in the world today. Is it possible that we have procreated ourselves beyond the level where individual talents—really big geniuses—matter much anymore? Would it matter if an Einstein, say, were to write a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt warning of the potential of the atom bomb, considering that it might get lost in a pile of thousands of emails in the president’s inbox? It might matter to the world, but who would know? Who would blow the whistle in time: “Hey, look over here!”

I believe that individuals matter, that great men and women, be they scientists, artists, thinkers, healers, what have you, can lead movements and nations and change the course of history. I think the Einsteins and Rachael Carson’s still matter. But I must admit, that lately, I see the possibility that the dark tide of sheer numbers may overwhelm the individual voice in a cacophony of voices.

Are we now living in a world where such numbers of scientists, no less, can no longer agree on much of anything in science, or anything else, and therefore become little more than contending armies poised on opposing slopes, lances tilted forward, ready to charge like armies of old?

By Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.