Friday, August 8, 2008

Ron Rosenbaum at Slate defends the right to dissent

There is a very important article by Ron Rosenbaum over at Slate entitled "How journalists should handle global warming skeptics."

It's a great article that is in many ways an angry letter at an article in the Columbia Journalism Review which condemned CBS for allowing global warming dissenters on air. It's important because in it Rosenbaum acts as a rare voice in our monolithic media as he defends the right of those with unpopular views to be able to express them.

A big part of Rosenbaum's argument is illustrated in this excerpt:

In fact, the history of science frequently demonstrates that science proceeds when contradictory—dissenting—studies provoke more studies, encourage rethinking rather than being marginalized by "the consensus" or the "consistency" of previous reports.

Indeed, the century's foremost historian of science, Thomas Kuhn, believed, as even "green" reporters should know, that science often proceeds by major unexpected shifts: Just when an old consensus congealed, new dissenting, contradictory reports heralded a "paradigm shift" that often ended up tossing the old "consensus" into the junk bin.

There is a really strong dictatorial tendency among many in politics. It might possibly be genetic, as it shows up in all generations and different environments. There are certain people that simply cannot handle other people disagreeing with them. This is illustrated by Al Gore saying "the debate is over" in regards to global warming, which, when you think about it, is an extraordinarily anti-intellectual thing to say. Imagine if Gore had said that in relation to any other political issue, such as abortion or the death penalty.

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