A reader’s reflection on Koonin’s book: “Unsettled”

Dear Professor Koonin,

With interest and noticeable delight, I have read your book ‘Unsettled’, which was apparently carbon-free delivered here last Thursday.

While reading your book I was not disturbed by your autobiographical anecdotes or your incidental polemizing. The autobiographical notes were not exegetical and most made an introductory point. As for the polemics, well, I expect that most readers of your book, including all critical reviewers, would have been highly disappointed if you have not made a sly or demeaning remark about The Science. Scientists and related subjects are still just human, and most humans like flocking together. I have no idea by whom or by what it has been ascertained that 97% of scientists believes this or that, or believes that some belief is no longer a belief but a fact, but if they flock together on some issue no justification is called for lambasting the herd.

Under the provision that I have not yet time to check your sources and what has come of your criticism in the Sixth Assessment, I am inclined to let myself be taken away by your arguments. Your general message seems to me to be that the empirical evidence is not equivocal on the main issues as it stands. The empirical data can be made less ambiguous by ‘tweaking’, ‘averaging’ or ‘ensembling’. Within surely vague limits, scientists can avail themselves to such analytical tools without infringing upon ‘the morals of science’ or ‘the scientific method’. Scientists want to model reality and in modelling reality tweaking is unavoidable. There is no harm done in that. Some scientists – and, I reckon, in case of Climate Science 97% of those scientists that have let themselves become institutionalized as climate scientists – have persuaded themselves that they can state some hypotheses as facts. This creates a tension with the “Twelve Angry Men”-clause: whenever there is reasonable doubt, hypotheses cannot be alleviated to the realm of facts. From my current point of view, you have played the role of the Twelfth Juror well enough to inject into my realm of ideas reasonable doubt. Thus, I suspend all beliefs in the theses 97% of Climate Scientists seem to be no longer suspicious of, until further notice.

Of course, whether I – or 3% or 30% of 97% of the citizens – suspend beliefs on Climate Issues, is not relevant. Scientific exchanges are no longer relevant either. Even if the bulk of Climate Scientists would agree that the matter on climate change is not yet fully settled and would go on collecting data and creating better models – which they undoubtedly will do – those who are in charge of the Climate Debate would not take notice. The debate is held among politicians. But even the politicians have lost ground. Marketeers have discovered the potential of ESG-washing. And they have decided that the car that parked in front of my apartment to deliver your book (and the unabridged version of The Global Crisis of Geoffrey Parker, and Energy and Civilization by Vaclav Siml) did so carbon-free.

Humans are not in control of manmade issues like inflation and political polarization, and have great difficulty in perceiving inconsistency in personal behavior. Regardless of whether there are and will remain reasonable doubts on climate change, and regardless of whether humans have played any role in global warming, humans are not in control of climatological issues.

As Aristotle should have written it, human beings are irrational featherless bipeds.