How little divergence is needed to become a heretic


Heretic, according to the Oxford Dictionary, means:

  1. A person believing in or practising religious heresy.
 1.1 A person holding an opinion at odds with what is generally accepted

Middle English: from Old French heretique, via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek hairetikos able to choose (in ecclesiastical Greek, heretical), from haireomai choose.


How interesting is the original Greek meaning: able to choose! Which implies that the orthodox are unable to choose, because they do not allow themselves, or are not allowed, freedom of choice in what they believe.

Today’s interesting article is published on Judith Curry’s blog, setting out the travails of Roger Pielke Jr., Scott Adams, Matt Ridley, and other lukewarmers and non-alarmists.

At the end of the article Judith Curry observes:

The truly astonishing thing about all this is how little climate heretics – such as myself, Roger Pielke, and Matt Ridley – actually diverge from the consensus science position: RP Jr. hews strictly to the IPCC consensus; Matt Ridley is on the lukewarm side of the IPCC consensus, and I have stated that the uncertainties are too large to justify high confidence in the consensus statements.

The point of all orthodoxies of belief is that deviation is not merely error, it is a sin. When “scientists”, people committed to evidence and disproof of theories, become heresy sniffers, they have passed outside of science into belief. To make my point clear: I do not need to believe that things drop to the ground, it is demonstrable.  Belief is reserved for things which cannot be proven. Like Darwin or God.

I remain committed to the idea that progress in  science consists of making hypotheses from observations, seeing their implications, taking the implications seriously enough to test them, and then setting out to find under what conditions the theory fails to explain the implications.   See the entry on Sir Karl Popper here for a detailed explanation of this approach.

[ A theory can be useful even it is not a complete explanation for everything within its range, such as, for instance, Darwin’s theory of  natural selection. Lest the heresy sniffers go into over-drive, the reason why natural selection is incomplete is simple: thirteen years later, Darwin wrote another theory of evolution complementary to the first, called sexual selection, in which the drivers of evolution are the sexual congregants themselves, and are non-random].

Back to the politics of climate change. It is no use denying climate change; it is like denying gravity. But the people who shout “climate change!”  assume that we humans are driving the change, preponderantly or exclusively, and that it can be abated economically, and must be abated to forestall planetary disaster.  “Climate change” is a weighted slogan more than an ever-present reality.

Hence Trump’s announcement of a climate skeptic, Scott Pruitt,  to head the Environmental Protection Agency marks a huge change from the “science” policies of the Obama regime. Without ever making a big fuss of his climate policies during the election campaign, Trump managed to evince a skepticism that gave us lukewarmers heart. Pruitt’s appointment constitutes a much needed policy change of the largest kind.

In short, you do not need to be a global warming denialist to be treated as a heretic. You need only be less frenzied in your agreement with the Party Line. A Trump cabinet full of “heretics” is welcome. Some actual thinking might be allowed in government as a result.