Saturday, March 30, 2013

Does this man ever shut up?

On 25 November 2009, I had the dubious pleasure to attend a seminar talk by Fred Singer while working at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR e.V.) in Stuttgart, Germany. With most of the audience researching in the field of solar energy or other fields related to finding alternate sources of energy, it is comforting that Singer did not find an audience to discredit the global effort to mitigate human impact on the climate on that evening.

For those of you that don't know who Fred Singer is (good thing if you don't), I think it would be apt to describe him as a lobbyist with a background in science. It would also be safe to describe him as a global warming denier of the first hour, further known for his denial of the harmful effects of passive smoking and the depletive effects of CFCs on the ozone layer. And this list is not even exhaustive.

Unfortunately, Mr. Singer often finds more receptive audiences around the world. And it is quite impressive how much this man travels at his advanced age (now 88). His visit at DLR in Stuttgart was just one stage on a whole 'Tour of Europe'. In 2010, he was invited by German MPs of the FDP party to a discussion panel. SPIEGEL journalist Cordula Meyer reported about this visit (vol. 37/2010) in a great article about Singer's crusade. Unfortunately, Mr. Singer has not been less productive since then. He frequently publishes on, mostly discrediting research about anthropogenic global warming.

Very recently, research about the psychology of climate change deniers has been published in the scientific journal Psychological Science and I would be all to interested what Mr. Singer would have to say about these findings. The authors of the study assert that a strong faith in the free market coincides with a disposition towards rejecting climate science as well as other established explanations. The title of the paper is catchy - a good choice in this case ("NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science".) So, it seems there is evidence to claim that religious faith in free markets and the rejection of science often go hand in hand.

It is striking, in a sense grotesque, how impressively this study disarms the likes of Mr. Singer. However, he is also an academic and used to be a respected scientist, and on the other hand lobbied for several of the 'conspiracy theories' tested for in the psychological study.

Fred Singer is 88 years old. He put a lot of effort into convincing people, often policy makers, that there is no connection between second-hand smoke, the depletion of the ozone layer by CFCs, and most recently that there is no connection between climate change and human activities. Surely, these issues will not affect him at his age, unlike the generations born after him, who wish to reach that age, perhaps. So, I ask myself: When does this man ever shut up?

Maybe when we stop listening to people that reject science because it could undermine their faith in the free market. The published research gives us a good reason to do so...provided, of course, you don't reject this study as well.

Or we could fight back with the same weapons and ask: what conspirative group does Fred Singer belong to?

1 comment:

  1. By the way, for those that are interested in the full paper, here is the preprint: