Leo, Barack, and Science: It Ain't Settled Until We Say So
The New Yorker has just printed a fascinating article by Malcolm Gladwell on the battle to defeat cancer.
At the risk of oversimplifying what is a detailed study about cancer researcher Vincent T. DeVita, Jr., Gladwell illustrates that only by going against the perceived wisdom, the established science, did DeVita and colleagues make major breakthroughs on certain cancers.
“DeVita doesn’t think his experience with the stubborn physicians at Memorial Sloan Kettering or at Yale justifies greater standardization. He is wary of too many scripts and guidelines. What made the extraordinary progress against cancer at the N.C.I. during the nineteen-sixties and seventies possible, in his view, was the absence of rules.”
In DaVita’s book,“The Death of Cancer” he writes, “Over the years, we’ve gained more tools for treating cancer, but the old ability to be flexible and adapt has disappeared.” The New Yorker is justifiably proud of the article about the intimidation of one man by the settled cancer industry and its inflexible culture of self satisfaction.
Which leads us to the throng that gathered last week in Paris to sign an accord based on their accepted wisdom on the world’s climate. Or, as President Barack Obama is wont to call it, the “settled science” of climate change. Like Mr. O, the 50,000 or so delegates fancy themselves cutting-edge thinkers, revolutionaries fighting a life-and-death struggle to save the earth. Who must stamp out all dissent.
Actor John Cusack, one of Hollywood’s many overheated street fighters, caught the perilous risks being taken in the City of Lights by his friend, Marxist writer Naomi Klein: “Naomi from the front lines — The Climate Crisis Is a Once-in-a-Century Chance to Make Our World More Equitable” he tweeted.
The front lines? You know, like soldiers? Danger. Live ammo. Like the people actually getting killed in Afghanistan? Because if something isn’t done fast we’ll be dead in 80 years. Just ask the Prince of Wales (nothing beneath the kilt, nothing above the shoulders).
The only thing killing Klein in Paris was getting reservations at the bistros and putting the touch on dim bulbs like John Kerry for scads of other people’s money. But self delusion is the coin of the realm at the Chicken Little soirees of climate science.
And don’t expect a rapturous New Yorker article about one man’s solitary fight to challenge Obama’s college of 97 percent scientists who say doom is nigh in the sky. While the folks at the mag are big on cocking a snook at Big Cancer, they’re onside with Klein and the “science is settled” solons. And see no contradiction in it all.
Because it’s easier to be with the cool kids. In fact, among the Paris plutocrats there are many, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. some U.S. senators and Hollywood A-listers, who think the DeVitas of climate science should be jailed for thinking otherwise. The only inquiry in their method is the one with bamboo shoots beneath the finger nails.
Perhaps the best climate story to emerge wasn’t from Paris, but our frozen prairies and mountains in Alberta where Leo DiCaprio brought both of his acting moves (Puzzled frown/ Manic smile) for a film. As Leo waited for the director to yell “Action”, the tousled thespian noted a warm wind from the south had melted much of the snow in midwinter Alberta.
In a nonce, he was on airwaves, telling that he himself, Lord Leo of Fatua, had seen palpable signs of global warming here in the foot of the Crows Nest Pass. After much rattling on about the apocalypse, Mr. DiC was told that the warm wind was an annual winter feature of the region known as a Chinook. In 1988 it had been so pronounced that Calgary Winter Olympic organizers had had to truck in snow from B.C for the skiing.
It took all the skills of the Huffington Post to talk the great man off the ledge. But such are the risks undertaken on the front line of the cause, people who see fairies and think them pterodactyls.
There is a condition known as Dunning Kruger effect. It states that some people are too stupid to know they’re stupid. In honour of the brave people holding back environmental destruction I’d like to propose the DiCaprio Klein effect. The symptom of this condition is that you’re far too clever to note that you’re as thick a post. After the past week it would seem my diagnosis of DiCaprio Klein is epidemic.
Just call it my contribution to science. Settled science.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy @NPBroadcaster