You have no doubt come across the type of people who proclaim that they loooooove science. Why, they don’t just love science, they freaking love science. For the most part, they demonstrate this love not by actually making scientific discoveries or using science in their work, but by liking the right posts on Facebook.
At any rate, puffed up by their confidence in their love of science, they tend to think this makes them extra-super-qualified to talk about any and every subject. They propound with the extra authority of someone whose opinions must be based on facts and reality, because he freaking loves science.
One prominent example is Bill Nye the Science Guy. He must really love science, because it’s right there in his name! And so he came to propound upon the causes of terrorism, arguing that yes, the recent terror attacks in Paris could indeed be traced back to the nefarious effects of “climate change.”
Here is the argument, in all its blazing, thickheaded ignorance.
It’s very reasonable that the recent trouble in Paris is a result of climate change. There is a water shortage in Syria, this is fact-based. Small and medium farmers have abandoned their farms because there’s not enough water, not enough rainfall. And especially the young people who have not grown up there, have not had their whole lives invested in living off the land, the young people have gone to the big cities looking for work. There’s not enough work for everybody, so the disaffected youths, as we say, the young people who don’t believe in the system, believe the system’s failed, don’t believe in the economy are more easily engaged and more easily recruited by terrorist organizations, and then they end up part way around the world in Paris shooting people.
“This is fact-based,” he assures us.
Well. Where to start?
To begin with, the uprising in Syria did not start among unemployed farm boys in Damascus. It started in Daraa, a smaller city of about 100,000 people in southwest Syria. A group of teenagers were caught writing graffiti with slogans like, “The people want the fall of the regime,” and “It’s your turn, doctor,” a reference to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, who used to be an ophthalmologist. The kids were imprisoned and tortured, and their angry parents responded by storming the local Baath Party headquarters and burning it down. This sparked a series of protests across Syria calling for human rights and political liberalization, all brutally suppressed.
A couple of questions for Mr. Nye: If your thuggish government were torturing your children, would you want to tear it down and destroy it? And would your answer depend on how hot and wet it is outside?
The kind of people who preen themselves on how much they love science also tend to preen themselves on how sensitive and compassionate they are when it comes to people living outside America, especially those outside Europe—you know, in the hot, dusty, poor countries. Yet somehow it doesn’t occur to them to pay attention to the facts about the origins of the Syrian uprising or to pay respect to the real suffering of victims of the Assad regime. No, they look at events elsewhere in the world and project onto them their own domestic political concerns.
Now let’s trace the cause of the Syrian rebellion a little farther. Why were these Syrian kids putting up anti-regime graffiti? Their slogans were clearly inspired by the Arab Spring that had recently erupted in Tunisia and Egypt. Did those countries have water shortages, too? Or is there perhaps some ideological cause—having to do with representative government and human rights—that might have a lot more to do with it?
Of course, the Syrian civil war has since become a playground for Islamists and jihadists, but where did they come from? The Islamic State was founded, not by unemployed farm boys, but by hardened fighters left over from the failed insurgency in Iraq. Seeing the chaos next door in Syria, they took advantage of it to establish a stronghold and revive their old insurgency across the border (with help from the dithering and incompetence of the Obama administration).
These insurgents, in turn, were originally inspired by al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden, the scion of a fabulously wealthy Saudi family; and Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian physician. They claimed justification for terrorism in doctrines about holy war and the spread of religion by the sword that are extracted from the life and sayings of Mohammed.
I’m pretty sure there was climate change going on in sixth century Arabia, because the climate is always changing. I’m also certain that many people at the time of Mohammed were desperately poor, because most people have been desperately poor for most of human history. But I’m even more certain that our SUVs and carbon dioxide emissions had nothing to do with either.
What about the connection between Syria and Paris? On this issue, Mr. Nye clearly didn’t get the memo about the correct political line of the moment: that the Paris attacks had absolutely nothing to do with the inflow of Syrian refugees into Europe. On the other hand, it’s not totally clear yet whether any of the Paris attackers came from Syria, but it is clear that a lot of them were French citizens, who were born in the country. Europe’s problem is not disaffected Syrian youth leaving their desert farms to go to Paris. The problem is disaffected European youth traveling to Syria to join the jihad and then coming back, or those who don’t go to Syria but want to join the Islamist cause by fighting in Europe.
Take Hasna Aitboulahcen, killed in a firefight at the apartment of the Paris attacks’ ringleader. The daughter of Moroccan immigrants, she grew up in a French housing project, where she became known as a Western-style party girl. If her disaffection is a product of anything, it is a product of the European welfare state, not global warming.
All of these facts are readily available to anyone who follows the news. And then there is the role in these attacks of a major world religion with about a billion followers that has been around for 1400 years—a primary cause that is a little hard to miss. Yet President Obama, Nye, and many other water-carriers for the Left offer us glib pronouncements about how this is all about water shortages in Syria. This is spectacular, willful ignorance dressed up as love for science.
I, too, am a great admirer of science. If I were an inarticulate boob, I might even say that “I freaking love science.” What I take from that is a desire to emulate the spirit and methods of science in all fields, such as an absolute respect for the facts and a rigorous investigation of underlying causes.
All of you “science guys” out there might want to try it some time.