Acton Institute Powerblog

Senators Brook No Dissent

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Joe Carter gives us some good context for today:

The fact that many people agree on something does not imply that what they agree on is true, whether the issue is climatology or farm subsidies. An appeal to consensus is merely a form of the argumentum ad populum fallacy (appeal to the majority). The status of the fallacy doesn’t change just because the members of the majority all have Ph.Ds. If you want to establish a consensus for your argument, you have to do more than appeal to a consensus.

What’s this context for? Today’s WSJ includes the text of a letter sent from Sens. Snowe and Rockefeller to ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson.

In the missive, the senators berate ExxonMobil for its support of a “climate change denial confederacy,” which “has exerted an influence out of all proportion to its size or relative scientific credibility.”

But in the face of adversity, there is always the safety of scientific consensus to fall back upon:

While the group of outliers funded by ExxonMobil has had some success in the court of public opinion, it has failed miserably in confusing, much less convincing, the legitimate scientific community. Rather, what has emerged and continues to withstand the carefully crafted denial strategy is an insurmountable scientific consensus on both the problem and causation of climate change.

This related WSJ editorial properly excoriates Snowe and Rockefeller and their letter, which the editorial says is “of a piece with what has become a campaign of intimidation against any global warming dissent.”

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.

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