Roberts Reconsiders Nuremberg Analogy:

Grist's David Roberts has concluded it was wrong to suggest Nuremberg-like trials for climate change deniers. He gives three reasons:

First off, never violate Godwin's Law. It's a law for a reason.

Two, the Nuremberg trials resulted in executions. I'm opposed to state-sanctioned execution in all cases, but would certainly never advocate it merely for the crime of being a lying scumbag.

Third — and more to the point — Nuremberg was primarily about prosecution and punishment. I'm not a particularly vindictive person, and I'm not that interested in retribution. What I'm interested in is the truth: that the truth be aired; that those who have lied own up to it and be held accountable; that those who suffered as a result of the lies be allowed to tell their stories.

For these reasons, a far better analogy for what I had in mind would have been South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or perhaps what the Germans call Vergangenheitsbewältigung.

Roberts continues, noting that his larger concern is the notion of truth in public debate:
The public is losing hold of the notion that there can be such thing as "the truth." They're coming to accept that there is our truth and their truth, and no way of weighing them against one another. In that atmosphere, persuasion falls by the wayside, and only the raw struggle for political power remains. Epistemology becomes ideology. That is precisely what the leadership of the modern American right wing wants.

That's what I most resent: not the lies themselves, but the concerted effort to derogate all sources of independent, verifiable information — to derogate the very possibility of such information. The attacks on science, the attacks on the media, it's all part of the same project.

Given these comments, I assume Roberts will do his best to eliminate ad hominem attacks from the pages of Grist in the future. For instance, scientific claims will be evaluated on their merits, and not on their sources of funding. If so — and the example is followed elsewhere — this would be a signficant step forward in public discussions over environmental risks.

In a related vein, the comment thread to Roger Pielke's post that initiated this discussion indicates that the phrase "climate change denial" was intended (at least by some) to draw a parallel to holocaust denial. (See John A.'s 10/12 comment at 3:25pm and Roger Pielke's 10/12 comment at 8:44pm).

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Roberts Reconsiders Nuremberg Analogy:
  2. Godwin's Law and Global Warming:
  3. Ron Bailey Comes Clean: