Friday, May 1, 2009

Misrepresented stardust

I occasionally Google "Fred Hoyle" because I'm interested in the frequent, and often stupid, invocations of the late scientist (about whose career I wrote here). Often, the dumber ones come from creationists, but here's one that purports to show there once was a scientific consensus that the Earth faces a new Ice Age (and by extension, that scientists' warnings about global warming today should not be taken seriously). Bruce Walker in The American Thinker:

Sir Fred Hoyle is one of the leading cosmologists in human history. No scientist today can claim greater intellectual stature than Hoyle, particularly about our planet in the universe. In 1981, Hoyle published a book, Ice: How the New Ice Age will Come and How We Can Prevent It, in which this brilliant giant of natural sciences warned of the next ice age. The consequences, Hoyle warned, would be disastrous.
The trouble is, there was never nearly as much scientific consensus about global cooling as there now is about global warming. And Hoyle, moreover, was known for his controversial and unorthodox ideas, on a wide range of subjects including climate, so to present him as an an exemplar of the scientific mainstream reflects ignorance, at best, on the writer's part. As does the vague and obscurantist description of Hoyle as a leading expert on "our planet in the universe," when his prestigious work was focused on the universe overall, not on our planet.

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