Tuesday, November 15, 2005

My evening with Michael Crichton

Apparently the global warming skeptics Michael Crichton and Bill Gray so enjoyed their appearance together before a Senate Committee that they've taken their act on the road. Rounding out the card is Sallie Bailunas and George Taylor, more skeptics. Someone to represent the consensus view of 99% of the scientists? Who needs that? The team came to San Francisco tonight.

But they didn't count on me being there.

And unfortunately, it didn't matter that I was there.

I hate how I'd get ready for a pitched battle with evil (or in this case, stupidity), and have it just fizzle out. When I saw that Gray was joining Crichton after ignoring everyone who challenged him to a bet, I thought, "here's my chance to confront him publicly!" I imagined a microphone for the public to ask questions, where I would pull out $1000 cash along with a checkbook and demand a bet on the spot. Turns out they only take written questions and ran way over their allotted time. I did submit a bet question targeted at Gray and left my email address, but I had to leave. I'll be amazed to see anything in my inbox tomorrow. Meanwhile, they got my $35. I even wasted a half-hour getting there early to see if I could talk to Gray before the event, but no luck.

So reporting briefly on what they had to say, it wasn't much. Crichton said virtually nothing about his stupid book, trying instead to describe some meta-lessons about science and "complexity theory" for us idiots. He prattled on about mismanagement of Yellowstone in the 20th Century, ideas obviously cribbed from the book, Playing God in Yellowstone, which he never mentioned directly. His thesis, apparently, was that we interfered with nature in Yellowstone, thought we had science to support the interference, but we didn't really know what we were doing and screwed it up, and therefore we should continue to interfere with climate because reducing that interference may have chaos theory effects. Something like that.

Gray repeated his claim that temperatures will change to "cooling slightly" in 5-8 years. He said the doubling CO2 will cause a 0.3C temperature rise, and that water vapor is a negative feedback (rising vapor will cause dry air to descend, increasing transparency to infrared). I can't tell if 0.3C is a net effect after the alleged negative feedback, or how it fits into the forecast temperature drop, but he was very firm, again, in predicting the temperature drop. He said Crichton is his new hero, and that Gray would devote his remaining years to fighting global warming nonsense. Gray started talking about hurricanes, but I had to leave.

Sallie Bailunas talked earlier about how people blamed witches for erratic weather in the 1500s, apparently digging even further back in time than the tired "they laughed at Galileo, and they're laughing at me, therefore I'm the next Galileo" canard. I never heard Taylor, and some other guy talked about how natural pesticides in broccoli cause cancer so we should stop worrying about artificial pesticides and pollution.

That was it. The crowd ate it all up, and the large ballroom was packed. I expect they consider it a great success. Look for the show to come to your city next.

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