Activists in St Paul, Minnesota, on January 29, 2021, hold signs calling for US President Joe Biden to support a Green New Deal and end his support of pipelines and the fossil fuel industry. Photo: Tim Evans / NurPhoto via AFP

While the Left loves to use the word “science,” it regularly adopts pseudo-science to support its positions and ignores actual science when the latter undercuts its claims. Perhaps the salient example is so-called climate science, where the massive complexity of the system and large time scales make sufficient observation of the system impossible.

In a 2007 paper published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, Claudia Tebaldi of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, and Reto Knutti of the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich, Switzerland, irrefutably state the fundamental problem:

“The predictive skill of a model is usually measured by comparing the predicted outcome with the observed one. Note that any forecast produced in the form of a confidence interval, or as a probability distribution, cannot be verified or disproved by a single observation or realization since there is always a non-zero probability for a single realization to be within or outside the forecast range just by chance.

“Skill and reliability are assessed by repeatedly comparing many independent realizations of the true system with the model predictions through some metric that quantifies agreement between model forecasts and observations…. This might sound obvious, but it is important to note that climate projections, decades or longer in the future by definition cannot be validated directly through observed changes.”

Although “obvious,” the impossibility of testing and therefore the impossibility of having valid scientific knowledge appears to have had no effect on the Left. They trot out wild predictions that are not validated, and therefore scientifically meaningless.

This behavior demonstrates a disdain for science arising from its incompatibility with their vision. It bears similarity with their other theories, such as socialism and systemic racism. These theories are all encompassing, structured on a language that cannot be empirically tested and have conclusions in line with their passions.

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To understand the roots of their thinking, we go back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

The year 1687 was very special. According to the historians Will and Ariel Durant, one of “the [three] basic events in the history of modern Europe” occurred in 1687: Isaac Newton published the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. The structure of science was unified within mathematics. Moreover, the ground of scientific truth would lie with observation. As Newton phrased it, “Whatever is not deduced from the phenomena … [has] no place in experimental philosophy.”

Science, which had been growing in importance throughout the 17th century, was now at the center of intellectual thinking, with its form and its process of verification via observation firmly in place. It swept the intellectual centers of Europe and would remain unchallenged for over half a century.

Enter Jean-Jacques Rousseau, godfather of the modern Left. Just after the middle of the 18th century, in his Discourse on the Inequality among Mankind, Rousseau rejected the connection to phenomena: “Let us begin therefore, by laying aside facts, for they do not affect the question.”

His anthropology would not arise from the phenomena. His feelings would be the source of truth: “You shall hear your history such as I think I have read it, not in books composed by those like you, for they are liars, but in the book of Nature which never lies.”

Although his arguments would neither be logically tight, nor based on data, Rousseau had certainty: “The consequences I mean to deduce from mine will not be merely conjectural, since, on the principles I have just established, it is impossible to form any other system, that would not supply me with the same results, and from which I might not draw the same conclusions.”

He has his conclusions, and a system of thought will satisfy him if and only if it leads to those conclusions.

Rousseau had a narrative, its only requirement being agreement with his feelings.

For science, the basic principle of epistemology (knowledge) is that there is a mathematical model relating the variables of interest, the model is tied to the phenomena through measurements, and the theory is validated to the extent that predictions based on the model are concordant with future observations.

Rousseau would have none of this. He rejected both the necessity of logical consistency and validation based on observations (facts).

His children in the Left follow his lead by advancing theories that conform to a view of the world based on feelings. Often these are grandiose, vaguely formulated with words having twisted meanings, and without a possibility of being verified, precisely because of their grandiosity and ill-formulation.

A leading example of this kind of thinking appears in The Social Contract, where Rousseau produced a model of society based on the almost mystical concept of the general will and argued that freedom is conformity of thought to the general will. If necessary, one will be forced to be free.

Rousseau writes, “Whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body. This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free.” George Orwell was late to the game with “freedom is slavery.”

Whereas the Left is maximalist in its thinking, science is minimalist. The Left exalts in simplistic theories supposedly describing the behavior of extremely complex systems such as the environment, the economy, and social behavior. Science does not treat such complexity, but restrains itself to small parts of the system under constrained circumstances.

In all cases, the Left’s theories lead to a centralization of power justified by the need to implement the theory through governmental action. Theory is used to justify power in the hands of the theorists. The ultimate purpose of the theory is to gain power, and scientific requirements cannot be allowed to stand in the way of power.

Should someone point out that, not only has the theory not been validated, but it actually is inconsistent the data, it can be argued that the theory is not actually invalidated because it had not been properly implemented. If socialism 6.2 does not work, move on to socialism 6.3. The theory is correct, we just haven’t got the implementation right.

Progressivism is another version in a potentially endless list. As Rousseau put it, we know before the argument and without data that the conclusion is correct. Thus it must be faulty implementation.

We should not be surprised that the Left has been so successful in its battle with science. Passion is much closer to the human heart and rarely has science been able to overcome it. Rousseau has been victorious in his battle against science because he understood the heart as only a genius could.

What kind of world would it be if we denied the heart? Imagine the bleakness of a world where there was only science: no beauty, no love, no morality, no God. Rousseau understood this.

But when knowledge of Nature is at stake, feelings must give way to experimental connection to the phenomena. Rousseau was dealing with anthropology and political science. These cannot be disconnected from empirical understanding. Nevertheless, this disconnection is demanded by the Left in its unbridled desire for power.

Edward R Dougherty

Edward Dougherty is distinguished professor of engineering at Texas A&M University.