When Nobel Laureate in literature Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn uttered the words “Live not by lies” in his native Russia under the Soviets, it was considered fair enough. After all he was a fervent anti-Communist who was long persecuted by the Soviet government and spent time in their Gulag labor camps. Even when he uttered the same words in a Harvard University commencement speech in 1978, he was well received:
“I was also amazed at how often and how vigorously people applauded, something I had not expected.“
But then a day later, they began to realize that he had actually been very critical of the weakening moral fiber of the West and especially of the Western press. Here are some of his observations that provoked months of agitated responses from the press.
“In these last years I had also seen in the West much that was alarmingly dangerous.”
“A sense of responsibility before God and society has fallen away. “Human rights” have been so exalted that the rights of society are being oppressed and destroyed. And above all, the press, not elected by anyone, acts high-handedly and has amassed more power than the legislative, executive, or judicial power. And in this ‘free’ press itself, it is not true freedom of opinion that dominates, but the dictates of the political fashion of the moment, which lead to a surprising uniformity of opinion. (It was on this point that I had irritated them most.)”
“And these roots of irreligious humanism are common to the current Western world and to Communism, and that is what has led the Western intelligentsia to such strong and dogged sympathy for Communism.”
Solzhenitsyn’s observations are still hauntingly relevant today. His words echo long after he uttered them, even after the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 and after his death in 2008.
If he were still alive today, Solzhenitsyn would surely be pleased with President Trump’s efforts to restore American greatness but also aghast at how far we have fallen and how much the Far Left elites are still embracing ideology over any sense of responsibility to such moral imperatives as the truth.
Because Solzhenitsyn returned to his beloved Russia after the fall of Communism, he was likely unaware of where those who had embraced Communism here in America found a new home. As if involved in some sinister Russian plot, many joined forces with Al Gore in his crusade against Global Warming. Gore offered them a new but similar ideology that would allow them to continue pursuing their political and social ambitions, using many of the same deceptions that they already understood so well.
It was a rebirth of the “Big Lie,” not as a Marxist/Leninist lie but as a scientific lie.
On a hot day thirty years ago, the lie emerged on the world stage when James Hansen upended the sleepy science of climatology with his scary stories about an impending apocalypse from the “radiative forcing” caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide. Never mind that carbon dioxide is the gas of life and only a relatively minor greenhouse gas compared with water vapor, it was to become the new evil.
The first politician to see political possibilities for this unwarranted scare was surprisingly not Al Gore but a politician of a far different stripe. Conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was in a desperate struggle with British coal miners and determined to move Britain toward nuclear power. She asked her staff to find something wrong with coal. They suggested that she talk about Global Warming! I wonder if she ever realized the folly of that move? Someday, I will have to ask Lord Christopher Monckton, who was one of her advisors in the 1980s and now helps us battle what she began.
Meanwhile in the USA, in carefully choreographed testimony before a Senate Committee on a record hot summer day in 1988, Hansen predicted that the Earth faced relentless warming unless we followed his low carbon diet. Hansen’s choice of that summer and that day to make his presentation was remarkable. It was incredibly hot across most of the country that summer and especially that day.
Only the Dust Bowl years of 1934 and 1936 were hotter overall (Figure 1). And no other June 22 came anywhere close to June 22, 1988, not even during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. 71% of the Historical Climatology Network Stations across the USA were above 90 F that day (Figures 2 and 3). Hansen triumphed!
But it was to be the last really hot summer in the USA, as Figures 1 and 2 show. Hansen’s specific predictions have also largely failed. The Earth continued to warm a little as we recovered from the cold of the 1970s, but not nearly as much as Hansen predicted. In fact, his only prediction that came close to being correct was the scenario where he assumed that we followed his recommendations and vastly cut back on our use of fossil fuels. Of course we wisely did not and suffered no climate consequences.
The fact that Hansen was wrong about Global Warming does not mean he was lying, because scientists are allowed to dream up theories that are eventually shown to be wrong. We are all wrong occasionally. And Hansen was candid in 1999 about the climate data for the USA, stating “in the U.S. there has been little temperature change in the past 50 years, the time of rapidly increasing greenhouse gases — in fact, there was a slight cooling throughout much of the country.”
But rather than discard his climate theory in the face of contravening evidence, Hansen led his NASA/GISS team into data manipulations to force observations to fit his theory. That is simply not the way we do honest science. Figures 4 and 5 show Hansen’s take on the US temperature record, before and after manipulations. Figure 6 shows how NOAA cooked the US Historical Climatology Network data in similar fashion. Not surprisingly, the warming that they claim of 1.5 F is due almost entirely to their “corrections.”
The fact that Hansen has continued to sing and embellish the same song without admitting to past errors and data manipulations makes this part the Big Lie. The fact that he has continued to amplify the widespread alarmist rhetoric about an impending catastrophe that is not happening means he has moved far beyond the truth. Responsible scientists always serve the truth first. That means scrapping a failed theory, even if it has been your life’s work.
As Solzhenitsyn observed four decades ago “A sense of responsibility before God and society has fallen away.” As the former President of the US National Academy of Sciences Philip Handler said “Scientists best serve public policy by living within the ethics
of science, not those of politics.” As Albert Einstein observed “Subtle is the Lord …”
It all comes down to “Live not by lies.” Thank you Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Gordon J. Fulks lives in Corbett and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He holds a doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago’s Laboratory forAstrophysics and Space Research.