Anti-realists attack climate science in new ad campaign
A series of television ads funded by Shell Oil Company hit the airwaves this week, responding to last month’s statement by Métaphysiciens Sans Frontières calling for immediate action to reduce global climate change. The ads, produced by the public relations firm Anti-Realists for Responsible Science, take aim at mainstream climate science in general and the MSF statement in particular.
The first commercial aired Monday, focusing on the claim by MSF spokesman Frank Jackson that, if historical patterns continue, the carbon dioxide concentration of the earth’s atmosphere will reach a dangerous tipping point of 450 parts per million by mid-century. In the ad, ARRS founder Jack Haley dismisses Jackson’s warning as “naive enumerative inductivism.” Haley notes that for every year on record carbon dioxide levels have been below 450 parts per million. “If that pattern continues, we’ll never reach 450 parts per million,” says Haley. “So by Jackson’s own logic we both will and won’t reach the alleged tipping point. Which is it, Mr. Jackson? Will we or won’t we? The American people await your answer.”
The next commercial gives Haley’s take on the data Jackson was referencing: “While pointing out the absurdities entailed by the reasoning of Mr. Jackson and MSF would be enough to forestall their alarmist conclusions, Anti-Realists for Responsible Science goes further by presenting a rational interpretation of the data on atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.” As Haley speaks a graph is displayed showing how the carbon dioxide levels of the past 500 years line up almost perfectly with a model according to which sinusoidal fluctuations rather than human activity account for the historical changes.
In the third and last of the week’s commercials, a number of anti-realist philosophers of science make increasingly radical claims about climate science. “Almost certainly, the best theories of climate science aren’t true,” says Morgan Sims. “And developments to those theories aren’t bringing them any closer to the truth,” adds Paul Haynes. “I don’t think they even aim at the truth,” says Sandra Logan, before Jim Navarro tops them all, claiming, “The theories are literally meaningless.”
MSF issued an official response through its website on Thursday. It reads in full: “Get real. Leave it in the seminar room, guys.”
Before awarding a contract to ARRS, Shell rejected proposals by anti-realists about the self (“Tomorrow is someone else’s problem”), health (“You can’t lose what you never had”), and morality (“What’s wrong with mass extinction?”). According to leaked company emails, “Commercials claiming that the viewer doesn’t exist or that his death would be meaningless didn’t test well with men 18-35, although several said it was refreshing to finally hear an oil company be honest about how it viewed its customers.”
It’s unclear whether any more commercials are planned, and neither Shell nor ARRS returned requests for comment as of Friday morning.