Recently, one of Scott Adams’ Dilbert strips attempted to transform his confusion about science into funny jokes. Since satire needs to be grounded in a thorough understanding of the target of your mockery, this failed spectacularly. I’m not one of those people who say Dilbert isn’t funny anymore, by the way. Its glory days may be long gone, but it still has its moments. Clearly, Mr. Adams had been intimate enough with corporate idiocy to grind those experiences into humor, but his weird ideas about how science works make his attempts to skewer climatology fall flat.
A recent video features several well qualified climate scientists explaining a little about the basis for the consensus view on global warming. One of its main points is that climate science skeptics are confused about, and hugely exaggerate, the role of “models”. The Dilbert cartoon in question scrolls briefly by in the background, serving as a convenient go-to example of widespread misunderstanding about science.
Scott Adams has attempted, twice, to defend his cartoon against this short video, digging himself a deeper hole both times. First, he latches on to the claim in the video that models are not important in the way the skeptical propagandists claim they are. Instead of learning from this, he pretends that he somehow influenced the scientists to start distancing themselves from their models — simultaneously missing the point and displaying a mighty, gargantuan ego by hallucinating about his powers of persuasion. Now he’s tried again, this time claiming that the “cognitive dissonance” in these scientists is so overwhelming that they literally couldn’t see the word “economic” in his comic strip. I don’t know if he wasn’t paying attention, or if his own cognitive dissonance is preventing him from hearing the words coming out of the scientists’ mouths, or if he’s just being dishonest by hoping that his audience won’t check: but his strip is already wrong (and already firmly committed to comedy failure) before he gets to the part about economic models. You don’t need much of an economic model to have a good idea that allowing Miami and lower Manhattan to become submerged under rising seas would have a serious impact. Well, Manhattan, at least.