Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mark Twain on AGW

Next time you hear some AGW supporter invoke consensus (thankfully, fewer all the time), hit them with this Mark Twain quote:
[I]n the drift of years I by and by found that a Consensus examines a new thing by its feelings rather oftener than with its mind. You know, yourself, that this is so.…

Do you know of a case where a Consensus won a game? You can go back as far as you want to and you will find history furnishing you this (until now) unwritten maxim for your guidance and profit: Whatever new thing a Consensus [bets against], bet your money on that very card and do not be afraid.

There was that primitive steam engine— ages back, in Greek times: a consensus made fun of it. There was the Marquis of Worcester’s steam engine, 250 years ago: a Consensus made fun of it. There was Fulton’s steamboat of a century ago: a French Consensus, including the Great Napoleon, made fun of it. There was Priestly, with his oxygen: a consensus scoffed at him, mobbed him, burned him out, banished him. While a Consensus was proving, by statistics and things, that a steamship could not cross the Atlantic, a steamship did it.

A Consensus consisting of all the medical experts in Great Britain made fun of Jenner and inoculation. A Consensus consisting of all the medical experts in France made fun of the stethoscope. A Consensus of all the medical experts in Germany made fun of that young doctor (his name? forgotten by all but doctors, now, revered by doctors alone) who discovered and abolished the cause of that awful disease, puerperal fever; made fun of him, reviled him, hunted him, persecuted him, broke his heart, killed him.

Electric telegraph, Atlantic cable, telephone, all ‘toys,’ of no practical value-verdict of the Consensuses. Geology, paleontology, evolution—all brushed into space by a Consensus of theological experts, comprising all the preachers in Christendom, assisted by the Duke of Argyle and (at first) the other scientists.

And do look at Pasteur and his majestic honor rolll of prodigious benefactions! Damned—each and every one of them in its turn—by frenzied and ferocious consensuses of medical and chemical experts comprising, for years, every member of the tribe in Europe; damned without even a casual look at what he was doing—and he pathetically imploring them to come and take at least one little look before making the damnation eternal.

They shortened his life by their malignities and persecution; and thus robbed the world of the further and priceless services of a man who—along certain lines and within certain limits—had done more for the human race than any other one man in all its long history; a man whom it had taken the Expert brotherhood ten thousand years to produce, and whose mate and match the brotherhood may possibly not be able to bring forth and assassinate in another ten thousand.

The preacher has an old and tough reputation for bullheaded and unreasoning hostility to new light; why, he is not ‘in it’ with the doctor! Nor, perhaps, with some of the other breeds of experts that sit around and get up the consensuses and squelch the new things as fast as they come from the hands of the plodders, the searchers, the inspired dreamers, the Pasteurs that come bearing pearls to scatter in the Consensus sty.

These sorrows have made me suspicious of Consensuses. Do you know, I tremble and the goose flesh rises on my skin every time I encounter one, now. - Mark Twain, On the Damned Human Race
[Ripped off verbatim from Peter Cresswell at Not PC.]


PC said...

Hey, nice quote. :)

Jeff Perren said...

A good writer only steals from the best. :)