On Authority

“We will gradually become indifferent to what goes on in the minds of other people when we acquire an adequate knowledge of the superficial and futile nature of their thoughts, of the narrowness of their views, of the paltriness of their sentiments, of the perversity of their opinions, and of the number of their errors… We shall then see that whoever attaches a lot of value to the opinions of others pays them too much honour.”

~ Arthur W. Schopenhauer


In the occasional fit of hubris, I claim to be the world’s leading authority on near-term human extinction as a result of abrupt climate change. In return, I am subject to frequent personal attacks. This essay provides a partial response.

I will start with a few definitions. Each is selected as the most relevant example from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

Authority: an individual cited or appealed to as an expert

Near: not far away in time

Term: a limited or definite extent of time; especially … the time for which something lasts

Human: of, relating to, or characteristic of humans

Extinction: the act of making extinct or causing to be extinguished

Abrupt: lacking smoothness or continuity

Climate: the average course or condition of the weather at a place usually over a period of years as exhibited by temperature, wind velocity, and precipitation

Change: to make different in some particular

Therefore, I claim to be an authority on the topic of near-term human extinction as a result of abrupt climate change. It’s hardly a wild claim, considering the frequency with which I am sought to speak and write about this topic. The topic itself is defined simply by combining a few words in simple, straightforward fashion.

I’m routinely criticized for my predictions, despite the strong supporting evidence underlying them. Predictions are an important part of the scientific endeavor, as I’ve indicated previously in this space. I stand by my predictions, which are likely conservative based on contemporary evidence.

I am not now suggesting, nor have I ever suggested, that authority supersedes evidence. I rely upon evidence as the basis for my essays and public presentations. The evidence I present can be checked for its veracity, typically in a single, convenient location.

People filled with fear rarely agree with me. Ditto for engineers, infamous for their techno-fixes that notoriously exacerbate every problem and predicament of significance.