Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dr. Do-Very-Little

Famous people tend to rack up the accolades. For example, just the other day I was named U.S. News and World Report's third sexiest man. (Damn you, Alan Greenspan. You win every year!) Some are well-deserved, others not so much.

When I heard Al Gore may get an honorary doctorate from the University of Minnesota in, of all things, climatology, I had to laugh. It had to be a joke, right? Then, I remembered this is academia, and reality is often checked at the door when you enter its hallowed halls. Although it's not usually announced until after the recipient of the honorary doctorate accepts, this somehow got leaked to the public. And I, for one, am glad...mainly because it gives me another chance to make fun of a man whose scientific knowledge is as lacking as the number of dates in my social calendar.

Regardless of your political leanings, an honest appraisal of the global warming debates shows one thing: it's anything but a done deal. No matter what Gore and his followers say, we keep finding evidence to bring the notion of man's causing of global warming into question. As long as there is still doubt, nothing is settled.

A university spokesman gushed over Gore's scholarship on global warming, but I have to call that into question. After reading Earth in the Balance, I came away seeing Gore not as someone who has done a lot of scholarly work on the climate or on science in general, but more as someone who found a couple of nuggets of information and tried to milk them for all they were worth, filling in the rest (read: the majority) of the book with emotional appeals and worst-case scenarios. Let me put it this way. I have little more than a high school education in science and a lot of what Gore wrote didn't make sense to me, not because it was too advanced for me, but because it literally made no sense.

Another point to consider about Gore's "scholarship" in the area of global warming. When Gore debated Ross Perot over NAFTA, Gore crammed. When he was Vice President, he sought out the advice of people he considered to be experts on the subject, had them write up papers, and crammed. See a pattern forming here? Gore tries to come off as intelligent by quoting something seemingly off the top of his head, but it's not. Gore is not a smart man, but he's smart enough to know whose notes to crib.

But I'm not the one to make the ultimate decision on whether to give Gore an honorary degree for his work in climatology; it's the university's. Bestowing an honorary doctorate on someone who doesn't deserve it isn't the end of the world, but it doesn't exactly speak well of the university's academic standards. Then again, if the two universities who gave me degrees aren't disowning me, who am I to judge the University of Minnesota?

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