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What's the Worst That Could Happen?: A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate

1 rating: -3.0
A book by Greg Craven

In 2007, high school science teacher Craven posted a ten-minute video, The Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See, , predicting dire consequences without strong measures to stop global warming. That video attracted millions of viewers; his focus now is … see full wiki

Tags: Book
Author: Greg Craven
Genre: Outdoors & Nature, Science
Publisher: Perigee Trade
1 review about What's the Worst That Could Happen?: A Rational...

Rational response--or faith-based polemic?

  • Aug 30, 2009
Review update: In my original review I downrated Craven's book because after five good chapters laying out tools and methods for rational decision making (how to think), Craven turned his book into a polemic on the specific topic of global warming (what to think). Ken Watanabe's Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People is the book I thought I was reading in the first five chapters of Craven's book. After the debate with Craven and others stating his case in the comments below this review, I would now rate Craven's book three stars if Amazon allowed reviewers to change the star ratings. But if you are looking for a simple and straightforward book on how to think with understandable methods, tools, and examples, without the polemical baggage, go to Watanabe's book.

Original Review:

Reg Craven, a high school science teacher who is clearly passionate about his work and would probably be a fun teacher to sit under, spends the first give chapters giving his readers tools decision tools for thinking about the issue of global warming, as promised in the title and on the back cover marketing. His tools are basically a decision table combined with a method to rank the credibility of source materials and ways to detect and prevent the reader's own internal biases and logical fallacies from influencing their decision making. All good things, and all quite useful thinking tools.

Then, under the guise of working an example "on the board", Craven spends the rest of the book arguing very forcefully for the proposition that global warming is the most pressing and immediate danger to humanity and most be addressed by very aggressive political and economic changes immediately (along the lines of a World-War II-type mobilization, he suggests). While making these strong claims, Craven continues to repeat this is just an example, with frequent marginal comments to question his assumptions and suggesting that these are just his thoughts and he might be wrong.

The learning tools are useful and simple enough that most readers could use the tools and the suggested method without Craven's example and reach their own conclusions. In fact, decision tables and the credibility tree could be used by readers to help them clarify their thinking about any troubling proposition they want to judge or major decision they need to make.

However, if Craven really felt an example was necessary to explain the method, then on such a divisive issue the wise thing to do would be to provide two examples. It seems clear from the example that he does give that he is doing this not as a teaching example but as a polemical argument in favor of his response and suggested actions.

In fact, after I finished this book I realized that Craven was arguing for the extreme global-warming position with the zeal and language of a true believer. Just one example: "Focus on burning the number 350 [parts per million, the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere] into the collective consciousness. . . .I suspect that 350 will go down in history as 'humanity's number'--a symbol of our collective fight for our civilization and an emblem of the challenge that finally united humanity to struggle together, instead of against one another." (p. 229) I was reminded of the language used to describe the "number of the beast" (666) in the book of Revelation.

Faith in science is a religion on par with any other religious faith, and by now many if not most scientists acknowledge and embrace this faith in science by the name of humanism. I have no problem with that (although I believe it is faith in the wrong thing), and I have no problem with Craven espousing it strongly in proto-religious language. What I do have a problem with is masquerading this faith under the guise of reason alone in the first half of the book, then sliding in the religious argument in the second half with the annoyingly frequent asides that "I could be wrong"--with the unstated "but I'm not" qualifier all too obvious from the frequency and "friendly facetiousness" of the asides.

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