The Inconvenient Truth about "An Inconvenient Truth"
My point about Gore's movie is not necessarily that his thesis is wrong (although I strongly suspect it is). Rather, my concern is that no movie should be viewed as a strong argument for any scientific or philosophical or religious claim. Movies may suggest ideas or stir emotions or put us to sleep or produce any number of other effects, but they cannot give sustained intellectual arguments concerning complex issues. This is because they trade in images and sounds, not in textual argumentation; that is, they cannot sustain the careful exposition of ideas because of their very nature. (“The medium is the message,” once again.) They may contain truth, but the format in which the truth is presented is not adequate for its investigation or verification. This is especially so in an age when images are so easily manipulated through computer technology. Seeing is not believing. Thus, knowledge (justified true belief) is lacking.
Seeing Al Gore and a raft of hand-picked scientists cry, "Doom," may have a profound emotional effect. The ethos of scientific (or pundocratic) presence exudes from smart-looking faces. Some pathos is sure to come through as well, as is the case in all Chicken Little pronouncements. What is decidedly missing is good-old logos: the actual evidence and arguments presented in a way that is amenable to critical thought.
So, while "An Inconvenient Truth" will fan the flames of concern about global warming, by itself, it will do little if anything to contribute to the real debate over this issue. And that is an “inconvenient truth” that very few people are likely to notice.