The Heartland Institute has unveiled a scurrilous billboard campaign in Chicago. It features an image of Ted Kaczynski, the notorious Unabomber (and holder of a PhD in mathematics) next to the words, "I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?"
Climate-change activists and denialists alike are quite familiar with the Heartland Institute's leading role in fighting fear with fear. On the one handand I'll be the first to say somany global-warming activists have fear-driven motives and unrealistic ideas of what's possible. But the denialist claim that these activists amount to an existential threat is as paranoid as the Unabomber's manifesto. The institute defends its inflammatory campaign in kind, saying "the most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen." They're just being provocative, they say, just responding to attacks. Can't we take a joke?
I'll put my picture on that billboard instead. I know the basics of global warming and I'm happy to teach them to my readers. Understanding the physics of global warming, and the greenhouse gases causing it, is as simple as understanding interest on a bank account. And Richard Nordquist, the About.com Guide to Grammar, will tell you that the Heartland billboard is a textbook example of the ad hominem fallacy.