Tucker Carlson, Fox News's resident conspiracy theorist, is always more than happy to bring his audience the latest in unsubstantiated information. This week, during a segment in which he ties Google funding to the still unproven theory that coronavirus was released from a laboratory, Carlson metaphorically takes some red string and pulls it allllll the way across the evidence board to connect another conspiracy. Yes, Carlson declares: Scientists want to shrink your children and force you to take pills that make you allergic to meat, all in the name of combating climate change.
Carlson reaches this conclusion thanks to a five-year-old video from a single professor's brief remarks at a public event, plus a nine-year-old study. At the center of Carlson's conspiracy is Matthew Liao, a bioethicist at New York University who, according to his biography, "uses the tools of philosophy to study and examine the ramifications of novel biomedical innovations." Some of Liao's most noteworthy work involves establishing a child's right to be loved by their parents or guardians and the ethics of erasing memories.
But what put Liao in Carlson's crosshairs was an appearance at the 2016 World Science Festival, in which Liao talks about the possibility of using "human engineering" or genetic modification to address climate change. "Climate change is a really big problem, we don't really know how to solve it, but it turns out we can use human engineering to help us address climate change," Liao said to the audience, before laying out a couple of examples.
The first of Liao's pitches was to manufacture meat intolerance in humans in order to cut down on our over-reliance on livestock, which makes up nearly 15% of our total carbon emissions. "We can use human engineering to make it the case where we are intolerant to certain types of meat, certain types of bovine proteins," Liao said.
Another one of Liao's galaxy brain breakthroughs: Make people smaller. "If we are smaller, just by 15 centimeters, I did the math — that is mass reduction of 25%, which is huge. And 100 years ago we're all on average smaller, exactly about 15 centimeters smaller. So think of the lifetime greenhouse gas emissions if we had smaller children," he says.
Carlson isn't about to let the truth get in the way of a good monologue.
To be clear, these are bad ideas! Also, no one is asking for this. Climate scientists are not pushing for this, there is not a rush to get meat intolerance pills prescribed to Americans, and no one is clamoring for a way to make their child shorter. These are fringe ideas that were mostly designed to be thought experiments. They were also widely criticized when Liao first published research on them back in 2012; climate activists dismissed these ideas and called them the "worst climate change solutions of all time."
And yet, apparently Tucker Carlson just discovered it, so it's a big deal — the biggest deal, worthy of a show-opening segment. Carlson hammered Liao over his ideas, and yeah, they are bad. But so are Carlson's critiques, which are sometimes just not true. "Liao proposes a nationwide system ... a pill that would make people nauseous at the sight of red meat," Carlson says, even though Liao doesn't really suggest that.
But Carlson isn't about to let the truth get in the way of a good monologue. So he keeps going, hammering Liao for ideas that, again, no one has really engaged with in a meaningful way for half a decade. "Let's fiddle with the human genome to see if we can make human children smaller than they are now. A race of dwarfs. They'd eat less, and be cheaper to transport," Carlson goes on to say, before evoking Nazi Germany — because of course that's what this was all building to. "Didn't we decide this kind of thing in Europe 80 years ago, and at the time, didn't we agree we're not going to do that ever again?"
Carlson is right: These solutions suck. The reason he's even bringing them up, though, is to try to connect Google to some mass conspiracy to control you. Google funded research on the transmission of viruses from bats to humans — ergo, in Carlson's world, the company is in part responsible for coronavirus. Please ignore all of the spaces that you had to skip on your Jump To Conclusions mat to land at that result. Google has also backed research conducted by Liao, so of course Google is trying to force us to shrink our children and take meat allergy pills.
"This is what science looks like when it's been completely decoupled from wisdom, decency, and Christianity," Carlson concludes, blowing the dog whistle so hard that it would be impossible not to hear it. "It's a science fiction novel come to life, except it's real. In fact, Google might be funding it right now."
Carlson needs to present these ideas as if they are mainstream, because he needs to sell climate solutions as being ridiculous and morally offensive. The reality is that there is no secret conspiracy to modify your body under the guise of addressing climate change. Environmental advocates just want to keep the planet livably by reducing pollution and moving away from our reliance on fossil fuels by shifting to clean energy solutions.
The problem is that most people agree with those things. So Carlson has to dig deep into the archives and pull up research from nearly a decade ago, hold it up and say, "See? This is what they really want!"