I have an article up on Spiked-Online today, about the Third Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability and their mock-trial of humanity.
The ‘trial’ was merely a stunt, of course, designed to make a stuffy, pompous and self-serving enterprise such as this more appealing to the media and the hoi polloi it sought to prosecute. It was one of a number of sessions at the event, each intended to qualify the sustainability agenda with the expertise of its participants. But this circle-jerk, show-trial symposium revealed far more about its members and the hollowness of the sustainability agenda than it revealed about humanity.
The Laureates and their pals seem to want to create political institutions at all levels of government to enforce the entire human race’s observation of the sustainability agenda. This is legitimised, on their view, by their own expertise (“science”, they say, though even they admit that their knowledge is incomplete) and the end-of-the-world scenarios it foresees. It is not legitimised, as we’d expect, on a democratic basis of popular assent — agreement with its values, principles, perspective. However hard environmentalists try to claim that theirs is not a political agenda, there is no escaping the fact that, whatever the basis of their argument in facts, their aims are political. They seek a reorganisation of the world, the same as any other political philosophy. Moreover, as this blog aims to show, what makes the ‘science’ produce such catastrophic consequences is not a value-free investigation of the material world, but a heavily value-laden premise. That premise is identical with the conclusion of the sustainability agenda: anti-humanism is at its heart.
In the Guardian yesterday, President of the Royal Society, Paul Nurse protested that ‘freedom of information laws are used to harass scientists‘.
Nurse said that, in principle, scientific information should be made available as widely as possible as a matter of course, a practice common in biological research where gene sequences are routinely published in public databases. But he said freedom of information had “opened a Pandora’s box. It’s released something that we hadn’t imagined … there have been cases of it being misused in the climate change debate to intimidate scientists.
Nurse doesn’t seem to have been one of the Nobel Laureates at the symposium. But his predecessor, Martin Rees was. Both men, in their capacity as president of the RS, have argued for a greater role for science in the policy-making process, and emphasise that catastrophe is what legitimises this influence. The symposium demonstrates what that means. Nurse’s complaints about the treatment of climate scientists in a Horizon programme last year, of which I pointed out:
Nurse might argue that this reorganisation of political life around environmental issues comes with the blessing of scientific authority, and that it is science which identified the need to adjust our lifestyles and economy. But the greening of domestic and international politics preceded any science. The concept of ‘sustainability’ was an established part of the international agenda long before the IPCC produced an ‘unequivocal’ consensus on climate; the IPCC was established to create a consensus for political ends. Nurse, nearly recognising science’s role in the legitimisation of such political ecology, worries about loss of trust. If scientists are not ‘open about everything they do’, he says, ‘then the conversation will be dominated by people driven by politics and ideology’. But it is already ‘driven by politics and ideology’: it’s simply that Nurse does not recognise environmentalism as political or ideological, and he does not notice himself reproducing environmental politics and ideology. The loss of trust he now observes is not the consequence of politics and ideology, but the all too visible attempt to hide it behind science and highly emotive images of catastrophe. If the presidents of science academies want their trust back, they will first have to admit to the politicisation of their function in an atmosphere of distrust. Nullius in verba, indeed.
Nurse, ignorant about the role that science is playing by lending its authority to such nakedly undemocratic and anti-human political agenda, does not understand that the only way to challenge environmentalism is to interrogate the ‘science’ behind which environmental politics is hidden. He seem happy to allow politics to be hidden behind science, and now asks for more protection for ‘science’ — i.e. more protection for environmental politics. Nurse invites the harassment of scientists. Until he realises the nature of the ‘new contract between science and society’ demanded by the laureates, institutional science will continue to lose the respect and trust of the public, and it will increasingly be the battleground in which political debates are fought. He should expect more ‘harassment’ from ‘vexatious’ FOI requests, and they will be well deserved.