From the pulpit at the Church of Crass Generalisations and Poorly Concealed Prejudice, Andrew Brown of the Guardian delivered these words on Tuesday:

There’s a first class article in Nature this week on the reasons Americans reject the science of climate change. It has wider implications for a lot of the ways in which we think and talk about rationality.

Hmm. ‘Americans reject the science of climate change’? All of them? Or just some of them in particular?

The article linked to by Brownwas authored by Dan Kahan, professor of law and psychology at Yale Law School. Kahan tries to explain why it is that controversy persists in the climate debate. People’s ‘reasoning powers have become disabled by a polluted science-communication environment’, he says. In some senses, this is a refreshing break from the ‘deficit’ model of the climate debate: that stupid politicians are in hock to the material desires and base instincts of the stupid, fecund, consuming public. The problem is not too few powers of reason on the public’s behalf, but too much.

The reason the debate is polarised, says Kahan, is that people are very good at ‘filtering out information that would drive a wedge between themselves and their peers’. In other words, you believe what your mates believe, because to do otherwise would mean to commit to a life of loneliness… or something. Scepticism of climate change, then, is perfectly rational, from the point of view of sustaining your social network. The problem begins, on Kahan’s view, when the ‘communication environment fills up with toxic partisan meanings’.

Meanings like ‘denier’, perhaps?

Kahan’s theory is that people don’t make decisions about the facts in front of them, but are motivated by something else. He begins by challenging the theory that people are too stupid to understand the science, but ends up back in the same place. Curiously, he passes over the research that is most likely to take him in the right direction…

Social-science research indicates that people with different cultural values — individualists compared with egalitarians, for example — disagree sharply about how serious a threat climate change is.

… to go on to describe instead some superficially empirical test which bears out the idea that even in the face of unimpeachable expertise, people will return to the prejudices of the group to which they belong:

People with different values draw different inferences from the same evidence. Present them with a PhD scientist who is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, for example, and they will disagree on whether he really is an ‘expert’, depending on whether his view matches the dominant view of their cultural group (D. M. Kahan et al. J. Risk Res. 14, 147–174; 2011).

But the trouble for social science theorists is that you don’t need to be one of them to understand why this is. There are very good reasons why people with ‘different cultural values’ may end up diverging on the interpretation of evidence, as I’ve described here before. In brief: if you hold with a view that nature is in a permanent state of fragile balance and that human society is dependent on that balance, you will be more nervous of change in the natural environment than someone who believes that humans (especially in industrial society) are more self-dependent and robust. For entirely contingent reasons, these two positions roughly correspond to contemporary political trends that are nominatively/superficially ‘egalitarian’ and ‘individualistic’. (This idea of such a distinction is itself a bit of a red herring, but that is another blog post.)

The even bigger mistake is putting the social-group cart before the belief horse. No doubt some values are socially-transmitted. But it is primarily people’s interests which determine what circles they move in, not vice versa. Except in the most parochial of places, we — by which I mean people who are sufficiently privileged to take a view on the climate change debate — encounter sufficient diversity of opinion that few could argue that they didn’t have the opportunity to reflect their change of mind with a change of social group, albeit slowly. Things may be different for Kahan, perhaps, but I remain friends with the people who think I’m absolutely insanely wrong about environmental politics. Good friends. And our continued friendship is not predicated on our agreement about climate change.

So much pseudo-scientific social theory that passes for academic research is transparently intended to deny that people are capable of reason, or that they reason in ways that they shouldn’t. And in the process, these researchers cannot help but reveal that what they attempt to reveal in the wider public is much more true of the academy. Who would dare challenge environmentalism on the campus dominated by seemingly liberal, progressive thought? More pertinently, perhaps: who would dare to suggest that the wider public possessed sufficient faculties that the Faculty itself is is in many cases (but not all, of course) redundant, if not an actual toxic force in today’s, post-democratic politics? Perhaps people presented with ‘a PhD scientist who is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences’ aren’t inclined to bow and scrape before him, because the PhD scientist has a tendency to undermine his new acquaintance’s faculties, to say that they are lacking, and that a study of them reveal patterns of thought which are irrational and thus not capable of making decisions. The feeling is surely mutual. Kahan should worry as much less about science communication as he counsels that people should worry less about the public’s intellectual deficit; he should worry about what the science of reducing people in this way — and for what ends — says about climate ‘science’.

Back to Brown, who it is now clear was wrong to say that Kahan says anything particular to Americans in general, or American sceptics in particular. And even if Kahan had explained the mechanics of some kind of ‘group think’ at the social level, it would equally apply to environmentalists. Brown believes that,

It will take the kind of conformism and sense of moral obligation offered by religious thought and ritual if we are to save the planet

Brown continues to try to distance himself from the people-are-stupid account of scepticism in the same way Kahan does. The argument again being that individuals are making ‘rational’ decisions, but rationalising on a different basis — their social survival, rather than on the basis of the putative facts of climate science. But this leaves Brown and Kahan in a relativistic bind: if values and the basis for rational decisions are dependent on social context, what does that say about the content of Kahan and Brown’s own reasoning? If they want to sustain the idea that they have the ‘correct’ understanding of ‘the science’, then they cannot say that the sceptics are capable of reason. One can’t say that finding an answer of 5 for the question ‘what is 2 plus 2′ is ‘rational’, on the basis that someone’s friends and family believe the answer to be 5, and that he wants to keep his friendships. Such a move is putting something beforereason. Brown fudges an answer:

One explanation is that we have a problem of propaganda: the lobbyist’s rule that for every PhD there is an equal and opposite PhD makes it easy for malevolent forces to blind the world with bullshit.

But saying that people can pick and choose their experts only defers the problem so far: it still suggests that one group of people with a particular belief are more vulnerable to ‘propaganda’ than another, their rational faculties being less capable of detecting it. And it is in the following passage that we discover that Brown really is vulnerable to something…

Personal experience is not infinitely malleable. Perhaps if there were anything we could do about the weather, our opinions of it would be modified by the effects we saw our actions having. But there isn’t. The weather is uncontrollable and this is even more true of climate change. What you or I do as individuals makes no difference to global warming. Even what the whole of the UK does won’t change much.

These are some curious ideas that Brown is putting forward. The weather may or may not be controllable, and ‘personal experience’ may not be ‘infinitely malleable’, whatever that means. Brown is trying not to say that weather and climate change, being forces of nature, are inevitable, whereas people can be more easily controlled. Spot the deliberate mistake in Brown’s next passage:

The kind of changes in consumption needed to make a real difference to our carbon output would require multinational action at government level.

‘Multinational action’ is above the ‘government level’. It is intergovernmental, or supranational. Or in other words, it is a new layer of governance. And the basis for this new layer of governance is, as Brown says:

… democratic governments act from perceived self-interest even more than individual voters do. Since their actions are consistently directed to an end, an economist could call them rational. Both voters and governments, in ignoring the very painful adjustments that would be needed to diminish climate change, are definitely working to a utility function. They want to minimise their own unpopularity and will see the world in ways that make their actions seem rational. In general the right has understood this better than the left (or do I say this because the misdeeds of the other side are so much more apparent?).

The main problem for Brown here is that governments — especially the UK’s — has responded to a political consensus on the climate which is not shared by the public. The UK and EU’s policies do not reflect popular will. That’s not to say that there is substantial opposition to them (yet), but that these governments were able to create these policies, in spite of the public. Brown’s argument is not a challenge to the way politics is being done, but a ringing endorsement of it.

Brown takes Kahan’s observation that social context and attitudes towards the environment are somehow/somewhat correlated, to make an attack on democracy. Just as individuals are vulnerable to what their peers think, democratic governments are vulnerable to what the aggregate of all peer-groups believe. Rationality being so malleable and fickle, democracy is therefore not up to the task of coping with material reality — climate change. It was the historic left which made the arguments for the expansion of democratic control in the past, against traditional political orders, to allow people to make political decisions precisely in their own interests. Brown now eschews the idea that reason is what makes the the individual capable of giving government a mandate through democratic processes, and asks for democracy to be suspended, and for governance to be legitimised instead on the basis of environmental catastrophe. Even if it were true that the political right’s ‘misdeeds’ in corrupting democracy ‘are so much more apparent’, contempt for the principle of democratic government is contempt for the demos, and vice versa. It’s the proles that Brown fears most.

What religious thought – and ritual – can supply is the two things absent from normative consumer liberalism. The first is a belief that the choice between ends is not arbitrary or wholly personal: that there are moral facts of the matter; that saving as much of humanity as possible is an obligation on all of us, and that this is actually true, and not just a matter of preference.

Environmental catastrophe is, I’ve argued here before, a cheap moral realism. Brown wants there to be ‘moral facts of the matter’, but doesn’t realise that he has shot himself in both feet on his quest to find shared values to which we would all be obedient. First, his own relativistic meandering left him lame as he undermined the idea that individuals are capable of reason at all — we’d rather be friends with each other. And then, hopping on one foot, he fell over when he revealed that rather than allowing people to hold with the values they do share, he wants a greater authority to be sovereign. The idea that there is a ‘normative consumer liberalism’ which makes individuals’ ends sovereign is in total contradiction with the idea that people’s views of the world are formed, or mediated by their peers. Brown continues…

The second is the kind of conformism, reinforced by all kinds of social ritual, large and small, which will enforce the social discipline needed to carry societies through some pretty ghastly changes. Let’s face it, any adjustment to an ecologically sustainable standard of living is going to be a lot nastier than anything Greece is going through now. It will need considerable determination and solidarity.

Greens for so long have promised that environmental asceticism, and the transition towards it would not just be a joyful process of transcendence in which our lives would be given meaning and authenticity, it need not even be marked by austerity. Now even that promise has faded. It will be ‘ghastly’, admits Brown. And this process towards the ghastly needs a religion, if not to police the thoughts of the individuals who absorb it freely, then to legitimise the actual policing of the actions of those who do not.

It’s hard not to wonder whose side Brown is even on. Keep writing, Andrew.

But something I’ve wondered much more about than that, is whether the desire for austerity, for conformity, and for ‘shared’ values is owed much less to what ‘science says’, than for these things as ends in themselves…

The basic mechanism of social conformism is not so much policing behaviour – that needs only outrage – but policing emotion: the kind of second-order enforcement of conformity where my failure to feel outrage becomes itself a matter for your outrage. There’s plenty of that around today.

… After all, the problem for environmentalists — especially outraged Guardian hacks — has been sharing their outrage. Environmentalism remains an elite preoccupation. And so it is no surprise that environmentalists’ ideas are fantasies that reflect a desire for elite forms of political and social organisation, above the reach of the hoi-polloi. The hoi-polloi — the demos — has failed to respond to environmentalism’s prophets, and so environmental mythology has developed to account for this disobedience. On the environmentalists view, the minds of individuals have been captured, and thus, being captured means they can be recaptured — it’s just a matter of taking control of the right social and political institutions, or creating new ones, such that families and social acquaintances no longer allow the ‘wrong’ values to contaminate ‘rational’ thought — and even if it did, it wouldn’t make any difference.

This is all in contrast to the view that individuals can be persuaded through reason, by appealing to people’s rational faculties. And it is in contrast to the view than people’s values, beliefs, and rational processes can be understood simply by asking people what they think and why they think it. Kahan and Brown then speculate as to what it is that ‘really’ drives the formation of opinions and beliefs about the world, as though individuals had nothing to do with it. Brown’s desire for a ‘new moral order’ belies the vacuum in his own moral perspective. It is in fact terror at the possibility of a moral order existing outside of his own control. ‘Science’ is a surrogate moral framework in an otherwise amoral, hollow perspective, held by people who, in spite of their vacuity, want to be able to assert control, in lieu of any basis on which their influence could be legitimised. ‘Science’ is (ab)used first to say ‘do this or die’, and then is used to explain why people don’t respond to such transparent moral blackmail. The thing that doesn’t seem to have occurred to environmentalists is that this isn’t science at all, and that this fact is as plain as day to everyone else.

35 Responses to Environmentalism’s Amoral Disorder

  • That was a very well written. The first part about Kahan was exactly what I was thinking when I read his Nature article. What a one sided load of academic crap.

    His explanation of climate skepticism includes statements such as “People acquire their scientific knowledge by consulting others who share their values…” AND “… ordinary individuals’ lives will go better if their perceptions of societal risk conform with those of their group.”

    Doesn’t that exactly apply to hardcore greens?

    It appears to me that what Kahan wrote was written specifically for people like Andrew Brown who swallowed it whole without even reading the ingredient label.

  • Thanks for unpacking this crapola. If “society” were to ever enter into the “austerity programs” that these elitists try to envision, then the authors would not have time or opportunity to write any more of this esoteric nonsense. They would be too busy trying to just exist. Assuming, of course, that they, themselves, would be subject to the same “austerity” provisions as us underlings, which would be unlikely.

  • You write so well. Thanks. People like this look at a perfectly clear sky and see pollution. They live in a world where people continue to live longer, healthier lives, and insist we are all being poisoned. They clutch their iPhone and rail against progress. There have always been pessimists, but now they get to dress up their dreadful view of life in global apocalyptic clothing. The irony of blaming lack of conformity to groupthink is just hilarious, because for 20 yrs we have been regaled by all the experts, the media, and hollywood about the proper way to think. If group conformity was going to buy unanimous kow-towing to the church of austerity and doom, it surely would have worked by now. But it did not because people are not that stupid.

  • Great article. “Things may be different for Kahan, perhaps, but I remain friends with the people who think I’m absolutely insanely wrong about environmental politics. Good friends. And our continued friendship is not predicated on our agreement about climate change.”

    Absolutely. And there are people obsessed by the climate debate whose spouses (very generally speaking, you understand) are indifferent to the whole thing to the point of boredom, and take delight in emailing links to alarming climate news stories to their partners with comments like “You see! Climate change is happening!”, forcing them to respond with links to sensible climate news stories (if available) with comments like “You see! Natural variability is happening!” Extreme diversity of opinion in a population of two.

    Dan Kahan indeed appears to be describing the behaviour of a social species. But has he got the right one? Could he be mistaking us for bees, perhaps, or ants?

  • Lots of mention of “social science”. Are we having a methodological crisis?

  • I like riding a bike,
    other people like driving a Ferrari,
    I’m happy,
    they are happy.

  • they’re

  • weird comment. weird dialectic. not sure what anyone actually means… really..

  • I like riding a bike,
    other people like driving a Ferrari,
    I’m happy,
    they are happy.

    It all ends in tears when you ride a bike drunk though. And things get even worse when you get behind the wheel of a Ferarri after a few too many.

    Posting comments is on the same continuum.

  • Activism is a political strategy for imposing the will of the minority on the majority. History, however, has shown this to be risky business. Considering that, in this instance, the result of the minority view will be ‘ghastly’ the less likly that religious-liike chantings and hymns will keep the faithful in line. The minority will need resort to force. As William Penn wrote ‘Force creates hypocrites not converts’. The more foricibly the minority acts to enforce its viewpoint the more restive the majority becomes. The inevitable end of this (aside from the fammine likley as global systems of supply collaspe) is politcal strife, violence and war. Nice.

  • Jsroberts – Activism is a political strategy for imposing the will of the minority on the majority.

    I’m not sure I’m so worried about activism in general. Trying to persuade people of something you believe in doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me.

    What is interesting to me about environmental activists — if that’s what he is — like Brown is first the total failure of their activism to persuade people, and to become a mass movement. They’ve persuaded the establishment, it is clear enough. But this leaves them with a problem of legitimacy: in democratic society, it’s not enough to convince just the establishment. So environmental arguments have developed to attack the faculties of the public, along with the mythology of the masses having been brainwashed into doing/thinking what the Big Evil Corporation wants them to think and do.

  • sorry about drunk comments everyone…

  • The biggest con of all that has been perpetrated on well-meaning people concerned about the environment is the false notion that organized environmentalism is Big Oil’s enemy.

    In fact oil companies have used environmentalism as a weapon against rival sources of energy. This began in California, when the Sierra Club’s campaigns against hydroelectric dams (which were initially purely aesthetic in their motivation — you could liken them to the campaigns today against wind farms) received serious money from Californian oil interests, who wanted to turn natural gas (which until then had been flared off as a dangerous waste product) into an additional profit centre by selling it as a fuel to burn in power stations.

    Campaigns against coal pollution have also been funded by oil and gas interests, as have anti-nuclear campaigns. In 2000 Gerhard Schröder (then the chancellor of Germany) set in motion a phase-out of nuclear power in Germany, and was rewarded on leaving office with a €500,000/year post at Gazprom, the Russian-government-owned gas producer.

    The idea of powering the world with renewable energy only is a fantasy — if it were ever attempted, there would no longer be enough energy to run the Haber-Bosch process, food production would collapse and billions would starve to death. The leaders of environmentalist groups (if not their deluded foot soldiers) must surely be aware of this. What then is the real agenda?

    Since oil and gas are finite resources (both globally, and on the level of individual oil or gas fields) there is a strong incentive to sell oil and gas at the highest possible price, as selling more at a lower price will just cause the resource to run out more quickly. It is therefore in Big Oil’s interest to:

    1) Oppose all genuine alternatives to oil and gas (such as coal, nuclear and hydroelectric).
    2) Encourage energy conservation, and unreliable energy sources such as wind and solar, which can only supplement oil and gas but never replace them. This means that oil companies can raise the prices of their products more without causing a complete economic collapse.

    Isn’t promotion of wind, solar and “conservation” and hostility to coal, nuclear and hydroelectric also the hallmark of many Green organizations? Perhaps that’s why they seem to be so well-funded!

  • In 2009, just before Copenhagen, Andrew Brown wrote an article in the Guardian: “We’re doomed without a green religion”:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2009/nov/06/religion-atheism

    Again, he’s trying to make the case for a kind of “new moral order” that overrides individuals’ notions of right and wrong:

    If there is a moral imperative to preserve the human race, or as much of it as possible, collective consequences must follow. It is not enough for us to do the right thing. Others must as well… others must be forced to do things against their will by our moral imperatives.”

    He ends by writing:

    Because it is a global tragedy of the commons, individual action cannot be enough. I cannot ensure the survival of my grandchildren, nor even yours, without compelling you to behave in ways that science tells me are necessary. Not to act, not to coerce, itself becomes immoral.

    There is a further twist to the argument. Compulsion will be needed but compulsion alone won’t do it. People aren’t made like that. They need to believe in what they are forced to do. They need idealism, and that will also mean its dark side: the pressure of conformism, the force of self-righteousness, huge moral weight attached to practically useless gestures like unplugging phone chargers. They need, in fact, something that does look a lot like religion. But we can’t engineer it. It can only arise spontaneously. Should that happen, the denialists, who claim that it is all a religion, will for once be telling the truth, and when they do that, they’ll have lost. I just hope it doesn’t happen too late.

    “… our moral imperatives”. But whose? Andrew Brown’s, of course, because science tells him that certain ways of behaving are necessary. There are those who think that science tells us something different, or that science isn’t telling us to behave in any specific way at all. But Andrew Brown would tell us they would be wrong, because they contradict him and he is right.

    It’s another version of Kip’s Law, isn’t it, though. Every advocate of central planning always envisions himself as the central planner. Every advocate of a new moral order always sees his own moral vision as its basis.

  • It’s another version of Kip’s Law, isn’t it, though. Every advocate of central planning always envisions himself as the central planner. Every advocate of a new moral order always sees his own moral vision as its basis.

    Indeed, those Green extremists who fantasize about undoing the Industrial Revolution usually imagine that they’d be aristocrats in the new order. They rarely imagine themselves as peasants, and never as victims of the die-off that would be required in order to return to a pre-industrial condition.

  • @ George: “those Green extremists who fantasize about undoing the Industrial Revolution usually imagine that they’d be aristocrats in the new order” – that reminds me of being a kid in the ’70s and watching the TV series Survivors with my friends:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivors

    In the series, a doomsday virus has killed off most of humanity, leaving behind a number of mostly middle-class people (this was the BBC, you understand) who then have to survive and start to restore civilisation. We had some great discussions about what we’d do, if this happened in real life. The consensus was that we would band together and establish a base (a fortified hilltop or farmstead somewhere), arming ourselves from hidden caches of vintage WWII weapons that we felt sure would have been left over from the 1940s, if we could only find them.

    Of course, if anything like “the Death” had happened in reality, and if we had somehow managed to survive the mass die-off, a bunch of middle-class schoolkids with very little life experience and almost zero survival skills would not exactly have been in the running to become overlords in the new Dark Ages. But it was a lovely fantasy.

  • Ah, where are Lysenko and Stalin when we need them?

  • Great comment on the Guardian piece from Guimard http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/17810564

    Ending “…The very idea that people can rationally and fairly look at the evidenced and come to view that is that not the same as AGW proponents is something many of these proponents cannot accept , Kahan, is classic example of that , the rich irony here is that in effect there in denial of reality”

  • Andrew Brown is the Guardian’s religious affairs correspondent, so it’s normal that he should seek a religious solution to climate change, just as their Green Business correspondent seeks a business solution and the chess correspondent thinks the world would stop warming if we’d all sit still and play chess.
    As long as editor Alan Rusbridger believes we’re doomed by global warming, and as long as the Guardian’s catastrophic finances mean that the staff are under permanent threat of the sack, they will be looking for ever more bizarre ways of keeping the doom alive. It’s not just the Maldives, it’s Rusbridger’s £400,000 salary which is at stake.
    Brown’s tactic is more transparent than most – an appeal to authority in the form of an article in Nature. Kahan’s article is no more authoritative than Brown’s, being nothing more than a puff for some research he’s done which apparently demonstrates that society exists, people influence each other. That a Harvard law professor should feel so cocky about having invented sociology from scratch is pretty frightening.
    Brown also show a terrifying ignorance of the subject he’s discussing. He seems to see himself as the John the Baptist of the new religion, but he’s several centuries too late – just another clerk at the Council of Niceaea recording the efforts to find a theological consensus.

  • Jack Hughes
    The Guimard comment picked up a hefty 365 “recommends” from readers. You’re not allowed to “deny” climate change at CommentisFree, but you’re allowed to say that deniers should be listened to and treated humanely, rather as the Christian Brown will listen to Moslems and Jews. The votes for Guimard are a good sign that Guardian readers are still sceptics in the majority.
    What’s less cheerful are the runners up in the comments popularity stakes.

    Atavism (191 recommends) thinks we should stop breeding like locusts
    Hewerga22 (159) sticks up for Buddhism
    BoudiccaBrent (152) thinks the most urgent problem we face is overpopulation
    solocontrotutti (106) in a long ramble thinks that “Andrew rightly identifies a transcendental, communitarian approach to social discourse would be useful” but that “accepting a rich transcendental social discourse based on morality and ‘doing good’ may be difficult for hard nosed liberals to accept”
    koichan (89) thinks we urgently need to bring global population levels back down to sustainable levels
    Atavism (again) (86) attacks Abrahamic religions and rapacious businessmen [where have I heard that conflation before?]
    Jack Piaf (75) sticks up for pagan religions for putting the planet before people
    Berlinenglishman (61) thinks we’re all ***ed.

    The latter remark is a quote from “Ten Billion” the popular Malthusian theatrical piece by Oxford and Cambridge professor Steve Emmott. Since global warming denial has been banned, and warmist defenders like JBowers have largely deserted the sinking ship, the population nutters have taken over at the Graun.

  • Alex #16
    On the survival chances of us middle class types:
    George Monbiot once had a memorable exchange with hippy treehugger Paul Kingsnorth on this subject, in which he accused Kingsnorth of “living in a fantasy world peopled by men in torn jeans and women in fur bikinis”. To which warmist blogger theSnufkin remarked “George has obviously never been in Streatham on a Saturday night”.

  • Andrew Brown’s statement that “it will take the kind of conformism and sense of moral obligation offered by Religious thought and ritual if we are to save the planet” is somewhat disheartening in view of the History of the past two centuries
    Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot all offered ideological discipline to save their respective races/classes with several results in common
    These totalitarisan regimes all featured
    Fraud,
    Mendacity
    Suppression of Thought , Hope , Decency and Aspiration
    Self serving corrupt elitism and exemption from the privations they so merrily inflicted on their subjects
    Mass murder
    Terror, and evenutally warfare on an epic scale
    Needless to say, they all failed even in their own terms…

    Fyodor Dostoyesvksy well knew that the Inquisitor’s Bargain- “give me your freedom and I will give you bread and security” is without exception a fraud whose results are invariably worse than the evils the Inquisitor offered to solve.

    There can be no dispute that surrender of hardwon freedoms and standards to Green ideologues to “Save the Planet” will dwarf all the previous mass killers in horror – and, of course is a fraud, since it is human(e) civilisation- not the planet- which would be threatened by climate change. Only the measures enacted by a Green Tyranny would be worse!

    The best and only answer to a civilsation truly threatened by rising population and shortages of energy and raw materials lies only a few hundred miles away- vertically. We need a new Frontier, not a Prison.
    To checkmate Malthus and Orwell, we must grow to our linits- those imposed by the laws of Physics human ingenuity and ambition.

    ” The Future for Man is All the Universe- or Nothing!”- HG Wells.
    As for “Saving the Planet”, we know already that planets are actually quite common, and rather hard to kill off, whereas Mindful civilisations with the potential to garden our Galaxy are very few, perhaps even only one in number, on evidence to date.

    Human Mind and Achievements thus have a clear and present absolute value in Cosmic Evolution. Until we KNOW that we are not alone, we must and indeed are bound to take all measures necessry for oyr growth and development. It is increasingly clear to all whoi can count beyond four that Astronautics , not Green anti-Humanism disguised as a plnetray necesseity , is the way ahead.

    Our children and grandchildren deserve no less, and should not forgive those who would consign them to a Hell on Earth, however superficially Green it might be. These unborn potential aborted billions have no say, and would far outnumber the mere bagatelles committed by Messrs Hitler or Mao.

    “Man belongs wherever a Keen Eye, Quick Wits, and a Strong Right Arm can Take him!”

  • Andrew Brown’s statement that “it will take the kind of conformism and sense of moral obligation offered by Religious thought and ritual if we are to save the planet” is somewhat disheartening in view of the History of the past two centuries
    Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot all offered ideological discipline to save their respective races/classes with several results in common
    These totalitarian regimes all featured
    Fraud,
    Mendacity
    Suppression of Thought , Hope , Decency and Aspiration
    Self serving corrupt elitism and exemption from the privations they so merrily inflicted on their subjects
    Mass murder
    Terror, and evenutally warfare on an epic scale
    Needless to say, they all failed even in their own terms…

    Fyodor Dostoyesvksy well knew that the Inquisitor’s Bargain- “give me your freedom and I will give you bread and security” is without exception a fraud whose results are invariably worse than the evils the Inquisitor offered to solve.

    There can be no dispute that surrender of hardwon freedoms and standards to Green ideologues to “Save the Planet” will dwarf all the previous mass killers in horror – and, of course is a fraud, since it is human(e) civilisation- not the planet- which would be threatened by climate change. Only the measures enacted by a Green Tyranny would be worse!

    The best and only answer to a civilsation truly threatened by rising population and shortages of energy and raw materials lies only a few hundred miles away- vertically. We need a new Frontier, not a Prison.
    To checkmate Malthus and Orwell, we must grow to our limits- those imposed by the laws of Physics human ingenuity and ambition.

    ” The Future for Man is All the Universe- or Nothing!”- HG Wells.
    As for “Saving the Planet”, we know already that planets are actually quite common, and rather hard to kill off, whereas Mindful civilisations with the potential to garden our Galaxy are very few, perhaps even only one in number, on evidence to date.

    Human Mind and Achievements thus have a clear and present absolute value in Cosmic Evolution. Until we KNOW that we are not alone, we must and indeed are bound to take all measures necessary for our growth and development. It is increasingly clear to all who can count beyond four that Astronautics , not Green anti-Humanism disguised as a planetary necessity , is the way ahead.

    Our children and grandchildren deserve no less, and should not forgive those who would consign them to a Hell on Earth, however superficially Green it might be. These unborn potential aborted billions have no say, and would far outnumber the mere bagatelles committed by Messrs Hitler or Mao.

    “Man belongs wherever a Keen Eye, Quick Wits, and a Strong Right Arm can Take him!”

  • @ Michael Martin-Smith : I’d disagree with the notion that the Inquisitor’s Bargain is always false, preferring to go along with the dictum of Lucius Clay (US military governor of Germany) that “there is no choice between being a Communist on 1500 calories a day, and a believer in democracy on a thousand.”

    As for the tyrants you mentioned, I don’t think Stalin belongs in that set. Notwithstanding his brutality, Stalin’s rule was highly successful in the sense that Stalin took over a backward, agrarian Russia and turned it into a superpower. It is also noteworthy that Stalin was the only one of those four tyrants you mentioned who was totally lacking in any sense of agrarian romanticism — on the contrary, he crushed the kulaks in the interest of building his new urban Soviet civilization.

  • Stalin’s rule was highly successful in the sense that Stalin took over a backward, agrarian Russia and turned it into a superpower

    A myth which keeps on going, but is largely false.

    Tsarist Russia was not totally backward. It was one of the more industrialised countries in fact. It is true that Stalin took over a country where many of the better bits of the Tsarist regime had been shorn off (eastern Poland, the Baltics) but which still had a decent industrial base in the Donbass and around Petersburg.

    Tsarist agriculture was already in the process of industrialising, and was in advance of places like Italy and Spain.

    Nor was Tsarist Russia an intellectual wasteland. It produced outstanding scientific minds like Mendeleev, Pavlov, Sikorskiy etc. It produced outstanding musicians and writers, as we well knew.

    By the time Stalin had left the level of industrialisation in the USSR was no higher than the rest of the world. The Poles had advanced more, until crushed, without the need for forced famines. This was when the whole world was industrialising too. Australia, for example, made enormous strides from 1920 to 1950.

    Meanwhile the Soviet advances in industrialisation had come at a huge cost in other areas. Soviet agriculture was decades behind the west (courtesy largely of Lysenko). Science had gone off a cliff in all areas other than hard physics and maths.

    Even the “superpower” bit of Stalin’s Russia is disputable. Hitler almost won, whilst fighting a second front and under a naval blockade. Only the advent of ICBMs, after Stalin’s time, really put the USSR into full superpower status. Was that really worth it, at the cost of a decent living standard for its people?

    The Soviets made a point of disparaging the advances of Tsarist Russia, and the West largely bought it. It relies on people not actually knowing very much about Tsarist Russia.

  • Minor item; approving of minority activists imposing their views upon the majority; is quite different than minority activists persuading the majority.

  • Self referential critiques of The Church of Crass Generalisations tend to neglect how the self-referetial nature of climate skepticism renders its discourse Lit Crit’s lawful prey

  • Speaking of context-free grammar, there is something of an irony in Russel Seitz’s complaint about postmodern literary criticism. Not only does he show there that he has failed to understand what either are — indeed, the criticism of postmodernism popularised by Sokal and Bricmont seems to have only generated its own hollow jargon that is too easily invoked — his comment here seems to be directed at an argument that takes issue with the constructivism and relativism, and incredulity towards reason that characterise their excesses. He complains about ‘self-referential critiques’, but not only has he got his head up his arse, he tries to speak out of it at the same time.

  • HIs critique would have more validity if the themes he chose to ridicule scepticism with didn’t include several that were demonstably true.

    We can argue about what it means that satellites aren’t showing warming, but you have to take a very blinkered approach to say that the fact itself is untrue.

    The original Hockey Stick is well and truly broken, which is why it has been dragged off stage, to be replaced with melting ice, heat waves etc.

    Water is a stronger greenhouse gas than CO2.

    It would be extremely easy to write ten similar points that make alarmists look silly:
    — the coral reefs are being blanched (despite the fact that coral likes warm water)
    — the poley bares are dying
    etc

  • Mooloo – HIs critique would have more validity if the themes he chose to ridicule scepticism with didn’t include several that were demonstably true.

    Certainly it seems that RS fails to discriminate between better and worse arguments that some sceptics have made. The first argument is most interesting — environmentalism is self-evidently ‘elitist’ insofar as it has entirely failed to build a popular movement, yet nonetheless seems to have moved global politics. I wonder what RS thinks he is responding to.

    But what I find most delicious is the idea that he can talk about ‘memes’ while presenting himself as a critic of postmodern toss.

  • Brown appears to endorse totalitarianism: “Brown now eschews the idea that reason is what makes the individual capable of giving government a mandate through democratic processes, and asks for democracy to be suspended, and for governance to be legitimised instead on the basis of environmental catastrophe.”

    FYI: “Totalitarianism is any political system in which a citizen is totally subject to state authority in all aspects of day-to-day life. It goes well beyond dictatorship or typical police state measures, and even beyond those measures required to sustain total war with other states. It involves constant brainwashing achieved by propaganda to erase any potential for dissent, by anyone, including most especially the state’s agents.” http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/totalitarianism

  • From Indigo Jo Blogs: Global Warming and the circles of denial:

    But in reality, there is not a face-off between these deniers and their friends on one hand, and a mass of mankind who wants to save the earth on the other. Nobody wants to accept that our lifestyle, based on mass consumption of mass-produced manufactured goods (often sourced from far away), on cheap and fast travel powered by petroleum and electricity, and on mass consumption of large quantities of meat, is unsustainable, and no politician will try to sell it to the population as it would be electoral suicide. Hardly anyone is blameless in this except for subsistence farmers in third world countries who do not drive and do not burn huge amounts of fuel daily. Monbiot himself does not believe we should all accept going back to horses and carts, but claims that it is necessary to almost totally eliminate air travel, and proposes a system of rationing of carbon emissions. Of course, barring a violent revolution (which the population of this country will not help bring about), the chances of it being implemented are practically nil. It is not only corporate interests that prevent serious action on global warming; it is democracy, and popular apathy.

    I’ve already posted my own comment there, about how mainstream (ie anti-nuclear) environmentalists are part of the problem, not part of the solution, and indeed how environmentalists actually benefit the Big Oil interests which they claim to be fighting against!

  • the alarmists are truly deranged people. Have just monitored a thread on the Lewandowsky site – does this guy really have a degree – and the level of ad hom abuse from the nalarmists is astonishing. nNo facts. Just ad hom abuse.

    http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/news.php?p=2&t=53&&n=157
    comments 54 and above show a surprising tolerance of intellectual debate

  • Judith Curry has quoted and linked to many papers by social scientists at Climate Etc. I’m absolutely appalled at the quality of most of the work, as an economist, I would not have accepted it from a graduate trainee. In most cases, they seem to have jumped on the CAGW bandwagon as a way of getting their work noticed, presumably having nothing of value to offer on other topics either. My taxes in Australia support Lewandowsky, he shouldn’t even be able to get employment as a clown.

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