Monday, February 08, 2010
The Catholic Church Once Reigned In The West
This thought dominated my musings as I salted, shoveled and hacked ice this weekend (another 6-8 inches is probably on its way by mid-week, so I wanted to get down to bare ground ASAP). The humor of it somewhat distracted me from my black-ice bruises.
I realize that many people like the idea of carbon dioxide regulation as a framework for a new world order that will be all compassionate and wonderful and stuff, but this of course means that it is a religion which desires secular rule. And look around while considering the past. While ethics are a needed component of secular rule, things never work out well when the priesthood DOES rule. Perhaps it is true that those who have no sense of history are doomed to repeat it.
Of course some of those who do have this religious fervor claim to be different on the basis that CO-2 induced AGW is scientifically proven, and thus they claim that they are advocating a governmental scheme based on reality and science rather than faith.
However that concept has been failing under the weight of very solid evidence, which was brought to a laughable conclusion this weekend, demonstrating that it is not only not science but as a religion it seems to fall in the class of a cult. I refer, of course, to the Oral-Roberts-like declaration by Phil Jones that he had considered suicide and that he felt persecuted by freedom of information requests which were designed to "discredit" the unit's work.
How can anyone discredit science with information unless the conclusions drawn from that information can be shown to be incorrect? The worry alone tends to prove (and the emails confirm and programs confirm) that this unit was engaged in systematically misrepresenting the data.
All of this is not helped by the continuing revelations about the latest IPCC report, which is now shown to have been compiled at least partly for completely political reasons with no respect for underlying fact. Nor the very obvious US misrepresentations, nor the fact that Australia's official climate unit can't support its "official" temperature trends with data. It now claims that it lost the data. Haha.
So now we break down the supporters of the CO-2 extreme endangerment into two groups. There are some scientists who truly believe in it based on the work they have done. This group is pretty embarrassed by the behavior of the Phil Jones/Michael Mann crowd - but apparently very few of them are embarrassed enough to openly criticize them, or to agitate for a more scientific way to sift and collate the data. Therefore most of them are corrupt, in the same way that the leadership of the Catholic church was corrupted during the medieval times. Why should anyone trust them? How can the average person separate fact from fiction, and science from belief? How can most of us know which of these people are truly honestly studying and reporting? And if their own honest work is somewhat dependent upon the dishonest work of others, aren't they perhaps confused themselves? Honestly confused, but still in danger of delusion?
And then there are those who are unequivocally religious adherents to this point of view. They believe in it due to the fact that they think believing in it will provide a better way forward for humanity. One may admire their idealism, but I am horrified by their implicit dismissal of science itself.
It is not just our ethics which have improved the lot of the average human being - it is science. While the history of the last century alone proves that science without ethics can be terrifying, the history (past and current) of religions trying to rule isn't very inviting either. Science provided a neutral zone in which facts were privileged, just as the Reformation challenged the supremacy of a corrupted priesthood by a return to biblical religion (the checkpoint), and just as Judaism, as diverse as it is, is founded on texts which are both religious and historical, providing their checkpoint.
The culture of western enlightenment rests on the value of the individual (an axiom derived both from experience and religion), the axioms and ethics of science and its effects (our civilization is a technological and agrarian one), and a recent political tradition of split power centers and the consent of the ruled in society. This three-legged stool seems to be stable and is capable of producing considerable material and ethical progress. The fact that slavery alone has been nearly abolished globally is proof of that progress.
And science can only exist in a framework in which the fundamental data is respected above all else, and in which skepticism is privileged. Both of these fundamentals have been ignored by the IPCC form of "climate science". Science itself is a belief system based on a few axioms, but its belief system is confined to those few axioms, and its validity is based on the fact that scientific consensus about any further derived axioms can always be successfully challenged with contradictory and reproducible evidence.
I always suspected that the theory and practice of scientific method has been one of the fonts of the western enlightenment, and that destroying its place in our civilization would destroy our civilization. Watching Phil Jones climb up Oral Roberts' tower has confirmed me in that belief.
PS: The basic axioms of science are very few, although the body of scientific study has built up a mass of derived axioms (things which have never been disproved and which appear to be true because they are confirmed by the known observations). The first and most important is the concept that the natural world does exist externally to us, follows its own rules, and follows consistent rules. The second is that although we interact with that reality and are a part of it, we do not determine it except in very limited and localized ways. Science is the accumulated body of knowledge by which we describe our observations and conclusions about this axiomatic reality, and scientific method is the process which we have found to be the best way of creating a consistent, provable, and useful set of conclusions about that reality.
Most westerners are not aware of this axiomatic belief system underlying science because it is now so universal in our culture, but cultures have been founded on a different set of axioms. They haven't been that successful over time. In many ways post-modern thought about science and now climate science of the IPCC variety are an attempt to subvert scientific method. I cannot see how this will not destroy our ability to generate and use the body of knowledge we call science.
I noticed Ann Althouse posted on it. My first reaction was that it was making fun of this type of environmentalism, but if so it was a very bad way to sell a car.
I think I will read that book. I have read Freud. Because it's not a natural way of thinking to me, I do not feel qualified to comment on such a deep field and I don't think my ability to handle those concepts would be improved by more study.
But one thing I have noticed about Freud and some of his compatriots was that some of their descriptions of abnormal personality development that I read when I was young have tallied much more closely with my life experience than with the currently commonly accepted explanations.
In any case, one thing about human beings appears to be proved by evidence. We are very adept at changing our circumstances - most especially at manipulating and adapting the natural world. We are very bad at changing ourselves, and very poor at understanding ourselves. Both individually and in groups, we repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
Because of that pattern, I think the new thing always bears a promise of freedom that never bears fruit in practice. The inherited "shalt nots" exist for a reason; they are like signposts warning us away from ravines. But these ravines are the ones we generate, and every time we see new territory we charge into it, hoping and believing that now we can ignore those foolish signposts, describing them as artifacts of a distant geology. And every time, we find on closer inspection that what appeared to be a bountiful plain with no hazards is filled with the same types of ravines, in very similar places. That's because these are human ravines, not geological features. Ravines of the personality.
The power of science to both generate useful knowledge and thereby change human culture seems to me to have been rooted in its own self-imposed limitations - skepticism, advancement by disproof, and a requirement to maintain external review and to limit itself to studying natural phenomena. Cut that away and yes, it is just another human battleground.
I have been a reader of the Real Climate (The premier AGW proponents site.) blog site for about eight years. The first two years I used to comment and ask questions about their science and prescriptions for stopping CO2 emissions. It became abundantly clear that these people were not open to anything that challenged their views. Their general belief that CO2 emissions could be slowed or halted by conservation, mass transit, bicycles, wind power and solar power convinced me they were in denial. I had read a lot of Steven Den Beste's essays on the issue and knew that mitigation of CO2 emission involved huge changes and dislocations unless it was done slowly over a period of 50+ years.
Eventually my comments were no longer accepted because "I was not adding to the discussion." I continued to read the site, but also started reading many skeptic sites as well. It was then I began to realize how thin their science really was. I also began to notice that most of the Real Climate articles were devoted to disparaging any papers or articles that cast doubt on their grand theory. Not with sound reasons as to why they were wrong only that, "We have looked at this and it just isn't true." or words to that effect.
However, the MSM were trumpeting their ideology. The editor of the Seattle Times refused to print a letter to the editor about AGW because "The Science is settled." I began to believe that the best we could hope for was to slow the express that was headed for crippling our economy. Then the Climategate e-mails and computer code were exposed. It gave me a feeling of relief much like when the Berlin Wall fell. Both were barriers to continued freedom in the world, and both fell suddenly and unexpectedly.
All that said, changing a person's faith is not easy. This is going to be a tough, hard-fought battle to bring sense and balance back to the issue of energy usage and economic freedom. At least we have a chance of getting it right now.
Your comments on ignoring sign posts warming of danger reminds me of the most dangerous comment in economic, "This time is different."
There is nothing very much new under the sun, I suspect.
This is why post-modernism poses such a threat to civilization. The idea that there is no external truth, that "truth" is determined by the dominant narrative, has been hammered into millions of brains to a greater or lesser extent. The worst of it is that the most affected have been those who should have been our best-trained. It is possible that the tide has turned, but there is much danger and heartache still in front of us.
M_O_M, your talk about "shalt nots" puts me in mind of this:
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."
That's why the most important one of all is the one about false gods. Global Warming is a false god, government is a false god, "the economy" is a false god, religion is a false god, etc. Not that any of these things is necessarily wrong or bad, it's the worshipping of them that makes them wrong and bad.
-Mrs. Jean Underwodd
--Peter Drucker, 1969(!)
But I know what's good for me, and thus quoted and linked you here.