Freitag, November 12, 2010

Environmentalism as Secular Religion...

This was interesting to read.

First and foremost, it's a bit of a hatchet job on someone that the author readily admits he can't understand, done in the name of discounting Dyson Freeman's arguments about anthropogenic global warming.

But the quote that really popped out was this:

Environmentalism does indeed make a very satisfactory kind of religion. It is the faith in which I myself was brought up. In my family, we had no other. My father, David Brower, the first executive director of the Sierra Club and the founder of Friends of the Earth, could confer no higher praise than "He has the religion." By this, my father meant that the person in question understood, felt the cause and the imperative of environmentalism in his or her bones. The tenets go something like this: this living planet is the greatest of miracles. We Homo sapiens, for all the exceptionalism of our species, are part of a terrestrial web of life and are utterly dependent upon it. Nature runs the biosphere much better than we do, as we demonstrate with our ham-handedness each time we try. The arc of human history is unsustainable. We cannot go on destroying natural systems and expect to survive.

Hence: when looking at what environmentalists write, say and propagate, this is what lies at the core of their thought. It is a religion.

The author continues:

Freeman Dyson does not have the religion. He has another religion.

"The main point is religious rather than scientific," he writes, yet never acknowledges that this proposition cuts both ways, never seems to recognize the extent to which his own arguments proceed from faith. Environmentalism worships the wisdom of Nature. Dysonism worships the indomitable ingenuity of Man. Dyson often suggests that science is on his side, but lately little of his popular exposition on planetary matters has anything to do with science. His futurism is solidly in the tradition of Jules Verne, as it has been since he was 8 and wrote "Sir Phillip Roberts's Erolunar Collision." On the question of global warming, the world's climatologists and scientific institutions are almost unanimously arrayed against him. On his predictions for the future of ecosystems, ecologists beg to differ. Dysonian proclamations like "Now, after three billion years, the Darwinian interlude is over" are not science.

Bingo: at the core of the AGW controversies is a religious dispute.

And finally:

Dyson, clearly a busy man, was extraordinarily generous with his time with me at an early stage of my career. His allowing me to be present at an intimate family affair—his reunion with George—provided the climax and denouement for my best and most successful book. In the field, Dyson was an amusing and never-boring companion. Never have I had a relationship of such asymmetrical understanding. Dyson always got the drift of my ideas and sentences before I was three or four words into them, but the converse was not true. When the physicist spoke of his own pet subjects—quantum electrodynamics, say, or certain characteristics of the event horizon in the vicinity of black holes—I had no idea what he was talking about. Dyson is a discoverer of, and fluent in, the mathematics by which the fundamental laws of the universe operate, and in that language I am illiterate.

This is something that constantly and consistently strikes me of being at the core of the problem: that there is no communication, largely because there is a fundamental lack of understanding because one side is functionally illiterate.

An example: when economists talk of consumption, we don't mean that the goods involved are destroyed. For the Club of Rome and others, they assumed that when copper was used for any particular purpose, it was effectively destroyed, never to be used again, which led to their fairly absurd dire forecasts. I've had enough discussions with secular religionists, aka ecologists, who whilst claiming to understand the complexities of the ecosystems to the point where they felt able to forecast dire results, were economic illiterates who, at the same time, were proscribing economic solutions.

Which makes about much sense as me, your humble economist, trying to tell farmers how to farm best. I can't: I can tell them how to perhaps be more productive, but I can't tell them how to farm. I don't know the faintest about farming except what I have read, and that tells me that I really don't know the reality of farming.

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