March 28, 2007
Real Climate: Save the World! Earn $25 million!
On February 9, The Virgin Group chairman Sir Richard Branson announced a $25 million prize for anyone who can demonstrate “a commercially viable design which results in the removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases so as to contribute materially to the stability of Earth’s climate.”
It's called the Virgin Earth Challenge and the basic challenge is to figure out a method to remove 1 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere in a way that can make money.
Wouldn't it be cool if they could suck carbon out of the air and turn it into diamonds?
What I love about this proposal is:
1) It is predicated by the ability to make money from it.
2) It doesn't involve passing laws or regulations on businesses.
If successful, this really could lead to new, efficient technology that actually runs on waste carbon that is otherwise mostly lost to the air.
I just hope this doesn't suffocate the rain forests.
March 27, 2007
Of course, you all also know that my position regarding the adoption of practices and especially policies and legislation designed to slow or reverse ACC is foolhardy.
Well, in my attempt to read more about these claims that people are causing the global climate to shift and wiggle about in unnatural ways, I've been sniffing around the Real Climate site.
The authors of that blog are climatologists who do generally support the notion that observed, ongoing trends in climate change are significantly linked to human activity.
I found there a letter from one of the scientists, Carl Wunsch, who appeared in The Great Global Warming Swindle. Apparently, his views on ACC were hideously misrepresented.
Make no mistake, his view on the matter is a bit more measured than what we hear from many quarters. Go read the whole letter, but here's an excerpt:
I believe that climate change is real, a major threat, and almost surely has a major human-induced component. But I have tried to stay out of the `climate wars' because all nuance tends to be lost, and the distinction between what we know firmly, as scientists, and what we suspect is happening, is so difficult to maintain in the presence of rhetorical excess. In the long run, our credibility as scientists rests on being very careful of, and protective of, our authority and expertise.
I am on record in a number of places complaining about the over-dramatization and unwarranted extrapolation of scientific facts. Thus the notion that the Gulf Stream would or could "shut off" or that with global warming Britain would go into a "new ice age" are either scientifically impossible or so unlikely as to threaten our credibility as a scientific discipline if we proclaim their reality [i.e. see this previous RC post]. They also are huge distractions from more immediate and realistic threats. I've paid more attention to the extreme claims in the literature warning of coming catastrophe, both because I regard the scientists there as more serious, and because I am very sympathetic to the goals of my colleagues who sometimes seem, however, to be confusing their specific scientific knowledge with their worries about the future.
In the part of the "Swindle" film where I am describing the fact that the ocean tends to expel carbon dioxide where it is warm, and to absorb it where it is cold, my intent was to explain that warming the ocean could be dangerous---because it is such a gigantic reservoir of carbon. By its placement in the film, it appears that I am saying that since carbon dioxide exists in the ocean in such large quantities, human influence must not be very important --- diametrically opposite to the point I was making --- which is that global warming is both real and threatening in many different ways, some unexpected.
How much is it worth to society to restrain CO2 emissions --- will that guarantee protection against global warming? Is it sensible to subsidize insurance for people who wish to build in regions strongly susceptible to coastal flooding? These and others are truly complicated questions where often the science is not mature enough give definitive answers, much as we would like to be able to provide them. Scientifically, we can recognize the reality of the threat, and much of what society needs to insure against. Statements of concern do not need to imply that we have all the answers. Channel 4 had an opportunity to elucidate some of this. The outcome is sad.
I remain confounded and frustrated by the whole global warming discussion and I think Dr. Wunsch's letter expresses knowledge related to some of my concerns.
I'm afraid that I may wind up following this rabbit down the rabbit hole and that strikes me as a dreadful thought.
March 22, 2007
It's a little bit frustrating because while I would like to see that idea thoroughly debunked, I am open to evidence to the contrary. (Emphasis on evidence.)
Recently, Al Gore took his charts and graphs to Congress and talked to them about man-made global warming. According to SciAm, some of the senators showed their butts.
Scientific American Blog: Gore Returns to Senate to Butt Heads With Climate Change Skeptics, Propose Real Solutions
As soon as the Democrats took both houses of Congress, one thing became inevitable: Gore was coming back to the Senate, if only to address his all-consuming passion, climate change.
Today at 2:30 EST, at the behest of Barbara Boxer (D-California), the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Gore got 30 minutes to speak before a packed house. Immediately after, noted climate change skeptic Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), who famously declared that global warming "is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American public," got a chance to lay in to the former vice president, at one point even attempting to ambush him by embarrassing him into signing a pledge that he reduce his
emissionsenergy use to that of a typical American household.
I haven't watched the video from CSPAN, but I think I will -- provided I can get my browser to open something with real-time streaming protocol.
According to SciAm, Gore also addresses the argument that solar energy could be responsible for the observed global warming trend, but what frustrates me about these SciAm posts is that they don't explain it, so I really don't know. I guess I should read more than their blog to find out what they think.
They also mention those pesky environmental models. I don't know about any particular models, but I know models depend heavily on the assumptions made and measures given it when they are created and they can be wildly inaccurate.
We've been over this: given the Deep Green's history of lying, no one should be willing to take them at their word.
I have to admit that I've sort of set up an impossible goal for the pro-anthropogenic global warming crowd, though. I am willing to accept evidence for any argument, really, but I'm also not interested in global warming or even climatology beyond the basic, national and local meteorology. I am not willing to actually dig into the available data at this time.
The whole political and commercial (How much money is being made by the environmentalism industry both in terms of environmental consulting, government subsidies, video sales, Oscars, etc?) aspect of this discussion is tiresome and irritating.
How could someone like me ever hope to dispassionately consider all of the evidence and purported evidence? I don't think someone like me can.
March 17, 2007
Here's one of my most favorite parts:
Q: If you look at all these things, even if you were right ...
A: ...I am right...
Q: ...Isn't there enough empirical evidence and facts we can see with our eyes that imply that Man is demolishing the planet and himself?
A: It's such a nonsense that I have probably not heard a bigger nonsense yet.
Q: Don't you believe that we're ruining our planet?
A: I will pretend that I haven't heard you.
But he does go on as if he did hear them. Still. I appreciate his moxie.
March 16, 2007
And The Independent discusses the history of dishonesty by the film's creators.
These arguments are precisely why the rational layperson has difficulty making up their mind on these issues.
March 15, 2007
Well, I was reading the comments to that YouTube video, The Great Global Warming Swindle, and one person remarked:
Could you guys stop making this about paychecks and conspiracies? Until science (!) has proven either side right. let's assume we do influecne gw, just to be on the save side and not kill oursleves.
Others made similar remarks as well. Their attitude is "since we don't know, we should err on the safe side and stop what we're doing to cause global warming."
I totally appreciate the commenter who responded to this sort of comment with this:
We shouldn't do anything to be "on the safe side." Would you jump out of a skyscraper to be "on the safe side" in the hopes you don't perish in a potential fire? Embracing Green Totalitarianism is suicide, not the safe side.
This whole "precautionary principle" thing is flawed in a very, very big way.
Prior to beginning this new line of discussion on this blog, I had little to no information about the global warming arguments. All I knew was that some people were saying that people are causing it and some people are saying that we're not. And I don't care either way.
Even without knowing who is right and who is wrong about the causes, my position was that people should NOT change their actions, laws should NOT be passed to save the planet, and people should NOT listen to PeTA, the UN, Kyoto anything, GreenPeace, any person claiming to admire Marx, Stalin, Hitler, Guevara, Chavez, or Castro. My position is that progress requires doing things as well as one can at the time; skipping from cavemen to nuclear-powered cities is not an option. And people simply have to deal with the consequences as well as they deal with the benefits of progress. That's life. (A magazine...)
But NOOOOOWWWWWW after reading about some global warming stuff, I think even less of those claims that people are causing global warming. It's a ridiculous idea and the evidence against it is clear.
Let me say this again in another way: People are not causing global warming. CO2 is not a cause of global warming. Global warming does not represent a threat to civilization in the least.
Environmentalists are people who are simply interested in the destruction of civilization and making people miserable the whole way down. Damn hippies.
Back to this Precautionary Principle bullshizzle. From Wikipedia:
The precautionary principle is a moral and political principle which states that if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action.
The precautionary principle is most often applied in the context of the impact of human actions on the environment and human health, as both involve complex systems where the consequences of actions may be unpredictable.
At best, the precautionary principle is harmful and idiotic. At its worst it's an utter non sequitur in the context of this discussion.
Let's start on the sunny side of the street.
If we take the agnostic stance about anthropogenic climate change and say that we simply do not know if human activity is the cause of observed climate changes and we say it's better to be safe than sorry so we should immediately implement legal measures to prevent further harm, then we're condemning the poorest nations to stagnation, death, and mind-numbing drudgery. Environmental policies do not simply belabor progress in those nations, they present insurmountable obstacles.
Consider some poor African nation. Its people work hard to scrape out a living and suddenly they discover oil or coal reserves in their territory. Environmentalists insist that these people ignore them and not use them to generate wealth so that they can live a more civilized existence. Instead, environmentalists propose that they use solar or wind power to get electricity. Unfortunately, environmentalists have no suggestions for how these dirt-poor people will pay for these things.
This is the problem I put forth earlier when I mentioned the leap from cavemen to nuclear-powered cities. You can't do that. Rags-to-riches stories on the scale of a national economy (even if the economy is small) simply do not happen. You have to work up to those things; you have to start with wood and then move to coal and then move to oil and THEN go nuclear.
Since I've set a precedence for repeating myself: it is impossible to expect an impoverished nation to progress to the next level in economic development with the obstacle of being environmentally friendly in their way.
Now, let's consider the impact of such laws on more developed economies such as the United States.
As much as we would like to think of ourselves as space-aged, kindly, hyper-advanced, sophisticated people, we are still irritatingly dependent upon oil and oil-based products for much of our energy. For reasons that go back to government interference in trade, we simply have not developed the infrastructure to being transitioning seamlessly to more advanced, more "green" technology like nuclear power or even solar/wind/geothermal/whatever technology.
So, if we passed laws to support some draconian measures like the Kyoto Protocol, we would doom many of our small businesses to wither and die as the cost of operation leaps out of their reach over night. Larger businesses would be able to absorb the costs, but prices would rise on their products. With the dollar being little more than an I.O.U., such a blow to our economy would be extremely uncomfortable as jobs are lost, pay decreases, the dollar is further devalued, etc.
Naturally, the greens will say they wouldn't implement these changes overnight, but spreading them out over time does not suddenly change their effects from negative to positive. They simply change it from a death sentence at the guillotine to a death sentence by way of a zillion little paper cuts.
So, let's talk about the worst aspect of the precautionary principle as applied to anthropogenic global warming.
IT MAKES NO SENSE.
There isn't any reason to think that man is causing global warming. There was speculation, but the evidence offered to make the case has been undermined and unraveled. So, there isn't any reason to think people are causing global warming. Sooooo, why would you do anything at all?
Since I like humorous analogies, let's consider one.
You saw that movie Jurassic Park, right? Well, we've come quite a long way in our mastery of DNA since 1990 when that book was written. We've actually cloned animals since then!
So, now I want you to squint really hard and listen carefully to this: scientists may have actually cloned velociraptors!!!
EVERYONE, BEGIN FIRING GUNS WILDLY IN EVERY DIRECTION!!!!
That is what it's like to pass laws to slow man-made global warming.
Scientists have NOT cloned dinosaurs, not even the smallest cutest one. Velociraptors are not hunting you right now. Buying guns and shooting carelessly is dangerous and patently unwise.
It just doesn't make any sense to leap from the fact that people have cloned sheep to firing guns wildly. In fact, it's crazy.
If there were some reason to actually think that people are having some detrimental effect on the global environment, then it might make sense to build some awareness about it and encourage people to spend more money to adopt more eco-friendly technology.
I have to emphasize "detrimental" because we have yet to see how global warming is a serious problem worthy of any great concern apart from alarmist predictions about Jake Gyllenhall coming over to my apartment in a parka and I really just don't think that's such a bad thing. Further, it is NOT wise at all to pass laws mandating that people adopt eco-friendly technology. Again, this would injure the economy, prevent further development, and make things generally uncomfortable for everyone.
I think that perhaps one day human beings will master the power to affect the weather and climate on a global scale. That day is not today or any day in the near future. We are not able to do it on purpose or inadvertently and it makes no sense to act as if we are.
People who advocate the "Precautionary Principle" for global warming are doing the leg work for the "Deep Greens." They're the people who vote "on the safe side" for candidates who promise to do something about the environment. They're the people who enable and enact the destruction wrought by environmentalist legislation because they support it -- and not rational thought -- by default.
March 14, 2007
Gay marines. And gay.
Right now, this blog seems like an environmentalism blog. It's like GLOBAL WARMING! Well, except we sit around thinking of reasons to hate environmentalists and discredit claims to anthropogenic climate change.
I'm not even all that interested in environmentalism. Well, I guess I used to not be. It seems like I'm interested now.
That video that Justin showed me really irked me. And all those examples that Inspector gave of environmentalists lying. And the fact that PeTA is in with the greens. (I HATE those people.) And then Chris McKenzie's discussion of the intellectual flaws in the environmentalist arguments (even if I'm not fully on board with them). Add it all up and I'm really kind of irritated with those environmentalists.
And NOW Cox and Forkum has a cartoon up about it. They even mention the video Justin showed me. The cartoon is funny because it's true.
It shows a scientist being stretched on the rack while a druid or priest or something of environmentalism stands over him. The scientist is screaming out that he agrees with anthropogenic climate change so that they'll stop stretching him. And the priest is saying, "Very well... give the heretic back his research funds."
That's kind of what happens. If a scientist DARES question the highly questionable evidence offered up for anthropogenic climate change, then other scientists snub him and he gets his funding taken away. They probably won't even let him eat at their lunch table any more. Shady bastards.
The more you look into the history of the global warming argument and the environmental movement, the more it becomes clear that they aren't just a bunch of man-hating, communist, dirt-worshiping, hippie-freak. They're ALSO a bunch of lying, manipulative cult-leaders.
It's no wonder to me now that when Greg Perkins sees an environmentalist open his mouth all he can hear is the deafening rush of hot air from the void and all Inspector sees is bullseye. It's too bad that you can't just toss a ball in there and watch this whole global warming fuss take the plunge.
March 13, 2007
Well, they also seem to stir up more trouble with things.
Reader Justin calls our attention to this British video that attacks global warming:
And since it's appropriate to the topic, I'll just quote his comment here:
I've always been very skeptical of global climate change. But if what I saw in this documentary can be verified, I think I am now comfortable enough to reject anthropogenic climate change as an interpretation of current warming trends.
Moreover, this documentary illustrates just how intellectually dishonest people like Al Gore or the IPCC truly are.
There are three sections on the science in the documentary that I wanted to highlight.
1) The ice core samples that are constantly cited amongst fear mongers show, without a doubt, a correlation between global temperature and atmospheric C02 levels. However, the documentary claims that the C02 trend actually does not lead the temperature trend, it lags it, in some places by 800 years. Since
cause follows effecteffect follows cause, this would indicate that increases in atmospheric temperature lead to increased C02, not the reverse. This can be readily explained by the fact that the leading contributor to atmospheric C02 -- the ocean -- keeps less C02 dissolved as its temperature increases, just as any liquid has less dissolving power on any gas with increases in temperature (due to an increase in kinetic energy of the individual gas molecules).
2) C02 is in fact a greenhouse gas, but represents only 0.05% of the atmosphere's composition. By far, the most present greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is water vapor. Let's see how Al Gore expects to fix that.
3) If you plot atmospheric C02 versus global mean temperature in the 20th century, one can see a generally increasing trend. However, if you plot solar activity (as measured by cosmic radiation output) versus temperature, the two match each other on a decade-by-decade basis. Solar activity increases drastically until the 1940s, then slows down until the 80s, where it once again increased -- exactly the temperature trend. In contrast, atmospheric C02 emissions have drastically increased since the post-war boom. This is why people in the 70s were warning of "global cooling" as a result of human activity.
I have a friend who may be very upset that they're blaming Margaret Thatcher for global warming. Naturally, I will forward this to him immediately.
PETA on global warming: The most powerful step that we can take as individuals to avert global warming is to stop eating meat, eggs, and dairy products.
No, seriously. They have a website about it.
Which brings me to my new favorite website: Celebrity Wit. YAAY! From the creators of Overheard in New York! WOOHOO!
March 12, 2007
I contextually agree with Trey. If we are talking about how ridiculous one or the other will seem to somone on the surface, I think these rules apply:
In a layperson's context, neither environmentalism nor religion is necessarily be obviously invalid.
In Trey's context, since he grasp's the PoE, religion is obviously irrational, but environmentalism is not since it has the veneer of science.
In my context, since I grasp the PoE and have discovered that environmentalism isn't backed up by any science, both environmentalism and religion are equally ridiculous to me.
Now, we're back to my original objection to the comparison between religion and environmentalism.
Let's consider two different questions:
1) Did God create the universe?
2) Is the pollution from automobiles causing accelerated changes in the Earth's climate?
Assuming absolute ignorance about the entities in question, the rational layperson will ask for more information in order to answer the question.
Fore the first, what's God? What's "the universe?"
There is no satisfactorily non-contradictory answer to the question about what God is. We can thus, answer the question with "no" and not even proceed to seeking evidence for that entity's alleged activities.
For the second, we could begin with what are automobiles? What is the Earth? What is the climate? And we could go on to Is the Earth's climate changing in some way? If so, in what way is it changing? What aspects of the atmosphere, geography, cosmic situation might affect the earth's climate? Might automobiles affect any of these things?
One might reasonably proceed to many questions beyond that.
But all of the entities referred to into the second question above exist within reality. A simple examination of the metaphysical context for the question does not remove it from consideration -- the same cannot be said about questions about God.
This is at the heart of my objection. But for the sake of discussion, let's continue.
The Flood in Genesis
Now, I mentioned before that just because all of the entities in question do exist, does not mean that we can't just reject the claim. An example was given of the flood described in the book of Genesis.
I'd like to clarify the context in which we're about to examine the Genesis flood. In the earlier discussion, I said that one could reasonably reject such a claim out of hand if someone approached you with it because you could be reasonably sure that the person asking the question has some interest in using the claim to support the existence of the supernatural. That's a casual context.
What follows is a discussion of the flood account from a serious, rational, academic perspective. Like many very, very old documents the Bible may represent a viable historical account of ancient events that are unfortunately tainted by mystic editorializing. If we sort out the mystical parts, we're left with what may be an enlightening perspective on the history of human civilization. This is the same line of thought taken while examining ancient documents from other cultures which also contain some mystic elements.
So, we proceed.
Floods are not excluded from the realm of possibility.
A global flood is an absurd notion, barring MAJOR tectonic shifts on a scale that is plainly unsupported by the geologic record. Not only that, a flood of that magnitude isn't even imaginable with a basic idea of the geography of the Earth.
But the Bible is known for allegorical stories, so we might posit that the claim is one such story and perhaps a regional flood might be the source of the claim. Regional floods, though rare, aren't beyond the realm of possibility.
Confining ourselves to the flood claim alone and excluding the parts about Noah's Great Adventure, what a person might reject about the story of the flood from Genesis is 1) that the flood was caused by some supernatural being to punish man for his sin and 2) that the flood covered the entire planet. Further consideration will likely reject the exact measurements (how long it rained, how deep the water was, etc.) from the flood and leave us merely looking for evidence of a regional flood around 2,000 BC that could be the basis for the flood story.
There is nothing epistemologically flawed about the claim that there is a historical basis for the Biblical flood account. The exercise is one of archaeological and historical merit. The answer, yes or no, offers no support for the existence of the supernatural. It merely supports or detracts from the significance of the Bible as a document of historical significance beyond sociology and rudimentary philosophy.
So, assume that I am the person posing the question. You know I'm atheist and you know that I will not misconstrue evidence for a large flood 4,000 years ago as evidence for a supernatural being. So, you can be sure that if I asked such a question, I'm honestly interested in the historical origins of the Biblical account.
The Biblical Burning Bush
Let's consider another Bible story: the burning bush.
In the story of Moses, which occurs in the book of Exodus, Moses kills an Egyptian in the process of defending an enslaved Jew. He flees to the wilderness and joins a band of nomads.
One day, while wandering about, he encounters a shrubbery. He is amazed by the sight, not because bushes can't burn, but while flames consumed this particular bush, the shrubbery was not consumed by the flames. And then the bush talks to him. The bush informs Moses that he, Moses, is hearing the voice of God and that he, Moses, is chosen to lead his people.
Now, what of this story may be considered rationally by a person with even a rudimentary grasp of physical reality and a commitment to reason and truth?
Well, it's possible that Moses was a real person. And it's possible that he killed an Egyptian and had to run away. It's also possible that he joined up with some nomads. It's possible that while he was hanging out with those people he made up his mind to go back into Egypt and help the Jews revolt and get away. Unfortunately, archaeological evidence for all of these things would be next to impossible to find, but we might keep an eye out for accounts of Moses in other documents.
What we can safely reject outright is the notion of a bush that, although consumed in flames, does not burn. We can also reject the idea that God was talking to this Moses person by any means whatsoever.
Basically, the claim about there being a person like Moses is one about which we might raise a skeptical eyebrow given the source, but confine our judgment to "this claim lacks supporting evidence."
The notion of a burning bush, though, we reject outright as bearing no reference to reality. It's so far afield that it qualifies as "not even wrong." It's a fairytale.
No matter who approaches you requesting evidence for the burning bush may be openly mocked, as far as I'm concerned.
The Epistemological Difference Between Religion and Environmentalism
From the very start, religion asks a person to accept its claims on faith. No evidence for God, fairies, magic, gnomes, or anything of the sort is possible. You simply must believe first and then you can go out getting "evidence."
To paraphrase St. Anselm, none of the evidence you find will be sufficient for a non-believer, which is just another way of saying that none of the evidence you find will be sufficient to prove your case rationally.
Epistemologically, religion and claims about the supernatural are "not even wrong." They're arbitrary claims about made-up things. We can't measure them. We can't weigh them. We can't even begin to examine them to see if they're true because the entities in question aren't even part of reality.
We identified earlier that there are some claims that can be rejected at the start because even though all the entities fall within the set of things that exist, the claim as a whole does not. Claims about God do not fall into this category.
Environmentalist claims are different.
It's true in many cases, that Environmentalists also ask you to abandon reason and adopt faith in their claims because they lack evidence. But a lack of evidence for a claim like "anthropogenic climate change" does not exclude the claim from the realm of possibility.
Assuming an honest, rational investigator, you could seek out evidence for the claim. If you fail to uncover any supporting evidence, you simply say, "There's no evidence for this claim, so I don't believe in it."
Some people take this approach with the idea of God. They don't have evidence for God, so they don't believe in God, but they don't reject the possibility that future evidence may be uncovered that would support the claim of God's existence. Such an approach to God represents what Chris McKenzie calls a failure to grasp the Primacy of Existence.
That's not the case with the environmentalists' claims.
Ignoring the fact that is it a gaggle of man-hating liars who make these claims, their claims aren't always the kind we can reject out of hand barring a far more complete understanding of the entities in question.
Let me put it another way: the context of knowledge is paramount when addressing environmentalists' claims, but the same is not the case with regard to that of religionists.
The analytic-synthetic dichotomy is false because it asks us to believe that some knowledge or ideas are derived without any experience or reference to reality. The truth of the matter is that all knowledge even to the most abstract is derived from experience with reality.
"God" is not knowledge. "God" is a string of inconsistent characteristics just mushed together, but is not observed in any entity together anywhere. The same can be said of any supernatural critters. Vampires, fairies, unicorns, manticores, whatever.
Back to man-made climate change. This claim is massive.
"Climate change" is a fact. We know that the Earth's climate changes. We have tons and tons of evidence for various ice-ages, floods, shifting weather patterns and other such things.
The idea that people might be causing climate change is somewhat new because never before in the history of the human species have we had command of such a broad geographic area, mastery over materials and technology, or even such a massive population.
We know that human activity can have a localized effect on climate. We can seed clouds and make it rain. We build huge cities that decrease local albedo and increase the storage of solar energy resulting in what is called a "heat sink" effect where the local temperature is higher than the way things were.
But is human activity so expansive that it might have a global effect? I don't know. I have extreme doubts. But in any case, the notion of anthropogenic climate change isn't removed from reality like claims about the supernatural.
Not ALL environmentalist claims can be regarded as possibly true. Inspector said in comments, "Some claims of theirs, like stuff about Gaia and Animal Rights and 'raping the earth' and such most certainly *are* in the 'outside reality' field." Claims about animal rights are most certainly far afield. I would also say that the claims about genetically modified foods are patently absurd.
The Bottom Line
There's something I am not able to express here quite right. It's like my brain lacks the words to express what I want to say succinctly. That's why this post is so long and I've given so many examples.
I disagree with this statement from Mr. McKenzie's post:
Epistemologically speaking, however, judged on their own merits, religion and environmentalism share the same underlying error in that neither is cognitively related to reality.
I suppose I could go to my copy of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology or Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand to find the right expression for what I mean.
Let's suppose I say that I'm writing this sentence while sitting in my bed. That statement is false.
Now, let's say that I say that I'm writing this sentence from the 74th dimension where I am spooning with Vishnu. That statement is ridiculous and "not even wrong." It's arbitrary and refers to things that just aren't real or possible.
The truth is that I'm sitting on my roommate's sofa in the living room, but I COULD be writing this from bed.
That's the difference between many environmentalists' claims and those of religionists.
Environmentalism is an evil movement because of its man-hating premises, not because its claims are divorced from reality like those of mystics.
I will likely think about this some more and try to come up with a better way of saying this, but if anyone cares to save me the time and energy and you've bothered to read this far, feel free to offer up a suggestion for how to say what I mean briefly.
That is not the case.
Companies exist because consumers are want what they are selling, like food, medicine, toys, computers, or peach-colored, velour tracksuits and gold chains. They do not exist because anyone anywhere is a malicious SOB and just wants to break stuff and mess up the environment.
The ability to manufacture all the things that our society needs without causing ANY pollution is not possible. We simply do not know how to do that. But we do know how to make less pollution in the process.
The problem is that consumers aren't willing to pay ANYTHING for what they want. Would you pay $46,985,202.25 for a Toyota Tercel? (If so, call me immediately. I cannot emphasize this enough; time is of the essence. Supplies are going fast.)
When companies are making products, they have their direct costs (materials and labor) to account for and their indirect costs (manufacturing machinery, buildings, management, regulatory costs, taxes, etc.) to account for. They also have to make enough money on top of that to make it worth the investment. The money made above cost is profit and profit is what people seem to hate.
A business could run on no profits, but not for very long because it would not be able to afford a lull in sales, a surplus of supply, labor, or anything. Not to mention the fact that without profits, the people who do business probably would not be willing to do business at all. They would focus on producing what THEY want for themselves and no surplus. (Profit is actually required for business for many more complex reasons than this. For instance, profit is often necessary to sustain production of less-profitable products.)
So, we can produce things with less pollution, but the problem is that it drives up costs. When we drive up costs, we reduce profits, which often requires that businesses raise prices.
When you raise prices for whatever reason, increased minimum wage rates, more expensive health insurance, a shortage of materials, you lose consumers.
You can probably think of things you've bought when they were on sale when you weren't willing to buy them at full price. If so, you're one of those people who are at the bottom of the spectrum of consumers for that product. You have the least amount of need/desire for whatever it is and when the price goes up, you stop buying and go buy something else.
When the product in question is something that you MUST have, when the price goes up, you still pay, but it means you buy less of something else. Maybe you MUST have a new peach-colored, velour tracksuit and so you buy it, but as a result you can't buy a new, gold chain.
One of the ideas that bureaucrats and petty tyrants like to bandy about is making it more expensive for companies to pollute than it is for them to not pollute. The problem is that this does not reduce the cost of not-polluting and so the price goes up and sometimes it goes up to a point where businesses cannot afford to produce the product any more. This drives the price of the product even higher for those who do produce it and soon demand is completely in the toilet and we all hate politicians even more.
Because politicians aren't stupid, they sometimes also think that they will reduce the cost of not-polluting by offering tax breaks. You might think it clever to combine that with a penalty for polluting, but you actually have to make the penalty greater in order to induce businesses to not-pollute otherwise they would simply pay the fine and continue to pollute. You actually need to make it cheaper overall to not-pollute. This seems feasible to me as long as no one took advantage of the artificial, very specific reduction in costs in the supply chain and as long as it didn't have any negative effects on the rest of the supply chain.
This only works in cases where it is actually, technically possible to reduce pollution.
You also have to be careful about reducing costs in this way because you have not eliminated those costs. In effect, the government is the one who is footing the bill for reducing these costs. (In an ideal system of government such economic manipulations would not only be outlawed but would be impossible.) At some point, the government will want its dollars which usually means an increase in taxes elsewhere, which means that people wind up not being able to afford the new, eco-friendly products anyway.
Anyway, the point here is that business people aren't deciding to pollute because they hate life. They're doing it because it is the most cost-effective (and often the only) means of producing the products consumers want at the price that they want them.
Before you demand that businesses stop producing, you need to consider who is going to pay for the additional costs and how. Usually the people who lose are the poor, those who cannot afford to continue shopping when the prices rise.
If you really want companies to stop polluting, you need to pay more for products that don't pollute. This will encourage companies to invest in that and as investments in non-polluting technologies grow, they will grow cheaper which will encourage more companies to invest in them. This would be a slow, difficult method of achieving the results though.
A faster method of achieving the same result is to figure out a way to make not-polluting actually cheaper.
Pollution represents inefficiency. It's waste and waste is costly. For example, coal. Coal is less efficient fuel than oil. Businesses who burn coal for heat are not as cost-effective as those who use oil and they produce more waste in terms of smoke, ash, and unused energy. Nuclear power is more efficient than oil and it produces less pollution/waste by comparison. At some point there may be some technology that beats nuclear power. If a business could use the waste of its production processes in some way that is profitable, it would. If it didn't it would be driven out of competition by the business who did.
The only way to drive businesses to this optimal situation, though, is via market forces. I say it's the only way because the market's decentralized nature is the only system that can cover all the bases, so to speak, and not artificially force the costs to another sector.
But, in order to use the market to make businesses better (cleaner, cheaper, more profitable), we would have to endorse the present means of doing things first. We have to make businesses work with current technology and continually insist on the lowest prices possible which will drive businesses to seek out more cost-effective means of being efficient.
So, you see, if you want less pollution later, you really need to accept pollution now. (And if you want it to happen more quickly, you also need to free up markets, but I believe you've heard me say that before.)
Meanwhile, Chris McKenzie has posted something very interesting over on his blog about this.
SCThinker: Environmentalism and Epistemology
In Trey's words: "I pointed out that there is a fundamental difference between the global climate and the supernatural, one exists and one does not."
I think we should be careful of the analytic-synthetic dichotomy here. One could re-structure Trey's argument to say that "Religionists claims are analytically false, but environmentalists claims are synthetically false," meaning that religionists' claims are essentially non-logical and self-contradiction, but environmentalists' claims require further study.
Environmentalists' claims do not require further study. Once it has been demonstrated that the environmentalist is making claims in an evidentiary vacuum, that is enough of a reason to dismiss the claims. The environmentalists' claims have no cognitive status. They are not "possible," "probable," "certain," "true," or most importantly: "false." If their claims are not backed up by evidence, then their claims have no cognitive content, and therefore bear no relationship to reality.
This is exactly right and it is what I mean by the "smell test." Just because some sentence makes reference to very real things, it does not mean that the whole statement refers to something in reality.
"Colorless green dreams sleep furiously," thus spake Noam Chomsky. *barf*
The interesting part of Mr. McKenzie's post to me is the fact that fundamentally baseless claims statements don't even qualify for a label of "false."
"Not even wrong." Physicist Wolfgang Pauli describing claims that are so off-base as to not merit consideration.
I would say that if you're in a casual conversation with a person and they say something like, "The use of DDT has increased the rate of occurrence of colorectal cancer in transvestites." You would rightfully inquire where they heard such a thing and you would expect a reference to something you could Google when you got home.
If they said, "I made that up," then you've merely observed an arbitrary claim. It is not even wrong because that claim does not bear any reference to things in reality that we could reasonably extrapolate to even marginal plausibility.
Basically, if you told me that, I'd say, "WHAT?" in a loud voice dripping with incredulity.
Now, if you're at a science conference, say, and someone is about to give a lecture entitled, "The effects of DDT on the rate of colorectal cancer among transvestites" everyone would expect some pretty heavy-duty bits of evidence to support a conclusion one way or the other. You're not allowed to stand up at a conference and just shout out crazy things. That's totally against the rules.
As I pointed out in my previous post, however, when it comes to global warming we are offered evidence -- or at least what appears to be evidence to a layperson such as myself.
So, I would object to this claim:
Finally, it is not the case that religion is "more obviously false" than environmentalism. The Primacy of Existence is implicit in every concept, but explicit knowledge of the PoE is conceptually advanced. Once you have knowledge of the PoE, it is easy to dismiss religion (or the supernatural of any variety). The non-cognitive status for the arbitrary is a corollary of the PoE once you recognize that the purpose of reason is to identify reality. Environmentalism violates the PoE the same way that religion does, by asking you to suspend reason and grant cognitive status to arbitrary claims.
I'm a person with only a nominal amount of information about environmental science and what I know about things that affect the weather doesn't exclude the environmentalists' claims from being plausible given the evidence offered.
What challenges their claim is the fact that the evidence they've offered has so frequently turned out to be false or misapplied to the question, but it is not the case that they don't attempt to offer some relevant information to the question.
This is very much unlike religionists' claims about the supernatural, which by its nature is beyond consideration, examination, and even definition.
Certainly the environmentalists do want us to resort to faith when it comes to their claims, but they've at least been sneaky enough to obscure this fact by offering up facts and figures about this and that.
But since we're on the topic, I want to call out a commentor's remark and my response regarding another aspect of the environmentalist movement.
Reader Britton commented:
Rather than assume everyone is lying...you could always investigate the issue and the science behind it.
My response to this was:
Britton, that's my point. I don't assume that *everyone* is lying. I think too many people grant too much benefit of the doubt to the liars and I think the liars have obscured the scientific facts around the issue to such a degree that if you're like me and you don't really care then investigating the facts is next to impossible.
Inspector's post remarks on this as well:
I appreciate the distinction between an actual environmentalist ideologue ("Deep Green") and someone who does not hate man but is merely acting as a mouthpiece for those who do. No, many scientists acting on Green premises are not misanthropes - but some or many of the assumptions that they make *are* in fact premises created by those misanthropes.
I believe Stalin used the term "useful idiot."
This is one where I agree with Inspector completely and echo his admonishment regarding the environmentalist movement.
I think there are a lot of people out there with a genuine interest in the well-being of humanity. They glance at environmentalism and they see a movement that appears to share that feeling and so they go along with it. They innocently fail to see the malevolence and hatred for mankind.
There is certainly a good comparison here between environmentalism and religion. Lots of people are "C&E Christians" where C&E stands for 'Christmas and Easter.' They only go to church on major holidays. Or there are "good" Muslims and "good" Jews and "good" Buddhists. They're people with good intentions and a desire to be rational, honest, just people, but they fail to inspect the basic premises of the ideology they claim as their own.
I mentioned before that my distaste for religion is far greater than my distaste for environmentalists. I won't excuse an adult for believing in religion because I think that it is a human being's basic task to seek out truth and "faith" is such a fundamental question that if you fail that you will fail elsewhere.
I can see why someone might have a similar reaction to environmentalists, though.
These kind-hearted environmentalists who echo the claims and messages of the "Deep Greens" are cannon fodder in this battle of ideas. They are one of the major reasons the discussion is so cloudy and the facts are so obscure.
You get on blogs or chat rooms and uninformed (but possibly well-intentioned) ignoramuses spew out disconnected facts and figures. And perfectly nice people look at me all askance when I tell them I don't believe in global warming and I don't actively recycle and I don't care about the environment. I've even had people confront me on the issue rather aggressively and then I have to make fun of them to get them to relax about it. I'm sure they mean well, but they aren't helping things.
Casual environmentalists (Light greens?) are almost worse than the Deep Greens in some respects.
And, at the risk of pirating the whole of his post, I want to quote Inspector again because he said it well:
While the label “Deep Green” has its uses, I would be careful with throwing it around. It could be construed to imply that environmentalism as a whole is “okay,” but a few “extremists” (Deep Greens) are "perverting" it (*cough*religionofpeace*cough*). Nothing could be farther from the truth: environmentalism is rotten to the core.
We cannot afford to mistake a movement founded on and driven by malevolent premises to be misidentified. We also can't afford to excuse it because the majority of people supporting it have misidentified it either.
The entire environmentalist movement is a gigantic fraud. They've been systematically lying to us for years and, when you've seen the evidence that I have, it is a very reasonable conclusion to dismiss them out of hand as liars.
They lied about DDT. They lied about many of the major "toxic spill" scares (including Erin Brockovich; turns out the evidence didn't support the claims of that lawsuit). They lied about nuclear power and three mile island. They lie about ethanol, genetically modified foods, they lie about “organic” foods, they lie about the Amazon rainforest, they lied about “resource depletion,” they lied about “overpopulation,” they lied about recycling, they lied about Alar, and of course they lie about Global Warming.
They lie repeatedly, they lie consistently, and they lie on principle. (see Ayn Rand and Peter Schwartz for the philosophical reason for this) There hasn't been a single environmental "cause" that I know of where they *haven't* lied. After a certain point, you'll realize that they are Not To Be Listened To - in the same way and for the same reason that Evangelicals are properly ignored.
He provides links as reference as well, but I'm not going to copy those. You have to visit his blog for the rest.
He does pose some questions about when you can safely dismiss someone's wild claims out of hand and when you can't. My rule of thumb is to dismiss anything that doesn't pass a basic, logical smell test.
The universe is 4,000 years old? False. It is false on its very face. It is not possible to offer up any supporting evidence for such a claim without denying the whole of the rest of reality. You might as well claim magic.
Jews cause cancer? False. (Although we might ask what you mean by "cause" because a Jew might wield a radioactive isotope as well as a Gentile, I guess.) Again, such a claim will require either denying the rest of medical science or abusing statistics in such a way that a school child might rightfully slap you about the head and shoulders for the attempt.
Just because a claim contains referents that exist in reality doesn't mean that the whole of the claim is within reality.
A better comparison to the "anthropogenic climate change" claims might be to something like a claim that the introduction of a gene into soya beans to make them produce methionine also results in making them allergenic to individuals with a pre-existing allergy to brazil nuts. (The chemical company Pioneer actually tested this and it proved to be true.)
This is because the claim that man is doing things to change the climate passes the smell test. People ARE building huge cities, cutting down forests, spewing smoke and junk into the air and water and lots of other things that affect the temperature of the air in large areas, affects the amount of water that evaporates and enters the atmosphere, and does all kinds of stuff. I can see how it might be possible that people are causing climate change.
The basis for discarding environmentalists' claims is because they have ruined their own credibility by lying. Inspector has given us many, many examples of times when they've done this. At least in a casual context, anything alleged by the "Friends of Earth" or "Greenpeace" or whatever environmentalist organization makes them. They are the boy who cried wolf.
I still think that for as long as one has the interest and resources, claims that aren't beyond the realm of possibility should be investigated.
Again, I want to reiterate that my objection is not that environmentalists haven't soiled themselves or their credibility. Environmentalists have lied repeatedly. Similarly, religious people have lied repeatedly. We can compare the two as liars.
But unlike environmentalists, all of the religious nuts' claims can be disregarded because the content of all of their claims references something outside of reality.
(Given Inspector's list, I would not be surprised, though, if some of the environmentalists' claims fail the "smell test" as well, though.)
I even agree with the objection to the environmentalists' man-hating premise. I think comparing it to religion on that front is apt as well.
My sole objection is to the comparison of their content.
March 09, 2007
I simply don't think about them or their issues very much.
Part of me doesn't care about the environment; my response to the notion that the ozone is disappearing and the globe is getting hotter is to go buy an air conditioner and more sun block. If the environment changes, I figure people will just learn to deal with it and I think that's fine.
Part of me is irritated by all the fuss around environmentalism. It's very political. People get very loud and righteous about it and there are precious few facts available. If you see a report claiming this, you'll soon see a report or article claiming the opposite and poo-pooing the previous report. It's clear that some people are lying and, unfortunately, they seem to be the ones on the more popular side of the discussion.
The bigger part of me is the part that just doesn't care about environmentalism very much.
I love these buildings that people are building that re-use, purify and recycle their water. And the ones that make their own electricity. I read about one house that actually sells its excess electricity to a nearby town! And these houses look really cool and very comfortable. That's awesome to me.
Of course, those houses are also very expensive and barring some unexpected boost to my budget, it is unlikely that I will soon invest in one of those houses or buildings.
From a certain perspective, you might call me an environmentalist because I think it's a good idea for people to invent more efficient technology that produces less waste and dangerous pollution.
But I am fundamentally opposed to government regulation to drive us in that direction and I am fundamentally opposed to any changes that will make my life less comfortable in any way.
In the summer in New York, if you look up or down one of the Avenues, you'll see a dark haze that looks like smoke. Last summer, I was convinced that it really was smoke from a fire, but I was wrong and it can't be good that we're breathing that in every day. So, my thought is that if we can stop making that gross smog stuff, that would be a good thing.
I doubt anyone would really call me an environmentalist because my premise is that I want the environment improved for the purpose of bettering the lives of people. I want clean air because clean air is good for people. I want more efficient machines because more efficient machines leave more resources for people to use on other things. I want less trash and waste because less trash and waste leaves more room and stuff for people to enjoy. It's all about people for me.
I do not care about spotty owls, stripey salamanders, or argyle penguins in themselves. My interest in nature is predicated by a love for people and my life as a human being and it is only on that basis that I support any sort of concern for "nature."
Like, I'm totally fine with strip mining if that's the best we have.
So, I doubt anyone would REALLY call me an environmentalist, but I kind of am.
REAL environmentalists are a little bit nuts. Like these people. Those people are a lot nuts.
The category "environmentalist" in the useful sense of the word seems to be defined by a concern for "nature" that supersedes a concern for human life, well-being, or even survival as a species.
Environmentalists are kind of like animal welfare activists except instead of being concerned about the well-being of animals, they're concerned about the well-being of the planet -- minus humans and everything humans do.
Now, not all environmentalists seem to be the ones saying things like David M. Garaber, a scientist with the National Park Service, who said "Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along."
Which brings me to a nod to Greg Perkins who recently posted on how frighteningly dishonest many of the extreme environmentalists are. He calls them "Deep Greens" and I like that term. Greg compares the Deep Greens to Religious Whackos.
This suggests a way to understand my emotional stance toward Gore, and my cognitive bias away from him in favor of his critics: picture slick Creationist presentations. They will include some solid logic and facts, but also exaggeration, distortion, error, and even intellectually dishonest material. And having identified something as Creationist in nature, you know that the entire project is not reason looking for the truth, but religious dogma looking for a rationalization -- any rationalization, factual or not, logical or not, honest or not, destructive or not. Sure, the better proselytizers tend toward the good poles, but no matter where they land in the spectrum, they are still on a mission of rationalization and not of reason. So if you consider the cause of your (hopefully!) differing levels of eagerness to accept data and conclusions from "scientific" Creationists as against other scientists, you will see the cause of my analogous stance regarding the "scientific" Greens as against other scientists.
Greg's post comes in the wake of his having viewed Al Gore's Academy Award Winning propaganda piece, An Inconvenient Truth.
I haven't watched that video and I have no intention of watching that video. I am positive that it's just a bunch of propaganda and I already believe that it ignores facts that are relevant to the discussion. I also believe that Mr. Gore is one of these people starting from the malevolent premise that human beings are always wrong.
Environmentalists don't bother me very much because I don't think about them very much. Religious people bother me.
During the discussion on Greg's post, I pointed out that there is a fundamental difference between the global climate and the supernatural, one exists and one does not.
But we come back to Greg's point here:
And having identified something as Creationist in nature, you know that the entire project is not reason looking for the truth, but religious dogma looking for a rationalization -- any rationalization, factual or not, logical or not, honest or not, destructive or not. Sure, the better proselytizers tend toward the good poles, but no matter where they land in the spectrum, they are still on a mission of rationalization and not of reason.
The Deep Greens are the same way. They're looking for rationalizations to support their anti-human premises and those rationalizations often come in the form of misleading presentations like An Inconvenient Truth.
If a friend of mine comes up to me and says, "Trey, mankind is harming the environment and we should recycle immediately to stop and reverse the damage being done to our planet."
I probably wouldn't say, "You think recycling with do that? And why is the planet all that important to you?"
I am far more likely to say, "You know, I don't believe in global warming. I lack sufficient evidence to determine its existence (and I'm not interested in getting any evidence either way) let alone its causes. It's unfortunate that this topic has become so politicized that the basic facts of the question are obscured to a point where it is impossible for someone like me to reach a conclusion."
I do my best to end such discussions among my friends because none of my friends go around with facts and references sufficient to illuminate and settle the discussion. At this point, I doubt that such facts have been accumulated and if they have I doubt I could recognize them thanks to all the meanderings and lies of the environmentalists.
Is the anti-global warming crowd free from liars as well? I don't know.
But the reason I won't talk about environmental topics isn't because it's about the environment whereas I won't talk to religionists about religion because the topic is religion. For the sake of emphasis let me engage in a written colloquialism: MAGIC. DOES. NOT. EXIST.
Ok? So, if you want to talk about magic, I sure hope there's a joke in there, because I am not going to seriously entertain claims to the contrary.
But I have a particular beef against folks of religion. They bother me. It irks me that anyone believes in magic. It offends my peace of mind to imagine that I am surrounded by people who believe in things that are excluded from existence by their very definitions. And I resolutely refuse to date those people and I don't care how nice, sweet, funny, handsome, or smart they are.
Some people share my distaste for that sort of people, but there are also people who seem to feel that way about environmentalists. One such person seems to be the blogger(?) Inspector. Dude hates those sons of bitches and with good reason it would seem.
It seems like there are a lot of otherwise good, reasonably people caught up in this buzz about the environment. People like my friends with whom I mentioned I refuse to have lengthy discussions about things like global warming.
But when I consider the comparison of the environmentalism movement to that of various religions, I find some ready counterparts. As surely as there are people actively trying to convince you that Allah wants to throw stones at you for looking at a woman's chin, there're people like Al Gore trying to tell you that we're all going to be sucked into space because some woman in Jersey uses too much Aquanet. Coincidentally, that woman is named Aquanetta and she's not going to stop because she feels like it's a destiny thing.
Also, there are lots of people out there who don't believe in Allah per se, but they "respect" Islam. There are also people, often those same people, who think that environmentalists have a point even if they themselves don't recycle or whatever.
The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. Whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles.
-Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
I question the idea of lumping all environmentalists and environmentalist sympathizers into one big group, but it is undeniable that this evil premise -- Man is evil and human life is less valuable than dirt, rocks, plants, and worms -- is at the root of the problem. And environmentalists are perpetuating that premise with the help of their sympathizers.
It's a mess, this whole discussion about the environment and, as mentioned, that's one of the reasons I stay away from it. As if I need another reason to be irritated with some people's foolishness.
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