24 March, 2011

Environmentalism as Religion

From “Mankind’s Greatest Challenge”, Remarks to the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, September 15, 2003, by Michael Crichton:
Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism.  Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it’s a religion?  Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.
There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability.  Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment.  Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.
Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday—these are deeply held mythic structures.  They are profoundly conservative beliefs.  They may even be hard-wired in the brain, for all I know.  I certainly don’t want to talk anybody out of them, as I don’t want to talk anybody out of a belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God who rose from the dead.  But the reason I don’t want to talk anybody out of these beliefs is that I know that I can't talk anybody out of them.  These are not facts that can be argued.  These are issues of faith.
And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism.  Increasingly it seems facts aren’t necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief.  It’s about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved.  Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom.  Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.  [...]
With so many past failures, you might think that environmental predictions would become more cautious.  But not if it’s a religion.  Remember, the nut on the sidewalk carrying the placard that predicts the end of the world doesn’t quit when the world doesn’t end on the day he expects.  He just changes his placard, sets a new doomsday date, and goes back to walking the streets.  One of the defining features of religion is that your beliefs are not troubled by facts, because they have nothing to do with facts.  [...]
How will we manage to get environmentalism out of the clutches of religion, and back to a scientific discipline?  There's a simple answer:  we must institute far more stringent requirements for what constitutes knowledge in the environmental realm.  I am thoroughly sick of politicized so-called facts that simply aren't true.  It isn't that these “facts” are exaggerations of an underlying truth.  Nor is it that certain organizations are spinning their case to present it in the strongest way.  Not at all—what more and more groups are doing is putting out is lies, pure and simple.  Falsehoods that they know to be false.  [...]
Because in the end, science offers us the only way out of politics.  And if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost.  We will enter the Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting fears and wild prejudices, transmitted to people who don't know any better.  That's not a good future for the human race.  That’s our past.  So it’s time to abandon the religion of environmentalism, and return to the science of environmentalism, and base our public policy decisions firmly on that.

From “Environmentalism as Religion”, by John M. Ostrowski:
It should not surprise us that environmentalists demand sacrifices, for any religion demands sacrifices.  And like other religions, environmentalism is a human-centered one.  Yes, in its purest form, it is Earth worship; its reverence is directed at something decidedly non-human.  However, the beliefs and tenets of the faith concern humans and their role in natural history.  Inevitably, in the modern world, this role is an antagonistic one for the environmentalists. Humans are the problem, and the solution will demand some bane to human beings.  It is this simple fact that has led Peter Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace and a man who has become disaffected with the environmental zealots, to call environmentalists “anti-human.”
Whereas most religions seek the betterment of humanity, environmentalism is unique in that it seeks the opposite.  The sacrifices that it demands be made will result in severe harm for those who need help the most.  In the developing world, environmentalists see an excellent area for proselytization and a place to implement their policies – for existing infrastructure is hard to change, but poor countries provide environmentalists with a tabula rasa.  They preach the need for solar and wind power in the developing world.  These two forms of energy, however, are not reliable or powerful enough for a world that is looking to industrialize.  Imagine, for example, a modern factory of any type running completely on solar or wind power.  Difficult to imagine?  Of course.  If the environmentalist vision of the developing world is allowed to take root, billions of people who can benefit greatly from industrialization will be condemned to poverty for the rest of their life.  It’s sad that rich, Western environmentalists are so quick to demand this sacrifice of others.  That the people they demand it of are the ones who will be harmed the most by it is downright reprehensible.
Finally, like many religions, there is a strong emphasis in environmentalism on the end of the world.  Fear mongering and predictions of the apocalypse are the primary evangelizing tools of environmentalists.  In the past we’ve endured warnings about overpopulation, nuclear holocausts, and now a global climate disaster.  And like the apocalyptic predictions of other religions, those of environmentalism have never come to pass.  But luckily for them, people have a short memory, and fear is a powerful persuasive tool.  By the time it is clear that anthropogenic climate chance not only won’t cause the end of the world but also isn’t even happening, no one will remember the hyperbolic claims made by environmental zealots.  Instead, we will be entertaining their latest apocalyptic fantasy.

From “The Economics of Climate Change:  an Appeal to Reason” (a lecture given to the Centre for Policy Studies, London, on November 1, 2006), by Lord Nigel Lawson:
The new priests are scientists (well rewarded with research grants for their pains) rather than clerics of the established religions, and the new religion is eco-fundamentalism.  But it is a distinction without much of a difference.  And the old religions have not been slow to make common cause.
Does all this matter?  Up to a point, no.  Unbelievers should not be dismissive of the comfort that religion can bring. If people feel better when they buy a hybrid car and see a few windmills dotted about (although perhaps not in their own back yard), then so be it.  And in a democracy, if greenery is what the people want, politicians will understandably provide it, dressed in the most high-flown rhetoric they can muster.
Indeed, if people are happy to pay a carbon tax, provided it is not at too high a level, and the proceeds are used to cut income tax, that would not be a disaster, either.  It would have to be a consumer-based tax, however, since in the globalized world economy industry is highly mobile, whereas individuals are much less so.  But the new religion of eco-fundamentalism does present dangers on at least three levels.  
The first is that the governments of Europe, fired in many cases by anti-Americanism (never underestimate the extent to which distaste for President Bush has fuelled the anti-global warming movement), may get so carried away by their rhetoric as to impose measures which do serious harm to their economies.  That is a particular danger at the present time in this country.  No doubt, when the people come to suffer the results they will insist on a change of policy, or else vote the offending government out of office.  But it would be better to avoid the damage in the first place. 

The second, and more fundamental, danger is that the global salvationist movement is profoundly hostile to capitalism and the market economy. There are already increasing calls for green protectionism – for the imposition of trade restrictions against those countries which fail to agree to curb their carbon dioxide emissions.  Given the fact that the only way in which the world’s poor 
will ever be able to escape from their poverty is by embracing capitalism and the global market economy, this is not good news. 

But the third danger is even more profound.  Today we are very conscious of the threat we face from the supreme intolerance of Islamic fundamentalism.  It could not be a worse time to abandon our own traditions of reason and tolerance, and to embrace instead the irrationality and intolerance of eco-fundamentalism, where reasoned questioning of its mantras is regarded as a form of blasphemy.  There is no greater threat to the people of this planet than the retreat from reason we see all around us today.

From “Global Warming as Religion and not Science”, by John Brignell:
Faith is a belief held without evidence.  The scientific method, a loose collection of procedures of great variety, is based on precisely the opposite concept, as famously declared by Thomas Henry Huxley:
The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such.  For him, scepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin.
Huxley was one of a long tradition of British sceptical philosophers.  From the Bacons, through the likes of Locke, Hume and Russell, to the magnificent climax of Popper’s statement of the principle of falsifiability, the scientific method was painfully established, only to be abandoned in a few short decades.  It is one of the great ironies of modern history that the nation that was the cradle of the scientific method came to lead the process of its abandonment.  The great difference, then, is that religion demands belief, while science requires disbelief.  There is a great variety of faiths.  Atheism is just as much a faith as theism.  There is no evidence either way.  There is no fundamental clash between faith and science – they do not intersect.  The difficulties arise, however, when one pretends to be the other.  [...]
One of the most notorious demagogues of the godless religion is Al Gore.  He is certainly no great orator, but he makes up for it with chutzpah.  His disregard for truth is exemplified by his characteristic and ubiquitous pose in front of a satellite photograph of hurricane Katrina.  Even some of the most vehement climate “scientists” refrain from connecting that particular isolated and monstrously tragic event with global warming.  Likewise his Old Testament style prophecies of further disasters, such as floods due to a rise in sea level, greatly exceed the more modest claims of the “professionals”.  As in the overthrow of the cities of the plain and other biblical prophecies, Gore promises a rain of fire and brimstone on us, unless we change our ways.
Gore also displays all the characteristics of the classical religious hypocrite.  He disregards his own proscriptions with abandonment and ostentation.  By his own measure (carbon footprint) his sins are great; at least twenty times those of the average American.  It is all right though, because he purchases absolution (carbon offsets) through his own company.  As he is a private individual it is not known whether he profits directly, but at a minimum he does not pay out of his taxable income and, worst of all, he demonstrates that the rich are immune from any of the actual privations that attachment to the new religion visits upon its poorer adherents.  This is also not unknown in traditional religions and has been a source of material for satirists throughout the centuries.  [...]
Freedom of speech and publication is at the very heart of science.   Even the most foolish of hypotheses is allowed to be offered for examination.  In much of religion the opposite is true; challenging the established dogma is heresy, for which the punishment has ranged from ostracism to horrific torture and death.   One of the greatest ironies produced by the successful policy of entryism by the eco-theologians is that it is none other than the Royal Society that has been orchestrating the attempt to censor any deviation from establishment beliefs.  Authoritarian politicians, such as Congressman Brad Miller, would give such suppression the force of law.
It is a curious repetition of history that those who advance the hypothesis that the sun is the controlling element in changes of climate are vilified, just as Galileo was, for supporting the Copernican heliocentric description of the solar system.  Yet the sun is clearly the driver for climate – if it stopped shining, the earth’s temperature would drop to near absolute zero.  In the establishment dogma the sun is barely mentioned, while the puny efforts of mankind are gratuitously magnified out of proportion. In a scientific approach to climate, a full understanding of the behaviour of that solitary driver would be the first prerequisite, but this is waived in the interests of piety; so leading solar researchers have been deprived of funding.  [...]
The human spirit is sick.  It soared during the enlightenment of the eighteenth century.  It flowered during the nineteenth.  It beat off the tyrants of the twentieth century.  Now, at an alarming rate, it is surrendering its freedoms to a concocted religion based on fraudulent science.   Of course, it is not only science that has suffered in the overwhelming cultural downturn.  The great artistic tradition has given way to displays of dead animals and soiled beds.   In much of what passes for literature and drama, the expletives remain while the loftier aspirations of humanity are deleted.  Entertainment is debased by displays of banality, cruelty and vacuous, groundless celebrity.  It was science, however, that gave us lives of a length, comfort and healthiness that were unthought-of, even within human memory; a gift that is cold-bloodedly, but covertly, being denied to millions in poorer parts of the world.  Extremists of the new religion regard humanity as an inconvenience or a pestilence that can be disposed of (not including themselves, of course).
Above all, science represented the triumph of humanity over the primitive superstitions that haunted our ancestors, a creation of pure reason, a monument to that evolutionary (or, if you prefer, God-given) miracle of the human brain.  It is too valuable just to be tossed away like a used tissue.  But who will speak for science when the barbarian is already inside the gate?


ItsFairComment said...

Keep putting the info up....

Deadman said...

See also Freeman Dyson, “The Question of Global Warming” at the New York Times Review of Books.

Anonymous said...

The BBC’s Michael Buerk says that the BBC’s reporters have an “uncritical love affair with environmentalism”.
Same goes, of course, for the ABC.

Deadman said...

Michael Buerk,“Blowing the BBC’s Gaff.”

“[Peter Sissons in his memoirs] doesn’t quite skewer the complicated issue of the BBC’s supposed institutional bias. What the BBC regards as normal and abnormal, what is moderate or extreme, where the centre of gravity of an issue lies, are conditioned by the common set of assumptions held by the people who work for it. These are uniformly middle class, well educated, living in north London, or maybe its Manchester equivalent. Urban, bright thirty-somethings with a pleasing record of achievement in a series of institutions, school, university, BBC, with little experience of — and perhaps not very well disguised contempt for — business, industry, the countryside, localness, traditions and politicians. The Guardian is their bible and political correctness their creed. In the Corporation’s collective eye, Tony Benn is a lovable national treasure, Melanie Phillips a swivel-eyed fanatic. It’s all very well-meaning, and painstakingly even-handed, but often notably adrift of the overriding national sentiment.”