Skip to comments.Is environmentalism the new religion? (with 'Must See' Illustration!)
Posted on 02/10/2007 8:10:32 AM PST by GMMAC
The green fervour
Is environmentalism the new religion?
Joseph Brean, National Post
Published: Saturday, February 10, 2007
In his new book Apollos Arrow, ambitiously subtitled The Science of Prediction and the Future of Everything, Vancouver-based author and mathematician David Orrell set out to explain why the mathematical models scientists use to predict the weather, the climate and the economy are not getting any better, just more refined in their uncertainty.
What he discovered, in trying to sketch the first principles of prophecy, was the religious nature of modern environ-mentalism.
This is not to say that fearing for the future of the planet is irrational in the way supernatural belief arguably is, just that in its myths of the Fall and the Apocalypse, its saints and heretics, its iconography and tithing, its reliance on prophecy, even its schisms the green movement now exhibits the same psychology of compliance as religion.
Dr. Orrell is no climate-change denier. He calls himself green. But he understands the unjustified faith that arises from the psychological need tomake predictions.
The track record of any kind of long-distance prediction is really bad, but everyones still really interested in it. Its sort of a way of picturing the future. But we cant make long-term predictions of the economy, and we cant make long-term predictions of the climate, Dr. Orrell said in an interview. After all, he said, scientists cannot even write the equation of a cloud, let alone make a workable model of the climate.
Formerly of University College London, Dr. Orrell is best known among scientists for arguing that the failures of weather forecasting are not due to chaotic effects as in the butterfly that causes the hurricane but to errors of modelling. He sees the same problems in the predictions of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which he calls extremely vague, and says there is no scientific reason to think the climate is more predictable than the weather.
Models will cheerfully boil away all the water in the oceans or cover the world in ice, even with pre-industrial levels of Co2, he writes in Apollos Arrow . And so scientists use theoretical concepts like flux adjustments to make the models agree with reality. When models about the future climate are in agreement, it says more about the self-regulating group psychology of the modelling community than it does about global warming and the economy.
In explaining such an arcane topic for a general audience, he found himself returning again and again to religious metaphors to explain our faith in predictions, referring to the weather gods and the images of almost biblical wrath in the literature. He sketched the rise of the gospel of deterministic science, a faith system that was born with Isaac Newton and died with Albert Einstein. He said his own physics education felt like an indoctrination into the use of models, and that scientists in his field, like priests... feel they are answering a higher calling.
If you go back to the oracles of ancient Greece, prediction has always been one function of religion, he said. This role is coveted, and so theres not very much work done at questioning the prediction, because its almost as if you were going to the priest and saying, Look, Im not sure about the Second Coming of Christ.
He is not the first to make this link. Forty years ago, shortly after Rachel Carson launched modern environmentalism by publishing leading to the first Earth Day in 1970, a Princeton history professor named LynnWhite wrote a seminal essay called The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis.
By destroying pagan animism [the belief that natural objects have souls], Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects, he wrote in a 1967 issue of . Since the roots of our trouble are so largely religious, the remedy must also be essentially religious, whether we call it that or not. It was a prescient claim. In a 2003 speech in San Francisco, best-selling author Michael Crichton was among the first to explicitly close the circle, calling modern environmentalism the religion of choice for urban atheists ... a perfect 21st century re-mapping of traditional JudeoChristian beliefs andmyths.
Today, the popularity of British author James Lovelocks Gaia Hypothesis that the Earth itself functions as a living organism confirms the return of a sort of idolatrous animism, a religion of nature. The recent IPCC report, and a weeks worth of turgid headlines, did not create this faith, but certainly made it more evident.
It can be felt in the frisson of piety that comes with lighting an energy-saving light bulb, a modern votive candle.
It is there in the pious propaganda of media outlets like the, Toronto Star, which on Jan. 28 made the completely implausible claim that, The debate about greenhouse gas emissions appears to be over.
It can be seen in the public ritual of cycling to work, in the veneer of saintliness on David Suzuki and Al Gore (the rush for tickets to the former vice-presidents upcoming appearance crashed the server at the University of Toronto this week), in the high-profile conversion (honest or craven) of GeorgeW. Bush, and in the sinful guilt of throwing a plastic bottle in the garbage.
Adherents make arduous pilgrimages and call them ecotourism. Newspapers publish the iconography of polar bears. The IPCC reports carry the weight of scripture.
John Kay of the Financial Times wrote last month, about future climate chaos: Christians look to the Second Coming, Marxists look to the collapse of capitalism, with the same mixture of fear and longing ... The discovery of global warming filled a gap in the canon ... [and] provides justification for the link between the sins of our past and the catastrophe of our future.
Like the tithe in Judaism and Christianity, the religiosity of green is seen in the suspiciously precise mathematics that allow companies such as Bullfrog Power or Offsetters to sell the supposed neutralization of the harmful emissions from household heating, air travel or transportation to a concert.
It is in the schism that has arisen over whether to renew or replace Kyoto, which, even if the scientific skeptics are completely discounted, has been a divisive force for environmentalists.
What was once called salvation a nebulous state of grace is now known as sustainability, a word that is equally resistant to precise definition. There is even a hymn, When the North Pole Melts, by James G. Titus, a scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is not exactly How Great Thou Art, but serves a similar purpose.
Environmentalism even has its persecutors, embodied in the Bush White House attack dogs who have conducted no less than an Inquisition against climate scientists, which failed to bring them to heel but instead inspired potential martyrs. Of course, as religions tend to do, environmentalists commit persecution of their own, which has created heretics out of mere skeptics.
All of this might be fine if religions had a history of rational scientific inquiry and peaceful, tolerant implementation of their beliefs. As it is, however, many religions, environmentalism included, continue to struggle with the curse of literalism, and the resultant extremism.
Maybe Im wrong, but I think all this is wrapped up in our belief that we can predict the future, said Dr. Orrell. What we need is more of a sense that were out of our depth, and thats more likely to promote a lasting change in behaviour.
Projections are useful to provoke ideas and aid thinking about the future, but as he writes in the book, they should not be taken literally.
The fundamental danger of deterministic, objective science [is that] like a corny, overformulaic film, it imagines and presents the world as a predictable object. It has no sense of the mystery, magic, or surprise of life.
The solution, he thinks, is to adopt what the University of Torontos Thomas Homer-Dixon calls a prospective mind an intellectual stance that is proactive, anticipatory, comfortable with change, and not surprised by surprise.
In short, if we are to be good, future problem solvers, we must not be blinded by prophecy.
I think [this stance] opens up the possibility for a more emotional and therefore more effective response, Dr. Orrell said. Theres a sense in which uncertainty is actually scarier and more likely to make us act than if you have bureaucrats saying, Well, its going to get warmer by about three degrees, and we know whats going to happen.
© National Post 2007
Both and right on about a secular leftist religion. They will go to a Biblical, saving the whales and stopping global warming. Or not on saving and stopping.
It is very creepy to me. So is he, for that matter.
Even more so to parents of children growing up and being indoctrinated into this mode of thinking by state and national educational institutions. It can be worse at the private level.
True. It's like calling the Gorebots the "Climate Evangelicals" or Climate Fundamentalists." Everybody knows what you're getting at, but still, it's unfair to actual (Christian) Fundamentalists, who historically (since the publication of "The Fundamentals" in 1915,) have had neither the power nor the inclination to coerce and bully non-believers, as the --- er --- "Climate Fundamentalists" do.
Hm. "Climate Jihadis," maybe?
The more this author-physician utters, the more my admiration rises for his intellect. He is going to be the sage of the early 21st century. His stance on many things is dead on.
When people see no disconnect in killing their pre-born children, but consider it a capital crime to fell a tree in an "old stand" forest, there is some serious schizophrenia going on. We aren't at rock bottom yet, but I can see it from here.
True. It's like calling the Gorebots the "Climate Evangelicals" or Climate Fundamentalists."
Acually the cooperation the EI's receive from Jesuit Colleges and Universities makes the inquisition term even more appropriate.
Like a priest friend of mine once said when I told him someone had asked if he was a Jesuit: "Did you tell her, no, that I'm Catholic?"
"higher standards of procedural due process"
Ouch... The second article is interesting and comes form a trusted source. The article makes the liberals out to be tha bad guys. Imagine that! Thanks for the info. Now I'm not so sure about the phrase!
It does make a good tagline :)
Government school, the Grand Secular Inquisitor, is its most influential evangelist; by inoculating children against genuine religious faith, it leaves them hungering to suck up whatever they are fed.
Yes, they learned to do what's right out of The Charlatan's 101 Handbook, What every fake psychic and would be prophets have learned a long time ago.
Instead of one or two specific predictions that should occur in the near future, instead they
1) Make dozens to hundreds of predictions
2) Make them over a long period of time
You make a lot predictions because just by pure chance some of them are bound to come true, when they do you highlight your "hits" (even if you hit only last a year or 2) while downplaying your misses, but if you are called out on your misses that's why you make them over a long period of time because then you can just claim "Well, it just hasn't happened yet" and by the time your time frame is up you and everyone else is long dead and gone.
Could the EIB network stand for Enviromental Inquistion Busters network?
What do you think their ulterior motives are?
"Its much better to point out their ulterior motives. "
Coulter has done so - in spades!
"How should conservatives fight this? "
If you haven't already, read Ann's book cited above.
Also, with respect to "Denying global warming and denying that it will be a real problem if global warming continues at the current trend is useless because the data from a dozen seperate scientific disciplines in 20 different countries all say the same thing - that global warming is real and has been increasing since 1976."
You seem to be missing the distinction that few are denying cyclical global warming - e.g. it obviously wasn't Hummers & Escalades which ended any of the planet's numerous earlier ice ages.
Rejecting the left's shameless political opportunism & campaign to promote related self-serving mass hysteria is another matter entirely ... especially when, barely 3 decades ago, these same folks & their msm fellow travelers were similarly obsessing about what they then alleged to be the onset of cataclysmic global cooling.
Good points - but e_castrillo's term "enviromentalist inquistion" is on the money
I have thought a lot about the Global Warmer movement from a historical perspective.
When man feels threatened by nature in ways that leaves him disempowered, he often makes a sacrifice to placate the forces of nature. This is a common theme in historical anthropology. For example, polynesians might sacrifice virgins to a volcano to keep it from erupting. Global warmers wish to sacrifice our industrial progress and our economy using a tyranny which is unacceptable to the free world, justifying it by "survival" of the human race. Man has been bad ( evil) by disregarding his environment for the sake of ease, wealth,, and material well being. Now man has sinned , polluting the garden of eden , and now our environmental priests say that man must pay by retreating from his evil materialism and environmental pollution.This sacrifice is fairly well defined.
Global Warmers and the ancient polynesians have a lot in common.
The most recent moralistic movement to influence US politics was the prohibitionist movement, when a similar religious fervor sought to deny free men and women access to alcoholic beverages. All commercial sale of alcohol was banned. Millions of gallons of drink were dumped, but the sinners went underground, spawning an organized crime syndicate and smugglers ( of home Joseph Kennedy was one), many of whom became millionaires. The country woke up and free men and women exercised their vote to end prohibition.
The Global warmers are also very similar to prohibitionists. Politicians are making the mistake of singing their song so as to curry their block vote. Its an exercise in illogic, as the sun warms not only the earth, but all of the planets in our solar system. Politicians who seek the support of these illogical folk are carpetbaggers, seeking any means they can to gain power, many have little to offer. such as Al Gore , who is a dismal failure as a politician, so now he is getting righteous, so as to carpewtbag those who have the fear of chicken little.
Logical free men and women understand global warming, and the de minimus role that man has to play in it. They prepare to adapt to the 4 to 5 degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature that the world may have. But it depends little on man's activity, but rather depends on the suns activity.
A proper sacrifice to the sun might be to load up all the carpetbagging politicians we have, Al Gore foremost, on a NASA rocket, and plunge it into the sun as a sacrifice, so that the sun will not increase it's disruptive activity. Who knows, it was said to work for the polynesians!
Environmentalism a Religion? Almost. When you see the televised prayer meetings invoked to gain devine intervention in the environment, we will have arrived.
Thats not far away. A local physician here in Vermont. left his medical practise for the purpose of become a zealot in the field of environmental evangelism. There is a movement now afoot, so it IS almost a religion, and one which does not bode much good for America as a Republic, much the same as Prohibition.
Religion and Politics too often make poor bed partners, and even as a Republican who loves Christianity, I must say so for the sake of preventing a tragedy of vast proportions if the Environmental religion sweeps our nation in its Star Chamber like mentality of the Inquisition.
A very thoughtful essay. It is too bad that it is buried among all these other posts. It deserves greater exposure.
Thanks winter. I guess I got to post earlier in the threads!
Sounds like we need to use our flux capacitor to make this theory work.
'Back To The Future'