Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

The Starry Environmentalist?
National Review Online ^ | 1/13/2003 | Jonah Goldberg

Posted on 01/14/2003 4:51:55 AM PST by moneyrunner

There is no realm of modern culture that has institutionalized the concept of "lying for justice" more than environmentalism. Even the hothouse world of racial politics, with its fringe of Tawana Brawley believers and Afrocentric gobbledygook, comes a not-too-close second to the generalized deceit of the environmental movement. After all, the closer racial activists get to the mainstream, the more difficult it is for them to lie. When was the last time you heard Julian Bond claim Aristotle was black?

Meanwhile, the reverse is often — though certainly not always — the case with environmentalists. At professional conferences, in industry publications, and in the clubhouse of environmental policymakers, it is taken as a given that "raising awareness" trumps "explaining the facts" if, that is, increased "awareness" might hasten desirable policies while explicated facts would merely result in continued "pointless" debate. Moreover, mainstream journalists not only know about this doctrine of deceit, they encourage and amplify it, exaggerating already hyped scare-scenarios and downplaying any news of environmental improvement.

As with all ideologies and movements which alternate between apocalyptic and utopian visions, the scaring of children is a particular priority. In one textbook, for example, children are told that, in the future, earth's natural resources "will become so depleted that our very existence will become economically and environmentally impossible." This, it warns, will cause "famine, disease, pollution, unrest, crime and international conflicts." University of Rochester economist Steven E. Landsburg, writing in his wonderful book, The Armchair Economist, about the "naive environmentalism" taught at his daughter's preschool, summed it up well: Schools offer "a force-fed potpourri of myth, superstition and ritual that has much in common with the least reputable varieties of religious fundamentalism."

I am sure that when my child is born it will take constant vigilance to keep him or her from ratting me out to the local grade school's green Gestapo for not separating my bottles, cans, and newspapers. The instructions to today's children aren't dissimilar in religious fervor to St. Jerome's fourth-century incitement to children to join monasteries; "if your father blocks the door, knock him down."

Again, all of this is justified by our leading scientists as necessary and justified. Stephen Schneider, a highly regarded climate scientist explained the need to lie for justice to Discover magazine:

On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people, we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that, we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. … Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

I grabbed this quote from an article by my friend Nick Schulz, who edits a website inversely better than the badness of its name, TechCentralStation. He's writing about the latest effort to erase the Danish author, Björn Lomborg, from public awareness like an out-of-favor apparatchik airbrushed from a picture of the politburo. In case you didn't know, Lomborg wrote the hugely-influential-and-therefore-despised book The Skeptical Environmentalist. An honest and by all accounts decent man and academic, Lomborg was a former hard-green environmentalist. In 1997, he set out, with the aid of some students, to disprove the work of Julian Simon, the environmental optimist. Unfortunately for Lomborg, it turned out the dragon he set out to slay was on the right side.

The findings in The Skeptical Environmentalist are hardly shocking to those not indoctrinated into the environmental groupthink which dominates everything from the op-ed pages of the New York Times to the back of your kid's cereal box. They were: Population growth isn't a serious problem; global warming — to the extent it's happening at all — isn't a catastrophe; current levels of species loss — while not good — aren't by any means apocalyptic; the quantity and/or quality of our air, water, and natural resources are not vanishing, but are, in fact, expanding and/or improving in many cases; capitalism is not the enemy of the environment, but arguably its best friend. But you can read plenty about this stuff elsewhere, at TechCentralStation (ugh) or in my friend Ronald Bailey's outstandingly useful (but also poorly titled) book: Global Warming and other Eco-Myths.

The latest assault on Lomborg takes the form of a condemnation from something called the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty. Citing articles in the popular press — including that famed journal of climatology, Time magazine — and work by aggrieved critics, the Danes concluded: "Objectively speaking, the [The Skeptical Environmentalist] … is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty."

Predictably, the Western media immediately seized on the indictment in order to discredit Lomborg further. The whole thing appears to be an outrageously deceitful and nigh-upon Orwellian attempt to vilify an honest academic for publishing inconvenient facts. Reading Lomborg's response to the Danish denunciation only confirms that. Lomborg is being sacrificed as a heretic by a scientific community more interested in preserving the consensus and conventional wisdom (and research funding) than debating the truth.

GALILEO VS. LOMBORG

In order to illustrate what's happening to Lomborg, I need to pick on Nick Schulz a bit. That's okay because: A) Nick is one of my best friends; B) I owe him some grief. About six or seven years ago — when we worked together — we played one of those remote-control trivia games at a bar in Indianapolis called "Wings and Beer." (Now that's a great name.) I drunkenly punched in my screen name incorrectly as "Shapfth" instead of "Shaft" and he called me that for the next few years, which annoyed me greatly.

Anyway, Nick Schulz writes: "The smear has now reached a new low, with the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) playing the 17th Century Catholic Church to Lomborg's heretical Galileo."

Some air needs to be cleared here. The myth of Galileo as a "martyr to science" — as countless writers and historians have called him — was born of the French enlightenment. "From Diderot to Brecht, the myth of Galileo the rationalist-scientist-martyr [has] dominated Western thought, and even today it shows few signs of abating," wrote Robert Nisbet in Prejudices. The first choice for hero of reason, Nisbet explains, was actually Isaac Newton. But, unfortunately for the philosophes, Newton was unacceptably pious. So they picked Galileo who, it must be noted, was intensely religious as well.

The story we all learned is that Galileo was condemned for advocating Copernicanism, which held that the Aristotelian view of the sun circling the earth was wrong. And ultimately, this much is true. But, we're also told that the moral of the story is that Christianity is an enemy of science and that science can only thrive when Christianity and other chaotic superstitions are kept safely in a Pandora's box, far from institutions of reason. And this is almost exactly and perfectly wrong.

It is simply a lie to say that Galileo and the Church were enemies. A quick review: Galileo was the pride of the Church in Tuscany and was a friend to numerous influential figures within the Church. His work was sponsored and celebrated by his close friend, Bishop Maffeo Barberini. In 1611, when Galileo's The Starry Messenger came out — which reported his discoveries with his new telescope — the Vatican college in Rome celebrated with a day of parties much like the DNC will when Sidney Blumenthal's book is released. His buddy Maffeo Barberini eventually became Pope Urban VIII and, as pontiff, eagerly authorized Galileo to write and publish Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems — the book which got Galileo into so much hot water.

For the record, the Dialogue was written as a conversation between three guys in a garden talking about astronomy. Each took a different point of view. The problem was that the character who rejected Copernican thinking was named "Simplicius" — 17th-century Italian for "Shapfth" — and was Alec Baldwinesque in intelligence. The pope had told Galileo he could knock himself out writing about Copernican theories, just so long as he presented them hypothetically. Making the dumbest and most-inflexible character the Aristotelian didn't quite meet that bar.

Anyway, Galileo was summoned to Rome and tried by the Holy Office — the headquarters of the Inquisition and what Robin says to Batman at Staples — and tried for suspicion of heresy. Galileo was found guilty, sentenced to life imprisonment, and then had his sentenced commuted to house arrest. But, again, there's more to the story than the popular mythology suggests. The prosecutor, who was on Galileo's side, wanted the defendant to get off with a reprimand. And the pope — Galileo's old friend — was reluctant for the trial to take place at all. Afterwards, the pope made sure Galileo was treated with respect.

If Galileo's research was so dangerous and heretical, after all, why was he sentenced to house arrest? This amounted to "condemning" him to his villa where he did all of his research anyway. In fact, much of Galileo's most-important work and teaching was accomplished after he was supposedly "silenced" by the Church. He wrote Dialogue Concerning Two New Sciences and corresponded with all of the leading scientists of Europe. He even wrote a letter to Penthouse Forum. Okay, I made that part up.

Yes, I'm skipping over a lot on intrigue and back-story to make an already-too-long column a little-less long. There's all sorts of interesting stuff about Galileo being both a victim of the Spanish ascendancy within the Church and of the fact that Church's real problem was with the Reformation, not with science. But, yes, the Church did ultimately make the wrong decision and, under John Paul II, it has apologized for it.

Regardless, I bring all of this up to make one irrefutable point: Galileo's greatest and most-enduring enemies were not the orthodox clerics of the Church, but his fellow scientists. This was not a case of a superstitious, bureaucratic Church snuffing the light of reason. It was a case of petty and jealous men trying to use the Church to kneecap a whistleblower. If Galileo's way of things won the day, a lot of people would have looked like fools and, possibly, lost their jobs. And, this had less to do with Copernicanism or heliocentricity than with the fact that Galileo represented the introduction of mathematics into the world of physics. Needless, to say, if you were a physicist who didn't know jack about math and, all of a sudden, this guy was going to make math a requirement, you'd be bummed.

This is undoubtedly how Galileo himself saw his plight. As Nisbet notes, the earliest and perhaps most-enduring constraints on Galileo's research was his fear of ridicule and opprobrium from the scientific community. In 1597, Galileo wrote a letter to Kepler admitting that he believed Copernicus had it right, but he was afraid to admit it publicly for fear of being ridiculed by Aristotelian scientists — not persecuted by closed-minded clerics.

According to Pietro Redondi, in Galileo Heretic, it was the Jesuit astronomer Orazio Grassi (who Galileo had mocked mercilessly in The Assayer), who was Galileo's worst enemy. Grassi, Redondi argues, anonymously denounced Galileo in an elaborate scheme to force the Church to try him under the Inquisition. But Grassi despised Galileo for denouncing his science, not his religion — though one must admit the difference between the two was probably much narrower than we would conceive of things today. (Please: keep the e-mail about atomism to a dull roar.) The full extent of Grassi's culpability remains hotly debated, but the fact is there were plenty of other scientists who wanted Galileo out of the picture. Christoph Scheiner, for example, had been furious at Galileo for years because Galileo got credit for discovering sunspots (and for correctly deducing their nature). Scheiner helped organize pressure on the Church to try Galileo for heresy and to keep his books from being published.

Galileo's personal correspondence, according to Thomas Lessel's excellent summary, reflected that Galileo always saw his true enemies as Aristotelian scientists, not the Church. Indeed, Galileo remained a devout Catholic until he died — despite the fact he could have easily fled to a Protestant nation or, for that matter, converted to Protestantism.

In short, you cannot call the Galileo affair a battle between the Church and science when "science" — in its heart and ambition — was harsher on Galileo than the Church was.

BACK TO BJÖRN

So what does all of this have to do with Björn Lomborg? In a way, everything. Robert Nisbet writes that more scientists probably have been stopped from pursuing research because "of defiance of conventional wisdom in America since World War II with its accompanying bureaucratization and politicization of science than existed in the whole of the world in Galileo's day."

"The principle truth to be drawn from the Galileo story is less dramatic than the myth," Nisbet wrote in 1982,

but far more in accord with the emotions and institutional conditions that prevail today much as they did in the 16th century. Rivalry, jealousy, and vindictiveness from other scientists and philosophers were Galileo's lot and they are not infrequently the lot of unorthodox minds in modern times. Anyone who believes that inquisitions went out with the triumph of secularism over religion has not paid attention to the records of foundations, federal research agencies, professional societies and academic institutions and departments.

Today, such institutions and associations are deeply invested in massive political and economic arrangements which require that Lomborg be wrong, if he is scientifically right.

Ultimately, the proper way to view the Galileo episode is not of a religious orthodoxy persecuting a martyr to scientific truth, but the forces of scientific orthodoxy using the state to punish a whistleblower. Remember: In Italy at that time, the distinction between the Church and State was at best an academic one. But in our secular age we don't like to think scientists can play the zealot from the Holy Office. Well, the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty is nothing if not the tool of scientific orthodoxy.

The more-important word in the phrase "scientific community" is not scientific but community, because it is that word which reminds us that scientists are humans. And — surprise — humans are creatures of ego, jealously, and vindictiveness. Galileo himself was an egotist of the first order, which is one reason so many scientists despised him. But by shifting the blame for what happened to Galileo away from the scientific community and onto the Church, scientists — and in a sense the entire secular establishment — have absolved themselves of any culpability. This is not only unfair to the Church; it's very, very dangerous for science, because it perpetuates a myth that the "sophisticated mind" is immune to inquisitorial zeal.

And we know that is hogwash, because that is precisely what is happening to Björn Lomborg. And don't be surprised if your child knocks you down if you try to persuade him otherwise.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Front Page News; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: enironmentalism; goldberg; junkscience

1 posted on 01/14/2003 4:51:55 AM PST by moneyrunner
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: moneyrunner; Grampa Dave; Ernest_at_the_Beach
Great post. Check this out my friends and hit your ping list. More proof of the interconnected agenda of the left.

Propagandize our children via public schools with another leftist position.

2 posted on 01/14/2003 4:57:52 AM PST by BOBTHENAILER (Oppose all Environmental Groups)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: JohnHuang2
Check this one out.
3 posted on 01/14/2003 5:05:15 AM PST by William McKinley
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Paul Ross
I have a hunch that Goldberg isn't your favorite writer, but this piece is quite good.
4 posted on 01/14/2003 5:06:05 AM PST by William McKinley
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: William McKinley
Its good. Eppur si move! I think the Lomberg conviction has made the enviro wackos look even nuttier by their appearing to be afraid of the truth. Now who's afraid that global warming is not an immediate threat to the Earth? No doubt to the reputations of Stephen Schneider and Al Gore. We must never question The Accepted Wisdom. Down With The Heretic!!! And after so many centuries there will always be those who in the name of the status quo would trample upon the liberties of others. We must be vigilant to their likes as Captain Picard so memorably informed us in The Drumhead.
5 posted on 01/14/2003 5:25:41 AM PST by goldstategop
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]


Donate Here By Secure Server

Or mail checks to
FreeRepublic , LLC
PO BOX 9771
FRESNO, CA 93794
or you can use
PayPal at Jimrob@psnw.com

Become A Monthly Donor
STOP BY AND BUMP THE FUNDRAISER THREAD
Thanks Registered

6 posted on 01/14/2003 6:19:00 AM PST by Mo1 (Join the DC Chapter at the Patriots Rally III on 1/18/03)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: moneyrunner
How do you know an environmentalist is lying?

His lips are moving.

7 posted on 01/14/2003 7:01:38 AM PST by moyden
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: moneyrunner
Great article. I have postmarked it.

This sums up the Lying Enviralists very well. There is no realm of modern culture that has institutionalized the concept of "lying for justice" more than environmentalism. Even the hothouse world of racial politics, with its fringe of Tawana Brawley believers and Afrocentric gobbledygook, comes a not-too-close second to the generalized deceit of the environmental movement.

8 posted on 01/14/2003 7:11:13 AM PST by Grampa Dave (Support Free Republic. Become a monthly donor ! Taxcuts are for Taxpayers!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: moneyrunner
Like in the drug war, if you have to lie about evidence that represents a danger, is there really a danger?

9 posted on 01/14/2003 7:21:19 AM PST by William Terrell
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: BOBTHENAILER
My sons are in their mid 30's. We were on a trip to the Ocean when they were in the 8th and 6th grade. On that trip I became painfully aware of the brain washing done by the lying envirals.

At that tender age, they believed that the enviralists could tell the dairy farmers in Sonoma county to close up their dairies and stop producing milk. At that time they were drinking a gallon of milk a day between the two of them. There were signs up all over as we drove by the farms from the farmers to save their family owned dairy farms to the Club Sierra Nazis wanting to pass an ordinance to close the dairy farms. Our sons were all for closing the evil dairies for the environment.

The older one still remembers coming home from school after that trip and no milk in the refrigerator for two days. No milk for breakfast, and I refused to give them milk money to buy milk at the store. If my wife bought it, I poured it down the drain. The 3 of them were ready to have me arrested and hauled away for insanity.

Finally the 3 of them wanted a family conference and wanted to know why I refused to buy milk. Then if my wife bought it,I poured it down the drain.

I told them that there was no milk fairy. We got our milk from one of the Sonoma county dairies. If these nazis (my first use of the word with the enviralists)forced the dairy farmers to sell their herds and farms, there would be no milk to drink. My older son and wife got the message really quick. The older son was wrestling then, and without the milk he was having constant muscle cramps due to a lack of calcium.

It took about 12 years for the younger son to wake. What woke him up was a return to a bike trail in Oregon that he had ridden up to the snows with his mountain bike. The trail had been closed to bikes, but the elites with horses could still use the trail.

He called us and was madder than you know what. I told him, that now he knew what the dairy farmers in Sonoma county had been fighting for decades from the same enviral nazis. He is now about 98% cured of the enviral virus that he was innoculated with while in grade school.
10 posted on 01/14/2003 7:27:46 AM PST by Grampa Dave (Support Free Republic. Become a monthly donor ! Taxcuts are for Taxpayers!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Grampa Dave
If these nazis (my first use of the word with the enviralists)forced the dairy farmers to sell their herds and farms, there would be no milk to drink.

The pervasive nature of the sick/perverted indoctrination is not limited to ANY industry.

My kids have all seen, up close and personal, the battles I have had to fight in the oil and gas industry. Thankfully, thaat has given them a huge degree of skepticism for all things green.

The thing that most easily got the point across was, strangely enough, music. They are all in their late teens and are typical in their love of music, concerts, MTV, etc. My middle son is a drummer in a band. Any discussion of energy starts with my invitation to all musicians to power their amps with solar or wind energy. Any whining about conservation is countered by my insistence that MTV be relegated to a once a week time slot and concerts be limited to fridays and saturdays only.

That ends the discussion immediately in my favor, with the point completely taken and understood.

11 posted on 01/14/2003 8:05:22 AM PST by BOBTHENAILER (Oppose all Environmental Groups)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: BOBTHENAILER
You posted, Any discussion of energy starts with my invitation to all musicians to power their amps with solar or wind energy. Any whining about conservation is countered by my insistence that MTV be relegated to a once a week time slot and concerts be limited to fridays and saturdays only.

Of course the concerts can only be held during the daytime to use solar power. The amps and other equipment can only be powered by green power solar, wind and whatever the alternative power lie of the moment is.

Great tactic.

12 posted on 01/14/2003 8:16:02 AM PST by Grampa Dave (Support Free Republic. Become a monthly donor ! Taxcuts are for Taxpayers!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Grampa Dave
Great tactic.

The KISS principle is perfect. The "UNPLUGGED" concerts get a little old and they easily see my point. A lot like your "no milk" tactic.

13 posted on 01/14/2003 8:29:21 AM PST by BOBTHENAILER (Oppose all Environmental Groups)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Grampa Dave
"I have postmarked it."

Didja send it "Certified?"

G'morning Grampa. Have another cupa coffee. Did the Postmaster look at ya a little funny? (grin)

I used the idea of letting any kid my boys knew use their stuff anytime they wanted without even asking permission and no commitment of ever bringin it back to help them understand legal liability and property rights.

They were startin to get into this conservancy craze and were pist over not being able to hike where ever they wanted without first asking permission. They weren't sure why anyone should be able to own, or control property to the point of putting up "NO TRESPASSING" signs and such.

14 posted on 01/14/2003 8:32:11 AM PST by SierraWasp (says: CA IS BEING GOVERNED BY A GRAND LARCENIST!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: SierraWasp
I'm limiting my coffee this morning as I Postmark good articles.

In a couple of hours I go in for my every 3 months of sand blasting and chiseling of the tartar off my teeth. I don't want a lot of coffee interupting the process.

Lucky me, I have a set of teeth that attract tartar like a magnet attracts iron. I use the Sonic toothbrush, two types of floss and floss several times aday with brushing with tartar removal/preventing tooth paste at least 4 times aday.

My wife and sons can go in every two to 3 years and have basically no tartar build up.

So get off my back, you postmark nanny!:)
15 posted on 01/14/2003 8:38:04 AM PST by Grampa Dave (Support Free Republic. Become a monthly donor ! Taxcuts are for Taxpayers!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: Grampa Dave
"So get off my back, you postmark nanny!:)"

Ok... Ok... We don't want'cha ta become a toothless ol grumpy grampa!!!

I just din't want'cha to git ahead of me in discovering excitin new features of www.FreeRepublic.com that I needed more "awareness" of!!!

Here I been bookmarkin stuff and you discovered postmarkin! Call it "FReep Envy," if you will!!!

At least with you "sandblastin" yer teeth, I'll know you have "True Grit!"

16 posted on 01/14/2003 8:53:48 AM PST by SierraWasp (says: CA IS BEING GOVERNED BY A GRAND LARCENIST!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: SierraWasp
I will be spitting sand the rest of the day and most of the evening. An extra fine quality micro brew seems to help cleanse the area of excess sand/grit.
17 posted on 01/14/2003 9:18:58 AM PST by Grampa Dave (Support Free Republic. Become a monthly donor ! Taxcuts are for Taxpayers!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: moneyrunner
There is no realm of modern culture that has institutionalized the concept of "lying for justice" more than environmentalism.

I would challenge that statement.

Anti-smokers.
Both individuals and the organized sucking at the teat of the "Tobacco Settlement".

18 posted on 01/14/2003 9:32:45 AM PST by Publius6961
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: moneyrunner
Bumping a fascinating read.

"Eppur si muove."
19 posted on 01/14/2003 10:32:13 AM PST by headsonpikes
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Grampa Dave
Great lesson Dave. I remember when my son became a free market capitalist. He came home from school and told us that the best economy was not communism or capitalism but something else where some worked and sharred with others who were less fortunate. I told him to remember that concept because he was going to be one of those who worked and supported those less fortunate. His eyes opened wide as he thought about it.

Later when his class was talking about the evil proposal to reduce the death tax my son was the only one who reminded the entire class that most of their parents lived in a home that the sale of which would trigger the death tax, so they were talking about a tax that they were likely to have to pay. this changed about half of the class's opinion.
20 posted on 01/14/2003 10:45:23 AM PST by KC_for_Freedom
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: William McKinley
Actually, I quite enjoy Blumberg, and Bjorn Lomberg. Clear, incisive critical thinking, is becoming a rarer commodity than ever in our 10-second sound-bite era. And it was ALWAYS a precious one.
21 posted on 01/14/2003 4:46:06 PM PST by Paul Ross (Golitsyn is being proved right, more so, every day)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson