Monday, February 19, 2007
A New Fundamentalism for Narcissists
Behold a saint of the New Faith
THE BOOK OF ANDREW THE HERETIC. In this very cold month of February, the Global Warming rhetoric has heated up to an astonishing degree. On the same day a couple weeks ago, Drudge linked an apocalyptic warning from Ted Turner (Global Warming is the 'single greatest challenge that humanity has ever faced'...) and another from Al Gore ('Never before has all of civilization been threatened'...). These and other outbursts incited a response from a leading Canadian climatologist:
Believe it or not, Global Warming is not due to human contribution of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). This in fact is the greatest deception in the history of science. We are wasting time, energy and trillions of dollars while creating unnecessary fear and consternation over an issue with no scientific justification...
No sensible person seeks conflict, especially with governments, but if we don't pursue the truth, we are lost as individuals and as a society. That is why I insist on saying that there is no evidence that we are, or could ever cause global climate change...
Today, a Roman Catholic cardinal from Australia weighed in, expressing his own flavor of dismay:
We have been subjected to a lot of nonsense about climate disasters as some zealots have been painting extreme scenarios to frighten us. They claim ocean levels are about to rise spectacularly, that there could be the occasional tsunami as high as an eight story building, the Amazon basin could be destroyed as the ice cap in the Arctic and in Greenland melts.
An overseas magazine called for Nuremberg-style trials for global warming skeptics while a U.S.A. television correspondent compared skeptics to “holocaust deniers”.
A local newspaper editorial’s complaint about the doomsdayers’ religious enthusiasm is unfair to mainstream Christianity. Christians don’t go against reason although we sometimes go beyond it in faith to embrace probabilities. What we were seeing from the doomsdayers was an induced dose of mild hysteria, semi-religious if you like, but dangerously close to superstition.
I like putting these two quotes together, because it is not at all uncommon for science and religion to echo one another. Whether its current practitioners recollect it or not, western science was a direct outgrowth of the Christian faith and its empowerment of the individual, which also gave rise to the Enlightenment generally, the idea of human freedom, and the philosophical possibility of atheism.
Despite all these manifestations of modernity, the origin of science in the Judeo-Christian tradition also means that the DNA of science still retains strands of the Old Testament's obsession with the concepts of evil and doom, which are intensely relevant to what is going on in the Global Warming debate right now. "The Book of the Heretic Andrew" referenced above picks out these issues in some detail. The following quotes are just thumbnails of a much fuller discussion:
...you have asked me, “What if Mankind is not doomed?”
2 And I must laugh out loud at the question,
3 Because it is Mankind itself that has always insisted on believing in doom,
4 And it is not something made up by Harry just to be eccentric.
5 If Mankind stopped believing in doom,
6 Then he would also have to stop believing that he is evil,
7 Because throughout history he has always used these two ideas to explain everything about himself,
8 First believing he was doomed because he believed he was evil,
9 And then believing he was evil because he believed he was doomed,
10 Which must mean that these are the things Mankind wants to believe in,
11 Since he has gone to such extraordinary lengths to keep believing in them,
12 No matter what...
8 For if Mankind could suspend his belief in doom,
9 He would have a lot of thinking to do,
10 And many questions to answer,
11 Including some very hard questions,
12 Such as why his spotlessly rational science,
13 With all its spotlessly objective methods,
14 Has been obsessed from the very start with finding confirmation of ancient superstitions about original sin?...
30 Which is when Mankind at last became ready for the Way of Harry,
31 And why there is no way left but the Way of Harry,
32 Which is itself the proof that Mankind is doomed,
33 And will destroy himself,
34 Because he is obsessed with destroying evil,
35 No matter what it costs,
36 Just like his ancient Gods taught him to,
37 Even if he has to invent the evil and the doom,
38 All by himself,
39 With all the miraculous talents God gave him,
40 Just to prove that he hasn’t been a complete idiot for the past five thousand years.
You see, it's very lonely being a scientific-materialist atheist, because you have to dispense with the idea that you and your species might be important due to divine origin or interest. You have to accept that your whole existence is an accident in the unbelievably long history of an unbelievably monstrous universe. And yet, as the product of a self-obsessed culture which has taught you to have the highest possible respect and regard for your own impulses, desires, and convictions about social justice, you just know that you are, somehow, well, nevertheless important, in spite of it all. It's tough to do. The sheer bigness of the universe has to be cut down to size, enough to salve the needy egos of those who separate themselves from their fellow hairless primates on the basis of an intellectual superiority that fundamentally cannot matter at all.
Academic scientists manage the trick by imagining themselves as godlike figures -- the ones who, despite their essential nonentity, achieve the colossal feat of understanding how it all works. This delusion results in the absurd presumptions of narcissists like Stephen Hawking, who proclaims his determination to know "the mind of God," though this possibility is ruled out entirely by the elementary logic of Godel's Theorem, which also preempts the omniscient fantasies of Richard Dawkins.
Garden variety secular-materialists have a bigger problem. They desperately need their own version of the Christian fundamentalist's one-to-one relationship with J-e-e-e-sus, that direct connection to a larger truth which elevates and ennobles their otherwise insignificant experience of life. And like the worst of the self-satisfied fundamentalist elect, they also need that connection to be a panacea, a blessing so complete that it obviates any obligation to accept personal responsibilities that might require bravery, sacrifice, or intimate personal, moral introspection. It must suffice to shout in a loud voice, "Praise the Lord, for I at least am saved," in whatever words are appropriate for the chosen few. [***Go below the fold for an ancillary discussion of the threats such "global citizens" have no (self)interest in envisioning for us.]
That's what Global Warming is to the narcissists of the left. The doom it describes is too large and complex in the fixing for any of them to have any power to effect a cure. Yet the self-righteousness they're entitled to feel from merely believing in this image of doom is absolute. Each one of them can grasp with a single hand the substitute icon of J-e-e-e-sus called Global Warming and proclaim the Word from the rooftops as a simultaneous affirmation of personal salvation and condemnation of the diverse original evils of capitalism, consumerism, economic inequality, and nationalistic ambition. All products of human labor and aspiration are vanity (Ecclesiastes), but they are pure. And because they are pure exceptions in a species of viciously self-destructive, er, evil primates, they are -- ta da -- IMPORTANT. Without having to do one damn thing about it.
Behold the secular materialist godhead. Pretty cool, huh?
There is one slight problem about all this, though. It's called scale. Unmitigated hysteria can take a narcissist pretty far, but I'm betting that actual science -- that is, non-consensus application of the scientific method by rigorously trained rationalists -- will eventually drain some of the fever out of this particular swamp.
The fact is that without the spiritual crutch of belief in God and other unprovable spiritual affects, the secular materialists are ultimately going to have to face some ugly arithmetic. A religion that makes mankind in general responsible for the welfare of Mother Earth will eventually have to address the common-sensical assertion above, namely: "there is no evidence that we are, or could ever cause global climate change..."
Why? Because as a purely physical phenomenon, mankind is extremely small potatoes, even in the context of Gaia, i.e., Mother Earth.
Are you intellectuals ready for a bit of math?
There are 6.5 billion human beings. Even assuming that the average human weighs 150 lbs, their total mass amounts to less than 1 trillion lbs. Rounding up to an even trillion, the fraction of the earth's mass represented by its human pollutant is this:
This means that the "human element" represents less than one part in 13 trillion of Earth's mass. And, yes, I know that systems theory posits that small changes in system input can have a disproportionate impact on system output. And I know that microscopic viruses can wreak havoc on vastly larger organisms like, say, mammalian bodies, but deadly viruses wreak that havoc by multiplying their numbers at exponentially increasing rates in short bursts, while human population is already showing signs of peaking. At less than one part in 13 trillion. Either we're unexpectedly malignant in the grand Old Testament tradition, or our potency as a planetary impact has been wildly overstated.
In order to believe that we are a significant variable in the atmosphere of our planet, we would also have to believe that we are a major exception to the history of every species on earth. Because there is no precedent yet recorded of a species that caused its own destruction by its negative impact on the environment. Many species have been rendered extinct, but always because of their failure to adapt to external changes in environment or habitat. And if the scientific materialists are correct, we are also a purely natural by-product of our planet, made of the same stuff, and the result of the same natural process of evolution. No matter how much we value our own biochemical theories about the concept of social justice -- and the despicableness of our own evil natures in the context of an evolutionary process which has relentlessly generated ruthless predators and prey in constantly changing forms over aeons, we are -- unless the God of Social Justice has singled us out for a grossly over-proportional influence on the planet that made us -- just another creature that will evolve by adapting to the changes a habitat many trillion times our size imposes on us. (And by habitat I don't mean the whole earth. We evil, earth destroying human live on approximately 16.2 percent of the earth's surface; 53 percent of the 30 percent that's dry land..)
So, is it just possible that human beings are not responsible for Global Warming? I mean, is it possible to consider other causes without having to be tried as Nuremberg war criminals? Consider that the other major theory regarding the cause of Global Warming is solar activity in the form of sunspots, irregular solar eruptions that can each be larger than the earth itself. Now take a look at the relative size of the sun and earth, remembering that we human beings are one 13-trillionth of the dot you see below as the earth.
Let's review. Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe says that human-caused Global Warming is settled science. Is she a saint of the new fundamentalism? Or is she an archetype of a hubris more outrageous than anything found in the Holy Bible? You decide.
Why is this long-term potential crisis of Global Warming more attractive than any other as an excuse for protesting, and demanding action, and dramatizing the worst possible disaster scenarios?
Before the lefty commenters reach for their keyboards, permit me to point out that there are many potential crises that could be imagined in terrifying detail on film, as Al Gore has done with Global Warming. Shorter term crises at that. Yet has anyone peddled a fantasy documentary about life under Sharia Law should the western nations lose their battle of wills with Islamic fundamentalists? (Yeah, I know 24 has dared to show us Islamic nukes exploding in Los Angeles, but the liberal outrage about that anomaly is surely part of the question I'm posing here, not a rebuttal.) The answer is no. No one has even dreamed of showing us Manhattan feminists stoned to death in Washington Square for showing too much cleavage or too little respect for the ruling imam. Or whole families imprisoned and shot by their own madrassa-trained sons, who turned them in as heretics. No one has bothered to dramatize the much more obvious and likely nuclear obliteration of Israel -- cities flattened to the two-dimensional topology of a board game, children with melted faces and skin falling from their bodies like snow, the several hundred thousand unfortunates not killed by the blast who sicken and disintegrate and die from radiation poisoning.
Indeed, we're no longer supposed to see the actual historical footage of 9/11, all those doomed souls jumping from the fiery towers, or the videotaped beheadings of westerners in Iraq. All that ugly hacking and spouting blood and screaming, screaming are too much for us to handle. But we're encouraged to wax hysterical about the slow flooding of Manhattan three-quarters of a century from now?
Have we been treated to a fully delineated vision of the ultimate inundation of American culture by Mexican peasant culture? The Balkanization of the nation into predominantly hispanic states and predominantly Anglo states, all gradually eroding under the pressure of ethnic hostilities inflamed by both a deteriorating economy and accelerating class warfare, increasingly violent anarchic gangs, a Klan-like anti-hispanic resistance, and the rise of a Russian-like gangster economy based on black market bartering in guns, drugs, and stolen assets; and, then, the eventual takeover of government by a Chavez or Castro figure determined to punish the rich Anglo minority for centuries of peasant envy and hatred. Not that hard to imagine, really, if any of us were willing to look. But the only catastrophe we seem to have the stomach to visualize is the (literally) glacial effects of a gradual warming of the planet?
Does this strike anyone else as strange??