The pathology of alarmism– Nature alarmism, angry/punitive gods, and the fallacy of apocalyptic ending.
Hysteria over the state of the world continues. Varied changes in the natural world (even twitches, minor perturbations) give many the vapors and are viewed as proof of looming disaster and apocalyptic ending, whether climate change (i.e. periods of warming, cooling), extreme weather events/storms, melting ice, rising sea levels, drought, changes in animal populations, and so on. “Eco-anxiety” has become a new psychological condition, and depression from environmental alarmism has grown, notably among the younger generations (see reports below). Some young couples even fear to have children and bring them into a world that they believe is heading toward catastrophic collapse.
The critical links in the material below (i.e. correlations): The original human fear of imperfect nature… the blamed source- angry/destroying gods… and then the ultimate expression of divine anger and punishment- apocalyptic ending… down to the continuing nature alarmism of today (continuing the pathology)…
We all rightly fear natural disasters, disease, and accident in relation to nature. But beyond the physical elements of life, at the core of humanity’s nature alarmism there has long been the belief in some punitive, destroying Force or deity, venting displeasure on humanity through nature’s destructiveness. Contemporary versions of the old nature deities now include vengeful Gaia, angry planet/Mother Nature, retributive Universe, payback karma, and still the punishing God of the main world religions.
The meaning impulse– Ultimate meaning in relation to nature.
The origins of “punitive, destroying deity” myths and the related myth of ‘apocalyptic’ as the ultimate expression of a punitive, destroying God.
Today we recognize where our ancestors went wrong in their early theorizing about ultimate reality/deity. Like all people across history, their primary impulse for meaning (Victor Frankl) urged them to look at the world around them and to explain what was happening. And they made serious errors in early thought/logic and those errors have remained deeply embedded in our worldviews/meta-narratives ever since, both religious and ideological. Many today continue to embrace the same bad logic of those primitive minds.
Some of the more notable themes related to the core pathology: An original paradise ruined by corrupt people. Life now in decline toward something worse (as punishment from a deity pissed at the loss of original perfection). Threat of ultimate destruction- looming apocalyptic ending. And under the threat of imminent apocalyptic (James Hansen: “It’s all over in five years”), the consequent felt obligation to coercively purge the corruption in the world in order to “save the world” (avoid the apocalypse) and restore the lost paradise. Hence, you then get the Loretta Lynch-type response (Pres. Obama’s AG) of dismissing the democratic process to criminalize any that disagree with your apocalyptic vision.
Joseph Campbell was right that the same themes repeat across all history and across all the cultures of the world.
Added note: Reformism- give it a deserved nod.
There are admirable reform endeavors in operation throughout our great religious traditions. But often such movements are little more than peripheral tinkering at the edges that leaves primitive core themes still embedded. The question remains though- Does such “reform Lite” still end in “cognitive dissonance” where residual bad ideas weaken and distort your better ideals? Does the effort to merge/harmonize better ideals with the old subhuman stuff just end in oxymoronic confusion? Is it too much just “new wine in old, decayed wineskins?” Notable here is the summary of some of our great religious systems in this statement that “God is love but will send you to Hell if you don’t believe my religion”. Love and Hell??? Huh?
Fortunately, many in such traditions have learned to downplay, ignore, or reframe the worst of the inherited themes from a more brutal past.
The Imperfection Issue (It’s a biggy)
It begins with the “imperfection” of the natural world (i.e. natural disasters, accidents, violence, disease). This issue of perfection/imperfection has long been central to our impulse to explain our world and its purpose/meaning. Our ancestors wanted to explain imperfection in the world and the consequent suffering. And our struggle to understand imperfection is evident in the earliest mythology.
The ancients made the wrong assumption that the gods had created the world originally perfect (original paradise or golden age, Eden) and then reasoned that early “corrupted/fallen” people messed things up. They committed an original error/sin and thereby ruined paradise. Note this explanation, for example, in one of the earliest written myths- i.e. the Sumerian myth of Enki and the paradise city of Dilmun (one of the earliest original paradise and “fall of man” myths). Enki lived in the paradise of Dilmun but was tempted to eat the forbidden 8 plants. He was then made ill by the god Ninhursag and his paradise-like life was ruined. The paradise of Dilmun was eventually lost.
And, with pre-historians John Pfeiffer and Jacquetta Hawkes, what we find in the earliest human writing we may assume represents what was believed in the pre-literature era.
As punishment for their early error, the ancients believed that imperfection was then introduced into the world and “fallen” humanity now deserved the blame and punishment for ruining the original paradise (note this also in the biblical Eden myth). All cultures have versions of perfect beginning, corrupt people ruining paradise, and decline toward something worse ever since (see Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell’s books, among other historians of religious/mythical ideas). These primitive themes have continued into the modern age in environmental versions- i.e. vengeful Gaia/angry Planet punishing humanity the virus or cancer on Earth.
The line of correlation across history carried the logic and conclusions of our ancestors down through history, and this misunderstanding of imperfection continues today. It is a line of succession from mythology to religion to “secular” ideology. It stretches across history from early reasoning over imperfect nature, to the explanation of imperfection as expressions of angry/destroying gods, and to extreme natural events as apocalyptic, and then to the continuing nature/environmental alarmism of today’s world.
Human suffering from nature, since the earliest emergence of humanity, has been an excessive burden for people to bear (i.e. natural disaster, accident, disease). But then the early mythologists (shaman, priests) added the horrific extra burden of psychic suffering, the sense that natural suffering was punishment from angry, punitive gods. The Japanese woman summed this up well in her comment after the 2011 tsunami, “Are we being punished for enjoying life too much?” Paul re-enforced this unnecessary psychic burden when he told the Corinthians that their sickness and dying was punishment from God for their sins. Today, along with the mainstream religious versions, many people similarly explain human suffering in terms of the new era retributive gods- e.g. vengeful Gaia, retributive Universe, angry Planet/Earth, or payback karma.
The theme of vengeful destruction still dominates humanity’s highest ideals and authorities.
More detail on the theory- the origin of nasty gods/divine monsters
The ancients reasoned from imperfect and destructive nature, and took that out to explain ultimate reality and meaning. They believed that there were Forces/Spirits behind all the elements of the natural world- gods of storm, sun/moon, drought, animal life, streams, trees, etc. Logically then, natural threats were expressions of obviously angry, punitive Forces/Spirits that were punishing bad people. Note this in the Sumerian Flood myth where a pissed Enlil planned to punish and destroy bad people through a natural disaster for their ‘sin’ of being too noisy.
Another feature in the Sumerian Flood myth is an early version of over-population hysteria- there were too many noisy people.
That is the origin of the early mythology that the gods behind nature were obviously punitive, destroying deities. That theme of punitive, destroying deity then became the cohering center of a general framework or complex of supporting mythical themes.
Get a good grip on these themes and you will better understand contemporary versions of alarmism that embrace the same primitive themes and exhibit the same primal fears- whether in religious or “secular” versions (and yes, even alarmist ‘scientific’ versions).
The core myth of punitive, destroying God becomes the foundation of an entire complex of related ideas that support the core myth.
The ultimate expression of punitive, destroying God was the myth of apocalyptic- the ultimate punishment and destruction of all things by deity (the destruction of all humanity, or all life, the complete destruction of the world). One can see how ancient people concluded this as some natural events were so overwhelming as to appear to be the end of all things- e.g. the great Black Sea flood event of 7600 years ago.
The apocalyptic complex of themes (for full version see Rethinking Fundamental Ideas below):
This apocalyptic complex of themes was developed to explain the core idea of punitive, destroying deity that was expressed through nature and natural harmfulness. One of the key elements in apocalyptic thought is that of life “declining” toward disastrous ending (Arthur Herman- The Idea of Decline in Western History).
Mircea Eliade notes that the idea of decline is also found in Eastern religions like Buddhism where it is expressed in the belief that the human life-span decreases across history. “Each present moment is a degeneration/decline from all past moments”.
Hindu mythology also embraces declinist ideas. Hindus believe there was an original golden age where people were virtuous, had long life-spans, and were taller. This is another version of “noble savage” theory, or pristine and pure Adam mythology. But over time people became shorter in stature and became more corrupt. There was a decline in virtue. Also, the eras/ages in Hindu history became shorter.
The apocalyptic complex: Here again are the main themes…
The past was better (created perfect by the gods/God, a paradise). Bad people (fallen, sinful humanity) ruined the paradise. And life is now declining toward some great disaster and apocalyptic ending as punishment for ruining the original paradise. Consequently, people have long believed that they must “save the world” from the threat of apocalypse (and chaos). And that salvation endeavor involves some form of ‘coercive purging’ of the thing that threatens life (i.e. corrupt people- the virus or cancer on Earth). The purging is necessary so that the damaged or lost paradise can be restored. Salvation is viewed as being saved from the looming apocalypse, or it is viewed in terms of the apocalypse as the great purging of evil from the world so the true believers can be saved into the renewed paradise after the apocalypse.
This primitive mythical narrative distorts the true story of life entirely. But it persists today in ideologies like Declinism and its offspring ‘environmental alarmism’. The best evidence on life overturns the myth of apocalyptic entirely. And with the overturning of apocalypse, so also evidence overturns the core theme of punitive, destroying deity.
We know now that life originated in the chaotic beginnings of our planet and existence was far from perfect (see, for example, The Story of Earth by Robert Hazen). For much of its early history, life was impossible except at very primitive levels. And rather than declining toward something worse, ever since originating in the brutal conditions of early Earth there has been gradual (sometimes rapid), irreversible, and immense improvement in all areas of life. Life (both natural and human) has continually organized toward something more complex and diverse, toward a better future.
The most notable improvement has come with the development of modern industrial civilization based on fossil fuels. Yes, you read that right. This industrial, technological society, the result of human creativity and goodness, and despite its imperfections, has lifted billions out of poverty and enabled us to more effectively and properly care for our natural world and to adapt to the imperfections of nature. Our modern society has enabled us to lessen our footprint and conserve more nature.
Post to discussion group….
____, I was recently rereading a number of articles on the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Sumerian Flood myth in that epic. The authors rightly referred to that as an apocalyptic myth, as it threatened the entire destruction of humanity. It is the original written apocalypse (if we accept the Sumerians as creating writing around 3000 BCE). That Sumerian apocalyptic predates Zoroaster’ apocalyptic by a millennium.
The Egyptians had similar apocalypse myths around the same time- i.e. The Destruction of Mankind and Return to Chaos myths (historians note that early Egyptian mythology was not written but expressed in temple art).
There are debates over the Sumerian Flood myth- was the flood really Enlil`s idea or came from the council of gods and Enlil just carried out their wishes. I try not to get lost in such detail but just present the general thrust of such things for average readers.
But apocalyptic as a total destruction of something- humanity, the world- is early stuff, right there at the beginning. And as John Pfeiffer noted (also Jacquetta Hawkes) what we find in the earliest writing we may assume represents what was believed in the pre-literature era.
So Pfeiffer suggests that golden age beliefs may go back a hundred thousand years or more. And that makes sense if you recall that the end of the last inter-glacial before our current one (the Eemian) was about a hundred thousand years ago and some studies suggest it may have ended quite suddenly- over centuries or shorter. People would have remembered the better (warmer) past and now descent into the misery of cold and begun to believe an original paradise had been lost and asked why. And from there we go to early humans believing that bad people were being punished by upset gods through the destructiveness of the natural world.
And that is the origin of punitive, destroying deity theories. What became the core of most deity theories. And that early fallacy has persisted into the world religions, and was taken up by Paul (his Corinthian letter) as his God theory (a God punishing people through nature- i.e. disease), contrary to the stunning new God of Jesus as non-punitive, non-destroying, non-conditional, inclusive, universal… and so on…
To solve this apocalyptic pathology you have to go to this core idea or theme of punitive Ultimate Reality, of a violent, destroying God. That is the cohering center of the whole mess.
It all unravels when you radically change the theology as Jesus did.
Change in nature now on the apocalyptic watch list…
Note that alarmists have now added fear of any “change” in nature (e.g. climate change) to the list of signs of looming apocalypse. The alarmist mind takes most everything to apocalyptic conclusions.
But, (this is Grade One-level science), change is a constant in all areas of nature, and most certainly in climate. There is no stasis anywhere in nature, at some ‘optimal’ state. Surely, the past millions of years of cyclical ice-ages and inter-glacials should make that clear, with the massive advances and then retreats of ice, across the planet. (And remember, that for over 80 percent of the planet’s history, earth has been entirely ice-free. That is a more optimal state for Earth, and life has flourished during such warm periods).
Nonetheless, change in nature (i.e. climate) is now being pushed by environmental alarmists as evidence of looming apocalypse and something that we must control and stop. But, as one scientist said, it is absurd to think that we can turn some CO2 knob and control something as complex as climate.
We have just begun to understand climate more over the past few decades and we have discovered that varied other natural elements influence climate change far more than CO2 influences climate. CO2 is in the mix but is repeatedly overwhelmed by other natural factors such as the cosmic ray/sun/cloud interaction and the ocean/atmosphere relationship.
The alarmist interprets change, and other destructive elements of nature, in terms of apocalyptic outcomes, thereby distorting the true state of things.
(And another)… Complexity in climate alarmism- the politics (all comment on the political element in the mix comes from my “fiercely” Independent status. And yes, yes, Conservatives exhibit the same old authoritarian/totalitarian impulse in the arena of social issues.)
Alarmist scientists and politicians insist, against good evidence to the contrary, that life is heading toward some great environmental catastrophe- i.e. holocaust levels of species loss, catastrophic global warming, or other looming environmental threats. The alarmists claim that the cause of looming disaster is too many people consuming too much in industrial society. The primitive myth of “limited good” is another central feature in apocalyptic thinking (i.e. if some take more, then others are losing out).
Alarmists are motivated by a set of common beliefs that they hold as unquestionable “truths”- namely, that things were better in the past when industrial civilization was smaller and there were fewer people. This relates to the historically persistent fear of over-population (See ‘Population Bombed’ by Desrochers and Szurmak). Further, alarmists hold the belief that people are essentially corrupt- i.e. the fallen, sinful humanity myth which claims that people are selfish, greedy destroyers of the natural world. And, they hold the myth that people have ruined a better past and now life is declining or worsening toward some great disastrous collapse and ending. Therefore, we need a salvation plan in order to “save the world”. And because time is short, the salvation plan must be one of coercive purging of the threat. These and related beliefs still shape the worldviews of many today.
Arthur Mendel (Vision and Violence) has noted that central to the apocalyptic vision is the demand for urgent or “instantaneous transformation” of economies/societies (i.e. today, the demand to decarbonise societies) in order to save the world. Alarmists believe that disaster is imminent and use that sense of urgency to justify their overruling of the freedom of others that disagree with them. Alarmists believe that always imminent apocalypse justifies the use of force to silence critics/skeptics, just as Obama’s AG, Loretta Lynch, tried to criminalize skeptical science. All because the end is nigh. As the father of the global warming alarm, James Hansen, said in 2008, “It’s all over in five years”.
Add to this, the beliefs of the collectivists in the Green religion who sincerely believe that their way of organizing human society is morally superior- i.e. their system works for “the common or greater good” of all, versus the “selfish” individualism of democratic market models. Much like those early Christians in Acts “who held all things in common”. Many believe that the communalism lifestyle is just common sense love.
But it is the outcomes of an approach or model that affirm the humanity, or not, of an approach.
Despite the historical record of the inevitable tendency toward authoritarianism/totalitarianism that results from collectivist approaches, Socialist/Leftist types still insist their model would work if just given another chance. Venezuela was a recent case championed by US Liberals. And after all, the collectivists defensively argue, Communism was an aberration to true Socialism. But Muravchik was right (Heaven on Earth) that totalitarianism is the inevitable result of all collectivist approaches that centralize control of people’s lives through state powerholders, whether Owen’s communalism, Communism, centralizing Socialism, or contemporary Big State-oriented Progressivism. How so? Because someone has to run the collective- i.e. some enlightened elite or vanguard is required to tell “ignorant, selfish” others how to live right and to coerce them to do so before it is too late.
Frederick Hayek was right that the best way to prevent totalitarianism is to disperse power among competing individuals/agents (and social, business, government institutions/organizations), as we have learned to do in the free market economy. Despite its imperfections, this model best protects freedom and thereby unleashes human creativity. Daniel Hannan has given a fascinating account of the historical development of the Western individually-oriented approach in ‘Inventing Freedom’. So also Arthur Herman traces the history of collectivism versus the individual model in ‘The Cave and The Light’.
Commentators have noted that a generation has now grown up unfamiliar with the horrors of Collectivism/Communism. Remember, Collectivism/Communism devastated entire areas of the planet with poverty and environmental degradation. It was responsible for 100 million deaths in the last century. And Progressivism today (as in US Liberalism) is just “Collectivism Lite”.
And also remember that where the industrial free market model of organizing society (based on fossil fuels) has been allowed to develop, those areas have liberated the most people from poverty and enabled those free people to clean up and protect their environment the most. This overturns the alarmist narrative entirely.
More on alarmism- the deity element
When our ancestors projected the above subhuman features onto their early gods, they created the dark side to God theory. Those early errors are still embraced by the major world religions and even secular ideologies (vengeful Gaia, angry planet/Mother Earth, retributive Universe, karma).
We know better today, the difference between humane and inhumane and the need to purge residual inhumane elements from thought and life. I would start any theorizing about ultimate reality/deity with a baseline truth- i.e. God as Ultimate Goodness is love, and love of a transcendent kind that is better than the best that we can imagine- no conditions Love, universal, all inclusive, all-forgiving.
Make no conditions Love- the highest form of goodness that we know- make this the irreducible base of thought/belief. Do this to counter the long history of human belief in punitive, destroying deity as humanity’s ultimate ideal and authority. This major pathology in human thought still dominates world religions and much philosophy/ideology.
Why even speculate about the metaphysical? Well, no one can live in a vacuum of not knowing. People’s meaning impulse will push them to speculate anyway and as Greg Easterbrook said in a long ago Wired article, even materialist scientists do just what religious people have done across history- they appeal to the invisible to explain the visible. Sabine Hossenfelder notes that this is done even in the most basic science- physics (Lost in Math). Scientists there routinely cross the philosophy/science boundary with speculation (e.g. Multi-verse theory).
Further, the pathology already exists and persists across religion and secular thought. So at a minimum offer a more humane alternative.
But then what about the imperfection of this world and consequent suffering? How do we maintain belief in ultimate Goodness (theodicy) in a world that has too often experienced natural disaster, disease, and human cruelty with all the attendant suffering from such horrors?
Some helpful insights suggest that the world was originally created imperfect for a good reason/purpose… to offer a challenging learning arena for human struggle and development, to offer an arena for human experience of the dark side that contrasts good, and to learn the response of love. To help us learn what love is. This alternative suggests that it is not our fault that the world is imperfect, and ever since the messy beginnings we have made things better in all ways, including improving on the wilderness of life. This human improvement of the natural world is our essential goodness and love finding expression.
I would offer the insights of people like Joseph Campbell (all his books), Pim Van Lommel (Consciousness Beyond Life), and Natalie Sudman (The Application of Impossible Things). But- you will counter in Sudman’s case and other NDEs- that those are about someone’s personal experience. Yes, just like the personal experience that founded all the great world religions- i.e. the personal experience of the Buddha under the tree, the experience of Moses on the mountain top (Judaism), the experience of Paul on the Damascus Road(the revelation of his Christ myth that became Christianity), and the cave and other experiences (i.e. seizures) of Mohammad. The vast majority of humanity (85% in World Religion Survey) still affiliates with the religions based on these personal experiences.
Personal experience- human thought, feeling, subconscious impulse, speculation/perception- is involved in all human existence and shapes conclusions about all things, even in science (again, see Hossenfelder- “Lost in Math”- on how even theoretical physics often crosses the philosophy/science boundary). And yes, empirical science does offer a healthy check on human speculation.
We do not disparage such personal experience but evaluate its content with criteria such as- is it humane or not? After all, our conscious, personal experience is the most real thing we know. It may be the only real thing in the cosmos.
Further… I go with the vast majority of humanity across history, recognizing that we belong to some Greater Reality. Even contemporary materialists recognize this as some level- that we only see some 4-5% of reality, the visible material realm, with Dark Matter and Energy being the other 95-96%. But where the materialist will define the greater reality in only in terms of energy and natural law, I would join the majority that intuit more to that reality. Even the Neanderthals believed there was more as evidenced in their burial of grave items for continuing life.
Most of humanity across history has concluded that the greater surrounding, interpenetrating reality is more of the nature of Mind, Consciousness, and therefore Personhood and Intelligence.
But then the pathology enters in what early people projected out to explain and define the greater Mind- with features like anger, vengeance (justice as payback), punishment, domination (Lord, King), exclusion (tribally favor true believers, adherents), and violent destruction. The very worst of animal and human existence was projected onto the gods.
This pathology still exists in the great gods of religious traditions. We know better today. We understand that no conditions love is the highest form of love, the most humane form of love. It therefore ought to define Ultimate Goodness such as deity.
Protest Petition (Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine). Signed by over 31,000 scientists.
“There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”
“We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.
This site traces the relationship between contemporary alarmist movements, notably environmental alarmism (e.g. global warming or climate alarmism) and the ideology behind environmental alarmism- i.e. 19th Century Declinism (see Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline in Western History). And then we push even further to understand the obvious mythology behind the ideology- and that takes us to apocalyptic mythology with its nihilist belief in some core punitive, destroying Force/Spirit/deity. That is the historical root of the alarmism problem with its endless exaggeration of problems in the natural world out to apocalyptic scale (the endless proclamation that “the end is nigh”). And yes, alarmism, at its deepest level, is also very much a theological issue, which is to say, an ‘ultimate meaning’ issue.
We respond to this problem of alarmism from all angles and at all levels, notably, making reference to the good skeptical science that shows that life is not declining toward some disastrous collapse and ending but, rather, that life has been rising and progressing toward an ever-better future. Yes, there are problems all through life and climate change is one of the often problematic elements of nature that humanity has to adapt to. But we have done so all through our history and we have been adapting ever-more successfully with the development of modern industrial, technological civilization.
Evidence of our success and the consequently improving trajectory of life? Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Greg Easterbrook’s A Moment on the Earth, Bjorn Lomborg’s Sceptical Environmentalist, Indur Goklany’s The Improving State of the World (and essays on the ‘Environmental Transition’), Ronald Bailey’s The End of Doom, Matt Ridley’s Rational Optimist, Desrocher and Szurmak’s Population Bombed, and others. These researchers present some of the best science/evidence on “the true state of life” on our planet. That evidence shows that we are not a virus or cancer on the Earth. To the contrary, we are all true environmentalists and our essential goodness and concern has prompted us to care for nature and we have done well. Read the evidence for yourself.
Alarmism over the natural world and exaggeration of problems in the natural world to apocalyptic scale is as old as written history (some 5000 years). Note the Sumerian Flood myth (circa 2600 BCE) and its proclamation of the end of humanity and life, due to a flood.
Environmental alarmists today continue this ancient and primitive tradition of exaggerating natural world problems to apocalyptic ending (the endless prophesying of the end of days). Note James Hansen, father of the global warming alarm, prophesying in 2008 that “It’s all over in five years”. Or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who said, “The world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change”. Or Paul Ehrlich’s never-ending predictions of the looming end. So also Rachel Carson’s ‘apocalyptic narrative’ in Silent Spring.
Even Stephen Hawking was carried away with apocalyptic hysteria in his final two years, ending by predicting the end in about 100 years. However, he was smart enough to put the end-time date beyond his demise and thereby spare himself the embarrassment from apocalyptic mythology’s 100 percent historical failure rate. Paul Ehrlich has no such shame.
This site takes a robust stance against alarmism of all forms. There are numerous problems in the world that deserve our attention and concern. But alarmist-type people exaggerate problems out to apocalyptic scale thereby distorting the true nature of things and promoting fatalism in populations. That is highly irresponsible and unscientific. Alarmists also promote salvation schemes (“save the world”) that have devastating consequences for many people, often the most vulnerable.
When you claim that “the end is nigh”, you incite fear in populations and then alarmed people will embrace salvation schemes that too often demand the ‘coercive purging’ of some claimed threat. That becomes a direct attack on the freedom of others. Alarmists argue that such coercion is required because the threat is so dire and the time is too short for normal democratic processes.
Add here the tribal impulse to demonize opponents as not legitimately representing credible alternative facts, but as mere evil of some sort (i.e. deniers of the good and true). Then it is only “righteous” to do as Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, did- to try to criminalize and prohibit sceptical science. That refusal to tolerate information that contradicts your beliefs, and to coercively silence disagreeing others, is to dangerously give way to the old totalitarian impulse.
Remember also that David Suzuki called for the imprisonment of oil company executives.
This from George Will in the Washington Post, April 22/2016
“Scientific silencers on the left are trying to shut down climate skepticism”
“Authoritarianism, always latent in progressivism, is becoming explicit. Progressivism’s determination to regulate thought by regulating speech is apparent in the campaign by 16 states’ attorneys general and those of the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, none Republican, to criminalize skepticism about the supposedly “settled” conclusions of climate science.”
And The Daily Signal Mar.10/2016
“Attorney General Lynch Looks Into Prosecuting ‘Climate Change Deniers’” by Hans von Spakovsky
“In news that should shock and anger Americans, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that not only has she discussed internally the possibility of pursuing civil actions against so-called “climate change deniers,” but she has “referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which we could take action.”
This comment below from Market Watch affirms my suspicion that there is a correlation between depression as the world’s number one illness and the ideology of Declinism (i.e. the belief that life is declining toward something worse, toward some great disaster and ending). Arthur Herman says that Declinism is “the single most influential and dominant theme in the world today” (The Idea of Decline in Western History). Declinism is the ideology of environmental alarmism.
Julian Simon’s own depression was related to his embrace of environmental alarmism. He found liberation by researching the “true state of the world” (the evidence on all the main features of life) and discovering that, despite problems everywhere, things were improving on all fronts. Humanity was solving problems and life was not declining toward some worsening state but was improving toward an ever better future. He says that after seeing the evidence on the true state of the world, his depression left and never returned. See his brilliant work in “Ultimate Resource”.
From Market Watch, 23 of May, 2019-
“Young people blame climate change for their small 401(k) balances” by Kari Paul.
“Engulfed in a constant barrage of depressing news stories, many young people are skeptical about saving for an uncertain future… Lori Rodriguez, a 27-year-old communications professional in New York City, is not saving for retirement, and it isn’t necessarily because she can’t afford to — it’s because she doesn’t expect it to matter. Like many people her age, Rodriguez believes climate change will have catastrophic effects on our planet. “I do not see how things could not be chaotic in 50 years,” Rodriguez says. “The weather systems are already off, and I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to be a little apocalyptic.”
“Mental-health issues affecting young adults and adolescents in the U.S. have increased significantly in the past decade, a study published in March in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found. The number of individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 reporting symptoms of major depression increased 52% from 2005 to 2017… Millennials are also said to suffer from “eco-anxiety,” according to a 2018 report from the American Psychological Association, with 72% saying their emotional well-being is affected by the inevitability of climate change, compared with just 57% of people over the age of 45.
“Some 30% of people who have chosen not to have children have done so due to climate concerns, according to a 2018 report by the New York Times… the more you read the more you feel like, unless something very radically changes soon, it’s going to be downright cruel to have children in the future.”
We have an upcoming Fall federal election in Canada and the ruling Liberal party has promised to make climate change the central issue. They take the alarmist position, believing the exaggerated apocalyptic scenarios of the now discredited climate models (i.e. 3-6 degrees Centigrade warming over these very decades that we are living through). Our Prime Minister Trudeau stated that the opposition Conservatives “did not believe in climate change” and the opposition leader, Scheer, basically affirmed the alarmist scenario and the need to “fight climate change”.
Neither side has clearly stated the core issue in the climate debate- i.e. the disagreement over the actual role that CO2 plays and its prominence in relation to other natural factors that influence climate change. The alarmists have claimed, against good evidence to the contrary, that CO2 plays the dominant causal role in climate change and they have consequently pushed policies to slow and stop human use of fossil fuels, at great cost to the most vulnerable people in our societies (e.g. rising energy costs due to things like carbon taxes, fuel poverty, slowed economic development in general, etc.).
It is highly irresponsible, and even immoral, to cause immense harm to the poorest people when evidence does not support your alarmist policies (i.e. decarbonize societies).
And hey… why are media ignoring the very thing that even James Hansen (the father of the global warming alarm) has acknowledged- that the mild (0.3 degree Centigrade) warming of the roughly 1975-95 period has stopped? And no- the 98 and 2015/16 El Ninos (claimed as “the warmest years on record”) do not define the larger trend that we are currently experiencing. Events and trends are two different things, though they sometimes correlate.
The Climate debate– Countering climate apocalyptic hysteria
Media have persistently alarmed the public over two main things- warming temperatures and rising CO2 levels. Alarmists claim that these two things are a great threat to life. The alarmist narrative states that these two things will lead to catastrophic outcomes in the near future, perhaps even to “the end of days”. Therefore, to “save the world” we must immediately decarbonize our societies.
But what is “the true state of our planet today”?
(Note: We cannot understand climate properly aside from the larger context of long-term climate history. Alarmists repeatedly make claims such as “the hottest year on record”, but the record they refer to is only that of the last century and a half. The climate change of this short period is mild compared to the swings in climate that have occurred over the long-term record. For good paleo-climate evidence see Ian Plimer’s Heaven and Earth.)
(Added note: The daily news media litany of hysteria over floods, hot spells, and other natural events, and the claim that they are the result of climate change due to human use of fossil fuels, is unscientific and distorting. Such events have always been part of nature and were much more severe in the past than today. Beware of the fallacy of “presentism”- the belief that anything that occurs today is the worst ever. Again, observe paleo-climate history for proper perspective on such things.)
Climate change is occurring and like everything else in nature it always will change because it is a dynamic, complex system. There is no stasis anywhere in nature at some optimal state. So arousing fear of change itself in relation to climate is unscientific hysteria. Climate will always be warming or cooling as it has across all history.
And CO2 has a warming effect and contributes to warming periods in climate change. Both alarmists and skeptics agree on these basic facts. But other natural factors show stronger influence on climate change such as the cosmic ray/sun/cloud interaction (see The Chilling Stars by Henrik Svensmark) and multi-decadal shifts in ocean currents (the ocean/atmosphere relationship), among other natural factors. The greenhouse influence of CO2 is overwhelmed by these other factors. You cannot control climate by turning a CO2 knob.
Also critical- During this ice age era, CO2 levels have been dangerously low (below 300 ppm during the pre-industrial period) and this has stressed plant life on Earth. CO2 is the basic food of plants and with increased levels over the past few decades, plant productivity has increased immensely (some 14% since 1982). Earth is greener and healthier today. During past higher levels of CO2 (2000-4000 ppm), plant life flourished and there was no heat apocalypse.
Further, current average world temperatures have been low during this ice age era (14.5 degrees C), barely above ice age levels of 12 degrees Centigrade. Much warmer temperatures enable life to flourish as in past warmer periods (see paleo-climate history in Heaven and Earth by Ian Plimer). More species go extinct and more people die during cold periods than during warm periods. Also, the discovery of tropical tree stumps in the Arctic show that it was once a tropical area. For most of its history, in fact, over 80 percent of Earth’s history, our world has been ice-free. That is a more normal and healthy state for life.
The media litany of potential catastrophic outcomes from climate change are based on modelled scenarios that have not come true. We are not heading toward 3-6 degrees Centigrade warming. The actual climate change has been about 1.0 degree Centigrade over the past century. More warming is needed as we are still rebounding from the subnormal, unnatural cold of the Little Ice Age of 1645-1715.
And while there is constant change all through nature and never stasis at some optimal state, some states are better for life in general- notably, higher levels of CO2 (1000-1500 ppm) and warmer temperatures (higher than the current 14.5 degrees Centigrade average). As Ian Plimer says, life has “flourished” in the past with much more CO2 and much warmer temperatures. This is entirely opposite to the alarmist narrative.
I would turn the alarmist narrative on its head and state that higher CO2 levels and warmer temperatures would be a significant benefit to life. Certainly, all climate change produces problems but, during warmer periods and with higher levels of CO2, the benefits for all life far outweigh the negative factors.
And consensus over the alarmist narrative? Remember, almost 32,000 scientists signed the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine ‘Protest Petition’ stating that there is no good evidence that more CO2 and warmer temperatures are a threat to life, while there is good evidence that they are a benefit to life. That Petition included Richard Lindzen (atmospheric physicist, formerly of MIT), and Freeman Dyson (Einstein’s successor in physics), among many others.
Note: Despite endless media hysteria over these issues, there has been no significant increase in extreme weather events (tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts) and sea level rise continues at normal historical rates (i.e. 3 mm/year) for this inter-glacial, now almost 120 meters in total over the past roughly 15,000 years. See Global Warming Policy Forum newsletter and reports (for example, 07/06/19).
Further on Countering alarmism…
Good scientific evidence tells us that life is generally improving in our world. But despite well-documented volumes of such evidence (e.g. Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Greg Easterbrook’s A Moment on the Earth, Bjorn Lomborg’s Sceptical Environmentalist, Indur Goklany’s The Improving State of the World, Ronald Bailey’s The End of Doom, Matt Ridley’s Rational Optimist, Desrocher and Szurmak’s Population Bombed, and others)… despite this evidence, alarmists continue to insist that “the end is nigh”, that life is worsening toward some great disaster. Alarmists repeatedly exaggerate problems in life to apocalyptic scale, thereby distorting the true state of things.
This tells us that something other than facts are shaping the worldviews of many people. Ideology, with its ‘confirmation bias’ approach, is obviously playing a role in the way that many people view the world. And further behind the ideology we can detect the presence of mythological themes as old as humanity. This site goes to the root of the problem of alarmism, arguing that it has a significant theological element, which is to say- alarmism is often an “ultimate meaning” problem.
First, countering alarmism with some important facts on “the true state of the world”. Here are critical points regarding the status of the four main elements of life on earth. There are problems everywhere in nature, and always will be in an imperfect world, but our history shows that we have creatively responded and solved problems where possible and adapted to nature where we have had to adapt to elements beyond our control (e.g. climate). Again, note the evidence in the above listed books.
1. Land species: Contrary to the new surge of alarmism from the UN (April, 2019) there is no species holocaust occurring. See the May 9 edition of the Global Warming Policy Forum newsletter.
2. World forests: Deforestation rates have been declining over past years and Earth has more forest cover today (over 4.0 billion hectares) than in the 1940s (3.7-3.9 billion hectares). See FAO reports.
3. Ocean fisheries: Ocean fisheries are not collapsing. See notes on Ray Hilborn at the bottom of this section. Quotes from below: “When marine ecologist Boris Worm proclaimed in 2006 that the “global collapse” of fish stocks would occur by the year 2048, media outlets took the bait, splashing hyperbolic headlines on the proclamation and drowning real facts in distortion… Subsequent research in 2009 proved Worm’s flawed prediction to be wrong… Seafood does face challenges, but wholesale extinction is not one of them.
“In fact, world fish stocks are stable. Speaking at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Seattle, University of Washington fisheries researcher Ray Hilborn said on average, fish stocks are likely increasing… There is a very broad perception that fish stocks around the world are declining. Many news coverages in the media will always begin with ‘fish stocks in the world are declining.’ And this simply isn’t true,” Hilborn said, pointing to the RAM Legacy Database, which collects information on all the scientifically assessed world stocks.
“Fish stocks can be “robust,” Hilborn explained, even if they are labeled “over-fished”. A stock that is over-fished is not necessarily going extinct. “It simply means you’re getting less yield from that stock than you could get if it was well-managed,” he added. Meaning, with a robust management plan, a fishery certainly has the potential to bounce back.”
4. World soils: There is no soil degradation crisis. And we may have already passed ‘peak agricultural soil use’ and are now returning significant farm acreage back to nature.
And yes… climate. Even James Hansen, the father of the global warming alarm, has admitted that the mild warming of 1975-95 (0.3 degree Centigrade) has ceased and climate has been in a “pause” that is now over two decades long. We do not know if warming will resume or if a cooling trend will develop further. This depends on the cosmic ray/sun/cloud interaction, multi-decadal ocean current shifts (from warming to cooling patterns), and other natural factors that influence climate change more than CO2 does.
Further, if life were getting worse, as alarmists claim (e.g. chemicals, cancers), then why has the world average life expectancy increased from 31 years in 1900 to 72 years today?
And if CO2 was a threat to life (pollutant, poison) then why is the Earth 14% greener and healthier today than it was in 1982? (i.e. The increase in primary plant productivity). For the past millions of years CO2 levels have been dangerously low and that has stressed plant life which depends on CO2 as the most basic plant food. Plants prefer atmospheric levels around 1000-1500 ppm. With those levels in past history (paleo-climatology), plant life flourished and there was no heating apocalypse.
Also, world average temperatures have been abnormally cold during this ice age era and that causes more suffering for life. There are more annual deaths from cold than there are from heat. Remember, the Arctic was once a tropical area. During the last inter-glacial, temperatures were 3-5 degrees Centigrade warmer than our current inter-glacial period.
Now, going directly to the root issue, let’s begin…
The theological background to alarmism (i.e. threat theology).
The cohering center of the apocalyptic complex of myths is the idea of a punitive, destroying Force or deity (i.e. angry, retributive God, vengeful Gaia, angry Planet/Mother Earth, retributive Universe, karma). Bring that monster down and the rest of the complex collapses.
Lest any visitor “get the vapors”, this is not an advocacy for any form of atheism. It is just an affirmation of the “stunning new non-retaliatory theology” of Historical Jesus. Quite contrary to the retaliatory theology of Paul. Detail below.
At its deepest level alarmism relates to theological issues. Which is to say- it is an ‘ultimate meaning’ issue. The earliest versions of alarmism were also related to the natural world and the sense of threat from nature (i.e. natural disaster, looming chaos, disease). The ancients believed there were Forces/Spirits behind all the elements of nature and if nature was destructive then that meant the gods were angry and were punishing people for being bad. That is the origin of punitive, destroying God theories and salvationist responses. Nothing has changed since. Just look at the major world religions and “secular” versions of the same mythology, such as Declinism, now expressed through environmental alarmism.
From the beginning humanity has struggled with the sense of threat from nature. People have long believed that natural disasters, accidents, and disease were evidence that the gods were angry and were punishing people for their sins. We see this in the earliest human writing (e.g. the Sumerian Flood myth) where people viewed natural flooding as evidence that an angry Enlil was threatening to destroy humanity for being bad.
Little has changed since. Today, contemporary apocalyptic prophets- the environmental alarmists- tell us repeatedly that the gods- Gaia, the Planet or Mother Earth, the Universe, or Karma- are again mad and punishing bad humanity (the virus or cancer on the world) through the natural world. And just like the Sumerian Flood myth, the ultimate expression of divine anger will be a great apocalyptic event or disaster, such as the collapse of nature.
But there is no such thing as a punitive, destroying Force or deity behind nature (i.e. punishing God, vengeful Gaia, angry Planet/Mother Earth, retributive Universe, or karma). This myth of punitive, destroying deity originates from a now recognized major error in early human thought (see “The Foundational Pathology…” just below). This means that apocalyptic mythology, as the ultimate expression of punitive, destroying deity, is a fraud. And that explains the 100 percent historical failure rate of apocalyptic predictions. Example (yes, environmental alarmism is a new “secular” version of primitive apocalyptic mythology): James Hansen proclaiming in 2008 regarding global warming, “It’s all over in five years”. It’s a shame that even Stephen Hawking embraced apocalyptic mythology in his final two years, claiming the end would possibly come via aliens or AI in a thousand years or so, to finally claiming the end would come in just a hundred years (i.e. from environmental disaster). Apocalyptic has always made fools of the brightest minds.
Apocalyptic still curses human consciousness with contemporary ideological versions like Declinism or environmental alarmism that takes problems in the natural world to apocalyptic scale and thereby distorts the true state of things (i.e. the endless claims of alarmists that any given problem means that the “end is nigh”). Alarmists persistently do this, despite the long history of evidence that humanity has creatively solved problems throughout life.
We (i.e. humanity in general) are all environmentalists and Ecological Kuznets Curve research, or Environmental Transition, confirms this. But environmental alarmism is something other than the normal, healthy concern that most people hold for the world that we inhabit. Alarmism is a non-scientific form of extremism that exaggerates problems and, in response, too often promotes harmful salvation schemes. Environmental alarmism today exhibits too much of the primitive apocalyptic view of life and the original great error in human thought- i.e. that punitive Forces/Spirits are punishing “bad” people through the events of the natural world.
Note: Natural and social consequences in life are something entirely different from what punitive deity theories teach- i.e. that there are angry, punitive gods behind the destructive elements of nature. For example, Paul was wrong to tell the Corinthians that their sickness and death was punishment from God. But then, he did not yet know the germ theory of disease. His biggest mistake was to reject the stunning new non-punitive deity of Jesus and to re-embrace the same old punitive deity of all past mythology. Paul’s theology has since dominated Western consciousness.