Site project: Countering alarmism. Much of the material here probes “the true state of things” (see for example “World Resource Updates” just below). Why insist with Julian Simon (Ultimate Resource) on searching for the true state of something? Because too many in science today, and mainstream media, are advocating alarmism that exaggerates the actual state of problems, even out to apocalyptic-scale (the ‘end of days’ always just up ahead). That is highly distorting, irresponsible, and dangerous. Unnecessary fear incites our worst impulses. Fear incites, for example, the tribal impulse to view some other person or group as an enemy, as a threat to oneself, a threat that must be fought and stopped.
Exaggerated fear agitates the natural survival impulse. It orients people to the harmful salvationist schemes/solutions offered by alarmists that have repeatedly unleashed the totalitarianism impulse and its destructive outcomes. How so? Alarmists propose some threat, like “catastrophic climate change”, and then claim that the only way to “save the world” is to coercively purge what they claim to be the threat to life- e.g. “greedy” people in industrial civilization enjoying the good life too much. The destructive alarmist solutions- “degrowth… decarbonization… and a return to primitive pre-industrial standards of living”.
As Stephen Hayward illustrated in ‘The Green God That Failed — Almost’, “Ultimately, Planet of the Humans represents a throwback to the gloomy Malthusianism that informed the birth of the modern environmental movement—the view that humans are a plague on the planet and that the planet can be saved only by having fewer humans on it, living subsistence lives.”
The totalitarian spirit of alarmists is exhibited today in the efforts to silence, discredit, ban, criminalize, and even imprison skeptics to the apocalyptic narratives of alarmists. Exaggerated fear too often leads to endeavors to control others, “for their own good”, of course. We are watching this play out today in the all-too-common abandonment of democratic processes. Remember, President Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, tried to criminalize skeptical science in 2016.
Other examples: See “German authorities are cracking down on ‘climate change dissent’” at
Also: “The Coming Dark Age & The Death Of The Scientific Method” by
Gideon Rozner, The Australian, 30 May 2020, posted on Global Warming Policy Forum’s site/newsletter.
See also Clarice Feldman’s article on censorship of skeptical science at https://the-pipeline.org/david-v-goliath-in-cyberspace/?utm_source=CCNet+Newsletter&utm_campaign=dcb491a612-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_06_03_12_43_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fe4b2f45ef-dcb491a612-20139177&mc_cid=dcb491a612&mc_eid=bbd9cad85f
Campbell’s sage advice on responding to injustice: Maintain your humanity
Joseph Campbell argued that in our “righteous battles against evil” we maintain our humanity by remembering to treat our opponents/enemies with restorative justice not retaliatory punishment. Harm returned for harm originally done, hurt for hurt, humiliation for humiliation, or punishment for punishment only renders us all petty and does nothing to take us forward to something better.
Campbell said that we must remember our fundamental oneness with all others in the human family, our “brotherhood” with even our enemies. We maintain our humanity by remembering to “love our enemy”. That is not a call to pacifism in the face of injustice or evil but a call to always respond/act humanely in our struggles against wrong and against offenders. Love obligates us to always treat others, even offenders, with restorative justice, not retaliatory or punitive justice. It takes special courage to respond and act humanely after suffering inhumanity (violence, torture, death). Note the examples of this supreme courage in “The Forgiven”, “To End All Wars”, and “The Railway Man”.
We all naturally feel intense rage at injustice and brutality. It is not against love to affirm such rage. But then what? What does it mean to respond and act as maturely human? We know that retaliatory violence diminishes and dehumanizes us and renders us no different from the original offenders that sparked our rage. That was Simon Wiesenthal’s argument with the Jewish Father who wanted to kill the SS soldier that had shot his son. “Don’t be like the Nazis”, Wiesenthal said (Justice, Not Vengeance). How do we respond to inhumanity in a manner that maintains our own humanity?
As Campbell has urged, we mature as human and maintain our humanity by embracing and exhibiting unconditional, universal love. We then tower in stature and become heroes of our stories. We conquer our monster. Think Nelson Mandela as a recent striking example. His signature phrase: “Let us surprise them (our opponents/enemies) with our generosity (our forgiveness, inclusion, kindness)”. Mandela urged his colleagues to not retaliate against former oppressors (Richard Stengel, Mandela’s Way). So also Alveda King reminds us of her uncle’s response to violence long ago https://www.foxnews.com/media/mlk-alveda-king-george-floyd-riots-protests. Retaliation in kind (eye for eye) solves nothing.
The mother in The Forgiven, a character based on real people that took part in Mandela’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, exhibited the way to maintain our humanity and offer a better way forward. She screamed her pain and then told the police officer that had participated in her daughter’s murder, “I want to kill you but I will forgive you, because that is what my daughter would want. She would not want to continue these hate for hate cycles”. The actual mother had wailed her torment at her child’s death and looked into the camera, crying, “We know God wants us to forgive, but its so hard” (Bill Moyer documentary).
This is about an inner battle that is the most important battle in life. It is the battle against the inherited animal in us- the real enemy and monster in life. As Solzhenitsyn said, the real battle of good against evil runs down the center of every human heart. The real enemy is the animal in us- those inherited impulses to tribally exclude others as enemies, to dominate others, to embrace retaliatory punishment and destroy the differing other. Jordan Peterson suggests that we should first win this inner battle before going forth to change others or change our societies.
Unconditional, universal love as a life goal, as the centering ideal or core-orientation of a life narrative, is the weapon to destroy this real enemy/monster. Unconditional love encourages us to include all as family, to respectfully honor the freedom of others as equals, and to generously forgive and treat all human failure with restorative justice.
Many counter that such love is weak, mushy, impractical in the face of evil. It is too pacifist.
Not at all. The intentional choice to treat everyone, including offenders, with an unconditional attitude does not contradict the robust affirmation that we must hold everyone responsible for their actions (i.e. restrain violent people, maintain a victim-centered focus, and hold offenders accountable to make restitution). An unconditional approach can do this while holding an intentionally non-retaliatory spirit or attitude. There is no conflict between love and the responsibility to be human in an imperfect world. As some say, there is no conflict between love and justice, that is, justice as restorative not punitive.
Again, look carefully at the stunningly courageous expression of this love in The Railway Man, The Forgiven, and To End All Wars and then see if you can still argue this is weakness in the face of evil. Unconditional/universal love requires a maturity and strength of character that most of us never achieve. Was Nelson Mandela weak and impractical? His approach in South Africa spared that country civil war when he was released from prison? See ‘Mandela’s Way’ by Richard Stengel. Millions of young African men wanted their vengeance and Mandela had to argue them out of that. His vision was for a forgiving, inclusive South Africa.
And again, there is no contradiction between hating evil and yet treating offenders with restorative justice. Remember that mother in The Forgiven… “I want to kill you (the police officer that was part of a group that shot her child) but I will forgive you because that is what my daughter would want”. Love is not about feeling mushy, warm, or fuzzy toward offenders and their horrific offenses. It is about a choice to treat everyone humanely, including “enemies/offenders”.
When you strip away all else in human experience and life in this imperfect world- all our great successes in all that humanity has achieved in all areas (and all of that achievement is critically important)- you get to this stunning awareness that human story at its most vital and meaningful is about these inner battles to conquer the inherited animal and the struggle to live as authentically human.
In those breakthrough moments of awareness, we all intuitively get it that this inner struggle has something to do with the core meaning of life as it relates to our highest ideal- love. Human life story is about learning what love really is, how to love, how to reach and grow beyond the shallow pettiness of tribal forms of love (i.e. love for only family, friends, tribal groupings- racial, ethnic, national) to love universally, unconditionally like those heroic figures in the stories above.
Unconditional, universal love is our true inner self, the “real us” at our very core. It is the true nature of the human spirit or self. Campbell was right that the discovery of this love, the orientation of life to this universal love, is to discover our true mature self and the central meaning of human life.
Note: In his above argument on maintaining our humanity, Campbell refers to the central Q Wisdom Sayings gospel message- “Don’t retaliate with eye for eye, but instead love your enemy because God does. How so? God generously gives the good gifts of life- sun and rain for crops- to both good and bad people”. That is the single most profound statement on the nature of authentic love and what it means to be fully human.
Note on Love: Humanity’s highest ideal and the one thing that most identifies us as human. It encompasses many related ideals such as forgiveness, inclusion, the treatment of all others as equals (i.e. respect for the freedom of others, non-controlling), kindness, gentleness, and much more. It has been the discovery of ordinary people- i.e. parents, spouses, friends- that love in its highest form is no-conditions, universal or non-tribal, and unlimited.
Countering alarmism eruptions…
“The whole aim of practical politics”, wrote H.L. Mencken, “is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary”.
A response to the myth of Declinism– “The most dominant and influential theme in our societies in the Twentieth Century (and still today)”, Arthur Herman in The Idea of Decline in Western History.
British historian and statesman Thomas Babington Macaulay wrote in 1830: “In every age everybody knows that up to his own time, progressive improvement has been taking place; nobody seems to reckon on any improvement in the next generation. We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who say society has reached a turning point – that we have seen our best days. But so said all who came before us and with just as much apparent reason. … On what principle is it that with nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?”
The wonder of being human (title of one of John Eccles’ books)
We- the human family- have an established record of improving our world over the long-term history of life. Such evidence reveals our fundamental goodness. We are the best thing that has happened to life (Greg Easterbrook in A Moment On the Earth).
Also notable, we have become more humane in human civilization as evident, for example, in the ever-declining rates of violence across history (see James Payne’s History of Force, and Stephen Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature).
The above evidence potently counters the new fundamentalism of extremist elements in Green religion (more broadly- the ‘environmental alarmism’ movement). These people promote an anti-human apocalyptic movement that has been metastasizing across the world and trying to slow, halt, and even reverse human progress. The apocalyptic prophets in Green religion exhibit a disturbing totalitarian spirit in their efforts to silence, discredit, and ban skeptics to their narrative that corrupt humanity in industrial society is destroying the planet and is responsible for causing the imagined imminent collapse and ending of life.
See comment below on “Getting to the true state of life” (known as “The Simon Project” on Humanprogress.org), and “Reflexive skepticism, not denial”.
Also, more below on the great ‘bogeyman’ behind alarmism eruptions- the bad theology of punitive, destroying deity and the related threat of apocalypse. This mythology, now beaten into humanity’s consciousness over multiple millennia, has attuned us to expect the worst, making us susceptible to the endless alarmist eruptions and prophecies of the end of days coming. Central to this pathology is the myth that we are bad to the bone and we deserve punishment (i.e. we are a virus or cancer on the Earth).
Note: While world religions maintain the primitive versions of mythology like punitive, destroying deity and apocalyptic, many moderns (materialist, atheist) now embrace the secular/ideological versions of the same mythical themes, notably in Declinism.
(Note this pattern in alarmism eruptions: Good follow-up research consistently shows that the worst-case scenarios never come to pass but media ignore that research and move right on from the last failed alarm to begin pushing the next new alarm. We have suffered an endless series of these apocalyptic-scale prophesies that have alarmed and agitated public consciousness for decades. Is it any wonder that many children now suffer the malady of “eco-anxiety” and young couples are afraid to birth and raise children today?)
“Over the past 70 years public consciousness has been repeatedly assaulted by apocalyptic-scale hysteria, via alarmism-oriented news media. There was the global cooling alarm of the 1970s. Then, prophesies of the end of minerals, oil, and resources in general. Also, population bomb explosion and mass famine. Apocalyptic plagues such as SARS, bird and swine flu, Ebola, AIDs, and mad cow disease. Environmental apocalypses in the form of the “disappearing lungs of the planet” (deforestation), species holocaust, soil erosion and the collapse of agriculture, ocean fisheries collapsing by 2048, ozone depletion, acid rain, chemical apocalypses (i.e. DDT and CFCs), and killer bees. Then technology-induced apocalypse via nuclear war, Artificial Intelligence, or Y2K. Then climate catastrophes and end-of-life scenarios via warming, rising oceans, extreme storms, mass climate migration and wars, and the myriad other apocalyptic-scale outcomes attributed to climate change.”
Public consciousness has been endlessly traumatized by such hysterical exaggeration of world problems. It is no wonder that the idea of decline (i.e. life is declining toward something worse) has become the dominant theme in our societies and depression is the world’s number one illness. See Arthur Herman’s ‘The Idea of Decline in Western History’.
A quote from… “We Disagree with You, So Shut Up” by David Kreutzer. See https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/renewable/we-disagree-with-you-so-shut-up/
“For climate alarmists, it is not enough simply to argue a case against their opponents. The purveyors of a climate apocalypse do not tolerate dissent. For them, the too-frequent response is to deny their opponents any voice at all”. Example: Note the recent removal of Michael Moore’s documentary, Plant of the Humans, from Youtube.
World resource updates: The main indicators of the true state of life on Earth
Despite endless claims of the imminent ‘end of the world’ creative humanity has been solving problems and doing well in improving life over the long term. Our management of Earth’s main resources reveals the basic goodness of humanity and is a sound basis of evidence for hope that our efforts to improve life will continue and the future will be ever better.
Below are brief summary updates on the true state of the main world resources- i.e. forests, fisheries, land species (yet to come), atmosphere, and soils. The evidence on these is from the most credible data sources (e.g. the FAO for fisheries, forests, and soil research).
The state of the world’s main resources provides a big picture background to compare with, for example, the information from Michael Moore’s latest documentary- Planet of the Humans. While that is a helpful exposure of the unworkable nature and damaging consequences of renewables, it presented misinformation and outright distortion regarding world resources (i.e. anecdotal pictures of small acreages of burning forest, or cleared land, that do not show the complete big picture status of agriculture and forest resources).
Moore has presented the conventional alarmist narrative that too many people are consuming too much of Earth’s resources and life is therefore going to hell in a handbasket. At fault? Greedy humanity wanting too much of the good life. And the claim that our industrial civilization and economic growth is destroying the planet. That is just not true. Better sources of data on the true state of our world and life is presented, for example, at sites like Humanprogress.org.
First, some quotes from “THE PLANET NOW HAS MORE TREES THAN IT DID 35 YEARS AGO: Tree cover loss in the tropics was outweighed by tree cover gain in subtropical, temperate, boreal, and polar regions” by RHETT A. BUTLER, AUG 17, 2018 https://psmag.com/environment/the-planet-now-has-more-trees-than-it-did-35-years-ago
“Despite ongoing deforestation, fires, drought-induced die-offs, and insect outbreaks, the world’s tree cover actually increased by 2.24 million square kilometers—an area the size of Texas and Alaska combined—over the past 35 years, finds a paper published in the journal Nature. But the research also confirms large-scale loss of the planet’s most biodiverse ecosystems, especially tropical forests.
“The study, led by Xiao-Peng Song and Matthew Hansen of the University of Maryland, is based on analysis of satellite data from 1982 to 2016…
“Overall, the study found that tree cover loss in the tropics was outweighed by tree cover gain in subtropical, temperate, boreal, and polar regions. Tree cover gain is being driven by agricultural abandonment in parts of Europe, Asia, and North America; warming temperatures that are enabling forests to move poleward; and China’s massive tree planting program. Tree cover is also increasing globally in montane areas…
“The biggest gains in tree cover occurred in temperate continental forest (+726,000 square kilometers), boreal coniferous forest (+463,000 square kilometers), subtropical humid forest (+280,000 square kilometers). Russia (+790,000 square kilometers), China (+324,000 square kilometers), and the United States (+301,000 square kilometers) experienced the largest increase in tree cover among countries during the period…
“The study estimates gross tree canopy loss globally at 1.33 million square kilometers, or 4.2 percent of 1982 tree cover. But adding in gains, the planet’s total area of tree cover increased by 2.24 million square kilometers, or 7.1 percent, from 31 million to 33 million square kilometers. The authors note these numbers “contradict” data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which collects national forest data from countries’ forestry departments and has historically been seen as the most consistent source of information on forest cover…” (end of quotes).
Add here that a general greening of the planet has occurred over this same time period (1982- present) due to increased plant food (CO2) in the atmosphere. There has been an increase of green vegetation across the world equal to twice the size of the continental US mainland. Earth is 14% greener today than just a few decades ago.
Also, the fact that Latin American forests are still being cut due to expanding agriculture makes it more important that farmers there can access GM crops, and related inputs, which enable farmers to produce more on the same or less land. That enables the agricultural transition, the move to ‘peak agriculture’ and beyond, where agricultural land is then returned to nature as is happening in N. America and Europe.
Added notes: In 1953 world forest cover was 3.8 billion hectares with world population at about 2.5 billion people. Today, with population over 7 billion, world forest cover, instead of declining with more people, has increased to over 4 billion hectares or 31% of the world’s land area. There is more forest today with almost three times more people.
Another note: Human agricultural land uses about 5 billion hectares of the Earth’s land area. About 77% of this is grazing land (4 billion hectares), and the other 1 billion-plus hectares are used to grow all the crops that we eat.
More crop and grazing land will be returned to nature as ongoing increases in crop productivity are spread to farmers across the world.
Added note: Pre-industrial forest cover has been estimated at about 5.9 billion hectares compared to today’s 4.1 billion hectares. That loss is not to be regretted as humanity deserves to exist and has the right to use some land for food crops. We are not the “virus/cancer” of anti-human Green religion. We are as natural as any other species on the planet. The more important point is that we have learned from past experience and improved our engagement and use of nature and this is evident in our increasing the area of forest cover from 3.8 billion hectares in the early 1950s to the 4.1 billion hectares today. We have done that while the human population has increased threefold (2.4 billion people in 1953 to almost 8 billion today). We have learned to use wood more efficiently and can meet much of our wood needs from tree plantations that now cover 264 million hectares (7% of forest cover).
A further note affirming the point that the increasing forest cover over the past 70 years exhibits an improving situation: Alarmists focus on the fact that pre-industrial forest cover was estimated at 5.9 billion hectares compared to only 4.1 billion hectares today. That ignores the growth in human population and that humanity has learned to better care for nature as evident in the fact that while forest cover in 1953 was 3.8 billion hectares it has grown to 4.1 billion hectares today. The change/improvement over the past 70 years is what matters. Alarmist narratives that focus on the pre-industrial number ignore this recent and more important long-term trend of improvement.
Facts that’s surprise:
Of the total 14,890,000,000 hectares of land area on our planet, only 1% is built-up by humanity. That includes urban areas, towns, villages, roads and other human infrastructure (https://ourworldindata.org/land-use). Just 1%. Think about that. We are not “paving over paradise”.
“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. They are increasing in many places and in fact, globally, the best assessments are that fish stocks are actually stable and probably increasing on average now,” Hilborn said.
“World fish stocks stable”
“There is a narrative that fish stocks are declining around the world, that fisheries management is failing and we need new solutions — and it’s totally wrong,” said lead author Ray Hilborn, a professor in the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “Fish stocks are not all declining around the world. They are increasing in many places, and we already know how to solve problems through effective fisheries management.”
World “capture” fishery production has been stable over the past three decades and “aquaculture has been responsible for the continuing impressive growth in the supply of fish for human consumption” http://www.fao.org/3/i9540en/i9549EN.pdf
See the data graphs in the above links that show, even with population growth and increasing consumption of fish, aquaculture is growing to make up the increasing human demand for fish while ocean capture has been stable across the last three decades. Ocean fisheries will not collapse by 2048 as some alarmists have predicted in past years.
As Julian Simon said, we (humanity) are doing a good job solving problems and improving life. He said that we ought to hold a party to outdo all parties to celebrate how well we have done.
Status of world soils
For detail on soil degradation categories, general soil categories, and basic arguments on soil degradation see “World Agricultural Land” under the ‘Unlimited Resources’ button at the top of this page.
Estimates of soil degradation have been exaggerated. The Glasod study of 1992 (Global Assessment of Soil Degradation) has been discredited with soil experts acknowledging that early estimates based on Glasod were wrong. Alarmists have tended to confuse soil degradation categories with the different agricultural land categories (i.e. cropland, grazing land). One notable mistake soil alarmists make is to take the figure for all soil degradation that applies to all land on Earth and to infer that number applies to the much smaller area of cropland.
The important thing to note is that crop productivity has increased significantly over past decades with more yet to come. GM crops have contributed to the increasing productivity of cropland. This fact of increasing productivity counters the arguments of alarmists that agricultural soils are degrading and that degradation would show in declining productivity. It ain’t happening.
Notably, alarmists often fail to account for new soil formation rates that exceed degradation rates and result in net soil gains. Further, scientists are suggesting that humanity has now passed ‘’peak agricultural land use” and we are now returning agricultural land back to nature just as the US returned 100 million plus acres of farm land back to nature in the last century (see Greg Easterbrook’s A Moment On The Earth).
One more world resource: Atmosphere
Countering the concern over rising CO2 and warmer temperatures (i.e. “climate crisis… catastrophe”).
The roughly 1 degree Centigrade warming over the past century was part of multi-century warming trend. Earth had descended into the bitter cold of the Little Ice Age somewhere around 1645. Around 1715 climate started to warm and rise out of that abnormal cold period. This rise has continued for the past three centuries due to natural factors and that natural influence on climate warming did not stop during the mid-Twentieth century and then become solely human-driven due to human emissions of CO2.
CO2 emissions do contribute to warming periods but that CO2 influence on climate is consistently overwhelmed by other natural factors.
Current average world temperatures of about 14.5 degrees Centigrade are still far below the normal, healthy averages over the past 500 million years that were about 19.5 degrees Centigrade. See detail below in “The Two Best Things”. CO2 levels and average world temperatures have been abnormally and sub-optimally low for the past millions of years and life on Earth has suffered. We are still well below the more optimal levels of CO2 and the warmer temperatures of the past. Life flourishes with much higher CO2 levels and much warmer temperatures, just as it did over the past hundreds of millions of years.
This evidence overturns entirely the alarmist narrative that rising CO2 levels and warming temperatures are a threat to life. To the contrary, they are the two best things happening to life today.
See also the first article at https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/05/04/weekly-climate-and-energy-news-roundup-420/. There is no alarming climate change occurring.
Conclusion? There is no need to panic over human use of fossil fuels. The activism to “decarbonize” our societies is based on an unscientific apocalyptic narrative and that will have devastating outcomes for humanity.
There is an excellent summary of the basic issues in the climate debate at https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/05/22/there-is-no-climate-emergency-2/
The two best things happening today– rising CO2 levels and the warming of Earth’s average surface temperatures.
Basic plant food
CO2 levels have been dangerously low over the past few million years of our ice-age era and this has stressed plant life. Over the past several hundred thousand years, CO2 levels have even dipped below 200 ppm, once down to 180 ppm. Plant life dies at 150 ppm. Normal and optimal levels of CO2 over the last 500 million years were in the multiple thousands of ppm. https://www.thegwpf.com/video-of-patrick-moores-gwpf-lecture-should-we-celebrate-co2/
During the Cambrian era life exploded with CO2 levels over 5000 ppm. There was no harm to life, or catastrophic collapse, with CO2 in multiple-thousands of ppm. Instead, life flourished.
“During the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods when our most useful plants evolved, CO2 levels were about five times higher than today… Our crop plants evolved about 400 million years ago, when CO2 in the atmosphere was about 5000 parts per million! Our evergreen trees and shrubs evolved about 360 million years ago, with CO2 levels at about 4,000 ppm. When our deciduous trees evolved about 160 million years ago, the CO2 level was about 2,200 ppm – still five times the current level”, (http://co2coalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Rising_CO2__Food-Security-2-21-19-1.pdf).
Contemporary plant response to more food
With the slight rise in CO2 levels from pre-industrial 285 ppm to the 400-plus ppm of today there has been a 14% increase in green vegetation across the Earth over the past 30 years. This is the equivalent to adding green vegetation twice the size of the mainland US. https://www.thegwpf.com/matt-ridley-rejoice-in-the-lush-global-greening/. Where are the celebrating Greens, the self-proclaimed advocates for a greener world?
A warming planet is a more optimal planet
There has been only a mild 1 degree Centigrade warming over the past century. This is part of the longer warming trend that began 300 years ago when Earth began to emerge out of the bitter cold of the Little Ice Age of 1645-1715. This longer warming trend is due to natural influences on climate, and that did not change with this past century (i.e. the same natural factors continue to overwhelmingly influence the present phase of this 300-year-long period of warming).
Our current world average surface temperature of 14.5 degrees Centigrade is still far below the normal and optimum 19.5 degrees C. average of the past hundreds of millions of years. For over 90% of the past 500 million years there has been no ice at the poles. That is a more normal and healthy Earth. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/01/03/earths-ice-ages/
With much higher average temperatures in the past there was no “climate catastrophe” or threat to life. To the contrary, life flourished.
A much warmer Earth will not “fry” because the planet has an efficient energy distribution system where heat rises at the tropics and is carried north and south toward the poles. In a warming world the Equator does not become excessively hotter but rather the colder regions warm more and that benefits all life with extended habitats and less severe storminess because of less severe gradients between warm and cold regions. https://scied.ucar.edu/learning-zone/how-weather-works/global-air-atmospheric-circulation.
Note also that researchers have discovered tropical tree stumps in the Arctic from past warmer eras. The more recent discovery of tropical tree stumps in Antarctica further corroborates the evidence of tropical forests in the pole regions. That evidence affirms the much warmer world of most of the past 500 million years with average 19.5 degrees Centigrade world surface temperatures versus the average 14.5 degrees Centigrade of today’s much colder world. Again, a much warmer world means vastly extended habitats for life, not a “frying” world that destroys life.
Physicist Freeman Dyson summarizes this uneven distribution of warming in the following: “…’Global warming’. This phrase is misleading because the warming caused by the greenhouse effect of increased carbon dioxide is not evenly distributed. In humid air, the effect of carbon dioxide on the transport of heat by radiation is less important, because it is outweighed by the much larger greenhouse effect of water vapor. The effect of carbon dioxide is more important where the air is dry and air is usually dry only where it is cold. The warming mainly occurs where air is cold and dry, mainly in the arctic rather than in the tropics, mainly in winter rather than in summer, and mainly at night rather than in daytime. The warming is real, but it is mostly making cold places warmer rather than making hot places hotter. To represent this local warming by a global average is misleading because the global average is only a fraction of a degree while the local warming at high latitudes is much larger” (The Scientist as Rebel).
Remember too that cold weather kills 10-20 times more people every year than heat does. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/12/20/moderate-cold-kills/, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150520193831.htm.
Plants, animals, and humans are benefiting immensely from this massive greening of our planet and the return to more normal and optimal conditions for all life. “Average increase of 46% of crop biomass owing to increased CO2 fertilization”, Gregory Whitestone on Craig Idso research. See http://www.co2science.org/data/plant_growth/plantgrowth.php
Further, the actual influence of CO2 on climate warming is still not settled because many other natural factors have shown a stronger influence on climate and stronger correlations to the climate change that we have seen over the past few centuries (i.e. cosmic ray/sun/cloud interaction, ocean/atmosphere relationship).
Fact: There is no good evidence to support fear of looming catastrophe (i.e. “climate crisis”) in a much warmer planet with much higher levels of CO2. The benefits of more plant food and more warmth outweigh any potential negatives.
Consequent to this evidence, there is no good scientific reason for people to decrease their use of fossil fuels or to ban them. It is unscientific and irrational to “decarbonize” our societies or to embrace policies such as carbon taxes. CO2 is not a pollutant or poison that must be restrained. It is the most basic food of life and it has been in desperately short supply for millions of years. We should celebrate with all plant and animal life at the greening of our planet.
The above evidence affirms that there is no climate apocalypse on the horizon.
Insert: Craig Idso, scientist with the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, regarding the EPA Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gases (2009) and his petition to repeal the Finding:
“Multiple observations made over the past decade confirm the projected risks and adverse consequences of rising greenhouse gases are failing to materialize. The truth is, in stark contrast to the Endangerment Finding, CO2 emissions and fossil fuel use during the Modern Era have actually enhanced life and improved humanity’s standard of living. And they will likely continue to do so as more fossil fuels are utilized”.
“Multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies show (1) there is nothing unusual about Earth’s current warmth or rate of warming, (2) historic and modern records of atmospheric CO2 and temperature violate principles of causation, (3) model-based temperature projections since 1979 artificially inflate warming (compared to observations) by a factor of 3, invalidating the models and all their ancillary claims associated with greenhouse gas-induced warming, and that (4) key adverse effects of greenhouse gas-induced warming, including extreme weather events, temperature-induced mortality and sea level rise, are not occurring despite EPA predictions they would be worsening”.
“The petition also presents compelling evidence that CO2 emissions and fossil energy use provide critical benefits that act to enhance health and welfare for humanity and the natural world… ‘Without adequate supplies of low-cost centralized energy derived from fossil fuels, few, in any, of the major technological and innovative advancements of the past two centuries that have enhanced and prolonged human life could have occurred. Additionally, without the increased CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use over the past two centuries, Earth’s terrestrial biosphere would be nowhere near as vigorous or productive as it is today. Rather, it would be devoid of the growth-enhancing, water-saving, and stress-alleviating benefits it has reaped in managed and unmanaged ecosystems from rising levels of atmospheric CO2 since the Industrial Revolution began’”.
See also the hundreds of studies on CO2 at Idso’s site- co2science.org.
Note: “What is impossible to quantify is the actual percentage of warming that is attributable to increased anthropogenic (human-caused) CO2. There is no scientific evidence or method that can determine how much of the warming we’ve had since 1900 was directly caused by us and how much can be assigned to the continuing natural drivers of climate”, Gregory Whitestone.
“Let us dispel any notion that projected higher levels of CO2 will have a direct deleterious impact on humans… According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), ‘CO2 levels may reach 900 ppm’ by 2100, which is well below the minimum threshold for negative impact to humans. The United States Department of Agriculture has set a maximum exposure limit for workers at 5,000 ppm and states that even at levels of 10,000 ppm there are typically no ill effects”, Gregory Whitestone.
The 130 ppm increase since the early stages of the Industrial Revolution is not an “alarming increase”. There is no “climate crisis”.
Note: Almost 32,000 scientists, many of the best scientific minds on the planet, signed the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine Protest Petition which states, “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”.
Environmental alarmism/climate alarmism has become the latest historical eruption of apocalyptic alarmism. These apocalyptic alarms are present in the earliest human writing- i.e. the Sumerian Flood myth, also in the Egyptian ‘Return to Chaos’ and ‘Destruction of Mankind’ myths. Little has changed across history. The same primitive themes have been repeated all across history and across all the cultures of the world. Today, environmental alarmism has taken up the apocalyptic themes to traumatize public consciousness with the same old, same old as ever before. Alarmist media thoughtlessly and obsessively push the endless “end of days” prophecies of environmentalism.
The great disconnects in CO2 alarmism: Over the past hundreds of millions of years CO2 levels have often been very high, in the multiple thousands of ppm, while at the same time Earth’s temperature has been low. And when CO2 levels have been low over that time, Earth’s temperature has often been high. This undermines the hypothesis that CO2 drives temperature in climate change.
Note also that about 350,000 years ago CO2 levels dipped very low, below 200 ppm, going down to 180 ppm. Plant life dies when CO2 levels descend to 150 ppm. That would have been the real climate catastrophe, the apocalypse for all life.
Over the past 400,000 years another pattern undermines the claim that CO2 drives climate warming. Roughly following a pattern of 100,000 year cycles, climate on Earth first warmed, which then warmed the oceans over subsequent centuries, and those warming oceans then expelled CO2 which then rose in the atmosphere. It was not rising CO2 levels first driving the climate warming. There was a centuries-long lag with rising CO2 dependent on climate warming first. http://euanmearns.com/the-vostok-ice-core-and-the-14000-year-co2-time-lag/ and
Another disconnect: During the 1990s the sun entered a solar minimum that became extended. The climate warming trend that had began around the mid-70s then became an extended flat trend. But CO2 levels continued to rise during this time. https://www.thegwpf.org/content/uploads/2013/03/Whitehouse-GT_Standstill.pdf
Where then is the claimed causal link of CO2 as the main driver of climate warming or climate change?
Point- Other natural factors drive climate change more than CO2. CO2 has a warming influence and is part of the complex of factors in the climate mix, but the CO2 influence on climate is repeatedly overwhelmed by other natural factors.
Conclusion? Don’t stress over our use of fossil fuels. There is no good scientific reason to restrict or ban fossil fuels. There is no “settled science” basis to support arguments for the decarbonization of our societies.
And to the contrary, there is good evidence that we are helping to save life by adding CO2 to the atmosphere. Starving plant life has responded to the rising food levels in the atmosphere with an immense increase in biomass that has greened the planet by 14% since 1982. There has been an increase of green vegetation on Earth, equal to twice the size of the continental US.
Rising CO2 levels (plant food levels) and rising temperatures (on an abnormally cold Earth) are the two best things happening on Earth today. Life is once again flourishing in response.
Alarmism is the exaggeration of real problems in life, exaggeration that stretches far beyond available evidence on the true state of problems. Alarmists exaggerate problems to apocalyptic-scale and even prophesy the end of the world. Note Senator AOC’s prophecy in 2018, regarding climate change, that we had only 12 years to the end of the world. Or the father of global warming alarmism, James Hansen, stating in 2008 that “Its all over in five years”.
That is stunningly irresponsible and dangerous fear-mongering.
Good science is critical to help us understand the true state of our world, the true state of the problems throughout life that we must responsibly and rationally solve. Unfortunately, scientific evidence by itself has not calmed or changed the minds of most alarmists.
This site probes related issues behind the repeated eruptions of alarmism- notably, the still widespread embrace of an apocalyptic perspective that has long been embedded at the core of human narratives. Apocalyptic mythology was present in the earliest human writing (i.e. the Sumerian Flood myth). Apocalyptic mythology was later embraced by the world religions and continues to dominate modern narratives, both religious and secular/ideological. Arthur Herman (The Idea of Decline In Western History) notes this in relation to the ideology of Declinism, stating that the idea of decline is the most dominant and influential theme in the world today. Decline is a central feature of apocalyptic mythology- i.e. the idea that life is declining toward something worse, toward a great collapse and ending.
The prominence of apocalyptic mythology across history has attuned populations to be receptive to the endless stream of end-of-days prophecies from alarmist prophets. The outcomes have been horrifically damaging.
Arthur Mendel in Vision and Violence states that apocalyptic has been the most destructive idea in history. How so? Apocalyptic-scale alarmism sets in motion a pattern of irrational herd response that has repeatedly led to mass-harm and even mass-death outcomes. The apocalyptic-millennial scholars Richard Landes, Arthur Mendel, and David Redles detail the outcomes of Marxist apocalyptic, Nazi apocalyptic, and now environmental apocalyptic. For example, Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative in Silent Spring influenced the ban on DDT that resulted in the subsequent unnecessary deaths of millions of people, many children (See The Excellent Powder: The science and history of DDT by Tren and Roberts).
Here is the critical response pattern to note in regard to apocalyptic alarmism and its salvationism solutions: First, the exaggeration of problems to apocalyptic scale incites widespread fear in populations (“we’re all gonna die”, the end is nigh). That agitated survival fear then renders people susceptible to alarmist salvation schemes that involve the ‘coercive purging’ of some threat to life (again- Landes, Mendel).
Once alarmist solutions are embraced as necessary to “save the world”, then democratic processes are more readily brushed aside because the threat that is presented by alarmists is “imminent and dire” (dates that are set are just years or decades ahead and are repeatedly reset as the end times never arrive). Alarmists argue that there is no time to waste indulging skeptics so ban, silence, discredit with personal attack, and even criminalize them, as President Obama’s AG, Loretta Lynch, tried to do in 2016.
Apocalyptic scale alarmism unleashes the totalitarian impulse. We are watching this play out today in environmental alarmism (e.g. climate change), with its anti-humanism (i.e. humanity as the virus/cancer on Earth that causes environmental disaster), and endless end-of-world prophesies and agitated pressure to shut down industrial, fossil fuels society, to rapidly decarbonize the world. This irrational response to the mild 1 degree Centigrade warming of the past century will cause unimaginable suffering mainly for the poorest people. Decarbonization schemes have already harmed many with exorbitant energy and electricity prices. https://www.thegwpf.org/new-paper-decarbonisation-plans-fail-engineering-reality-check/
Recommend: Counter alarmism with good scientific evidence but do not ignore the deeper issues of meaning behind alarmism- i.e. the deeply embedded beliefs such as the apocalyptic complex of ideas/mythology.
Approach every problem in life with caution and a healthy skepticism. The history of exaggerated alarms over the past 70 years should serve as a warning that some people have a hard-wired bent to exaggerate problems. Alarming populations is highly irresponsible. And most irresponsible are news media with their obsession over creating fear and assaulting the public with worst-case scenarios (see Sociologist David Altheide’s ‘Creating Fear: News and the manufacture of crisis’).
Reflexive skepticism (not denial)
I am a reflexive skeptic of every new alarm that erupts into public consciousness- i.e. whether political/economic, disease related, or environmental alarms. There are problems all through life that are real and must be responsibly confronted and solved. But they are too often presented to the public in hysterical terms that incite unnecessary fear in populations. Fear then promotes irrationality and herd support for what have repeatedly turned out to be harmful salvationist schemes. If “we’re all gonna die” then no measure is too extreme, so shut down the world to save us from the apocalypse.
We have been through an endless series of alarms just over the past 70 years that more rational follow-up evaluation eventually exposed as exaggerated scenarios. Most of the alarms turned out to be lesser-scale problems than originally portrayed by alarmists. The media have justifiably discredited themselves with the public for presenting the alarms in exaggerated terms (“imminent crisis… looming catastrophe…. coming disaster” are favored media descriptions). Media unquestioningly parrot the alarmist scientists and others that incite the panics.
Media obsession with alarmism narratives and exaggeration has been analyzed well by sociologist Dave Alteide in “Creating Fear: News and the manufacture of crisis”.
What drives these alarmist eruptions that have too often become episodes of mass-hysteria?
When considering any problem in life, why do so many people instinctively lock onto worst-case scenarios and frame problems in terms of potential worst-case outcomes, often in the face of contrary evidence? With our extensive historical record of falling for exaggerated alarms, we should have learned by now to hold a healthy skepticism toward the alarmist presentations of any problem or issue.
We need to embrace Julian Simon’s good scientific approach that helps us to get to the true state of any problem/issue. Simon taught us to look at the complete big picture and the longest-term trends associated with any problem/issue. That will help, from the start, to restrain the tendency of many in science and media to exaggerate problems and incite irresponsible and destructive alarmism movements.
Alarmists have exhibited other troubling behaviors such as discrediting, dismissing, and even trying to outlaw skeptics to their alarmist scenarios. Remember Obama’s AG, Loretta Lynch, tried to criminalize skeptical climate science in 2016. Challenge an alarmist and you will quickly experience and understand “outrage culture” and “cancel culture” extremism.
Alarmists also exhibit what appears to be an anti-human zeal for an apocalyptic outcome, something that will ‘cull’ humanity- the “virus or cancer” on the planet.
Inciting fear in populations unleashes the ugly tribal spirit- i.e. the mindset that we must fight some evil enemy that causes the imagined threat to life. The tribal spirit usually splits along ideological/political fault lines in our societies. Tribal fear also unleashes the totalitarian impulse to coerce and control others in order to save something that is believed to be under threat. And if you can present the threat in the most extreme terms then that justifies arguing for more severe measures to save something.
Note also the increasing desperation of alarmists to re-enforce their “end-of-world” narratives as skeptical scientists repeatedly prove their apocalyptic threats to be wildly overstated. Richard Landes details these patterns in apocalyptic-millennial movements in his excellent history- ‘Heaven On Earth’.
Most critical to watch in alarmist eruptions is the demand for “coercive purging” of the imagined threat. That argues for setting aside democratic processes and respect for freedom because some threat is claimed to be imminent and dire (i.e. “the end of the world is nigh”).
Unfortunately, follow-up scientific research does not calm or change the minds of many people who have embraced the alarmist’s narratives. Science by itself does not appear to change the minds of alarmists regarding their claims of looming apocalypse. This is because there are fundamental issues of meaning behind alarmist movements. Humanity has long embraced a set of ideas/myths to explain the meaning of life on this imperfect world. Part of thorough and long-term problem-solving must include dealing with those primitive ideas that have long embodied people’s “primal fears” and understanding of ultimate meaning issues. We are more than just rational actors oriented solely to the empirical, as valuable as that has been for understanding life.
For multiple millennia humanity has been indoctrinated with the apocalyptic complex of myths. No wonder then, that even today our initial response to problems in life is to believe that the worst is coming. Apocalyptic has become hardwired in human consciousness over the millennia. It still dominates our meta-narratives today, both religious and secular/ideological.
The deeper roots of alarmism
The great narratives of humanity across history (our main belief systems) have always embraced the same basic complex of ideas/themes and those themes are profoundly wrong-headed. Most human systems of belief across history have been oriented to one notable core idea- i.e. that of some great punitive, destroying Force or Spirit (deity).
That core idea has been supported by a larger complex of related ideas- i.e. that we humans deserve to be punished because we are bad to the bone and have ruined an original paradise. We have sent life into decline toward some great disaster and ending. Therefore, we deserve judgment or justice as payback for our sins. Our salvation/solution? We must make a sacrifice to appease the upset deity, we must purge the evil that we have created, then we will be saved, and paradise will be restored, notably for the true believers in the apocalyptic narrative.
Science has helped to overturn the old narratives entirely. We know that life on Earth began in a brutally hostile environment but has improved across the entire trajectory of this planet. So also, we humans have developed and improved immensely over the history of human civilization (i.e. declining rates of homicide as a main indicator). Our becoming something better across time counters the essential anti-humanism of the old narratives- i.e. that we fell from some better past state (noble savages) to become something worse in the present. Our history shows that we are basically good and we have improved across history. Further, the improvement of life is via ‘gradualism’ and not through the coercive purging schemes of apocalyptic alarmists. See Arthur Mendel’s Vision and Violence.
I often illustrate the new narrative themes versus the old narrative themes with the Jesus/Paul contradiction. That profound contradiction points to the basic issue- i.e. the core bad idea that serves as the orienting center of the old narratives.
Historical Jesus broke entirely with the central bad idea in the old narratives- the idea of a punitive, destroying Force or Spirit. He pointed to a new core reality that was only love and nothing but love- a scandalously and inexpressibly wondrous ‘no conditions’ love that meant there was no ultimate threat behind life. That love was all about universal inclusion, unlimited forgiveness, and endless generosity, mercy and goodness.
But Paul rejected that new discovery of Jesus and retreated to the same old core theme of all past narratives- that the core Reality was punitive and destroying. He embedded this in his apocalyptic Christ myth- e.g. “Lord Jesus will return in flaming fire to punish and destroy all that do not believe my Christ myth” (Thessalonian letters). His myth then brought the old narrative themes into our modern world. Paul’s Christ is most responsible for the continuing dominance of the apocalyptic myth in our modern world, in both religious and secular versions.
The Jesus/Christ contradiction points to the core of the human problem- the lingering influence of the old narrative themes, and the liberating, humanizing influence of a new narrative. See Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives below.
To solve the alarmism problem thoroughly and for the long-term future, it is necessary to include this core meaning stuff that science does not deal with.
Summary: A main project on this site is to counter the curse of alarmism and expose its historical roots in apocalyptic mythology (“The most destructive idea in history”, Arthur Mendel in Vision and Violence). Alarmists exaggerate legitimate problems in life out to apocalyptic-scale, thereby distorting the true state of any given problem. For example, alarmists view the mild climate warming over the past century (a roughly one degree Centigrade average warming during an abnormally cold period on Earth) as portending a “climate crisis/catastrophe”, even the end of life or the end of the world according to Senator AOC and other alarmists (Father of global warming alarmism, James Hansen, stated in 2008, “Its all over in five years”).
That exaggerated alarmism, promoted with endless prophesies of the collapse of nature, looming destruction and death, then incites the primal survival impulse in populations. Agitated fear of survival then makes people susceptible to the salvation schemes of alarmists, schemes that have repeatedly caused far more harm than any original problem might have caused.
Example: Rachel Carson, the mother of modern environmentalism, was undoubtedly a well-intentioned person and her concerns regarding chemicals were legitimate. It is important to properly understand chemicals, their potential impacts, how to handle them safely, and the right applications and limits of varied chemicals. But Carson ignored the available science during her time, particularly the science on the chemical DDT. That science showed that DDT did not harm wildlife and did not cause cancer in humans. But she chose to create an apocalyptic narrative in Silent Spring- using a shoddy alarmist presentation, and often arguing from anecdotal situations to make general conclusions that were not backed with good evidence. She influenced the subsequent ideological/political campaign that exaggerated the danger of DDT, and thereby discredited a highly beneficial chemical that had saved hundreds of millions of lives. Her message, and that of related environmental agencies, was a terrible misrepresentation of DDT.
Carson’s apocalyptic narrative in Silent Spring influenced the growing ban on DDT that subsequently resulted in millions of further deaths from malaria, and many of those were children (see details in ‘The Excellent Powder: the science and history of DDT’ by Tren and Roberts).
Once again: The critical danger from alarmism eruptions
Alarmist response to problems argue for the ‘coercive purging’ of some imagined threat in order to “save the world” from an always ‘imminent’ threat to all life. The outcomes of such coercive approaches have repeatedly been eruptions of totalitarianism with the banning, silencing, and even criminalizing of skeptics to the alarmist narratives and salvationist responses. Taken to extremes, the outcomes of alarmism have repeatedly been eruptions of mass-harm, and even mass-death movements.
Alarmists- often well-intentioned- frighten populations to accept an alarmist vision of life as seriously threatened. Their solution? Embrace a low-consumption lifestyle that is basically a return to pre-industrial primitivism (i.e. the ‘moral superiority’ of the simple life). They claim that a severe reduction in consumption is necessary to save the world. Julian Simon presents evidence to the contrary in Ultimate Resource.
We are watching the alarmist pattern play out today with climate change. Climate change is always a legitimate concern as climate is always changing. But alarmists are exaggerating the danger of our mild warming to apocalyptic scale against good evidence that the mild warming of the past century and the increased levels of plant food (CO2) have immensely benefited life during the current ice age era that we are in (i.e. an abnormally cold world with abnormally low levels of CO2). Note the 14 % increase in green vegetation across the world since 1982. Plant life has been starving from historical low levels of CO2.
The salvationist solution to their exaggerated scenario of apocalyptic disaster? Radically decarbonize our societies. But that would devastate our civilization and harm the poorest people the most. Decarbonization approaches have already caused costly increases in energy prices that are impacting the poorest people.
This site probes the ideas behind alarmism culture, notably the still dominant myth of apocalyptic. I have traced here the historical route of that pathology into modern alarmism. It descended from primitive mythology (e.g. Sumerian Flood myth) into the great world religions (notably Christianity) and was then embraced in the 19th Century ideology of Declinism (the most influential theme in the modern world). Apocalyptic was then embraced by modern alarmism movements like Marxism, Nazism, and now environmental alarmism (see good research of historians Arthur Herman, Richard Landes, Arthur Mendel, David Redles).
The core idea in the apocalyptic complex is that of a great Force or Spirit that is punitive and destructive (threat theology). That idea anchors a complex of supporting ideas/myths. Threat theology is now expressed in contemporary gods such as vengeful Gaia, angry Planet, punishing Mother Earth, retributive Universe, or karma.
The supporting complex of ideas include- an original paradise that has been ruined and lost due to human greed and corruption, the subsequent decline of life toward a great collapse and ending, ultimate punishment, and deserved justice as vengeance and destruction (i.e. in an apocalypse and ultimately in some hell). Add tribal dualism and exclusion (good guys versus bad guys), demand for sacrifice and salvation, and the promise of restored paradise for true believers.
Science is critical for robust response to alarmism but scientific evidence convinces very few as the issue for many appears to include deeply embraced beliefs, and the human impulse for meaning that has long been shaped by ancient mythological themes, notably apocalyptic- i.e. lost paradise, human badness/guilt, and felt deserved punishment in looming apocalyptic ending.
As noted above, to counter alarmism most effectively (for thorough and long-term solution) we need to deal with primal human fears (ultimate or after-life threat and harm) and the fundamental human impulse for meaning as it relates to ultimate realities. I would argue to replace the core theme of past narratives (mythical, religious, ideological) with a potent alternative, i.e. humanity’s single greatest discovery/insight- that there is no punitive, destroying reality behind life. There is only no conditions love- unlimited, universal love. That radically changes everything, liberating consciousness to explore and embrace entirely new themes for a more humane narrative of life. No conditions love provides a new center around which to orient an entirely new complex of supporting ideas.
See Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives below.
A quote from… “We Disagree with You, So Shut Up” by David Kreutzer. See https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/renewable/we-disagree-with-you-so-shut-up/
“For climate alarmists, it is not enough simply to argue a case against their opponents. The purveyors of a climate apocalypse do not tolerate dissent. For them, the too-frequent response is to deny their opponents any voice at all”.
Site Project: Probe the core themes in human meta-narratives, notably those “bad ideas” that have influenced people to exhibit inhuman behavior (i.e. the belief/behavior relationship where ideas inspire/incite, guide, and validate human behavior). Those themes/ideas have persisted across all history and across all the cultures of the world (Joseph Campbell). A notable complex of the worst ideas has descended from primitive mythologies, to world religions, and those ideas are now embraced in the ‘secular’ ideologies of our modern world. They are religious ideas that are now embraced even by atheists/materialists.
Note, for example, the primitive myth of apocalyptic. This myth still dominates the world religions and has influenced the “secular” ideologies/movements of Declinism and its offspring- i.e. Marxism, Nazism, and environmental alarmism. See the research of historians Richard Landes (Heaven on Earth), Arthur Herman (The Idea of Decline in Western History), Arthur Mendel (Vision and Violence), and David Redles (Hitler’s Millennial Reich). Apocalyptic still dominates modern story-telling and is central to the “end-of-the-world” prophesying of the environmental alarmism movement.
Note: The core idea in the apocalyptic complex of ideas is that of a great retaliating, punishing, and destroying Force or Spirit. Apocalyptic incites unnecessary fear with its exaggeration of real problems in life to apocalyptic-scale, accompanied by endless prophecies of the end of days. That exaggeration distorts the true state of things and frightens populations to embrace irrational salvation/survival responses that inevitably result in harm to many people. The above historians have detailed how apocalyptic millennial ideas have even resulted in mass-death outcomes.
The idea of an ultimate punitive, destroying Force or Spirit has been given modern expression in myths of “angry Planet/Mother Earth”, “vengeful Gaia”, “retributive Universe”, or karma. People make the unscientific and irrational claim that these entities punish humanity through disease, accidents, or natural disasters.
Note on material below: Any discussion of ‘no conditions love’ needs the immediate qualifier that we are not talking about some version of pacifism, with the related assumptions of weakness, softness, or timidity in the face of evil. To the contrary, the choice to forgive, include, and love an enemy involves a courage that few ever attain to in life. See the movies Forgiveness, The Railway Man, or To End All Wars. Note especially the main people in these true stories, the horrific torture, suffering, and loss that they endured, the intense struggle with natural impulses for vengeance, and then their choice to forgive/love their tormentors. Now tell us where you see weakness or softness in those people.
Most contemporary story-telling (movies, TV) affirms vengeance as “getting justice” and therefore as right, good, manly, and even heroic. But retaliation is more animal than human.
Retaliation is natural. Non-retaliation is supernatural. Superhuman. God-like. That’s why we admire the Nelson Mandelas of the world. We intuitively know that they point us all to a better, more humane future. They show us what it means to be authentically human, to “tower in stature as maturely human when we orient our lives to universal love” (Joseph Campbell). Non-retaliatory love makes us the heroes of our stories. That love helps us to maintain our humanity in our “righteous battles against evil”, when we remember our oneness with all others, and that even our ‘enemies’ are still our family.
Note on the forgiveness element in the mix: Many have made the point that forgiveness is not about trying to feel good toward human brutality or to feel warm toward the people committing cruelty against others. That is not what “love your enemy” means. The horrific things that people do to one another rightly evoke our disgust and rage. But forgiveness is more about freedom for the victims, freedom from subsequent responses that darken and sour life with subhuman impulses such as the impulse for vengeance, and related hate and bitterness. Forgiveness is about maintaining our own humanity in the face of evil by choosing to do the more humane thing in response to horrific human failure and abuse.
Overturning threat theology
Intro notes: Paul’s Christ is the supreme icon of highly conditional reality- i.e. representing the divine demand for a cosmic payment/sacrifice for human imperfection. Paul’s Christ also epitomizes threat theology- i.e. the threat that emanates from highly conditional reality, threat of ultimate loss, exclusion, punishment, and destruction. Such statements on the nature of the Christ are scattered all through Paul’s letters and the rest of the New Testament.
Paul’s Christ illustrates the great difference between conditional and unconditional realities. All religion across history has been about conditions, communicating to humanity a highly conditional reality as the ultimate human ideal and authority- i.e. divine conditions for right belief, proper ritual (offerings, sacrifices), and required lifestyle to appease and please deity.
Religious realities that are conditional, punitive and destroying in nature have influenced/shaped human relationships toward similar values, ideals, and outcomes, toward conditional relating, and have oriented human justice systems to be punitive in treatment of human imperfection and failure.
None of the world religions has ever properly communicated the true nature of deity as stunningly and inexpressibly unconditional. That would liberate human consciousness from unnecessary threat and fear, and from subjection to religious authority. It would spell the end of all conditional religion and religious domination.
While embracing many great human ideals such as mercy, love, and forgiveness, all the great world religions continue to hold some of the worst ideas and features of our primitive past- i.e. the divine threat behind the natural world, affirming the primal fear of ultimate judgment, exclusion (rejection of unbelievers), punishment and destruction (i.e. hell). Most religion embraces some form of divine demand for ultimate payment/sacrifice. Conditional religion has saddled humanity with unnecessary psychic burdens.
The Jesus/Christ contradiction
My candidate for the single greatest contradiction in religious history, arguably all history, is that between the central theme of Historical Jesus and Paul’s entirely opposite Christ myth. The contradiction makes the title “Jesus Christ” an oxymoronic term to stunning degree (i.e. the combining of entirely contrary, contradictory, or opposite things).
Historical Jesus made history’s single most profound breakthrough when he stated that all previous God theories were wrong. He stated that there was no judging, retaliatory, punishing, or destroying deity. There had never been any such reality. His “stunning new theology of a non-retaliatory God” (James Robinson) was expressed in the Q Wisdom Sayings gospel and its central section. That material was repeated by Matthew (Matt.5:38-48) and Luke (6:27-36). But Matthew tampered with that central Jesus message, thereby distorting its main points.
In the pre-Christian ‘Q Wisdom Sayings gospel’ Jesus had said (paraphrased for clarity), “There should be no more eye for eye justice (no judgment, exclusion, retaliation, punishment, or destruction). Instead, love your enemy because God does. How so? God does not judge, exclude, punish, or destroy anyone but loves all the same, as seen in the common fact that God gives the good gifts of life- sun and rain- to both good and bad people alike”.
Jesus was affirming an ancient non-retaliatory ethic (first stated, for example, 2000 years earlier in “the Akkadian Father’s advice to his son”) but Jesus based that on an entirely new view of deity as similarly non-retaliatory. Though he stated it negatively (non-retaliatory deity), to the positive side, he was stating that God was universal Love (all are included in the end). He was claiming that God did ultimately not hold failure against anyone (i.e. see also his statement that there should be unlimited forgiveness toward offenders- e.g. “70 times 7”, or endlessly).
Speaking more broadly, Jesus’ new theology stated that God was unconditional Love, and therefore did not demand the conditions of a payment or sacrifice. Jesus illustrated this no conditions nature of God in his short stories such as the Prodigal Son where the Prodigal’s father freely forgives the wayward son and then celebrates with a feast. The father refuses any suggestion of payment or sacrifice and instead calls for a celebratory feast. This unconditional point is also made clear in Jesus’ statement that love will just “give/love, not expecting anything in return” (Luke 6). That too illustrates the nature of God. Not expecting any payment or sacrifice.
His central message of universal inclusion is also evident in his treatment of a full range of failing people in diverse situations- e.g. inviting local outcasts to community meals which exhibited his embrace of despised, failing humans. That universalism offended good ‘righteous’ religious people who wanted to maintain proper tribal distinctions between good and bad people, and wanted to maintain correct justice by excluding the bad, by banning or punishing them. Note also his treatment of the woman caught in adultery where he violated the ‘legal’ obligations of Jewish law and chose to forgive her, with just a caution to treat herself better from then on.
Even today, people widely affirm that Jesus, in what he said and did, exhibited the nature of God to humanity.
We can now affirm the single most important discovery of Jesus- that God was a no conditions reality- without appeal to a religious authority such as a holy book like the Bible.
A new source of authority- common, ordinary humanity.
How do we affirm that Ultimate Reality (what humanity has long referred to as deity/God) is no conditions Love? We reason from the best behavior in humanity to give us insight into the true meaning of ultimate reality. Our single most profound discovery is that no conditions love is the best of being human, and the best way to relate to imperfect others. Such unlimited forgiveness, universal inclusion, and restorative response is the closest that we get to being god-like. Parents, spouses, and friends (from daily experience with others) all get that unconditional treatment of others is the highest form of love.
Psychological research also tells us that affirmative/unconditional approaches work better than punitive treatment of human failure (i.e. affirmative approaches teach children and criminal offenders alternative human behaviors, whereas punitive approaches just re-enforce the old payback cycles of hurt for hurt, harm for harm, or punishment for punishment).
Add here the central discovery of the Near-Death Experience movement that God is an inexpressibly wondrous unconditional Love. As one Catholic lady (with a degree in theology) said on returning from her experience- “My religion (Christianity) is all wrong. There is no judgment. No punishment. No Hell. There is only an inexpressible Love”.
(Insert: What? You appeal to the personal experience of people? Sure. All the great world religions are based on the personal experiences of their founders long ago. The Buddha under the tree. Moses on the mountain top, and his bush experience. Paul’s Damascus road vision. Mohammad’s cave seizures and visions. All highly subjective personal experiences.)
Summary: The contradiction of Historical Jesus with Paul’s theology and his Christ myth? Paul re-affirmed the primitive themes of divine exclusion, retaliation, punishment and destruction. See Paul’s repeated references to divine wrath, exclusion, retaliation, judgment, and destruction in his letters to the Romans and Thessalonians. Examples: His God states, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:17-20). And his Thessalonians statement that “Lord Jesus Christ will return in flaming fire to punish/destroy those who do not obey my gospel”. Paul also taught a God that demanded the supreme condition of a cosmic sacrifice to pay for all sin before he would forgive or include (see his Romans letter).
Paul rejected outright the non-retaliatory message of Jesus and re-affirmed the primitive themes of all past gods as judging, condemning, excluding, punishing, and destroying realities/authorities.
Note: In the statement “There should be no more eye for eye retaliation but instead love your enemy because that is what God does”, Jesus declared that God was not an apocalyptic God, and he was therefore not an apocalyptic prophet either. Apocalyptic is a supreme act of eye for eye retaliation. Jesus with his non-retaliatory theology rejected that entirely.
Qualifier: Unconditional in this imperfect world is more about holding a perspective that is inclusive, forgiving, and restorative toward all. It is not about pacifism in our response to human failure which requires, for example, the common-sense restraint of violent people (e.g. imprisonment for those not able to control their worst impulses). But subsequent ‘justice’ should then be respectfully restorative in the treatment of such people.
While it is more simply humane to hold an attitude of empathic mercy toward human failure, unconditional is not the abandonment of common sense in the face of evil. An unconditional attitude toward humanity holds all responsible/accountable for their choices and behavior (i.e. restitution to victims, payment of debts). Proper human development and maturing demands such embrace of responsibility for failure and self-improvement. Note that Nelson Mandela embraced an unconditional approach toward former enemies in South Africa, but he also instituted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to hold offenders accountable/responsible.
Supreme oxymoron (one more poke at the contradiction)
Again, history’s greatest oxymoron (merging of entire opposites) is the term ‘Jesus Christ’. The central message of Historical Jesus was non-retaliation (no more eye for eye but love your enemy). To the contrary, Paul’s Christ was created as an ultimate icon of divine retaliation (“Vengeance is mine, I will repay… Lord Christ will return in flaming fire to punish/destroy”, etc.). Jesus was centered on no conditions love, while Paul’s Christ is centered on a limited love based on ultimate conditions (i.e. a supreme sacrifice to pay for sin before God will “justify/save”). This is why Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy referred to Jesus’ teaching as “diamonds/pearls” that were buried in the “dung… garbage, slime and muck” of New Testament Christ mythology.
The comment below, on the renewed eruption of tribalism in our societies, comes from a sort of Independent Liberal orientation (i.e. Classic Liberal as per the English tradition that descended from Magna Carta, kind of Libertarianish). In recent years I have found myself empathizing with our Conservative friends over the onslaught they have endured from the Liberal/Progressive side of society. Onslaught? Yes, as comedian Bill Burr said on a Joe Rogan podcast, “I am a Lefty and I hate to say but the bigger bullies today are on my side”. This is very much about ‘mainstream’ media bias, hypocrisy, and distortion.
Posts from Facebook…
“OK, I promised some fun “shit-pot stirring”. As in our discussion group- we discuss varied ‘serious’ issues but try to keep the discussion light and fun also.
“Conversation overheard in a home: Mother, “Son, do not talk politics or religion when the guests arrive. OK. You know how it irks people”.
Son’s response: “Yes Ma. I will be good”. (Boy to himself, thinking in French of course, “Fuck that, eh”)
“These posts deal with the tribal spirit/mind and a slew of related issues. The comments are not so much about, for example, Joe Biden and his “hands-on” approach. They are not primarily about the personal failures of the people involved, but more about larger social issues that the personal examples illustrate, and very much about the elements of tribal response and today’s eruption of biased news reporting on the personal situations (a kind of news media ‘confirmation bias’ thing going on). That sticks in my craw as I come from old school expectations of news media being objective, fair/balanced, treating all equally, being non-political, non-biased, etc. Non-tribal. And media reflect larger social trends.
“Qualifier: Clarifying qualifiers are useful when speaking to the issue of getting over infantile tribalism. Love, notably “love of enemy” (a critical factor to overcoming the tribal thing), such love is not about feeling mushy, fuzzy, or warm, especially toward the sometimes horrific human failure/crime that rightly deserves our outrage. It is about the choice to do the humane thing in response to such human failure, no matter how one feels about some offender/enemy. At any scale, an important feature of authentic love is the element of choice to engage ‘humane’ action or response. Love is, for example, the tired mother still caring for a whiny, bratty child no matter how tired she may be. Love is the police/corrections officer restraining himself/herself from equally brutal response after being attacked by an offender or while restraining some offender. It is about treating prisoners of war humanely as per Geneva conventions (e.g. treating ISIS prisoners humanely at Gitmo). Again to emphasize, it is very much about choosing to do the humane thing no matter how one feels. Treating the differing other with the same respect and kindness that we would want to receive, no matter how the other has failed to be human (e.g. as in Nordic or Mennonite restorative justice approaches in prison systems).
“Also, love is as diverse as the 8 billion human stories of people doing all the unique, creative, good things that interest them, making some contribution to making life better in often some small, mundane, ordinary way. Love really is everywhere. Just look at human lives around you doing all the diverse, good things people do (farming, construction, singing/entertainment, sports, service industry, health/medical things, recreation industry, and the gazillion other occupations people engage to make life what it is).
Another post… General points- Joe Rogan and guests often speak to these issues. Its just great fun to engage a discussion of these things, not taking it all too seriously.
First, some issues with using terms/names in discussing ideologies, ideas, movements. Back in M____ R____ (over there on the North American mainland) I used to have good rousing discussions with a friend, Conrad. We met up on the slopes of Thornhill, a popular hill walking area. Conrad would keep to the lower slopes as he was wheelchair-bound due to a long-ago accident. Often, we discussed environmental issues and once he asked me why I referred to him as an “alarmist”. I responded that I used the term in relation to a movement, known as “environmental alarmism” (i.e. the exaggeration of environmental problems out to apocalyptic-scale, thereby distorting the true state of things). I was not intending to refer to him personally with that term. But out of sensitivity to his expressed concerns I subsequently chose my terms more carefully, understanding that when you go after some ideology or set of ideas, the people holding those things may not see your distinction between issues and the persons involved as clearly as you do.
Another: More on the single greatest human ideal- love- and probing what authentic human love is, notably in relation to so much love that is tribally limited in nature- that is, favoring family, friends, fellow members of some ideological grouping, and so on. In a robust discussion group we often tackle, for example, religious versions of love that are highly tribal in orientation, oriented to favoring fellow members of one’s religion more than the general population (i.e. love more for the brethren/sistern than for unbelievers/enemies to one’s religion- “birds of a feather flock together” syndrome).
Joseph Campbell spoke to human maturity in this regard, noting that we mature as human when we orient our lives to ‘universal love’, and most importantly, to the “love of enemies”. But practicing such love often goes against the grain, eh.
Another: Some further background as to why I take pokes at contemporary forms of tribalism. This also explains something of my general orientation (where I am coming from). I have long rejected the thinking that we have to take some firm position with one of the opposing sides of our societies (the great opposing dualisms)- i.e. the Left/Right, Liberal/Conservative, Religious/Atheist, and similar dualisms. I do so- i.e. reject taking a stance of loyalty to one side- because of some fundamental beliefs that I hold, and because such beliefs help me avoid the correlated outcomes/consequences of tribalism that I view as subhuman.
For instance, I believe in the fundamental oneness of all things, mainly as this applies to the human family. Consequently, I hold to a form of universalism and consequently treating every person with the same equal respect and decency. I believe that we all come from, exist within, and return to the great Love that birthed us all into this realm of temporary dualisms. Joseph Campbell’s material, NDE research, Historical Jesus research (notably, Q Wisdom Sayings gospel research), common human rights constitutions and codes, among other sources, inform my conclusions re such “spiritual/metaphysical” issues (i.e. greater meaning issues).
Another: I also affirm the critical importance of inclusivity as the authentically humane approach toward all others- the sort of Libertarian or Classic Liberal approach (that out-of-England tradition) of leaving others alone to live the life they choose, as long as they are not physically assaulting/harming others. Do not use state powers to meddle with and control others, as long as they are not harming others (i.e. even leave people alone to engage self-harm in many ways- though yes, most of us would intervene to prevent, for example, a suicide but we leave most people alone to more slowly self-harm by abusing things like cigarettes, food, alcohol, and other things). Most of us get that, more generally, prohibitions just do not work and actually increase violence according to the research of a Boston Univ. professor. Remember the alcohol Prohibition and the 10% fall in violence in the decade after it was ended (FBI stats).
The above beliefs (universalism, inclusivity, respect for the freedom of others) lead me to take a more “fiercely Independent”, anti-tribal stance in life on most things.
Another: Certainly, go after the varied issues in life where we see wrongs that we believe need to be righted. Engage robust challenge to ideas, content, positions and policies, and movements representing such. But do not demonize, dehumanize, humiliate, and belittle those on the other side of any issue. Stick to content, the issues involved, but be careful not to engage ad hominem attack on those you disagree with (distinguish between issue and the person involved). Maintain respect for those you disagree with. When we cross the line into despising and belittling the other, we are then dehumanizing ourselves also (e.g. responding to pettiness shown with similar pettiness in response infantilizes us all). Again, Mandela illustrated so well how to maintain one’s humanity in the face of the tribalism impulse “Let us surprise them (our opponents/enemies) with our generosity (inclusion, kindness, forgiveness)”. Mandela’s reasoning- universal love/inclusion turns enemies into friends (not all, but most) and brings out the best in others (not all, but most). And despite the response or not of your enemy, it’s the right thing to do. Just give, expecting nothing in return, and be and feel more human for that choice and action.
Another: Now some more on my going after the tribal thing and fairness (i.e. re, for example, the Joe Biden sexual assault claims). I have been engaging this a bit over recent years in relation to ‘my own side’, more to the Liberal side of things (going after the tribal spirit in Liberalism, and the consequent intolerance, bias and lack of fairness/equality). Because I see a notable societal imbalance occurring now- a more intolerant, bullying spirit on the Liberal side (detail later on specific arenas of society where this is exhibited). Yes, Leftist Bill Burr, you nailed this. But neither side is innocent, and both see their issues as righteous in opposition to the exaggerated claims of the ‘evil’ of the other side.
Just a bit of preface first on the big background narrative stuff that we all relate to in varied ways… I view the human problem in terms of a dualism between the inherited animal in each of us and the human spirit/consciousness that we all share. I long ago rejected viewing the human problem in terms of religious “sin” (i.e. inherited sinfulness, fallen humanity mythology). I think we best understand our dark side in terms of the animal brain and impulses that we have all inherited from a long-ago animal past out of which we have emerged (that shared DNA thing- i.e. 98% similar to chimps- see for example, Dark Nature by Lyall Watson).
Another: And I see this animal side in terms of three prominent animal features (there are more, but these are notable)
(1) The animal impulse to tribal exclusion (small band orientation).
(2) Domination of weaker others (the alpha female/male thing, or one band dominating other bands).
(3) The impulse to punish/destroy the competing other (retaliation toward the outsider or enemy).
Our human side (the common human spirit and consciousness) counters the animal with the humane impulses to (1) the inclusion of all as family, (2) the respect of the freedom and equality of all others, and (3) with forgiveness for shared human imperfection (i.e. restorative justice approaches as per Tolstoy, Karl Menninger, the Mennonites, and others).
Another: This leads me to agree with Solzhenitsyn that the real battle in life between good and evil takes place first and foremost in every human heart, the battle of the human against the animal inside us. Before we go out to change others, we are responsible first to make sure that we have won this battle within ourselves. Our real enemy, the real monster in life, is the animal in us, not in others. So before casting stones at imperfect others, first make sure we that have no “sin” (the Jesus thing with the men about to stone the woman caught in adultery- go ahead and cast stones as per Jewish law… if you are perfect).
Insert note: Where are the mature adults to show us a better, higher way forward, away from base tribalism and opposition? Some public figures have tried… notably, years ago in relation to the US situation Michelle Obama said, “When they take the low road, we will take the high road”. That lasted about two weeks then Michelle retreated and ended saying something like “We have to hit back as hard as they do”. Others, Don Lemon, argued the same, saying, “We must fight fire with fire”. More eye for eye… keep the retaliatory cycles going. Hurt for hurt, humiliation for humiliation, punishment for punishment, punch for punch, insult for insult. See who can win the eye wars that leave all blind in the end. Note some striking examples… Bobby DeNiro urging publicly, “He needs a bag of shit thrown in his face… fuck Trump…”, or Biden doing the tough guy thing, “I would take him out behind the gym and beat the hell out of him” (for saying “Grab em’ by the pussy”, something they both know how to do quite well, apparently, if allegations are true on both sides). Thanks guys, all around, for showing us a better, more mature way forward. Lets beat the shit out of each other as the way to a more humane future. Sheesh, eh.
Moving on… my use of Left/Right, Liberal/Conservative is rough oversimplification, broad-stroke categories for the sake of making a point. Surveys of US population show that most people on both sides see themselves more as moderates, holding positions more toward a common middle area of ideology.
I affirm Liberal Joe Rogan’s experience re an interesting thing today- that if you point out Liberal failings then you are suspect and will be accused of being “right wing or Conservative”, an intolerable pejorative to most Liberals. As Leftist, Liberal Bill Burr said, If you don’t come out joining the unhinged crowds and hysterically screaming about Conservative failings then you are suspect of being right wing, and part of the problem. A kind of hate as virtue-signalling, eh. The unhinged element is evident in the use of childish name-calling, such as in the ‘identity politics’ tendency to reduce most every disagreement to claims of the other being “racist”, and in varied ways distorting the positions of others that are not as hysterically Liberal/Progressive. Rogan is insightful on this trend. Fortunately, there is growing disgust on both sides with extreme political correctness and outrage culture that demonizes others with extreme pejoratives- i.e. “Hitler” being excessively used (or “Alt-right”, “White extremist”, and so on to characterize the entire opposite half of the population).
(Just an aside: Remember Nancy Pelosi shouting, “I don’t hate Trump. I am Catholic and we don’t hate” (Meaning- “So shut up you idiot reporter before I take a swing at you… out of my deep Christian love, of course”). Sheesh. And yes, I am caricaturing out of fun to make a point. We all felt your love, so angrily shouted, Nancy.
So, as far as all these labels go in serving some useful purpose to help people locate where we are in relation to varied social things… let me state clearly… “No!”. I am not Conservative or right wing as some have suggested (not on this site, so far). I am more Liberal than most Liberals I know, but more preferably and comfortably ‘Independent Liberal’. Even more so- ‘Classic Liberal’ as in the English tradition that descended from Magna Carta (kinda Libertarianish). See Daniel Hannen’s ‘The Invention of Freedom’ for historical detail, for the full history of those great Classic Liberal institutions that have given us all that we value today in equal rights and freedoms. The Cave and the Light by Arthur Herman is another good history of the two great approaches to organizing human societies (Collectivism versus the individual freedom model).
Another: Insert: Again a balancing qualifier- the Conservative side also has its problems with all sorts of issues like the intolerant totalitarian impulse to control others. But I see today that we are witnessing more of a Liberal eruption of these issues (more severely from the Liberal side of the social divide). Yes, there is good and bad on both sides of this social divide. And it kind of balances out across history (McCarthyism back then, Liberal Hollywood intolerance today). Both wrestle with the same tendencies to meddle, intervene, and control the differing others, the ‘bad’ enemy on the other side. The old totalitarian impulse. Boaz in Libertarianism: A Primer, noted the weaknesses/failures on both sides (US Democrats, he said, need to embrace more freedom in economic issues, and Republicans need to embrace more freedom in social issues). Again, I am using the widely known US example and tons of research on that, not to pick on the US. The same issues apply to other societies.
Another: First, My Liberal bona fides
Some example positions to illustrate what I mean by a Liberal orientation: I would decriminalize all drugs and end the drug war, pronto (with restricted access to more dangerous drugs, just as we make it harder for kids to access cigarettes till they are older and more aware of dangers). I support full gay rights and equality (gay marriage- fine, none of our business). I affirm full women’s rights and choices re reproductive issues and all equality issues (because of continued unfairness, lots yet to accomplish here). We may feel some things are not the best option in some areas, but keep the state out of such things. They are intensely personal decisions. And more gun control, even elimination (e.g. Australian response to mass shooting). And major justice reform along the lines of restorative justice approaches (versus punitive justice). For example, empty prisons of the half of the prison population that are non-violent, and also perhaps many that are incarcerated for violent offenses that are a one-off (i.e. non-repeat offenders). And on and on. My positions often out-liberal many Liberals.
One point of notable difference with modern Liberals that are no longer truly Liberal- I hold a classic Liberal position on economic issues (Conservatives get this issue better), the most basic of civil rights and issues, because healthy, growing economies support all else that we want to do in our societies. And you have to pay for things. You cannot just print money (the inflation issue). And economic freedom is the basis of all other freedoms. Again, Conservatives generally tend to do better on this issue. But not always. Harper in Canada spent like a drunken sailor, running up our deficit, after Liberals under Cretien and Martin got it under control. And Harper swung to harsh-on-crime policies just as the US was backing away from that failed approach (agreed to by both Dems and Repubs).
Another: US Liberalism, for example (I refer often to it, because it is so huge on the world stage and so much research has been done on the US, so it is good for illustrative purposes), US Liberalism is being pulled away from the classic Liberalism of more Moderate, Centrist Democrats. The public face of US Liberalism, that often dominates media today, has become something of an intolerant mutation, overly hysterical about the Conservative/Right side, and now too collectivist in orientation (kowtowing too much to the far Left- think Mao and Stalin’s collectivism as the extreme illustrations of the horror and mass-death that results from collectivism trends in societies). Centralizing power and control in societies is the most dangerous trend that we can allow unchecked in our societies (and US Liberals/Progressives do this in their orientation to promoting bigger government via more taxation and regulation). Centralizing power unleashes the totalitarian impulse. That centralizing of power trend has to be countered constantly with deregulation, decentralization, and ‘de-taxation’ movements (a form of detoxification). See Herman’s Cave and Light for the history of how collectivism, along these lines, has developed over time. Also see https://www.foxnews.com/media/christopher-demuth-federal-government-expansion-crises
(Deregulation is the unleashing of freedom and freedom is critical to unleashing creativity and progress.)
Shark Tank businessman Kevin O’Leary noted that deregulation was one of the most critical factors influencing the boom in business over the last 3 years (2016-19).
A side note: Historian Arthur Herman notes that German philosopher Hegel made the shift to the “state” as the embodiment of greater or collective good. Individuals were then to be subject to that entity- the State- and hence we had Marxism/Communism and related varieties of greater ‘State good’ (all citizens to be subjected to the state as the primary embodiment or representative of greater good). Those collectivist, state control approaches resulted in mass-immiseration and even mass-death movements, as well as environmental destruction due to centralized control of resources.
Another (yes, this is all part of the tribal issue): The collectivist support for the state as the embodiment of greater good has been the greatest threat to freedom and progress over recent centuries. That collectivist approach to organizing human societies has repeatedly unleashed the destructive totalitarian impulse. How so? Someone has to run the state, some “enlightened elite or vanguard”, someone or some group that believes they know what is best for all others and will coerce those others to submit to their view of some greater good. Remember, the essence of collectivism is the subjection of individuals and their rights to some collective. Naturally consequent question? And who are we going to trust to tell the rest of us what is right and good. Again, as many have warned, the most dangerous people in society are those believing they know what is right for all others and willing to coerce others to submit to their vision of good.
Frederick Hayek was correct that dispersing power among competing individuals/institutions (as in free market approaches), imperfect as such approaches are at times, is still the best way to prevent totalitarianism and protect freedom. Critical to note (facts matter)- the approaches based on Hayek’s reasoning have done far better in achieving greater good- i.e. the most good for the most people. Collectivist approaches, to the contrary, have a history of actually undermining greater good and also destroying the environment also (central control of resource use). Again, remember that great experiment in the last century between the two approaches (the collectivist approach and the individual freedom approach).
Another: But Socialists/Leftists never give up, believing their approach is “morally superior” because it focuses on what they claim to be some ‘greater good’ versus what they wrongly demonize as the selfishness and greed of the individually-oriented approach. Both approaches are subject to the same human greed and selfishness. Note the historical examples of how the wealthy in Socialist countries- the enlightened elites or vanguards- lived in luxury while the rest of the populace lined up for scarce resources in stores (empty shelves).
The breakdown and descent into mass immiseration is playing out once again in places like Venezuela. Same old, same old principles and patterns. But again, the belief that your system is ‘morally superior’ makes it hard to admit some fundamental flaws to your system. Collectivists believe that their approach is very much an update on those early Christians in Acts, who held all things together in common. Is not that what real love is supposed to be- give to whoever asks, denying none, sharing all freely? While such practices are helpful when voluntarily engaged, a humane and successful approach to shaping a society is defined by the actual outcomes that it actually produces in societies- again, what does the most good for the most people. Evidence is all. And the evidence from that past century is overwhelming as to the outcomes of the two approaches that humanity has employed for organizing human societies. Socialism, when given more rein in a society, does not prove morally superior in outcomes. The superiority of protected individual rights and freedom is beyond dispute as to outcomes- providing the most good to the most people (lifting billions out of the misery of poverty) while protecting freedom against totalitarianism.
Another: Political commentators have also pointed out how collectivist/socialist approaches have consistently shut down freedom of speech and dissent which then hides the greed and selfishness on their side. Notable examples of this ugly impulse to coercively use state power/control to shut down and silence opposition… Obama’s AG, Loretta Lynch, in 2016 trying to criminalize dissenting science on the climate debate. Other recent examples- Venezuela banning freedom of press and opponents, so also in Zimbabwe and other places. Demonize our imperfect democracies all you want, but would you really want to live in any of the Socialist experiments? Especially, the more pure versions? Mixed versions are protected from totalitarianism by the free individual elements that they include (i.e. protected property rights).
And note other examples of the elite privilege eruption in Socialist experiments as evident in parts of contemporary Liberalism- i.e. how the ‘enlightened elites/vanguards’ of contemporary collectivism, like the Al Gores, want to ban the use of cheap energy by state edict but at the same time live lives of luxury dependent on that very energy. His one house in Kentucky uses 20 times the energy of an average American home while he flies around in private jets and scolds the ignorant masses of lesser people to stop using energy. Also, watch the latest Michael Moore documentary on the failure of renewables (not affirming all his anti-industrial society stuff).
Another (on never relinquishing the view of the moral superiority of one’s system): I was a student at SFU during the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 80s, early 90s. Many professors there (Anthropology/Sociology, Geography depts., among others) identified not just as Socialist but as outright Marxist. And they were distraught at the collapse of the Soviet bloc. But their response was not to admit something pathological at the core of their system but to blame Communism as an aberration of true Socialism. Socialism, they argued, was a pure and wonderful thing that just needed another chance to show itself as the solution to humanity’s problems. But former Socialist Muravchik shows in Heaven On Earth (great history of Socialism) that Socialism along with Owen’s Communalism, Marx’s Communism, and all other varieties, is just another form of collectivism with the same pathological outcomes when it dominates a society.
But to balance- with Herman (Cave and Light) I affirm that some of the basic concerns of socialists are valid and must be accommodated in our societies- and the debate usually centers around how much room is given to collective concerns- i.e. how big should government be in relation to total GDP, see William Bernstein’s details on this in The Birth of Plenty (Government best at 20%, or 30%, or 40% of GDP?). We all agree to some sharing (shared responsibility for a variety of programs in our societies) via taxation but when does that start to kill the golden goose and all suffer (Greece was a recent extreme example and all suffered as it collapsed). It is an endless back and forth tug of war between Left and Right. I would still argue that historical evidence strongly supports the free individual model has achieved greater good for most people, most successfully. (Insert: Milton Freidman argued that the most good for the most people would occur with government at about 15% of GDP- that includes all three levels of government)
Almost done…Another: Now an added note on US Liberalism as the greater threat of intolerance in society today. Note some major US arenas where this Liberal/Progressive intolerance is playing out (media commentators have noted these arenas)-
E.g. Hollywood (US story-telling capital) has become a “one party state” (Ben Stein) that will not tolerate conservatives (basically shunning, shaming, blacklisting, according to Stein). How is that essentially different from McCarthyism long before?
And US college campuses- the activism and violence against free speech in recent decades has been almost entirely from the Liberal side against conservatives.
Then again note science- climate science. The endeavor to shut down opposing views with threats to criminalize, ban, refusal to allow publishing, cutting off funding, and demonizing with ad hominem attack… This is prominently from the Liberal side today.
And mainstream media- the biased support for one side, with exaggerated demonization of the other side, is well noted in this arena. Nuf said. Mainstream media have come out as basically one-sided political campaigns for the Democratic/Liberal side.
Consequently, I see a significant imbalance in society today with the bigger threat (intolerance, bullying, biased distortion) coming from the Liberal side. And again, the Conservative side also has its own problems with intolerance and bullying, notably on the social issues as listed above. Neither side is guilt-free. But I am just focusing on the failures of my Liberal side.
Another: I have long lost patience with the petty infantility of the tribal spirit- the constant pointing out the failures of the other side but not acknowledging similar failures on one’s own side (especially as this comes from today’s Liberals). It’s a basic fairness and decency issue. Watch this playing out in the Biden sex assault issue, as just one example. Lets all fess the fuck up, eh. We all mess up sometimes in some way. So why cast stones at other human failure (notably, Liberal hysteria at Conservative failures), those ‘bad’ guys on the other side.
Hence, in the face of the tribalism of today, I preferably orient myself to an Independent status, not obligating myself to support any tribal loyalty on any side, as is so common to all tribalisms.
Another: Again, watch the tribalism playing out in the latest example, the deafening silence from fellow Liberals re Joe “hands on” Biden. I have to cover my ears from that roar. I could better understand this biased hypocrisy if the lady involved was a Conservative (not that it would lessen the element of hypocrisy). But she is a Leftist Liberal, a Bernie Sanders supporter. One of their own. What the hell is going on? Ah, this rank tribalism, eh.
There I got it off my chest.
Quote from Wattsupwiththat– “Who is at risk from the Chinese Virus? Some hard data at last #coronavirus”, By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley
“Policymakers devising strategies for phasing out lockdowns will find the following table summarizing the results useful. For instance, since those under 50 are unlikely to die of the infection and the risk of death even for those in their 60s and 70s is quite small, continuing to lock down the entire economy is no longer necessary.
“Instead, there will need to be better procedures for protecting old and sick people in hospitals and in care homes from infection. Outside these settings, old people are canny enough to take their own precautions.”
Quote from Fox News– “Ex-NY Times reporter blasts governors over ‘infuriating’ lockdowns: ‘They are fools and haven’t read the data’, By Yael Halon
“We do know a lot about this virus and we know the average age of death in the United States and worldwide is probably about 80 or 82 and we know about half, if not more, of the people who die in the United States die in nursing homes,” Alex Berenson said. “We know enough to know we should protect those people … and instead, our leaders are spending time haranguing us about masks and destroying the economy with lockdowns and every day it makes less sense and every day it’s more infuriating.”