My own definition: Alarmism exaggerates legitimate problems out to apocalyptic scale with ‘end-of-days’ scenarios (i.e. apocalypse), speculating far beyond credible evidence, thereby distorting the true state of things.
From Wikipedia: “Alarmism is excessive or exaggerated alarm about a real or imagined threat. In the news media, alarmism can be a form of yellow journalism where reports sensationalise a story to exaggerate small risks.”
Another definition… “What is a alarmist person? Noun- a person who tends to raise alarms, especially without sufficient reason, as by exaggerating dangers or prophesying calamities.”
“Alarmist/alarmism” are not used as pejoratives but to distinguish an extremist fringe movement from the general environmental concern that all of us share.
Joe Biden, 2020, “The world is on fire!”
What is the true state of life on Earth? (a brief summary view)
While problems exist everywhere, they are solvable and humanity has done well in caring for and preserving world resources. See, for example, Julian Simon’s ‘Ultimate Resource’ or ‘Population Bombed’ by Szurmak and Desrochers. Below are the main resources of our world. They are the main indicators of the true state of life on our planet. They all show that life is not declining toward something worse. There is no looming environmental apocalypse.
(1) World forest cover in the 1950s was 3.8 billion hectares (FAO stats). World forest cover today is 4.1-plus billion hectares, despite the world population tripling from 2.4 billion people in the early 1950s to almost 8 billion today. Deforestation rates continue to decline and reforestation/afforestation projects continue to succeed. We are not destroying the world’s forests. http://www.fao.org/forestry/fra/52045/en/
(2) Proven species extinctions. While any species extinction is unacceptable we have dramatically improved our care of nature. Species extinctions are on a notably declining trend line and have decreased from about 5 per year in 1870 to about 0.5 per year today (see the IUCN Red List All Extinct Species by Decade on p.101 of Patrick Moore’s new book ‘Fake Invisible Catastrophes And Threats of Doom’). While nature has destroyed over 95% of all species over the span of life on this planet, compassionate humanity is now protecting species as never before. See Julian Simon’s chapter on the IUCN report on species loss (in Ultimate Resource and other books) and the discredited assumption/correlation between habitat loss and species extinctions. The wrong assumption was that with habitat loss of 90% some 50% of species would go extinct. The assumption did not understand the resiliency, adaptability, and toughness of life. There is no species holocaust occurring.
(3) Climate change (the atmosphere as a main resource): There has been a mild one degree Centigrade of warming over the past century and a half. That slightly warmed our still abnormally cold world. We are in an “ice-age era”. Average surface temperatures today are around 14.5 degrees Centigrade. That is 5 degrees Centigrade below the more optimal average surface temperatures of the past 500 million years (19.5 degrees Centigrade). For over 90% of the past 500 million years there was no ice at the poles. That is a more normal and optimal world. And contrary to the falsified climate models, there is no settled evidence of much more warming occurring in the future. There is no “climate crisis” looming.
Also, most of our Holocene inter-glacial, that began around 11,000 years ago, has been warmer than today. The Holocene Climatic Optimum (roughly 10-5,000 years ago) was about 1 degree C. warmer. From about 5,000 years ago our interglacial began a long-term cooling trend (the “Neoglacial” period). However, two warm periods- The Roman Warm Period (250 BCE to 400 CE) and The Medieval Warm Period (950- 1,250 CE)- were warmer than today. Life overall and human civilization has flourished during such warming periods. (Correction: Previous comments re earlier Holocene temperatures 2-4 degrees C higher were references to localized situations and not global averages.)
(4) Ocean fisheries are not collapsing and aquaculture is meeting the growing human demand for fish. See Ray Hilborn reports and FAO summaries on fisheries. The world fisheries are not being decimated. https://www.washington.edu/news/2020/01/13/fisheries-management-is-actually-working-global-analysis-shows/
(5) The overall agricultural land-base is not severely degrading. Also, any soil erosion must be understood in net terms, as related to new soil regeneration rates. Further, over the past century and more, we have returned hundreds of millions of hectares of agricultural land back to nature as hi-yield GM crops enable farmers to produce more crop on the same or less land. We have probably already passed “peak-agricultural land” use. Humanity now produces 25% more food than we need. Hydroponics will also meet much of future food demands.
These, and other indicators, show that the overall long-term trajectory of life is improving, not worsening.
And a note to all of our children: Do not fear the future on our planet. With continued wealth creation we will continue to solve the remaining world resource problems and life will continue to get ever better than before. Your personal contribution to making life better will add to humanity’s overall success.
Section topics: Two best things happening today- the increase in basic plant food (rising CO2 levels) and the slight warming of an abnormally cold world; Dangerous patterns and outcomes in alarmism movements; Always the same old, same old (the same complex of primitive themes/myths have repeated across all history and across all the cultures of the world and still dominate world religions and contemporary ideologies like environmental alarmism; Two stories of life- decline and progress. Both cannot be true; Climate denialism/skepticism, alarmism, and good science; The death issue- arguments for why the conscious self does not die but transitions to an infinitely better existence; Resurging tribalism and the pettiness of retaliation cycles (eye for eye ethics); Fundamental shared values.
The two best things happening today– rising CO2 levels and the warming of Earth’s average surface temperatures have resulted in a much greener Earth and life flourishing in response.
Climate activists, news media, and politicians claim that rising CO2 levels and rising average temperatures are the two most threatening things happening on Earth today. I would argue to the contrary that they are the two best things happening on Earth today. How so?
Basic plant food
CO2 levels have been dangerously low over the past few million years of our ice-age era and that 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). See also “CO2 feeds the world” at https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/08/05/watching-co2-feed-the-world/
Note the paleo-climate graph of CO2 and its relationship to temperatures at https://www.adividedworld.com/scientific-issues/co2-levels-in-air-dangerously-low-for-life-on-earth/. This history shows, for instance, the remarkable lack of correlation between CO2 and temperature over long periods, undermining the widely accepted hypothesis that CO2 is the main driver of climate change. For example, when CO2 levels were high over paleo-climate history, surface temperature was often low.
Similarly, over shorter historical periods, temperatures warmed first and were followed by rising CO2 levels https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/10/06/news-from-vostok-ice-cores/. More importantly the history of CO2 shows the great benefit to life when atmospheric CO2 was much higher than today.
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 30-40 years (1980-2020). This is the equivalent to adding land covered in green vegetation twice the size of the mainland US. https://www.thegwpf.com/matt-ridley-rejoice-in-the-lush-global-greening/ . Other studies note that there has been a “31 percent increase in global terrestrial gross primary production since 1900” (Matt Ridley “Against Environmental Pessimism” at PERC). In light of this incredible news on the massive greening of Earth, 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 during the 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 great convection currents, both atmospheric and oceanic. In a warming world the Equator does not necessarily 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. In a warmer world there is also less difference between seasonal temperatures and between night and day temperatures.
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 polar 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 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.
Note this press release (Sept. 18/2020) from the Global Warming Policy Foundation: “Official US Climate Data Reveals No Cause For Alarm”
“A new paper published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation shows that U.S. climate has been changing very gradually, and mostly in a benign way.
“The paper, by British climate writer Paul Homewood, examines official US weather sources and finds almost nothing to justify alarm.
“The temperature has risen a little”, says Homewood, “but temperature extremes are still a long way off the levels seen in the 1930s. And there has been a reduction in cold spells and climate-related deaths, so in many ways, the US climate has become less extreme compared to previous ages.”
“It is the same story for rainfall. There has been an increase overall, but the wettest year on record was nearly 50 years ago. Droughts were mostly far worse in the 1930s.
“It’s hard to find anything in the records of recent weather in the US that should give anyone any cause for alarm” says Homewood.
“It’s mostly rather reassuring. From heat to cold to storms and tornadoes, there is no trend that is out of the ordinary.”
“Homewood’s paper, entitled The US Climate in 2019, can be downloaded here- https://www.thegwpf.org/content/uploads/2020/09/US-Climate-2019.pdf?utm_source=CCNet+Newsletter&utm_campaign=4c6226b7d3-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_09_18_09_56_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fe4b2f45ef-4c6226b7d3-20139177&mc_cid=4c6226b7d3&mc_eid=bbd9cad85f”
Never-ending ‘end-of-days’ prophesies
We are hearing again the exaggerated and hysterical claims that we have just been through the “hottest years on record”. To the contrary, NOAA and NASA data show that the 1930s had the hottest years on record if, like climate alarmists, you limit “record” to just the past century or so of modern recorded temperatures. Further, the previous warm periods of our interglacial were much warmer than today’s slight warming of only 1 degree over the past century. The Holocene Optimum (10,000 to 5000 years ago) was 1 degree warmer. The Roman Warm Period (250 BCE to 400 CE) and Medieval Warm Period (950 to 1250 CE) were also warmer than today. We are on a long-term declining trend line toward “cooler warm periods”.
“Current temperatures are proclaimed as the ‘warmest on record’. In fact, the world was warmer than today for 97 percent of the last 10,000 years”.
To hype fear, the alarmists refer to last summer’s wildfires in California as evidence of the looming climate apocalypse. Again, longer-term records show that wildfires have declined across the world.
Dangerous patterns and outcomes to watch in alarmism movements
Alarmism exaggerates real problems in our world that must be confronted and solved. Alarmism exaggerates such problems to apocalyptic-scale with “end-of-days” scenarios and prophesies, speculating far beyond any credible evidence. This is being done today with climate alarmism and the claims that we face a “climate crisis or catastrophe”. That exaggeration distorts the true state of things. With only one degree Centigrade of warming over the past century, our still abnormally cold world is not in danger of over-heating.
Examples of contemporary apocalyptic prophesying: Congresswoman AOC prophesied in 2018 that we only have 12 years to the end of the world. The father of global warming alarmism, James Hansen, prophesied in 2008 that “Its all over in five years”. President Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren, prophesied that one billion people would die by 2020. Even Stephen Hawking joined the apocalyptic brigade in the last two years of his life, prophesying the ‘end-of-days’ would occur in 100 years.
The myth of apocalyptic ending is endlessly projected onto real problems to profoundly distort the true state of things. This hinders our ability to rationally evaluate problems and to respond in a measured manner appropriate to the true nature of any problem.
Julian Simon in Ultimate Resource showed us how to find our way to a better understanding of the true state of something. He argued that we should include the complete big picture evidence on the thing under consideration, and note the longest-term trends associated with that thing. For example, paleo-climate history is vital to understanding climate changes across history (see, for example, Ian Plimer’s detail on paleo-climate history in “Heaven and Earth”). The big picture and long-term context puts any concern in proper perspective and prevents the fallacy of “Presentism” (James Payne, The History of Force)- the feeling that our experience of something must be the worst ever.
An example of the complete big picture perspective on an issue:
Soil erosion is a real problem that we must continue to confront and solve. But soil erosion alarmists will tell you that, for example, prairie soils lose about 4-5 tons of soil per acre per year. They do not tell you that much of that soil just blows or washes to neighboring soil areas and very little is lost permanently to local waterways. And they do not tell you that prairie soils can generate new soil at higher rates per acre than are lost, so there is sometimes a net gain of soil over time, not a net loss. Conclusion: Complete knowledge of the true state of agricultural soils shows that, overall, the soil erosion problem is not as catastrophic as alarmists often present it.
Alarmist exaggeration then arouses the survival impulse in populations (“We’re all gonna die”), rendering people susceptible to alarmist salvation solutions. And this is the most irresponsible and dangerous feature of alarmist crusades- to claim that we must “save the world” or save life because it is under dire threat. Alarmist salvationism then incites the totalitarian impulse in frightened people, fearful of their very survival.
Alarmists claim that the threat to life or the world is always “imminent”, as noted in the apocalyptic prophesies above. Alarmists claim the apocalypse is just up ahead a few years or decades, just over the horizon (again, one of the latest “end of days” climate scenarios, made by Congresswoman AOC, sets 2030 as the final date). The imminence of the claimed threat then justifies overruling normal democratic processes and banning open debate and skepticism. Skepticism and ongoing debate are portrayed as murderous attempts to block our very survival. Skeptics to alarmist scenarios are then publicly shamed, personally attacked (labelled “Holocaust deniers”), silenced, fired/cancelled, and even subject to criminalization endeavors. Remember, Pres. Obama’s AG, Loretta Lynch, tried to criminalize skeptical science in 2016.
The claimed imminence of some threat affirms the alarmist’s demand for “coercive purging” of the threat (use of state force to silence opponents and to enact alarmist policies). “Coercive purging” is advocated specifically today as necessary to remove the threat from CO2 (more generally, the human use of fossil fuels in industrial society). Hence the many policies/programs that are being presented to rapidly and fully ‘decarbonize’ our societies in the next years and decades. The claimed imminence of the threat justifies the push for the “instantaneous transformation” of our societies as in today’s rush to decarbonize our societies entirely and thereby remove the purported threat from CO2.
Further, support for alarmist salvation schemes is buttressed with the tempting promise that “instantaneous transformation” of society will restore some imagined lost paradise or to grant entrance to a utopian future, as per Marxist and Nazi versions of violent instantaneous transformation.
(Insert: It may offend alarmists to hear this association of their movement with the mass-death movements of the past century. But historians/scholars Richard Landes, Arthur Mendel, Arthur Herman, and David Redles, among others, have all noted that the very same themes/ideas/myths that influenced Marxism and Nazism have been embraced by environmentalism and if we don’t learn from what happened with Marxism and Nazism when they embraced apocalyptic millennial themes, then we are condemned to repeat those destructive movements and their outcomes. We are seeing the destructive outcomes already from environmental alarmism’s embrace of apocalyptic millennial themes- the horrific costs to the most vulnerable people. Examples: Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative in Silent Spring influenced the ban on DDT and that resulted in millions of unnecessary deaths, many children, in subsequent decades- see Tren and Robert’s “The Excellent Powder”. Note also the push for rapid decarbonization and the consequent harm of rising energy/electricity costs on the most vulnerable people- i.e. increased mortality rates.)
The outcomes of alarmist eruptions have often been extremely harmful, more harmful than the original purported problem. Alarmist salvation schemes have also harmed the very environment that environmentalists claim they want to protect. Example: note the outcome of further deforestation that resulted from the bio-fuels movement. Or the anti-GM activism that hinders the spread hi-yield crops that would enable developing country farmers to produce more crop on the same or less land and thereby lessen deforestation. Or the anti-nuclear activism that hinders the development of that clean and reliable source of energy for human development (wealth creation) so necessary for protecting the environment.
The decarbonization project will prove more destructive than any alarmist policy yet promoted.
Other strands (ideas, myths) to note in alarmism eruptions:
Alarmist movements promote guilt over human success and the achievement of the “good life” (the improvement of the human condition). This exposes the root anti-humanism of environmental alarmism and its embrace of the myth of essential human corruption or “sinfulness”, the belief that humanity is a cancer or virus on the planet, and that all we do to engage the natural world and improve life is destructive of the pristine natural world. Hence, because we are essentially a corrupt and destructive species, we deserve punishment and are obligated to make sacrifices such as embracing a simple or more primitive lifestyle (economic development and growth as threat to the world).
Add here the myth that there is some great punitive, destroying Force or deity behind the natural world and that natural disaster/disease are evidence of those angry spirits punishing us bad people (Nancy Pelosi’s claim, 2020, that “Mother Earth is angry” at us and our lifestyle).
Further, note the revival of the same old crusade of ‘anti-industrial society Marxism’ now in the mix of environmental alarmism. Eco-alarmists argue that capitalist, technological civilization is essentially greed-oriented and destructive (individual freedom exists in irreconcilable opposition to greater or common good) and therefore free market industrial society is an evil to be purged. Sources detailing the Marxist influence on environmental alarmism: Arthur Herman’s ‘The Idea of Decline in Western Civilization’, and Michael Hart’s ‘Hubris: The Troubling Science, Economics, and Politics of Climate Change’, among others.
Varied other fallacies in alarmist ideology: The “limited good” or limited natural resources fallacy- i.e. the belief that if some people gain more goods/resources, then others are losing out on those same goods or resources. Or the fragile nature myth- the belief that human engagement of nature results in the collapse and extinction of life. Also, the belief there is stasis in nature at some optimal state (the natural world exists in unchanging climax situations- see Alston Chase’s In A Dark Wood). Or the “nature knows best” myth and therefore humanity is to be subject to nature (e.g. nature worship), and so on.
Further, and most critical, consider the enduring fallacy of apocalyptic mythology in the mix of alarmist ideological themes. The pathological myth of apocalyptic is the “most destructive idea in history” (Arthur Mendel in ‘Vision and Violence’) and it continues as a prominent theme in world religions, and now also in ideologies like 19th Century Declinism (life declining toward something worse) and its offspring- environmental alarmism.
To the contrary:
The development of institutions to protect individual freedom (Daniel Hannan’s “Inventing Freedom”) unleashed human creativity in early industrial, technological society and that resulted in the explosion of wealth creation around 1820 that has lifted billions out of poverty (Willian Bernstein’s The Birth of Plenty) and enabled humanity to better care for and restore the natural world as never before. Note the details on the beneficial outcomes of industrialization in ‘Population Bombed’ by Szurmak and Desrochers, or see the summaries at Humanprogress.org, of how human development in industrial society has enabled humanity to better care for our world.
Its always the same old, same old (The direct line of historical descent from primitive mythology to modern ideology/science)
The same basic complex of mythical themes/ideas has been repeated all across human history and across all the cultures of the world. Some themes in the mix have been immensely beneficial and life-affirming, inspiring all of us to become better persons. Forgiveness, inclusivity, equality, kindness, love, and generosity are among the better ideas/themes.
Other themes have been immensely harmful and consistently incited our worst inherited impulses.
Ideas are expressions of the primal human impulse for meaning and purpose. Our ideas set forth how we understand and explain reality and life, and how we should then live to fulfil our purpose for existing.
Ideas/themes- how we think- influence how we feel, respond, and act in life. Ideas play on either our inherited animal impulses, or on our human spirit. Our ideas incite, inspire, guide, and validate or justify how we feel and act.
Further below (“Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives”) are 18 of the more common ideas/themes that have shaped human life and societies across the millennia. The interesting thing to note is that some of the worst ideas from our primitive past have persisted across history and continue today as the foundational themes in the great world religions. On saying that, non-religious types will start to gloat a bit. But hold on. Those very same religious themes/ideas have also been embraced in the so-called “secular” ideologies and belief systems of our modern era. The only difference is that those themes are now expressed in secular terms. For example, angry, retaliatory religious gods have now become “vengeful Gaia, angry Planet or angry Mother Earth, retributive universe, or payback karma”.
The test of a good versus a bad idea or theme: Bad ideas incite our worst animal impulses to the tribal exclusion of others, to domination of others, and to punishment of human imperfection and failure in others. Good ideas will affirm our better impulses to include all equally, to respect the freedom and self-determination of all others, and to respond to human failure with restorative/rehabilitative justice, not punitive justice.
The complex of worst ideas from our past history includes these primitive themes:
(1) The belief that the past was better, but (2) corrupt/sinful early people ruined the original paradise and now (3) life is declining toward something worse, toward a great collapse and ending, an apocalypse. But (4) if we embrace a salvation scheme, some sacrifice, then we can save life. Salvation schemes involve (5) “coercive purging” of the threat to life and the push for (6) “instantaneous transformation”. Then (7) the lost paradise can be restored, or a new utopia installed. Some of these comprise what has been called the “apocalyptic millennial complex” of ideas (see, for example, Richard Landes in “Heaven On Earth”).
Contemporary atheists/materialists walk around today feeling superior to those they view as irrational religious fundamentalists- the people who believe the above complex of primitive myths. But, often unaware, these modern progressives embrace the very same themes as the religious people they condemn. They replicate the apocalyptic millennial complex of bad myths in movements such as environmental alarmism or Green religion- a form of alarmist extremism that is something quite different from the healthy concern for the environment that most of us embrace.
Here is how environmentalist narratives replicate the apocalyptic millennial themes.
They promote the themes of (1) a better past (wilderness world) (2) now ruined by corrupt, greedy people in industrial society. Consequently, (3) the world is now declining toward something worse. So (4) we must make a sacrifice in order to save life (e.g. give up our enjoyment of the good life and return to a simpler life). We must (5) coercively purge the threat to life that is industrial society. And we must do that (6) immediately (instantaneous transformation) as the threat of apocalypse is always imminent (the latest date for the end of days is 2030). Then, after purging the threat to the life, we can (7) restore the lost paradise of a wilderness world. This primitive mythology held by young moderns differs little from the same original themes in Sumerian/Babylonian mythology of 5-4,000 years ago, or Zoroastrian versions of some 3500 years ago. Different terms, same core themes.
The above themes have wreaked immense misery across human history. As Arthur Mendel says, noting apocalyptic in particular, “apocalyptic is the most violent and destructive idea in history”. In just the last century, the apocalyptic millennial complex of ideas rendered entire populations of good people, frightened with apocalyptic scenarios, susceptible to the mass-death movements of Marxism and Nazism. These themes are now causing immense harm through environmental alarmism, notably climate alarmism.
Note just one of the worst ideas in the complex- the myth that the past was better and now life is in decline toward something worse (i.e. ‘Declinism’- the belief that “each moment is a degradation from all previous moments”, Mircea Eliade). This idea distorts entirely the long-term trajectory of life that shows ongoing progress, especially over the past few centuries. Life has never been better, despite the remaining problems throughout life that still need to be solved.
The decline myth incites harm because it undermines hope and deforms human personality with fear, anxiety, despair, and depression. Declinism then renders frightened people susceptible to destructive salvation schemes like decarbonization, which climate scientist Richard Lindzen states will be “the suicide of industrial civilization”.
Overall, this site is a project to discern good ideas from bad ones and then eliminate the bad ones that have been deeply lodged in human narratives and subconscious far too long. This site offers alternative ideas for new meta-narratives.
Two stories of life. Both cannot be true.
The oldest and still most dominant story of life is that of Declinism. This old story claims that the past was better (original paradise or golden age), but corrupt early people ruined the paradise and life then began to decline toward something worse. The old story stated that life would end in a great collapse and apocalypse.
The story that life is in decline is a distorting mythical story that was embraced by the world religions across subsequent history. It still dominates the Western religions- i.e. apocalyptic Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This story of decline has also been taken up by the great Eastern religions. Buddhism holds the feature of decline in its belief that the human lifespan decreases across time and there will be a coming time of chaos (Mircea Eliade). Hinduism expresses Declinism in its myths of great cycles that rise and then decline to a disastrous ending.
Over the past few centuries of our modern world the Declinism myth was embraced by “secular” ideologies like Marxism and Nazism (see Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline in Western History). Today Declinism dominates the narrative of environmental alarmism. Science has also toyed with apocalyptic-like beliefs via such things as an over-emphasis on the Second Law as ultimately defining reality, and cosmic versions of a ‘Big Crunch’ or ‘Heat death’.
The other story of life is that of rise or progress/development toward something better than before. This is evident in the overall trajectory of the cosmos as it moved from chaotic, disordered beginnings and then toward more order/organization (i.e. galaxies, stars, solar systems, and the production of carbon in the cyclical death and rebirth of stars) that provided a cosmic environment suitable for life to emerge on planets.
Life also shows a trajectory of rise or progress in that it began in the chaotic and disorganized early world but has continually organized toward more complexity and diversity. Darwin himself said that life evolves toward something more “perfect”.
And human civilization further exhibits the element of rise or progress toward more complexity and organization, toward something better. Progress is especially true of humanity. Indicators, like the decreasing rate of violence over our history, show that we have become something better than we were in our brutal early history (James Payne- ‘The History of Force’, Stephen Pinker- ‘Better Angels of Our Nature’).
Progress is evident in all the long-term trajectories of reality and life. Admittedly, there are also setbacks and downturns along the way but the overall long-term trend line of improvement is undeniable.
Conclusion: Good factual evidence exposes the decline narrative as a false description of reality and life. Evidence affirms that life over the long term progresses upward toward something ever better than before.
Some interesting sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocalypticism
This report from https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/01/16/what-global-warming-148-new-2020-scientific-papers-affirm-recent-non-warming-a-degrees-warmer-past/
Kenneth Richard 14. January 2021
“Scientists continued defying the “unprecedented” global warming narrative by publishing nearly 150 papers in 2020 that show large regions of the Earth (a) haven’t warmed in recent decades, (b) were as-warm or warmer within the last several centuries, and/or (c) were 1-7°C warmer than today just a few millennia ago.”
Am I repeating myself?
One of the persistent arguments on this site is that the very same set or complex of themes/myths/ideas that had dominated ancient mythology across the millennia (Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian), those same themes were later embraced by the great world religions that emerged roughly during the first millennium BCE (Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity). Islam later took up these themes via Ebionism, an offspring of the Jewish Christian movement (see, for example, ‘The Priest and the Prophet’ by Joseph Azzi).
That complex of primitive themes was then later embraced by the 19th Century ideology of Declinism (mythical themes were given ideological expression for the modern era) and those themes then influenced the mass-death movements of Marxism and Nazism (Richard Landes, Arthur Herman, Arthur Mendel, David Redles). Those mythical themes now shape the environmental alarmism movement. See “Its always the same old, same old” just below.
I am referring to what historians call the “apocalyptic millennial complex”. However, my 18 “Old Story Themes, New Story Alternatives” below includes the more complete set of related ideas that also cover the apocalyptic millennial complex.
As noted above, modern secular materialists/atheists, despite claiming to have left religion, fiercely hold and defend these very same themes, now in their “secular, ideological” versions. It is the same old, same old primitive pathology still infecting human mental life. And the outcomes are just as harmful as ever before. Note again that Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic narrative in Silent Spring influenced the ban on DDT that resulted in millions of unnecessary deaths in subsequent decades. See “Alarmist patterns and outcomes” below.
Note also that effort is made here to parse good from bad in the mix of old ideas/themes. I repeatedly affirm the “diamonds in the dung” as per Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy’s concerns. That is the point in the Great Christian Contradiction- to clearly define the profound difference between Historical Jesus and Paul’s Christ myth (i.e. the Christian oxymoron, or merger of entire opposites, called “Jesus Christ”).
The reason I go after Paul’s hugely influential myth is because his apocalyptic Christ is mainly responsible for lodging the pathology of apocalyptic in Western consciousness and society, for keeping this “most violent and destructive myth in history” alive in modern human consciousness.
Give people all the evidence, from all sides of an issue. Give them the full big picture including the skeptical challenges to a favored hypothesis. Too often across history some widely accepted hypothesis has been proven wrong by dissenters, like Galileo and Copernicus, or more recently Dr. Barry Marshall challenging the prevailing dogma on stomach ulcers. Encourage ongoing questioning and open debate. Skepticism is the life-blood of good science. Don’t try to silence others or demonize them with ad hominem attacks.
Another “Huh?” or two
Note the repeated public claim that we must reduce our emissions of CO2 in order to keep global warming below another 2 degrees C. rise. That claim assumes some notably unproven causal relationships. It assumes that our emissions over past decades have caused the rise in atmospheric CO2 and that CO is mainly responsible for the climate change that we have seen over the past.
Several recent things ought to caution against such wildly unscientific speculation on a paucity of evidence. (1) Just this last year human emissions were down significantly due to Covid lockdowns (7% reduction worldwide) yet the rise in CO2 continued unabated. Hmmm. The obvious conclusion? Our emissions are not causing the rise in CO2 because our emissions are overwhelmed by other natural sources that contribute CO2 to Earth’s carbon cycles. Notably, plant biomass (both absorbing and emitting CO2) and ocean absorption/emission, along with submarine volcanic emissions. We contribute only about 3% annually to these great exchange cycles.
And (2) what about the pause in warming over recent past decades while CO2 continued to rise? That undermined the claim that CO2 was mainly or solely the cause of climate change/warming. Other natural factors have shown stronger correlations to the climate change that we have experienced.
One of the great distortions/lies of our time is the repeated claim by alarmist scientists, politicians, and media that skeptics of climate alarmism “Don’t believe in climate change”. Nonsense. Climate change has never been under question. Climate is a complex, dynamic, and chaotic system that is never in stasis. There is 100% agreement that climate is changing, whether warming, cooling, or fluctuating along a basically flat trend line. And there is 100% agreement that CO2 contributes to any climate warming. We are all on the same page regarding these facts.
The core of the disagreement between alarmists and skeptics is over the “manmade” element. Skeptics disagree that humanity is mainly or solely responsible for the recent mild warming. Skeptics also disagree with the claim that future warming will be “catastrophic” and apocalyptic. Evidence shows that, to the contrary, both the recent warming and the rise in CO2 have been hugely beneficial to life with a stunning greening of our planet (the addition of green vegetation across the world twice the size of the continental US, just since 1980). Further warming and more CO2 will continue to benefit life (see ‘Two Best Things Happening Today’, just below).
Further, strong evidence affirms that natural factors have been responsible for the climate change that we have experienced (cosmic ray/sun/cloud interaction, ocean/atmosphere interaction, etc.) Therefore, adaptation to nature, not endeavors to mitigate factors beyond our control, is the best response and strategy. Besides, with CO2 as such a minor variable in the mix, you cannot control climate by adjusting a CO2 knob (i.e. the fallacy that if we reduce human emissions of CO2 we can keep temperatures from rising another degree or two). Nature will do what nature does and has always done- keep changing in an unpredictable manner.
What is at stake in the climate change debate? Nothing less than the future of industrial civilization because alarmists want to force our societies to bow the knee to the mob over the next few decades. Atmospheric physicist Richard Lindzen states that rapid decarbonization will be “The suicide of industrial civilization”. The alternative offered by alarmists? Replacing fossil fuels with unreliable (the intermittency and power storage issues) and costly renewables.
The poorest people are already suffering the most from Green Religion zealotry with rising energy/electricity costs as in places like California, Germany, and elsewhere.
We all want to make a contribution to making life better in some way. I view ideas as a fundamental shaping element in human thinking, feeling, and acting, and have therefore focused here on challenging and reforming some of the most fundamental ideas from across human history.
How we think influences how we feel and how we then respond and act in varied life situations. Bad ideas have incited some of the worst of human feeling and acting across history. This site offers alternative ideas that inspire the best of human feeling and acting/behavior.
This is my offering toward making the world a better place. I am taking aim at the basic themes in our great historical narratives, which is also to take aim at the subconscious things that influence our emotions, motivations, responses and behavior, and how we treat others. I realize this is a long-term project with little prospect of immediate reward, though that is also experienced from time to time in individual lives.
One hope here is to inspire others to take up the project, and to affirm the many others that are already engaged in similar projects to change life for the better in the most fundamental ways. We all try to discover the reason/purpose for why we are here and then do our best to fulfill that.
And as always, love is the single most central reason/purpose for our existence as conscious human persons. No conditions love, in particular, takes us to the very core and height of meaning, purpose, life.
Note on the fallacy of “scientific consensus”: 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”.
Endless “end-of-days” scenarios: Over the past 70 years humanity has faced a variety of problems that demanded our attention and problem-solving skills. Unfortunately, these problems were often presented by scientists, politicians, and news media, in terms of hysterically exaggerated scenarios, with speculation far beyond evidence, that they portended some form of the collapse of life and the end of days. That continued assault on public consciousness may explain something of why a majority of the world population believes that the world is getting worse. It may explain why depression is the world’s number one illness.
Add here that the endless battering of public consciousness with the myth of looming apocalypse has been a form of cruel child abuse. This alarmist narrative has produced growing “eco-anxiety” among children.
The list of exaggerated alarms:
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. And 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.
As Al Gore says, “We are living through the apocalypse of Revelation”. Really?
Full inclusion of all the evidence (freedom of speech) and rational discussion will calm excessive and irrational fears over changes in nature. Some fear of nature is legitimate but not the fear bordering on hysteria at times that is incited by claims that natural changes portend the apocalyptic ending of life. Humanity has suffered an endless series of exaggerated apocalyptic panics just over the past 70 years, none of which materialized because people responded, just as they always have, with creative ingenuity to solve problems and improve life.
James Lovelock, father of the Gaia hypothesis, on exaggerated alarmism- https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2134092/Gaia-scientist-James-Lovelock-I-alarmist-climate-change.html
It takes integrity and courage to admit that you were wrong, especially late in life. Thanks James. Quotes from Lovelock…
“Environmental scientist James Lovelock, renowned for his terrifying predictions of climate change’s deadly impact on the planet, has gone back on his previous claims, admitting they were ‘alarmist’.
“He added that other environmental commentators, such as former vice president Al Gore, are also guilty of exaggerating their arguments.
“The admission comes as a devastating blow to proponents of climate change who regard Lovelock as a powerful figurehead.
“Five years ago, he had claimed: ‘Before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.’
“But in an interview with msnbc.com, he admitted: ‘I made a mistake.’
“He said: ‘The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing,’ he told ‘We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear cut, but it hasn’t happened.
“’The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world.”
This from- https://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/01/19/great-moments-in-failed-predictions/
“In 1968, Paul R. Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb and declared that the battle to feed humanity had been lost and that there would be a major food shortage in the US. “In the 1970s … hundreds of millions are going to starve to death,” and by the 1980s most of the world’s important resources would be depleted. He forecast that 65 million Americans would die of starvation between 1980-1989 and that by 1999, the US population would decline to 22.6 million. The problems in the US would be relatively minor compared to those in the rest of the world. (Ehrlich, Paul R. The Population Bomb. New York, Ballantine Books, 1968.) New Scientist magazine underscored his speech in an editorial titled “In Praise of Prophets.”
“By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people … If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” Paul Ehrlich, Speech at British Institute For Biology, September 1971.”
Climate denialism/skepticism, alarmism, and good science
More than 97% of us know and affirm that climate is changing. No intellectual stretch there. There is no real denial of this fact. Climate is a complex, dynamic system that is never in stasis. And there is no disagreement that CO2 contributes to climate warming. So probably some 99.999 % of us, or more, both alarmists and skeptics, agree on these basic facts.
But there has never been a “scientific consensus” on how much humanity actually contributes to the CO2 cycles on Earth. The human contribution is overwhelmed by the land biomass exchange with the atmosphere, and the ocean exchange with the atmosphere (add here the estimated million plus submarine volcanoes contributing CO2). And there has never been a consensus on how much CO2 influences climate. It is certainly not as prominent an influence as alarmists claim. Good evidence has consistently shown that other natural factors overwhelm the CO2 influence. Therefore, there has never been a consensus on the actual human impact on climate change.
The historically sane, rational approach to science that has always embraced and encouraged skepticism, is currently suffering an onslaught from cancel culture fanaticism. Any who exhibit skepticism over the claims that humans are mainly responsible for climate change (“manmade”) are labelled “climate deniers”. So also those who challenge the related claim that the change is going to be “catastrophic” with the apocalypse coming very soon. 2030 is one of the latest dates set for the “end of days”.
The charge of “climate denier” is a cheap ad hominem slander that distorts the basic issues under debate, avoids discussing the actual content of the evidence under debate, and reveals that the claimant is ignorant of those basic issues and evidence. The charge is followed by demands for state force to silence, ban, and even criminalize those who disagree (e.g. Pres. Obama’s AG, Loretta Lynch, tried to criminalize skeptical science in 2016).
With the arrival of a new administration in Washington, alarmist hysteria over climate change is once again heating up with renewed claims of looming catastrophe (Joe Biden, 2020, “The world is on fire”) and demands for rapid decarbonization of our societies. So its time for some repeats on the patterns and outcomes of alarmism movements.
This site confronts the basic alarmist narrative that incites hysterical fear over a slightly warmer planet (only 1 degree Centigrade warming over the past century). Earth is still suffering excessively cold average temperatures during the current ice-age era. And note that 20 times more people die of cold every year than of warmth. Further, human agriculture began to flourish during times like the Holocene Optimum (7000 t0 5000 years ago) when temperatures were 3 degrees Centigrade warmer than today.
This site counters the alarmism that demonizes the food of all life- CO2- as a pollutant and poison. That is madness gone insane. For the past millions of years CO2 has been at dangerously low levels that have stressed plant and all life. Plant life thrives more of its basic food- CO2 levels at around 1000-1500 ppm.
Here is more detail on the larger paleo-climate context of climate change…
A main project on this site is to challenge the irresponsible promotion of fear with good counter evidence on the overall improving trajectory of life. The human family has suffered an endless series of alarmism eruptions, notably over the past 70 years- alarms over changes in nature, mass starvation, resource depletion, disease threats, and others. While it is reasonable to be concerned about any threat, alarmism irresponsibly exaggerates threats to apocalyptic-scale thereby distorting the true nature of things. Alarmist exaggerators claim, against good evidence to the contrary, that life is declining toward some catastrophic collapse and ending.
We are watching this apocalyptic lunacy play out daily in the endless series of end-of-days predictions coming from the climate hysteria movement. The latest date for the apocalypse- 2030. The father of the climate alarm movement, James Hansen, had previously set the end-of-days at 2013. He stated in 2008, “Its all over in five years”. Others, like Al Gore and Prince Charles, have set their own dates for the apocalypse. And the dates keep passing and life continues to improve. Al Gore has also said that we are now living out the apocalypse of the book of Revelation.
Even Stephen Hawking fell for the lunacy of apocalyptic in the last 2 years of his life. He stated in 2016 that humanity only had 1000 years left. Then he moved the date up in 2017, claiming humanity only had 100 years left. Bright man. It was still enough time for him to vacate the scene and avoid the humiliation that comes to all apocalyptic prophets when their end-of-days dates pass.
Social scientists have probed the motivations of the alarm promoters, noting, for example, that alarmist news media seek audience share and income (David Altheide in “Creating Fear: News and the Construction of Crisis”, or Matt Tiabbi in “Hate, Inc.: Why today’s media makes us despise one another”). Politicians frighten populations as a means of social control, and military/police use fear to generate financial support. Scientists also use exaggerated alarm scenarios to gain or maintain funding.
The consequence of such fear-mongering is populations where majorities now believe that things are getting worse, not better (See the Youguv surveys of the world population in “Ten Global Trends” by Bailey and Tupy). Frightened populations are then susceptible to embracing policies that will severely damage our civilization, such as the plan to rapidly decarbonize our societies (“The suicide of industrial civilization”, according to climate physicist Richard Lindzen). The decarbonizaton crusade continues to gain traction with the public.
It is critical to counter alarmism with natural world evidence but then also go after some of the deeper influences behind age-old human fears, notably the long-embedded myths of metaphysical threats vented on humanity through the natural world. These conscious/subconscious influences have to do with the pathology of ‘threat theology’- i.e. that there are angry Forces/spirits threatening to punish bad people through natural disaster, disease, or human cruelty. Nancy Pelosi recently (Sept. 2020) voiced this primitive mythology, stating, “Mother nature is angry” (angry at us sinful consumers enjoying the good life too much). The myth of divine anger expressed through natural disaster was similarly expressed by the Japanese lady after the 2011 tsunami, “Are we being punished for enjoying the good life too much?”.
Fear-mongering is a direct assault on freedom.
Quotes from David Atheide’s ‘Creating Fear: News and the Construction of Crisis’. Altheide notes that we are confronted with an increase in narratives of fear, much due to news media focus, exaggeration, and distortion.
“The mass media and popular culture are the most important contributors to fear. The pervasive use of fear in public documents and discourse has helped create a perspective or frame for viewing the world in an entertaining way that is shared by many members of our society… (this major paradox exists) … we are living longer with more secure and comfortable lifestyles than at any other time in history… yet we have the most fear and uncertainty about life…
“My research indicates that more of our narratives involve fear. Fear appeared in more headlines and news reports in the mid-1990s than in the 1980s… For the majority of people, the mass media shape identities and narratives… Fear as a perspective is expanding in social life… Fear is more widely used because news organizations and news sources benefit from it…
“News sources, and especially social control agencies (e.g. government) have adjusted their messages to comply with the media logic and entertainment format criteria of news organizations. Consequently, news reports and social control work have become joined through mass communication organizations…
“Murray Edelman argued that ‘crises’ are simply certain events that are defined in a certain way and promoted to serve the political interests of leaders… ‘crisis’ is oriented to a decisionmaker’s audience and to convince the audience to allow the leader to take decisive action. Fear is used increasingly to define crises and to bump along those claims so that leaders can take political action against ‘external enemies’ or ‘internal enemies’….
“The mass media, and especially the news media, are the main source and tool used to ‘soften up’ the audience, to prepare them to accept the justificatory account of the coming action… Fear is part of social control… Directing fear in a society is tantamount to controlling that society. Every age has its fears, every ruler has his/her enemies, every sovereign places blame and every citizen learns about these as propaganda. The key is to recognize the process and not get captivated with the ‘bogeyman’ of choice in any particular time.”
“The whole aim of practical politics”, wrote HL 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.
John Adams, “Fear is the foundation of most governments”.
Michael Shellenberger, author of “Apocalypse Never: Why environmental alarmism hurts us all”, said the following in a Forbes article: “Why Apocalyptic Claims About Climate Change Are Wrong”…
“Climate scientists are speaking out against grossly exaggerated claims about global warming.
“Environmental journalists and advocates have in recent weeks made a number of apocalyptic predictions about the impact of climate change. Bill McKibben suggested climate-driven fires in Australia had made koalas “functionally extinct.” Extinction Rebellion said “Billions will die” and “Life on Earth is dying.” Vice claimed the “collapse of civilization may have already begun.”
“Few have underscored the threat more than student climate activist Greta Thunberg and Green New Deal sponsor Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The latter said, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.” Says Thunberg in her new book, “Around 2030 we will be in a position to set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will lead to the end of our civilization as we know it.”
“Apocalyptic statements like these have real-world impacts. In September, a group of British psychologists said children are increasingly suffering from anxiety from the frightening discourse around climate change.”
“Apocalyptic climate claims have had a major impact. In September 2019, a survey of 30,000 people around the world found that 48 percent believed climate change would make humanity extinct. In January of this year, a survey found that one in five British children were having nightmares about climate change.”
Another post on Declinism
A majority of the world population believe that the world is getting worse (see the YouGov survey noted in Ten Global Trends by Bailey and Tupy, p.1). Consider also that depression is the world’s number one illness, impacting over 300 million people. There may be a correlation between one of the most influential ideas in all history- i.e. that life is in decline (Declinism)- and the persistent fear, anxiety, despair and depression that afflicts our species.
Why are so many people susceptible to narratives of life declining toward something worse? Does it have something to do with the ideas that are beaten into human consciousness across the millennia, ideas that have long been hardwired in the human subconscious?
The myth that life is getting worse became deeply lodged in human consciousness from the very beginning of the human venture to understand and explain life. That foundational myth has now dominated our consciousness for over five millennia, and probably much longer because prehistorians tell us that what we find present in the earliest human writing reflects what was believed in the prehistory era (e.g. Jacquetta Hawkes, John Pfeiffer).
We find the narrative of decline already present in the very earliest human mythology and literature. Early Declinism was expressed in myths of an original paradise (Dilmun, Eden) that was ruined by corrupt/sinful early people (Enki, Adam). The ancients believed that, after the “Fall”, life began degrading toward something worse and will eventually end in a great collapse and apocalypse.
As noted above the complex of decline ideas was present in the earliest Sumerian/Akkadian/Babylonian mythology (3000 to 1500 BCE) Those ideas were later embraced by Zoroastrian mythology and that Persian religion then shaped the great Western religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The ideas of original paradise, the ruin of paradise by sinful early people, the subsequent decline of life toward something worse, and the eventual disastrous ending of life, are common to all the cultures of the world.
In the more recent centuries of our CE era, decline mythology was taken up by the secular ideologies of Marxism, Nazism, and environmental alarmism or Green religion.
Declinism is a great distortion or reality and life. It is entirely contrary to the amassed evidence that shows life gradually improves over the long-term.
(And another on declinism) Misleading
CNBC put up this misleading headline Dec.20/2020- “Why climate change denial still exists in the US”. Bluntly, but kindly… No. The many scientists, politicians, and members of the public on the skeptical side of the climate debate do not “deny climate change”, a charge that reveals profound ignorance of the basic issues in the climate debate. What they deny are the hysterically exaggerated claims that humans are mainly responsible for the change occurring (“manmade climate change”) and that the outcomes will be catastrophic (i.e. “The planet is on fire… The sky is falling”). There has never been a scientific “consensus” on the apocalyptic claims of alarmists. Evidence has never affirmed the exaggerations of climate alarmists.
To the contrary, good evidence shows that other natural factors show stronger correlations to the change that we have observed and those natural factors consistently overwhelm the human influence. Observed evidence also shows that the mild warming we have experienced over the past century (roughly 1 degree C.) has been largely beneficial to all life.
Conclusion from the best evidence? We do not need to decarbonize our societies, certainly not as rapidly as alarmists advocate. CO2 is not a pollutant or poison that threatens life. It is the basic food of all life and it has been at dangerously low levels over the past few million years. Also, we are still in an ice-age era of abnormally cold average temperatures. For most of the past 500 million years average temperatures on Earth were around 5 degrees C. higher with no ice at the poles. That is a more normal and optimal world for life. Life flourishes with more food and warmth, just as it flourished during the Holocene Optimum some 5000-7000 years ago (3 degrees C. warmer than today), during the Roman Warm Period (2 degrees C. warmer than today), and during the Medieval Warm Period (2 degrees C. warmer than today).
From ‘Inside the Bayesian Theory’ by Willis Eschenbach
“Things are warmer now than during the Little Ice Age.
“In general that increased warmth has been a benefit for man, animals, and plants alike.
“There have been no “climate catastrophes” from that warming.”
Now some comment on this and that…
The death issue
Every one of us is interested in the biggest issue of all- death and what happens at that moment we exhale out our last breath. While many wisely caution against overly confident speculation on this, we all do it. Here are some of my arguments for why I affirm the speculation that our conscious self does not die but transitions to an infinitely better existence.
But why even speculate on unknowables? Because most people already hold ideas of afterlife reality that are shaped by our long history of mythological and religious speculation, and contemporary speculation that all portray any such reality as a lesser form of existence, a shadowy realm of ghostly figures, and threatening (meeting a pissed deity). Religious traditions also portray after-life reality as an endless church service with hymn-singing forever. Add to the mix, the primal fear of after-life harm (i.e. hell) that is still prominent in many religious narratives. So at the least, offer people more humane alternatives to such pathologies.
I start reasoning from the negative, by putting some alternatives in their place as highly questionable, especially since they are argued by people who claim to hold the high-ground of science and therefore possess more evidence-based views. Richard Dawkins, for example, is far too dogmatic when he dismisses any possible after-life with “No. Its (consciousness, the human self) all just there in the brain”. Really, Richard? And how so? Where exactly is your final evidence for that conclusion?
There is not a shred of final, conclusive evidence that the three pounds of meat in our skulls produces the wonder of mind or the human self. Despite the confident arguments of Daniel Dennett in “Consciousness Explained”. David Chalmers responds that all Dennett has done is list the basic functions of the brain and waved a wand with “poof” assumptions/theory that he has explained consciousness. He hasn’t done any such thing. Dennett in other places has argued that we have now explained the brain down to the molecular and atomic levels so that means we are almost there in explaining consciousness as just a product of the material brain. That is an unprovable ‘leap of assumption’ no different from religious ‘leaps of faith’.
We haven’t even explained how a lifetime of memories could possibly be stored in the brain. And the human self is very much defined by an accumulation of personal memories. Dr. Pim Van Lommel (Consciousness Beyond Life) suggests that our memories are stored in non-local space around us, in surrounding dimensions, and we access them through our unique DNA codes. This is similar to other’s speculation that we are part of a greater consciousness and only some of our consciousness is expressed through our unique brains and bodies that enable us to experience this limited material realm for a brief life story.
And we know that we are surrounded and interpenetrated by greater invisible realities/dimensions. We know the cosmos is mostly invisible stuff (96% dark matter/energy). We have no idea what that is. We don’t even know what the 4% of visible matter is. See Jim Baggot’s ‘Mass’ on the history of the human endeavor to understand material reality.
On the pro side, I include in my speculation the first-hand experiences of the many people who have had Near-Death Experiences. I approach any personal experience with skepticism and my own criteria for truthfulness. But I am struck with several features that have come from that experience. The most dominant insight from most of those experiences is of something that is incomprehensible and NDErs are frustrated at not being able to express it in human words. They refer to a love that is infinitely beyond anything we know here. It is “unconditional” beyond words, definitions, and understanding. At a minimum it means no judgment, no exclusion of anyone, and no punishment or destruction (no hell). That is not a religious discovery because no religion has ever communicated such love.
And the NDE people state that the other realms are far more real in comparison to this “fog-like” or “dream-like” material reality. They add insights such as there is no time or space as we know it here. From our experience of time and space we cannot imagine existence without such features and so eternity would seem infinitely long and boring if it were just an extension of this material space/time reality. Projecting our three/four-dimensional experience out to greater realities is to misunderstand something infinitely beyond our experience. The NDE people also say the experiences of color, sound, taste, and other faculties are also infinitely beyond and better than what we experience here. Add the experience of peace and bliss far beyond expression.
Greater reality is not the shadowy, dark realm of much human story-telling. A lesser form of existence than this world. To the contrary, the other realms are far more real (hyper-lucid consciousness), more alive, more dynamic, and with creative growth and development. And Natalie Sudman, for example, recounts the amazing freedom that she experienced out of her body. There was no coercion.
These NDE experiences point to something infinitely better than anything that we can imagine. And the fact that we return to a Source that is unconditional love, that takes the sting out of religious versions of death which have long terrorized humanity with threats of meeting a final judgment, possible exclusion, and punishment/destruction in hell. To the contrary, NDErs tell us there is nothing to fear. The other realms are not religious. There is no religious heaven (endless church service) and certainly no hell.
We return home to light and love and creative ongoing existence infinitely better than here. With no space and time limitations. And our consciousness, while still personal and individual, also experiences a unity or oneness with all other reality. That is community and communication that is impossible to imagine.
While some argue this is all just unverifiable speculation, it offers better alternatives than what religious versions tell us. NDEs portray a reality entirely contrary to the dark, shadowy versions of after-life reality that are presented in contemporary “secular” myth-making (movies, TV). So take insights from where you will to satisfy your own speculations and concerns.
Also, as noted above, I take all human experience seriously, applying my own criteria for truthfulness. Personal conscious experience is the one thing that we all know as real. It may be the most real of all things. And any conscious experience that affirms the highest form of love- unconditional- rings true. Love is the one thing that defines us as authentically human and gives ultimate meaning to our existence. It is the ultimate good that we know in this life and should therefore be true of the Ultimate Good that we understand as deity or Ultimate Mind, Consciousness, Source, Spirit or Self.
As one sage said, “We come from Love. We exist in Love, and we return to Love in the end”.
Sources: Pim Van Lommel’s “Consciousness Beyond Life”. Mark Fox- “Religion, spirituality and the Near-death Experience”.
The threat of death hangs over all life. We will die. But in addition to this primal threat and fear there is the long history of mythology and religion telling us that death is a punishment for our sin. We deserve to die because we are bad. This is the story line in the Eden myth, and that narrative is common across world cultures. Many cultures have origin myths that state there was an original paradise with no death until early people committed some wrong and then death entered as punishment for their sin.
But that is not all. Aside from the myth of death as punishment, the ancients added the threat of after-life harm which then intensified the sting of death. They claimed that we will face judgment, perhaps exclusion, and then some horrific eternal punishment and destruction (i.e. burning in hell). This is all part of the larger mythological framework of retaliatory, punitive God theory. Fortunately, there are alternatives that remove the myth-based fear and sting of death.
The resurgence of tribalism
The contemporary Left/Right (Liberal/Conservative) divisions in our societies illustrate the problems of tribal polarization. Some people take more extreme stances on either side of these divides and rigidly hold their ideological position as a dominant marker of identity. But it appears that most people take more moderate positions on either side, more toward the middle.
And this quote from another poll: “A strong majority of both liberals and conservatives describe themselves as closer to the center than to the extremes.”
Unfortunately, crisis-obsessed media tend to give inordinate attention to the extremes, giving the impression they represent normal situations, and that lack of context distorts things. That adds to the public sense of division and strife.
Most of us see things on both sides that we can agree with. As someone long ago predicted, most people in the future would probably embrace a mixed approach and be more socially Liberal but economically Conservative. That would mean affirming individual liberty in the social realm and economic realms. And that would make Libertarians happy.
David Boaz (Libertarianism: A Primer), urges both sides in the US situation to embrace more freedom. He said that Republicans need to embrace more freedom in the social arena and Democrats need to embrace more freedom in the economic realm.
In relation to tribalism, I would also urge carefulness in how we embrace and hold human identity markers. Louis Zurcher (The Mutable Self) long ago warned of the problem of placing one’s identity in fixed objects like occupation, national or racial identity, religion, ideology, or other. He argued that we should remain selves in open processes- open to ongoing change, development, and growth- and not locate our identity in fixed objects like the above.
An overly-rigid embrace of, and emphasis on, identity markers that separate us from others can promote tribal division.
While all the above identity markers may serve some helpful purpose at times, the central feature of our humanity has to do with our oneness with the entire human family. All of us share the same human spirit and consciousness with all other humans and these are the primary markers of being human. Even quantum theory affirms a fundamental oneness behind all reality and some apply that to humanity’s oneness.
Others note that the dualisms that we give so much meaning to, are temporary and limited to this material realm (e.g. Joseph Campbell, Natalie Sudman, and others). Engaging the space/time dualisms of this world, says Joseph Campbell, is about fulfilling our differing roles here as “actors on God’s stage”.
Beware the tribal impulse. We all want to live the hero’s adventure and engage some righteous battle against evil and against some enemy. The danger in taking on a righteous cause is that we tend to forget our oneness with our enemy. We forget to “love our enemy” and we can thereby lose our humanity in the process. The marker of mature humanity is universal, unconditional love.
Submitting to the tribal impulse is to revert to our animal past (small band thinking). We should all aspire to be world citizens, that is, equal members of the one united human family.
Intro question for following comment: How are we made better by a constant focus on and harping on the failures/imperfections of others, our “opponents/enemies” in some social divide?
Pettiness gone extreme in tribal retaliation
We are hearing calls for “healing” after a 4-year eruption of intense tribalist hatred. How about taking a look at what exacerbated the problem of tribal hatred, as part of understanding how to fix it or heal it? I would offer that the petty response of retaliation is at the core of too much failure in human relationships and was prominently involved in intensifying the tribal division in US politics and society over recent history.
Eye-for-eye is us at our pettiest and most childish. The retaliatory response has caused more harm and destruction across history than perhaps any other impulse or response.
We have watched these “eye-for-eye” cycles over these past years between people that appear to be adults but have been acting more like children below the level of 5-year-olds, sitting in a sandbox throwing fistfuls of sand back and forth as fast as they can. Both sides defensively claim, “Well, he/they started it”. But that is never a mature defense for such petty response to imagined faults on the other side of any social divide.
Remember Anderson Cooper, during his one and only Trump interview in the 2016 Primary, laughing at Donald Trump responding to his gotcha question of why he reacted so harshly to some person criticizing him. Trump said, “Well, he started it”. Cooper laughed and jumped on his chance to humiliate in response, “But that is what a five-year old says”. It was a signal moment that set the tone for the following years.
Anderson was right that retaliation is childish response/behavior. But then he and his CNN colleagues, along with other media, went on to spend the next four years throwing fistfuls of sand back as fast and furious as they could, howling all the while, “Well, he started it (daily) with those mean tweets”. Neither side has done better than the other. Retaliation is a great leveller that drags both sides down to the level of five-year old behavior. Tit for tat.
And yes, in this comment I am affirming “Both-sideism”. There are no innocents or more righteous ones on any side of these social divides. Both sides have failed equally on this retaliation issue, despite claims to be engaging their “righteous battle against evil”.
Here is the initiate/respond pattern that we have seen almost daily: One side makes a comment that is beyond the substance or content of some issue or policy, a comment that steps over the line into something personal (ad hominem). They include a personal insult about intelligence, mental health, social pathology, appearance, or whatever. Something intended to belittle, hurt, humiliate, put down. And the other side, instead of taking the high road in Mandela fashion, hits back with equal effort to hurt, humiliate, put down, belittle.
The outcome is eye-for-eye cycles that only spiral downward. Hurt for hurt. Humiliation for humiliation. Belittling for belittling. Trump and Pelosi have been prominent examples here. News media and Hollywood have zealously joined the politicians in the fray, intensifying the eye-for-eye cycles.
And both sides exhibit varying skill levels at couching their retaliatory comment in a smooth news-like presentation. Just the facts.
Others abandon any pretense at smooth and just strike out to hurt and humiliate. Remember Bob DeNiro’s “Fuck Trump. I would punch him in the face… He needs a bag of shit thrown in his face”. Thanks Bob, for showing us the better way forward. How to take “the high road”.
Late night comedians and talk shows have embarrassed themselves repeatedly with faux comedy that makes no effort to conceal how intensely they despise their political opponents. Remember Stephen Colbert’s embarrassing comment re Trump, “The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster.” Ha, ha. Humor has too often reduced itself to a project to vilify and humiliate the objects of the comedian’s scorn.
Consequently, much humor has abandoned any attempt to unite with laughs at shared human foibles. It has become too tribal, with repetitively one-sided rants against the other “enemy” side. As someone said, “Hollywood has become a one-party state”. Good humor is when even the object of a joke, your opponent, can join the laughter without feeling humiliated.
The primitive tribal spirit in all this- more generously termed “partisanship”- adds to the sense of childish hissy fits thrown by apparent adults and now accepted as normal public discourse and often trumpeted by both sides as their righteous battle against evil and for justice. Really?
The tribal stances taken by both sides exhibits one of the worst leftovers from the immature and primitive era of early humanity (the small band orientation of our animal past and human infancy). Where are the mature adults for today?
Exposing oneself to the public arena takes heightened levels of self-restraint to remain focused on the content of disagreement (policy positions) and to hold in check the impulse to return hurt for hurt or humiliation for humiliation when the other side crosses the line from policy to personal insult.
And where, in all our disagreement, is our sense of the fundamental oneness of the human family? That even with our differing stances on a wide variety of policy issues, we are fundamentally together in this grand experiment in democracy as an approach that holds us together with values like inclusion, forgiveness, kindness and mercy, second chance-ism, cooperation, and respect for diversity and self-determination.
Part of the retaliatory response includes name-calling (the labelling with extremist terms) as both sides try to broad-brush smear the entire other side as guilty of things that define the extremist fringes on both sides. Outraged one-siders do not want to pass on a chance for one more hit to embarrass, belittle, and cancel. One more outburst of name-calling that blurs the boundaries between moderates and extremists on both sides.
The rest of us watch the public figures on both sides of these eye-for-eye battles with embarrassment, perhaps because we are guilty of the very same childish retaliatory behavior in our own lives. Public figures mirror back to us some of our worst features and that embarrasses us. The difference is that most of us have learned to be more subtle in our displays of retaliatory behavior. We get it that retaliation is humanity at its worst, its most petty childishness. Subhuman, inhuman, immature stupidity.
And we all know better. We can be so much better. We can be such magnificent beings when we forgive the failings and imperfections of others, when we generously include them as equals, when despite how we feel about their failings we choose to treat them humanely, with respect and love. We are at our best when we are unafraid to acknowledge, admit and praise others where they have done good. Acting just like a mature Nelson Mandela. Despite ongoing disagreements over serious policy issues.
This is not a call to ignore that people must be held accountable for their failures just as Mandela established the truth and reconciliation commission. But in the fog of hate and vilification, the real nature of the failure of others is often misrepresented because unrestrained hatred of the other leads to exaggeration of their faults and exaggerated demands for punishment that are beyond reason and often far out of proportion to the actual fault that was originally committed. We see this in the outrage and cancel culture trends so common today with their efforts to excessively criminalize all sorts of failures and faults on the other side. Some misspoken word, even decades ago, is now used to harshly define the person today in the worst possible light (as if they had never changed since) and then to publicly humiliate and cancel, even destroy entirely.
Further, the most humiliating forms of groveling are demanded from accused offenders, again often all-out-of proportion to imagined offenses committed. Demands for severe punishment are based on exaggerations of the offensiveness of some fault of an opponent, on an exaggerated sense of victimhood and hurt, and the demands too often become unrestrained eruptions of hysteria. Such behavior is embarrassing for more moderate observers on all sides to watch. The screams to impeach, ban, fire, and destroy utterly. Ah, where are the moderate voices on both sides urging us all back to sanity with those central defining features of mature adult humanity- forgiveness, inclusion, respect, restorative justice (unlimited chances to learn and start over), and just plain old love.
Retaliation is one of the dumbest things that we humans engage. It leaves us all looking so childish and petty.
Watch how contemporary story-telling (movies, TV) feed the retaliatory impulse. The story-line follows this pattern- good guy is at home with wife and family sharing common household activities and this promotes warm feelings toward good guy and his family. Then disruption and antagonism are introduced as we meet bad guy who hurts good guy or good guy’s family in some way. Then the rest of the story is good guy getting his vengeance on bad guy with rage and bloody violence. And all feel that bad guy deserves it and justice is done and right once again prevails. It is often such simple-minded exaggeration and affirmation of the vengeance impulse. But such is the primitive content of much contemporary story-telling.
How rare are stories like ‘The Railway Man’ or ‘The Forgiven’ that point to the potential of non-retaliatory response, to something better in the human spirit.
Another post: Hate on all sides
Recently, I have heard and read the argument that media, politicians, and other elites, are making us hate one another. They are inciting the tribal impulse by speaking of the others on the opposite side of some social divide (political, racial, gender divides) as “enemies”, as evil, as a threat to our way of life, and as responsible for taking us down the road to disaster.
Both sides of our social divides promote tribal hatred (yes, I embrace “both-sideism”). Both sides use extremist terms to belittle and vilify the other side (e.g. “racist, Right-wing, Nazi” as putdowns from one side, “Socialist, Leftist” as putdowns from the other side). People then begin to fear one another and fear is often behind further hate and eruptions of rage. And that can lead to ugly outcomes for a society.
Matt Taibbi in “Hate Inc.” argues that cable news started promoting this tribal hatred in the 90s. When faced with competition from the Internet, cable news channels found a way to hold viewers attention. They did so by promoting outrage TV, focusing their viewers on a villain and presenting that villain in extremist language that would incite outrage in viewers and hold their attention. The cable networks were thereby able to maintain their audience and revenues. The promotion of hate and fear intensified over the past few years as we began to hear more and more the extremist condemnation of the other side as “Hitleresque… racist… socialist”, or whatever.
Watch how common this pattern is in public story-telling (movies, TV), how others/enemies are portrayed in extremist ways as irredeemably evil, as a threat to our survival, and therefore deserving of harsh condemnation, exclusion, and even violent destruction. The gorier the better. And after the violent destruction of some villain, all finish the movie feeling that justice has been done with the humiliation, silencing, cancelling, and even extermination of the other.
Sociologist David Altheide said basically the same thing in “Creating Fear: News and the construction of crisis”. He noted that news media use extremist language to promote the sense of endless crisis and looming disaster in order to hold audience attention and gain revenue.
Here’s a test for what we watch or read: Does it incite fear and hatred of the other side that we disagree with over varied issues? Does it undermine love for differing others? Does it lessen our respect for the other person as an imperfect fellow human? Does it weaken the desire to include differing others as equals? Does it incite the urge to ban or silence the other, to curtail their freedom of speech, because, after all, their speech is viewed as “hate speech” and therefore dangerous?
The fear, hatred, and polarization that is being incited today, by both sides, is very similar to what played out in a more extreme manner and at a larger scale just last century in Nazi Germany, and also in Marxist countries. We don’t want to repeat those violent outcomes.
We could use some new Nelson Mandelas for today’s world.
Viewing the enemy other
There appear to be elements of arrogance and a lack of self-awareness in how we view the failures of others. To help stir just a bit of empathy ask yourself if you had lived the same set of life circumstances as your hated opponent, would you really have turned out much differently than them? We all have the same capability for failure and ugliness in behavior as others. We have inherited the same base impulses that they have. This realization of our own capability for failure, and even evil, ought to temper our tendency to despise and hate the failing other person. Some healthy self-awareness of our own capacity for failure ought to temper our hysteria over the failures of others. As Solzhenitsyn said, “The battle line between good and evil runs down the center of every human heart”.
And a useful comment on the lack of self-awareness of the do-gooder that would lecture others on how to live:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience”, C. S. Lewis.
Another post on eye-for-eye cycles
We’ve just endured a 4-year cringe-binge of eye for eye behavior (getting even, payback) between the Left and Right that has left most of us quite disgusted. But a caution before getting too self-righteous in our commenting on other’s failings with regard to the human retaliation response. We all hold some level of expertise in this childish behavior but most of us have learned to express our vengeance lust in more subtle ways. A friend offers this example: When one person in a relationship does not show enough affection, the other spouse will then quietly withdraw affection also, as a form of aggressive-passive payback. Subtle, smooth, but just as sick/infantile as any other form of direct hurt for hurt.
Others unembarrassedly affirm retaliation as a good thing (e.g. they claim that it is “counter-punching”) and go at it with unrestrained passion. Please Mr. Trump. There is a difference.
Retaliation makes us all look petty, childish, and subhuman. Like little kids in a sandbox throwing sand back and forth (“Well, he/she started it”). And neither side in our great public divides (i.e. Left/Right) can claim that the retaliation from its side is a “righteous battle against evil”- i.e. the ‘evil’ that is the disagreeing other side. That claim to be on the good side is tribal, partisan self-delusion and is a denial of the most basic self-awareness of one’s own biases and faults.
Particularly disgusting over the past four years has been the retaliation coming from the late-night talk/comedy shows. Expressing retaliation via humor is no longer funny, except to the fan-base that it panders to. It comes across for what it really is- hatred of the other side that is exhibited in humorless vilification and effort to humiliate. To the contrary, good humor pokes fun but in a way that even the person being made fun of can also enjoy the joke and not feel humiliated (note Rob Schneider’s comments on the Alex Baldwin SNL skits).
Ah, we all need to “grow the fuck up”. And learn what love is- meaning “love your enemy” as great human spirits like Mandela exhibited for us. Let’s stop this petty retaliating in kind- the childish mocking, belittling, humiliating, and returning hurt to others for imagined hurts caused. Imagined? Yes, a lot is imagined in the over-wrought and highly charged sensitivity to slights/offenses that typify today’s insane outrage culture.
I have been particularly unsettled by the retaliatory response from the side of society that I tend to affiliate most with- the liberal side. I affiliate with this side on most social issues that are oriented to the protected rights of free individuals. Though I give credit to the conservative side for doing better in protecting the rights of free individuals in the economic realm that, many argue, is the basis of all other freedoms. Overall, I prefer the stance of a fiercely ‘Independent liberalism’ of the Classic Liberal kind. Sort of Libertarianish. See Daniel Hannan’s ‘Inventing Freedom’ for the history of true Liberalism.
The past four-year liberal eruption of hysteria (“getting-the-vapors”) over the faults of others, the exaggeration of evil on the other side (e.g. the lunacy of childish name-calling- “Hitleresque… Nazi, destroyer of democracy, Racist, etc.”), and the cancel-culture response, all point to an intolerant spirit and “creeping totalitarianism” that has nothing to do with Classic Liberalism. Today’s Liberalism/Progressivism has been too often highly illiberal.
When you portray the other side with the negative generalizations that Michelle Obama, Michael Moore, and many others have voiced (i.e. “all who voted Republican are racists”) then that negative generalization of an entire group appears to be the very essence, the very spirit of what today’s liberals call “racism”. How are they offering something better with their responses?
But not to be outdone, the conservative side engages its own form of hysterical exaggeration of the ‘evils’ of the liberal side, punching back with equally petty name-calling and belittling of equally shameful scale (“Socialist/Communist”… “Far-left”).
Qualifier on hate speech: There is a legitimately defined category of speech that we call “hate speech” which tries to incite ill will and even violence toward differing others. I would suggest that it may be more helpful to deal with such speech by engaging it in open debate and confrontation rather than by criminalizing it outright. Efforts to criminalize such speech can fall prey to partisan politicization and undermine general freedom when partisans step outside the agreed boundaries of legitimate categories and use “hate speech” accusations to label, demonize, and silence opponents.
Qualifier on universal, unconditional love: “Love your enemy” is not advocating that victims must “like” (i.e. feel mushy or warm toward) their offenders. It is urging that we love them in the sense of love, not primarily as a feeling, but as treating others humanely no matter how we feel toward them (intention and action over feeling). Much like professional police and military are obligated to treat prisoners humanely despite their crimes.
The most basic of “common shared values”
We inherit from our animal past some nasty impulses and the real battle of life is with this internal complex of impulses that we have inherited. This is the real enemy and monster to overcome. We (modern humanity) have learned of more humane responses to replace the base animal-like responses of our animal past. There is no downside or negative outcomes to the more humane responses. They provide a safer way to navigate life.
(1) We inherit the impulse to tribalism and the exclusion of differing others, often viewed in terms of us as good against others as bad/evil. We overcome that with an orientation to inclusion based on the fundamental reality of our oneness, that we are one family. Further, the highest expression of our greatest defining ideal- love- is to “love our enemy”. That is the height of mature humanity or humaneness.
(2) We inherit the impulse to domination of others (alpha male/female), to intervene/meddle with and control others. We overcome that with a new orientation to respect the freedom, autonomy, and self-determination of all others. To view every person as a true equal deserving full freedom. Where there is no such freedom there is no love.
(3) We inherit the impulse to punish and destroy the differing other as an enemy. We overcome that by embracing restorative, rehabilitative justice. No matter the offense of the imperfect other, we are obligated to treat all humanely. Punitive, destructive justice (hurt returned for initial hurt caused) has no place in a humane future. Forgiveness is the higher road to take even if it is necessary to restrain those who cannot control their worst impulses. Love is not always about liking some offending other but it is about treating all humanely no matter their failures to live as human.
Fundamental shared values for a healthy society (another similar post)
What are the fundamental shared values that all can agree on as basic to a humane, civilized society? The ‘social contract’ stuff that we can all affirm. I could also frame these as principles that we live and die by. Principles that would successfully organize human society to do the most good for the most people. What are the markers of mature humanity, the basic shared values that all could agree on?
Love would be my first and foremost value as humanity’s highest ideal but it needs more tightening of specification just as to what kind of love we are defining.
I would define love with the following three basic features: Inclusion of all, freedom from central or elite control/domination, and restorative treatment of human failure.
(1) The inclusion of everyone equally. This is not equality of outcome as that is never possible and when coercively legislated in collectivist approaches it has resulted in devastating outcomes that have impoverished many and divided societies into privileged insider elites with disillusioned and disenfranchised outsider masses. Inclusion and equality are better served by maintaining a level playing field with “democratic politics, strong property rights, the rule of law, enforcement of contracts, freedom of movement, and a free press” (Ten Global Trends, Bailey and Tupy).
(2) Freedom- the primacy of individual freedom is the critical element here. This is contrasted with collectivist approaches where the individual is subject to some collective as primary. As Frederick Hayek noted, dispersing power among competing individuals is the best way to protect against the concentrating of power in collectivist elites. The centralizing of power in collectivist approaches (the state and state elites as representing the will of the collective) has historically undermined individual freedom.
(3) The restorative treatment of human imperfection and failure as most potent for lowering recidivism rates and protecting the innocent. This is contrasted with punitive, destructive justice approaches that produce more harm than good (see Karl Menninger’s ‘The Crime of Punishment’).