Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Philosophy of Global Warming

All the important questions of global warming can be asked on the basis of the four fundamental questions of philosophy: the questions of metaphysics (questions such as "Where are we?" and "What's it like?"), of epistemology ("How do we know?") and of ethics ("If that's all true, then what do we do now?").

Indeed, it seems to me that people's answers on global warming are determined more by philosophy than they are by science:
  • Metaphysics: Is warming happening? Is it catastrophic? What's the agent of change? Is it man-made?
  • Epistemology: How do we know? By faith? By the insistence of politicised science? Or by reason -- by investigating all the evidence, by insisting on evidence that is falsifiable, evidence that is integrated with the full context of all that we know? And how in reason are we able to reliably predict the future?
  • Ethics: What do we do now? Sacrifice? Or the self-interested pursuit of new technologies?
  • Politics: What is needed in politics? A New Authoritarianism to enforce a new ethic of sacrifice? Or more freedom to pursue and to create new technologies, and stronger property rights to protect against real pollution?
Like I say, it seems to me that the answers are more about philosophy than they are anything else, and most specifically about ethics.

For instance, warmists insist that man-made catastrophic global warming is happening; that they know enough to know it's happening because Al Gore and the UN's Summary for Policymakers told them that it's happening; that what is urgently needed not greater certainty or new technology, but sacrifice -- sacrifice NOW!! -- and lots of it -- sacrifices that can only be enforced by big and bigger government.

Conservatives on the other hand (Key, Cameron, Nick Smith) insist that it's irrelevant whether or not it's actually happening: that what's more important is political expediency; that compromise and getting along is the way to go; that we should go along with whatever Al Gore and the UN tell us; and we should therefore all agree to sacrifice and to lots of it -- sacrifices that will be enforced by big and bigger and ever bigger government, even world government (and naturally the conservative hopes to be that Government or at least in control of it).

As you can see, what unites most warmists philosophically is what Ayn Rand used to call the ideals of the mysticism-altruism-collectivism axis: arguments from authority, and sacrifice, and statism. What specifically unites conservatives and warmists is their common reverence for the ethic of sacrifice, and their craving for big government.

Big government for both is the solution, and "Give up, give up, give up" is the mantra -- give up power generation in favour of abstinence; give up comfort, wealth and our own standard of living in favour of Al Gore's; give up decent lighting in favour of inefficient mercury-filled fog; give up clothes driers and power lawn mowers; give up fresh hot water and central heating; give up SUVs and elevators, toilet paper and trash; microwaves, modern air travel and most of the modern world-- give up, give up, give up!

In short, give up industrial production and industrial civilisation and go 'carbon neutral' -- sacrifice today for no benefit in the future -- sacrifice now even if the sacrifice has no tangible effect on worldwide carbon dioxide levels at all! Sacrifice as an intrinsic good -- sacrifice as a way of life. Sacrifice as appeasement to the Earth God Gaia, and the Great Earth God Gore.

As you can see, the warmist axis is nuts.

And as you can also see, conservatives are a waste of space.

Genuine 'climate skeptics' however come in a variety of philosophical flavours, but few are in favour of sacrifice. Few deny that warming is happening -- at the the entirely uncatastrophic level of about 0.6 degrees celsius across the last century -- what they don't accept is that it's proven to be either man-made or that it will prove to be catastrophic -- or that even if it does prove catastrophic, that sacrifice and big government will be the necessary cure.

What unites most climate skeptics is an ethic that puts happiness, freedom and human life above any desire to appease the Earth's 'gods' or to make our grandchildren poor.

Some skeptics do accept that global warming is man-made and that there could be negative consequences (Bjorn Lomborg for example), but not as negative as the so-called 'solutions' proposed, and far less catastrophic and far, far less important than other genuine world-wide catastrophes that could be fixed more easily and more cheaply -- third world AIDS epidemics for example, or the urgent worldwide need for clean drinking water and for third world development.

And there are other skeptics who maintain that even if it does provoke a crisis, that neither sacrifice nor big government will be the necessary cure -- in fact, both sacrifice and big government will be to our detriment. For these skeptics, (such as George Reisman, for example) more self-interested pursuit of technology is needed -- urgently needed -- and what's needed to pursue that is more freedom and less big government.

Your position on the philosophical spectrum will determine your position on the warmist spectrum, and your position on ethics will determine your point of view on solutions.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Hamish said...

Ahem - I think you'd find it difficult to convince a scientist that the questions "Is warming happening?" and "What's the agent of change?" are meta-physical.

5/09/2007 05:43:00 pm  
Blogger Promtheus said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/11/2007 09:42:00 am  
Anonymous DwayneDavies said...

Yeah well, its hardly suprising in a day and age when more and more scientists beleive some of the obviously nonsensical theories in Quantum Mechanics (like the latest claim that either reality (and not just subatomic particles this time) mustnt exist when not looked at or that seperated particles can have instant effects on each other) that they will be champions of a mystical cult of warming.

Ive been saying it for a while now, and im being proven correct all the time: Scientists NEED philosophy to help them keep mysiticsm like certain theories in QM and this Global Warming Spaghetti Monster out of it.

Science ISNT just a means of devising a model that seems to describe a presumed model reality that they dont chcek for consitency, its meant to MATCH reality, describe it.

Science is a means of identifiying how reality works..but before you do that you need philosophy.

5/11/2007 09:43:00 am  

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