Thursday 10 December 2009

Scepticism Is Conservative (since you ask)

Over at the Yard, our man is asking why opposition to warmism is 'such a right-wing thing'. No doubt I've said it before (and no doubt many others will), but I'll say it again. Conservatives (never mind 'neocons', who are mostly mutated Marxists) are bound to be sceptical about all large claims made by 'experts', governments and international bodies, if only because of their dismal record on such things, and the dubious purity of their motives. Warmism looks to us like apocalyptic projection, which is both a spillover from religion (answering to emotion rather than science) and a reverse form of Utopianism, about which conservatives too are deeply sceptical, for the best of historical reasons. It is also perfectly obvious that the enthusiasm of governments for the warmist scenario is driven by the possibilities it opens up for massive exactions of revenue from the public and considerable extension of state control over individuals and enterprises. What's not to be sceptical about? 'The science'? There is no (scientifically respectable) way on earth that such large claims and precise projections can be made about such a vast and complex web of systems. It reeks of human arrogance - overestimating our importance to the planet (as to everything else) - whereas conservatives (and indeed Christians) veer towards humility in regard to man's place in the scheme of things, and mistrust fierce conviction ('enthusiasm', in the old sense) in anything. The best, after all, lack all conviction...


  1. well argued! you've made it all make more sense now :-

    warmism contains human arrogance, 'overestimating our importance' - and who likes to do that? teenagers and young people - and which side of the political spectrum do they usually lie on - the left

    I've been thinking lately on the discordant way that people on the Left who are often 'atheist', deny the existance of a god, yet have taken up warmism as an almost religious belief, using rituals and signifiers of puritanism. Whereas Christians and the Right, traditionally religious, have become the disbelievers moving in the other direction. strange times

  2. Dear Nige,

    Much here to ponder and to support your "overestimating our importance," you'll find that the majority of us with any deep training in Geology (I have a PhD in Palaeontology) have come to terms with the fact that we are emerging from one of the coldest climatic periods in Earth History. In fact, Earth has had throughout its history periods during which there has been no significant polar ice--and this was in times considerably prior to the interference of humankind. Additionally, it is interesting to note that in the mid-seventies there was a minor storm of panic over the possibility of a new ice age with temperatures declining to pre 1940s lows. We are only now reaching the temeperatures present in the 1940s according to some researchers.

    So, is Earth warming up--very probably--when you're in one of the coldest periods of Earth history there is, practically speaking, only one way to go. Is it caused by humans? Seems unlikely. Does it pose an imminent threat? Who knows--if so, there's not likely to be much we can do about it unless we want to move ice-making machinery to the poles and run it , thus producing more emissions, and warming the atmosphere, etc. etc.

    Nicely reasoned here. Thank you.



  3. I try to be open-minded about this and if mankind is contributing to or even entirely causing the planet to warm up then so be it. However, I find it impossible to go along with the gang. So much of "climate change" is used as an excuse to boss, bully and frighten people, to introduce yet more taxes, to justify grandiose political schemes and, increasingly, as a sales technique by big business. Even to express mild scepticism about this unhealthy and probably very wasteful authoritarian brew is taken as heresy and a complete rejection of the whole thing. Well, count me out. Going hardcore on "climate change" isn't going to make someone a better person who is perhaps a little nicer to know any more than buying an Apple Mac is going to turn someone into Leonardo da Vinci.

  4. Well cleared up Nige, there is in the air a feeling that scepticism is bit of a human foible. I consider a healthy dose of the stuff to be an essential tool in the box marked 'open when survival or sanity is threatened.' Without it many of the snake oil salesmen who are stopped on the bridge would slip through.
    As enough of them do evade the net and wreak havoc I suggest an OU course on the subject 'a better understanding and the pragmatic application of scepticism.'

    In the past two days a couple of radio discussions caught my attention, in both of them the messianic warmist messenger was demanding that "this is what I want, it is the only thing to do" Both were obscure individuals from shadowy organisations with viewpoints so narrow they could flow through the eye of a needle.
    The default reaction to these people should be "if we ever need advice from you or your ilk, we will ask for it."

    Long live scepticism.

  5. And when skepticism becomes outright denialism? when it no longer takes its own gimlet eye to look at the data, but presupposes that there IS no data, what then?

    Well, then, whatever it is, it's no longer conservatism, either.

  6. Top post, Nige. Bryan has come over all Andrew Sullivan (i.e. sweaty and semi hysterical) on this one, even manging to drag in Sarah Palin.

  7. Conversational topics to avoid: religion, politics and global warming.

    Fortunately there's hours of great material to be had from shaving and razor technology.

  8. "It reeks of human arrogance." Maybe, but I get a whiff of a similar reek when I hear the issue reduced to an ideological one (sturdily conservative scepticism vs mendacious leftist groupthink). The world's climate system probably cares little for such distinctions; it probably spends no more time reading Dr Johnson than reading Bertolt Brecht. It does what it does in keeping with physics. To think that it will take the side of a particular ideology is human arrogance on a grand (or is it petty?) scale. You might be right about the motives of some of the people you deride as "warmists" and yet wrong about the science.

  9. I'm kind of persuaded by Bryan "the yard" on this. Our population is now at 6.5 billion, we're cutting down the earth's resources at an unprecedented degree, and have pumped 0.5 billion( or 1 billion?) tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.

    I don't think it's just the carbon thing. The destruction of huge numbers of eco-systems such as rainforests and coral reefs may be just as damaging. I have a deep feeling we're messing with stuff so dangerous we can't even begin to understand it. Perhaps nature and the way it works is beyond our understanding, and it would seem odd that we can carry on like this without their being knock-on effects of some kind.