Environmentalism's Attack on Reason, Individualism & Capitalism
February 8, 2008 by Paul McKeever
Climate change environmentalists deny that they are motivated by their well-documented opposition to capitalism. Question their motives, and you will often find yourself accused of being ignorant, of being on the take, of being like a Nazi, or of being a criminal.
Fortunately, it is not necessary to question their motives. To know what they would do to society, one needs simply to understand the essential nature of their arguments for restricting or banning the use of technology.
To light a fire, decontaminate water, erect a shelter, bake a birthday cake, or build machines that increase human productivity and broaden human opportunities, requires humans to act in accordance with the facts of nature. To do so requires that someone achieves knowledge of those facts. Only rational thought – a strictly logical process of thought about that for which there ultimately is physical evidence – makes it possible for human being to obtain knowledge of the facts of nature. A belief not supported by physical evidence, or not resulting from ones own rational process of thought, is not knowledge.
All knowledge is the result of rational thought, but not all rational thought results in knowledge. Novel observations and the discovery of new evidence sometimes change the logical mind’s conclusions: what was originally thought to be knowledge may prove eventually to be false belief. That is why scientists never conclude further inquiry is unwarranted. However, the fact that a lack of the appropriate data – or the fact that a lack of knowledge has led someone to consider immaterial facts or irrelevant evidence – does not change the fact that knowledge cannot be achieved except by rational thought.
Those at the forefront of efforts to have the government fight “climate change” ultimately take issue with that assertion. They tell us that, because rational thought sometimes leads us to erroneous conclusions, rationality is dispensable, worthless, or even harmful. Knowledge of the facts of nature, they erroneously or falsely imply, can and should be obtained with faith, consensus, or illogic.
In 2005, Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May gave a speech which began with a quote from Bertrand Russell: “Ever since Adam ate the apple, man has refrained from no folly of which he was capable…”. She lamented that, since the commencement of the industrial revolution, humans have “…taken the life-giving, life-creating, life-nurturing systems of Planet Earth and pushed them into reverse.” Making it clear that she believes the Garden of Eden actually to have existed – she, for example, refers to the “location of the Garden of Eden” – she concluded with a hope that “we can re-write Russell’s History of the World to say that humanity rejected folly and that we returned to the Garden”. Taken to its logical conclusion, May’s message is a demand for an anti-human atrocity. Her belief, founded on faith, is that the fruit of rationality – knowledge – leads us always to sin, so we must outlaw productive thought and action, return to a state of naked ignorance, and have a supernatural being provide for us when, where, how, and to the extent that he wants to.
With his foundation’s website, geneticist turned CBC TV personality David Suzuki spreads the falsehood that the “…Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is universally recognized as the world’s most authoritative voice on the science of climate change” (emphasis added). You will not find scientific reports on Suzuki’s web site, but you will see lots of talk about “consensus” that man’s use of technology is causing catastrophic global warming. Suzuki’s implicit message is that a belief is knowledge if an alleged majority of allegedly credentialed people say so. Galileo and Einstein would undoubtedly beg to differ.
In his self-promotional flick “An Inconvenient Truth” Al Gore points to a genuine historical correlation between changes in global temperature and changes in CO2 levels. He implies that changes in CO2 drove the temperature changes with which they were correlated. At least, this is a logical fallacy, because correlation does not prove causation. At worst, it is a lie, because the data he claims to have presented to over 1000 audiences actually shows CO2 levels to change hundreds or thousands of years after the temperature changes with which they are correlated. Encouraging us to accept logical fallacy or plain lies as a means of obtaining knowledge, he is discouraging rationality.
The victims and foot soldiers of Hume, Kant and Hegel frequently can be heard to say “We have to cut CO2 emissions because we simply cannot risk the possibility of a man-made CO2 global warming catastrophe in the future”. To those who deny the possibility of knowledge – or who are too lazy to achieve it – rationality is no virtue. In a misguided attempt to avoid perishing in the distant future, such people would have us all chop off our heads in the present.
The west’s standard of living is highest precisely because western governments have done a better (though hardly good) job of shielding individuals from such irrationality; of ensuring that people are free to conduct themselves rationally and productively, hence consistently with the facts of nature. Western governments have better defended every individual’s control over their own life, liberty and property. To that end, they have also been better at separating irrationality and state.
When a government succeeds in defending rational conduct from irrational restrictions of individual freedom, the result is a capitalist society: a wealthy and happy society in which trade is governed solely by consent. When a government founds its decisions on faith, alleged consensus, or logical fallacy, it merges irrationality and state, fails to defend rational conduct, and undermines every individual’s ability to live and pursue their own happiness. The political result is a collectivist society: a society condemned to rationing, misery and premature death, in which trade is governed not by consent, but by coercion.
It makes no difference whether May, Suzuki, Gore and the others are consciously anti-capitalists, or whether they are simply well-intentioned irrationalists because their expressed or implied disregard or hatred for rationality necessarily implies a condemnation of capitalism and an endorsement of collectivism. However, more fundamentally, their assault on rationality implies a condemnation of human life; of life that depends upon rationality. To the extent that our governments appease these Romantic Savages of the Endarkenment, humanity’s survival on this earth is imperiled.