Sunday, March 11, 2007

Environmentalism a Religion?

Czech President Vaclav Klaus says it is. Normally these sorts of vitriolic remarks are hard to take seriously, but I sort of have to agree here. At bottom, the issue boils down to a problem of belief. The claims over immaculate conception and global warming are very different because of the sorts of proof that you would expect to justify each--one is an appeal to faith and historicity of the bible, etc, and the other is an appeal to empirical data. But no matter what the argument, when the evidence fails to persuade, the advocates are better off going back to the drawing board than reducing themselves to an embarrassment by pleading with their audiences to believe in their arguments.

This reminded me of the transcendental argument for the existence of God. I've never heard a proper rebuttal of it. (The one proffered by Michael Martin is pretty weak.) But it is a tricky bit of philosophy for most people without a graduate degree in philosophy to understand, and therefore it is not widely invoked.

But let's just get right down to real life: look at the folks we elect to office. Does anyone think that these people are really the sharpest tools in the shed? Certainly they are not. We elect them because they said something at one time that made us like them. Or conversely, anyone with the audacity not to strike "niggardly" from the English language surely has no place in governance. If I feel like I should be offended, then it must be time to change our reality.

Sadly, social order is all about appearances, and little about substance.

So what's the bottom line with environmentalism? It's not about the facts, it's about how we feel about the facts. Which is of course why Al Gore is trying to invoke a normative shift in the way we think about consumption, i.e., that we should stop consuming or pay for offsets. He's really trying to change the appearance of consumption. Of course, he's a poor symbol for the movement, given his apparent hypocrisy due to his rampant consumption. But if he's successful in changing how we feel about environmentalism, then that will change our reality of environmentalism.


  1. This is stated and expanded upon in the new controversalist BBC documentary on global warming.
    I highly recommend this video. It appears to be flawed in the sense that one interviewee was unaware of its goal, which is succintly stated in its title: "The Great Global Warming Swindle". Nonetheless, it is highly interesting, and challenges the basic theses of Gore et al. with scientific premises.
    Watch it here:

  2. That link seems to be dead. This one is working for me: