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Al-Kafir Akbar: A Denialist Digs Himself In Deeper

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It’s on. As a staunch defender of the mainstream scientific consensus on AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming), which has recently been reaffirmed by the decisions of the IPCC, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Nobel committee, I was joined by Heather at Why Don’t You Blog? who contributed an excellent response to this “Environmental Action Day” post by Tom Stelene.

Now comes Mr. Stelene with yet another installment of indefensible rhetoric which could be taken right from the pages of Capitalism Magazine. (I know, because I used to faithfully read Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, et al, and held similar jaundiced views on the environment before I understood the seriousness of the AGW threat, and learned about Natural Capitalism and sustainability).

But this is not a simple logical debate. We accepters of consensus science have now been compared to religious believers:

Amidst the latest politically-correct trend of environmentalists to throw out the smear, “global warming deniers” I sense that by and large they probably have little familiarity with the science and reasoning as to why some deny “global warming” – as most narrow-minded religionists are unfamiliar with the reasons and arguments of atheists – or, better still: “God-deniers.” Heather, who wanders form topic to topic and throws in a few insults along the way in her post on me, and Black Sun, have called me “denier” and say that I do not know what I am talking about.

Precisely because science is not my area (that being philosophy) I have to carefully consider both sides, and for some twenty years as a curious observer (if man causes global environmental problems I obviously want to know) I have read and listened to environmentalist claims – which get plenty of publicity – yet the science that challenges them gets ignored.

Actually, science doesn’t ignore any evidence. It challenges itself and continually self-corrects. What the media reports is less than meaningless to the conduct of scientific inquiry.

Here is environmentalism in a nutshell. Considering the whole of the course of the environmentalist movement since its inception, it has a consistent history of making tremendous doomsday predictions that have not happened, and, being at the least, incompetent, and at worst, deceitful, with its use of science. Philosophically, the movement is driven by egalitarian-collectivist-statists of all stripes. Many of their intellectual leaders are communists and socialists (like the several Marxists referred to by Al Gore in his book whom he calls “environmental thinkers“); they set its agenda and its goals.

Now we’re communists. Please. Here’s my full comment refuting Mr. Stelene’s baseless accusations:

Tom,

It won’t work to claim AGW (anthropogenic global warming) proponents are religious. By your own admission, you are not a scientist, so really you are in no position to directly debate this issue. All you can do is pass judgment on what authorities you choose to believe. So anything you say is an opinion based on argument from authority. The other side are actually scientists, so when they cite authorities, they have actually read their peers’ papers and reviewed their data. Something you clearly have not done and cannot do.

Politically and philosophically, I have to answer your charges with some questions:

  1. What evidence would it take to convince you that AGW is a legitimate issue?
  2. Are you really asserting AGW is entirely false, or just that it’s not as bad as some experts have claimed?
  3. If you accepted it to be real and urgent, would you support a mechanism for immediately allocating shared financial responsibilities?
  4. Do you, in general as (I presume) a Libertarian accept the idea that people should pay their own way? That they should shoulder the true costs and consequences of their actions, inactions, and consumption?

I think the difficulty here is that you still think there’s a case to be proven. This is typical tactic of a losing argument–shifting of the burden of proof. If the shoe were on the other foot, and the people interested in proving AGW were facing a 99% [scientific] global consensus to the contrary, I think you’d agree it wouldn’t just take a few web links, but mountains of evidence to prove your case. That’s exactly the burden you face. Put up or shut up. [That means specific and countervailing scientific evidence on AGW, not scare-quotes from past environmentalists with the admonishment “so-and-so was wrong before.”]

Your use of the term environmentalist as a pejorative betrays your bias, and is itself an ad hominem attack and therefore meaningless to the factual question. If you want to talk about environmental falsehoods, cite specific examples.

In general, I would agree that some environmentalists have in the past engaged in blind insistence on protection of nature at whatever cost. I don’t share that position. I am a true capitalist. I’m in favor of cost-benefit analysis. I take the position that humans are the preferred species, and we should maximize the use of the planet for human prosperity. Using long-term instead of short-term analysis, human prosperity dictates a conservationist approach to natural capital and biodiversity [and species diversity]. It also dictates a concern for sustainability (concern for future production) instead of devil-may-care growth and (unlimited present) production. What good is resource exploitation if it leaves a damaged and depleted planet for our descendants? It’s irresponsible and shamefully short-sighted.

You say environmentalists should “admit they were wrong.” About what, specifically?

Your accusations of political correctness have little to do with scientific evidence. If the evidence supports it, I’m going to go along with it, as would any reasonable person. What good is evidence if you don’t accept it? That’s what peer review is for, and the peer review of AGW has been done to death. You really think with stakes this high it’s all just some grand conspiracy?? You just don’t like the conclusion. So you attack the process.

Your comparison of 99% of the scientists in the world to narrow-minded religionists or (outrageously) Soviets, just shows how weak your position is. Tell that to the IPCC, U.S. Supreme Court, and the Nobel committee.

Finally, I’ll address the collectivism accusation: Actually, it is the AGW-deniers who are the collectivists. They support allowing wealthy individuals and corporations to keep engaging in practices that essentially levy a heavy tax-burden on the rest of us. By depleting natural capital, the extractive robber-barons are externalizing their costs to other citizens and future generations. A true individualist libertarian would insist that everyone pay their fair share in the present-day rather than sloughing it off on their children, right?

If you want to refrain from sounding completely ignorant and backward on this subject, you need to read and understand the concepts of Natural Capitalism, Externalities, Sustainability, and the Tragedy of the Commons. If you don’t, you have no business claiming to be a true Capitalist. Ayn Rand would probably even be ashamed of you for such a flagrant oversight. (I kid, I kid).

Regardless of any of those philosophical concepts, it comes down to evidence which, despite your protestations, is overwhelmingly against your denialist position.

You have attempted to smear anyone who advocates the acknowledgment of human responsibility for the environment, and efforts toward a better way of doing things–efficient and sustainable living. I don’t see the problem! We all get a cleaner planet and improved living standards out of the deal. The only people who lose are those (essentially thugs) who don’t want to pay their fair share.

You present a false dichotomy of pro-growth “reasonable” Libertarianism vs. intellectually dishonest tree-hugging environmentalism. Given the facts, this is a simplistic and dangerously arrogant view.


Comments (12 comments)

Liquid Egg Product / October 20th, 2007, 6:35 am / #1

I take the position that humans are the preferred species

I would certainly concur–certainly we have distinct and unique advantages over every other form of life on the planet–but I am waiting breathlessly for the people would consider that a contradiction to environmental protection.

Baseless Creationist Arguments Find a New Home » Why Dont You Blog? / October 20th, 2007, 12:21 pm / #2

[…] Blimey, yesterday, Heather wrote about some empty nonsense being spouted by a blog on the atheist blogroll. In a nutshell, Tom Stelene, writing on the Al-Kafir Akbar blog, has spent a few days recently, ranting about how environmentalism is a “secular religion,” how global warming is a scam, how people who care about about the environment are dirt worshippers and so on. Over the last few days, Heather, Blacksun Journal and Salient have drawn attention to the nonsense he spouts. […]

valhar2000 / October 22nd, 2007, 2:48 am / #3

contradiction to environmental protection.

As explained by Sean, there is no contradiction. You might disagree with his premises, but the argument is sound. It is necessary to pre-serve the environment, to a significant though not complete degree, in order to ensure our survival and well-being.

Liquid Egg Product / October 22nd, 2007, 4:33 pm / #4

Valhar, you misunderstood me. I agree there is no contradiction, but there are plenty who don’t grasp it.

Engineer-Poet / October 22nd, 2007, 9:40 pm / #5

Mr. Stellene appears to be blocking substantive criticism of his position, as it has been two days since I submitted the following comment and it has not yet appeared.  Since he is too cowardly to defend the epistemology he claims, I post the comment here:

Because Blogspot still disallows the <blockquote> tag in comments, I will be making my comments in bold and leaving quotes in normal font.

Quoth the admitted non-scientist:

So that disproves all the books in my bookshelf and all the other lierature I’ve read by environmentalists that they admit are influenced by religion, along with theologians who write that religion is consistent with environmentalism?

Ah, that word “influence”.  What about all the scientists who are influenced by religion; does that make their peer-reviewed and reproduced results bunkum?  And what does “consistency” do to refute environmentalism?  Some religion (Islam and fundamentalist Xtianity among the many exceptions) is consistent with science, too.  As an atheist myself, I state without reservation that anyone who concludes from this that the value of science is questionable has a truly defective epistemology, as well as an abysmal grasp of basic logic.

In my experience, anyone who (ab)uses logic this badly has an agenda.  Truth and facts are incidental to such agendas (which is why their proponents refuse to address the facts).  I’m not going to give you a pass on it any more than the slogan-spouting robots of Political Correctness.

I take positions in areas in which I am not expert according to method and epistemology, an area of philosophy.

This claim of yours, coming two days after my rebuttal to your ignorant twaddle corrected your epistemology, shows that your “method” isn’t epistemological but ideological and dogmatic.  Since you are not expert, you are forced to rely on the evaluations and appraisals of others.

This leads me to speculate (epistemology working here!) that you are not truly an atheist.  You appear to be more of a cultist, following a dogma you will not discuss because you cannot back it with facts and reason; you have degenerated to argument from authority.  The authors of this dogma (your chosen authorities) may not be objects of your worship in the normal sense, but you’re getting uncomfortably close (almost Randroid-ish).

Engineer-Poet / October 22nd, 2007, 9:41 pm / #6

Hmph.  The preview showed the <hr> tag I was using as a separator, but it was editted out when I posted.  How rude.

Kanaio / October 27th, 2007, 2:08 pm / #7

Sean,

Thank you for defending the issues surrounding global warming. I have been aware of the potential for this crisis for many years, but it wasn’t until about 8 years ago that my own epiphany came. I was working on a sustainable fishing documentary when a marine biologist told me that global warming would overshadow all other human impacts combined.

I was raised with Hawaiian values that taught me to regard other living creatures as part of my extended family. I would describe myself as a deep ecologist, though some might consider me a radical environmentalist. I have definitely rattled a few cages. So much so that someone once dropped a dead deer off in my driveway that had been shot through the neck.

Your comment, “I take the position that humans are the preferred species, and we should maximize the use of the planet for human prosperity.” hit me right in the heart.

Of course, I am not unfamiliar with this view as it is common even within environmental philosophies. The position is usually softened by using the word “stewardship”. I prefer your direct honesty, but now that you have stated your position allow me to counter with my own.

I’ll start with the first half of your statement: “I take the position that humans are the preferred species.” Preferred by whom? Us? How convenient! Science does not support your premise.

2nd half of your statement: “We should maximize the use of the planet for human prosperity.” It is this hubris that has in part created the global warming crisis. I find it amazing that you are saying what appears to be a rehash of Judeo-Christian philosophy. Are you kidding me? Scientific understanding of ecosystems does not support your conjecture as sustainable.

I think you are using philosophies that are self-referencing. Unless you can connect them to science you have lost me. While you are making your land grab for a chunk of the planet, oh right it was the whooole planet, please leave me out of it; I’ll be in the zoo. I think I know the science that explains your view, it is called the survival instinct. While I can use ecology, genetics and evolution to defend my view, I think this is all you’ve got.

K.

BlackSun / October 27th, 2007, 2:21 pm / #8

I’ll start with the first half of your statement: “I take the position that humans are the preferred species.” Preferred by whom? Us? How convenient! Science does not support your premise.

I think I know the science that explains your view, it is called the survival instinct. While I can use ecology, genetics and evolution to defend my view, I think this is all you’ve got.

Right. It’s the principle of evolution. Evolution occurs when each species asserts its primacy and competes for dominance. I’m saying humans are different than other species because we not only compete, but we can see the bigger picture and understand that it is in our interest to protect species diversity and care about other species and the health of ecosystems. Does it matter that we use a self-interested rationale? I don’t think so. I’m saying people who don’t care about the environment ultimately don’t care about themselves or their children. I’m selling the philosophy of environmentalism as long-term enlightened human self-interest. This keeps it from the murky realms of “morality” or duty, which are always debatable.

Kanaio / November 1st, 2007, 4:06 am / #9

Sean,

How you argue your case does matter. By itself, the survival instinct is only part of the equation which supports life. As such, it exists as a partial or incomplete truth. The mandate to survive is so powerful and blinding that it can become destructive. I give you human overpopulation as an example. You think this instinct can be appealed to, and it will do the right thing? It is totally irrational. It exists as the impetus to your conjecture that humans are a preferred or different species. Your rationale around this impetus has no basis in science. It is a value judgment. I am trying to understand your position while holding my own; maybe this is impossible without the appearance of contradiction on my part.

Where you see competition and dominance, I see interdependence, shared energy, and evolution as a reflective process. Humans have been created by everything around us. If that is not a unitary principal I don’t know what is. Our place in the ecosystem is what holds the survival instinct in check. It exists in equal force. It sets boundaries, it directs, it transforms and it ultimately allows for greater expression. –Raw creative energy on the one hand and the ability to channel and diversify that energy on the other. It is the other part of the equation.

The words duty and morality are not words that I normally think of when I consider my own relationship with nature; instead I would use the word love because it aligns as a collective unitary principle, in the way that selfishness or enlightened self-interest aligns with the survival instinct or creative principle. I don’t have a lot of use for the word morality, as one person’s moral is another person’s sin, the word is culturally biased. I do have a lot of use for the word ethics. It encompasses more universal truths such as self-determination. I see nature as sovereign with a right to exist. I think it is possible to have a relationship that is based on purely love rather than ethics or duty, although they seem to follow closely. Love has the ability to trump our more primal instincts. I do not think it is peripheral in our relationship with the environment. I take the position that it is central.

Kanaio

evanescent / November 16th, 2007, 1:32 pm / #10

Can I ask I question, and treat me as someone who hasn’t taken a side quite yet.

Are we denying global warming here, or are we denying that man causes global warming?

You see, I’ve swung both ways on this position, and the position that man causes global warming is held by many people I usually share most opinions on.

But, although denying global warming is foolish, is there actually evidence that man causes it? I mean, proper scientific evidence?

What has made me rethink my position is the atrocity that is Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, and the petition signed by 19,000 American scientists here: http://www.oism.org/pproject/ denying man’s causality. This shows that global warming does not correlate with industrial activity, supposedly.

Without any conspiracy theories, can someone tell me why there is so much debate between legitimate scientists over something that should be self-evident and/or easily provable beyond any certainty by the evidence? So, where is the evidence?

OilMonkey / November 18th, 2007, 12:25 pm / #11

Evanescent,

SourceWatch on OISM

On Fox’s Special Report, Hume cited debunked Oregon Petition on global warming

Infamous Oregon Global Warming Petition Alive and Well

The preview didn’t like this last article’s link in tags so I’ll post it below the name:

On Fox’s Special Report, Hume cited debunked Oregon Petition on global warming

http://mediamatters.org/items/200706060009

Kanaio / November 20th, 2007, 12:48 am / #12

Thank you Oil Monkey for the links. I have always wondered where the misinformation stems from on global warming. I think the tide is changing for the better.

Several months ago my biological father sent me an article from Hydrocarbon Processing, July 2006, entitled “My Slow Awakening to Climate Change” by Tim Lloyd Wright. Finding an article alerting people to the disasters of climate change in a petroleum trade magazine is nothing short of amazing. Here is a short quote from the article:

“In what climatologists call ‘magic gates,’ the climate is making a jerky progress toward temperatures that threaten hundreds of thousands of species and billions of humans. From 1975 onward, for example, the city of Perth in Western Australia has received only half of the yearly 338 gigaliters of water that until then flowed into the city’s dams. In 1998, another jerk occured. This resulted in a shift of the jet stream, significant ocean warming, and the death of 18% of the Great Barrier Reef. The massive forest fires of that year were an effect of a 0.3 degree C. heat spike.”

Wright has a follow up article in the July 2007 issue entitled “Carbon Efficiency is the Buzz at Brussels.” You can read the articles online but you have to subscribe.

Receiving the article from my dad was doubly amazing to me, as my father has been a major denier of global warming, despite being one of the most intelligent and independent thinkers I have ever known. I once was horrified to find his name online as part of a national oil industry petition on global warming in the same vein as the petition your links describe.

Sending me the article was his personal concession to me. This so floored me I still have the article taped to the wall of my office.

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