Ed Driscoll

Oppressive Religious Dogma Transcended

In the Middle East, “After centuries of stagnation, science is making a comeback in the Islamic world,” the Economist reports:

THE sleep has been long and deep. In 2005 Harvard University produced more scientific papers than 17 Arabic-speaking countries combined. The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims have produced only two Nobel laureates in chemistry and physics. Both moved to the West: the only living one, the chemist Ahmed Hassan Zewail, is at the California Institute of Technology. By contrast Jews, outnumbered 100 to one by Muslims, have won 79. The 57 countries in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference spend a puny 0.81% of GDP on research and development, about a third of the world average. America, which has the world’s biggest science budget, spends 2.9%; Israel lavishes 4.4%. . . .

But look more closely and two things are clear. A Muslim scientific awakening is under way. And the roots of scientific backwardness lie not with religious leaders, but with secular rulers, who are as stingy with cash as they are lavish with controls over independent thought.

Meanwhile in the West, one man’s attempt to escape an equally oppressive religious dogma is described by Tim Blair, who writes, “James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia theory, steps further away from his greenist spawn:”

I am an environmentalist and founder member of the Greens but I bow my head in shame at the thought that our original good intentions should have been so misunderstood and misapplied. We never intended a fundamentalist Green movement that rejected all energy sources other than renewable, nor did we expect the Greens to cast aside our priceless ecological heritage because of their failure to understand that the needs of the Earth are not separable from human needs. We need take care that the spinning windmills do not become like the statues on Easter Island, monuments of a failed civilisation.

Another religious figure’s tentative step towards enlightenment was spotted by Walter Russell Mead in 2011, in a post titled, “Top Green Admits: ‘We Are Lost!’”

[George Monbiot of the Guardian] also acknowledges the contradictory and inconsistent nature of the green solutions.  He acknowledges that there is no prospect for democratic politics to impose the draconian limits on consumption and economic activity that green dogma requires.  Every ‘solution’ the greens have come up with has a fatal flaw of some kind; none of it works, none of it makes any sense.  As Monbiot concludes,“All of us in the environment movement, in other words – whether we propose accommodation, radical downsizing or collapse – are lost. None of us yet has a convincing account of how humanity can get out of this mess. None of our chosen solutions break the atomising, planet-wrecking project. I hope that by laying out the problem I can encourage us to address it more logically, to abandon magical thinking and to recognise the contradictions we confront. But even that could be a tall order.”

This is an awesome admission of categorical intellectual, political and moral failure.  For two decades greens have arrogated to themselves the authority of science and wrapped themselves in the arrogant certainty of self-righteous contempt for those who oppose them.  They have equated skepticism about their incoherent and contradictory policy proposals with hatred of science and attacked their critics as the soulless hired shills of the oil companies, happy to ruin humanity for the sake of some corporate largesse.

Monbiot has worked his way through to a cogent description of the dead end the global green movement has reached, but he has not yet diagnosed the cause.  In particular, he remains a staunch Malthusian.  In his view, humanity is good at creating new ways to destroy itself, but not at finding solutions to the problems we create.  Our ingenuity is magically good at finding new fossil fuels, but we have no skill whatsoever at managing the consequences of our discoveries.  The unknown technologies of the future will create horrible new disasters, but they will offer no new ways to contain or manage the disruption they cause.

Economic growth is a cancer, in this view.  Its bad effects are permanent and cumulative, its blessings are evanescent and ultimately trivial. [Emphasis mine — Ed; much more on that, here.]

Malthusianism is a religious conviction that desperately needs to think of itself as a science.  From Thomas Malthus and his mathematical certainties to Paul Ehrlich with his famine timetables and the Club of Rome with its ‘scientific’ predictions of resource exhaustion, Malthusians have made confident predictions about the future and claimed scientific authority for statements that turned out to be contemptibly silly.  That is the brutal fate that often awaits people who can’t keep the boundaries between science and religion straight.

Which dovetails perfectly into an update on a man whose income for the past decade was driven by radical environmentalism, what Charles Krauthammer once dubbed the successor religion to Christianity (and how!) and whose fiscal future is now assured, thanks to a very large annuity from the Middle East.

Al Gore’s comical appearance on the Tuesday edition of Today Show squares the circle between these two oppressively religious worlds. Al deflects Matt Lauer’s question regarding his recent windfall from oil-rich Qatar, and is later asked — without a hint of recognition from Lauer of the Goracle’s cognitive dissonance on these issues, if he feels “vindicated” by deadly natural disasters, to which our budding Biblical scholar (and author!) replied:

“Today is the three-month anniversary of Superstorm Sandy….These storms, it’s like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation on the news every day now.”

No word yet if Al also considers them “a blessing,” as others in the pulpits of the enviro-religious left like to say.

Related: At Ricochet, Peter Robinson asks (and partially answers), “Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?”