Climate change: “the science is settled” (2), and the fatal conceit

...oh dear
…oh dear

The previous two posts on this blog have been taking the piss out of the climate change obsessives, who continue to wreak financial and environmental havoc, through misguided public policy.

The Knife has never subscribed to the whole anthropogenic global warming (AGW) rubbish. It’s partly who is saying it, partly its malign consequences, and in a very large part, it’s because of the intellectually offensive way in which it is propagated.

Proof is lacking, to put it mildly.

Most of the AGW propagators are not people who appear to readily subscribe to a system of higher belief (other than AGW itself of course). Religion is not normally on their radar, which is fair enough. They must be judged by the relevant intellectual principles of rational inquiry and thought.

Happily, in Standpoint recently, is a very handy summary by Jonathan Neumann, of the great Friedrich Hayek’s view of intellectual progress and society. He was not pushing religion, merely outlining the rational process of inquiry in the absence of a higher belief :

Hayek sees the centralising impulse of contemporary Western political economy as stemming from a “presumptive rationalism” which he calls “scientism” or “constructivism”, and which expresses the “spirit of the age”…. Specifically, he cites four basic philosophical concepts which, during the past several hundred years, have formed the basis of this way of thinking: rationalism, which denies the acceptability of beliefs founded on anything but experience and reasoning; empiricism, which maintains that all statements claiming to express knowledge are limited to those depending for their justification on experience; positivism, which is defined as the view that all true knowledge is scientific, in the sense of describing the coexistence and succession of observable phenomena; and utilitarianism, which “takes the pleasure and pain of everyone affected by it to be the criterion of the action’s rightness”….

…To clarify, Hayek induces from these definitions several related presuppositions: that it is unreasonable to follow what one cannot justify scientifically or prove observationally; that it is unreasonable to follow what one does not understand; that it is unreasonable to follow a particular course unless its purpose is fully specified in advance; and that it is unreasonable to do anything unless its effects are not only fully known in advance, but also fully observable and — as far as utilitarianism is concerned — seen to be beneficial.

These beliefs – rationalism, empiricism, positivism and utilitarianism – are very definitely the mindset, in theory, of the AGW group. In reality, they don’t remotely adhere to these, as the last two posts make clear.

Hayek himself wasn’t proposing this limited view of knowledge and experience, preferring to acknowledge that there are some things that we cannot know in such black and white terms. Again, to quote:

The problems with these approaches, Hayek explains, are that they show no awareness that there might be limitations to our knowledge or reason in certain areas; they do not consider that part of science’s task is to discover those limits; and they show no curiosity about how the extended order actually came into being, how it is maintained, and what might be the consequences of undermining or destroying those traditions which did create and do maintain it.

Effectively a plea for intellectual humility, just as important as the other facets of that particular virtue.

So, by the normal criteria of research and finding out the facts, as outlined above, AGW fails pretty dismally. The secondary failure is in the refusal to accept that there may be things that exist that we cannot know of, despite the fact that this acceptance through blind faith actually constitutes most of the argument for AGW, and all of its many deleterious consequences. It really is a substitute religion.

Hayek’s last book, published in 1988, four years before his death, had a name for this lack of humility, that seems to fit pretty well with the whole AGW racket: The Fatal Conceit.

Hayek hears about the Academik Shokalskiy
Hayek hears about the Academik Shokalskiy
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