Zealotry enough to spook you
John Carroll - December 5, 2009
John Carroll wonders whether we are being whipped into obedience by the fervour of pseudo-religious fundamentalism.
Almost everyone who contributes to the deluge of comment on climate change speaks as an amateur. From politicians to journalists, from academics to scientists, many outside their specialisations, they are not trained in a discipline congruent with their argument. Nor am I.
I leave alone those elements of the debate unclear to me. The rest of my contribution here is built on experience of theories and arguments across a broad range of human problems, on some capacity to judge their plausibility and professional work in social, historical and psychological theories, as well as training in mathematics and economics.
The global warming debate has been captured by prophets of doom and the language of Apocalypse. This is reminiscent of a pseudo-religious mindset that has been recurring on the left since Karl Marx postulated the destruction of capitalism would miraculously lead to utopia. All the usual trappings are present. Anyone who thinks differently is an agent of the devil; the tones of righteous outrage with which climate sceptics are denounced as deniers are reminiscent of fundamentalist religious crusades.
This is particularly off-putting in a discussion that depends on high-quality science, cool logic and careful argument. It raises old suspicions. The West already has experienced theories of impending environmental disaster - with the Club of Rome launching a very successful scare campaign in the 1970s about the world running out of food. Its book, Limits to Growth, sold 30 million copies. Hardly a decade passed before its predictions were proved wrong.