I don’t buy into a lot of the suggestions made by climatologists as to how we should approach the environment. Why? Short answer: Like AIDS before it, and breast cancer now, it’s become a political issue rather than one of science, and that’s a bad influence.
It’s a Matter of Logic
The long answer follows, but first, a primer on deductive reasoning. Deductive arguments are categorized as valid/invalid and sound/unsound. A valid argument is, essentially, one that makes sense. If you accept the premises as correct, the conclusion must be correct. For example, if I say “All beers are cats, and all cats are liquids, therefore all beers are liquids,” I’ve given you a valid argument. Likewise, I could say, “All beers are solids, and all solids are sodas, therefore all beers are sodas,” I’ve again made a valid argument. Why? Because if you assume (in each sentence) that my first two premises are correct, then my conclusions must be correct. That is, if all beers really are solids, and if all solids really are sodas, then all beers must be sodas. It’s unavoidable.
However, clearly there’s a logical problem. Because my premises are incorrect, the arguments are “wrong.” That is, in logic terms, they’re unsound. A sound argument is a valid argument where the premises are factually correct. Both of those arguments are unsound because the premises are incorrect, even though in the first argument the conclusion is ultimately correct (all beers are indeed liquids). For the first argument, the conclusion is accidentally correct (i.e., it’s right for the wrong reasons), and in the second argument, I’ve simply made a fool of myself (get used to it). Everything’s wrong.
If you’re thinking that this isn’t a big deal, consider the following argument from quantum mechanics: “All mesons are neutrons, and all neutrons are bosons; therefore all mesons are bosons.” Clearly, this argument is valid, but is it sound? You don’t know unless you’ve studied quantum mechanics. What you need is for someone to show you that each of those premises is the conclusion of another valid argument, but that argument may also include unknown premises that themselves must be conclusions of prior valid arguments. This goes on and on until you’ve finally reached a valid argument with simple, commonly known premises such as, “the sky is blue,” but how many among of have time for that? Unfortunately, we all have no choice but to rely on other people to do their jobs correctly and honestly. This opens the door for what is commonly termed “bullshit,” which politicians wield as a samurai wields a katana (two-handed sword; they’re really good with those things). Without an understanding of the underlying premises, there’s no way to know if you’re being bullshitted or not.
So, what have we learned about logic (assuming you’ve never heard of this stuff before now)? First, people can easily take advantage of you ignorance in order to bullshit you based on false premises, whether intentional on their part or not. Second, just because the argument is invalid doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but unless it’s sound, we can’t be sure it’s correct. Now, let’s get to the issue itself: environmental stuff.
Whatever Happend to the Scientific Method?
The scientific method requires proof in the form of cold, hard data. In logic, the data represents the premises to our conclusions. The simple fact is that we haven’t been collecting reliable data long enough to make a solid case for climate change. Instead, we’ve got some interesting, but unsubstantiated, theories on climate change. These theories are valid, so they seem to make sense to you when presented by the climatologists, but without reliable data to represent the premises, it’s impossible for them to be sound. Nevertheless, this has allegedly resulted in a “consensus” among climatologists that climate change is human-caused and will soon be irreversible. “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” seems to work in environmentalism, though in any scientific area of study, the idea of a consensus as proof would be considered laughable.
Don’t misunderstand me, though; the consensus would easily justify, if not outright demand, further research in the matter. The seriousness of the subject matter strengthens that justification/demand. Moreover, there are plenty of no-brainer environmental concerns. For example, dumping radioactive waste into our drinking water supply is an environmental crime, and not one person on the planet would seriously argue that there’s no danger in that. There’s no need to abolish the EPA or ignore these unproven claims altogether. However, nothing has been proven, and yet people’s economic rights are under attack in the form of environmental regulations.
Crimes Often Have A Motive. What Is It?
So, what’s really going on here? Are the environmentalists evil? Are they thieves in business suits? Are they idiots? Inevitably, some are (as I’ll explain below), but most probably aren’t. This isn’t necessarily about money, but there is a potential motive here that, while not devious, isn’t really about saving the human race. To properly frame my argument, I’m going to have to explain another logic concept to you: the Prisoner’s Dilemma.
The Prisoner’s Dilemma, and How the Mob Beats It
Let’s say there are two suspects (A & B) being questioned by the cops separately for their parts in the same crime. The evidence is sketchy, so right now, the cops think they can get a four-year conviction for each suspect. What they need is for A and B to rat out each other. That way, they can get each for an additional six years. If either A or B cooperates, though, they’re given three years off their sentences. How does this play out? Look at this from A’s perspective. If B rats him out, he gets either seven years in jail if he rats out B, or ten years in jail if he says nothing. If B doesn’t rat him out, he gets either one year in jail if he rats out B, or six years in jail if he says nothing. This means that no matter what B does, A always serves his own interest by ratting out B. So, even though it’s better for the criminal organization if neither of them talk (4 years each), their selfish interests will likely result in both of them ratting out each other, and they’ll both get 7 years. The code of silence imposed by organized crime was a smart strategy, wasn’t it?
Environmentalism is sort of a massive Prisoner’s Dilemma with an added dimension. (In fact, I’m guessing there’s a better logical model than the Prisoner’s Dilemma for this, but I don’t have a philosophy Ph.D.) Recycling, utility conservation, and a reduction of emissions, while not necessarily threatening our species, does provide tangible benefits to our economy, both directly (recycling and utility conservation saves resources) and indirectly (improving our overall health, reducing health care costs). However, no matter what other people do, you individually benefit from not participating in either. If you rely on others to recycle, you can indulge in your laziness by putting all your garbage in the same bag. If you rely on others to ride bikes to work, you can get to your destination faster by using your car, perhaps enjoying a competitive advantage in getting a job, doing your job, etc.
The only way to defeat this natural human tendency towards selfishness is to make people believe that “there is no deal to be made with the cops.” Tell them that if they don’t do their part, the human species will potentially die. Scare the hell out of the simple, stupid masses, just as some people do with the Book of Revelations. Sound insulting? Well, considering that so many of you drank this Kool-Aid despite all of these obvious concerns, it helps prove their point that you’re not smart enough (or at least willing) to think for yourselves.
Dude. Shut up Already.
So why am I blowing the lid on this possible scam? Why not just allow the environmentalists to do what we won’t do on our own? The economy would benefit, wouldn’t it? Why? Because they’re taking advantage of the situation in a grossly hypocritical way. Vice President Gore flies around in a private jet, making millions of dollars off of environmentalism, all the while telling you to reduce your “carbon footprint.” He supposedly is trying to keep you from being the prisoner in the Prisoner’s Dilemma, but he himself is clearly playing that role himself, gaining personal benefit from your voluntary and involuntary restraint. And it’s not just VP Gore. It’s every climatologist and climate-oriented corporation that makes a ton of money off of research and development grants.
So, am I right? As far as I can tell, my argument is valid, but is it sound? Are my underlying premises here actually correct? Obviously, it’s not a sound argument. It’s impossible for me to collect all the data necessary to make this case. But so what? The burden of proof isn’t on me. I’m not the one trying to take your money through taxation and limit your liberty by moderating your behavior, making crimes out of otherwise trivial behavior. Whatever happened to the civil liberties you environmentalists claim to champion in every other context?
Another issue that bugs me is that, when you eliminate those making money off of environmentalism from the equation, suddenly you don’t have much of a consensus, do you? For example, one of the smartest people on the planet, Freeman Dyson (true Star Trek nerds know who he is), raises similar questions. Dyson is no right-wing hack. He’s very much on the left (which is why he’s characterized as misinformed rather than stupid by far less-informed supporters of environmental gloom-and-doom), but he’s also a true scientist, so he demands proof. In its absence, he doesn’t buy the “science,” and not being a hypocrite, he doesn’t want to see civil liberties eroded by the government “just in case.” There’s just no reason to believe any of this is any more than a government doing what it does best, while a bunch of selfish people make money off of the process. It’s a shame that honest scientists (and dare I say, honest politicians) that are simply trying to aid our economy are being accused of being rotten people, while the truly rotten ones simply make money off of it, but those honest people are complicit in a process that’s probably immoral and illegal, so it’s tough to feel too bad for them.
Unfortunately, the only real solution here is for all of us to be smart. Recycle, conserve utilities, reduce your own emissions, and take whatever steps necessary to improve our economy and living conditions. Don’t fall prey to false claims of gloom and doom simply because it’s easier than thinking. Are you up to that challenge?