Friday, January 08, 2010
This is in Thursday's Morning Star, Britain's Communist Newspaper
My letter about alleged global warming and the how use of such scares by those opposed to economic growth is incompatible with traditional socialism (M Star December 21) has stirred some controversy.This gives me a much better publishing ratio here than among Scottish, let alone UK papers & on a subject which is clearly as controversial among them as anything I have ever said in the MSM. Clearly, by orders of magnitude, a far more liberal & freethinking organ than the Guardian.
Joe Clark says (M Star January 4) that I "have offered no evidence" that the promised catastrophic warming isn't happening. A short newspaper letter is hardly the place to lay out all the technicalities, though I could do so at length and many others have done so.
Philosophically, the real problem with Joe's point is that science requires us to use the simplest theory which fits the evidence with fewest assumptions. This is why the theory of evolution trumps creationism.
Evolution explains with no hidden assumptions. Creationism requires us to accept that God created the world in 4004BC and planted all the bones, geological formations and galaxies to fool scientists.
Both explanations actually work if you accept that God can do anything. But God, being infinite, does increase the complexity of the theory.
In the same way, the default assumption should be that weather will vary as it always has, but not in an unprecedentedly hot way. The onus is on those crying "catastrophe" to produce some evidence rather than saying that we must assume the end to be nigh unless someone provides indisputable proof that Armageddon will not arrive next year.
This is the difference between science and religion.
Paul Levy, in his letter on the subject (M Star December 22), correctly pointed out that Marx was a scientist. If Marxism is to be scientific it must retain the intellectual rigour to examine both its own history and the fads of the moment by such scientific principles. That is the way forward. It is the only way that has ever worked.
The letter itself is relatively convoluted since I am trying to get across a basic point about the philosophy of science & why Luddism, Creationism any form of Communism that treats Marx's words as holy scripture, are faith based religions, ultimately doomed to be wrong & that the principles of science are the only way to truth. I am not a "believer" in Marx but a classic liberal but that is because being an absolute "believer" in anything without evidence makes finding truth impossible. Communism moved a very long way to being a religion but I think it can come back. The collapse of the USSR may be one reason for hope. That collapse came about because the USSR was evidently failing to run the means of production as well as the capitalist states. However that could only be recognised in a system which did indeed respect evidence. Islam & indeed Christianity have lasted far longer despite never once having provided evidence of anybody achieving heaven, or anything else. "Environmentalism has repeatedly had all their professions of doom disproven yet they move on to the next. That communism could not do that is to its credit.
I also sent this letter a week ago which they didn't publish but 2 out of 3 is fine.
I am rebuked by Paul Levy (letter Weds) for saying that evidence of catastrophic global warming depends on data collated by a few well funded scientists at the CRU but that is the truth. They collated the world figures, nobody else. They are the ones who "juggled" with them to "hide the decline" in global temperature - nobody else. If the global temperature is not rising & at an unprecedented rate then there simply is no evidence that we are seeing catastrophic warming.Would it not be fitting if the Communist Party & UKIP were to be the first to adopt an X-Prize Foundation as official policies.
The rest of his argument is simply name calling - saying that because Uncle Tom Cobley & numerous other reactionaries doubt alarmism it is thereby true. The same could be said about the phlogiston theory of matter. Paul says he is using catastrophic warming as a scare to enforce "the need for massive government intervention to reduce our fossil fuel use" but this is exactly the sort of false leftism I was decrying. Firstly it is immoral to try to frighten people into an unnecessary poverty. Secondly when the scare is discredited, as is clearly happening, it not only discredits those who said it but runs the risk of discrediting all parts of the left (& much of professional science) that has not openly dissociated themselves from the Luddites (paradoxically it also may discredit David Cameron who is apparently not one of the "reactionaries" Paul brings in to bolster his case). Thirdlythe question whether socialism should develop by supporting massive government telling us what to do or by some more ground up co-operative system should be based on the real technological facts underpinning society not on an attempt to bring in false & spurious, government funded, arguments.
The particular example he uses of draconian powers to cut carbon is a very clear example of how the Luddites are trying to displace scientific socialists. The obvious way to cut CO2 is by a mass nuclear build. This could, as it does in France, cut ordinary bills to about 1/4 of what they are here. That absolutely represents Marx's view of the ultimate triumph of societies that utilise the means of production most effectively. It is in the tradition of Lenin who said, perhaps uncharacteristically naively, that communism would be achieved by "the electrification of the whole country." That the Greens are primarily re-emerging Luddites, simply opposed to modern technology, is shown by their attitude to new nuclear. If truly convinced of the catastrophic nature of CO2, they would embrace it as the only practical way to keep the lights on. Instead they denounce it & revere poverty & technologies which were modern in the age of feudalism.
The Luddites are engaged in what is sometimes called The War Against Fire. Marxism & progressive socialism have always been about promoting technological progress because it liberates ordinary people. They are not fellow travellers. They may both wish to change society but in polar opposite directions. The traditional left should not allow itself to be flattered into promoting those who wish to deny their progressive future
Up to about the time of the Moon Landings the left was universally enthusiastic about progress & reactionaries, well, reactionary. It is paradoxical that though such spectacular achievement has virtually & unnecessarily stopped since then the right has been largely unopposed in nominally supporting progress. I find that unfortunate & signals a loss of nerve on the left which is also unnecessary.
Just to prove Luddism is not a particularly leftist phenomenon, nor my opposition to it purely on the left side here is a comment I put about BBC scientific illiteracy on Douglas Carswell's site.
"I am reminded of a Newsnight frontman, I think Gavin Esler, doing an item on the "dangers" of a space probe with nuclear reactor on board, on being told by the scientist that he was interviewing that the laws of orbital mechanics would permit it to crash on Earth "unless the law of gravity changed". Gavin pounced on that by asking why the scientists hadn't taken that possibility into account?"