This is brilliant. I smile every time I get an e-mail from Robert saying that he has scheduled another piece to post. His stuff is the stuff I wish I could do if I didn’t feel so compelled to write the latest installment of “Nancy Pelosi said what?!?” and other such stuff. I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I did. — Jeff
By Robert Wallace
Anyone who is familiar with technology (for the first 2) or guns (for the last) knows that asking the question is pointless. The battle lines are already drawn, and before you can click “Submit” to post your question on a message board the acolytes of either side will descend in holy wrath and vitriol to rehash arguments that everyone on every side already knows by heart.
So the savvy internet user knows better than to bring the topics up.
But fools, as the saying goes, go where angels fear to tread.
So it is with Levitt and Dubner, the duo behind the (in)famous Freakonomics. Their new book–creatively titled SuperFreakonomics–is not even out yet and already they have found themselves ensnared in a bewildering maze of vitriol and religious politics they clearly do not understand.
Levitt and Dubner don’t understand why they have become the targets of angry global warming alarmists because they believe in the science of global warming.
Like those who are criticizing us, we believe that rising global temperatures are a man-made phenomenon and that global warming is an important issue to solve.
They have given the impression that we are global-warming deniers of the worst sort, and that our analysis of the issue is ideological and unscientific. Most gravely, we stand accused of misrepresenting the views of one of the most respected climate scientists on the scene, whom we interviewed extensively. If everything they said was actually true, it would indeed be a damning indictment. But it’s not.
Levitt and Dubner think that if they can only manage to get everyone to calm down and speak rationally and calmly they will be able to explain to their critics that they agree on the science of global warming. The trouble is that this argument isn’t about the science of global warming. It’s about the religion of global warming.
Environmentalism, Religion, and the Apocalypse
In one of his powerful speeches, the late author Michael Crichton outlined the religious nature of environmentalism:
I studied anthropology in college, and one of the things I learned was that certain human social structures always reappear. They can’t be eliminated from society. One of those structures is religion. Today it is said we live in a secular society in which many people–the best people, the most enlightened people–do not believe in any religion. But I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form. You can not believe in God, but you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.
Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it’s a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.
There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.
Crichton was dead-on in his analysis, but he was also focusing on the religion of environmentalism at the personal level. However, just as Christianity operates at both the individual level and the global level, there is a global perspective on religious environmentalism.
According to the tenets of liberalism, the fundamental sin is inequality. And in the world the greatest instance of inequality was the rise of the West starting in the 15th century. Prior to that time, power had been relatively evenly distributed throughout the world, but ever since the 1400s the Europeans (and then European-based nations like Australia and the United States) have risen to an unprecedented level of power relative to the rest of the world.
The root of that inequality is industrialization. Which, coincidentally, makes traditional industrialized Western society the snake in the Garden that got the rest of humanity vicariously kicked out.
The pre-industrialized world = Eden.
Adam Smith, Thomas Edison, etc. = the Snake.
Industrialization = the Fall.
Now we’re all living in sin. So what’s next? The Flood.
This is the world global warming alarmists inhabit. It’s not about climate change variables and esoteric complex systems theory. It’s about sin and retribution. Because we are relatively prosperous we are therefore evil, and if we do not repent (via “environmental justice”) then the seas will rise and we will drown. And we will deserve it.
Levitt and Dubner fundamentally don’t understand why they are being targeted by global warming alarmists. Levitt writes:
Where we differ from the critics is in our view of the most effective solutions to this problem. Meaningfully reducing global carbon emissions has proven to be difficult, if not impossible. This isn’t likely to change, for the reasons we discuss in the book. Consequently, other approaches represent a more promising path to lowering the Earth’s temperature. The critics are implying that we dismiss any threats from global warming; but the entire point of our chapter is to discuss global-warming solutions, so obviously that’s not the case.
Levitt thinks that it’s just a misunderstanding because he doesn’t realize that the religion of global warming requires a very specific kind of solution to climate change: sackcloth and ashes.
Imagine that you’re a committed environmentalist. You believe that America’s industrialization is intrinsically evil and now it’s killing the planet. Now someone suggests that if we build a giant sun-shield (or something) we can deflect some of the sun’s rays and cool the earth. How would you respond? You’d be furious!
It’s like trying to repent by sinning more. That’s not how it goes! The bad, evil capitalists have been sinning and they need to suffer. Levitt and Dubren aren’t being misunderstood. They are failing to understand that religious dynamic to the global warming debate.
Solutions must hurt America. We have to pay for our crimes! We have to pay with cold, hard cash and with loss of prestige and power. That’s what “environmental justice” is all about. Take from the sinners, and give to the meek so that they may inherit the [appropriately chilled] Earth. (Or else we will suffer the wrath of a vengeful pseudo-God.)
I’ve got no problem with Levitt and Dubner. Just some advice: watch where you step if you don’t want to incur the unthinking wrath of the zealous global warming faithful.