I figured the song “Apocalypse Please” by Muse would be fairly appropriate to listen to while you read this.
What is religion for anyways? It seems to give one purpose and meaning in life. It’s something someone believes with all one’s heart and thus, those who don’t believe are WRONG. Fundamentally, religion is about faith. And if you question that faith, you are not to be trusted. Heresy was a crime once, you know.
I hypothesize that climate change has become a pseudo-religion to the educated “elite” in the west. I came to this realization after I myself looked at the skeptical side of the anthropomorphic global warming issue. I had already seen a talk in 2014 at the American Physical Society March meeting in Denver on climate change that showed “the hiatus” in the rise of the global mean surface temperature, which I had NEVER heard about in the media. Or not loudly enough that I remembered hearing it. I thought the end was neigh? That’s the message we are getting from the media. She showed how combining certain natural cycles of the earth’s oceans and air current in a “stadium wave” could explain the temperature data measured in the 21st century better than anthropomorphic global warming (AGW) models. Judith Curry was the speaker; I didn’t know who she was at the time, but now I know she is a well known scientific climate change skeptic in the physics community. Also a very brave woman, to stand up before that audience and not tow the party line. Someone buy that lady a microbrew and a joint!
I guess she must be a shill for the oil industry, right? That’s the first thing people say when someone says one skeptical word about climate change. After my experience with a cult, it’s very obvious now what kind of an unscientific trap that kind of thinking is, and it’s exactly how cults deal with criticism too, by attacking the critic instead of the ideas, hmmm. As if scientists don’t fundamentally have an OBLIGATION and DUTY to ALWAYS maintain skepticism, especially about an issue of such vast importance like the global climate. Hello, climate change believers, have you ever heard of Popper or Kuhn? Popper was a philosopher of science that viewed science as an attempt to falsify models. Falsify is the key here, not constantly tweak your models to fit the data when they don’t accurately make predictions with one hand while saying that anyone who is skeptical is evil with the other. Climate scientists don’t seem to care about falsifiability whatsoever! What data would actually convince them their model might not be perfect? Seriously, how many years of hiatus does it take guys, for you to even question the assumptions of your model? Kuhn made his mark in the philosophy of science by discussing paradigm shifts, when the scientific establishment changes its views on a topic . Quantum mechanics is the perfect example of a paradigm shift from the only “real” science in my book, physics. (That’s only partly a joke, can’t help it, I’m physicist to the center of my being. If you can’t even begin to have a chance to start from first principles and explain your system, why bother? Sorry biologists and chemists, no offense, I’m glad we have you, but I’m me and you’re you for a reason.) Hey scientists and educated people, don’t forget that science isn’t always perfect. Paradigm shifts happen and are important. I suspect we are in the middle of a paradigm shift on this topic, but I’m afraid too much damage has been done to the psyche of western intellectuals for many to open their minds to even taking seriously the other side of this very important issue. Because of emotional manipulation very similar to religious indoctrination, as I will describe.
Later on, in 2014, a friend convinced me to take a closer into the topic. I was already skeptical about CO2 after Judith’s talk, but still cautiously skeptical. Better to assume CO2 is a problem and be safe than sorry, right? Because it seemed like there was still a probability that it is a problem and if the doom and gloom picture is right, we’d better do something or we are so screwed. Mostly I thought, the climate is an extremely complex system, it’s too hard to model properly so we’d just better be careful what we do that might perturb it, since we can’t make accurate predictions in large, complex systems like climate. But then I read some more about it with an open mind from a skeptical mindset (This site is a good place to start), read Jim Steel’s book, and now I am extremely skeptical about climate alarmism. I’m just not that gung-ho on anthropogenic global warming, or, AGW anymore. It’s not as scary as I once had thought. Calm the heck down people! Go read some stuff with an open mind, shut off the fear you’ve been programmed to feel for a little while and just look at the data without any forgone conclusions. If you look with a skeptical mind at the science and still think the gloom and doomers are right, well, your brain works totally differently from mine, but oh well. We can disagree on the science, that’s fine, but don’t write off anyone who is skeptical as an evil “denier”, that’s just not scientific. We are just scientists who disagree. It’s unfortunate to be on the same side where big oil is a winner, but I’d rather be on the side of truth, wouldn’t you? Politics is for politicians, science is for scientists. If I happen to, in this case, agree with BP, so be it, even if I detest them, because I can’t ignore data when it’s hitting me on the face with how much it doesn’t agree with the model I was sold as TRUTH. Can I get a refund on that truth please? I think I was sold a lie and it was wrapped up as a truth. False advertising. I’m calling my lawyer, I’m an American, that’s what we do when we’re pissed off.
But most won’t even try, maybe they can’t because of the programming. I hadn’t, because I believed scientists would value truth more than anything and I didn’t remember how entire scientific communities in the past have believed something that was then shown to be an inaccurate or incomplete. I saw a talk at NIST when I was a grad student there that was fairly convincing (before the hiatus had been this long it was an easier sell) and he made the science sound settled. I saw Al Gore’s documentary. I trusted the story I was being told about the “settled science” by politicians and scientist-politicians, who have lost their scientist soul and are just a inferior homo sapien with an overblown ego complex thinking he/she is on a path to save the world, trying to use “science” to manipulate the world with politics and thinking they are so much better than anyone else who does that in the name of not-science, usually greed, corruption, utopian ideologies, etc. LOL, it’s kind of hilarious, and incredibly sad, because that is exactly what cult leaders do, convince their followers that they are on the one true path to save the world. If the science doesn’t back your theory, manipulating data or free parameters to save your theory so you can save the world is not the way to fix things if you care about science. Intellectual honesty is more important to a real scientist than being right. Any scientist who doesn’t feel that to the core of his/her being doesn’t belong, GET OUT!!!!! Your ego is irrelevant to truth, sorry. If you can’t handle that, you’re not in the right discipline. Go study marketing or something. My grad school prof used to say that to us if we ever complained about anything being difficult. It’s not a nice or helpful thing to say, but it’s kind of true 😛
I mentioned in my intro post that I had watched my ex boyfriend be brainwashed by a cult over the internet. After that happened, I read two books on cults [Cults in our Midst and Combatting Cult Mind Control] and earlier this year I read the PhD thesis of my friend Yuval Laor on the evolution of religion in human societies, called “The Religious Ape”. Once I read about religious fervor in his thesis, that’s when something clicked in my mind. The fear that climate change inspires in people causes them to feel strong emotions and leads them to develop an irrational attachment to the “doctrine” of AGW! I know because I used to be a believer myself, and it was kinda scary to think what the world would be like if we did nothing. It made my standards for belief much lower. And believing that we are RIGHT and those people are WRONG is a huge part of religion, right? I believe the climate change faith is using the same fervor feedback loop that religions use, depicted below from Yuval’s thesis. (Aside: If you are fascinated with human beings and their weird attachments to religious doctrine, read his thesis. Or buy his book when it comes out. I’ll put the link here as soon as he publishes the shorter, less technical book version. By the way, I’m only using his model here, in fact, I doubt he’d agree with my application of his model to this case. He isn’t a skeptic.)
Here’s Yuval’s discussion of fervor from his thesis:
“I define fervor as a state, similar to the state of being in love, directed toward a doctrine including traditions, an authority structure, and often one or more deities. Underlying fervor are certain emotions including devotion, wonder, reverence and awe. Fervor includes a strong and irrational (not based on cost-benefit considerations) commitment to things represented in the doctrine, as well as an absolute certainty regarding their truth.
Transcendent experiences accompany religious conversions as well as occasions of falling in love. In the context of religion, such experiences are typically triggered by phenomena that are deemed sufficiently anomalous, elicit strong emotional reactions and can be interpreted as being “miraculous.” Such experiences can “prove” to a person that a set of ideas is true.
Fervor is strongly influenced by expectations, which determine what one will deem as being sufficiently anomalous to induce an emotional reaction, how one reacts to transcendent experiences, and whether such experiences will strengthen one’s fervor towards her existing faith or bring about a religious conversion. Expectations include what I term a “proto-faith,” which determines the set of ideas a miracle will prove. The existence of the proto-faith explains how observing the same miracle can lead different people to validate, or convert to, different faiths.
Although fervor is necessary for the establishment of a religious system it is not always necessary for its maintenance. Once a religion system becomes established it can be maintained through habitual practices and decrees that require little fervor. However, when the system is threatened or when it is inherently stressful (as some cults are) fervor is also necessary for its maintenance.
While fervor is necessary for the establishment and sometimes also for the maintenance of religion, it is not sufficient. To be considered “religious”, the doctrine towards which fervor is directed has to be omnirelevant—it must be considered relevant, at least officially, to every context. This feature is not present in systems of magic or in groups such as certain nationalist movements, which may induce high levels of fervor, but are not religions.”
So, climate change can’t be a religion per se because it’s not omnirelevant, but it seems to induce fervor in its adherents (trust me, try coming out as a climate skeptic at your next uber liberal club meeting and see what happens) and it gives people who don’t have a religion a way to make their lives feel meaningful, makes them feel like they are a part of something that will make a difference in the world before their inevitable death, which is what human culture is all about, according to Ernst Becker (Note, that book is on my nightstand and just got to me from the library so I haven’t read it. But from what I’ve read that’s what his thesis is about). Some of us human beings seem incapable of believing in an invisible sky god when there is no evidence for one and no really good reason to believe in him, but when we have “science” behind our beliefs, I guess we’ll believe anything just like all those religious people we look down on for their faiths. I don’t actually look down, I’m kind of jealous. I wish I could believe god has a plan for me. That would be so comforting. I’m just not capable of it. And if god made me that way and then damns me to hell for it, so be it, he’s an asshole and I don’t want to spend an eternity in his heaven, so there’s some real heresy for you! In public writing. Now I’m damned for sure.
Every time an AGW believer does a little lowering of his/her carbon footprint, they feel like they are doing a good deed, feel like they are part of something larger than themselves, feel like their life has meaning because they are on the right team and doing the right activities to save the world from the impending apocalypse, and they strengthen their attachment to the doctrine. That’s what cult members and religious people do when they follow the rituals of their religions also. Every time there’s a big storm the fervor feedback loop activates and their faith in their views are strengthened via the “transcendent experience”, and the same storm has different meanings depending on your “proto-faith” in AGW or disbelief in AGW.
Every time someone talks about polar bears, the fear programming is activated. My roommate’s child was being taught this stuff in school, taught that every time he is in a car, polar bears are being harmed (never mind that they don’t seem to be in danger according to the native americans who live there, who have better methods of counting them and whose livelihoods actually depend on their numbers, see Jim Steele’s book). We are having public religious schools folks, without any vouchers, just not a standard religion, but it uses the same fervor feedback loop that the bible thumpers use. We are brainwashing our children to fear the “god” of CO2. Which is just as sick to me as teaching them to fear god, especially when you teach them it’s backed by “science” and no one is allowed to question “science” right? WRONG! You get an F- in my science class if you think you can’t question science “truths”; there’s no such thing as a proof in science, since anything can end up being wrong if we probe deeper. It’s the scientific method that I kinda sorta “believe” in, because it’s the only way I see that I can actually try to find some answers in this world. But if you think science never gets things wrong, read this book please. Did you know scientists are just people too? The nice thing about science is that is is theoretically, eventually, self-correcting and usually, if we get things wrong for awhile no one is really harmed, except maybe the first female physicist role model and Nobel winner, Marie Curie, who died because of her work with radiation before she knew the health implications. (Somehow her being the banner waver for female physicists isn’t working so well. Join us and die, it’ll be fun, we promise…)
From the outside of that faith, the faith that I used to believe in, it’s clear I was in a fervor feedback loop. If you believe in climate change and think everyone who is a skeptic is an evil shill of the oil industry, you might be in as state of psuedo-religious fervor and not know it. You are letting your emotions and attachment make you forget what science really is. Science is inherently about skepticism. Skeptics are a necessary and good thing for science to do it’s job well, in fact, every good scientist should be incredibly skeptical to a fault (but also ridiculously optimistic or you’d never step into the lab. Scientist psychology is fascinating.). Popper and Kuhn, people. Just forget what you’ve been told and think about it from a skeptical mindset, because being skeptical is good for science and attacking skeptics for being skeptical is NOT scientific.
I’m not going to go into details of the skeptical scientific arguments. The truth is, there are some people who use manipulative data to try to show climate change isn’t real, I’ve seen that kind of thing also and poked holes at it too, when I saw it. But, there are plenty of excellent blogs about it by people who are skeptical scientific experts on this topic, like Judith Curry, or read Matt Ridley’s post, or the transcript of the APS climate change statement review workshop. Read Jim Steele’s book with an open mind and then read some stuff at this site and if check out this paper. Analyze the evidence from an open-minded perspective, not out to only attack it, but with a curious eye, and see for yourself if you still believe after that. If you do, fine with me, we can disagree, that’s a good thing, a vigorous scientific debate. Also, as you are examining the evidence, try to let go of that fear you’ve been programmed to feel when you think about AGW and instead, imagine, what a relief you will feel if you realize that, the world is not quite as doomed as the doom and gloomers like to propagandize it is. Because, if you really think about it, believing in climate change, “just in case”, is a lot like believing in god, “just in case”. Do you believe in god just in case? Ok, then I guess you can believe in climate change just in case too, just don’t call yourself a scientist please.
I’m not saying CO2 doesn’t affect the climate, or that the climate isn’t changing, just that we don’t understand the effect of CO2 on the climate nearly enough to support the apocalyptic image of global warming that has been pushed on the educated intellectuals in the west by the establishment, the media, the IPCC and the liberal political class. It’s painful to watch from the outside. Kind of reminds me how I feel looking from the outside at real religions. You guys, it’s so obvious you are irrationally attached to your belief system, once you get outside the paradigm, yet if anyone shows skeptical data, he/she is attacked as an UNBELIEVER, which is really the most evil thing for someone in an us/them, black/white worldview to say to someone. If you don’t believe in climate change, you’re an evil “denier”, which connects them to Holocaust deniers and shines a negative light on the scientific virtue of skepticism. If you are a believer, you do your little good deeds to prevent it by acting politically and lowering your carbon footprint and driving a Prius and your life has meaning, you become a better person simply through your belief and acting congruent with that belief system that you know is the only way to save the world from the impending doom, and life feels like more than just an existence that no one knows exactly what it’s for, if there is a higher purpose at all.
Once again, the truth is that no one has the answers to any of the complex questions of humanity, the future global climate included. Will CO2 eventually rise high enough to have a significant effect on the climate? I don’t think anyone knows that answer to that, yet, though I hope we can do a better job answering that question soon, which is what the APS should be focusing on. But what I do know is the gloom and doom view that pushes harsh global CO2 cuts RIGHT NOW AT ANY COST, since we know for a fact because “science” that THE END IS NEIGH, is not a rational view considering the data from the perspective of how my brain works. The costs in current human suffering, especially in the 3rd world, are important and should be considered. Should the US and other western nations still work towards energy independence even if just for political purposes, since the countries with oil tend to be full of violence and Islamic terrorists? I’m pretty sure the answer to that is yes. I have solar panels, dude.
But we should be honest with ourselves and not use the love that was evolved to attach us to our children and partners to trick the most scientific, intellectual and truth-seeking folks into believing in an irrational viewpoint in the name of “science” and denigrating unbelievers, when any scientist who is cognizant of the history and philosophy of science would welcome skepticism. Are we in the midst of a paradigm shift? Maybe. I hope to convince some believers to become skeptical of their beliefs and analyze the evidence with an open mind. Try to forget the fear that makes it impossible to analyze the evidence rationally. Please please please, don’t take my word for it, look at it for yourself, I’m just another flawed human being too. It was easier for me to critically examine the evidence because I was more afraid of having irrational beliefs than anything else, but it was still scary. But it’s even scarier from the other side, feeling like everyone is screaming that the sky is falling when the sky actually hasn’t really moved for the last 18 years*. It feels like being in a religious service where everyone is speaking tongues and a few of us are just standing there, looking at each other, our eyes saying “WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING HERE!?!!!” to one another.
After I started this post, I found i wasn’t the first person to draw these parallels. Here are some links for other blogs that connect climate change to a religious belief system. You know you’re in a cult when you google “X cult” and you find a lot of hits (JK, obviously that’s not good logic), at least, that’s how I found out my ex was joining one. Actually, I first googled “X addiction” because I thought he was just addicted to watching the cult leader’s videos. After reading all the stuff on how culty it was, I thought it was just a smear campaign and crazy talk. And then i saw it happen exactly as described in the stuff I had read, after I had read it. Doh! Buyer beware. Trust me, thought reform is very good at shutting down human critical thinking, or my ex’s cult leader wouldn’t be getting rich right now by stealing the minds of human beings through the internet. Skepticism is your only salvation people. Join my cult! It’s free, until you get to the deeper levels. You don’t want to know yet what’s down there. I can’t tell you yet. That’s just now how cults work, that stuff is crazy and if I told you now, you’d never come to this site again. (that’s all a joke, i have no deeper levels, sorry to disappoint, no galactic overlord here. it’s skepticism, all the way down. or turtles.)
* This paper that attempts to do away with the pause with data analysis is debunked here and here as a sneaky slight of hand. Dear climate science, perhaps you should take note of the blind analysis methods used in experimental particle physics so your model doesn’t suddenly appear in your data via the magic of “data analysis”. I think it’s even more important for climate science that the data analysis used be unbiased, since the results are have global impact.