- The Catholic Thing - https://www.thecatholicthing.org -

Hard Truth Against Soft Theory

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

This quotation, attributed to Thomas Edison, but more likely invented by an ad agency copywriter in the 1980s, nevertheless fairly represents Edison’s views. He said things like that many times, though never so succinctly. As, too, did the industrious Benjamin Franklin, and other tireless adepts of empirical methods.

So let us take the quotation at face value. It is anyway such a wonderfully American idea, expressing worldly optimism, to my mind. For it contains an assumption not necessarily true: that there is a right way of doing it, and that we’re homing in.

I have nothing against empirical methods, per se. I might have something against the expenditure of, say, 100 billion dollars, homing in on a chimera. This is the approximate amount of U.S. tax money or borrowing that has been assigned to homing in on “global warming”: on computerized “virtual” climate modeling designed to predict the amount by which global average temperatures rise as humans load more carbon dioxide or other “greenhouse gases” into the atmosphere. (Other governments have also spent on this.)

The hypothesis is merely plausible. “Everything else being equal,” and holding still, the world should be getting warmer. That it’s wrong we may discern from data that shows our actual world has not been getting warmer in the last twenty years – more or less, depending whose database one uses.

That it wasn’t even likely should be evident to anyone who stands back to consider the extraordinary complexity of the matter, or simply the long-observed mechanisms by which “affronts to nature” (including those from non-human terrestrial and extra-terrestrial sources) are absorbed and balanced. I note that while the satellite data hardly prove the warming hypothesis, they do show that the planet is greening. This would be the normal expectation of excess carbon dioxide: plants flourishing.

Contrary to what is constantly repeated in the media, the polar ice caps have not been melting, the sea level has not been rising, extreme weather events are not increasing, and various other scary predictions are not coming true. Suggestions that they must be delayed are classically non-scientific.

I have been around for some time now, so that the name Paul Ehrlich is familiar to me. I spotted it in media accounts of the latest imposture, in which a “global extinction event” is said to be unfolding, on a scale with the extinction of the dinosaurs. Imagine my non-surprise upon discovering that Ehrlich was among the co-authors.

One might actually read the predictions he made in The Population Bomb (1968), or any of his subsequent works, for that matter. Catastrophes he predicted by 1975 have not occurred. The world’s population has doubled, but food production has significantly outstripped this growth, with only modest increases in land under agricultural cultivation.

To be fair, on the other hand, Ehrlich’s book How to Know the Butterflies (1960) has stood up admirably to the passage of time.

Among humankind at large, some remain hungry, but most are better fed. Indeed, among the poor in more and more places, the growing health problem is not famine but obesity. Moreover, where famine occurs, the cause is almost invariably political: wars, and fallout from the schemes of totalitarian regimes, sometimes compounding natural disasters that would not of themselves have caused human suffering on anything like the scale.

In no case of which I am aware was the cause a failure of the known laws of supply and demand; rather bold political interference in the normal operation of them. God did not create a world in which human enterprise would not be rewarded, and in the plainest general material terms: where we sow, we harvest.

We should have begun to realize what is the more spectacular feature of our natural environment: its ability to accommodate our needs. There may well be limits to the “carrying capacity” of the planet, but by now it is evident that they are nowhere near what the doom-mongers decide arbitrarily. Not neurotic fret, but Thanksgiving, should characterize our response to this miracle.

With great ease, and the assistance of sensational mass media, anecdotes are deployed against this truth. And when the hypothesis of “climate change” is mentioned in every anecdotal story, over an extended period, a formidable impression can be made. This is what Goebbels called “the big lie,” and is to my mind a larger environmental problem than anything now happening in the Amazon basin.

Ehrlich is among the many valedictory doom prognosticators who continue to be celebrated, because they continue to provide sensation mongers with what they need. Their track records are quickly forgotten, and a new generation of suckers comes along, willing to call them “renowned scientists” without background or qualification.

I am not alarmed, and refuse to be alarmed, by professional alarmists, though I will grant them Edison’s accomplishment: for by now they have surely presented 10,000 ways to destroy our planet, that won’t work. I am mildly alarmed by their growing budgets and political clout, though pleased to see it balanced by the skepticism that usually mounts as an hypothesis is shown to be false. One might refer to this as “intellectual ecology.”

However, I am genuinely alarmed when I see my Church buying into all this twaddle. Not, be it noted, because I think it will make any significant difference in the disposition of political forces, for the hard truth is that not even Catholics look to the Church hierarchy for guidance on matters obviously beyond their competence.

It is for moral and spiritual guidance we look to her: for guidance in how to live, and how to pray, in the light of the teachings and example and fact of Jesus Christ. We live in sin, and there are real evils, including faithlessness, and the abuse of power. These the Church must condemn: focusing on universal and unchanging truths, without distraction from passing fads.

David Warren is a former editor of the Idler magazine and columnist in Canadian newspapers. He has extensive experience in the Near and Far East. His blog, Essays in Idleness, is now to be found at: davidwarrenonline.com.