Green Panic and False Prophecy

One very good disincentive to going around making up wild and fanciful predictions can be found in the ancient book of Deuteronomy. At the end of the 18th chapter we find a pretty good deterrent to panic mongering and telling porkies about the future: the false prophet is to be put to death.

That is one good way to keep all the gloom and doom predictions at bay, and to restrain those who would presume to know exactly what the future holds. Such a punishment is of course no longer with us, so while ancient Israel was spared much of this foolishness, we today are not, unfortunately.

And some of the most bizarre, whacky and just plain wrong predictions, forecasts and prophecies have come from the new green religion. Radical environmentalism has been around for some time now, and they have never lacked for doomsday scenarios which could be dished up at will.

There is always some new ecological crisis just around the corner, and if we don’t act immediately – if not yesterday – then we shall all be doomed. Even before the last prediction was proven to be just so much baloney, several more mega-prophecies of global destruction are offered.

Indeed, it has become a growth industry just to keep inventing all these crises. And someone is always going to make a killing out of such apocalypse-now scenarios. Entire volumes have been penned chronicling this trail of false prophecies and failed predictions.

But just in the past week or so two helpful summary articles on this have appeared from American and Australian writers. They both cover similar ground, but they helpfully remind us that these panic merchants are a dime a dozen.

George Will in the US begins his piece this way: “Sometimes the news is that something was not newsworthy. The United Nation’s Rio+20 conference – 50,000 participants from 188 nations – occurred in June, without consequences. A generation has passed since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, which begat other conferences and protocols (e.g., Kyoto). And, by now, apocalypse fatigue – boredom from being repeatedly told the end is nigh.

“This began two generations ago, in 1972, when we were warned (by computer models developed at MIT) that we were doomed. We were supposed to be pretty much extinct by now, or at least miserable. We are neither. So, what when wrong?

“That year begat ‘The Limits to Growth,’ a book from the Club of Rome, which called itself ‘a project on the predicament of mankind.’ It sold 12 million copies, staggered The New York Times (one of the most important documents of our age) and argued that economic growth was doomed by intractable scarcities. Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish academic and ‘skeptical environmentalist,’ writing in Foreign Affairs, says it ‘helped send the world down a path of worrying obsessively about misguided remedies for minor problems while ignoring much greater concerns,’ such as poverty, which only economic growth can ameliorate.”

He examines other panics which were created by the doomsayers, including all the natural resources which were supposed to have been depleted by now. He continues, “The modelers missed something – human ingenuity in discovering, extracting and innovating. Which did not just appear after 1972.

“Aluminum, Lomborg writes, is one of earth’s most common metals. But until the 1886 invention of the Hall-Heroult process, it was so difficult and expensive to extract that ‘Napoleon III had bars of aluminum exhibited alongside the French crown jewels, and he gave his honored guests aluminum forks and spoons while lesser visitors had to make do with gold utensils.’

“Forty years after ‘The Limits to Growth’ imparted momentum to environmentalism, that impulse now is often reduced to children indoctrinated to ‘reduce, reuse, and recycle.’ Lomborg calls recycling ‘a feel-good gesture that provides little environmental benefit at a significant cost.’ He says ‘we pay tribute to the pagan god of token environmentalism by spending countless hours sorting, storing and collecting used paper, which, when combined with government subsidies, yields slightly lower-quality paper in order to secure a resource’ – forests – ‘that was never threatened in the first place’.”

Writing in Australia, another commentator goes through the lengthy list of failed predictions and overblown fright scenarios. Steven Kates begins by admitting his scepticism about man-made global warming, and then discusses why he is:

“Being myself an ageing conservative white male I found myself, and not for the first time, dwelling on my refusal to have at any time accepted the arguments of the global warming crowd. I have followed the debates and read the literature and listened to the scientists and have come out of it unconvinced. It turns out that I am part of that one band, that single stratum that has resisted all such arguments. It naturally warmed me to my fellow ageing conservative white male cohort but you do have to wonder why we have been singled out in this way either for our blindness to reality or for our ability to see through a sham and a con.

“Now I must accept that I have been white and male all my life, but I have not always been aged and, along with many others of the post-war generation I belong to, have not always been conservative. But to have lived through the 1960s did provide an opportunity to reflect on many a scam in the name of science that has left me, and possibly many others, with a jaundiced eye of sorts when I hear fantastic claims about science and what it has shown. Those younger than us have, unfortunately for them, never had the opportunity of being subjected to the kinds of nonsense that we, when young, were surrounded by on all sides. I won’t get the order right, but allow me to go through some of the major stages along the way towards a sceptical outlook that I value as part of my own lessons in life.”

He also lists many of the classic duds in this area. One of the grand-daddies of them all, Paul Ehrlich, assured us way back in 1968 that “the battle to feed all of humanity is over”. Now unless I have missed something here, this was a slight overstatement. As Kates writes:

“Needless to say, none of this happened nor have his ‘scientific’ credentials been tarnished a whit. He has apparently just this year in 2012 been made Fellow of the Royal Society of London. Right, wrong? Who cares? On he goes with nary a pause. Good luck to him but for me it was one of those lessons in science in that the word of a ‘scientist’ is not gospel and the more fad-like those beliefs are, the more resistant you should become. Mass acceptance of the implausible is a sign not so much that a theory is valid but that it fills some psychological need in those who take it up.”

After listing more enviro-scare lulus, he concludes: “So this is the kind of background we ageing conservative white males bring to the global warming debate. In my view, the world is a better place because of this scepticism. We probe and mistrust all of those gung ho science types who think that their creaky shifting models are all that’s needed for the rest of us to fall into line with their recommendations. We have heard it all before. We are not buying this on the say so of a bunch of climate scientists who are no more informed about the future than computer scientists were in 1999 or the Club of Rome in the 1970s or Paul Ehrlich in the 1960s. You have models and you have your beliefs. Fine, but let’s really test them, make sure they stand up under the pressures that they need to withstand if we are going to take the kinds of drastic actions you seem to recommend.

“Because it is also the case that what I, as an ageing conservative white male, understand more than anything else is that if you give these people power to deal with this confected emergency they will never willingly give it back. They will want to run your life for the good of the planet as they seek out and find even more reasons to add to their power and ask for ever more money to find the cure. They argue that the risks are infinitely high and therefore the only answer is to pay an almost infinitely high price to forestall this potential climate catastrophe.”

And that is the real point here: behind so many of these eco-panic prophecies are power grabs. Throw out a good scare, con the populace, and you are in a neat position to secure more power for yourself or your government, while taking away more freedoms from the general population.

For that reason alone we should maintain our scepticism of the green gloom and doom crowd.

[1487 words]

7 Replies to “Green Panic and False Prophecy”

  1. Hello Bill,

    Ray Stevens has a skit on Youtube called “The Global Warming Song”. The title is self-explanatory. Ray has it wrong about the cow but is spot on with Al Gore.

    Donald Battaglini

  2. I to, am an ageing, white, conservative male. I also remember the conspiracy theories and the aliens of the seventies.

    One of my favourite scriptures is Prov 25.2; It is one that every scientist, science academic and teacher should have on the wall. “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but it is the honour of kings to search out a matter”.

    Science is a wonderful and engaging discipline but each “answer” or “discovery” seems to lead to more questions.
    Why should we be surprised!

    That the hand and glory of God is manifest in nature is absolutely beyond dispute even for those with very little faith. I have observed that the science community often needs a large dose of humility. I find it so refreshing when I find a scientist who has been taking the “Glory of God tonic”.

    In mankind, especially the western kind, there seems to be an insatiable “need to know”; that often gets skewed by pride, impatience, laziness and greed for riches, power and recognition; “gold, gals and glory” etc. As is rightly suggested, this feeds into a spiritual and moral vacuum in the portion of society that is afraid and has not learned the lessons of history. The rent a crowd that has “found the new light” soon becomes a force to be reckoned with, and any disagreement with them is treated as heresy.

    Sad to say, there are special Christian versions of the same kind of thing. The “Late Great Planet Earth”, the “Left Behind” series, and the proliferation of “I’ve been to Heaven” books, (let me say it carefully) have elements of the same problem.

    As Christians we need to be respectfully sceptical of any teaching or theory that becomes highly fashionable or seems to claim special knowledge. A thorough study of the scriptures to understand the full counsel of God is needed. Once again it is the “grey heads” that should have an advantage here.

    I certainly agree that the issue here is really a religious one, and it is plain that the environmental movement has become religious in many of its manifestations.

    Bruce Knowling

  3. 2. Schools Cease Teaching Holocaust, Demand Students Pray to Allah
    by Rachel Hirshfeld copied from Arutz Sheva, Israel

    A report by Britain’s Department for Education and Skills noted that an increasing number of schools are ceasing to teach the Holocaust in history lessons in order to avoid offending Muslim students.

    The report, titled “Teaching Emotive and Controversial History,” also observed that many educators are reluctant to teach other topics that may contradict what is being said in local mosques.

    Furthermore, the website Family Security Matters reported that, “In an effort to counter ‘Islamophobia’ in British schools, teachers now are required to teach ‘key Muslim contributions such as Algebra and the number zero’ in math and science courses, even though the concept of zero originated in India.”

    In addition, students at the Alsager High School in Cheshire were “punished by their teacher for refusing to pray to Allah as part of their religious education class,” according to the website.

    The article further noted that non-Muslim children at an elementary school in Scotland were required to visit a mosque in Glasgow, where they were instructed to recite the shahada, the Muslim declaration of faith, which states, “There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger.”

    In addition, Muslim leaders are demanding that Islamic preachers be sent to school throughout Scotland to teach children about Islam, presumably in an effort to counter the negative attitudes about Muslims.

    “The question that naturally arises,” according to “is whether any of this bend-over-backward pandering would be taking place had the hijackers who commandeered the four jetliners used as missiles on September 11, 2001 been anything other than Muslim.”

    “Taking an alternate hypothesis—that the attacks had been carried out by, say, murderous Zionists—would New York City public schools be mandating the teaching of Hebrew in grades 2 through 5?”, the website asks.

    Geoff Hilton-Turvey

  4. Perhaps a slight mis-application of Deut 18! As I understand it, the essence of the crime here was misrepresenting the Lord Himself and in effect committing the crime of publicly representing Him with a lie and defaming His name.

    It doesn’t take anything away from your main point on the lunacy of Green predictions etc. I don’t think, but a misapplication in that Greens are ranting in the name of their paganistic faith – not as proposed representatives of the Lord God.

    But a strong reminder for us – to deliberately misrepresent the Lord with falsehood is a serious crime. Apostate teachers and preachers be warned – it is no small thing to be loose with God’s Word.

    God bless you Bill! Keep up the good work.
    Isaac Overton, ACT

  5. “…Mass acceptance of the implausible is a sign not so much that a theory is valid but that it fills some psychological need in those who take it up.”

    If this statement is true, could it not be applied equally to Christianity?

    Tim Badger

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