Re: [asa] Wilson's "The Creation"

From: Janice Matchett <>
Date: Wed Sep 06 2006 - 23:15:04 EDT

At 08:49 PM 9/6/2006, Randy Isaac wrote:

>I'm no fan of big government but neither am I a fan of no government. ~

@ What I said. How'd you miss it?

>I do believe it is very important to realize that environmental
>issues are one arena where market forces will NEVER be adequate, by
>themselves, to prevent irreversible environmental damage. That is
>not a call for big oppressive government. Not at all. It's a call
>for recognition of wisdom and shrewd governance. ~ Randy

@ Neither did I say that market forces alone are adequate for
everything. I specifically mentioned excessive regulation, and
other over-reaching interventionist meddling by government.

As I said before, this is the bottom line: "All environmental policy
should be based on the idea that people are the most important
resource. The inherent value of each individual is greater than the
inherent value of any other resource. Accordingly, the foremost
measure of quality of our environment is human health, safety and
well-being. A policy cannot be good for the environment if it is bad
for people. The best judge of what is or is not desirable is the
affected individual." Once that first principle is in operation, all
the rest of the principles fall right into place."

Now when people use "crisis-mongering" words like, "to prevent
irreversible environmental damage" , it reminds me of people
like Carl Sagan who in 1991 predicted on Nightline that Kuwaiti oil
fires would produce a nuclear winter effect, causing a "year without
a summer," and endangering crops around the world. Sagan stressed
this outcome was so likely that "it should affect the war plans."
None of it happened.

"...But let's return to religion. ..... what about salvation,
sustainability, and judgment day? What about the coming environmental
doom from fossil fuels and global warming, if we all don't get down
on our knees and conserve every day?

Well, it's interesting. You may have noticed that something has been
left off the doomsday list, lately. Although the preachers of
environmentalism have been yelling about population for fifty years,
over the last decade world population seems to be taking an
unexpected turn. Fertility rates are falling almost everywhere. As a
result, over the course of my lifetime the thoughtful predictions for
total world population have gone from a high of 20 billion, to 15
billion, to 11 billion (which was the UN estimate around 1990) to now
9 billion, and soon, perhaps less. There are some who think that
world population will peak in 2050 and then start to decline. There
are some who predict we will have fewer people in 2100 than we do
today. Is this a reason to rejoice, to say halleluiah? Certainly not.
Without a pause, we now hear about the coming crisis of world economy
from a shrinking population. We hear about the impending crisis of an
aging population. Nobody anywhere will say that the core fears
expressed for most of my life have turned out not to be true. As we
have moved into the future, these doomsday visions vanished, like a
mirage in the desert. They were never there---though they still
appear, in the future. As mirages do.

Okay, so, the preachers made a mistake. They got one prediction
wrong; they're human. So what. Unfortunately, it's not just one
prediction. It's a whole slew of them. We are running out of oil. We
are running out of all natural resources. Paul Ehrlich: 60 million
Americans will die of starvation in the 1980s. Forty thousand species
become extinct every year. Half of all species on the planet will be
extinct by 2000. And on and on and on.

With so many past failures, you might think that environmental
predictions would become more cautious. But not if it's a religion.
Remember, the nut on the sidewalk carrying the placard that predicts
the end of the world doesn't quit when the world doesn't end on the
day he expects. He just changes his placard, sets a new doomsday
date, and goes back to walking the streets. One of the defining
features of religion is that your beliefs are not troubled by facts,
because they have nothing to do with facts.

So I can tell you some facts. I know you haven't read any of what I
am about to tell you in the newspaper, because newspapers literally
don't report them. I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and
did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. I can
tell you that the people who banned it knew that it wasn't
carcinogenic and banned it anyway. I can tell you that the DDT ban
has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, mostly
children, whose deaths are directly attributable to a callous,
technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause
of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and thus
irrevocably harmed the third world. Banning DDT is one of the most
disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We
knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world
die and didn't give a damn.

I can tell you that second hand smoke is not a health hazard to
anyone and never was, and the EPA has always known it. I can tell you
that the evidence for global warming is far weaker than its
proponents would ever admit. I can tell you the percentage the US
land area that is taken by urbanization, including cities and roads,
is 5%. I can tell you that the Sahara desert is shrinking, and the
total ice of Antarctica is increasing.

I can tell you that a blue-ribbon panel in Science magazine concluded
that there is no known technology that will enable us to halt the
rise of carbon dioxide in the 21st century. Not wind, not solar, not
even nuclear. The panel concluded a totally new technology-like
nuclear fusion-was necessary, otherwise nothing could be done and in
the meantime all efforts would be a waste of time. They said that
when the UN IPCC reports stated alternative technologies existed that
could control greenhouse gases, the UN was wrong.

I can, with a lot of time, give you the factual basis for these
views, and I can cite the appropriate journal articles not in whacko
magazines, but in the most prestigious science journals, such as
Science and Nature. But such references probably won't impact more
than a handful of you, because the beliefs of a religion are not
dependent on facts, but rather are matters of faith. Unshakeable belief.

Most of us have had some experience interacting with religious
fundamentalists, and we understand that one of the problems with
fundamentalists is that they have no perspective on themselves. They
never recognize that their way of thinking is just one of many other
possible ways of thinking, which may be equally useful or good.

On the contrary, they believe their way is the right way, everyone
else is wrong; they are in the business of salvation, and they want
to help you to see things the right way. They want to help you be
saved. They are totally rigid and totally uninterested in opposing
points of view. In our modern complex world, fundamentalism is
dangerous because of its rigidity and its imperviousness to other ideas.

I want to argue that it is now time for us to make a major shift in
our thinking about the environment, similar to the shift that
occurred around the first Earth Day in 1970, when this awareness was
first heightened. But this time around, we need to get
environmentalism out of the sphere of religion. We need to stop the
mythic fantasies, and we need to stop the doomsday predictions. We
need to start doing hard science instead.

There are two reasons why I think we all need to get rid of the
religion of environmentalism.

First, we need an environmental movement, and such a movement is not
very effective if it is conducted as a religion. We know from history
that religions tend to kill people, and environmentalism has already
killed somewhere between 10-30 million people since the 1970s. It's
not a good record. Environmentalism needs to be absolutely based in
objective and verifiable science, it needs to be rational, and it
needs to be flexible. And it needs to be apolitical. ....

The second reason to abandon environmental religion is more pressing.
Religions think they know it all, but the unhappy truth of the
environment is that we are dealing with incredibly complex, evolving
systems, and we usually are not certain how best to proceed.

Those who are certain are demonstrating their personality type, or
their belief system, not the state of their knowledge.

Our record in the past, for example managing national parks, is
humiliating. Our fifty-year effort at forest-fire suppression is a
well-intentioned disaster from which our forests will never recover.

We need to be humble, deeply humble, in the face of what we are
trying to accomplish. We need to be trying various methods of
accomplishing things. We need to be open-minded about assessing
results of our efforts, and we need to be flexible about balancing
needs. Religions are good at none of these things.

How will we manage to get environmentalism out of the clutches of
religion, and back to a scientific discipline? There's a simple
answer: we must institute far more stringent requirements for what
constitutes knowledge in the environmental realm.

I am thoroughly sick of politicized so-called facts that simply
aren't true. It isn't that these "facts" are exaggerations of an
underlying truth. Nor is it that certain organizations are spinning
their case to present it in the strongest way. Not at all---what more
and more groups are doing is putting out is lies, pure and simple.
Falsehoods that they know to be false.

This trend began with the DDT campaign, and it persists to this day.
At this moment, the EPA is hopelessly politicized. In the wake of
Carol Browner, it is probably better to shut it down and start over.
What we need is a new organization much closer to the FDA. We need an
organization that will be ruthless about acquiring verifiable
results, that will fund identical research projects to more than one
group, and that will make everybody in this field get honest fast.

Because in the end, science offers us the only way out of politics.
And if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost. We
will enter the Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting
fears and wild prejudices, transmitted to people who don't know any
better. That's not a good future for the human race. That's our past.
So it's time to abandon the religion of environmentalism, and return
to the science of environmentalism, and base our public policy
decisions firmly on that. .." ~ Michael Crichton "Environmentalism
as Religion" - September 15, 2003

~ Janice

>----- Original Message -----
>From: <>Janice Matchett
>To: <>Randy Isaac
>Cc: <>
>Sent: Wednesday, September 06, 2006 7:57 PM
>Subject: Re: [asa] Wilson's "The Creation"
>On Wed, 6 Sep 2006 15:54:34 -0400, Randy Isaac wrote:


     Superficially these principles sound great and can be used to
great effect rhetorically. Much depends on how the principles are
implemented and what is actually meant by many of the terms. .."

@ There are two main ways the principles can be implemented. The
first principle on the list aces out one of those ways - by the Statists.

This scares them to death:

"All environmental policy should be based on the idea that people are
the most important resource. The inherent value of each individual is
greater than the inherent value of any other resource. Accordingly,
the foremost measure of quality of our environment is human health,
safety and well-being. A policy cannot be good for the environment if
it is bad for people. The best judge of what is or is not desirable
is the affected individual."

Once that first principle is in operation, all the rest of the
principles fall right into place.

"Only capitalism operates on the basis of respect for free,
independent, responsible persons. All other systems in varying
degrees treat men as less than this. [the "S" word] systems above all
treat men as pawns to be moved about by the authorities, or as
children to be given what the rulers decide is good for them, or as
serfs or slaves. The rulers begin by boasting about their compassion,
which in any case is fraudulent, but after a time they drop this
pretense which they find unnecessary for the maintenance of power. In
all things they act on the presumption that they know best. Therefore
they and their systems are morally stunted. Only the free system, the
much assailed capitalism, is morally mature." ~ Arthur Shenfield


More: Principles of the American Conservation Ethic

~ Janice

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Received on Wed Sep 6 23:18:10 2006

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