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  • Will Wonders Never Cease?

    Posted by James R. Rummel on November 5th, 2009 (All posts by )

    How many dooms have been promised me since I was born?

    Rampant pollution was going to choke me, rampant population crush me. Fresh water was going to run out, fresh air was already gone. Deforestation was going to create droughts, desertification was going to bring sand to my front door. Food additives were going to cause my body to fall apart, artificial hormones were going to cause the human race to die out due to sterilization. A new ice age was going to bring a global freeze, while burning the last of the Earth’s oil reserves would bring the end of our technology.

    Tipping points were all the rage. Species going extinct in the rain forests due to urbanization would eventually start a global cascade of extinction that would lead to the human race itself going extinct. Pump enough CFC’s in the atmosphere and the Arctic ozone hole would eventually race to cover the entire world. Dump enough pollution in the environment and acid rain would wash your face off of your skull during a gentle Spring shower.

    There are more. Many, many more. These are just the few that I can come up with off the top of my head as I pound away at the keyboard. They all sound very different, but they all had a few common traits.

    “Experts” at one time endorsed these dooms. They knew better than the skeptics, better than you, so just listen to them and follow their instructions to avoid catastrophe. The data was incontrovertible, no need for debate. Shut up and follow orders if you didn’t want to starve, choke, melt, become sterile.

    The other thing that was common to all of these predictions was that they were wrong. Terribly, horribly, obviously wrong.

    The new big thing is climate change. Global warming. Experts say we’re in trouble, we’re going to see a whole lot of catastrophe. Better shut up and get with the program to keep doom at bay.

    Is the Earth getting warmer? Dunno. If it is getting warmer, would that be a bad thing? Again, dunno. I’m totally unqualified to have an opinion on the particulars. But I am certainly smart enough, well enough informed, and with a long enough memory to note the track record of those who claim the sky is falling. So far they are batting a thousand so far as fail is concerned.

    I mentioned that there were a few traits common to all the dooms mentioned above, besides the fact that they all turned out to be what The Bard described as being a tale told by an idiot. One of the traits is that the people who spread the word never had much by the way of a sense of humor.

    I came across this YouTube video that is pretty funny. Supposedly from a pro-tourism agency in Canada, it proudly proclaims how CO2 emissions from the Great White North have increased dramatically in the last few years. A warmer Canada means more tourists to enjoy the weather.

    All a wry hoax, of course. They have a pretty slick website set up, but let the mask slip a bit when it comes to a coloring contest for the kiddies. Al Gore’s almost extinct polar bears make an appearance, I suppose because they think that they have to really become unsubtle when it comes to instilling fear in children.

    Still, a better effort at humor than any other doom monger I’ve come across in the past four decades.

     

    11 Responses to “Will Wonders Never Cease?”

    1. Marty Says:

      You forgot how we would all starve by 1980 (Paul Ehrlich, “The Population Bomb,” ca. 1968), and we were going to run out of not just oil, but virtually every mineral resource well before 2000 (Jay Forrester, “World Dynamics” and the Club of Rome, “The Limits to Growth,” ca. 1970).

      Reminds me of a famous article by Paul Johnson in National Review ca. 1992, that with teh fall of Communism, the new reigning -“ism” in the West was going to be “Pessimism.”

    2. Jim Miller Says:

      Tom Wolfe has a very funny take on this in “The Intelligent Coed’s Guide To America”, which you can find in his collection, “The Purple Decades”, and other places. (It was originally published in Harpers in 1976.)

    3. Percy Dovetonsils Says:

      Perhaps a review of the story “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” is in order for the doom ‘n gloom crowd.

    4. sol vason Says:

      Prophets make profits from books, lectures and talk shows. Children need to be scared by the monster under the bed. Adults need to be scared by the end of the world. The trick is have the world end soon, but not too soon, unless we do something about it.

      You forgot the major scare we all grew up with – Thermonuclear War! This is the first Democrat government that doesn’t preach about disarmament. Why? Is it because book sales and lectures about Thermonuclear war don’t sell anymore?

      Al Gore will soon be a billionaire. His genius was enlisting the scientific community by creating government grants for any academic, foreign or domestic, to study global warming. I have a friend who has a grant to study the effect of global warming on romantic poetry. I love global warming. I am developing beach front property on the artic ocean.

    5. James R. Rummel Says:

      “This is the first Democrat government that doesn’t preach about disarmament.”

      It is?

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/05/AR2009040500021.html

      They are still tilting at that particular windmill, just that it isn’t on the front burner anymore. Probably due to the fact that the USSR is no more, and the biggest nuclear threats are North Korea and Iran. No big headlines for standing up to piss-poor pissants who need the nukes to be taken seriously.

    6. Anonymous Says:

      What I don’t get about all of the “tipping point” people is that they seem to forget all of the times humanity or civilization or the earth or whatever was, ya know, actually threatened. If these people opened up a history book I think they would be thanking their lucky stars they live in today’s world. The world will never be perfect, nor will it ever be totally doomed. It is constant struggle, innovation, and adaptation.

    7. Matt Says:

      Comment #6 was me, I forgot to fill out the form. Hopefully my face won’t melt off :)

    8. James R. Rummel Says:

      “If these people opened up a history book I think they would be thanking their lucky stars they live in today’s world. The world will never be perfect, nor will it ever be totally doomed. It is constant struggle, innovation, and adaptation.”

      I’m with you 100% on that, Matt.

    9. veryretired Says:

      This cultural propensity for some members of society to feel compelled to walk around with signs saying “The End is Near!” is very much in the Judeo-Christian traditions of prophets who come in from the desert to call the sinners to repentence, only translated into the modern, scientific idiom which is more respectable in current society.

      Don’t forget that during this same period, any number of religious groups, large and small, have issued repeated predictions of armageddon, the last judgement, the rapture, and/or the apocalypse with much the same conviction, the same record of failure, and the same refusal on the main part of the faithful to abandon belief in their particular prophet just because he or she was wrong.

      For the record, I do not deny that the earth is warming to some extent. It has been in a general warming phase since the well documented end of the disastrous “Little Ice Age” around 1800. Since then, the world’s average temperatures have warmed and cooled according to complex patterns that I do not believe we clearly understand or can explain.

      What is the greatest commonality to be found in all these predictions of imminent disaster, both religious and scientific?

      That the behavior of human beings is to blame, that human beings have been judged, either by a deity or by nature, and found to be culpable of sinful actions and erroneous beliefs, all of which must be changed immediately to accord with the will of the lord, or the prerogatives of nature as discerned by those more in tune with that universal force than we ignorant peasants, who need to be guided to the promised land.

      Human beings need something to believe in. Human beings seem to have a distinct need to believe that their fellows are sinful, and that their society is collapsing into some form of well deserved hellish abyss.

      I am often reminded, when I hear these never ending predictions of disaster here and calamity there, of the scene in the movie “Apocalypto” when the hero and his group are led to the altar of sacrifice. Just as Jaguar Paw is being readied to have his heart cut out and offered to the sun god, an eclipse occurs. The high priest then calls on the god to return, and when it does, tells the people that their deity is finally satisfied with all the hearts it has been given, and that all is well in the kingdom.

      There is a look exchanged between the priest and the king at this point which suggests a shared acknowledgement that they both know this is all utterly bogus, but that it’s okay because the faithful are ecstatic with their explanation, and that’s all that really matters.

      It has been mentioned in other contexts that the predictions of doom would be much more convincing if the prophets acted as if they believed it themselves by stopping many of the wasteful, “warming” behaviors they condemn in others. But, then, there are very few Jeremiah’s in the world, wearing skins and eating locusts, and a great many gurus in Rolls Royces and private jets.

      There is a strain of self hatred running underneath much of the theology of deep ecology that I find troubling and dangerous. All too often, in the past, and in the current case, humanity has been duped into believing the claims of leaders whose goal is not the pursuit of happiness, but the judgement of sin, and the enactment of punishments against those found to be guilty of whatever transgressions are the vogue of the times.

      In our modern social/cultural context, the vogue seems to be that anyone who values independence of thought and action is suspect, if not beyond redemption, while those who chant the approved chants, and chastise themselves with the approved flails, shall rule the earth.

      The key is that this is not science, but faith. And, as in any dispute in which dogma is being questioned, it is the heretic who is in the most danger.

      It is not the judgement of god, or nature, that I fear, but the delusions of those who claim to know what that judgement is, and are determined to exact the punishments their visions have demanded.

    10. renminbi Says:

      Ah,but if my fellows are sinful,that makes me wonderful for seeing it.

      The Chinese and Indians don’t seem to believe this apocalyptic green nonsense- if we choose to cripple ourselves with regulation,they’ll still carry on.

    11. Mark Rogers Says:

      To Veryretired:

      Excellent comment. It pulls together some interesting observations in a brief, clearly written analysis that suggests a background in serious journalism. Forgive me for possibly being intrusive, but who are you and what else might you have written?