A thought experiment: Suppose you somehow knew, with absolute certainty, that a century from now some event would destroy the Earth, wiping out all life as we know it. Suppose you somehow knew, with absolute certainty, of an action you could take that would prevent that extinction of life. Suppose, however, that the cost of that action was billions of human lives. To save the world, how many people could you justify killing?
Could you not justify killing billions to ensure that humanity and life in general survived? What moral stance, what other good, could you balance against the death of all? Indeed, the refusal to murder billions to prevent the death of all would be, in itself, the most vain and evil act in all of history.
This abstract thought experiment hinges on something that in the real world we never have: absolute certainty. There is no way in the real world that we could know with absolute certainty that killing billions now would save all life 100 years from now. Without that certainty, these kinds of kill-a-few-to-save-the-many thought experiments lose validity and don’t provide any moral guidance or insight for the real world.
However, these kinds of thought experiments do demonstrate how absolute certitude makes it easy for anyone, no matter how humane and compassionate, to calmly rationalize the deaths of billions. At the extremities of events and the associated moral choices, the ends do definitely justify the means.
As a corollary, ideas that claim to predict extreme events with great certainty create the justifications for associated extreme acts. These types of ideas turn abstract moral thought experiments into concrete realities on which people feel compelled to act.
Advocates of the concept of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) are very, very certain that a great destructive event is bearing down on the Earth. They reiterate incessantly that science has absolutely proven that this future harm will occur unless we take significant action today to head it off.
Their absolute certitude in CAGW raises the obvious question: To prevent such massive and unprecedented absolutely certain harm, how many millions of people would they be willing to kill today?
From that perspective, the pro-CAGW propaganda shock videos in which people who don’t believe in CAGW are casually and gorily murdered suddenly don’t seem so funny and edgy.
Of course, the proponents of CAGW will instantly proclaim that, since their intent is pure and unselfish, their ideas cannot evolve into justification for mass murder.
Unfortunately, history says otherwise. Once an idea has been given widespread validity, once it has been accepted as true by enough people, the originators of the idea cannot control what actions others use the idea to justify. People who create ideas of absolute certainty automatically create monsters they cannot control.
Those early members of the French Revolution who created The Declaration of the Rights of Man believed that reason could absolutely replace tradition. They would never have believed their ideas could possibly lead to the Great Terror, Empire and continent-wide war.
The geneticists who created the idea of eugenics used the best available science of their day. With the imprimatur of science, eugenics became widely accepted by all educated, secular individuals across the political spectrum. It was considered “settled science”. No eugenicist envisioned that their idea would justify the greatest of wars and the Holocaust.
Marxists the world over who rushed to join the newly formed Communist Party in 1917 sincerely believed they were contributing to a world free of want, ignorance, oppression and inequality. They did not imagine in the least that the ideas they promulgated would create totalitarian, megacidal regimes that would push humanity to the precipice of extinction more than once.
Extreme actions require extreme justifications of extreme certainty. Conversely, the certainty of extreme events produces the justification for extreme actions. Doctrines that propound as absolutely certain extreme futures, either good or bad, create justifications for extreme acts regardless of the intent of the idea’s originators.
In the far past, religious prophesy provided the certainty that justified extreme acts. In the modern world, reasoned argument and science provide it. That is why all the great evils of the 20th Century came wrapped in a rationale of pseudoscience.
The evils of communism occurred because of the certitude created by the central Marxist doctrine of historical inevitability. Marxism held that it was absolutely certain that natural forces drove all human societies along a predetermined evolution towards a single, steady-state Communist utopia. The only thing individual humans could do was to speed that evolution up or slow it down. Marxists claimed this evolution to utopia was a scientific certainty on par with physicists predicting the orbits of the planets.
The certainty of the enormous benefits of that great shining future allowed communists to rationalize lying, manipulating, enslaving, murdering, etc., on any scale, as long as they believed those evils would bring about the utopia faster. When confronted by evidence of the atrocities of communist states, communists in the free world would say it was all very sad but completely necessary, like amputating a limb in the days before anesthesia. Marx had proven scientifically that it had to be done.
The concept of CAGW definitely fits the historical pattern of ideas of great certitude that were eventually used to justify extreme acts.
The parallel between CAGW and communism is especially disturbing when you consider that most of the people with the most certitude about CAGW are the direct ideological descendants of the communists, their fellow travelers or apologists. One has to assume that these people would turn a blind eye to mass murder committed in the name of preventing the absolutely certain CAGW apocalypse, just as their intellectual ancestors turned a blind eye to the mass murders of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot.
When you see someone who is wearing a Mao or Che Guevara t-shirt declaim about the absolutely certainty of CAGW, you have every right to feel serious concern. The same mindset, the same willingness to believe are in play. Only the costumes have changed. After all, if some edgy, hipster communist back in the ’20s had made a video, they might well have created one in which people were told there was “no pressure” in embracing Marxism to foster the perfection of society…shortly before they were comically killed.
Psychologists have long noted that jokes reveal sublimated desires. For this video to even seem funny to an individual, that individual must have total absolute faith in CAGW and the proposed solutions in it. For the joke to have any punch, the individual must at some level believe that the threat posed by CAGW is so certain that violence is justified. That level of belief is cause for concern because history suggests that fantasies about violence lead to its reality.
Most CAGW advocates don’t understand the science of global warming but instead simply assume it is absolutely certain because so many people say it is. They forget that politics breeds both exaggeration and certitude. Problems that start out as moderate and possible evolve under political pressure into life or death crises of absolutely certainty.
The pressure of politics has caused CAGW advocates to take a moderate and plausible danger requiring monitoring and forethought and mutated it into a massive and certain threat requiring the most extreme responses. Already their perception of the magnitude and certainty of the threat has driven them to view all dissent as so fantastically dangerous as to justify public derision, ostracism and loss of career. In this, they are recapitulating the evolution of Marxism into Stalinism.
Unwittingly, advocates of absolutely certain CAGW have taken an abstract thought-experiment about how far someone would go to save life on earth and turned it into a concrete reality for many. All across the world, tens of millions of people who believe in the absolute certainty of CAGW must be asking themselves, “How far must I go to prevent this absolutely certain mega-disaster? How many people might I have kill today to forestall it?” Anyone who takes the absolute certainty of CAGW seriously must eventually ask themselves those questions. They have made the thought experiment real in their minds and they must act accordingly.
CAGW has all the hallmarks of an idea that, by becoming a political doctrine, has mutated into an absolute certainty that can justify the most extreme acts imaginable. In this historical context, those shock videos represent not marketing exaggerations but the tiny tip of a shark’s dorsal fin, just breaking the surface of the sea.
Blood will follow.