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Anti-sceptics dance on reason’s grave

By Malcolm King - posted Friday, 23 July 2010


As society technologically advances there is an equal and opposite pull by some to lapse in to magical thinking where cause does not precede event - thinking more reminiscent of the Dark ages.

This is the world of Camelot, of runes, where divination and the personification of data to “prove” an ideological point coupled with radical assertions of population growth and rising sea levels - to name just a few - have produced “media facts”. These “media facts” congregate and become “proofs” for a radical vision of a dystopian future.

While there has been some fine science carried out on global warming, it has now become a media war between the pro and con sides, leaving the bulk of the population in the dark. I dare any pollsters to conduct an Australia-wide survey and ask people how global warming works or how a carbon emissions trading scheme would operate.

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I suggest that most Australians are, by definition climate sceptics. They do not side with the climate warmers nor do they side with the doubters. They are simply undecided. And one cannot blame them.

It’s the opposite of Abraham Lincoln’s dictum that, “with public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed”. With a bamboozled or cynical public, scrutiny falls by the wayside leaving the door open for magical thinking or mischievous policy. So we turn to the media for help.

The wild love child of this thinking is the conspiracy theory (Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedy’s, the Apollo moon landings as a Hollywood invention). My personal favourite is that the Bush administration (or the CIA or Mossad, you name it) blew up the twin towers.

The media’s inability to responsibly cover global warming is in part due to the ideological prism through which it sees most global conflicts. While the rise of the electronic image and decontexualised information now appears to be norm, the media are not entirely to blame. They have abrogated their role of informants for producers of entertainment.

This moral and intellectual perversity can only be understood in the context of a far wider and profound retreat from reason throughout the west.

Across a broad range of issues, progressive intelligentsia and commentators have dumped the rules of evidence, objectivity and rationality in favour of fantasy, irrationality and up-side down thinking. This is nowhere more evident than in the attack on the climate sceptics by the pro-climate changers.

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The belief that the planet is on course for carbon Armageddon is now embedded in Western politics much the same way as post modernist theory supplanted criticism in the humanities in the 1980s. What good is a fact when you’ve got a fantastic opinion? My opinion is as good as yours and I have the YouTube videos to support it. Really?

Such irrationality, intolerance and indeed, bigotry runs counter to the cardinal tenets of a free society based on reason and the toleration of dissent.

When Socrates explained that he was the wisest man in Athens because he knew he was ignorant, he pointed to a need for understanding that one’s ignorance was the point of departure for a rigorous search for the truth. It was not a conclusion or an end in itself.

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About the Author

Malcolm King works in generational workforce change. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University. He also runs a professional writing business called Republic.

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