Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Six Billion Points of Light

I have been in an ongoing conversation (online) about Global Warming with a friend who has impeccable scientific credentials. He is entirely convinced that CO2 levels are rising. I tend to defer to him regarding the science. He is honest, successful and I have known him most of my life. We agree that facts are facts.  We also agree that:

"No one knows exactly how the climate will change as heat accumulates, or the ocean's food chain evolves as it gets hotter and more acidic." 

Me:   Exactly my point. In geologic time CO2 levels have been much higher in previous epochs. I think it damages science, polity and the ability of humans to dispassionately respond to or examine current conditions when the profiteers demagogue science to enhance their own position, financial or otherwise. Additionally, to claim, as some have said: "We know what needs to be done" in a field that is notoriously inexact (climate) is simply false.

Friend: So, I think we agree on the basics. Although, I'm perhaps more skeptical about how well prepared we are to operate in previous epochs.

Which profiteers do you think demagogue science?

How much more climate science exactness do you want before we assign a price to an assessed risk? Not picking winners. Just letting the free market do its thing.

Previous Epochs:

With regard to previous epochs we know this: We are here (humans) alive and well, the most successful predators in the kingdom, having successfully enslaved all other animals, vegetables, minerals and plants to our (perceived) benefit. We do not operate in previous epochs, we are the result of previous epochs. The debate tends to be about what is to humanity's present and future benefit.

Which Profiteers?.. All of them:

Voltaire & Hayek: Humans are predators who will always work to their own advantage. Humans wish to accumulate power, advantage, wealth, dominance, sex and other worldly goods and services (see Maslow). Humans will always default to the pursuit of their own perceived advantage. The Crisis (any one will do) is always presented as: “We have a “good idea”, give us the power, we know the way, we are the truth and the light, we will fix the problem for you, it may be a little uncomfortable for awhile but trust us.” This inevitably results in the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” the revolutionary committees, the Gulag, the Nazi Death Camps, the Death Committees, Purging the Kulaks, exterminating the Jews, killing the apostate Shia, killing the infidel Christians and so on throughout history.

The 20th century is a testament to the nature of man and it is this proven nature that is the basis of free market capitalism and the US Constitution. The 17th and 18th centuries were equal examples. The Founders wrote the Constitution and intentionally made it very difficult to gain control of the country to enforce a “good idea”. They were informed by the ongoing debates on the nature of man between Rousseau, Voltaire, Hobbes, Locke and others. The Constitution was their solution to “how are we going to get along?” Slow the process down, make it difficult, force conciliation and compromise to defuse the predatory impulses of Man. Professor Robert Crunden used to tell me that the beauty of the US Constitutional system was the difficulty in getting anything done.

Hayek illustrates in The Road to Serfdom and The Fatal Conceit that legal and cultural systems were not someone's “good idea” like Marxism, Communism or Cap and Trade. Cultural systems evolve over tens, hundreds and thousands of years and the data used to guide the evolution is generated in each and every transaction between two or more humans. Law is derived from this evolution of culture and custom. Evolutionary culture is the source, Constitution, Law and family and nation states are results, evolved systems to manage humans. This is why the “Living Constitution” and “judicial activism” are such bad ideas. They are the embodiment of “good ideas, “ and we know where that leads.

It is a simple fact that to implement any “good idea” requires coercion by an authority with power to punish non-compliance and the history of granting this power to anyone to implement their “good idea” is overwhelmingly negative. Hitler's solution to the decline of the German economy and spirit is a case in point. Stalin's answer to low farm production was “collectivization”. Do not think it cannot happen here.

To operate in the free market, however, requires that one satisfy, convince, and fulfill the needs of one's friends, neighbors and other trading partners. Consider the automobile. A solution to a problem, promulgated by Henry Ford and his imitators. No one needed coercion to make people adopt it, even in its earliest and crudest form. It has continued to evolve and should continue to evolve. Experiments should be encouraged not restricted. Mistakes will be made, people may die accidentally, but no one will herd them into concentration camps and starve or exterminate them for the benefit of automotive progress.

The solution to the climate threat is to sell it in the free market. Clean air was an easy sale in California in the '50's and '60's and less so elsewhere where the problem was not as evident. But the idea evolved. Clean water was an easy sale in Cleveland, Ohio when the Cuyahoga River caught fire years ago and the idea has spread across the country, evolving, now considered just “common sense”. The limit on evolutionary culture is the point at which one of these ideas, with its own power to satisfy needs and overcome the free market skepticism of humans, is no longer able to convince its target that further expansion is warranted. The clean air and clean water campaigns are deeply ingrained in our culture now. These are problems that first presented in the late 19th century. It has taken about 125 years to reach this point when some say we need more and some say we need less. There is a point at which a culturally accepted result of this evolutionary process exceeds its bounds.

Who demagogues science? Everyone who stands to benefit from a particular version of current scientific results will work to make that version the only one. That is why scientists should be Scientists and adhere to scientific method. If the information is trustworthy it can be inserted into the culture and will be tested and incorporated.

Scientific Method is designed specifically to remove good science from the field of “good ideas.” Good science is like Truth. It is neither good nor bad, it is just the Truth.

The problem with Climate Change is that the validity of the science has been undermined by the actions of those who stand to gain from its promulgation in the form of grants, jobs, status, trade in carbon credits and other means and methods.

If Science is good and replicable it will express itself in action within the culture. Heart transplants are an example of this.  Solutions that are worked out through the raising of consciousness and myriad transactions based on good science will be integrated into the culture and Law. Not because it is someone's good idea but because the science is convincing, has been tested and accepted into the culture.

When do we "assign a price"? We don't.

If the Science is good, the market will assign the price. If it is a critical problem the market will prioritize the project (remember the Manhattan Project).  Cultures have evolved to recognize true crises.  No one had to manufacture a crisis to mobilize the US after Pearl Harbor or 9/11.

If our impatience with the culture leads us to adopt someone's “good idea” and provide the power of coercion because of the critical nature of the problem, we court doom. This is as much a fact as is the rising atmospheric CO2.

I always thought that Bush the Elder's much lampooned comment about “a thousand points of light” would have been demonstrably accurate about Capitalism and culture if he had said instead “Six billion (data) points of light.”

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