Global Warming

Politically, global warming and climate change have little if anything to do with climate science, and the fact that this subject has become such an overwhelming political issue is a fine testament to how poorly the world understands the legitimate functions of government, and why those functions are legitimate.

Indeed, it turns out that the whole anthropogenic global warming (AGW) position can be easily defused without any reference to science at all, because the error, at root, is epistemological.

The truth about global warming which many don’t want to hear is that it’s become so polarized only because it’s turned political. The essentials of the subject have thereby been swallowed up in a murky ocean of misinformation, equivocation, and propaganda.

Let us start by defining terms:

Statism is concentrated state authority; it refers to a government that believes it has legitimate power to any extent over individual rights and freedom of trade.

Opposition to laissez-faire capitalism derives in part from ethics, but even more fundamentally from the science of epistemology.

Ethically the fundamental political question is this: are humans free by nature?

The answer to that depends upon the answer to an even deeper question: why (if at all) are humans free by nature?

And the answer to that is epistemologic.

The human brain – to address the latter query first – is individuated and rational by nature; because of this, man by nature possesses the faculty of choice.

Rationality is choice.

And choice presupposes the freedom to choose. This is the locus of the inseparable, indivisible link between reason and rights. Ultimately it is only the individual who can exercise the power of volition, or not. Government bureaus cannot. The state cannot. The collective cannot. Only the individuals who make up these entities.

If humans did not possess the faculty of choice, humans would be neither moral nor immoral but amoral, just as animals for this very reason are amoral.

But human action is chosen.

This, then, is what finally gives rise to the fact of human freedom as an epistemological necessity.

It’s also what it means to say that humans are free by nature: we are born with a cognitive faculty that gives us the power of choice; since this faculty is the primary method by which we thrive and keep ourselves alive, we must (therefore) be left free to exercise that faculty — and leave others likewise free.

This is a form of contractarianism.

Please note that this is not just some esoteric theory on how human freedom could conceivably be defended: the rights of each individual are demonstrably rooted in man’s cognitive quiddity – and for this precise reason, human freedom without an accurate and thorough understanding of man’s epistemologic nature can never be fully understood.
Or defended.

In the words of Samuel Adams:

“Rights are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature.”

And Claude Fredrich Bastiat:

“For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties? … Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor, and by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources.”

It is precisely the lack of epistemological grounding that has made rights and therefore human freedom vulnerable throughout all of history.

The evolution of the human brain created rights; it happened at the exact moment when this same evolution created a rational animal called a human being – which is to say, when nature created the capacity of free will.

Philosophy, then, being the most general science, unifies facts from all disciplines into an indivisible whole.

Thus, without proper philosophical underpinnings, scientific facts, no matter how airtight they are, remain unincorporated.

It is this point that provides us with the real and final connection between global warming and individual rights; for the provenance of rights, including private property rights and the freedom to trade that property, is found ultimately in man’s freedom of will, and it is only statist politics – also known as coercive government – that can with impunity negate the individual’s natural rights.

It does so through force, either directly (as in physical expropriation or imprisonment), or indirectly (as in compulsory taxation or fines).

The statist politics that the AGW position explicitly calls for are in this way antithetical to the methods by which the human brain and the human species properly functions and flourishes.

That is the fundamental argument against statism, in any of its multifarious guises. It is a foolproof argument, and it is the first and strongest line of defense: because each and every individual is free by nature, we are free to, in Adam Smith’s words, “truck, barter, and exchange.”

But there’s much more to it than this.

It must first of all never be forgotten that the philosophy of science is only a species of philosophy proper.

This has crucial ramifications.

Science is the systematic gathering of data through observation and reason.

Science is built upon knowledge, and knowledge is built upon reason.

Reason derives from the nature of the human mind, for man is the rational animal.

Epistemology – one of the two main branches of philosophy – is the science of knowledge.
Epistemology, therefore, studies the nature of reason.

In this way, all science is hierarchically dependent upon epistemology.

In the realm of human conviction, there exists at any given time only three primary alternatives: possible, probable, and certain.

Possible is when some evidence exists, but not much.

Probable is when a lot of evidence exists, but not all.

Certain is when the evidence is so overwhelming that no other conclusion is possible.

Obviously, then, what constitutes possible, probable, or certain is the amount of evidence and the context of knowledge within which that evidence is found.

To conclude certain, or even “over 99 percent certain,” to quote James Hansen of NASA, requires a sufficient knowledge of all relevant data and all potentially relevant data.

This is as true in a scientific laboratory as it is in a court of law.

It means that nothing – the complexity of clouds, for instance, or aerosols, deep ocean currents, cosmic rays, sun spots, et cetera – nothing is poorly understood, or insufficiently understood.

It means that the science has culminated to such a degree that our knowledge of it is complete or near-complete – so much so, at any rate, that there is essentially very little left to learn.

It means that because the evidence is so great, the conclusion admits no doubt.

It means, moreover, that the data-gathering process is not biased or influenced in any way by anything extracurricular, like activism.

Such is the nature of certainty.

From an epistemological standpoint, certainty means absolute.

And yet it’s many of these same AGW scientists who, today, under the insidious influence of postmodernism, assure us that there are no absolutes in science – “science doesn’t deal in truth, but only likelihood,” to quote another NASA scientist, Gavin Schmidt.

Truth is only relative, you see.

Quantum physics and thermodynamics have “proven” that the only certainty is that nothing is certain; definitions are purely a question of semantics; a unified philosophy is “circular reasoning” (or, at best, “system-building”); all moral law and all social law is subjective and unprovable.

The mind, in short, cannot know anything for certain. Yet AGW is virtually certain.
These are all epistemological assertions.

Syllogistically, the entire anthropogenic global warming position can be recapitulated in this way:

Global warming is man-made. Man is ruled by governments. Therefore, government bureaus, centralized planning committees, and more laws are the only solution.

In philosophy, this is called a non-sequitur.

It does not follow.

It’s far too hasty.

Please read Chapter 15 of my book to find out why.

14 Comments

  • Paul Lindquist

    January 10, 2010

    Ray –

    Did Walter Williams write that for you?

  • J Diverdi

    January 11, 2010

    I came to this article from the Blackboard, which I like because it’s balanced, unlike this website. I lurk on climate blogs and don’t typically comment, but the author of this post Ray Harvey is truly an ankle-grabber, one of the best I’ve seen, and I’ve seen plenty. Ray are you an adman of all things bloated and foul? I don’t get what you are saying here. I like abstract thinking as much as the next guy, but if this article was some sort of threat it was over my head.

  • Ray

    January 11, 2010

    J Diverdi wrote: > Ray Harvey is truly an ankle-grabber, one of the best I’ve seen, and I’ve seen plenty.

    I bet you have.

  • Dale

    January 11, 2010

    I think J Diverdi completely misses the point of the article. The Chicken Little global warming hysteria isn’t about climate science; it is about increasing taxes, government spending, and government power. The article discusses the politics and philosophy of global warming alarmists. It could just as easily been named after numerous other phony crises created by elitists so they can grab power, raise taxes, and increase the power of government: the “housing crisis”, the “banking crisis”, the “auto company crisis”, the “health care crisis”, etc.

    What they all have in common is liberal action, in the guise of some high moral cause, that disrupts the normal ebb and flow of free markets, and is then used as an excuse to tax and spend. Ray, maybe you should have explained it in more general terms, so some AGW-obsessive could understand that global warming is just one more phony crisis created by liberals for liberals and their Marxist agenda.

  • Kenneth Myers

    January 13, 2010

    Ray and Dale —

    Nice try but you might as well not even bother attempting to reason it out with these true believers.
    Unless you like beating your head against a wall.

  • EJ

    January 22, 2010

    “It does so through force, ” Remember folks, every stupid law we pass is ultimately enforced at the point of a gun!

    Quantum physics and thermodynamics have “proven” that ‘wrt thermo., there are three laws.’ You too seem to be asserting a law here. Please explain.

    That physics is thrown to the curb bothers me. But I think I understand.

    The thing is, the physical sciences don’t show or predict unusual warming due to increased CO2.

    And that we are trying to limit the gas of life should force us into Orwell’s 1984.

    It’s taken me a week to read this post, and I am not finished. My reply was in few minutes.

    If I have drank tea for the last 40 years, does that make me a tea bagger?

    EJ

  • EJ

    January 22, 2010

    I wrote this:

    Obama said carbon was polluting the waters we drink and the air we breathe.

    Boxer said yesterday that challenging the EPA finding of CO2 is a pollutant was a:

    “unprecedented move to overturn a health finding by health experts and scientific experts in order to stand with the special interests” that carbon dioxide is a pollutant.

    If we banned carbon dioxide, the pollutant of which they speak, life on earth would cease.

    Living a human life will now be a pollutant to the planet and subject to regulation.

    Since we pay for your health care, we get to play insurance company. We get to further regulate your life.

    You must know, it isn’t about you anymore. It is now about us, and we get to vote.

    EJ

  • Ray

    January 22, 2010

    Hear, hear.

  • Dale

    January 28, 2010

    Kenneth, you hit the nail on the head. The global warming alarmists are “true believers”, not reasonable scientists or skeptics.

    You know, there’s another common molecule that is a “greenhouse gas” when in vaporous form that has dramatic impact on local and global temperatures, weather and climate: H20. I guess that makes water a pollutant as well. LOL

  • Dave Barbagallo

    March 7, 2010

    What a stream of unmitigated nonsense. You’ve smoked too much pot, dude.

    Forget about AGW for now. Think about roads.

    Man driving on roads causes potholes. Man is controlled by Governments. But who fixes potholes? Governments.

    Oh no, I just blew my mind.

  • Gale Combs

    March 7, 2010

    Very well said. If you Google the Copenhagen “Denmark Papers” you will see the bankers, (World Bank) had their finger prints all over the carbon credit con game. The bankers have been ripping off everyone for years and this is just another one of their games.

    In the USA, for the past 100 years, the Democrats and other Congress critters in collusion with the banking families are busy transferring over 50% of the wealth (labor) of each person to the banks and banking families. The USA, Canada, Australia, and the EU are all just feudal states run by the banking families. They allow us the illusion of freedom while stealing the wealth generated by our labor. It is done in such a way that we are completely unaware of what is really happening.

    What am I talking about?

    Thanks to the 1913 Federal Reserve Act legalizing the “Fractional Reserve System” banks are “licensed” to “counterfeit” a certain percentage of money. The percentage has gradually increased over the years so now when a bank “loans” out money 100% of it is newly created counterfeit money that is traded to you in return for your labor or property. The bank makes an entry on a ledger and the “money” magically appears.

    “…Since 1960, banks have been allowed to use this “vault cash” to satisfy their reserve requirements. Today, bank reserve requirements have fallen to the point where they are now exceeded by vault cash, which means lowering reserve requirements to zero would have virtually no impact on the banking system. US banks are already operating free of any reserve constraints. The graph below shows reserve requirements falling to zero over the last fifty years…” http://www.marketskeptics.com/2009/03/us-banks-operate-without-reserve.html

    Thanks to Congress ignoring any fiscal responsibility and their “borrowing” “counterfeit” money from the privately owned Federal Reserve Banks, all your tax dollars (labor) goes to the banks.
    “The Grace Commission report notes that 100% of personal income tax goes to pay interest on the national debt, the lion’s share of which goes to the banking cartel that we know as the Federal Reserve.” http://www.bloggernews.net/17032

    Not satisfied with ripping off individuals the banks, thanks to new laws passed in the eighties, targeted well run profitable corporations for further rip offs.
    “…Mergers, acquisitions and L.B.O.’s, which had accounted for less than 5 percent of the profits of Wall Street brokerage houses in 1978, ballooned into an estimated 50 percent of profits by 1988… THROUGH ALL THIS, THE HISTORIC RELATIONSHIP between product and paper has been turned upside down. Investment bankers no longer think of themselves as working for the corporations with which they do business. These days, corporations seem to exist for the investment bankers…. In fact, investment banks are replacing the publicly held industrial corporations as the largest and most powerful economic institutions in America….” January 29, 1989 http://www.nytimes.com/1989/01/29/magazine/leveraged-buyouts-american-pays-the-price.html?sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all New York Times

    “…An analysis of the 2007 financial markets of 48 countries shows the world’s finances are in the hands of a few mutual funds, banks, and corporations. This is the first report of global concentration of financial power…” http://www.insidescience.org/research/study_says_world_s_stocks_controlled_by_select_few

    FOLLOW THE MONEY, you will be really surprised at what you find.

  • Ray

    March 7, 2010

    Dave Barbagallo, I congratulate you for blowing your mind with the most hackneyed leftist line in the book. Let me guess what’s next: fire departments, schools, and post offices, none of which the free market can handle, yes?

    Click-click

    Click-click

    Click-click

    Click-click

    Click-click

    Click-click

  • Dale

    March 7, 2010

    Leave it to the liberal to state his goal: “man is controlled by government”. That is what your liberal heroes strive for: to control us rather than protect our freedoms. Now their true colors are obvious to all but the most zealous lovers of liberal totalitarianism, and the targets of their oppression have awakened and are fighting back. Let’s see how your naked emperor fares this November, jackass.

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