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March 05th 2016 print

Steven Kates

The Indispensable Roger Scruton

The academic left and its idiocies pollute our intellectual environment, their near-unreadable nonsense restricting debate to the ever-censored essence of politically correct pedantry, as a genuinely great mind explains in an invaluable new book, 'Fools, Frauds and Firebrands'

Fools, Frauds and Firebrands
by Roger Scruton
Bloomsbury, 2015, 304 pages, $35

scruton bookYou should read this book. No one else will tell you this, so I will. There has hardly been a more important book published over the past twelve months. If you sincerely wish to understand the times in which you live, there is no book like it. In describing it I will not be able to do it justice, since it provides a complex outline of the intellectual world that continues to promote the ideas of the Left, as inane and destructive as they are. But if you are to understand where these ideas come from, and why they continue to persist, you must read this book. There is no substitute anywhere that I know of. Read it.

The book has a specific purpose. It is to provide a way of escape to students who are caught up in various versions of a modern humanities course, where they are fed an endless mind-numbing postmodernist gruel. The book goes through the various manifestations of the modern Left to explain their idiocies and unravel the Newspeak in which they are encoded. But the book does more. It opens up to those of us who are only vaguely aware of the ways in which the humanities are now taught, our own entry into the depths of a problem most of us are, at best, only dimly aware of.

To use my own education as an example, I am not unaware of the forms of the postmodernism that surround us in the academic world. I meet it in the occasional seminar and come across it in various papers and presentations. Parts of it are almost common core, such as Thomas Kuhn’s notion that science is nothing other than what scientists do, and that the notion of something called “truth” is an entity impossible to discover. But it goes farther, to argue that truth is relative, that there is more than one way to skin an empirical fact. It goes farther still, and argues that even the facts we think we know are merely the product of the ideological world in which we have been raised. And it takes that one extra step to argue that to transcend our own bourgeois outlook, it is necessary to see the world liberated from our own limited backgrounds and instead, see things through the lens of Marxist thought.

Fools, Frauds and Firebrands is about the evolution of Marxist ideas in the academic Left. Coming from the economic world as I do, I have read the Marx who wrote Das Kapital and know more than enough to demonstrate that a Marxist economy, indeed any economy run on socialist principles, will provide only misery to a population that is mired in ineradicable poverty. If you are too young to remember the Soviet Union, then look at North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba. But in the academic world the Marx that matters today is not Marx the economist but Marx the social theorist. So even while these writers described by Scruton defend Marx, it is not the economics they defend but an array of ideas whose insanity is matched only by their incoherence. The following is just one of the many summary statements Scruton makes throughout the book that help to bring you closer to the nature of the problem we have in dealing with modern thought:

It is no longer possible to take refuge in the airy speculations that contented Marx. Real thinking is needed if we are to believe that history either tends or ought to tend in a socialist direction. Hence the emergence of socialist historians, who systematically downplay the atrocities committed in the name of socialism, and blame the disasters on the “reactionary” forces that impeded socialism’s advance. Rather than attempting to define the goals of liberation and equality, thinkers of the New Left instead created a mythopoeic narrative of the modern world, in which the wars and genocides were attributed to those who have resisted the righteous “struggle” for social justice. History was rewritten as a conflict between good and evil, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. And, however nuanced and embellished by its many brilliant exponents, this Manichean vision remains with us, enshrined in the school curriculum and in the media.

The phrase, “its many brilliant exponents”, highlights the one downside to the book, which is Scruton’s insistence on giving the devil his due. Since the book is addressed to those who are being taught their postmodernism within the academic world, Scruton often discusses how well the various arguments are constructed and how difficult they are to resist unless both sides are presented in as clear and fair-minded a way as possible. Although such asides did occasionally stop me mid-sentence (and in fact I agree with him about how interesting many of these arguments are), there is never any doubt that Scruton sees all of it as forms of idiocy, as this example shows, literally picked at random from a book filled with other statements just as sharp:

In a singularly repulsive essay on “Revolutionary Terror”, Žižek praises the “humanist terror” of Robespierre and St Just (as opposed to the “anti-humanist, or rather inhuman” terror of the Nazis), not because it was in any way kind to its victims, but because it expressed the enthusiasm, the “utopian expositions of political imagination” of its perpetrators. No matter that the terror led to the imprisonment of half a million innocent people, and the deaths of as many more. The statistics are irrelevant, waved away by Lacan’s wand, reduced to the square root of minus one—a purely imaginary number. What is relevant is the way in which, through speeches that Žižek would recognize to be self-vaunting bombast did his critical faculties not desert him in the face of a revolutionary hero, Robespierre “redeemed the virtual content of terror from its actualisation”.

In this way, for Žižek, thought cancels reality, when the thought is “on the left”.

Even if you know Žižek’s name, you are unlikely to know much about what he writes, nor how he fits into the canon of the modern Left, nor why Scruton characterises his writings as “mad incantations”. This is the singularly important service that Scruton provides. He knows these authors, has read them to exhaustion, and can explain them to you in a way you will understand. What he also does is make clear why you too should make the effort to understand them, so that you too can appreciate and assess the damage they have done to modern thought and social cohesion. Scruton explains why everything you know, believe and understand about the world can be instantly dismissed by these people through the revolutionary perspective of Grand Theory. And here we are discussing nearly every one of the major philosophical thinkers of the modern age: Hobsbawm, Thompson, Dworkin, Sartre, Foucault, Habermas, Althusser, Lacan, Deleuze, Gramsci, Said, Badiou, Žižek and many others still who do not make it into chapter titles.

scruton mugUnless you are a specialist in postmodernist philosophy, you will know next to nothing about most of them. Yet these are not just the major authors who people the reading lists of courses in Cultural Studies, but it is their views that underpin the content of the media and political discourse across the West. These people may be as loopy as it is possible to be, and their works near-unreadable nonsense, but they inform our debates and are the essence of politically correct discourse. You cannot avoid any of it. What Scruton (right) offers in Fools, Frauds and Firebrands is an opportunity to find out for yourself what passes for modern thought, provided in a way that you will understand not just their content, not just their dangers, but also their incredible idiocy. This is where one of the most crucially important battles of our time is being fought, and unless you understand what is taking place, you will be unable to do a thing. That is why you should read this book. If nothing else, you will understand the nature of the icebergs that have ripped through the hull of the cultural ship of the West and why it may soon sink into oblivion.

But all is not lost, as the publication of Fools, Frauds and Firebrands itself shows. There is no final necessity that our great civilisation must be sabotaged by the academic swamp fever and empty rhetoric of Grand Theory. We can fight back, and as part of this endeavour, let me discuss a few absolutes of our own which may be applied as needed. In my view, these should become our own fundamental premises as a means to identify the insane and absurd.

Capitalism is the only economic system that works. Nothing is perfect and our societies are constantly trying to improve the material wellbeing of our citizens. But as an absolute no-questions-asked truth, capitalism is the only kind of economic system that allows prosperity to spread and grow, never mind that it is the only economic system consistent with personal freedom. We must accept no other conclusion. If someone is “anti-capitalist”, then not only should they be seen as ignorant to a fantastic degree, but also as an enemy of prosperity, individual fulfilment and personal freedom. The postmodern world is united in its spread of anti-capitalist vitriol. Anyone who therefore travels under the banner of an anti-capitalist banner has nothing to contribute to an understanding of the world. They should not just be ignored, but what they say or write should be seen as contrary to human wellbeing and happiness.

Marxist economic theory is perniciously wrong. Anyone who invokes Karl Marx as an authority on anything of significance must be recognised as a charlatan. Das Kapital’s economic analysis, dependent on the labour theory of value to explain the exploitation of the working class, is as ridiculous a premise in the twenty-first century as it is possible to find. The “immiseration of the working class under capitalism” is a notion so thoroughly discredited, not just in theory but by the amazing growth in personal prosperity since the start of the nineteenth century, that you have to wonder how anyone can any longer mention Marx with honest intent. Worrying that rising incomes are being used to finance useless trifles is a problem no one ever feels they would like to see solved in their own personal lives.

The Marxist theory of ideology is junk science. What remains of Marxism is the notion that our beliefs are entirely conditioned by our interests. We believe only what it is in our interests to believe. And then because it was clear even to Marxists that people believe all kinds of things that have nothing to do with their interests—that are often even contrary to those interests objectively stated—we ended up with the notion of “false consciousness”. So then we might believe what it is not in our interests to believe, but instead believe the kinds of things our “oppressors” prefer us to believe, such as that private property makes us more economically secure not to mention helping to preserve our personal freedoms. Anyone who therefore peddles any version of Marxist ideology, especially if they also argue that they are able to see past our bourgeois perspectives and directly access the truth we cannot see for ourselves, should be seen as self-deluded fools.

Revolution is never the answer to our economic, political or social problems. Preaching “revolution” in the open societies of the West is a certain sign that someone is a crackpot. This is the form in which modern nihilism travels. It is one thing to identify a problem and propose a solution. This is how we in the West have managed in piecemeal fashion to improve our social and material lives in a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of way since the end of the eighteenth century. There are political solutions for every sort of problem, which involve identification of something as in need of remedy followed by agitation and discussion with ultimate resolution. Our modern revolutionaries instead believe that the societies we have built are beyond redemption and need to be swept away in a form of armed insurrection. They none of them have any idea what ought to replace the world they would destroy, but they could not care less. These people are worm-eaten to the core, despicable and vile, filled with hatreds and misery. They should not just be ignored, but shunned. They have nothing to contribute to modern discourse. The moment someone suggests a revolutionary answer to our social, economic and political problems, they should be identified as a dangerous fool with no useful contribution to make to any aspect of modern debate.

No one in a free society is “oppressed”. Not every­one’s lives work out as they would like and we are each born into different circumstances which give us divergent possibilities in life. Poor people enjoy having children who are then, of necessity, the children of poor parents. Some people have personal characteristics that allow them to succeed in the face of adversity while others do not. We all must contribute to society in our own ways as best we can, and some ways will be less remunerative or bring us less fame and esteem. To argue that some class of individuals is “oppressed” may be useful as a political tactic, but it is representative of no category of individuals in the West. Identity politics now continues to stoke group resentments that create tensions that have little objective reality. Dividing our citizens into the oppressors and the oppressed is a tactic designed to breed resentment, but is utterly empty in the society in which we live. Peddlers of group oppression may make careers for themselves by breeding such discontent, but almost never improve anyone’s lives but their own.

So where are we? Fools, Frauds and Firebrands is a book too content-rich to summarise. It is one of the indispensable books of our time that will, given the nature of things, be read by only a small number of people. But if you are the kind of person who reads this kind of review in this kind of publication, then you are one of the people who should read this book. There are issues the book ignores, and I don’t agree with everything Scruton says, but where we differ is of no moment. This is from the concluding chapter and captures what has gone before:

Why is it after a century of socialist disasters, and an intellectual legacy that has been time and again exploded, the left-wing position remains, as it were, the default position to which thinking people gravitate when called upon for a comprehensive philosophy? Why are “right-wingers” marginalised in the educational system, denounced in the media and regarded by our political class as untouchable, fit only to clean up after the orgies of luxurious nonsense indulged in by their moral superiors?

We live in dangerous times in no small part because of the academic idiocies that pollute our intellectual environment. This book will not tell us what to do, but it will help us understand the problems we face and in this way it makes an important contribution to thinking through what needs to be done.

Steven Kates is Associate Professor in the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT University in Melbourne.

 

Comments [25]

  1. Lawrie Ayres says:

    Being a plebian and mixing with other plebs convinces me that education seldom equates with intelligence. Educated idiots abound in Public Service and, shamefully, in politics. The curbing of free speech is but one way the educated elite prevent the intelligent rabble from finding the truth and then expressing it. The favourite leftist causes all rely on stifling debate in order to succeed; global warming (not), gay marriage, and recognition. Fortunately the latter two will be subject to plebiscite/referendum where the great unwashed are likely to upset the PC crowd not through ignorance nor a lack of compassion but realising the divisiveness incorporated in the demand for change.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      The favourite leftist causes all rely on stifling debate in order to succeed; global warming (not)…

      What you are saying is that the ‘Left’ (and anyone who supports mainstream climatology is automatically in that nefarious category?) can never be right: on anything.
      So politics, history etc all become easy. Find out what The Left endorses, and then steer directly away from it.
      Mao had a dictum: “Oppose what the enemy supports; support what the enemy opposes.”
      “Plebian’ or otherwise, I’d say that’s about enough to make you a closet Maoist.
      Footnote: The present rate of sea level rise indicates with approx. zero (0) level of uncertainty that the Earth is warming. Yes it is. ‘Not’ is wrong.

      GMSL Rates
      CU: 3.3 ± 0.4 mm/yr
      AVISO: 3.3 ± 0.6 mm/yr
      CSIRO: 3.3 ± 0.4 mm/yr
      NASA GSFC: 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/yr
      NOAA: 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/yr (w/ GIA)
      (http://sealevel.colorado.edu/)

      • Bill Martin says:

        Ian, “mainstream climatology” happens to be junk science extraordinaire. And yes, the overwhelming majority of those who fail to see that are pretty much wrong on most everything else as well. No offence intended.

        • Ian MacDougall says:

          Bill:
          So you say: “the world’s ocean is NOT RISING! NOT RISING I TELL YOU! NOT RISING!!!!
          But it is.
          (h/t Galileo Galilei.)

          • ianl says:

            Sea levels when corrected for isostacy and eustacy (as best we can) are rising almost imperceptibly in some regions and falling equally slowly in other regions. And it has been ever thus on this dynamic planet. No amount of Cook/Lewanclownsky 97% rhubarb will alter this fact, nor demonstrate it is all down to anthropogenic CO2

            Billy the Kid (aka William the Conqueror) landed in 1066 (and all that, to borrow shamelessly from British satiric comedy) and disboarded his army over 50km inland from the current shoreline. This is indisputable historical fact, with national heritage survey markers in place. Do we think this drop in sea level since 1066 is due to no coal-fired power stations until about 1950 ? But the imperceptible, piecemeal rise in some regions is ?

            As Steve Kates has described here, the leftoid answer is to deconstruct the facts into artefacts which may then be construed in any manner suited to whatever notion one wishes to promote

            Oh well …

          • Alice Thermopolis says:

            Bill

            With humankind struggling to deal with more immediate problems, it would not surprise if ‘combating climate change’ descends further down the list of public concerns, however fast – or slow – sea-levels may be rising.

            Odd, is it not, that countries – most of whom cannot even control their borders, population size and composition, rate of economic growth, etc, – persist in promoting the notion that collectively they can control the planet’s climate, and presumably engineer Goldilocks weather everywhere?

            Melanie Phillips: http://www.thegwpf.com/melanie-phillips-science-is-turning-back-to-the-dark-ages/

            “Man-made global warming theory has been propped up by studies that many scientists have dismissed as methodologically flawed, ideologically bent or even fraudulent. The problem of scientific integrity, however, goes far wider. Psychology, neuroscience, physics and other scientific areas have been convulsed by revelations of dodgy research.

            Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, has written bleakly: “The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.”

            One reason is that cash-strapped universities, competing for money and talent, exert huge pressure on academics to publish more and more to meet the box-ticking criteria set by grant-funding bodies. Corners are being cut and mistakes being made.”

          • Bill Martin says:

            No Ian, I simply say and repeat that, “mainstream climatology” happens to be junk science extraordinaire.

  2. Bill Martin says:

    First things first: Steven Kates has just sold me a copy of Roger Scruton’s book.

    Second, what nobody ever seems to mention is the universal appeal of goodness, kindness, concern for the needy and all the rest of such noble thoughts and emotions. These provide such firm basis for Leftist Ideology. Who would argue against compassion for our fellow humans, for flora and fauna, for the environment, for planet Earth? No doubt many who espouse such commendable notions are genuine people, firmly believing that the end result of their endeavours trump everything and worth any sacrifice along the way. These good folk constitute the vast armies of “useful idiots”, attending demonstrations, carrying placards and chanting slogans. Some of them are in the very high ranks of the “progressive” camp but the great bulk are just cannon fodder. The evil of the left is embodied by those in its high echelons who utilise the humanitarian appeal of the ideology to advance the true aim of destroying civilisation with all its meticulously constructed culture and institutions and replace it with an omnipotent world government, constituted of the Elite Left, to control and regulate every minute detail of life according to the Grand Design. For the the benefit of all mankind, of course.

    • Jody says:

      I’d have to agree with most of this – it’s called “Communism”. Seduce the people with a utopian philosophy that is based on a 360 degree change in the way the world works…then go read Orwell!!! (Fortunately I taught it to year 10 so some of them may be alert, unlike the latter day apparatchiks of marxism.)

  3. Patrick McCauley says:

    If you read all the Best Australian Plays, Poems, Essays and Novels of 2015 …. you would think you lived in another country..something similar to their ABC .. the films too .. all based in a left wing dream. I’ve got $35 for Roger Scruton to brief me on the origins of this dreadful orthodoxy Thanks SK.

  4. Ian MacDougall says:

    On the strength of this, I conclude that I must buy Scruton’s book. However, he is by no means the first to attack the modern intellectual fraud that is PostModernism (Postmodernism, Pomo, PoMo… take your pick.)
    That has been done from the left, and nowhere better than by the late Bob Gould, and many times over by others. Ophelia Benson in her books Why Truth Matters and The Dictionary of Fashionable Nonsense and on her blog Butterflies and Wheels ; also by others including the eminent scientist Richard Dawkins (Postmodernism Disrobed)

    In my own university days, it struck me that academic posturing and pretentiousness were rather obvious in certain quarters. This was nowhere more so that as seen in the habit displayed by senior students and junior staff in the Psychology Department of walking around on the campus in white lab coats. They were clearly staking a claim as ‘scientists’, and they capped it all off by talking an incomprehensible behaviourist jargon (behaviourism marvellously demolished by Arthur Koestler in his book The Ghost in the Machine ).
    The babble of PoMo hoists its hopeful user up on the same platform as the nuclear physicist and higher mathematician. Well, in theory, anyway.
    But PoMo has taken over in university humanities departments like the 13thC Black Plague, destroying in the process the university experience of many young people, who clearly deserve better. And at great cost to future generations.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ghost_in_the_Machine
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ophelia_Benson
    http://www.physics.nyu.edu/sokal/dawkins.html
    https://www.marxists.org/archive/gould/1999/ghassanhage.htm
    https://www.marxists.org/archive/gould/index.htm

  5. Mayan says:

    “… reduced to the square root of minus one—a purely imaginary number …”

    As someone who has studied maths and engineering to a graduate level, although the square root of -1 is called imaginary, it is in fact an entirely logical answer to the question of sqrt(-1), and it underpins much practical mathematics. Digital signal processing, responsible for wonders such as the modern internet and digital television, is but one facet of modern life that depends upon it.

    Although Scruton is right about the follies of the left, the inability of people to understand basic mathematical concepts sickens me. Don’t dis maths!

    Just my two cents worth as a mathematically savvy woman in despair over her mathematically impaired culture.

  6. Ian MacDougall says:

    Alice Thermopolis
    Followed your link to Melanie Philips.
    I am surprised that she did not roll out the most powerful climate ‘sceptic’ argument of all: human-generated global warming cannot possibly be happening, because if it was, it would be bad for established business. End of story.

    Odd, is it not, that countries – most of whom cannot even control their borders, population size and composition, rate of economic growth, etc, – persist in promoting the notion that collectively they can control the planet’s climate, and presumably engineer Goldilocks weather everywhere?

    The present rate of ~3.3 mm/yr is 3.3cm per decade; and 33 cm per century. That would have been noticeable over recent historic time (say since Cook’s voyage in 1777, which means that it is likely more recent. As a global human population, and working through institutions like the UN, we can zero in on a probable cause, and then choose what sort of action to take, if any at all. And as we will have to move away from fossil fuels in the next 200 years or so anyway, (they are finite and running out) and as renewables are already competitive despite efforts of fossil fuel interests and the politicians in their camp to torpedo further research, the rest as I see it is pretty much a lay-down misere.

    • Bill Martin says:

      Ian, please take a note of these facts, they are not the result of climate modelling or speculation. They are records of past weather and related events over thousands of years, not disputed by either climate “alarmists” or climate “sceptics”.

      There were times when atmospheric CO2 was considerably higher and lower then now and temperatures were also higher and lower, the correlation between the two is fuzzy. The only universally accepted correlation is that CO2 levels rise following the increase of the temperature of the oceans and the lag is many hundreds of years. That alone should put paid to the notion that increase in CO2 levels have any significant effect on the temperature of the planet, except in tortured computer models.

      Of course CO2 and other greenhouse gases trap a certain level of heat that would otherwise escape into space. That is known and accepted by all and sundry. And just as well, for without that only some very primitive life forms could possibly exist. What the “sceptics” maintain is that it would take an exponential increase of those gases to cause an appreciable increase in the temperature and only computer modelling indicates otherwise, not empirical observation.

      By the way, the rate of sea level rise, (your favourite hobby horse) if any, is so extremely slow that mitigating for it as necessary is unlikely ever to be a serious problem. The vital issue is CO2 and temperature, everything else is auxiliary.

      • Rob Brighton says:

        The delay between oceanic temperature rise and increasing CO2 rise is feedback is it not Bill? One the key supporting structures of the theory? Anyways I am not in any position to argue it, I don’t know enough to hold a properly informed opinion.

        I spent days, weeks, months trying to understand AGW, In the end I had to decide if I am smart enough. I am not and thats OK.

        Stupidly unscientific appeals to consensus, lies about polar bears and dopy actors lecturing before flying off in their personal jets all lead to a logical position of distrust.

        I just struggle with the idea that thousands of scientists and 10′s of thousands of others are all committed to some sort of new world order conspiracy to control us (or pick your basis of disbelief yourself), this as a underlying reason of why all of these people would be lying to us seems like tinfoil hat material.

        Especially as there is a sparkling career with wealth and fame is there for any scientist to bangs the stake into the heart of AGW.

        Yes there are the chancers and rent seekers but the existence of one does not deny the reality of the other.

        • Alice Thermopolis says:

          Rob

          I struggle too, even down to level of integrity of data-sets and world’s surface being divided into 65,000 one-degree squares, each of which has a bunch of numbers in it, both factual and fictional, over time and space, and so on.

          Last year southern Australia had its coldest winter in over quarter of century, with snow in Hobart for first time since 1986, and Antarctic sea-ice at record levels, 8+% above LT average.

          http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/updates/articles/a012-winter-2015.shtml

          “For some it was on the cool side. Victorians shivered through a mean temperature (the average of the maximum and minimum) of just 8.3 °C; the coldest since the last big El Niño year of 1997. Melbournians had the coldest winter in nearly 30 years (1989) and the coldest night in nearly 20 years. Tasmania had its coldest winter in nearly 50 years with a State mean temperature of just 5.8 °C (Table 1).”

          BOM, bless it, then puts a ‘warming spin’ on the above, by averaging – and/or homogenising – the data across the entire country. Good try, guys, but there was still snow down to sea-level at Clifton Beach near Hobart last year.

          As they say, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. And no-one lives in a region of ‘average’ global temperature.

          Also more snow, incidentally, in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, last year since measurements began 35 years ago. And so on and so forth.

          What happened to global surface temperatures in calendar 2015? Watch this 5 minute video by GWPF’s Dr David Whitehouse:
          http://www.thegwpf.com/after-el-nino-will-the-global-warming-pause-continue/

          El Ninos are (unpredictable) weather – not climate – events. Climate currently defined as average weather over a 30- year period by WMO.

          So note the delicious irony. Last year winter clearly colder than average in zone below 50 degrees south latitude. Yet planet statistically ‘warmer ‘ – solely due to a puzzling ocean hot-spot known as the Pacific BLOB, which is ‘natural variability’ and not a consequence of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions.

          If you haven’t seen it, also check out Nobel laureate Ivar Giaever’s 25-minute speech at the Nobel Laureates meeting 1st July 2015. “Ivar points out mistakes Obama makes in his speeches about global warming, shares other not-well known facts about the climate.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCy_UOjEir0

  7. Jody says:

    As an additional comment, generally, about all these issues it is worth repeating that the ‘useful idiots’ and their proselytizers in universities, schools, the media and the human rights industry are all mostly sheltered from life’s REAL vagaries under the collectivist taxpayer-funded paternity.

    Unlike ourselves – and now my eldest son, who has started a very demanding and competitive business – they don’t have to deal with sharks and spivs every single day in the business world who would sell their own mothers to make a buck and who couldn’t be trusted about anything for a mega second, least of all their word. Then there is the elephant in the room – the legions who don’t pay their bills, leaving you high and dry without cash to continue running your own business and left wondering from where your next dollar is coming. I know that my son’s very very long working day will involve, at least once, dealing with somebody or some organization most good people wouldn’t go near to save their own lives. And from a slight distance these would be known as ‘successful business people’. They are merely a cross section of humanity, no more and no less.

    Despite all its grief, I’d much rather inhabit the REAL world – and so would my over-worked son who, like ourselves, is totally contemptuous of intellectually and physically lazy people who want to force us allk to live in a collectivist, ideologically repressive cone of silence.

  8. Ian MacDougall says:

    Bill:

    There were times when atmospheric CO2 was considerably higher and lower then now and temperatures were also higher and lower, the correlation between the two is fuzzy. The only universally accepted correlation is that CO2 levels rise following the increase of the temperature of the oceans and the lag is many hundreds of years.

    Could you tell us how that conclusion is reached, and cite a source for it?

    By the way, the rate of sea level rise, (your favourite hobby horse) if any, is so extremely slow that mitigating for it as necessary is unlikely ever to be a serious problem. The vital issue is CO2 and temperature, everything else is auxiliary.

    I could not disagree more. Temperatures can be easily disputed. And are. If you don’t believe me, just for starters get hold of a copy of Ian Plimer’s Heaven + Earth and see what he has to say (as a leading AGW ‘sceptic’) about heat island effects and their distortion of temperature records. (BTW he disputes every temperature record that does not support his own ‘sceptical’ case.)
    The only reason I emphasise sea level is because it provides the best and least disputable indication of what is going on. The Earth is a gigantic thermometer in its own right, constantly taking its own temperature, and the ‘mercury’ in this thermometer is the ocean.
    Air warmed by the greenhouse effect permeates snowfields and glaciers and directly warms polar and sea ice. That results in glacial and icecap melting, with the runoff water entering the ocean, very slowly raising its level, internal heat content, and thus overall temperature. Ocean rise can only come about by glacial melt, thermal expansion of the sea water, or both. A comet landing in the ocean would also do it. But that has not happened in a long while. Also water as steam massively venting from undersea volcanoes, but that front is also quiet at the moment.
    I have been to Alaska and have been told by local tour guides and others that the glaciers are in rapid retreat, and have seen the evidence firsthand. They are retreating likewise in S America.
    I have racked my brain, but can think of no better possible evidence of global warming. If you have more convincing evidence either way, I would be glad to hear of it.
    I do not see a ‘swamping’ threat from sea level rise in the short term, though some inhabitants of low-lying islands claim there is one. Coastal storms and seas are likely to become gradually and increasingly violent, because of the increased overall energy in the atmosphere. But the climate is well likened to a supertanker fully under way. It changes course and speed very, very slowly.
    We have our climate-control L plates on, and have only the foggiest notion as to how we might control things. And this is the only planet we have, we are all in it together, and we had better not get things wrong. So I don’t set too much store by assurances given by the fossil fuel lobby and other people whose words are, shall we say, likely to be influenced by their own immediate short-term interests.
    It is no random coincidence, in my view, that the politics of the climate ‘sceptics’ is well to the right of the spectrum. Their politics runs their science.

    • ianl says:

      > Could you tell us how that conclusion is reached, and cite a source for it?

      Hard chemical analyses of the Vostok ice cores. The lag between temperature rise and atmospheric CO2 rise means at 800 years.

      Try

      http://icebubbles.ucsd.edu/Publications/CaillonTermIII.pdf

      amongst many peer-reviewed papers

      You may refuse to believe it, but it is established fact – first temperature rises, then close to a millenium later, atmospheric CO2 rises

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        You may refuse to believe it, but it is established fact – first temperature rises, then close to a millenium later, atmospheric CO2 rises

        You are right. I find it hard to believe, because:
        1.The renowned Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius showed about 100 years ago that CO2 was a heat-trapping gas, and postulated a possible greenhouse warming of the Earth.
        2.Right now, the CO2 concentration in the air of both the Earth’s hemispheres and the level of the water in the planet’s on ocean are rising (together). – See below.
        3.The rate of ocean rise, although at only ~3 mm/yr is far too steep for it to have been going on for much of human historic time without having produced changes too obvious to be ignored by port authorities etc. Not to mention historians.
        4.Causes always precede effects, time-wise.

        Fact 1: The Earth’s atmosphere and ocean are warming. (How do we know? Not from thermometers, and temperatures – which can be disputed till the cows come home – but from sea level rise. The world’s ocean is rising at a rate of 3.3 +/- 0.4 mm/yr (http://sealevel.colorado.edu/). In the absence of comet ice bombarding the Earth, this can only be due to thermal expansion of ocean water, glacial melt, or both.
        Fact 2: Human economic activities put heat-trapping (greenhouse) gases into the air, mainly CO2 – carbon dioxide: but also CH4 -methane, N2O – nitrous oxide, O3 – ozone, and sundry others. The CO2 proportion of the air is rising, as measured by the CO2 observatories on Mauna Loa in Hawaii (for the N Hemisphere) and on Cape Grim in Tasmania (for the S Hemisphere.)
        Mauna Loa:
        http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/
        January 2016: 402.52 ppm
        January 2015: 399.96 ppm
        Last updated: February 5, 2016
        Also: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/weekly.html
        Cape Grim: “These measurements indicate a rise in annual average atmospheric CO2 concentrations, from 354.07 parts per million by volume (ppmv) in 1992 to 378.50 ppmv in 2006, or an increase of almost 1.75 ppmv per year, on average.”
        This would indicate that we are out of any geological period in which “first temperature rises, then close to a millenium later, atmospheric CO2 rises.” If you are right, then the hallmark of the Anthropocene is both moving in tandem.

        http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/04/the-lag-between-temp-and-co2/
        http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ice-core-data-help-solve/

    • Bill Martin says:

      It would seem, Ian, that you have developed a phobia regarding CAGW and can’t shake off the anxiety it causes. It is an extremely serious case when even reading Ian Plimer fails to ameliorate the condition.

  9. Alice Thermopolis says:

    It is no “random coincidence” either that folk who want to politicise the debate – as in “their politics runs their science” – generally proceed to the next stage – pathologising ‘climate denialism’.

    Attempts to turn criticism of the climate orthodoxy into a psychological illness tell us more about the researchers than it reveals about the objects of their study, as Ben Pile argues here: http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/13716#.VsMscdA-44A.

    Also amusing in this context, Lee Jussim’s presentation to the Sydney Symposium of Social Psychology last year on a paper by Professor Lewandowsky here: http://quillette.com/2015/12/04/rebellious-scientist-surprising-truth-about-stereotypes/.

    With regard to evidence, check out the US House Committee on Science, Space & Technology hearing on February 2 this year:
    http://yellowhammernews.com/politics-2/alabama-scientist-proves-to-congress-global-warming-projections-dont-match-facts/

    Dr John Christy, Office of State Climatology, University of Alabama, told the hearing that “climate science is a ‘murky’ science”:

    “We do not have laboratory methods of testing our hypotheses as many other sciences do. As a result what passes for science includes opinion, arguments-from-authority, dramatic press releases and fuzzy notions of consensus generated by pre-selected groups. This is not science.”

    QED

    • Bill Martin says:

      Thank you for the links, Alice Thermopolis, even though I did not need any further convincing in the matter. I hope, for his sake, that Ian Ian MacDougall will also checks them out, it might help with is condition.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Dr John Christy, Office of State Climatology, University of Alabama, told the hearing that “climate science is a ‘murky’ science”:
      “We do not have laboratory methods of testing our hypotheses as many other sciences do. As a result what passes for science includes (a) opinion, (b) arguments-from-authority, (c) dramatic press releases and (d) fuzzy notions of consensus generated by pre-selected groups. This is not science.”

      Christy is of course, right. None of the above (a) through to (d) can be called ‘science’. He was talking about the limitations nature itself places on his field. The atmosphere, oceans, the biosphere, and the global human economy are about the most complex systems of any around. But that does not mean we should not study them, or any aspects of them: particularly if they can be shown to affect the conditions for all life on this planet.
      Lots of people have opinions on the global climate system, and where it is heading. But those opinions have to be consistent with facts, the three most important as far as I can see being:
      Fact 1: The Earth’s atmosphere and ocean are warming. (How do we know? Not from thermometers, and temperatures – which can be disputed till the cows come home – but from sea level rise. The world’s ocean is rising at a rate of 3.3 +/- 0.4 mm/yr (http://sealevel.colorado.edu/). In the absence of comet ice bombarding the Earth, this can only be due to thermal expansion of ocean water, glacial melt, or both. Moreover, this cannot have been happening for millenia or even centuries without it having become obvious all over the world. And I mean all over the world.
      Fact 2: Human economic activities put heat-trapping (greenhouse) gases into the air, mainly CO2 – carbon dioxide: but also CH4 -methane, N2O – nitrous oxide, O3 – ozone, and sundry others.
      Fact 3: The CO2 proportion of the air is rising, as measured by the CO2 observatories on Mauna Loa in Hawaii (for the N Hemisphere) and on Cape Grim in Tasmania (for the S Hemisphere.)
      Mauna Loa:
      http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/
      January 2016: 402.52 ppm
      January 2015: 399.96 ppm
      Last updated: February 5, 2016
      Also: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/weekly.html
      Cape Grim: “These measurements indicate a rise in annual average atmospheric CO2 concentrations, from 354.07 parts per million by volume (ppmv) in 1992 to 378.50 ppmv in 2006, or an increase of almost 1.75 ppmv per year, on average.”

      The CO2 part of the atmosphere is steadily on the increase; the atmosphere and ocean are warming (because the ocean is steadily rising), and human economic activity puts CO2 into the air. There is an obvious connection, and as Margaret Thatcher pointed out some years ago, this is an exercise in risk management. Given that the consequences of unchecked global warming would be catastrophic, the responsible course is follow her advice and give the planet the benefit of any (I would add receding) doubt.