rationalism

Technocrats vs Theocrats

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“We just heard of a brand new way..we’ll have to wait and see if it’s half of what they say.” ~Loverboy, The Kid is Hot Tonight

On a friend of mine’s blog, I often present alternate views to the blog’s author and to many of the people who leave comments.  Predictably my opinions tend to be more conservative than others.  One line of comments was about global warming.  Being a global warming skeptic, I felt it necessary to point out some problems with the current model as it now stands.  The author of the blog asked why I would believe the minority of scientists over the majority’s opinion.

It is a legitimate question and I’ll give only a short answer here because this post is not really global warming. My primary arguments against the global warming model is not so much with the individual scientists that conduct the studies, though several of them have been caught fudging data in order to strengthen the perception that more warming is taking place than is actually occurring.  My main argument is against the alarmists such as Al Gore, who claim warming will lead to imminent catastrophe.  But there are also loopholes in the logic employed by the scientists themselves.

I’ve written articles on global warming, diet and evolution. In most cases my arguments are not the mainstream argument.  I also see some major problems with Psychology as a science.  I could be accused of being anti-intellectual or anti-science.  I don’t believe this is the case.

Essentially, my argument is one of Empiricism vs. Rationalism.  Both views hold legitimate value.  The Empirical view essentially says that human beings are limited in their knowledge because the only knowledge they can truly have is gained through limited senses.  Rationalism says that humans have innate knowledge and can extrapolate facts that are beyond human senses.  It is possible that a person take an empirical view of some phenomena and a rationalist view of others.  For instance, in my view of global warming and the current model of evolution, I am an empirical skeptic.  In the case of God and Christianity I am a rationalist.

Let me explain why I am a skeptic in some cases but not others.  I’ll use techniques that intelligence analysts employ to develop what is called the Enemy Course of Action.  As an analyst, I develop the enemy’s Most Likely Course of Action (COA) and his most Most Dangerous Course of Action (MDCOA). The analyst may compose several COAs. Think of these as hypothesis in scientific terms. Using information, gathered intelligence and careful thinking, the analyst draws up the plan that the enemy is most likely to employ against the friendly military.  The analyst also creates a product that shows the most dangerous actions an enemy may employ.  Much of the process is rational.  An analyst cannot know for sure where the enemy will be in the future, but he can extrapolate using analysts tools and logic.  But there are parts of the process that are empirical, too.  The analyst has to provide ways that his hypothesis can move up the scientific slide-scale to theory.  To do this, he creates Known Areas of Interest (NAIs)and Indicators.  NAIs are areas of terrain that would be monitored with intelligence assets in order to cull Indicators.  Indicators are “proofs” that the enemy is committing to a certain predicted course of action.  So, if a MDCOA states that the enemy will use chemical weapons against friendly battalion headquarters, an indicator may read like this:  “In NAI 1, enemy soldiers are wearing or carrying personal protective chemical gear. ” If intelligence collection assets see this, and the information makes it back to the analyst and commander, they can both begin focusing on the MDCOA as the enemy’s plan of action.

So what’s my point?  The point is that analysts can only give the most likely event that will occur as well as their opinion on what is the most dangerous. He has to back up his claims with potential indicators.  And here’s where I see the problems with global warming.  If I were an analyst using the above model to figure out what is going to happen because of global warming, I would say it global warming will have have very little impact on people’s lives.  Scientists can look at the empirical facts, like temperature measurements at various points around the globe.  They can see that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, because they can create closed systems and inject CO2 into that system and observe CO2’s effects on heat conservation. But there are many things that scientists cannot see empirically with global warming.  They cannot see the end result of global warming, they can only rationalize what the end result may be.  And if we use the past as an indicator for what may happen in the future, than we must come to the conclusion that the predicted temperature increases do not present a clear and present danger to mankind, because the Earth has been much warmer and contained much more CO2 in the past than it does now.  And let’s remember that the Earth is not warming as fast as climate models predicted, thus the weakness of rationalism.  Several years ago, Al Gore assured us of catastrophe.  But man-made CO2 is an extremely small percentage of greenhouse gas, and we know that temperature does not increase in a linear fashion with CO2.  The impact of man-made CO2 on temperature is not known.  It may be so low as to be immeasurable.  If someone tells me that human survival is threatened by global warming, they have to give me indicators and they also have to show how much impact human activity has on the warming in the first place, because otherwise we have very little control of what the weather does.  They also have to give explanations for past warming before the industrial age and why no warming has occurred in the last 15 years.  Most importantly, they have to show me why nations should spend trillions of dollars on programs such as the Kyoto Protocol.

Science is not very good at predicting.  The major areas of current scientific practice that most trouble me are the ones that seek to extrapolate over very long periods of time.  I see the problem like this: If a man who is shooting a rifle at a target 50 meters away misses by 4 inches, that same shot would have missed a more distant target by an even wider margin.  And yet in the case of evolution, scientists seek to tell us what happened millions of years ago.  Is it not reasonable to surmise that they may be off the mark just a bit? Global warming too seeks to tell us what will happen in the year 2040.  Both evolution and catastrophic results of global warming are fine hypothesis. But empirical evidence does not yet support those hypothesis as scientific fact.

Ideological thinking can and has damaged the science.  Take diet for instance.  In many cases, the thinking goes like this: “I like animals, therefore I don’t like to kill animals, and therefore eating meat and fat damages my health.” “I like nature, nature is the environment without man in it, therefore any man-made technology is bad for nature.” “I do not believe in God, therefore evolution is true.” The opposite also happens.  “I don’t believe in evolution because I believe in God.”  In other words, people do not believe certain things because of science, they believe the science because of certain other things.  As we know from the Nazis, science can be used to support any ideology. And times and thinking change.  Scientific consensus, like religious consensus, is subject to change.  As Loverboy sings: The kid is hot tonight, but where will he be tomorrow?  The hot new idea may fade, and thus laws should only be made in the case of strong empirical evidence.

The truly damaging aspect of this is the linear thinking that science and religion can never mix.

Do I hold Christianity and the existence of God to the same standard I hold evolution and the global warming catastrophe hypothesis? Yes I do.  The primary difference is that in one case, global warming, some people want to spend trillion of dollars  to change and in most cases slow down modern economies.  As far as my belief in Christianity goes, I do not want laws made that require people to be Christians because 1) That kind of Christianity would be wholly inauthentic 2) I may be wrong.

 I especially may be wrong on the small minute details of the religion, for God had to constantly correct the men in the Old Testament and the New. No man can conceive fully, God.  Moreover, no two men’s concept of God can be exactly the same, mathematically speaking.   Theocrats, such as the Taliban, want to calcify thinking.  So do the Technocrats or those that make laws based on science that extrapolates and does not see first hand.

I have come to the conclusion through rationalization, that there is probably a God, something or someone that created the universe.  And the logical conclusion I draw is the same as Nietzsche’s, that without God, there is no good and evil, that people can only make claims to right or wrong based on how they feel about things.   And the problem with that is that there will always be someone who feels differently.   The Taliban feel it’s ok to shoot disobedient women in the head.  No Atheist could argue with the Taliban on any moral grounds, because life had no meaning without the sacred, it only has fleeting feelings.

In the end, my belief in God does not harm people, at least as far as I can tell.  Indeed, using the classic model or what makes a man right and just, Christianity improved me significantly, so there is a utilitarian argument for Christianity in my case.  Should a law be made that all people had to believe exactly as I do, that law would most likely harm even me, because it’s unlikely my views in 20 years will be exactly as they are now.

And yet the Technocrats want to make laws that tell us exactly how we can think and act, sometimes based on very poorly understood and complicated things, like brain chemistry. I am not saying that we can never reach a level of adequate surety in these various areas, but it doesn’t seem like we’re there yet.   When an engineer builds a plane that cannot fly, the results are immediately evident. When climate scientists or pundits claim Florida will be under water in 50 years so we’d better spend millions, well show me the money.

Schools cannot teach alternative views to evolution, nor do they even talk about the unanswered aspects of the hypothesis.  Some children are forced by state law to take medication for ADD before they can attend school.  And our society accepts this Technocratic rule because it believes people who think otherwise are unscientific and stupid.  In essence, we have accepted science’s version of the Taliban.