The Disease of Righteousness

‘The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, & breeds reptiles of the mind.’ — Wm. Blake

‘Expect poison from the standing water.’ — Wm. Blake, “Proverbs of Hell”

My post this morning is a further elaboration on a reply I made to a comment posted by LittleBigMan, which he published this morning in response to an earlier essay in The Chrysalis entitled “Post-Enlightenment An Epidemic of the Crazies”. While the themes presented in my reply are still fresh in my mind — and while the spirit is willing and the coffee is perking — I thought I would take the opportunity to develop those themes further.  So the basis for this post lies in the comments I made there.

My central theme here is our “withering from within”. You may call this “decadence” if you like, although that word has been either so trivialised — or so overwrought —  that it now fails to convey very much meaning as an aspect and facet of our contemporary nihilism.  When eating chocolate or indulging in pie with whipped cream is taken as being “decadent” (thanks to the trivialising thrust of commercial advertising) one begins to doubt whether reliance on the common idiom is at all adequate to overcome the levelling tide of trivialisation and superficiality in order to make oneself understood. Here, too, in this trivialising tendency, Nietzsche’s succinct formula for nihilism applies — “all higher values devalue themselves”, and words and names are emptied of all meaningful content by a ubiquitous propaganda of trivialisation and banality which attends the creeping infantilisation of popular opinion and the “democratic deficit”.

Something of this fracturing and atomisation of meaning is expressed in Stephen Hawking’s pronouncement that philosophy is “dead” because,

“Philosophers have not kept up with modern developments in science. Particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.”

This scientism, however, is more than a bit specious — and more than a little self-righteous, too — because not even science can keep up with developments in science. Physicists not only rarely talk to biologists, and vice versa, or biologists to sociologists, and vice versa, but more often than not scientists can’t even keep up with developments within their own narrow specialty. It is this very issue that has led people to speak of the present “multiversity” rather than a university — an insidious fragmentation of knowledge and consciousness and “the end of the Grand Narrative”.  And it is in anecdotes like this that the dis-integration and fracturing of meaning and knowledge reveals its deeper association with the loss of the structural integrity of the mental-rational consciousness itself, but along with the utter failure to recognise it for what it is — the end of an era in a whimper, a “withering from within”.

And the reason is… the righteous mind itself. The consciousness of late modernity is simply not present to its own reality.  “Legacy thinking” it has been called, or even “cognitive lock”, a mind become ambiguously secure within its own fabricated certainties.

To the extent that contemporary philosophy has failed to articulate a meaningful framework for the integration of “knowledge” — in terms of “the facts of the matter”, that is — Mr. Hawking is partially right. But neither has science  — and particularly physics — articulated such a meaningful framework either. Mr. Newton’s “Frame of the World” and the Cartesian cogito seem to be the merely default position. Moreover, Mr. Hawking still seems to think that physics remains “Queen of the Sciences”, whereas it has lost — or is in the process of losing — that status to biology, while much that is called “biology” in turn looks enviously on physics and merely aspires, wrongheadedly, to imitate physics as “real science” rather than establish its own autonomy (with a few notable exceptions, of course).

If “philosophy is dead” — or has committed suicide — it is only because of a confusion of the “facts of the matter” with “the truth that sets free”, and that is the confusion of knowledge and wisdom, or equally of ideology with consciousness, or thinking with perception.  These confusions (or reductions as assumptions of equivalence) are the issue of what cultural philosopher Jean Gebser refers to as the present “deficiency of the mental-rational consciousness” in the form of exclusive quantification and excessive reductionism. Mr. Hawking doesn’t seem to recognise the implicit nihilism in his own judgements on philosophy.

When has philosophy ever been most powerful, vital, influential and persuasive? Marx and Nietzsche are prime examples. It is when philosophy attempted to reconcile the mere “facts of the matter” with the “truth that sets free”, and compelled the “facts of the matter” to justify themselves purely in relation to the latter, and when it lifted the burden and yoke of resignation and fatalism from a life that had become too routine, too procedural, too mechanical, too formulaic, too dogmatic, too “reified”. The task of philosophy? The alchemy of revivification, or what Nietzsche also attempted by his ‘transvaluation of values’, which is, in essence, psychic alchemy as the transmutation of the leaden into the golden. And so knowledge, too, must undergo a transmutation into wisdom.

The righteous mind is a diseased mind — a stagnant and frozen mind — as Blake attests. This is, in effect, the lesson Jehovah taught Job in the Book of Job. The righteous mind never doubts itself or its own opinions or the assumption that it possesses a “principle” of righteousness. The early Nietzsche was quite like that, too. He was called “the Little Pastor” by his young associates. Very pious. Very devout. Nietzsche, to become the creative philosopher he did become, had to pass through the crucible of a humiliation, which was his incinerating “stare into the abyss,” after which, as Nietzsche-Zarathustra, he had to trudge his own ashes up the mountain for a ten years sojourn in the wilderness. Fate, in the Heraclitean sense,  had shown Nietzsche the meaning of his own life — it was empty and abysmal. As painful as it was, his own humiliation was also a needed corrective to a deadening piousness,  and a resurrection.

(There are some interesting parallels between Nietzsche’s curriculum vitae and the Book of Job).

Humility is a prophylactic against spiritual stagnation and the contraction of consciousness into narrow dogmas, far more than it is a “moral ideal”.  It is a matter of intellectual and spiritual hygiene. The book of the Christians plays the values of  “the proud” and “the meek” against each other, but this has more to do with the attitudes of self-righteousness and humility, respectively, and a critique of the former. If “the wages of sin is death”, the wages of self-righteousness is eventual humiliation, and so “pride goeth before a fall” (where “pride” really refers to the arrogance of the righteous mind). These aren’t matters of morality per se. These are pragmatic issues of psycho- and socio-dynamics (which is to say… energy). In a sense, the issue of self-righteousness — that one is in possession of a unique virtue that makes one distinctly virtuous — is connected with the Marxian notion of “reification of consciousness”, or solidification of the flux.

For this is what I had read into Fukuyama’s celebrated “end of history” screed, which awoke me from my own slumber, as it were. The “end of history” makes a claim for the Modern Era and the Modern West to be in possession a principle of virtue and of righteousness that it cannot justify, but which claim lends to the screed its “triumphalist” nimbus or aura. But the “end of history” is merely an admission of our arrival at a kind of “dogmatic slumber” or “cognitive lock”. It was, and is, not just delusional, in that sense, but rather the confession of a mentality that had long since become exceedingly over-ripe and which was now beginning to molder. To my mind, “the end of history” was the confessional of our own “withering from within”.

Hybris is the old term for what amounts to self-righteousness, or what otherwise might be called “ego inflation” (or even “Wego” inflation, to borrow from David Loy’s usage). But the mental-rational consciousness no longer believes in hybris as a problem, for it believes it has even mastered the problem of hybris itself-or of overstepping and transgressing limits — too. That belief may, ironically, turn out to be its own fateful and self-devouring hybris — a hybristic belief that it has conquered hybris — and has thereby established itself as the centre and the terminus, the alpha and the omega,  and the absolute beginning and end of all things. Such are the implications of the “end of history”. For if, as Rosenstock-Huessy once put it, “man is God’s poem”, Mr. Fukuyama presumed to know the end of it in advance.

The self-righteous mind is a barren wasteland in which no new life can enter because it has closed itself up against, and insulated itself from, that possibility. The “end of history” is only the image of an ego-consciousness no longer drawing sustenance from its deeper roots in the vital centre, and which has come to live as, and upon, the mere surfaces of things — dissociated.  And that condition of dissociation is called “the culture of narcissism”.  In a sense, it speaks of a consciousness become dissociated from a-wareness, if such a thing were possible.

It doesn’t take a fortune-teller or a clairvoyant to perceive that this is a mentality headed for a fall.  William Blake clearly saw its fate, and its incipience, written within its dynamics in his own day — the latency of a future not yet become manifest reality in his time. Mr. Hawking’s judgement against philosophy is the judgement of Blake’s horror of “Single Vision & Newton’s Sleep”. The prophetic is not about fortune-telling, but of witnessing the immanence of the future within the present or, as Coleridge allegedly once put it,

“So often do the spirits of great events stride on before the events. And in today already walks tomorrow”.

The book of the Christians states that all sins are forgiven, except for one which is not forgiven and is called “the sin against the Holy Spirit”. Christians have knocked themselves out, I think, trying to avoid that sin without even knowing what it might be, perhaps, and in large measure also because few know the meaning of the “Holy Spirit”. The unforgivable sin isn’t difficult to discern. It’s the sin of self-righteousness, because it is a blockage in, or inhibition of, the flow, for “the Spirit bloweth where it listeth”.  The consequence is an inevitable humiliation, which comes as consequence, and is really, in psycho-dynamic terms, a form of self-judgement.

In Blake’s poetry and visions, in an ironic twist, the self-righteous are called “the angels” and are considered by him “deceivers” — the propagandists of an obstruce and obstruent moralism and a purely abstract metaphysics; while the “devils” are the existentialists and the active energies of life. In other terms, Blake’s “angels” are “law & order” Tories, reactionaries, and counter-revolutionaries.

Something to bear in mind if you read Blake.

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28 responses to “The Disease of Righteousness”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    I might add to the above that in the Wisdom Traditions the initiate is always first “humbled” or rather brought into a receptive mood of humility, by having him or her meditate on one’s personal mortality, the imminence of one’s personal death. “Die to oneself daily” as the book of the Christians says. That is likewise the first approach Castaneda’s “don Juan” took with Castaneda. The haughty ego — his “precious self” — had to be overcome because he was “a plugged-up fool”, that is to say, quite self-righteous.

    The imminence of death has, as they say, the salutary effect of immediately sobering the mind. One comes to know what really matters and what does not. Don Juan drove that point home to Castaneda in a beautiful passage, pointing out that his haughty attitude of being “an educated Westerner” meant nothing — that his life was no more important nor less important than that of an insect. Since we were all mortal beings doomed to die, it was the real fact of our shared mortality that made all creatures equal, and not some abstract metaphysical principle.

    We can see what don Juan was about with this — the humbling of the Selfhood or “precious self” as he called it in order to make the mind receptive and sensitive to new knowledge.

    This is reflected in a saying of Franz Rosenzweig from Der Stern der Erlösung (“The Star of Redemption”) which reads “Vom Tode und nur vom Tode fängt alles Erkennen an”, which roughly translates as “all knowledge springs from death”. Death is the teacher of the proper way to live, but it begins by first humbling you, to make you fertile soil — humus — for new knowledge. Humble, humus, humiliation, human — these are related words.

    That is my point.

  2. amothman33 says :

    The story of El-khider and Moses is another story in refusing the idea of self-righteousness and teaching humility. Once one says he is righteous he stops his process of development. Death is a great master for those who has faith that there is something after death.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Thanks for bringing that up, and you are quite right in that. The only source for that story I had was Rumi, who was distressed by it because he didn’t know why Al-Khidr had to kill the boy in order to teach Moses, so it remained for him an enigma.

      For others, here’s the story of Al-Khidr and Moses (who is the Islamic “Green Man”, if you recall from earlier discussion, corresponding to the European Green Man and therefore, likely to Nietzsche’s Dionysus)

      http://www.alim.org/library/biography/stories/content/SOP/7/17/Musa%20%28Moses%29/The%20Story%20Moses%20and%20Al-Khidr

      If you didn’t catch the earlier comments on Khidr as the Islamic Green Man, this article is interesting,

      http://khidr.org/

      It is very likely that Khidr is also Nietzsche’s Dionysus.

      • alex jay says :

        “It is very likely that Khidr is also Nietzsche’s Dionysus”

        Almost certainly! The only difference would be the substitution of wine (alcohol) for cannabis (hemp).

        I love this short summary on the Islamic patron saint of the “weed”. Maybe Colorado will adopt him as well : )

        “In his devotion to bhang, with reverence, not with the worship, which is due to Allah alone, the North Indian Mussulman joins hynming to the praise of bhang. To the follower of the later religion of Islam the holy spirit in bhang is not the spirit of the Almighty, it is the spirit of the great prophet Khizr, or Elijah. That bhang should be sacred to Khizr is natural; Khizr is the patron saint of water. Still more, Khizr means green, the revered color of the cooling water of bhang. So the Urdu poet sings, “When I quaff fresh bhang I liken its color to the fresh light down of thy youthful beard.” The prophet Khizr, the green prophet, cries, “May the drink be pleasing to thee.” Nasir, the great North Indian Urdu poet, is loud in praises o his beloved Sabzi, ‘the Green One.’

        Compared with bhang spirits are naught. Leave all things thou fool, drink bhang.

        From its quickening the imagination, Mussulman poets honor bhang with the title Waraq al-Khayal, ‘Fancy’s Leaf.’ And the Makhazan or great Arab-Greek drug book records many other fond names for the drug. Bhang is the Joy-Giver, the Sky-Flier, the Heavenly-Guide, the Poor Man’s Heaven, the Soother of Grief.” (J.M. Campbell)

        P.S. It’s worthwhile to note the fairly recent controversial Obama statement on American “exceptionalism”, which, after all, is self-righteous bullshit of the highest order.

        • Scott Preston says :

          I’m reminded by this, of course, of Castaneda’s encounter with the spirit of Mescalito, the spirit of the peyote plant, who is also described as a teacher and a guide. Then there is Datura (Devil’s Weed or Jimson) that don Juan described as female spirit, but a Dominatrix. She gives men the feeling of power, but robs them of their will.

          Blake, likewise, saw the spirits of the plants and as having a human form. This recalls a story from Castaneda. He was given three “power plants” by a brujo with directions to plant them in a particular remote spot. This he did, but on returning to his car, saw three people standing around his automobile looking for a lift. Being still naive (still an apprentice) he didn’t recognise them, and didn’t associate the three power plants he was given with the three entities standing at his automobile.

          Don Juan chastised him for that — saying he was lucky to escape alive for his bungle.

        • Scott Preston says :

          “Exceptionalism” is, indeed, self-righteousness, and more besides. In some ways, the notion of “exceptionalism” belongs to what Becker calls “the denial of death”, too (and that, also, is part of the self-righteous mind) — ie, to stand apart from, or be outside of, the stream of history.

          In some ways, this attitude of exceptionalism is connected with the perniciousness of Cartesian metaphysical dualism, the “cogito” being assumed to stand outside and apart from the objective world of space and time — as a kind of transcendental ego, a kind of overlord or master of space and time as “pure reason”. This attitude was what Rosenstock-Huessy mocked when he denounced Cartesianism “the body was consigned to the struggle for survival. The mind, however, with the optimism of the Age of Reason, was contemplating the truth of the matter”.

          This attitude of “exceptionalism” has a long history, and was brought along with the Puritans. In a sense, the self-righteousness of the Puritans fused with the Cartesian metaphysical dualism of the transcendental ego — the “all-seeing eye” on the Great Seal.

          • alex jay says :

            Much to reply … and we could spend ages on the “all-seeing eye” metaphor from Egypt (Horus/Osiris) to Masonic adaptations etc. Perhaps another time? However, and apologies for deviating from the subject at hand, I was struck by the current global weather phenomenon (climate change as an absurd axiom of the antropomorphic “self-righteous” dialectic argued about by disingenuous political spheres of both persuasions) seperated by two hemispheres that can, and in the imagination of some, serve as an allegory for the division in mother Gaia’s current schizophrenic behaviour. On the one hand, we, in the northern hemisphere, are experiencing extreme weather conditions of historical proportions on the cold front (churlish of me in flooded England to bring it up to someone in the Canadian freezer – my dad’s bigger than yours etc. – meanwhile, in the southern hemisphere, the opposite is the case:

            http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/01/08/100000-dead-bats-fall-australian-skies-heatwave-blamed_n_4560750.html?utm_hp_ref=uk

            I love paradoxes! : ) Man-made? … that in itself is hubris. Gaia can live without man – man cannot live without Gaia … except in Ray Kerzweil’s wet dream.

            • Scott Preston says :

              Paradox? Or a state of self-contradiction?

              No need to revisit these again. Extremes of weather or weather chaos are predicted by the global warming model, and is to be expected from the loss of homeostasis. The symptoms are comparable to fever in human beings — alternating extremes of heating and chilling as the body struggles to regain homeostatic balance.

              I hope we don’t have to redo the old threads. Total breakdown of homeostasis is what is defined as “death” in medicine. In planetary terms, this would be planetary death. And the present fears of our passing into a “sixth extinction event” is a symptom of planetary death. It is comparable to losing your immune system.

              And it ain’t funny.

  3. alex jay says :

    “- alternating extremes of heating and chilling as the body struggles to regain homeostatic balance.”

    Exactly my sentiments – intuitive perhaps (as I am not a “scientrst”, nor a “credentialist” – unlike Noam Chomsky …another subject). Ergo, whether it be James Lovelock, the Chaos Theory, the Avatar movie or a dip into the Gnostic pool, I do believe in the interconnectness … but not in Maurice Strong, Al Gore and his “Carbon” charlatans. There’s too much greedy damage done to the rape and poisoning of the planet without the phony “carbon” religion currently being perpetrated. I’d worry more about Monsanto, your Canadian mining companies, Coca Cola stealing all the water and the revolving doors of “scientists” and their corporate pimps than I would be of a cow flatulating.

    And it ain’t funny! But not for the reasons you imply. It’s a diversion! Bernays would be proud.

    Give me one fact-based reason (I’ve read papers, listened to countless seminars from both idiotic camps) how carbon dioxide will cause the demise of the planet – except for making lots of money for Wall Street/ Chicago Commodities Exchange whores – and you might change my agnostic mind.

    But then … opinions, if solidified in consciousness (as you recently wrote about), can inhibit arriving “at the truth of the matter” relying on a discredited systemic breakdown of the mental-rational to sophistry. Back to the future – a similar Greek dilemma in days of yore.

    In the meantime (and it can be funny from a detached point of view – a placebo), my overly researched yet sceptical thoughts on the matter can be best articulated by this little ditty:

    • Scott Preston says :

      I really don’t see how you can say you “believe in interconnectedness”, but then mentally compartmentalise all these other activities you mention as if they weren’t connected at all, and quite separate from the general consciousness structure that generates these interconnected problems.

      You say you’ve read tonnes o’ papers on the climate change issue. Then you must also surely know that more than carbon gas emissions are implicated in inducing climate change? In some ways CO2 is just the “starter” compound. Cows “flatulating” don’t generate carbon gas, but methane, and methane is also being released in huge quantities as the permafrost thaws in the Arctic, thus driving the cycle even more towards a condition of “runaway”, to use James Chiles’ term for how technological systems enter a condition of self-contradiction (such as a record polar vortex in the northern hemisphere attended by record heat wave in the southern hemisphere).

      Also, recently discovered, perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA) being allegedly far worse than carbon dioxide. It’s a cocktail of toxins — like “drinking the Kool-Aid” as they say.

      So, if you are wrong about your beliefs, and the climate does enter runaway, what are you going to do? Shrug your shoulders and say “gee, shucks. I was in error about that”? Well, by then it’s a little too late for impotent expressions of regret, isn’t it? Like those death bed regrets of an old man who finally realised that he had really worked too much, and that he had missed actually living. Well, by then it’s actually too late in the game to want to take it all back.

  4. alex jay says :

    It’s awkward for me to debate with you, simply because I hold you in such high regard on matters of cultural history, philosophy and your general world-view. Unfortunately, I sincerely believe, you have been been “drinking the Kool-Aid” on this issue. Scientific evidence – or lack of – aside, which has largely been manipulted (as demonstrated by the “climate-gate” revelations) with such exotic junk like “hockey sticks” and selective modeling tools (we know that models will produce any outcome desired depending on the data input selected – gargage in garbage out; just consider the totally debunked NIST models on the contra-physics-laws collapses of the twin towers as just one example). Even James Lovelock has shifted his initial “warmist” position, which had to be altered to “cimate change” (as if the earth hasn’t experienced such phenomena before with or without homo sapiens’ intervention) as the actual evidence didn’t fit the warming model over the past 10 years. No — my issue is not with climate change or the 25-35 warming and cooling cycle, ice core evidence shows quite consistently with the odd exceptions of prolonged periods like the Medieval warm spell or the 17th century cold spell, rather, it is with the blatantly orchestrated “war on carbon dioxide” hoax (research its roots with charlatans like Maurice Strong and Al Gore’s investment into his carbon trading empire). Here’s some background (amateurishly written in my opinion, yet the easiest thing I could find quickly as it’s current):

    http://21stcenturywire.com/2014/01/10/didnt-our-media-tell-us-that-snow-would-be-a-thing-of-the-past/

    Yikes, must dash … will complete post in a few hours to address my reasons why I’m a “Doubting Thomas” especially the harmful impact the current hysteria is having on people right now.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Well… I don’t debate conspiracy theories because they’re the products of paranoia, consequently impervious to reason and evidence anyway. People with conspiracy theories can always be counted upon, in the absence of evidence or contradictions and holes in their narratives, to introduce or confabulate untestable entities like mysterious, invisible secret cabals or nefarious occult forces at play to preserve the narrative, which basically amounts to a fairy tale that they are always smarter than 10,000 scientists combined. Your linking of climate change and the twin towers conspiracy narratives, as if they belonged to one and the same global conspiracy cult, tells me that it’s fruitless to pursue debate.

      I can’t believe you still raise the “climate-gate” issue despite the fact it was investigated and settled long ago. When it comes to issues of conspiracy, I’ld give more credence to the debunkers at DeSmogBlog who have pretty persuasively revealed how the “conspiracy theory” advocates are themselves the unwitting dupes of a real conspiracy orchestrated by “think tanks” and lobby groups with a considerable stake in undermining, not just climate science, but any science that might threaten their hold on power and therewith their control of people’s perception of reality, as for example the current Canadian government’s controversial muzzling of environmental sciences and its destruction of environmental research,

      http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Tory+actions+libraries+information/9376019/story.html

      So, in my judgment alex, it’s actually you who is dancing at the end of somebody’s wire.

      And you’ll have to enlighten me with some evidence as to where Lovelock has shifted his position, for as far as I know, Lovelock has always been consistent in comparing climate change to fever, with wild and chaotic fluctations of extreme weather rather than a neat, abstract linear model of consistently rising temperatures. I don’t need a computer model to prove my actual experience, or to see that global weather chaos along with biospheric degradation and degeneration, is the “order of the day”, as it were, or that the contradictory extremes we are seeing in global weather are connected and, moreover, are being driven by deficient human thinking and activity.

      As, for example, a report today in The Guardian on the weather extremes,

      http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/10/polar-vortex-us-mild-weather-scandinavia

      Computer models and climate theories are going to be inadequate in some way or another, simply because the ability to perceive climate as a whole is completely unprecedented in human experience and is itself part of emergent globalism and need for holistic ways of thinking. It, too, belongs to what Gebser calls the need for “a universal way of looking at things”. Earlier climate models were even more deficient because they didn’t (and couldn’t) take into account the entire web of interconnected variables in what made for what we call “climate”.

      Climate, in consequence, was always treated parochially and perspectivally, as if it was only a local or national phenomenon — the “English climate”, the “Mediterranean climate”, etc, etc. There wasn’t one “climate”. There were “climates” in the plural. Only lately has this pluralism of distinct and discrete “climates” come to be seen as itself an error of perception, and that it is impossible to draw definite boundaries between “climates” as one does with nation states, or as if they were the mere properties and possessions of nation-states. It’s no accident that non-linearity emerged first from climate science and only latterly in the other sciences, or that non-locality is something now common in both physics and climate science (insofar as non-local or “supraluminal” effects in quantum physics are reflected in the Butterfly Effect of climatology). This anomalous and unexpected characteristic of the real world — non-locality — is what makes for “Chaos Theory”.

      Entirely new ballgame. I expect errors in new science like this and thus a continual refinement of theory simply because human consciousness, invariably “point-of-view-and-line-of-thought”, has never had to deal with “all-at-once” before. But anyone who knows anything about how science works, and has been conducted in history, is not so imprudent and impetuous to suggest that errors in some details must disprove the theory. When the anomalous instances cannot be reconciled with the general theory, however, the term for that is “scientific revolution” or “paradigm shift”, and it forces an entirely new way of perceiving and thinking about things.

      And that is precisely what non-linear effects of climate change are bringing about.

  5. alex jay says :

    Oh dear! Well I spotted at least two logical fallacies: 1) Argumentum ad ignorantiam (argument to ignorance). This is the fallacy of assuming something is true simply because it hasn’t been proven false. For example, you argue that global warming is certainly occurring because nobody has demonstrated conclusively that it is not. But failing to prove the global warming theory false is not the same as proving it true; 2) Argumentum ad numerum (argument to numbers). This is your 10,000 scientists say it is so, therefore it must be true. The numbers that hold a belief doesn’t mean it is true, i.e. the bandwagon phenomeon – too many examples in history to cite where conventional wisdom was overturned by new evidence. You have also thrown in a couple of strawmen as well. Which brings me to Lovelock:

    http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/04/23/11144098-gaia-scientist-james-lovelock-i-was-alarmist-about-climate-change?lite

    Where did the conspiracy thing come from, which takes up the majority of your reply? I simply made a reference to the NIST twin tower report to highlight how easy it is to manipulate models – and models are not proof. There was no equivalance to climate change intended. The Strong-Gore connection is documented fact, whether it was conspiratorial or not doesn’t change the science, but does reveal motive. Furthermore, I thought I made it clear that I am not a “denier”, simply unconvinced one way or another. Had the University of East Anglia’s machinations (the source of the UN climate commission’s concensus) not been revealed, I most certainly would have given the “warmists” greater credibility. In other words, if their case was so strong, why indulge in fakery?

    Added to the fact that you take the issue on with such high-charged emotion, I think it right to discontinue the debate.

    Sorry mate, you might be able to convince me on a lot of things, but not on this one. I still have an open mind …

    • alex jay says :

      Oh forgot … the main reason why it has such an impact is that – in this country anyway – we are being hammered with carbon taxes, which are causing fuel poverty to such an extent that people are actually dying or living in misery, since we are paying for the sins of the corporations responsible as they pass the costs down to the consumer while they retain their profits.

      • Scott Preston says :

        That’s a separate issue.. ie, whether taxing behaviours that increase carbon dioxide (or other climate gases) production is at all an effective and sensible way of regulating the drivers making for climate change.

        It isn’t. It’s a policy surrogate for the lack of a social environmental ethic. The assumption is, that increasing the cost of fossil fuel consumption will drive innovation in alternative technologies and renewables, and stimulate more thinking in these areas. It’s a “market driven” or economistic approach in the absence of a change of heart and mind.

    • Scott Preston says :

      James Lovelock has shifted his initial “warmist” position, which had to be altered to “cimate change” (as if the earth hasn’t experienced such phenomena before with or without homo sapiens’ intervention) as the actual evidence didn’t fit the warming model over the past 10 years.

      Well, you certainly misrepresented Lovelock’s views there, didn’t you? Even the article you cite as evidence makes no such claims by Lovelock. What he shifted from was not “warmist”, but “alarmist”.

      Lovelock, 92, is writing a new book in which he will say climate change is still happening, but not as quickly as he once feared.

      Asked if he was now a climate skeptic, Lovelock told msnbc.com: “It depends what you mean by a skeptic. I’m not a denier.”

      “We will have global warming, but it’s been deferred a bit,” Lovelock said.

      He said human-caused carbon dioxide emissions were driving an increase in the global temperature, but added that the effect of the oceans was not well enough understood and could have a key role

      And, we could continue with further excerpts from the interview. Everything Lovelock says is sensible, and he hasn’t changed his “warmist” position at all, but his “alarmist” views that the time frame for the predicted effects of global warming was too contracted for us to take much action to avert it.

      Along with that, sensible admissions of the limitations of the earlier models, as one might expect when dealing with new science, in which not everything is known (and ultimately, cannot be known with precision).

      But recognising the limitations and erratic results of earlier models is proper science, and is not proof that the model as a whole is wrong. That is actually your logical fallacy.

      If you have understood anything of what I’ve written in the pages of the Dark Age Blog or the Chrysalis, then you will understand that by “models”, I mean those things derived as products of the mental-rational consciousness structure, and that the early models reflected the deficiencies and limitations of that consciousness structure, in that they were too linear — too “point-of-view-line-of-thought” type structures that were bound to be too simplistic. Hence the “hockey stick” model was too simplistic because it reflected linear thinking about climate and about the drivers that were making for climate change.

      What Lovelock has had to acknowledge is that these early models produced incorrect results because they didn’t (and, in fact, can’t) model all the possible variables in play in climate science. As scientists learn to think in more holistic terms, their models are becoming more refined, but they will never succeed in completely modeling climate.

      The reason is simply, if you have been following the arguments in the Chrysalis — Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem. And you would be doing yourself a favour to adopt the same sort of skepticism (that is to say, modesty) in regards to your own beliefs as Lovelock does with his, for the implications of the Incompleteness Theorem apply to your own models of reality as much as they apply to those who you see as your opponents, after all.

      The Incompleteness Theorem, properly appreciated and understood, should teach us not just a degree of skepticism about our own beliefs and “points of view”. Far more than that. It should teach us a degree of humility regarding the ability of our reason to master and dominate all reality. Good science and good thinking acknowledges this humility. Bad science and inadequate thinking doesn’t.

      There is not, and cannot be, any final “model” of climate simply because climate belongs to a living system, and living systems change constantly, adapt, adjust. The “mind” as such also belongs to the webwork. I know you don’t understand the principles of homeostasis, except maybe in an abstract, ideological kind of way. Because if you did, you would realise that all models are simply approximations and cannot be anything else but approximations because consciousness and planet are intertwined. Man’s activities in thinking and acting are also part of “climate”.

      It was, after all, the attempt to model weather, that is to say, to make it obey the mind’s logic, that led to the discovery of the Butterfly Effect as contradiction of the mind’s logic. Everything effects everything else in a seamless web of life. What the Butterfly Effect teaches is, no model of the planet can be final, because it is impossible to represent all the possible variables in play.

      Where you see “conspiracy”, I see honest men and women struggling with the deficiencies and limitations of thought and at the limits of the mental-rational consciousness structure itself, struggling with the demands of a mode of thought (science) that has revealed its limits in the face of the holistic, in which the very activity of the mind is implicated, too, in the meaning “climate” and is a factor in its variability and unpredictability.

      Ultimately, I expect greater things from that struggle with the variability of the holistic than I do from climate change deniers, who are “point-of-view-line-of-thought” reactionaries and who make their stand in what is fast becoming an obsolete and anachronistic structure of consciousness.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Let’s put it this way…. a perfectly good parallel to the problem of modeling climate would be a perfect model of the human body.

        A perfectly “rational” model of the human body would have to know and predict not only what each of the billions of cells are doing at any particular moment, but also, what each and every atom and molecule are doing. Moreover, it would require to also know each and every possible event simultaneously occurring in the environment that is influencing the activities of the atoms, molecules, cells, and organs of the body. It would also have to include what the body is thinking and perceiving at all times, as this effects the release of body chemicals and responses.

        This would require what we call a “God-like view”. It simply cannot be done. Despite that, we still can know whether a body is living or dying without having to know what all the atoms, cells, molecules are doing before we can make such a judgement.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Casting around the net for a less technical description of the incompleteness theorem, I came across this brave effort by Charles Kendrick to describe the implications. It is an interpretation with which I substantially concur,

          From: http://www.myrkul.org/recent/godel.htm

          “In any case, what does it mean that a symbolic system based on deriving truth from axioms is incomplete? Could we make a complete system? The only way I can see to do that would be to include an infinite number of axioms, which deterministicly describe all happenings in the past, present and future. This would only work in a deterministic universe, and it would be difficult to draw a distinction between the data of this ‘complete’ system and reality itself.

          Thinking of the data required is perhaps the right direction to move in: it is the reason the symbolic system is incomplete. The symbolic systems we use to describe the universe are not separate from the universe: they are a part of the universe just as we are a part of the universe. Since we are within the system, our small understandings are ‘the system modelling itself’ (system meaning reality in this case). Completion of the model can never happen because of the basic self-referential paradox: the model is within the universe, so in effect the universe would have to be larger than itself. Or you can view it iteratively: the model models the universe. The universe includes the model. The model must model itself. The model must model the model of itself.. ad absurdum.

          So Godel’s incompleteness is something to expect. It is even something that can be intuitively understood without a mathematical approach and proof: the incompleteness concept appears in clearly recognizable form in Zen Buddhism.

          So it brings to mind how to solve the paradox. There is the idea that consciousness might be a kind of superset of the universe, and thus through consciousness we might understand the universe. Yet we must realize that consciousness and the universe represent a yet larger system or universe to “understand” ( if that word still applies ). This continues iteratively as well.

          We can perhaps move beyond the self-referential part of the paradox by moving beyond the self: becoming through some higher dimensionality or level of complexity something with no coherant self, or clear perception- point.

          The Zen answer to what to do next is that real truth is in everyday life. This may well be so: in a universe where knowledge defeats us, what can we do but be what we are? We have to ask why it is that it matters that knowledge of the universe be moved into symbolic representation in our minds. The information we seek is in existence around us at all times, happening in the patterns we seek to understand and quantify. What good is there in this understanding? Clearly we are evolutionarily driven to this attempted understanding, but is there a better reason to be had?”

          • Scott Preston says :

            Might add, that other basic statements about the Incompleteness Theorem are Nietzsche’s “the will to a system is a lack of integrity” or Carl Sagan’s quip about a recipe for apple pie: “first, create a universe”.

  6. alex jay says :

    I wanted to end this, however as you challenge me with misrepresenting Lovelock’s position, a reply is necessary.

    You requested evidence for his change of position:

    “And you’ll have to enlighten me with some evidence as to where Lovelock has shifted his position, …”

    I replied: “James Lovelock has shifted his initial “warmist” position, which had to be altered to “cimate change” (as if the earth hasn’t experienced such phenomena before with or without homo sapiens’ intervention) as the actual evidence didn’t fit the warming model over the past 10 years.”

    Mea culpa on the “warmist” inclusion (I took it from memory of an interview he held several months ago the crux of which was the “shift” of his initial position – that stuck in my mind). In order to rectify any misrepresentation substitute “warmist” for “alarmist” and the claim will be totally accurate. In fact, his more cautionary conversion is not that far away from my own position when he says: “Asked if he was now a climate skeptic, Lovelock told msnbc.com: ‘It depends what you mean by a skeptic. I’m not a denier’.” Albeit, I’m not a “warmist” either. I’m a cyclical “changist”, if anything, and not only include the oceans but also the sun (among an host of other variables) in determining climate in an entropic system. This is why I hold climate science on a par with psychiatry as casino sciences in what you accurately describe as a “bean-counter” civilization.

  7. LittleBigMan says :

    It’s remarkable (and to be frank, even astonishing) to see at least a couple of coincidences between what has been discussed on this thread and what I have been doing during my personal time.

    First Coincidence:
    The library that I am a member of holds regular monthly exhibits of the new books they purchase. Ergo, I stop by every month during the same time to check out the exhibit. One of the books that was on exhibit just last week was an autobiography of Stephen Hawking. I have read about 50 pages of it so far and he is clearly a devout priest of the “mental-rational consciousness” 🙂 In addition to that, I came across a statement in his book that connects well with your statement that “The imminence of death has, as they say, the salutary effect of immediately sobering the mind.” Here’s what Hawking writes:

    “When you are faced with the possibility of an early death, it makes you realize that life is worth living and that there are lots of things you want to do.” – Stephen Hawking

    Second Coincidence:
    As I read “Lovelock has always been consistent in comparing climate change to fever, with wild and chaotic fluctations of extreme weather rather than a neat, abstract linear model of consistently rising temperatures” I remembered my own struggle to understand what happened just this past December.

    While I was away for Christmas, New York City made the national news for having an unusually warm weather during the December 2013, with temperatures reaching up to mid 60s and even low 70s. I was shocked of hearing about those sorts of temperatures during December in New York City. The thought didn’t leave my mind and over a span of a few days it transformed itself into some curiosity about how this past December weather compared with December weather some time in the past.

    When I got back from my trip, I collected the high/low temperature data for New York City in December 2013 and one other year, 1990, which I chose at random. Then, I graphed the data against each other. The difference was just astonishing. The 1990 data plotted linearly with a smooth downward sloping decline toward the end of December. On the other hand, the 2013 data was completely out of whack, with three major spikes and several more series of fluctuations from beginning to the end of December. The December 2013 data showed a very chaotic pattern – too complex – for me to try to model it quantitatively. No more than 9 days of the data could be modeled quantitatively at one time, in fact.

    Even though restrictions of time prohibit me from expanding my little project to all the years since 1990, I wondered if I had done it what I would be able to find out. Maybe nothing or maybe something scary.

    P.S. Here in California, we have had a very dry 18 months and water is already being rationed. This is the second water war (i.e. drought) in California in less than 10 years.

    • LittleBigMan says :

      By the way, the quote from Stephen Hawking came from page 37 of his book entitled My Brief History.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Your remark about Hawking’s book reminds me of something Carl Jung said about Einstein when they first met. Einstein was interested in this whole “synchronicity” thing as it bore on the problem of non-locality and supraluminal effects in physics, or “spooky action at a distance” as Einstein referred to it.

        Later, Jung recalled that he found Einstein “too cerebral” (ie, too much the “mental-rational” type), which I found rather odd, as one doesn’t get that impression at all from reading some of Einstein’s memoirs, where his respect for “imagination” and “intuition” is highly pronounced.

        Possibly, he put on his most formal “mental-rational” self for his talk with Jung, perhaps afraid he might be tainted by the charge of ‘mysticism’ for even consulting with Jung, as Wolfgang Pauli did. Probably not a coincidence that Einstein objected strenuously to Wolfgang Pauli’s “quantum field” theories, which seem to have been somewhat influenced by Pauli’s long friendship (and therapy) with Carl Jung, too.

        • LittleBigMan says :

          Very truly I may have rushed a bit to call Hawking the “priest of mental rational consciousness.” So far in the book, though, his interests lie in that realm. His dad, an Oxford trained researcher in the medical field encourages the young Stephen to take up interest in biology and chemistry. But the young man’s interests keep pulling him toward physics and an infatuation with building model trains and how machines work. What I gather from the book so far is that chance put him at the center of a circle of people (including both of his parents) who had strong footings in the mental rational consciousness structure. To say the least, he was brought up and forged in that mold.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Hawking’s autobiog might be something worth reading for the very reasons you cite.

      Today, it’s +4 C here, with spits of rain. Unheard of for January (except last January, which is the first time I’ve seen rain in the dead o’ winter). With that extreme swings in temperature up and down come very high winds, and it is very windy today. However, in Alberta they have set new windstorm records. When you swing from extreme cold to extreme heat (relative to winter normals that is), atmospheric turbulence is to be expected.

      http://edmonton.ctvnews.ca/record-winds-cause-disruptions-across-alberta-1.1640669

      Setting new records isn’t unusual. But it’s the pace at which old records are being broken that is the anomaly.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        Wow! From -50 C you mentioned not too long ago to +4 C! It’s like Marsian temperature 🙂

        I have been on road trips when the wind was blowing dangerously hard, and I have seen those poor semi-truck drivers trying to maintain control of their vehicle by slowing down. Even driving in my low profiled sedan, I prefer not to drive on the freeways at times like that. I could only imagine how frightful it might be for the drivers of semi-trucks to be driving when the wind is blowing at 114km/hr. I would pull over and stop immediately.

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