Those who resist a new culture may call upon the (current) law both to protect themselves and to return fire, so to speak. Yet many will be afraid to if rapidly shifting social norms get to a state whereby this will result in their demonization. We consider this price worthwhile for benign cultural change, but not for unsavory culture, the problem being that we only know the former from the latter with the perspective of history or distant geography, or (too late) of many ultimate victims. The net effect can be hard to assess, for example regarding benign religions that once tortured and suppressed. At any rate this all means that the courts will be one of the main battle-lines, and for a cultural versus evidential scenario this results in the rather ridiculous spectacle of the law attempting to settle a scientific matter, for instance regarding Evolution the Scopes monkey trial, or regarding Climate Change and the rule of Law, Professor Sands’ proposal at a UK legal conference: ‘One of the most important things an international court could do – in my view it’s probably the single most important thing – is to settle the scientific dispute.’ (Sands pdf).
Climate culture doesn’t come up short regarding the above list. A few examples: a) Long record of rights and law being trampled in the name of renewable energy: Pat Swords, b) Gleick, c) Ban Fossil Fuels, Ban Beef?, d) Legal academics: Silence the Skeptics, e) Put fossil fuel CEOs on trial, The RICO 20 letter, f) Lovelock: democracy on hold, or Overridden, g) EPA collusion, Conflicts of interest in Climate Science. Whether any particular cases out of these and many others happen to have some justification or not, isn’t the main point. Such an overarching list of this form is yet another sure symptom of a rising culture, and so the ultimate justification is only an emergent social story. Whatever the state of the opposing skeptic position, this story isn’t truth, it is socially manufactured.
It’s extremely important to note that cultures are emergent phenomena. So while elites will play their (often disproportionate) part, cultures are not ‘ordered from the top’. Much of the pressure on the law comes from self-convinced front-line professionals in the relevant fields, plus grass-roots support from passionate individuals. Even for highly offensive cultures (as perceived now), the self motivation at all levels of a population is well documented3.
Considering how much may be predicted about the climate consensus from one single fact, i.e. it is a culture, this has to be the most important single fact one could possibly know about the climate Consensus. And if this fact isn’t grasped more widely, especially by those in the disciplines that deal with culture, everything we know about culture will have to be learned again within a climate-change specific context, the hard way. Worse, if we don’t choose to exercise our understanding about the phenomenon that is bulldozing its way through our morals and laws and infra-structure, there’ll be little chance to free science from its grip, or mitigate the downsides of its advance, or prevent fundamental cultural change that could never have happened without the stalking horse of science, from going bad on us.
- A few I collected for a WUWT post in Feb 2014: UK MP Peter Lilley , blogger John Bell, Michael Crichton via blogger Justice4Rinka [Jan 10, 2013 at 10:07am], Richard Lindzen, blogger BetaPug, philosopher Pascal Bruckner, blogger sunshinehours1 [cult], professor Hans Von Storch [prophets], Evangelical skeptics, and the Climate Etc post One Religion is Enough. More recently I noticed Ian Plimer make the same comparison in his new book (h/t Bishop Hill).
- The Van Storch quote above is one such.
- Two examples I found to be particularly insightful are portrayed in the DVD ‘The Nazis: A warning from history’. The first is revealed by the astonishment of US researchers who worked through the papers of a captured Gestapo regional HQ. They’d expected a huge staff and a population suppressed from the top. What they found was an incredibly small staff and a population that ruled themselves through fear. Earnest letters of denouncement poured into the Gestapo HQ; with most of the job done for them agents merely netted up the worst ‘offenders’. The second is the self motivation of local doctors regarding the killing of disabled children. Armed with sanction from Hitler obtained using the single letter from a father asking to euthanize his disabled baby, chief of the chancellery Philipp Bouhler instigated a pseudo-legal system requiring 3 doctors to fill in a form agreeing to the euthanizing of disabled babies. According to the DVD, the system extended and evolved (lower thresholds, increase from babies to children) over the years largely through actions of the doctors themselves. There was no further instruction from Hitler, and the doctors eventually dispensed with Bouhler’s forms too. They simply decided themselves who to kill, and put ‘measles’ or some such on the death certificate. They thought they were cleansing the race and they wanted to please officials like Bouhler, who wanted what he thought would please Hitler. Within visionary cultural systems that dominate or override the law, schemes with radically different morality can self-establish at frightening speed.
- See ‘Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection’ by Peter Godfrey-Smith, section 6.2 .
- This WUWT series (1,2,3) describes 4 well-known main bias effects as applicable to climate culture. All references on the underlying mechanisms come from climate advocate sources (to avoid any hint of skeptic leaning). In fact mostly from papers by Lewandowsky and colleagues, before he jumped into the deep end of climate and claims of conspiracy ideation.