November 24, 2009

Bad-Faith Arguments and Highly Questionable Actors

As mentioned toward the conclusion of the previous post, I feel completely lousy these days. I'm very grateful for the donations that have come in -- thank you, kind people! -- but I don't yet have any kind of financial cushion for the coming month, let alone any of the money needed for even minimal medical care. So if what follows provides a mordant chuckle or two, please feel free to send a few coins my way. Perhaps your generosity will spare you from the galactic calamity that is about to engulf us!

Since I feel like shit, we should consider a subject full of humor and with lotsa laughs. So let's talk about global warming and the impending destruction of the Earth! See, you're smiling already. Good for you! You're smart people. That's why you're here. This is gonna be great. Grab a drink (or something much better; yeah, that's right, sisters and brothers, you know what I mean), and join me for the ride.

Okay, then. I don't think I've written a single word about global warming before. That's true for numerous reasons, only some of which are mentioned in what follows. (I always have reasons for both what I discuss and what I don't discuss. You may think those reasons are complete crap, but I got 'em. That's all I'm saying.) I decided to offer a few thoughts on the subject now, because there is much rejoicing on the part of global warming skeptics about...da dah DUM!...Climategate! Drudge, of course, is having multiple orgasms many times an hour. Billions of links about this scandal, which of course is like the biggest scandal ever, or at least since the one two days ago and until the next one two days hence. But, baby, this outrage is happening, you know what I'm saying? So we get a link to the "greatest scandal in modern science." Wow! And calls for a Congressional investigation! Yeah, that'll fix all this lickety split. More about the gummint in a mo. And lots of skeptics are furiously directing people to articles like this one. This unprecedented scandal (just like all the others past and future are totally unprecedented) proves what the skeptics have been saying for years: It's all a fraud! They're all lying manipulators! None of it was true! They are......EVIL!

I'm telling you: get really comfortable. We haven't even started.

See, one of the huge problems I have with all this is that there is almost no one I believe on this subject, on either side of the debate. Virtually everyone falls within the description offered in my title, as we'll shortly see. But first I have to set out briefly my more general difficulties with this ongoing spectacle. Perhaps the primary reason I haven't written about global warming previously is that I am convinced the overheated concern with this issue (ha! not a single apology will be offered for even one of the thoroughly rotten jokes in this post) is perfectly typical of what I can only call the cultural dementia that afflicts us. For the sake of argument, as well as for purposes of this post, I'll assume that every worst case (and even just very bad) scenario offered by global warming advocates is absolutely, verifiably true. If those predictions are true -- and especially if those predictions are true -- there isn't a damned thing we can do about it at this point. Oh, yes, we might be able to alleviate some of the lesser consequences here and there, and maybe we can figure out a way to ensure the survival of comparatively small groups of human critters in a few places around the perishing globe -- but "fix" it in any major way? Baby, if the climate of the entire planet is screwed, it's screwed. You ain't gonna fix nothing. Pick up another drink, and put that hubris down. I fully appreciate that humans are specially special and all, but seriously, get a grip.

So that's one thing. Here's another. In our self-selected and self-sustaining dementia, we go on interminably about a problem that we severely limited humans can do precious little to alter -- while simultaneously, which means, like, at the same time almost everyone supports policies that will continue an unending series of wars. Yeah, I said everyone. See here, too. Not only that, most people advocate policies that will almost certainly lead to new conflicts, possibly including nuclear exchanges over at least certain regions of the globe.

Such as this part of the globe. And take a look at this earlier post. Also note what I said here -- and I see that I even included global warming as an example:
The horrifying consequences of an unprovoked U.S. attack on Iran should be painfully obvious to everyone; over a year ago, I detailed those consequences at length. Possibly millions dead, chaos and war that spread across the globe, severe economic dislocation and possibly economic collapse, the complete isolation of the United States from the community of nations, and still more and still worse -- possibly including the imposition of martial law in the U.S. itself. The conclusion is stark and infinitely bleak: an attack on Iran would wipe every other issue and concern out of existence for the foreseeable future, probably for years to come if not much longer. Forget debates about global warming; nuclear clouds might be spreading across the globe. Never mind reforming our health care system; millions of people around the world, and possibly here at home, will be worried about survival of the most primitive kind. Nothing else will matter in the least.
Many of those who are the loudest skeptics of global warming (although not all) are also advocates of an utterly unjustified, notably irrational confrontational stance with Iran. Forgive me if I find it very difficult to take their global warming skepticism with any degree of seriousness. But the general problem is far wider in scope: lots of people on both sides of the global warming debate support in varying degrees the overall aims of U.S. foreign policy. In this way, they help to make much more likely a disastrous conflict at some point in the future. The contradiction is especially noteworthy with regard to those who are advocates of the global warming view and also support the general contours of U.S. foreign policy: this group includes Obama, and most Democrats, liberals and progressives.

These individuals make an entirely man-made disaster more probable in the form of an avoidable military conflict -- while they also urge us to reorder our lives and our entire society because of something that may happen in 50 or 100 years. And even if catastrophic climate change is going to occur, it's virtually impossible that we can seriously alter that outcome given the premises of the global warming argument itself. I can only repeat: get a grip. I would earnestly suggest a quick and thorough reordering of your priorities. If people refuse to engage in that process or even seriously consider it, don't expect those of us who aren't suffering from the same dementia to take you seriously. The first principle must be: avoid those catastrophes that you obviously can avoid. Once you've done that, we can talk about all the other catastrophes that might occur if numerous, largely uncontrollable variables all line up in a certain way.

The dementia I speak of is an equal-opportunity disease. As he himself proudly proclaims repeatedly (I've heard him say all this at least once, and I've heard some of these arguments several times just in the last two days, and that's listening only intermittently), Rush Limbaugh has been an exceptionally persistent global warming skeptic for many years. I heard him state what is perhaps his most basic objection to global warming just yesterday; it wasn't the first time I'd heard this thesis from El Rushbo. To call what follows half-baked is to grant it a proximity to normalcy that it doesn't remotely deserve. (I told you: no apologies for the rotten, predictable jokes. They are completely deserved on every front.)

I don't claim this is what Limbaugh said verbatim, but it's very damned close. I couldn't possibly forget this particular "argument" and, as I indicated, I've heard Limbaugh offer this view several times. Limbaugh doesn't believe in global warming, he portentously proclaims in his orotund tones, because ... wait for it, pick up that drink again ... he believes in God.

What does that mean?, you wonder in slack-jawed amazement, as your savagely fractured, faltering grasp on reality resists the echoing vastness of total insanity. What Limbaugh means is that God in his infinite Goodness and Wisdom would not allow humankind to achieve and advance in ways that would destroy the planet that is home to us.

In my unstinting efforts to repel the encroachments of ineradicable infection, I approach views like this in a straightforward manner. I look at history, and I look at the world today. Among other things, I see an endless procession of destruction, violence, hatred, cruelty, murder, and barbarity. True, I also see astonishing achievement, ingenuity and resilience. But if one takes in all of human history, and not just those aspects of history that support a preferred perspective, one is struck by the enormous fragility of human achievement and what we call "civilization." I consider what humankind has achieved in a positive sense to be inspiring and remarkable, in very large part because it is so unusual given man's proclivity for gratuitous violence and unjustified cruelty and murder. And when we consider the weapons now at our disposal, the use of which is made much more likely by the policies supported by people like Limbaugh himself (and many others, including the nominal "opposition" -- see the argument and links above), the highly questionable continuation of "civilization" and its extreme fragility come into view still more clearly.

Yet, according to Limbaugh, God is so infinitely Good that he would never allow the worst to happen. God permits innocents to be slaughtered in huge numbers and others to be subjected to sadistic cruelty for its own sake, and God allows a man found not guilty to be imprisoned forever. But, says Limbaugh, God will never allow the worst to happen. Limbaugh and those who believe as he does refuse to acknowledge that for untold millions of people throughout history, and for vast numbers of people today, the worst has already happened.

If we look at history comprehensively and honestly, and if we face what often happens in the world today with any forthrightness, we might conclude that God, if he exists, is a deeply twisted, sadistic bastard who finds no greater pleasure than in the unending torments he inflicts on what is supposedly his highest creation. And don't even get me started on the unspeakable obscenity of a God who would intentionally set in motion a series of events that results in his precious Son being tortured and then killed by crucifixion, an unimaginably, incomprehensibly painful and awful way to die -- and who would do all this to "save" mankind. Yeah, that's worked out spectacularly well, as two thousand years of history prove conclusively. Seriously, this is deeply sick and twisted stuff. (I will have much, much more to say about religion in general, and about particular aspects of major religious doctrine, in upcoming installments of my Tribalism series, including some excerpts from Alice Miller on that very subject. On this topic, too, I have barely begun.)

Hasn't this been fun so far? I hope you're not drunk. And I've only covered about half of what I planned to say! So there's going to be a second part. One of the stars in the next installment: your favorite and mine, Mr. Albert Gore.

And remember: don't drink and drive. Play safely. And no heathen idols. In fact, no idols at all. Don't make shit up, either in this world or in one you've imagined out of the unreasoning demands of a damaged psychology. Oh, yes, that's a large part of what I think is involved (see this as a preview). As I said, I have much more coming up about all that. But more global warming fun next time; religion later!

Buy another bottle tonight. Make that five. You'll need 'em.