Friday, February 23, 2007

Postmodernism and moral decay in climate change denialism

With the sesmic shift in public attitudes avalanching down upon their bunker, climate change denialists have retreated into a postmodern shell. Quoting from the Wikipedia:

In a nutshell, the pro-postmodernism argument runs that economic and technological conditions of our age have given rise to a decentralized, media-dominated society in which ideas are simulacra and only inter-referential representations and copies of each other, with no real original, stable or objective source for communication and meaning.
With the last pretension to fact based argument ripped from their paws, the denialists must now argue that facts don't matter, and, indeed are doing so with gusto. This is a very attractive argument to journalists.

Although criticized at the time, Nicholas Stern's argument for a very low social discount rate was at base a moral judgement, something that he must have sensed was necessary to meet the coming onslaught.


Anonymous said...

"denialists have retreated into a postmodern shell"

No surprise there. After all, everything is relative -- and some things are even more relative than others:
Dubya and Jeb,
Rudi and his first wife,
Exxon-Mobil and AGW Denialists,

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the post-modern argument is wrong. There is a source for both communication and meaning, called language. Wittgenstein recognised the anal nature of much philosophy; post-modernism is about language and about philosophy (as well as being an attitude to the world), and as such, can be ignored in terms of what it tries to tell us about our world. In the real world, outside the pretentious, false-intending peudo-intellectual spheres, words still mean what they mean and facts are still facts.
It isn't even a particularly clever try.

guthrie said...

I would quibble with "words still mean what they mean". After all, men and women in the UK here are supposedly still using the same words, but they still manage to spectacularly miscommunicate, as i have observed over the years.

This does not of course excuse the deniers, merely I am pointing out that words are more flexible and problematic than many people give them credit for.

Anonymous said...

The quote boils down to: 'Because of the world we live in, there are no new ideas, and no way of communicating ideas.'
This is patently nonsense.
Of course people miscommunicate, but is that the fault of the words, or of the people?
In the everyday world, and in the scientific world, and in many other spheres where communication and meaning matter, many people find it easy to make themselves understood. This is what I was referring to. Of course words can be 'obscure', especially in post-modern or post-structural interpretations of language, but the Wittgenstein reference was intended to point out that they do not have to be.
Thank you for you response, anyway.

Anonymous said...

In the everyday world, and in the scientific world, and in many other spheres where communication and meaning matter, many people find it easy to make themselves understood."

I agree, but in science, words sometimes are simply incapable of expressing the ideas -- eg, in quantum mechanics, the electron (proton, neutron, even atoms) sometimes behave as particles, other times as waves, but never simultaneously as both -- and are in "reality" neither. Niels Bohr understood this all too well.

Anonymous said...

I agree that words can fail the scientist at critical moments, though perhaps mathematical languages offer respite from this, but is this what Uncle Eli's post is about? Not really; those 'in denial' are once again procrastinating, this time using the excuse that science is meaningless and the media control the way we think, therefore debate over climate change is pointless.
I simply disagree.

Anonymous said...

It's always a bit of a mystery why you people yell so shrilly at those who remain unconvinced you've resolved the uncertainties in the climate models.

You should worry more about those you've already convinced. They may be true believers, but they don't cut down on their greenhouse gas emissions. Aren't they a bigger problem?

I mean, you've got the Goreacle himself running up a $30K/year utility bill:

I couldn't hope to do a fraction of that, and I'm in favour of global warming.

Anonymous said...

No actually, people like you are the biggest problem because you don't (won't) acknowledge that there is a problem.

It's much like the alcoholic who does not acknowledge that he has a drinking problem. There's nothing that can be done for him until he does.

Unfortunately, the rest of us have to play the role of the alcoholic's family in the case of the global warming denialists.