Archive for the ‘Environmentalism’ Category

Why David Goldman is Wrong About “Imminent Population Collapse”

April 24, 2012

Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum is touting a new book by David Goldman, “How Civilizations Die.” Goldman claims the world is in a steep demographic decline whose consequences will be catastrophic.

The world faces a danger more terrible than the worst Green imaginings. The European environmentalist who wants to shrink the world’s population to reduce carbon emissions will spend her declining years in misery, for there will not be enough Europeans alive a generation from now to pay for her pension and medical care. For the first time in history, the birth rate of the whole developed world is well below replacement, and a significant part of it has passed the demographic point of no return.

Notice that Goldman’s victim in this scenario is the European environmentalist, forced to lie upon the bed she has so foolishly made. He continues:

Imminent population collapse makes radical Islam more dangerous, not less so. For in their despair, radical Muslims who can already taste the ruin of their culture believe that they have nothing to lose. … Population decline, the decisive issue of the twenty-first century, will cause violent upheavals in the world order. Countries facing fertility dearth, such as Iran, are responding with aggression. Nations confronting their own mortality may choose to go down in a blaze of glory.

Wait just a doggone minute. Hold them hosses. Is Goldman really saying that the world’s population, which has grown 300% since 1944, is in precipitous decline? Is it possible that today’s European adults will spend their declining years in abject misery for lack of enough young people to pay for their pensions and medical care? Is population collapse really “imminent” and even irreversible in places? And do populations with “elder bulges” really become more belligerent?

Gil Bailie could not be happier with Goldman’s thesis, for it appears to validate the Catholic Church’s longstanding position on contraception. Bailie has this to say:

The Church was right, and those who scoffed were wrong.

For decades, things repugnant to every prior age—contraception and abortion—have not only been considered licit, but beyond reproach. To the social, moral, and cultural damage resulting from the severance of sexuality from procreation and emotional commitment can now be added the demographic tsunami by which we already being engulfed.

And today our government is more determined than ever to favor and fund the anti-natal policies that are leading to this catastrophe. What many have said about the debt crisis is true as well of the very much related demographic one: Never before have we faced crises that were this severe and this predictable. And we are doubling down on the policies that created them.

The Church was right after all. All the evidence suggests so.

Was it? And does it? Are we really experiencing a “demographic tsunami?”

First, Bailie could have been more precise in his choice of a metaphor. A tsunami is a sudden excess of water pushed into coastal areas. That said, let’s weigh the evidence for Goldman’s “imminent population collapse.” My sources for population statistics are the CIA World Factbook and various United Nations publications, all freely available on the Internet.

Global population growth, 1300-2000 AD

Again, the world’s  population has grown 300% since I was born (1944), and it’s still growing very rapidly.

The population growth rate (not to be confused with the amount of growth) has dropped almost exactly 50% in the past 50 years (from 2.2% to 1.1% per annum, and that decrease is mostly attributable to lower fertility rates worldwide, though HIV-related deaths in Southern Africa and deaths from starvation and genocide in Sub-Saharan Africa must certainly be factored in. The growth rate is expected to reach 0.6% per annum by 2050, but that’s still growth, not contraction.

Global population growth rates. Source: World Bank

Yes, worldwide fertility rates have dropped, but only to 2.47 children per woman, well above the replacement rate of 2.1 cpw. It’s a good thing. We were headed toward nine billion before the end of this century.

None of these stats on growth and fertility points to “imminent population collapse” on a global scale. On the contrary, overpopulation is already straining the earth’s resources to an alarming degree.

Global fertility rates. Source: World Bank

But what about population collapse at the national level? Is any population really “collapsing?” Certainly, one might expect population numbers to fluctuate as environmental conditions vary over time. But is Goldman justified in reading “collapse” into every ebbing of a national population? Is any society nearing the “point of no return?” Are developed countries in a “death spiral?”

Clearly, Goldman’s hyperbolic rhetoric appears intended to evoke fear. It also appears to be driven by his own fears. But fears of what? The answer is beyond the scope of this post, but Goldman’s Spengler page on PJ Media will offer some clues. Suffice it to say that Gil Bailie and David Goldman share a visceral distaste for liberalism, modernism, secularism, Islam, and the sexual revolution; and that both are opposed to contraception.

Population Dynamics

The scientific literature on population dynamics shows basically four “stages” of population growth, with bulges moving up from bottom to top. As you might expect, there are problems with stage #1, which has a youth bulge, and stage #4, which has a “elder bulge.”

When too many young people come on-stream in a society that is ill-equipped to deal with them, as in stage #1, the results are likely to be increased social unrest, war, terrorism, and even genocide. Second and third sons can’t find employment and often turn to religious or political ideologies to make their mark in the world. Nevertheless, the “youth bulge” is never the only factor explaining these pathologies. Resources are key to whether predicting whether a society can effectively handle a youth bulge. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has done well, while Egypt has done very poorly.

Global Median Age

Where there’s an “elder bulge,” as we are seeing in Japan and Europe, social services are strained at the other end (i.e., social welfare for seniors), and the fewer resources that are available, the more acute the problems become. An educated and informed democratic society can always tweak policy to address the challenges. While draconian measures like criminalization of contraception are never necessary, they are often advocated by religious institutions locked into pre-modern and pre-scientific conceptions of social engineering. And make no mistake about it: Policies that criminalize or deny access to contraception are a form of social engineering.

The fourth model, with its “elder bulge,” is never an inverted pyramid. People don’t completely stop having children, even in modern China. And, contrary to what David Golden claims, elder bulges don’t provoke violent social upheavals.  As Samuel Huntington wrote in Clash of Civilizations, “Generally speaking, the people who go out and kill other people are males between the ages of 16 and 30.”

It’s always a complicated equation—never as simple as David Goldman’s model—and one must never factor out resources and other environmental factors. Overpopulation occurs when an area’s population exceeds its carrying capacity, and underpopulation occurs when there are not enough people to maintain an economic system. Depopulation occurs when people leave an area or are killed off. Somalia is overpopulated because it lacks resources to sustain its people, and the continent of Antarctica is underpopulated because conditions of life there are so harsh.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s population has quadrupled since 1945, causing a precipitous decline in resources, especially water, fuel, and soil nutrients. In Somalia, 12 million people are facing famine. The linkage between overpopulation and famine is undisputed.

What is the solution to Somalia’s problems? Certainly an infusion of food and water supplies would alleviate suffering there. But until that happens, would anyone dare suggest that Somalis should have more babies? Would anyone in his right mind suggest withholding contraceptives? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you probably need to read up on Catholic teachings.

There isn’t a single country or society where either underpopulation or depopulation, as defined above, is currently a social problem on the scale of the overpopulation problem in Africa. This is not to claim that populations cannot implode. Indigenous populations were decimated throughout the Americas from disease and conquest following the arrival of Europeans. The Vikings left Greenland because of climate change, and some Polynesian islands were abandoned between 800 and 1000 AD for environmental reasons that are still in dispute. In none of these cases was “birth dearth” the cause of depopulation. Again, environmental factors were decisive.

So, if there is, in Gil Bailie’s words, a demographic “tsunami,” then surely we are witnessing it in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is indeed a “death spiral,” but one that results from overpopulation, not depopulation.

David Goldman’s concerns about declining fertility rates in developed countries are driven less by fears of underpopulation than by fears about cultural dilutions resulting from immigration. There is certainly no dearth of people in the world, and, as said earlier, the total fertility rate is still well above the replacement rate of 2.1 bpw. The key to understanding Goldman’s misplaced concerns is to understand what he, as a stakeholder, fears about cultural dilution.

If developed countries need to beef up their populations, they can prioritize financial incentives for families to have more than 2.1 children, as Japan and some northern European countries are currently doing. Or they can leverage immigration, or encourage workers to delay retirement. Students can be given low-interest-rate loans so that starting a family after college does not become an impossible financial burden for them. There are costs involved in any of these measures, but the resources are not lacking.

The reality is that resources in developed nations are not yet at a point where population attrition is inevitable. These societies are now being asked to decide whether unlimited accrual of personal wealth is conducive to cultural or national survival. At some point, the perceived common good may require adjusting priorities. Women who have political choice will not opt for more children when resources are scarce, and they may justly demand a reallocation of resources.

Strained resources in India

If less-developed nations face overpopulation, then why not support family planning as a way of bringing those populations under control? We know that family planning works, but we have not yet seen that resource replacement does so.

To take contraception off the table is to deprive ourselves of a highly effective tool for managing populations and for ensuring the well-being of those who do populate our planet. It isn’t just numbers that we want, or more life. Humans are not warrior ants, driven only to reproduce and make war. We are made for something better.

Randall Jennings comments:

Seems the modern world is very good at creating problems and then creating new ones with their “fixes” on ever grander scales. I could foresee tens of millions Chinese men, for instance, having their own ideas of reducing global population as they realize they will very well never have a bride and a normal family life after the ‘success’ of the state’s one child policy.

George Dunn responds to Randall Jennings:

Randall, the widening disproportion of men to women is a concern of the Chinese government, which is one reason they are relaxing the one child policy. What you foresee is also foreseeable by policymakers, who are in a position to adjust the policy accordingly. But I hope you’re not suggesting (as Gil undoubtedly would) that the solution is to criminalize the use of contraceptives. That would be to consign hundreds of millions of Chinese to grinding poverty and possibly starvation. Say what you will about the current Chinese regime (and, as an expat in China, I am certainly not an unqualified fan), but they have succeeded where their predecessors have all failed in meeting the greatest challenge that a developing country must face—they are keeping every single one of their 1.3 billion citizens fed. Not only that, but they have lifted an unprecedented 600 million people out of poverty. I shudder to think what China would be like today if contraception had been criminalized for the last fifty years.

Ian Mac Laue writes:

I don’t dispute that some of the data might be overblown or used to support xenophobic ends that aren’t by any means admirable, but as it concerns strictly european nations there does seem to be a problem of replacement level growth. Shouldn’t a country be concerned when its tax base is incapable of supporting its older members? Or are you suggesting that any such problem could be allieviated by an influx of immigration?

My response to Ian Mac Laue:

Countries with birthrates below replacement levels have legitimate concerns about the burdens placed on working-age populations to support their elderly. People throughout the developed world are living longer, and women are having fewer babies.

I don’t believe there is any single solution to this problem, but I do believe certain proposed solutions should be taken off the table. Criminalizing or withholding access to contraception is a non-starter. Turning back the rights revolution and the sexual revolution is another non-starter. Once women got the right to vote, the game was up for patriarchal structures of power, and the path ahead is clear. Women will continue to demand equality and the right to control their own reproductive lives, and they will increasingly achieve their goals. We must just accept that as a given.

Populations that are still growing are generally those where women are still substantially oppressed. Oppression is not an option for constitutional democracies.

Solutions to birth dearth include immigration, government-sponsored incentives, and later retirement. None of these solutions is without problems of its own, but at least none of them requires any curtailment of individual liberties.

Dean Hansen responds to Gil Bailie:

I wasn’t aware that contraception and abortion have been repugnant to every age. When we refuse to examine our own “repugnance” regarding reproduction issues, nature steps in and does it for us with bubonic plague, cholera epidemics, wars, droughts, floods, and fires.  Nature doesn’t give a damn about our moral scrupulosity. I’m so glad Gil took this time out of his busy schedule to remind us how happy we could be if we surrendered our autonomy to the authority of a group of demented celibate old men in Rome. Of course, Gil has been taking time out of his busy schedule to say the same stuff over and over, day after day, quoting anyone who will agree with him, and then covering his ears every time someone objects.

What I do believe is that people who live their lives in fear and superstition can make life a living hell for those who don’t, but women have always resorted to whatever means were available to them, regardless of the darkness of the age they resided in, or the potential danger to themselves, to wrest control of their own lives from “well meaning” male authorities who claimed to speak for God. Much of that so-called repugnance was nothing more than a continuation of a shaming mechanism aimed at reducing human reproduction and human sexuality into a miserable farce whose whole aim to is to denigrate any kind of sexual act that doesn’t take place in the sacred baby-making factory of family bedroom.

Yes, those declining years will be spent in misery, unless we make up our minds to burden an already over-stressed world with a new and continuous supply of human beings—who can starve along with the ones who are already here, many of them unwanted or unplanned—and to put additional demands on resources that are irreplaceable and on energy systems that are still dominated by an oil industry determined to keep their profits rolling in no matter what the cost to the planet. The real misery for subsequent generations will be fished-out seas and coal-fired plants belching more carbon into an already overloaded atmosphere. And when the electricity goes off, so does the running water, the toilet, the shower, the microwave oven, the refrigerator, the TV, the air conditioning … well, just about anything that distinguishes our relatively civilized culture from the others that will be dying off at an even faster rate.  Now that’s population collapse, brother, and it won’t be caused by our inability to remember how to fuck and make babies.

It amazes me that Gil holds up Paul Ehrlich as an example of bad science, when much of what he said was prescient and has come true.  The dates were off but the trends are sound.  We are at three times the population world-wide that existed at the time of Mr. Bailie’s birth. We are running out of potable water, sustainable crops, and non-polluting energy, and still he dumbs-down the rhetoric by quoting anyone who parrots the idiocy about “fertility dearth.”  The only real and measurable dearth is in the neuronal dendrites that can no longer be called into service in Bailie’s apparently concrete-filled head as they march into the waste basket of his own personal historical delusions.

And what’s the final cherry atop the tasty Catholic cobbler in this intellectual feast or famine? “The Church was right after all.”  Right about what??

I would modify that numbing bit of falderal by suggesting the people who have left the church in order to maintain their sanity and live lives of honesty were right, and that that will ultimately make the only real difference.

Signs of Progress, Reasons for Hope

November 11, 2011

President Obama Puts Pipeline Project on Hold.

Yesterday, November 10, President Obama instructed the State Department to conduct a thorough review of the Keystone Pipeline project, which has been fiercely opposed by environmental groups and climate change activists. The pipeline, running from the Alberta Tar Sands to the Gulf of Mexico, would pose a serious hazard to the nation’s largest aquifer and bind our nation’s energy policy ever more tightly to the fossil fuels industry. The President has assured all stakeholders that the review will be conducted by independent experts not beholden to the oil companies. Read the story here.

Mississippi’s “Personhood” Amendment Fails.

In Tuesday’s election, Mississippi voters gave thumbs down to a ballot initiative that would have granted “personhood” to fertilized eggs. More than 55 percent of voters rejected the initiative. Supporters had hoped the measure, if successful, would prompt a lawsuit challenging the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Opponents said the measure would effectively outlaw birth control and force victims of rape and incest to carry pregnancies to term. Read the story here.

Allegories Gone Wild: Apocalyptic Beliefs Rampant Among U.S. Legislators

October 16, 2011

By trying hard, one can find a few strands of consistency in Christian right-wing legislators’ resistance to abortion, stem-cell research, and same-sex marriage. (e.g., they believe Mosaic law is the last word on homosexuality; they believe life begins at conception). But why are they so bitterly opposed to care of Planet Earth? Why so much anti-environmentalism at a time when our ecosystem is under such obvious stress? The Atheist Oasis team has the answer in this piece, called Allegories Gone Wild. Excerpt:

Forty-five senators and 186 representatives in 2003 earned 80- to 100-percent approval ratings from the nation’s three most influential Christian right advocacy groups — the Christian Coalition, Eagle Forum, and Family Resource Council. Many of those same lawmakers also got flunking grades — less than 10 percent, on average — from the League of Conservation Voters last year.

These statistics are puzzling at first. Opposing abortion and stem-cell research is consistent with the religious right’s belief that life begins at the moment of conception. Opposing gay marriage is consistent with its claim that homosexual activity is proscribed by the Bible. Both beliefs are a familiar staple of today’s political discourse. But a scripture-based justification for anti-environmentalism?

Many Christian fundamentalists feel that concern for the future of our planet is irrelevant, because it has no future. They believe we are living in the End Time, when the son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire. They may also believe, along with millions of other Christian fundamentalists, that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed — even hastened — as a sign of the coming Apocalypse.

Rehabilitation of the Prophets of Doom

September 14, 2011

Non comprare qualsiasi banane verdi.
—Dante (att.)

In cartoons and on the city streets, they’re bearded and robed old men with fire in their eyes, carrying signs urging repentance because the end of the world is nigh. Asked to free-associate on the word “prophet,” many of us will think of these poor deluded souls before recalling that prophesy was once—millennia ago—a highly esteemed and important calling. In a world without databases, computer models, and trend-lines, communities relied on wise elders to sense and warn of long-term dangers. These visionaries foretold the consequences of environmental pressures, bad leadership, and profligate social behavior. Unlike seers, who could only discern the will of the gods by studying bird entrails or rodent droppings, prophets had a direct line to the gods and spoke with moral authority, urging the people and their leaders, when necessary, to avert catastrophe by changing course.

The “false prophets” were, generally speaking, those whose prophesies missed the mark. Evil motives were sometimes imputed to them and, indeed, many misused the public’s trust to mislead and manipulate.

Little has changed, except that (1) a single bone-headed leadership decision can now destroy all life on earth, and (2) our world now has databases, computer models, and trend-lines. There are still prophets among us, more abundantly than ever, though we  seldom recognize them as such. Their professional titles are different now—preacher, theologian, climatologist, earth scientist, economist, political commentator. They publish in the New York Times, they write books and appear on talk-shows, and they preach on the airwaves. They warn of civilizational collapse, ecological crisis, economic meltdown, or God’s wrath (as wrought through hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes) if we refuse to repent, change our economic policies, or end our addiction to fossil fuels. Many of them are false prophets, shills for false gods.

Meanwhile, what has not changed is our species’ DNA. We are genetically no different than our Bronze Age ancestors, and our amygdalas—those small primitive almond-shaped brain modules that manage our four F’s (fight, flight, feeding, and making love) still rule. Even more worrisome is that we seem no less susceptible to cognitive biases than were our ancestors. As Albert Einstein remarked, “The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking.”

However, we—the modern prophets’ public—have two significant advantages over our ancestors in the task of evaluating prophesy. We have a vastly enhanced collective memory, and we have statistics. Our exponentially greater access to information and to the power of information processing is key, and we know—or should know—that a nearly certain predictor of prophetic failure is the prophet’s inability or refusal to tap into the vast and unsurpassed resources of modernity.

Harold Camping

Prophets of imminent rapture have a continuous history going back to the Christian gospels. They have missed the mark with such tiresome regularity and predictability that they’re now highly esteemed mostly by late-night comedians. Their methods are totally uninformed by either science, reason, or accurate information, because they rely solely on a book that was written before any of these goods became widely available.

Other false prophets: Those who are hired by think-tanks to confuse or misinform the public about the dangers of tobacco, environmental pollutants, and climate-change. They abuse science and distort its findings, and their fraudulent prophesies are motivated not by idealism but by greed. Dante’s Inferno has a choice of two circles for them—the fourth circle for greed and the eighth for fraud. May they take their pick and roast without reprieve.

And then there are the failed prophets who, despite their best intentions, just “get it wrong.” They have neither the skill, the fortitude, nor the vision to make the right calls. You can provide your own examples. May they achieve renown in some other pursuit.

Finally, there are the ones who do consistently “get it right,” or who, though still unproven, have offered strong scientific evidence of trends. Though chance may factor into their successes, we honor them nevertheless for their courage, their persistence, and their dedication to scientific inquiry, species survival, and human flourishing.

My picks:

Economics: Paul Krugman, Antonio Damasio, Robert Reich

Climate Science: James Hansen, Bill McKibben, Al Gore, David Suzuki

Political Commentary: Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Moyers, Keith Olbermann

Culture: James Fallows, Andrew Sullivan

Political Satire: Bill Maher (sometimes), Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert

Religion: (Get back to me on this.)

Melanie Phillips: The World Turned Upside Down

June 27, 2011

Melanie Phillips

I imagine that Melanie Phillips, author of “A World Turned Upside Down” (2010), has witnessed and personally experienced some startling “inversions” in her time. So have we all. Things we once thought true have been proved false, shame has been transformed into pride, the honorable has become dishonorable… It must seem that the world has been turned upside down or that we’ve walked through the looking-glass and into a moral maze.

But it’s worse than upside down: we can’t even find our feet. Not only is the ground shifting, but everywhere we step seems to have a different vector of gravity.

As a journalist and editor, Ms. Phillips would have been expected to help her readers decipher the world, and she was by nature and upbringing a person in need of a strong moral compass. A 2003 New Statesman profile talks about her compulsion to control, order, and label everything—people and objects—that come within her sphere.

On November 15, 2010, Ms. Phillips spoke at the Wednesday Morning Club in Los Angeles, CA. (Video here.) What can a speaker cover in 32 minutes? Not much. But Ms. Phillips was not to be deterred. Her topic was the sad state of Western civilization and the pre-eminent causes of its decline—its repudiation of logic, reason, and evidence, and its abandonment of Judeo-Christian values (these are, in her view, synonymous). The culprits in this cosmic drama are the educated elites, proponents of global warming science, environmentalists, militant atheists, extreme gender feminists, anti-imperialists, anti-colonialists, anti-Americans, anti-capitalists, anti-Zionists, multiculturalists, moral and cultural relativists, and materialists.

I am not “for” everything she is “against.” I have my own qualms about multiculturalism and moral relativism, and I have no opinion whatsoever about some of the issues in her inventory. What caught my attention was her methodical segmentation of the world and the desperate, unshakable certainty with which she expresses her personal views about such a vast array of topics. In an artful framing maneuver at the beginning of her talk, she very pointedly champions rationality, as if to pre-empt any charges that she has gone off the rails. That frame also includes fulminations against those who have “demonized” her in the past—a clear signal to her audience about their own reception of what she is about to say.

Spending the first several minutes of a 32-minute speech declaring one’s victim status and defending one’s sanity sets a tone of highly charged subjectivity for what is to follow.

Ms. Phillips strikes me as belonging to a class of people who feel they must express an opinion about everything that happens in the world, whether or not they are insufficiently informed. We’ve all met them at cocktail parties or watched them bloviate on talk shows. The path from journalist to public intellectual to windbag is strewn with half-baked notions; with any luck, a sufficient number of these offerings will rise to the occasion and impress an audience.

Such is her journalistic side and her media persona; she is constantly engaged in public discussion, often on topics about which she has little expertise, and yet she is expected to forcefully express her opinions convincingly and on the fly. And so she often finds herself on the defensive, challenged by experts and intellectuals. Nevertheless, she must exude confidence. Received pronunciation is, of course, as important as knowing the right people—Ms. Phillips is said to be in Prince Charles’ circle.

Early on, the pressure may have been especially intense because she was the first woman editor at The Guardian newspaper, as well as a Jew. Her reaction to all this pressure was first to faint (on her first day as news editor of The Guardian) and then to become imperious and uncompromising—a management style that proved disastrous for her at the paper but seemed to work pretty well for her as a writer and speaker.

Then there’s her Jewishness, which has imbued her with a sense of history and of her purpose in the world. It seems rather grandiose and megalomaniacal at times: she has divided everything up very neatly, just as she arranged and labeled the decanters on her liquor tray. There are the “ideologies,” or “-isms” on one side (all of which are “militantly secular,” she says), and on the other, there are logic, reason, and truth, epitomized by Judeo-Christianity. The borders between these two are impermeable: there are no Christian environmentalists or anti-Zionist observant Jews. Anti-imperialism, like anti-Americanism, anti-colonialism, and multiculturalism, is also militantly secular. (She does actually say this. Check it out at around 15:15 in the video: “They [the ‘isms] are all militantly secular; they’re all against organized religion and particularly against Judeo-Christian tradition.”)

And, of course, she is not herself an ideologue (16:30: “…the rest of us, who are not ideologues, start with facts and evidence and then arrive at a conclusion…”). In her view, these anti-rational ideologies did not appear historically until Judeo-Christianity began to wane in the West. Ms. Phillips does not identify the pinnacle of rationality in Western Civilization, but presumably it would have occurred sometime in early Christian history around the time of Augustine—or perhaps as late as the thirteenth century. The Renaissance, the European Enlightenment, and the development of modern science brought us to our current sorry state of affairs.

Ms. Phillips covers a lot of ground, but there’s no depth to any of it. She dismisses anthropogenic global warming without even attempting to address the overwhelming scientific consensus supporting it. And here she sounds exactly like a small child who believes that she can make something disappear by closing her eyes: (around 5:40) “The seas are not rising, the ice is not shrinking, the polar bears are not vanishing, there’s been no significant warming since 1995, and temperatures have not increased at all since 1998. …The assumption that climate itself can be predicted or its course changed by anything that we do is absolutely ridiculous.”

Really? She should take that idea to Munich Re, the world’s largest insurer, or to NASA, or to the U.S. Military. She could instruct their legions of scientists and statisticians that they have started with a conclusion, not with the facts. Better yet, she could try getting invited to a Geophysics conference to explain why 70 million tons of carbon dioxide, pumped into our atmosphere every day by humans, has no effect on climate. Or she could inform these scientists that NASA’s thousands of satellite photos showing disappearing Arctic ice are fraudulent.

Ms. Phillips’ own disregard of the facts is absolutely breathtaking, notwithstanding her protestations that she “starts with facts, not conclusions.”

Where does she get her “facts” about global warming? Answer: From Ian Plimer’s 2009 book on the subject (“Heaven and Earth—Global Warming: The Missing Science.”). And who is Ian Plimer? He’s a professor of mining geology and the director of four mining companies. Yes, mining companies. They extract fossil fuels from the earth.

Ms. Phillips may find that she can fudge her history and her socio-politics, and make grand sweeping statements about the Zeitgeist. But peddling deliberate distortions about the sciences is much riskier. Her verdict on Darwinism—that it’s “just” a theory, not a fact—reveals an abysmal ignorance of biological science and of the scientific method in general. The little word “just” is the clue to her cluelessness. I don’t think I want to know her thoughts on germ theory or heliocentric theory.

How, indeed, did she manage to become so “expert” in biology and climatology—both of which require decades of study—that she feels empowered to argue with the likes of Richard Dawkins or James Hansen? If there is any merit to her own theories about these subjects, then she should write them up for the journals where they can be peer-reviewed instead of trying to impress the neophytes.

But Ms. Phillips has anticipated this very objection (at 32:38):

“I now find that to find people who are sane and decent and rational, one has to go to people with no education. The most highly educated are now the most irrational, the most bigoted, and the most intolerant. It is in the intelligentsia where this problem is rooted. The core is the repudiation of the very concept of truth and objectivity by this intelligentsia, who have embraced instead everything that is subjective and relative.”

This “intelligentsia” dominates the universities, the research centers, and the scientific journals. It ostracizes anyone who dares to challenge it:

“Scientists teaching evidence problems with evolutionary theory are fired, scientists expressing skepticism [about] the science of man-made global warming theory find they can’t get grant funding, the scientific journals are closed to them, and they’re subjected to vicious personal and professional attacks.”

Could it just be that the scientific establishment is simply doing its job of weeding out the crackpots—and, yes, the ideologues—through rigorous application of the scientific method? The world of science is not one in which “everyone gets the prize.” The prize goes to those whose ideas can withstand the withering scrutiny of their colleagues; it goes to those who can, by applying very rigorous rules of evidence, disprove the theories of other scientists. Sooner or later the winnowing process brings everyone in the scientific community to a consensus about particular theories, accrediting some while consigning others to the dustbin of history.

Evolutionary theory is the foundation of modern biological science. I can easily imagine the impatience of a journal editor who receives one more sorry and ill-conceived repudiation of it from a scientist working for the Discovery Institute or the Cato Institute.

Ms. Phillips has certainly built a hard shell around herself. If you disagree with any of her premises, you are likely to be too highly educated, and you are almost certainly irrational, bigoted, and intolerant. You have repudiated the truth as it has been revealed to her.

Ironically, Ms. Phillips began her talk by excoriating those who had “demonized” her since she became more conservative in her views: “You couldn’t penetrate [their] point of view. It was impervious to reason itself. Everything was being turned inside out…justice and injustice, victim and victimizer. [There were] insults and character assassinations…”

In preparation for reading Ms. Phillip’s latest book, “The World Turned Upside Down,” it might be helpful to first read Dostoyevsky’s The Double, and then practice standing on your head while reading.