Friday, August 10, 2012

LYELL emerges from grave to deny climate change , as Yankee deniers crow "we knew he would!"

Actually Sir Charles Lyell is dead - long dead - with no sign his body has yet risen from the grave. But what about his intellectual spirit ?

Because, in fact, Lyell's spirit, his soul (the theory of uniformitarianism) does live on (and on and on).

Lives on and on in the minds of the climate deniers - and never more strongly than in that heartland of climate denialism : among many of the old school American geologists.

No coincidence that, because in its heyday uniformitarianism also thrived strongest in America geology.

Geological and meteorological deniers today claim that the climate hasn't changed, because it can not change but merely oscillate over a constant central value, if viewed over geological time periods.

If this sounds even vaguely familiar, it is because American deniers back in uniformitarianism's heyday said exactly the same thing to explain why in their view the geology of the earth hadn't changed and couldn't change.

The House Wine of Modernity (& Denierism) is Uniformitarianism

The American geological elite's favourite words were the food and drink of modernity itself, so these geological deniers were then fully of the mainstream , in fact the mainstream of the mainstream.

Words and phrases like : normal,norm, average, static, unchanging, balance, equilibrium, eternal,universal, oscillating deviations of a local and temporary nature.

Nature was a passive backdrop : unchanging, eternal, universal.

 Einstein, one of the clearest examples of 19th century scientific thinking, believed that the universe had always been there and always would be there : it was neither birthed nor would it die.

Against this 19th century static theatre backdrop, the minds of human actors were the active, changing elements of reality.

Peasants, by contrast, extrapolated from their miserable and uncertain lives to see the forces of nature as still all powerful and dynamically uncertain and us humans powerless to do much more than strive to survive its storms and earthquakes.

But upper middle class males, highly educated in western values , saw reality as very certain and predictable, again extrapolating from their extremely privileged lives.

(They, it can be safely assumed, never had to deal with even the minor uncertainties of life such as just when and how baby would choose to spoil her last remaining clean diaper !)

So if we threw Fred Singer out of a plane over Sub-Saharan Africa and told him to hunt and gather for himself, it would be pretty safe to assume we would find him a few years later, not just thinner and fitter, but also with a totally reversed view on whether Climates - and Nature in general - can and do change.

It is no coincidence that the Rich think reality is stable and unchanging and the Poor feel it is unstable and unpredictable....

1 comment:

  1. I doubt whether Nancy Cartwright is half as certain as you that natural "laws" exist everywhere and for all time.

    Some people (natural philosophers aka physicists, mostly) hope they do - but hope isn't certainty.

    If a science 'law' is working and useful under certain conditions, great I will use it under those conditions--- but I don't worship it as a tenet of theology.

    Practical physics I love - physics as theology I don't.