Monday, December 11, 2006

Sacrificing humans to the Earth God

Dr John Reid is a neuroscientist from Melbourne's Swinburne University. He gave a talk yesterday on ABC radio on the subject of global warming.

According to Dr Reid, we must take radical steps to avoid an environmental apocalypse. Standards of living in the Western world will have to be cut drastically. The number of cars will have to be reduced to 10% of the current fleet. Water and meat will need to be rationed and private property rights curtailed.

But even this won't be enough to avoid turning our beautiful planet into a "Venusian hell".

According to Dr Reid we have to devise a way to achieve a large-scale and rapid decline in the earth's population. Dr Reid notes that war, pestilence and famine might kill large numbers, but he thinks only on a scale of tens of millions "which is not enough to solve the problem of over-populaton".

He suggests that a more effective and humane way to rid the world of large numbers of people might be:

to put something in the water, a virus that would be specific to the human reproductive system and would make a substantial proportion of the population infertile.

Perhaps a virus that would knock out the genes that produce certain hormones necessary for conception.

Which countries should be targeted first? Oddly enough, Dr Reid doesn't propose attacking those countries with the highest birth rates, but countries which already have a below replacement fertility rate. He suggests "fixing" the water supplies of the United Arab Emirates, the USA, Finland, Canada, Kuwait and Australia on the basis that these countries do the most environmental damage.

But if there were to be a drastic decline in the number of young people in these nations, how would the elderly be supported? Dr Reid has an answer. They wouldn't be. He states:

Societies will not be able to provide health care services needed to keep large numbers of unhealthy old people alive.

A triage approach will be necessary so that scarce medical resources go to those who can contribute most to the long-term viability of the planet. Consequently many middle-aged-to-elderly people will die uncomfortable deaths. Not every problem is soluble.

Finally, Dr Reid advocates the abandonment of traditional theistic religions:

The precepts of the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam represent the quintessential perversion of the human mind. They must be abandoned and the notion of the sanctity of human life must be subjugated to the greater sanctity of all life on Earth.

What's to be made of all this? Dr Reid clearly has issues with traditional religion. Just as clearly, he wishes to substitute a commitment to "the planet" for these religions.

But a secular religion can be a dangerous thing. What is there in Dr Reid's secular earth religion to uphold a sense of the value of individual human life? What is there to place moral limits on how we serve the new earth god?

If you read the transcript of Dr Reid's speech you are struck by how readily his mind turns to darkly pessimistic scenarios of destruction, and by how coldly instrumental his solutions are.

Also striking is how Dr Reid's scientific humanism can be so un-progressive in recalling the crueller aspects of paganism, and so anti-human in degrading both the status and sanctity of human life.


  1. Obviously, the mans a nutter first and foremost.

    Must also be a neo-Marxist, or Anarchist. And very definitely deserves the title Dr Death. That makes three in Aus now. Or at least officialy. I have come across a similar subliminal debate elswhere in the bloggosphere, so it must be assumed that it is a real debate.

    The practitioners are obviously off their cruet, blaming Australia for the woes of the world. The environmental stats accorded to our performance is a pro-rata based assumption. To find the real contributors, i think the Dr Deaths should look elswhere.

  2. I like the way people like neuroscientists always say "as a scientist". I'm a professional engineer AND I have a degree in Chemistry (and most of one in Physics) as well. Should I go around debunking the Green Screed and then quoting my qualifications to silence argument?

    Neuroscience is highly specialised. I assume that Dr Reid has qualifications in medicine, or biochemistry and physiology. This DOESN'T make any assertions as to the Earth's alleged "carrying capacity" unanswerable due to his superior knowledge. The same applies, to a lesser extent, with Suzuki the geneticist.

    I also have little patience with the condemnation of the "Abrahamic religions" as being the cause of environmental degradation. Suzuki also pushed this line (with the emphasis on Christianity). The growth of industrialism accompanied the scientific revolution and the enlightenment, now unless these anti-Christians wish to claim that Christianity is the source of both the Enlightenment and Science, then they should go easy on this one. There are plenty of examples of eco-catastrophe (or supposed eco-catastrophe) from the past - such as salination of Summer's agricultural lands; the deforestation of Easter Island; the decline of the Mayans; the massive soil erosion of the Mediterranean in Roman times and the desertification of north Africa which have occurred without any or minimal presence of the "Abrahamic religions". Nor does it account for the traditional fertility of the Hindus, who are not obeying the Biblical injunction to go forth and multiply. I suspect that this claim is really a means by which the various threads of radicalism can be drawn together to condemn Western culture and society. Soviet industry has led to much of the Aral Sea drying out to grow cotton. This is a major change to the ecosystem of the region, but we hear comparatively little about it. Also the "estimates" as to the "ecological footprint" which he approvingly quotes to justify "reducing the population" is a very subjective analysis.

    I disagree with Mark, however, in his description of the descent into the worst aspects of paganism. This is a terrible libel on pagans. It is the ultimate proof that secular religions are worse than their traditional "supernatural" counterparts. As with the earlier, communist variety, this one justifies mass murder and a cast iron dictatorship in order to enforce its own version of ideological, neo-moral, purity. It certainly a religious ideology rather than a scientific one (the lines are becoming quite blurred now). The Venusian Hell is an image of the damnation of the fallen. It isn't simply alarmist, it is plain ridiculous. Venus has an atmosphere that is 95% carbon dioxide, and it is 90 times thicker than ours. We couldn't come close to even 1% of the Venus CO2 levels even if we burned all the coal, oil, gas AND all living vegetation on Earth. To do that we'd have to oxidise all limestone and marble on the surface of the earth, and boil the oceans whilst we're about it. Yet he speaks as if it were becoming an evermore likely threat! The allusion that Robyn Williams (who himself isn’t a scientist: all he does is host a radio show on the subject) makes about the poor Club of Rome and Ehrlich only having the most extreme scenarios published obscures the point. These extreme claims are put in precisely to “shock” people into tacking the drastic steps they demand. The other “scenarios” are really only published to “cover their arse” if the predicted apocalypse doesn’t eventuate. It’s a common enough trick: like Erich von Daniken making statements with a question mark in the end so he could wriggle off the hook about some assertion over “alien artifacts”. In any case, the “precautionary principle” these people always demand is based upon assuming the extreme events will take place.

    Reid has done us a favour by exposing the truth about this new secular religion so many, from the Sunrise crew to trendy vicars are happy to hitch their wagons to. They also appeal to authority rather than evidence. Things like, “I’m a scientist”, or “no published article disputes this” or “the consensus says”. Perhaps Reid can lead by example and voluntarily give his life for his new religion – although I suspect he would, by definition, fit amongst those who contribute most to the “long-term viability of the planet”.

  3. Anonymous,

    I don't necessarily think something has to be an expert in a field to express an opinion on it.

    One of the problems today is that there there aren't enough public intellectuals integrating the various findings from experts in particular fields.

    Many enviromentalists for example, are ignorant about economic competition between states.

    They expect western countries for example, to place heavy burdens on their own industries while allowing China to pollute without penalty

    This king of thinking, as gadget says, is neo-Marxist.

    I personally think that individuals, communities and nations should be made more responsible for dealing with their own problems.

    For example, if Mexicans have too many kids they shouldn't be able to pass the buck by sending them to the US.

    If Chinese manufacturing firms don't adhere to western environmental standards then western countries should apply tariffs on Chinese imports.

    Conversely, if western manufaturing firms cut emmissions they should be rewarded with tax concessions from their own governments.

    Marxists solutions which avoid individual and community responsiblity are, as you point out, unworkable.

  4. Sorry, that first sentence should read:

    I don't necessarily think someone has to be an expert in a field to express an opinion on it.

  5. To NZ Conservative. I agree that one doesn't have to be an "expert" to have an opinion. The point about this man is that he is posing as "a scientist" as if that makes his claims, assertions, and analysis unchallengeable. A large section of the listening public (at least those who've heard of him) likewise think that Robyn Williams has "authority" as a scientist, when he is actually merely a radio presenter, albeit more articulate than most in the community.

    My point was that neuroscience being so specialist means that he has little time left for full investigation of the various climate change scenarios, to assign probabilities, or to actively determine how accurate the WWF's "assessment" of the carrying capacity of the Earth really is. Once you can assign probabilities, you can then determine how radical your "prescriptions" must be. As an example, the risk of a relatively minor motor vehicle accident are all too high, so we fasten seat belts to reduce the risk of injury. However we don't have a high risk of being hit on the head by a meteorite, and so don't go around with hard hats on (they would be of doubtful use anyway). You need to assign probabilities and uncertainties before you decide on a course of action, and most of the alarmist claims made have a low probability because they rely on a combination of low probability occurrences (such as Libya, etc. having bigger economies than the US in 100 years - which would require most of the world to outperform the Japan of the post war years).

    Not many people have a rounded knowledge. Suzuki's history is a little muddled for example. However it clearly wrong to present oneself as an "EXPERT" when one has specialised in another field. This is what both Reid and Suzuki and others clearly do, and then sit upon their qualifications and eloquence as if this means they cannot be doubted. They also, incidentally, have a nasty tendency to dismiss people who question their demands as ignorant (Richard Dawkins does this all the time - even with people as intelligent as Sir Fred Hoyle - but doesn't let this stop him from pontificating remorselessly on areas in which he clearly isn't an expert), or else in the pay of special interests. Suzuki, if we can believe Andrew Bolt, has even claimed recently that we don't need any more knowledge as we already have too much. If this is true, it means he's given up on being a scientist.