Most skeptics have had a discussion with an alarmist at one time or another and experienced the raw irrationality of their obsession that the end of the world is approaching.
I’m not speaking about luke-warmers here, or even warmists – I’m talking about the climate alarmists, the very people we sadly are forced to deal with in climate science, e.g. Hansen, the Hockey Team, PIK, to name a few.
To deal with them, it is helpful to explore the mind of the alarmist and understand the psychology of doomsday purveyors in general.
When in discussion with alarmists, I’m always baffled by their constant insistence that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, no matter what facts you present. The more you take their arguments apart, the more they stubbornly cling to their belief. Why is it they insist a doomsday is coming, and don’t want to hear anything else? Why do they crave a climate doomsday? Why do they react to good news as if it was the plague? Seems very irrational.
Unfortunately, what we find in the minds of alarmists and the purveyors of end-of-world scenarios is not a pretty sight, as you are about the see. We are dealing with irrationality here, and maybe worse.
A normal, rational person who is confronted by a life threatening possibility would welcome ANY evidence showing the situation is far less dangerous than first believed. But not the climate Armageddists. In fact, the doomsday not being true is their biggest nightmare. We’ve seen how alarmist climatologists and proponents have mobilized to prop up the doomsday scenario whenever it’s threatened. That’s what Climategate was all about – keeping the good news out and the doomsday scenario alive.
Being curious about the psychology of doomsday prophets, I came across a piece in Psychology Today by Howard Bloom written about a year ago called:
It’s well worth the read (some may find Bloom controversial). I think there’s a lot behind what he says.
End-of-world predictions are as old as civilization
The main psychological undercurrent in the modern climate movement is the human fascination with (and wish for) a global apocalypse – a coming climate Armageddon. It’s what propels the movement. But this is not a new social phenomena. Such doomsday visions are as old as civilisation itself. The obsession with end-of-the-world visions is one of civilisation’s recurring psychological illnesses. Today’s global climate Armageddon obsession is just the latest bout.
Bloom provides a number of examples from history. The early Christians believed in the second coming of Jesus, and with him a cleansing of the earth to clear the way for a new order. So did the Mayans and the Aztecs. For the Aztecs it even became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Today, 85% of Muslim Shiites believe in the coming of the 12th Imam, which will cleanse the earth and lead to a world ruled by the laws of Islam. Frighteningly, Iran’s President Ahmad Ahmaddinejad is a believer, writes Bloom.
When doomsday predictions don’t come true
In recent times there have been many cults, sects, etc., and they all believed the end of the world was imminent. The 7th Day Adventists and Jehovah Witness, or Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo to name a few. They made end-of-the-world predictions which never came true. You’d think people would wake up and abandon these charlatans, but they don’t.
For example, 7th Day Adventist founder William Miller preached in the early 19th century that the world would end in 1843. The end never came. So his followers rescheduled it for a year later, 1844. That too never materialized. Did followers abandon the belief? Hardly. Today the 7th Day Adventists church has 16 million followers. Beliefs in Armageddons are not rational, and refuse to die.
Paul Ehrlich predicted also cataclysmic events back in the 1960s and 70s, claiming global starvation of unprecedented dimensions. Today we see just the opposite. The world’s population is far greater and better fed than ever. Have followers abandoned Ehrlich? Far from it. Followers base their loyalty on faith and emotion, and not rationale.
Why are many people hooked on doomsday prophesies?
A lot of people are simply malcontent with the world and the direction of the human race and society, and so it appeals to them that it could get wiped out, and thus clear the way for a fresh start – one that would reflect their own view of how the world ought to be. Many loathe today’s modern prosperity, and would like nothing more than to change it radically. So there is a deep and dark desire to rid the place of competitors. This deep passion to do so appears to be evolutionary and biological, Bloom calls it the passion for disaster:
Surely biology and evolution must have a greater reason for holding on to such a deep disaster passion.”
To illustrate the dynamics of this kind of thinking, Bloom describes a German experiment conducted in the late 1940s where 15 brown rats, all strangers to each other, were put inside a box. At first the rats cowered in corners, afraid of each other. But over time things changed. Two of the rats eventually paired up and soon eliminated the rest. Bloom writes:
The rats had cleared the new territory of competitors, transforming the cage into a spacious land of milk and honey for themselves. A new promised land. Now, they could found a tribe that might if left to its own devices thrive for generations to come. A tribe that would carry the parental line of genes.
How does this relate to the popularity of notions that the world is about to end? Think for a second. Every millennial end-of-the-world movement has a hitch. We’ll all be broiled, fried, or caught in the crossfire of apocalyptic battles and plague. WE’LL be wiped out. But not the true believers. They’ll be saved. And they’ll have a fresh new world, a world purged of us, a world they can turn into their own private paradise.
Apocalypse-beliefs, I suspect, are land-clearance and land-grab dreams in disguise-dreams left over from our time as beasts.”
The green movement promises paradise, where the climate is friendly and the land is abundant in fruit, and human misery is practically non-existent. It’s about shaping the world according to the view of one particular group, one that happens to be very malcontent, and about eliminating competitors.
Greenhouse gases deliver the hope of a new order
Bloom ties all this in with catastrophic climate change, which, as readers here can tell you, is the very much hoped for fantasy of the alarmists. No matter what data refuting the doomsday scenarios are presented, the radical warmists don’t want to see or hear any of it, as it could disrupt their cherished fantasy. Bloom writes:
One of the most popular apocalyptic belief systems of the last 30 years has been the idea that we humans are bringing the destruction of the planet. The greenhouse-gas scenario is partly a scientific hypothesis and partly a deeply appealing myth. Climate-change-beliefs are a secular expression of an antique pattern…perhaps an instinctual pattern. They are a new way of saying that the end is coming and that only the believers will be saved. Only those who’ve embraced the right god or the right philosophy will survive. Only they will know the truth behind the new world order. And they will do more than remain alive, they will come out on top. They will flourish and thrive.”
Frustration and the desire to see a whole new order – that’s what’s common to all doomsday prophets. They are all disenchanted with the society they find themselves in, and are angry that it does not conform to their view of the world. Either the world changes so that it complies with their view, or it deserves destruction. There’s anger and the desire to punish. Whether that is a healthy psychology to see among leaders, I’ll let the reader make the call.
Howard Bloom is author of: The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History and The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism (see widgets in side bar, above right). In the coming days I will be posting the next essay on the psychology of the AGW movement.