May 27, 2008

Freeman Dyson on the 'religion of environmentalism'

Physicist Freeman Dyson reviews A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies and Global Warming: Looking Beyond Kyoto in the New York Times Review of Books.

Says Dyson,
"All the books that I have seen about the science and economics of global warming, including the two books under review, miss the main point. The main point is religious rather than scientific. There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism, holding that we are stewards of the earth, that despoiling the planet with waste products of our luxurious living is a sin, and that the path of righteousness is to live as frugally as possible. The ethics of environmentalism are being taught to children in kindergartens, schools, and colleges all over the world.

Environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion. And the ethics of environmentalism are fundamentally sound. Scientists and economists can agree with Buddhist monks and Christian activists that ruthless destruction of natural habitats is evil and careful preservation of birds and butterflies is good. The worldwide community of environmentalists—most of whom are not scientists—holds the moral high ground, and is guiding human societies toward a hopeful future. Environmentalism, as a religion of hope and respect for nature, is here to stay. This is a religion that we can all share, whether or not we believe that global warming is harmful.

Unfortunately, some members of the environmental movement have also adopted as an article of faith the belief that global warming is the greatest threat to the ecology of our planet. That is one reason why the arguments about global warming have become bitter and passionate. Much of the public has come to believe that anyone who is skeptical about the dangers of global warming is an enemy of the environment. The skeptics now have the difficult task of convincing the public that the opposite is true. Many of the skeptics are passionate environmentalists. They are horrified to see the obsession with global warming distracting public attention from what they see as more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet, including problems of nuclear weaponry, environmental degradation, and social injustice. Whether they turn out to be right or wrong, their arguments on these issues deserve to be heard."


Michael Anissimov said...

Another elderly visionary and intellectual who probably won't be visionary or intellectual enough to freeze himself. :(

Michael Anissimov said...

Anyway, he's totally correct, and it's disappointing to see so many in the H+ community buy into the dogma.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, Real Climate dissects Dyson's arguments pretty thoroughly.

Fred said...

Just because he won't freeze himself doesn't mean he's not visionary or intellectual. Maybe "H+" or transhumanism is becoming a religion as well.

Nick Tarleton said...

I'm disappointed that he didn't go further and point out the danger of calling anything a "sin" or the "path to righteousness". Environmentalism in itself is good, but all religions, secular and otherwise, should be considered harmful.

fred, did you even read what Michael said??