Category Archives: Philosophy and Science

DOING THE RIGHT THING ISNT EASY

Restrictions during the pandemic have tested people’s obedience and resolve. It has resulted when groups with opposing value systems have clashed. When people are forced to adopt values against their beliefs, they feel dishonest and fearful, especially when their views are ignored.

Individuals relate their views to others’. Those who believe in a religion have often have a ready-made morality but there has been a decline in divine faith. With belief in the rational laws of physics growing, the philosopher Kant was torn between religion and rationality. He compromised, wanted people to do only what they would allow others to do, calling it the ‘categorical imperative’. The philosopher John Stuart Mill wanted personal liberty to be constrained by laws that had been agreed.. Rousseau propagated a social contract of liberte’, egalite’ and fratenite’ to control individual behaviour. All this made ‘the right thing’ harder for individuals to do.

Doing the right thing and benefitting others does not come to animals naturally. Charles Darwin had individuals seeking to survive in nature, helping kin sometimes, by selfish actions and by exploiting others. In evolution theory, altruism with individuals sacrificing their genetic inheritance to benefit others’ genes and volunteering to make sacrifices for others’ benefit, was confined to group selection, or kin. Our concern here is with ‘doing the right thing’ by strangers. 

Humans have used politics to compromise and reconcile differences with strangers. Where one group is requested to help another, some individuals in both groups may regard the help proffered as a social control, causing frustration, passive resistance, protests, anger, civil disobedience and even insurrection. Venting does little to appease differences in core beliefs and rebels may strive to overthrow the system by force.

Large groups of humans exhibit The Matthew Effect, with individuals trying to join the most numerous groups. When a herd is spooked, it may be intolerant of those who don’t do what to them is the right thing. There is a sizeable industry of media trying to instigate groups to  lemming-like rushes, inevitably towards cliffs with unpleasant outcomes. 

A difficulty is to distinguish the voices of reason from false prophecy. There may be differences of principle that can only be solved by debating. Instead of productive discourse, the sides may engage in identity politics, which increases hostility. Some groups may think they know best and if they can get the upper hand, they will impose their solution on everyone. It could be that those people who extol the virtue of ‘doing the right thing’, without saying what it is, nor why everyone has to do it, are the problem. 

I have applied the above in adopting a moral position on climate science in my satirical novel Animal Farm 2

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BOOK SATIRIZES CLIMATE TOTALITARIANISM

Animal Farm 2 (2021) is a sequel to Animal Farm (1945) written by George Orwell.

Orwell was an English writer of lucid prose, biting social criticism, opposition to totalitarianism, and outspoken support of democratic socialism. 

Orwell’s book was published when the USSR confronted the West. Farm animals who had been repressed under human despotic rule, rebelled and chased away their farmer, establishing a socialist commune. Leaders of the revolution, the pigs, set themselves up as a new bourgeois class. Orwell uses humour, irony, exaggeration and ridicule to expose and criticize plebian stupidity and bourgeois corruption, effectively satirising social change at that time.

Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ (1950) warned readers against allowing totalitarianism, with its centralism, surveillance, disinformation, denial of truth (doublethink), newspeak, and manipulation of the past, including “unpersoning” of individuals. These techniques remain in use today, by repressive governments.

Animal Farm 2 (2021) by Martin Knox is a sequel to Orwell’s Animal Farm, with story themes of anti-totalitarianism, animal liberation and climate science. The story elucidates the philosophies of science and suggests how our deep divisions could be resolved with a paradigm shift, all within a humorous story about fun animal characters.

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PARADIGM SHIFT IN CLIMATE SCIENCE

Like understanding in other fields of science, climate has had phases, punctuated by crises of individual scientists’ faith, with breakdown and replacement, referred to as ‘paradigm shifts’*.

PARADIGM 1 Until 1945

Our understanding of climate was of regular procession of the seasons. Extreme events were divinely caused. Conditions and climates would continue favourably by prayer, diligent duty and sacrifice. 

PARADIGM 2 1946 – 1987

With scientific understanding, the behaviour of the atmosphere, oceans and earth became predictable causes of weather but variations in climate statistics were understood only superficially. Another ice age was possible. Weather forecasts were uncertain within days and speculative further ahead. Energy supply was managed by laissez-faire economic supply and demand. Scientific theories were tested by experiment. There was no possibility of changing climates, although there were experiments to increase rainfall by cloud seeding.

PARADIGM 3 1988 – ?

Pollutant gases seemed linked to climate after a ‘hole’ in the ozone layer was claimed to have been repaired by limiting accidental release of chlorofluorocarbons, having a catalytic effect on ozone. When there seemed to be polar ice melting, glacier retreat and higher sea levels, global warming was attributed to greenhouse gases, especially by the increase in carbon dioxide from fossil fuels combustion. When science theories could not be tested, credible assertion and modelling that explained adjusted data was accepted. Energy supply became controlled by governments. Worldwide restructuring of energy supply without fossil fuels turned to renewable energy, especially from solar and wind. Reduction of energy consumption was not considered.

PARADIGM 4 2021 – ?

The link between global warming and fossil fuel combustion is realized tenuous. Increasing carbon dioxide in air has other possible explanations and in any case its effect is non-catalytic, benign and its warming effect is unsubstantiated. Warming by other combustion products, heat and water vapour, can no longer be ignored. Carbon dioxide is recognised to be benign. Renewable energy is realised to cause warming equal to or greater than fossil fuels. To prevent global warming, energy use should be scaled back if possible in industry and all other human activities, especially in high energy-using countries such as Australia; Canada; USA; Europe.

*The term ‘paradigm shift’ is explained in Godfrey-Smith, Theory and Realist, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, 2003. My coming novel ‘Animal Farm 2’ explains these views https://martinknox.com

WHY REDUCE ENERGY USE

The reasons are these: warming of the environment; conservation of energy resources; personal economy; disregard of others; helping less advantaged people. 

1. Warming of the environment
There are several possible causes of environment warming. Anthropomorphic warming has human characteristics and is caused by or has effects on humans.  Causes of global warming cannot be attributed with certainty and are theoretical. There are many causes possible. Human causes could result from various emissions. Reduced carbon dioxide emission has been theorised to have an additional reduced warming benefit. A simpler theory is thermal emissions from human activity enter the atmosphere and oceans and warm them.
By reducing these activities, there could be less warming of the environment. Activities that could be reduced with this benefit are energy conversion, transportation, residential heating, air conditioning, combustion, fermentation, decomposition and respiration. 

2. Conservation of energy resources

Reducing use of energy resources of all kinds, fossil fuels, hydro and renewable energy could save them for use in the future, by others. Less withdrawal of solar energy by renewable energy technologies would reduce warming of the environment by their low temperature waste heat, with the Sun’s higher temperatures driving the ‘renewal’, by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

3. Personal economy

Markets are supposed to rationalise supply and demand of energy in competition with others. Monopolies of suppliers and consumers can prevent appropriate responses to emerging depletion of resources and new technologies. Reduction in energy use could be encouraged by governments. Conversely, energy suppliers encourage consumption to maintain their sales. Individuals can be free to reduce their energy consumption, but their role could seem to them small and not worthwhile until leaders espouse this cause in the public interest.

4. Disregard of others

Energy use has not been limited, except by economic and environmental costs. Users have taken as much energy as they want, like oxygen from the air. People in some countries have helped themselves to much more energy than others. Energy ends up, eventually after use, polluting the environment and oceans for others, by the 1st Law of Thermodynamics. Thus some greedy energy users cause more environment warming and more depletion of energy resources, than others, without having entitlement to do so. 

5. Helping  less advantaged people

Energy consumption has universal value and is a broad indicator of quality of lifestyle differences between nations. Distribution has depended on historical circumstances. Developing countries could reasonably be allowed more growth in their low energy use than developed countries having high energy use. Such allowance could be voluntary, with high energy-using individuals sacrificing high-energy technologies and activities of marginal value to help those less advantaged. Otherwise sharing might have to be mandated. 

Please consider these 5 reasons and reduce your energy consumption.

My book Animal Farm 2 coming shortly addresses these energy issues https://martinknox.com

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