Category Archives: Philosophy and Science

CAN ONE WOMAN END PARTISAN POLITICS?

Australians respect and protect their politicians even when their ranks are divided by political differences. When the unthinkable happens and feisty independent politician Jane Kenwood disappears from a hung parliament’s cross bench before a crucial vote, the ability of the system to bring the perpetrators to justice challenges the partisan democracy. Will justice be done? Jane’s friend Dr Phillip Keane follows a feint trail with a new forensic philosophy, which employs a novel Euler Walk strategy. He is opposed by the political establishment and his findings shake it to its foundations.

‘Presumed Dead’ is a crime fiction thriller by Martin Knox, a page-turning non-partisan read which exposes the fragility of parliamentary democracy under the Westminster system.

Available on Amazon. Reviews are on my blog martinknox.com

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

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