New Scientist: Many Natural Scientists Believe All Human Influence is Bad

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Sky falling

I am catching up on my backlog of reading New Scientist and this editorial in the February 27 issue caught my attention. It begins:

For many environmentalists, all human influence on the planet is bad. Many natural scientists implicitly share this outlook. This is not unscientific….

Not unscientific? Really? The editorial continues:

…but it can create the impression that greens and environmental scientists are authoritarian tree-huggers who value nature above people.

Well, yes.

The editorial is a lead-in to a couple of articles in the issue that the editors at New Scientist believe are more balanced with regard to the dangers posed by human influence on nature. Maybe. In any case, the editorial is surely right when it concludes:

…exaggerating our problems is not the way to solve them.

But unscientific exaggeration sure does work as a fund-raising device for environmentalist lobbying groups, and even more sadly, for obtaining research grants. 

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  1. FOR many environmentalists, all human influence on the planet is bad. Many natural scientists implicitly share this outlook. This is not unscientific, but it can create the impression that greens and environmental scientists are authoritarian tree-huggers who value nature above people. That doesn’t play well with mainstream society, as the apparent backlash against climate science reveals.

    That quote is insane. There’s too much Final Solution in that kind of statement, because the Earth wouldn’t have to worry about humans if we weren’t here, right? There are huge levels of interdependence among species, and it we weren’t here, other species would come to dominate.

    I’m all for not trashing the planet and not killing off big chunks of the biosphere, but I can’t even understand the sort of extremist view described in that article.

    1. I’ve been listening to “The Road TO Serfdom” on audio, again, and this article reminds me of the chapter in which Hayek discusses how the scientific community, mostly the natural scientists, were more than willing to accept socialist technocracy. Scientists have a natural affinity to planning as well as a hubris, which causes them to believe that THEY know how to design the perfect society, built around “reason” and “scientific truth.”

      Hitler himself banned many scientists as well as their works, which can be seen as truly unscientific, but it was the scientists affinity for planning that gave Hitler all of the power that he needed. After that initial purge, the scientific (and medical) community was more than behind his goals. Scientists will always chain themselves to technocratic collectivism.

  2. I dunno. The lefty Gaia-types used to think of us humans as viruses. Happily, the current Administration and their allies have modified their appraisal. We are now to be regarded as useful chattel. It’s nice to be wanted.

  3. “. . . exaggerating our problems is not the way to solve them.”

    But if humans and “Nature” have nothing in common, as these “scientists” imply, then they aren’t “our” problems, they’re Nature’s. So piss on Mother Nature. Everybody else does.

  4. Drawing an arbitrary line between the works of man and the processes of nature is one of the stupidest, most UNscientific fallacies of the environmental movement. If all manmade change is bad, then it’s just as bad when hungry elephants strip a forest bare or when termites build mounds that moderate the temperature around them or when willow trees release toxins into the soil to prevent taller trees from growing nearby. The only difference is that humans have intention and foresight, so you pretty much have to conclude that, for the environmentalist movement, intention is itself bad. This takes environmentalism beyond the realm of religion — even the most primitive religion allows that one can at least mean well, that mere possession of will is not itself a sin. I’m all about biodiversity and clean air and whatnot, but fuck rabid environmentalists, yo.

    1. Excuse me sir, but we would like a word with you.

    2. Xeones FTW.

    3. +infinity. you hit the nail perfectly on the head

    4. I used to ask my Environmental Science students why there was so much focus on human impat on the (rest of the) environment, and the answer we could all agree with was that it was indeed due to intentionality. Not that intentionality was bad per se, but that it wouldn’t do any good for other living or nonliving things to try to learn about their environmental impact, because they can’t change their behavior, or lack thereof.

      1. So lions kill gazelles by accident?

        Beavers have no reason for building dams?

      2. it wouldn’t do any good for other living or nonliving things to try to learn about their environmental impact, because they can’t change their behavior, or lack thereof.

        So, its a fundamental assumption that the proper purpose of environmental science is to change human behavior?

        Oookay . . . . *edges toward door, slips hand under jacket and eases safety off*

        1. Isn’t the purpose of most science (indeed, most information gathering) to change human behavior?

          1. Huh? The purpose of science is to understand and explain. Real science is value-neutral and seeks to describe things as they are, not how they should be. Changing human behavior requires value judgments arising from a moral theory of some sort. That isn’t science.

    5. There’s an eerie parallel between the Christian concept of original sin, and the enviro’s implicit hatred of humans.

      1. Actually, the parallels are not accidental, as the modern environmental movement has it’s roots in 18th Century romanticism, which was strongly influenced by Christian thinking.

        1. That’s been my opinion of the left here for a long time.

          We need a Re-Enlightenment something awful.

  5. 95% of all species that ever lived are gone. Let them die gracefully!

  6. “The sky is boiling! The sky is boiling!”

    1. ahhh…chicken soup

    2. Can a gas “boil”. Or does ionization count?

  7. I guess that change in their masthead motto, “Facts? We don’ care about no stinkin’ facts!” is coming back to bite them in the ass just a bit.

  8. Funny, I thought scientists described what happened and didn’t make moral judgments on what people did.

    1. that kind of thinking is sooooo last century…

      1. Yup. Just ask Mike Hulme at the University of East Anglia: “we have to take science off centre stage … scientists – and politicians – must trade (normal) truth for influence.”

    2. No. Or rather not quite.

      Scientist are humans just like everybody else (well, maybe geekier) and accordingly make moral judgments just like everybody else.

      The difference should be that they don’t let moral judgments interfere with their interpretation of the data. That is in going from

      “We have this somewhat sparse, diverse, and sometimes ill-calibrated historical temperature data set, plus some proxy data which we have to hitch onto the end of that data set, and a pile of big non-linear climate models (which work well against small scale laboratory tests).”

      to

      “We conclude … about the most likely future course of the planetary climate.”

      and

      “We further think we can conclude that human activity accounts for N% of the observed shift in the last decade and project that it will account for M% of the predicted trend.”

      they are not supposed to give a shit about how “good” or “bad” people are for the environment.

      What? You don’t believe that that has always been the case? I don’t see why not…

    3. Scientists can make moral judgments all they want, since practicing science is only one aspect of their existence. However, science as a process is descriptive, not normative.

      Thus “For many environmentalists, all human influence on the planet is bad. Many natural scientists implicitly share this outlook. This is not unscientific….” is simply untrue.

      Just another reminder that New Scientist isn’t actually a science magazine.

  9. For many environmentalists, all human influence on the planet is bad.

    Why do those environmentalists continue to try to influence humans on the planet?

    1. What he means is that any influence that alters nature’s course as it would occur in the absence of humanity is bad.

      Environmentalists want to influence humans on the planet to limit themselves and to self flagellate for their crimes against nature.

      1. Sometimes I’m too clever for my own good.

        However, I’ve seen little evidence that environmentalists limit themselves as an example of how to leave the tiniest of human footprints. And I’m not just talking about Gore.

  10. From here:

    Those on the left look at development the way their right-wing
    counterparts look at immigration: It was fine before, but not anymore. Both
    scramble to close the gates behind them — and to hell with those on the other
    side. Incredibly, they imagine that they can freeze time or even turn back the
    clock to a “more preferable” period (for them, that is). The fact is, property —
    and freedom — will always attract new people, which means new development, which
    in turn attracts more people. It is the history of human civilization, and it will
    be the history of the human future. We cannot sacrifice that future to a
    conception of “the environment” that, too obviously, signifies only all that is
    not human.

  11. This is not unscientific…

    Ever since scientists decided oil paintings were valid data points in the climate record, I’ve been very skeptical at the mainstream take on “scientific”.

  12. This makes a lot of sense. Down with humans!

    Well, except for me, because I’m perfect.

  13. I have several friends that do a lot of work in water quality and stream restoration. If I ever hear one of them complaining about the influence of humans, I’ll ask them what effect several thousand bison shitting in a stream would have. The effect a single, small dairy farm can have on a stream isn’t pretty. Thousands of animals would be disasterous.

  14. Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

    Lou
    http://www.anonymous-surfing.us.tc

    1. Well of course skynets retarded special needs older brother would say that.

  15. I’ll ask them what effect several thousand bison shitting in a stream would have.

    The issue of human involvement is even deeper than that. Read Charles Mann’s 1491 — the gigantic herds of bison killed off by pioneers in the mid 19th century were not a ‘natural’ feature of the American landscape, but an artifact of the removal of their main predator, Indians, from the equation. And the Indians, through frequent and intentional burnings of underbrush, expanded the bisons’ preferred prairie habitat to the point that Haudenosaunee and Algonquins were able to hunt bison in the western parts of New York and Virginia — in essence, farming them, although not in a way anyone from the Old World would recognize. Once the natives were all dead of European diseases or shut up in reservations, the bison population (and that of passenger pigeons, and several other delicious species) exploded, and then lapsed into a near-terminal decline.

    Basically, even the modest environmentalist goal of preserving some areas of pristine wilderness is impossible — there hasn’t been anything that could truthfully be called ‘pristine wilderness’ on this planet in 13000 years.

  16. there hasn’t been anything that could truthfully be called ‘pristine wilderness’ on this planet in 13000 years.

    Ok, except for Antarctica.

    1. Ok, except for Antarctica.

      Pardon me, but there’s this little issue of Aliens versus Predators…..

  17. One problem is that the Earth/nature is always changing. Constantly.

    Saying “we want to keep it like it is today” or “we want it back like it was in the Year 1322” is exceedingly arrogant. It entirely ignores the fact that 1322 was nothing like 1222, or 922, or -2222.

    What’s to say nature shouldn’t be dinosaurs roaming around warm, moist forests?

    I wouldn’t mind so much if environs came out and just said “we want nature like we envision it/like it was becuase it what we egotistically have chosen and like.”

    Of course, then you’d get inot a whole thing about which value is best, so they just go on pretending Time X is the best without regard for any type of thought.

    1. Saying “we want to keep it like it is today” or “we want it back like it was in the Year 1322” is exceedingly arrogant.

      It tends to be rather ignorant too. A lot of lefties seem to have a fantasy about how wonderful it would be to live as a rural peasant in a primitive agrarian society. They’ve no idea how much sheer hard work that would entail, and there would be no time nor money for going to Starbucks (which wouldn’t exist anyway).

  18. I have a natural, organic solution to all of this. Now if you excuse me, I have a plane to catch.

  19. Actually, I’ve been under the impression that the whole “human influence” = “Bad” thing is already rather passe amoung greens. That’s why they’re so obsessed with terms like “sustainable” development.

    The problem is just that they have such a statist approach to it. Instead of applying Coase, they prefer to have the government micromanage everyone’s shopping habits.

  20. The editors of New Scientist are a box of military-style caps away from being full-fledged Marxists.

    My loathing for that magazine is without bound.

  21. But unscientific exaggeration sure does work as a fund-raising device for environmentalist lobbying groups, and even more sadly, for obtaining research grants.

    And the requests for cash I get from Cato and Mises every year. Truth is, exageration and emotional manipulation are the core of written advertising.

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