Journalism

BBC Talking out of its Exit Point Again

The BBC’s latest climate insanity is a four minute video in their series “Ideas” entitled “Are you suffering from climate change anxiety?” consisting of interviews with three anxious young people, and comments by a psychologist. Paul Homewood was first off the mark (he always is) with this article, but I thought it might be useful to enquire further into this grave social problem.

The anxiety sufferers interviewed by the BBC are Nik Thakkar, artist; Samuel Miller McDonald, “Oxford PhD student and writer;” and Kate Monson, “Environmental Cultures Researcher.”

This is how the filmet starts:

Kate Monson: “If I don’t think the future is worth anything, then I’m not going to have children. If I think it’s worth something, I will have children.”

Nik Thakkar: “We are already seeing coastal city flooding, we are already seeing forest fires, we are already seeing flash floods, we’re seeing tornadoes. When big ecological disasters happen around the world, I feel a sense of anxiety. I feel a sense of sadness and a sense of loss.”

Samuel Miller McDonald: “So imagine you go outside and you look up in the sky, and there’s a comet there. And you know – you’ve just been told by scientists that that comet is racing toward the earth and it’s going to kill everybody and everything in a big fiery storm. And nobody else notices the comet. And you say: “Hey look, there’s a comet and it’s going to kill all of us…” And people just don’t seem to care.”

Samuel the scientist relates a hypothetical situation familiar from a million nightmares and sci fi films; Nik the artist states a number of banal truths; and Kate prevaricates about having children, as any woman of her age and educational level might. So what? Who are these people anyway?

Nik Thakkar is a multi-platform creative and recording artist He was scouted for a Jean Paul Gaultier campaign in 2013 which was his gateway into the creative world, he has since partnered creatively with major design houses… has led design projects with Louis Vuitton, Moet Hennessy, produced award winning fashion films featured on Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine…Listed as one of Time Out London’s Culture 100 top creatives, described by VICE as “one of the premier creative minds in London”… Nik is also the editor of globally recognised creative content hub (i.e. a website, with a blog http://karlismyunkle.com)

Not much sign of of climate anxiety there, though he does sometimes mention the planet in passing, for example here:

The dichotomy between sustainability and luxury has never been more polarising than today. At a point where many of us are chronically aware of the somewhat bleak nature of the future of our planet, we are asking ourselves what we can do to help on a daily basis. I love luxury… in the same sense though, I want to do what I can to protect our planet from further destruction, to reduce my carbon and plastic footprint. Working with BBC and National Geographic last year really helped me share my message, but it’s not always about alienating and deconstructing luxury, but understanding its purpose in our universe …

That said, I wanted to share a post about Kilian and their manifesto of “Luxury Should Last Forever“. This is rooted in their expansion of refillable perfumes and shower gels… As you know, I am always experimenting with different scents and sensory experiences, and currently I am addicted to Kilian’s incredible Gold Knight which contrasts the addictive dark sensuousness of patchouli with the effervescent brightness of bergamot, and warm golden shimmer of vanilla and anise. It holds a regal scent with an almost Eastern meditative element and comes in a gold armoured outer case…

By “working with the BBC” I think he means talking through his climate depression with the psychologist lady.

Last December he was worried about the future of cars:

As humanity is at the brink of making some of the most important decisions with regards to a sustainable future … I wanted to talk about cars as innovation and technology... I drive a 2004 Jeep Wrangler (just shot my NEO 10Y video for Reality Check video in it too) which is cute because it’s old, but problematic… because of its age. I’m obviously on a personal mission to reduce my carbon footprint/output as a human as much as possible (hi vegans), so the upside… is that I barely drive it… So where do you find the balance? … The end game for the planet and myself is to go electric for day to day use, be that with a Tesla ideally… Nevertheless, if you want to experience a supercar and have an insatiable craving for reaching speeds of 100mph on the roads and feeling that retro sense, I’d recommend a Ferrari 488.

The question is, do we get to keep the novelty of these vehicles as we progress in consciousness, and can you emotionally offset the impact with what you physically consume? Where does that balance lie? Remember a vegan lifestyle is the most efficient way to directly reduce your carbon footprint without affecting the awesome technology such as cars that have been created, and a way to overturn a lot of the problematic patriarchy controls. You can also calculate your personal carbon emissions here.

He’s got a lot to say about psychology in his frequent blog articles, for example, in “Understanding Your Root Chakra,” though curiously, among the many mental hangups discussed, climate anxiety doesn’t get a mention. Instead, he gives a 10-point guide (like Jordan Peterson) to “understanding and mastering your root.”

Point 2. Pull in your stomach and contract and relax the muscles around your anus, sex organs and perineum. You can do this anywhere, at any time. It helps if you are more focussed.

Point 6. Love your root. Tend not only emotionally, but physically to your sex organs, including your anus – don’t disregard it as an exit point, embrace and love it even if you aren’t having anal intercourse. Moisturise it, groom/trim the space around it, send it love and accept it as part of you.

That’s enough about Nik.

The second climate anxietee is Samuel Miller McDonald, “Oxford PhD student and writer.” He is currently undertaking graduate research on Egalitarian Energy: Challenges to Neoliberal Discourse in Distributed Community Energy Programs” at the Oxford University School of Geography and the Environment. If you go to his website  and click on “read” you can read his writings, e.g.:

“Deathly Salvation TFW nuclear war may be the only way to stop human extinction”or What Must We Do to Live? Climate collapse demands heroism from all of us, all the time. That’s good. 

Human extinction;” “Climate collapse;”his thesis supervisors at Oxford are Professor Nick Eyre and Dr Aoife HaneyDo they ever tell their research student that he’s talking out of his exit point?

The third Participant is Kate Monson, Environmental Culture Researcher. Research Gate has her as a social scientist at Brighton University and a co-author of “How do young people engage with climate change? The role of knowledge, values, message framing, and trusted communicators” (lead author Adam Corner.)

The nub of the BBC’s “Ideas”video is the interview between psychologist Dr Steffi and the three climate anxiety sufferers. It goes like this:

Dr. Steffi: What is it that makes you anxious? What are the thoughts of what are the details that when you go there that’s when you touch your anxiety?

Nik: In other parts of the world, they’ll be more affected by climate change than the cities that we currently live in. That’s when I feel like we’re not doing enough.

Samuel: One of the most sort of potent anxieties, is the fear of people mistreating each other out of panic and fear and, you know, it’s more maybe how people respond to that.

Kate: I just keep thinking about a small child. Probably myself. And I just think about how innocent … my God I’m emotional already (she cries)that memory of being a child that is so valuable. And I just think about all the people that aren’t.. that don’t have that… that preciousness about the world. And I think that’s really .. that’s a privilege that is just disappearing. Yeah I get emotional when I think about the effects that climate change and its related issues will have. I get very angry about those, I feel very powerless. I feel very frustrated.

Dr Steffi: What is the part that you can play in stretching out and mending the part of the world that is within your reach?

Samuel: In the face of constant defeat, just stubbornness and tenacity.

Nik: Understand what your impact as a human being is on the planet.

Kate: I feel so helpless but.. but so empowered by that helplessness that I then want to try and do everything and so… aaaah. I don’t think it’s all.. I have to believe that it’s not all bad. Maybe things will be fixed by they time they’re an adult and it will all be good.

Samuel: I feel the most hopeful when I remind myself how bad humans have always been at predicting the future.

Psychological analysis of people you’re debating with is normally considered out of bounds, but here we are being invited to explore the psychology of willing subjects who have let their climate hangups all hang out. So let’s go.

Nik is so normal it’s boring. He’s got his Jeep Wrangler, a deal to publicise Ferrari and Kilian fragrances on his website, plus his vegan and sustainability beliefs to sustain him, plus work with Jean Paul Gautier and Vuitton. And he loves the addictive dark sensuousness of patchouli with the effervescent brightness of bergamot. How could he not be considered one of London’s 100 top creatives by Time Out? What’s he got to worry about?

Samuel is more interesting, because more tortured. He’s got a lot of articles published, which is great for an aspiring writer. Is he suffering from anxiety? It doesn’t seem so. He thinks that nuclear war might be a solution to the problem of climate collapse. Better a hundred million bodies burned to ashes than that anything nasty might happen to the environment, Gaia forbid. He’s at Oxford University, with access to all the information he needs to inform himself that his fundamental beliefs are shit. There’s really no excuse for Samuel.

And then he suddenly redeems himself with the statement: I feel the most hopeful when I remind myself how bad humans have always been at predicting the future.”  Cognitive dissonance, or what?

Kate Monson is the only one who seems to be suffering from a psychological condition – acute depression, I’d say – treatable by any competent therapist in a couple of sessions. She starts by expressing her ambiguous thoughts about having a child, then says she’s “thinking about a small child. Probably myself.” and cries on camera.

And I just think about all the people that aren’t.. that don’t have that… that preciousness about the world. And I think that’s really .. that’s a privilege that is just disappearing. Yeah I get emotional when I think about the effects that climate change and its related issues will have. I get very angry about those, I feel very powerless. I feel very frustrated.

Kate has a poem at About Place Journala literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society:

This is what desolation looks like.

This is what flourishing looks like.

This is Canvey Wick.

 93 hectares of damaged planet.

Dusty tarmac, rusty remains.

Battered and flattened.

Full of life.

 Here is the counter-factual.

Here are the facts.

Destined to become an oil refinery.

Destined to become a rainforest.

 Home to more than 1,400 species of invertebrate.

Home to three species thought to be extinct in Britain.

Home to more biodiversity per square foot than anywhere else in the UK.

 Accidental blossoming from Occidental oblivion.

 Can you see them?

 Shrill carder bee.

Brown-banded carder bee.

Morley weevil.

Five-banded weevil wasp.

Scarce emerald damselfly.

Canvey Island ground beetle. (…)

I rather like that. I’m quite fond of nature myself, and have a soft spot for anyone who cares about the shrill carder bee or the Morley weevil, or about Canvey island for that matter. Kate has problems, but she cares about something other than her own success as a Ferrari driving, bergamot-smelling blog artist, or as a creative writer with a PhD capable of musing on the advantages of nuclear war (but worried that climate change might make people mistreat each other.)

I don’t care much for climate worriers, but I care more for someone who cares about about Canvey Island and the Five-banded weevil wasp than for someone who cares about grooming his anus. Assholes are not an endangered species, especially not at the BBC.

37 thoughts on “BBC Talking out of its Exit Point Again

  1. No Darwin Award for getting it right for these,’ what you called them,’ Geoff, lol. That their creative proclivities don’t extend to breeding the next generation is all to the good. Stupid is the route to extinction.

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  2. Always arty-farty, student, middle class ‘creative’ types. Why didn’t they interview Dave, brickie in Northampton, or Pete, trainee automotive welder in Sunderland, or Sally, checkout operator in Morrisons, Harrogate? Oh yes, I forgot, the BBC doesn’t like ‘commoners’, not since they voted to Leave the EU anyway.

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  3. I had to check (several times) that this was not a Brad spoof. I thought anus grooming and weevil wasps were dead giveaways.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The BBC wants as many people as possible to be neurotic about anything linked to climate. That makes it easier for them to sell their daily scare stories about the horrible future they ‘suggest’ awaits us, if we don’t believe one extra molecule of CO2 per 10,000 in the atmosphere is an urgent problem that must be ‘fixed’.

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  5. There does seem to be a problem with the name Kate and climate, I apologise to all the normal Kates out there.

    This Kate’s outpourings seem to channel those of Kate Marvel:
    https://onbeing.org/blog/kate-marvel-we-need-courage-not-hope-to-face-climate-change/

    “There is now no weather we haven’t touched, no wilderness immune from our encroaching pressure. The world we once knew is never coming back.

    I have no hope that these changes can be reversed. We are inevitably sending our children to live on an unfamiliar planet. But the opposite of hope is not despair. It is grief. The swiftness of the change, its scale and inevitability, binds us into one, broken hearts trapped together under a warming atmosphere.”

    Then we have Kate Hayhoe, who is going to save the planet from the rest of us: “My faith tells me that God does want people to understand climate change and do something about it.”

    Kate Ramsayer of NASA thinks that “Methane is the Billy the Kid of greenhouse gases: it does a lot of damage in a short life”. https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2365/seven-case-studies-in-carbon-and-climate/

    There are more Kates in Climate organisations than you could imagine, the Union of Concerned Scientists have a campaign manager called Kate Cell and there is Kate Raiworth who wants universities to raise awareness of climate change amongst university students: https://www.kateraworth.com/2018/12/07/how-can-universities-teach-more-students-more-about-climate-change/

    There are yet others and there are even storms named Kate going back to 1945, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_Storm_Kate

    I am therefore now convinced, Global Warming, thy name is Kate.

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  6. The BBC has another article on the same subject today: “‘Eco-anxiety’: how to spot it and what to do about it”
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/b2e7ee32-ad28-4ec4-89aa-a8b8c98f95a5
    which links to this paper http://www.lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf which has apparently “gone viral.”

    From Professor Jem Bendell’s abstract:

    The purpose of this conceptual paper is to provide readers with an opportunity to reassess their work and life in the face of an inevitable near- term social collapse due to climate change… That synthesis leads to a conclusion there will be a near-term collapse in society with serious ramifications for the lives of readers.

    So that’s alright then. Just don’t read it, and you’ll be fine.

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  7. DENNIS AMBLER
    “Global Warming, thy name is Kate.”

    Could it be they’re all descended from this Kate, from “Kiss Me Kate”, Cole Porter’s reworking of “The Taming of the Shrew”?

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  8. Both the BBC and the linked Vice article describe Bendell’s Deep Adaptation as an ‘academic paper’. Is it ‘academic’ when it is self-published and when its own author considers it to have been rejected by the only academic journal he sent it to? (The journal’s publisher says it wasn’t formally rejected. It was just too crappy to be published without major changes.)

    I downloaded the paper a while ago but haven’t read it. That’s because a brief scroll through the references tells you what the paper itself is going to say: Nafeez Ahmed (from before the Graun realised he’s too Graun even for the Graun), an AMEG blog, evolutionary wallabolologist Tim Flannery, Clive Hamilton, George Marshall, Guy McPherson, Natalia Shakhova, Peter Wadhams, David Wallace-Wells and the WWF.

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  9. More from the abstract of the above mentioned paper by Professor Jem Bendell of the University of Cumbria that’s gone viral, provoking anxiety attacks which are sending people into therapy, according to the BBC, which quotes an article by Zing Tsjeng at Vice.

    The paper offers a new meta-framing of the implications for research, organisational practice, personal development and public policy, called the Deep Adaptation Agenda. Its key aspects of resilience, relinquishment and restorations are explained. This agenda… is premised on the view that social collapse is now inevitable. The author believes this is one of the first papers in the sustainability management field to conclude that climate-induced societal collapse is now inevitable…

    Note how climate collapse is both the premise and the conclusion of the paper. I’m beginning to feel seriously anxious about the fact that many professors at our universities are not only thick, venal charlatans, but are seriously off-the-wall Dr. Strangelove bat crazy.

    Oh, and Professor Bendell, right after the abstract, recommends visiting his blog https://jembendell.wordpress.com where the last entry is a short film he made in Indonesia, while the one before that, “The Love in Deep Adaptation – A Philosophy for the Forum” is co-written with – Katie Carr. Add her to the list.

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  10. Geoff:

    Kiss Me Kate…could well be, although I think perhaps Kate Marvel could be descended from Kismet Kate…

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  11. Nik is a “yeccchh” sort of creepy dude.
    He sounds almost like the lead character from one of the worst movies ever, “The Love Guru”.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. JAIME JESSOP (28 Mar 19 7.21am)

    Always arty-farty, student, middle class ‘creative’ types. Why didn’t they interview Dave, Pete, or Sally, … Oh yes, I forgot, the BBC doesn’t like ‘commoners’…

    This is very important. The BBC dropped its class-based image decades ago (Home Service for the middle class, Light Programme for the oiks, Third Programme for the brainy types) and has gone all-out inclusive in terms of regional accents and ethnic origins. But at least under the old class system, the toff knew he was toff, (e.g. the late Brian Sewell) and the barbarian invaders from the lower classes knew that their job was to be disruptive. What have now is a caste system based on educational attainment, which is unconscious and therefore invisible to the actors. The British media faced with Brexit, the Democrats faced with Trump, or Macron faced with the Yellow Vests, are all equally bewildered because they are unconscious of the world they have created, and over which they thought they had total control. It’s the job of intellectuals, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, to explain fundamental social changes like these to the participants, but they can’t, because they’re part of the problem. The BBC seemed to be setting up those three as early martyrs to their ecological beliefs. Weird.

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  13. “What have now is a caste system based on educational attainment…”

    When did that happen? Per the old system, particular educational pedigree still weighs more than actual achievement (indeed along with other residual class bias), mixed with an emotive points system for the newer cultural emergences (of which climate catastrophism is but one). The latter is what has happened forever too, though the particular cultural trends are of our era. Actual educational achievement doesn’t count for nothing, but I suggest it statistically weighs much less than the above.

    “Wierd.”

    It’s a frequent occurrence in history that elites or established social systems are bewildered by the accumulated social inertia that may seriously impact or overcome them. I think the French aristocracy were pretty bewildered by the revolutionary types. Social processes are blind, even groups of modest numbers don’t typically do what logic might suggest even for their own longer-term benefit let alone the wider benefits they’re supposed to be standing for. While this may not be frequent enough to call ‘a rule’, I think it’s ‘normal’ rather than ‘weird’. Said elites / groups either rapidly evolve once they do grasp the threat at some communal level, so continue to exist but in a different form, or act too little too late and disappear. If the changes are at sub-function level within a society that stays stable overall (i.e. no big revolution or whatever – lets hope!) morphing on some timescale rather than disappearance is far more likely. The Democrats or the British media will not disappear, and there’s no guarantee that the yellow vests will yet make a serious dint on the elite French political system, albeit they might finish Macron.

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  14. It turns out that Thakkar’s work with the BBC last year was this 9-minute online-only video from BBC Three in which he argued with Spiked’s Fraser Myers and two others about whether drinking milk makes you a racist rape commissioner:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05z4r0y

    His work with Nat Geo? This incomprehensible 30-second video:

    He says he ‘teamed up with the incredible National Geographic’ to make it but he didn’t. He nicked a short Nat Geo anti-plastic video, edited his incredible self into it and stuck the result on Instagram. (Is he saying ‘We could cure Rwanda’ or ‘We could kill Rwanda’ and what does Rwanda have to do with plastic bags? And does he say ‘Spastic, plastic’ and, if so, is that a hate crime?)

    Two years earlier, Thakkar had teamed up with Walt Disney, the Republican Party, the New York City Department of Sanitation and Caufield’s Novelty Inc, a maker of theatrical costumes, masks and props. This was their video (which apparently ended up on porn websites):

    Mickey Mouse is buggered by Donald Trump then reveals that he too is Donald Trump then burns a latex Trump mask then does a little dance next to some garbage trucks. The video was part of a creatively ambitious project based in London, New York and Los Angeles. Purpose? ‘I hope that it opens up some minds, as it aims to creates [sic] a concept reality that we should each be experiencing in order to move forward as society.’ Clear yet? No? Perhaps this will help: the video ‘seeks to be part of the glue that bonds us to raise awareness and unite within a construct wherein we are being forced to divide.’

    Next week: What does Thakkar mean by ‘artist’? Which Brexit repercussions made him move to America shortly after the referendum? Did he write his own Wiki page?

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  15. ANDY WEST

    When did that happen?.. Actual educational achievement doesn’t count for nothing, but I suggest it statistically weighs much less than the above…

    It’s not a matter of objective educational achievement, but of self perceived educational difference, and it happened when those receiving further education became numerous enough to perceive themselves as a social class – “not as other men are” – in the U.S. when the draft-exempted colleges student felt more solidarity with the Vietnamese peasant than with the conscripted working class U.S. soldier; in France in May 68, when the young students found a way of being revolutionary outside the working class movements of trade unions and the communist party which had been the hope and pride of their parents.

    Social processes are blind, even groups of modest numbers don’t typically do what logic might suggest even for their own longer-term benefit […] I think it’s ‘normal’ rather than ‘weird’.

    Absolutely, which is why most people don’t “get” social science. A century after Freud, everyone accepts the concept of a psychotherapist tapping into the unconscious mind of a patient. But where’s the unconscious mind of a group?

    … morphing on some timescale rather than disappearance is far more likely.

    Timescale is the essential concept here. Universal literacy was achieved, first in Europe, then practically everywhere, over a period of centuries, first in Germany, then Scotland, England, France, and then Southern Europe – bringing with it egalitarianism and revolution. (The United States was the only country born universally literate. American exceptionalism is a reality.) ((Oh, and Australia and New Zealand, the world’s first country to give votes to women and therefore the world’s first true democracy.))

    From the fifties onwards, a mass movement of higher education produced a class “different from” their parents, not over centuries, but in a few decades. A talented person could always change classes and differentiate himself from his parents, particularly in the Anglo Saxon world, where, from Dick Wittington to Shakespeare to Nik Kattar, you left home young to do something different. But that was a matter of talented individuals.

    When the population with university degrees rose within a generation or so from 5% to 30%, society changed in a way invisible to the actors of that change. How could they see it, given that everyone around them was like them? The majority of today’s Guardian readers have parents who read the Express or the Mirror. No wonder they see us old white male sceptics as an alien species.

    To summarise my thoughts, which are in a state of vague formulation:

    I don’t disagree at all with the cultural analysis you offer on these pages, and I follow your arguments on different threads with attention, though I don’t often join in. But I don’t find your analysis specific enough to answer what I see as the key question: Why this particular belief (climate catastrophe) here and now?

    I don’t find the argument that environmentalism is fundamentally corrupt or crazy to be convincing. (I think Ben sometimes comes close to this position.) We all want to live better, in a nicer house, with a nicer garden, and why not on a nicer planet, with more greenery and biodiversity? The Green Thing quite rightly fascinates journalists and politicians, as no doubt Christianity fascinated the thinking members of the ruling classes in the later Roman Empire. It’s a genuine, probably inevitable, social, evolution.

    But why the batshit crazy theory that humanity is finished? The watermelon theory takes us nowhere, since militant left politics was dying in Europe even before the fall of the Soviet Union (and has always been marginal in the Anglo Saxon countries.)

    Your argument, as I understand it, has the merit of being generalisable and non-judgemental. But it doesn’t answer my key question: Why the climate? And why do intelligent, highly educated members of our élites go stark raving bonkers when it comes to discussing glaciers and bad weather?

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  16. VINNY BURGOO
    For some reason I can’t view your video of Mickey Mouse being buggered by Donald Trump. When I click on it, the image of two marionettes (are they meant to be Trump and Mickey? The graffiti artists on our local council estate do better) disappear. Someone (the French authorities? the EU? Disney? The US government? won’t let me see the rest. Since you’ve presumably seen the whole thing, can you please give us the gist?

    Nik has expressed a certain distaste for Trump, but if there’s one thing you can say in the President’s favour, it’s that he knows how to groom, trim, embrace and love the essential parts of his anatomy. So what’s Nik got against Mickey Mouse, apart from the fact that he’s possibly the only style icon of the past hundred years more important than Nik Thakkar?

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  17. Geoff,
    Well I’ve no quibbles with your social history, although some ‘buts’ and comments…

    “It’s not a matter of objective educational achievement, but of self perceived educational difference… …“not as other men are”…”

    So indeed this isn’t the educational achievement per se, but the social superiority flag that having it allows them to wave. But this flag can and has been waved for any number of perceived ‘not as other men are’ superiorities, due to having say instead religious belief, or philosophical belief, or certain racial characteristics, or commitment to a particular political system, or other such characteristics, not to mention a similar one relevant to education still with some potency today as noted above, i.e. having the right educational pedigree, e.g. in this country Eton and Oxford / Cambridge. So while it’s a relatively modern thing that so many young folks are free from the survival burden of simply getting to adulthood and serving the family survival too, else-wise this is what has gone on forever. There is some loose recognition of a young / student social class as you note, but in terms of creating a coherent group this is virtually non-existent, partially due to the high turnover rate before they are sucked away deeper into society. They pull changes in with them, of course, then. But meanwhile the constant student population is more like a turbulent sea for many movements and cultural trends, typically different in different countries, and while many are fleeting or die away, it can also be viewed as feeder stock for nascent cultures that might grow later in society, or vocal support or resistance to established cultures, or sometimes just resistance to the status quo. And nor is the involvement of youth in such ways unique to our times despite the survival burdens of the past, your post about the Children’s Crusade being a case in point.

    Re universal literacy, the growth of literacy has radically improved society, and tended to accelerate cultural change too, but it hasn’t much impacted the underlying mechanisms, which are much more fundamental, plus the same tools are generally available to all actors anyhow (after the differential instability from each technical innovation wave, like manuscripts or printing, has passed through).

    “When the population with university degrees rose within a generation or so from 5% to 30%, society changed in a way invisible to the actors of that change.”

    It’s worth noting that this period in those (mainly western) countries in which this has occurred, has all been within the most socially stable period in their histories, with the least war and least internal revolt and least violence, plus least and reducing crime, etc. While there are many factors to that, and social wealth not least, it’s likely an indicator that the modest (at any one moment) yet constant and diverse changes coming in on the conveyor belt of youth have to date been net beneficial (they help prevent mono-cultural dominance or block conflict).

    “How could they see it, given that everyone around them was like them? have parents who read the Express or the Mirror. No wonder they see us old white male sceptics as an alien species.”

    Well judging by the circulation of that paper this is a tiny minority of practically any social group you could define, except ‘Guardian readers’. But social or formally cultural (e.g. a new religious brand or extreme political brand or whatever) changes have constantly swept populations in the past, often with an old guard / new guard aspect, and typically with much more robust conflict between the layers than exists now between say educated youth (who are not a coherent group anyhow) and your ‘alien species’ of oldies (who are not a coherent group either). Nor have the vast majority of the participants typically had enough visibility of their own societies (this is not mainly an intelligence thing but a knowledge thing) to know what impact either they or the other actors are having, unless / until there’s major tipping points or shit hits fan outcomes when it becomes more obvious. As a side note, when the majority of all folks have higher education flags to wave, the flag will cease to have value; statista.com says ~35% for US now, ~38% for UK back in 2013, so this may not be too far away.

    Regarding the 3 examples of change Jaime notes above, I’m not sure there’s strong evidence of educated youth forming a critical component on either side of any of those changes anyhow. I looked at the breakdown of 2016 US voting at the time, and though I can’t lay my hands on the figures again right now, I think that although slightly down for women and slightly up for men, the number of young college level voters was the same for the anti-establishment Trump, as against him. There have been claims of more youth on the Remainer side in Brexit, but this may not be so if you take into account the larger %tage of youth versus old who didn’t vote, and anyhow even if the weighting survives knowing what they would have voted, this is essentially the establishment side (if a meaningful definition of establishment side is even possible here), not the radical side. I haven’t seen a critical youth thing in the yellow vest dispute either, you’re the expert to say here, but for all of these, educated youth don’t appear to be a prime motivating force on either side.

    “Why this particular belief (climate catastrophe) here and now?”

    As you note, the cultural approach is generalisable and non-judgemental, also objective in that it relies on social data not on the disputed domain data (i.e. physical climate data in the CC case). And the generic features are a great match to expectations. BUT… the approach has limitations, for instance it needs to be a large enough phenomenon to have social data (well the CC domain is fine for that), and it can only tell you who is wrong, not what is right (so while ‘imminent climate catastrophe’ is demonstrably cultural and so wrong, this says nothing about whether ACO2 will pan out to be good, bad, or indifferent). Also, as we get nearer and nearer to detail, the approach is less and less useful, because it explains only the fundamental drivers. This is the equivalent of knowing the rules of evolution, and using them to try and predict the amazing plethora of forms it generates; it turns out you can’t, without researching a massive load of detail about how the rules actually unfold within an unimaginably large set of long and particular circumstances.

    The social history and political angles are those particular circumstances for culture, which folks like yourself and Ben know much more about. But the rules should be the guide to causation and hence placing those events in context and in correct causal order. But regarding your question, there are endless uppity emotive narratives constantly competing to be the next big culture on the block, not to mention many competing cultures that have made it partway or even to the top of the ladder. Some alliances of these too. The emotive narratives often features memes that have been around the block many times before, but in new combinations or with a bit of new shiny paint on to look attractive to the latest generations. Climate memes have circled forever as part of this set, and there have even been past cultures based on the prediction of climate calamity before. Another breakout was inevitable at some point, but why now? Well all sorts of secular cultural narratives have been making hay while religious ones have been waining, and getting some authority backing from ‘science’ has been a potent feature even before CC came along. So the climate science needed to have gotten credible enough to form an authority cloak, but not so credible / advanced that it couldn’t be hi-jacked to back the narrative of catastrophe (most big cultures have an existential dimension) in the wider public. I guess it reached the right point; the earlier possibility based on global cooling wasn’t quite a runner, but cultures are nothing if not opportunistic and switching the catastrophe from cold to hot is merely a minor detail to a cultural drive, and considering some of the adherents crossed this boundary without a problem, this demonstrates that the emotive adherence to catastrophe is stronger than the proposed ‘scientific’ reason for catastrophe. (Man’s self-imposed ruination of the world is another endlessly recycling meme, you see this in religions too, e.g. per the concept of universal sin).

    “I don’t find the argument that environmentalism is fundamentally corrupt or crazy to be convincing.”

    Indeed not. To blame this on crazy folks or dishonest folks is Lew territory. And it fundamentally underestimates the power of what’s going on, plus that this has always gone on, all the time, and in particular domains we are all vulnerable to it.

    “But why the batshit crazy theory that humanity is finished?”

    Per above this has cycled around endlessly in different forms too. Sometimes it’s forms appear credible, even dominant, and when the culture those forms belong to crashes, they suddenly seem just ridiculous. But memes are ever having sex and constantly testing our emotional vulnerabilities with the products. So when the jaded old ‘the end is nigh’ of religious judgement day meets oft recycled memes about fear of the climate, and oft recycled memes of our inherent ruination capability, then threesome sex results in “we’re causing climate apocalypse” – wow new credibility!! One mustn’t take the analogy too literally, because cultures have upsides too, but at this basic level these mix-and-match narratives are rather like new strains of disease that make use of pre-existing entry ports, with nuances to overcome the increased protection of the entry ports from the last round. Rather like HIV using the CCR5 entry port, but because other diseases have used that path before there is more immunity in folks whose ancestry were hit by the other disease; the hole was tightened up.

    “The watermelon theory takes us nowhere…”

    It’s not meant to take us anywhere! It only has to have enough credibility (v v thin!) above its emotive engagement (massive!) to be able to earn its living as a cultural entity. These are neither sentient or even agential, but like prions or viruses they have a few of the characteristics that life has, and via selection they will propagate / expand via whatever vulnerabilities they find for no purpose whatsoever other than that they are a survival engine. This doesn’t mean they get it all their own way, most cultures get mixed with more reality as they age, because otherwise they’d be too harmful to their hosts (similar to biological parasites).

    “And why do intelligent, highly educated members of our élites go stark raving bonkers when it comes to discussing glaciers and bad weather?”

    Dan Kahan’s work indicates that more domain knowledgeable and cognitively capable folks are as a group more culturally biased, not less, i.e. these factors appear to amplify the cultural biases that already exist. This is consistent with knowledge and intelligence being in service to an acquired cultural bias. At any rate such bonkers expression by intellectuals within cultural conflict zones has always occurred for as long as intellectuals have existed; the really scary thing is that they’re not bonkers at all but completely sane – we are lucky that in this particular manifestation they’re not calmly discussing the finer points about euthanising lots of types of humans they feel are culturally unacceptable, which has happened before.

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  18. ANDY WEST

    There is some loose recognition of a young / student social class as you note, but in terms of creating a coherent group this is virtually non-existent, partially due to the high turnover rate before they are sucked away deeper into society.

    I expressed myself badly there. I wasn’t talking about a youth movement, inevitably ephemeral, but of a fundamental social change, instigated by the expansion of further education, but eventually affecting the whole of society, Historically, university was for the 1% of toffs and a small number of talented individuals to fill the specialised professions (law, medicine, education, science…) By the time I got to university in the sixties, it was up to 5% (thanks to Harold Wilson, Sputnik and the Angry Young Men.) And the most talented young people of my generation were the dropouts, the Jaggers and the Lennons who tried a bit of state-subsidised privilege and decided they preferred the old way, the Shakespeare way.

    My university cohort (5% of our age group) were still only 1% of society as a whole. It took a few decades for being “further” educated to become the defining characteristic of a substantial proportion of the population, including everyone you worked with, and even most of the people who lived in your neighbourhood. Already by the seventies it was possible to advertise for a flat sharer, specifying “non-smoking graduate preferred,” much as landlords used to specify “no blacks or Irish.” (Diane Abbott and I poked mild fun at this when we put an ad in Time Out: “White London graduate and black Oxford graduate seek brown Cambridge graduate to complete set.” It worked. We got a Jewish girl from Zimbabwe.)

    Of course, not all the people with B.A. or B.Sc. after their name are vegan Guardian-reading liberals who cycle to work and take their kids to Tate Modern at the weekend. But if you are that kind of person, it helps to know that you’re not the only one.

    And here’s something I’ve just thought of. The advantage works two ways. As I’ve slowly been formulating these thoughts over the years, I’ve been concentrating on the 30% of graduates and the psychological satisfaction they/we obtain from the idea of belonging to an élite – with different tastes, and different opinions, based on superior knowledge/intellect, from our parents and from the deplorables we still encounter in the pub or on public transport.

    But the 1% of “real” intellectuals get their ruthers too. From being a despised, or at least suspect, egghead or boffin (when were those words last used in polite society?) they’ve become the ego ideal of a social class which knows less and less about the kind of stuff eggheads and boffins know about (history and the mechanics of the solar system, to name two subjects my generation was supposed to know something about by the age of twelve) yet has more and more opinions on every subject under the sun. And which seeks to define itself by those opinions. (“This we hold to be self-evident…”)

    When Jacob Bronowski or Isaiah Berlin or Kenneth Clarke appeared on the BBC in the sixties it was in the hope that these exceptional individuals would interest a small number of curious viewers or listeners in subjects which could never be of other than minority appeal. All that changed with Sister Wendy and the boys’ band bloke with the floppy haircut at CERN whose name I forget. They’ve got a whole social class to appeal to. I’d long seen what the audience gets out of it, in terms of a sense of intellectual and moral superiority. I’d missed what floppy hair and the other members of the 1% get out of it. A mass audience guaranteed by social change, reliably measured by opinion research, means that they no longer have to try very hard. Floppy hair can talk shit and the viewing figures on Youtube will be fine.

    Sorry to rabbit on at such length, but I’m working my way towards establishing the fundamental difference between us, which I think is not a matter of disagreement, but of approach, since we’re seeking to answer different questions. You have an overarching theory about the evolution of cultural belief systems, with which I have no quarrel. My concern is to explain: why this particular belief system, here and now? Some people here (e.g. Ben Pile, I think) would say: “If it wasn’t climate change it would be biodiversity or population or something similar.” I don’t go for that. Analysis of groupthink, as in Christopher Booker’s admirable GWPF pamphlet, takes us some way. But the groups are so disparate (academia, the UN establishment, the political left, the cultural Marxist left, the hippy left, the progressive centre right, depressive young women contemplating childbearing…) that we need something else, but I’m not sure what it is. But I think if anyone is showing the way, it’s the likes of Vinny Burgoo, whose fascination with the trivia of human folly is even greater than mine.

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  19. Geoff,

    Well indeed the higher ed / degree achievement has of course risen as you depict. But the implication in thread above is that this is causing some huge dislocation or social upheaval or new cultural wave obviously due to same (which is also significantly different to how such changes have been in the past), and / or is a major factor in the ‘populist’ (as they are often termed in the media) events as listed above (on one side or another). If so there should be explicit evidence we can point to for that – so what changes of this kind do you more specifically mean and what is the main evidence? Bearing in mind that notwithstanding recent events, the UK and most of the West are still within the longest most stable period in history.

    “Of course, not all the people with B.A. or B.Sc. after their name are vegan Guardian-reading liberals who cycle to work and take their kids to Tate Modern at the weekend.”

    Even assuming a readership exclusive to graduates, only about 1 in 200 of them would be Guardian readers. Even if all vegans were graduates, this would only be about 1 in 40 of them (fullfact.org for vegan numbers). Even if everyone who cycled to work was a graduate, this would only be 4 in a 100 of them (cyclinguk.org). I know these were just examples but the point is that all these numbers are totally piddling, no such similar examples separately or as overlaps are likely to represent some dominant cultural linkage, and none of these activities are truly exclusive to graduates anyhow of course. Per above this is assuming 38% of the UK adult population are graduates per statista.com above.

    “…the 30% of graduates and the psychological satisfaction they/we obtain from the idea of belonging to an élite…”

    But as noted above, this group has almost no cultural coherency. And the self-consideration of elite status has occurred endlessly for other flags as noted above, most of which have had far stronger cultural coherency in the past and now. And when soon the number of UK grads passes a majority of adults, it won’t be an elite thing anyhow. However, sections of graduates potentially with such self-image (especially within similar age-bands so coherent to particular movement rises), may indeed form regiments in stronger cultural entities, such as Momentum in Labour, or the environmental movement (hence also fuel for CAGW phenomenon). But the main cultural narratives they aspire to and propagate in such cases, come largely from those cultures and not from any overriding narratives of a ‘graduate class’ (such as was the case for the working class leading to unions and the formal political Labour party, plus alliances with further left)

    “…they’ve become the ego ideal of a social class…”

    To the extent that the authority of education, and science in particular, has become massively over-blown and over-leveraged, IOW the culture of science is in some areas eclipsing its actual science output, then yes. But in the sense that this in any way (so far) defines a coherent social class, well no. It tends instead to surface as part of all the other cultural or group-think conflicted areas, and can be seen not just in the climate change domain but others such as diet and the sat fat wars, various social science disputes etc. Ironically, this over-blown authority lends ammunition to those who oppose proven not consensus science, so for example within the creationism debate.

    Notwithstanding this, and the attempt to utilise educational authority to back ‘more and more opinions on every subject under the sun’, I have a feeling that two subjects are being overly conflated here – i.e. cultural elites and the authority of education (espc science / social science / social history – e.g. rewriting thereof). While these subjects intersect, and the recent shift left of academia emphasises this, there is much independent movement / development. Overall I have the feeling (not backed by actual research or evidence) that while a surprising amount of old cultural elite system still survives, the flood of graduates over decades has achieved largely the opposite of your proposition, i.e. it’s washed away and diluted a great deal of the prior attitudes about intellectual elitism that helped prop up ruling / cultural elites (so religious / political / residual class etc). Education has largely been democratised, and this has helped democratise that which it propped up, though it’ll be a long while yet before the Eton / Oxford ticket loses its power I suspect.

    “I’d long seen what the audience gets out of it, in terms of a sense of intellectual and moral superiority.”

    I doubt this. Mass viewing provides minor social cred in the same manner as discussing the latest episode of Corrie that others might have missed, or missed the subtleties of. But the very mass appeal rules out serious elitism. And despite some shortcuts or lack of balance in some subject areas, one would have thought that what most people got from this genuine interest, was genuine knowledge.

    “A mass audience guaranteed by social change, reliably measured by opinion research, means that they no longer have to try very hard.”

    The popularisation of many topics has upsides and downsides; per above genuine communication of knowledge is a great upside, the main downside being that it must oft be diluted or angled to get the populist spin. But there are always higher level and less populist channels folks can attach to once the populist program has excited and engaged them. Knowledge at *all* levels has never been so freely available. Plus knowledge is cumulative, the level of mass programs is going up over time, and the techniques to get complex concepts across more easily also improve (especially with computer graphics etc) as more and more of these programs appear and compete.

    “Sorry to rabbit on at such length…”

    No worries. I do that too. And indeed different approaches, different questions.

    “My concern is to explain: why this particular belief system, here and now?”

    Well some circumstantials regarding this are above. But I think it would be interesting to know what you hope to get out of the answer to that question, because there are in truth all sorts of answers depending on what level you want to see and so also what you want to use the answer for. I get a feeling that you may not like the core / underlying answer to be as arbitrary as it is, notwithstanding there are many layers around that, yet I don’t know whether this feeling is accurate or why that would be.

    “Some people here (e.g. Ben Pile, I think) would say: “If it wasn’t climate change it would be biodiversity or population or something similar.” I don’t go for that.”

    With the caveat that all candidates on the list must have plausible existential issues (plausible doesn’t have to be ‘very’ but even massively emotive narratives can’t carry the day without some plausibility), I think he’d be dead right if he said that. As evidenced by the fact that these things (albeit until the last 150 years or so being mostly of religious kinds), have held sway essentially forever and, while a little harder for them in modern times, continue to demonstrate enormous power and that there’s always a whole bunch running at once and many more in the potential queue for stardom. If you don’t go for that, my challenge would be: what makes you think things would suddenly change so that the next bus doesn’t just come along? Or alternatively: why do you think the CC thing isn’t just another bus?

    “Analysis of groupthink, as in Christopher Booker’s admirable GWPF pamphlet, takes us some way. But the groups are so disparate (academia, the UN establishment, the political left, the cultural Marxist left, the hippy left, the progressive centre right, depressive young women contemplating childbearing…)”
    Good effort, yes. But ‘climate apocalypse now’ can encompass all those areas in ‘super-group think’, just the same as religion can and often has dominated all areas of society, including vastly more than listed above. And given all big cultures work through ally systems too, this accounts for political alliances (like with the Dems in the US, the centre-right in Germany), just the same as religions have frequently done in the past.

    “… that we need something else, but I’m not sure what it is.”

    I think there’s very good evidence that the above is ‘it’ 😊. The rules are universal, religions are just one flavour. The matter of scale boggles some people; the social phenomenon of CAGW seems so big, and with fingers in many pies as you note. But it’s still dwarfed by Christianity, whose narratives are even more off with the fairies. Bear in mind that the mechanisms via which they both work, specifically evolved to tie large numbers of otherwise disparate humans together, in order to sing off the same hymn sheet.

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  20. ANDY WEST
    Thanks for that. Now we have something concrete to disagree about. From a quick reading of your comment it seems that you agree with me that your theory / idea / analysis is an overarching one that does indeed explain all and any cultural phenomenon of the kind we’re discussing.

    You quote me saying:
    “My concern is to explain: why this particular belief system, here and now?”
    and you reply:

    “I think it would be interesting to know what you hope to get out of the answer to that question, because there are in truth all sorts of answers depending on what level you want to see and so also what you want to use the answer for. I get a feeling that you may not like the core / underlying answer to be as arbitrary as it is…”

    Indeed there are “.. all sorts of answers depending on what level…” and on your level of generalisation the emergence of climate catastrophism may well seem arbitrary. If I take an aimless shot on a snooker table and accidentally pot the green, you may call that a random result. Certainly there are laws of mechanics which could be evoked to show that it wasn’t random, but who could be bothered? But we are not billiard balls, and it is of the utmost importance, it seems to me, to establish why this particular green ball has been potted.

    You mention Christianity as a narrative “even more off with the fairies.” I’d challenge that (though I’d do it with more confidence if I’d read Jordan Peterson on the subject.) Christianity is not just a false belief that was adopted overnight as the official creed of an empire. It’s a lot more than that, and has been for 2000 years. Catastrophic climate belief is comparable to the couple of verses in Genesis about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In that sense only I agree with you that Christianity “dwarfs” CAGW.

    You add:

    Bear in mind that the mechanisms via which they both work, specifically evolved to tie large numbers of otherwise disparate humans together, in order to sing off the same hymn sheet.

    Christianity has certainly “evolved,” a term which implies a very long period of development. That’s not the case with CAGW. In the two or three decades of its existence it has imposed itself absolutely everywhere. It’s two centuries since Catholics in England suffered the kind of indignities and censorship which climate sceptics suffer now. No-one anywhere in the world is trying to impose Christianity via a multi-million pound programme of psy-ops.

    On the question of educational level as the indicator of a new social class or caste: There’s evidence that educational attainment correlates better with all kinds of opinions than social class, though it’s not particularly clearcut, since the correlation between class and educational level is already high. I think the CRASSH research may show this with respect to belief in their peculiar conspiracy theories. The raw data they sent me didn’t include this breakdown, but there may be something about it in “Conspiracy Theories and the People who Believe in Them” which I’ve started looking at.

    My source for the interesting idea of a social class defined by educational attainment is essentially Emmanuel Todd, who is himself influenced by a number of American sociologists, most of whom I haven’t read, since I don’t have access to an English language library, though I have read Christopher Lasch on the new Narcissism and Allan Bloom on the Closing of the American Mind, plus odds and ends of Thomas Sowell. Briefly, the slow attainment of universal literacy over centuries correlates first with disruptive and often violent revolution, and secondly with democracy. Universal literacy is a levelling phenomenon, suggesting that all men are equal. Further education for a large minority suggests the opposite. This is obvious, though I think no-one before Todd had spotted it. It takes someone who’s read de Tocqueville and Marx, and who is also familiar with basic demographics and statistical method to spot this kind of thing, and modern academia has little place for such people.

    The evidence that hysterical anti-Brexism in Britain, violent anti-Trumpism in the US, and Macronophilia in France is a phenomenon of a certain social class is overwhelming. I haven’t checked all your figures, but when you say: “Even assuming a readership exclusive to graduates, only about 1 in 200 of them would be Guardian readers,” you’re off by a magnitude or two. Assuming graduates form about 20% of the adult population of about 50 million, that’s ten million people. Your 1 in 200 puts the Guardian readership at fifty thousand. But the print version apparently reaches 741,000 adults, and in all media the Graun reaches 5.3 million adults daily (though many outside the UK.) But this is beside the point. Social science cannot be bound by quantitative methods, otherwise you’re stuck with the shit science of a Lewandowsky or a Corner, where a significance test run on a hundred questionnaires completed by first-year students (typically 90% female, aged 18-19) is presented as revealing the Truth about the Workings of the Human Mind. Bollocks to that. My ramblings about the Chattering Classes are far more likely to hit pay dirt.

    To repeat and enlarge:
    University education is plateauing everywhere. There will never be more than 20-30% of people who achieve or aspire to a university education. The mills of international capitalism grind slowly, but they grind fine. After the skilled industrial worker, the accountant and the engineer will find that they can’t compete against their equivalents in Poland, India, or China. The members of the educated élite who will escape this rout are not the most useful, but those who cleave closest to the system, the ruling class, the core of our society in decline; not the teachers or the engineers, but the public relations bods, the market researchers, the government sponsored think tankers, the journalists, and of course the academics.

    These are people who see themselves as (to repeat myself) “not as other men are.” That’s a quote from Luke 18:11 by the way. However “out with the fairies” Christianity may seem to us atheists, Jesus (who certainly existed, unlike fairies) had a way with words. He understood the chattering classes, who are the subject of my tentative attempts at analysis.

    I could go on. Your analysis is fertile, however much I disagree with it. We could fill pages of interesting discussion. But, like the man said, philosophers have tried to understand the world, but the point is to change it. I want to stop this CAGW thing. Understanding it is simply the first stop on the way.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. “He prayed with himself …”

    What an atheist would say of all prayer, I suppose, and, at the same time, one of the most devastating phrases our Lord ever used of his enemies.

    Like

  22. Geoff,

    “But we are not billiard balls…”

    In some senses we are not, and in some we are. If you’re looking at any one of us, that one is as unlike a billiard ball as one can imagine. But if you’re looking at very many of us, then statistically we will behave as cultural crowds, meaning cultural rules do apply, rather like the physics of actual crowds but more complex. These rules do not however apply exclusively, they share and are entangled with other things going on, for instance the enterprise of science as a reality constraint. But these entanglements themselves can also be understood, e.g. the way culture can bias science even as science can constrain culture.

    “…and it is of the utmost importance, it seems to me, to establish why this particular green ball has been potted.”

    I absolutely agree with that, except it isn’t a green ball it’s a green cultural crowd (very appropriate colour!) But you said you don’t just want to know ‘why’, you want to know ‘why now?’. This is much harder, because rather like biological evolution, the rules can tell you ‘why’, but the detailed unfolding and therefore also the ‘now’, involves hugely more complexity and circumstantial detail. This cannot be filled in by ‘the rules’, but must come from reams of historical analysis and political and social understanding, insider knowledge on some of the critical threads, and quite frankly guesswork. So my question amounts to: what do you want to get out of the ‘now’ part of the answer? This would determine how, and how far into, one must investigate all the said reams of knowledge of unfolding.

    “Christianity is not just a false belief that was adopted overnight as the official creed of an empire.”

    Of course not. But it is certainly a cultural false belief, aka a group delusion. So is CAGW. And the rules for these, which work in us right down at brain architecture level, are the same for all. They come in all sizes and all timescales, right from group-think on your local council, to forgotten spiritual practice that far outlived the current span of Christianity. Similarly, the same rules of biological evolution can create long-lived whales or tiny may flies that last a day, which species nevertheless continue to evolve via an identical system. Nor do we know yet what the span of CAGW will be, but for instance if most countries end up adopting a GND it would likely be many generations. It’s already over one. Christianity has morphed hugely over its whole history, only the average speed (see below) relative to human lives makes it look more static. In practice a many generations span for CAGW seems unlikely because it hitched its wagon to science, which one day ought to be its undoing long before such a span, but cultures have a surprising ability to adapt. (Mainstream religions don’t have this potential flaw, most of them arose before widespread science).

    “In that sense only I agree with you that Christianity “dwarfs” CAGW.”

    Globally, it still dwarfs CAGW in the number of core committed believers (rather than allies or hangers on), and the formal influence on lives (marriage, christening etc etc) and only about a century ago ruled virtually every aspect of the lives of everyone in the Christian countries with (albeit some undercover skepticism), virtually universal public support. CAGW has nowhere near got to this level of social dominance yet, albeit some of its adherents wish this to be so. Most life still carries on with little reference to CAGW, so far. And while it’s impossible to pin down the total asset / infra-structure value of Christianity, even in a much reduced state this is still extremely high. If we count Windmills and Solar panels as physical infrastructure of CAGW (they are nearer to mega icons of physical belief, than they are to reliable power stations), as churches / cathedrals / lands are to Christianity, I presume the latter would still win (although many items are considered ‘priceless’ culturally and cannot translate to a dollar figure), but at any rate this is also a comparable contest.

    “Christianity has certainly “evolved,” a term which implies a very long period of development.”

    It doesn’t imply a long period of development at all. The speed of development is variable, but potentially fast. This speed depends not only on the nature of the communication mechanisms involved, but the opportunities available and also the constraints that may be holding a brake on the process. The latter includes reality constraints, but also competition, available fuel (new adherents), inertia associated with behaviour / rituals and infra-structure once these have accumulated, events outside the influence of the culture, cultural resistance (aka innate scepticism, nothing to do with reasoned scepticism and a defence mechanism against invading culture or native cultural excess), and more. It can also occur smoothly or in jumps. If you were born in the UK about halfway through the rule of Henry VIII, assuming you actually survived the experience then well within your lifetime you’d observe the most critical part of a big ‘speciation’ in Christianity, which was at the root of major branches that still exist today, not to mention accompanied by a big infra-structure reduction of the losing branch. When a culture is new, it typically evolves much faster, and albeit early Christianity had lots of competition (e.g. Mithraism was a big competitor), there was plenty of fuel for all as many folks were dissatisfied with prior classical religion. Also because it was new and ideal (i.e. not jaded), there was no innate skepticism, plus no deeply embedded behaviours / infra-structure of its own to keep up to speed with developments. As the lost gospels show, a swift spread accompanied by swift evolution (for the communication mechanisms of the time), led to many different flavours of early Christianity too, which as a dominant flavour emerged were forgotten or actively erased (the role of women in the early church fell victim to the latter process). At the other end of the scale, when a firmly embedded culture runs into the walls of geographic / competition stops, has no fuel but organic growth (births), is nevertheless dominant in its sphere, owns much behaviour / ritual and infra-structure, it can run in a kind of equilibrium mode until something happens to break the run, and hence develop little over a long period. Even in ancient times narratives could morph on the scale of Chinese whispers, but it’s all the other factors that actually control the speed.

    “That’s not the case with CAGW. In the two or three decades of its existence it has imposed itself absolutely everywhere.”

    So far, its social influence is still hugely less than peak Christianity (or Islam for within its sphere). These religions literally controlled all lives in their domains. CAGW is not even in this kind of league. But the real point is that whatever the level of current achievement, it’s occurring via the same rules, and hence has all the same features. See https://judithcurry.com/2015/11/20/climate-culture/ . CAGW did not evolve in the age of scrolls, endless repetitive word of mouth (most people couldn’t read), and 99.9% of people slaving upon the land (a constraint for cultures as they need mind time), which is so for much of the span of the current mainstream religions. It was mostly in the age of the Internet, the roots just before, with massively higher population and population densities, and vastly more interaction, and vastly more available mindshare from people decoupled from basic survival. And the slow wain of the religions has provided space at the top which it can quickly seize, although for sure other secular waves have done some seizing there also in the last 150 years, e.g. political ideologies, albeit some of those kicked off in the age of the telegraph and rail and print, not the internet and flight and smart phones and laptops and more mind-time.

    “It’s two centuries since Catholics in England suffered the kind of indignities and censorship which climate sceptics suffer now.”

    As you imply, the indignities and censorship are similar because the rules that create them are the same. In practice, the world is on average less brutal, especially in the West, so those features don’t include burning at the stake at this time. But as mid-twentieth century (and some since) events clearly show, indeed centred in the West, it’s not a given that the milder manifestations will always occur above the more brutal sort. If the level of cultural clash and associated societal break-down is high enough, the brutal sort will indeed re-occur, without question. The time since this occurred in the UK for Catholics is not related to the independent (mainly – the Pope has now declared support of course) culture of CAGW, it’s dependent on the continuing trajectory of Catholicism and its close allies / oppositions. And have you so quickly forgotten The Troubles, which saw continued indignities and of course even killings for both of the religious sub-species tracing back in this country to Henry VIII. The Good Friday agreement was only 20 years ago, when CAGW already had a significant global profile. Society doesn’t visit these terrible outcomes on people either all at once (i.e. all domains) or not at all; it’s on a domain by domain basis depending on the state of the cultural conflict within that domain. So for instance those people inflicting indignities and censorship upon climate sceptics are likely perfectly balanced and reasonable in other domains, while meanwhile in other cultural conflicts both the milder and brutal versions go on in all sorts of domains. Ask the Muslims in Northern Myanmar about the latter,

    “No-one anywhere in the world is trying to impose Christianity via a multi-million pound programme of psy-ops.”

    Of course not. It’s a culture that developed it’s main styles and behaviours and recruiting techniques literally in ancient times, and passed its high mark before any of the modern technologies (around mid-nineteenth century). This doesn’t mean religions have ignored new technology. For instance tele-evangelism, religious radio stations, religious web presence and social media (the Jihad variety is particularly subversive and has been very successful), all of which have worked well for them. But while cultures can be amazingly adaptive, and it’s astonishing that the main religions can still claim the majority of the planet as adherents to their fairy tales in this day and age, which indeed illustrates the power of cultures, the arteries of these cultures are pretty hard. I’d be surprised if they will do anything but decline now, on average at least. However, their continuing hold must not be underestimated either; whatever is happening with the spread of the new cultural kid on the block that does take more advantage of technology, i.e. CAGW, this is not at the moment a driving factor in wars all around the world (despite spurious claims about Syria), which religion still is. Let’s hope it never comes to that for CAGW.

    “On the question of educational level as the indicator of a new social class or caste: There’s evidence that educational attainment correlates better with all kinds of opinions than social class, though it’s not particularly clearcut…”

    I’d expect that. But the point is that they’re not the same set of opinions, i.e. culturally policed, either strongly or even weakly. They are diverse. So much wider education is not only breaking down class barriers, which includes those that protected certain elites, it’s breaking down other cultural barriers too. And graduates in this country are a bulk resource anyhow not an elite one, which indeed soon will be a majority of all adults. So indeed…

    “Universal literacy is a levelling phenomenon,”

    I agree with this too, although its not likely in current times to progress to ‘all men are equal’, because as class and religion are slowly broken down, other cultures can enter the game. For instance climate skeptics are apparently not equal, but ‘deniers’, whom some think deserve sanction under law. However, this is not a direct feature of the trajectory of educational penetration, it’s feature of a new opportunistic culture.

    “Further education for a large minority suggests the opposite.”

    Depends on the size of the minority. Maybe for an entrenched 10% (as opposed to the previous 1%) who jealously guard the walls of academia so that the percentage doesn’t grow. But 38% is way too big to be an elite. And soon it’ll be over 50%. At that point they essentially are the population! Nor as noted above, is there so far any evidence of strong common culture that would define them as a class, elite or otherwise. In this country at least, they are all over the map. Old educational modes (Eton / Oxford pedigree), while much diluted by mass educational access, still wield a disproportionate and elite power, with enormously more group coherence. Mass education will continue to erode this; as we’ve been producing about 25k Phds a year for some time, they’re starting to build up too.

    “Even assuming a readership exclusive to graduates, only about 1 in 200 of them would be Guardian readers,” you’re off by a magnitude or two.

    38% graduates (statista.com for 2013) of about 50M adults, is about 19M adults. Guardian circulation in UK (pink dotted line in Wikipedia graph for all UK newspapers), is around 200k. Okay, ~1 in 100 (I previously used 100k for Guardian as touted somewhere). But even at 5 times higher, say, it is still nowhere, nor is it likely that readership is exclusively graduates anyhow, which will bring it down again.

    “Social science cannot be bound by quantitative methods…”

    But they can nevertheless usefully help inform, which indeed you were attempting so to do.

    “The evidence that hysterical anti-Brexism in Britain, violent anti-Trumpism in the US, and Macronophilia in France is a phenomenon of a certain social class is overwhelming.”

    The evidence would be good to see, but this is not at all my point. You appear to be saying that this ‘class’ is largely about the relatively new phenomena of mass education (and so the products thereof). Yet for instance the figures on the Trump / Clinton vote for college youths didn’t show this at all. They were equally split, albeit slightly biased to Trump for men and slightly biased to Clinton for women. I know next to bugger all about France and the yellow vests, but isn’t Macron supported by a lot of big business, and regarding the educational angle the ‘old system’, (can’t recall the name of the academy from which all the government officials come), but essentially the establishment culture that’s been around since mid-nineteenth century, the equiv of our Eton and Oxford, from which he came, i.e. not the new educational wave. Does the evidence directly show a phenomena largely due to the mass education of recent decades, or is this an inference from the data and social class characteristics that are apparent?

    “To repeat and enlarge: University education is plateauing everywhere. There will never be more than 20-30% of people who achieve or aspire to a university education.”

    Well this prompted me to look more deeply rather than just grab the easiest figure as I did above. And indeed depending on source the figures seem to vary really quite a lot. statista.com says a dozen countries passed the 30% mark way back in 2007 (UK 32, US 40, Canada 48). Unfortunately you need premium access to find the breakdowns and sources. The UK Office of National Statistics says (2017) ‘Steady increase in the number of graduates in the UK over the past decade’, which doesn’t indicate a plateauing of any kind. Unfortunately they’re looking at working age population post-ed actually available for work (so age 21 to 64 not in adult ed), so not quite apples and apples, of which they get 42% holding degrees, another 21% to A levels. They show a graph with this that has a continuous rise starting at 25% in 2002 and showing no curve or plateauing at all.
    https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/articles/graduatesintheuklabourmarket/2017#steady-increase-in-the-number-of-graduates-in-the-uk-over-the-past-decade
    I have a feeling some of the variance in all these figures might be how a degree and its equivalents are strictly or loosely actually defined. US has college / associated degree as well as bachelors and I don’t know the equivalence, but at any rate the graph for ‘completed college’ is a straight line up for about 40 years (finishing in 2015). There is no sign at all of any drop off or plateau. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/p20-578.pdf
    Figures from elsewhere make me this the statista.com is limiting at age 60 or 64 and maybe with a wider definition of degree. OECD says “Canada has the highest percentage, among member countries, of adults aged 25-64 who have obtained a tertiary education – 53%.” But later says this is 28% for ‘university education’ (2014). A graph (Canadian index of well-being) in the latter range shows a modest but continuous flat line rise from 1994 to 2014 with no sign of plateauing. Okay I’m fed up of searching for now, but what makes you think it won’t continue to go up?

    “The mills of international capitalism grind slowly, but they grind fine. After the skilled industrial worker, the accountant and the engineer will find that they can’t compete against their equivalents in Poland, India, or China. The members of the educated élite who will escape this rout are not the most useful, but those who cleave closest to the system, the ruling class, the core of our society in decline; not the teachers or the engineers, but the public relations bods, the market researchers, the government sponsored think tankers, the journalists, and of course the academics.”

    Hmmm… this seems to have a hint of anti-capitalism sentiment. Which is of no issue should evidence support it. When I was in industry, we pulled out of India because they were hopelessly uncompetitive in their processes. Not so for China, but they seemed happy to invest in the West as practically anywhere else to get a foothold, and partnerships with the UK or other non-Chinese entities / employees are acceptable. It isn’t all compete or die. What escape route? What ruling class? (are the Royal Family and the Eton educated going to leg it? – they weren’t a product of mass education anyhow). We might be better off without many of the journalists or academics, but if these have flown

    “These are people who see themselves as (to repeat myself) “not as other men are.”…”

    And to repeat, this superiority flag attributed only to ‘folks with a degree’ is incredibly culturally weak (to date) regarding either common cultural motive, or indeed any true sense of superiority that old cultures grant, e.g. nationalism, religion, idealist / extreme politics, or indeed up-and-coming ‘greener than thou’. I worked in the computer industry for many years and in an environment packed with graduates of all ages from above my own down to fresh minted, a higher proportion of women in the latter. There is no sense of superiority from them at all, unlike some toffs or occasional political extremists I’ve met. Nor were any considering baling to China or India or anywhere else much. 2 went to Oz in 40 years, a few more went to the US but we had some US ones come back here also; plus quite a few French came here but none went the other way. This is out of hundreds, though I’ll have missed the moves of some no doubt if they occurred some time after leaving the company. Some bewailed Brexit as potentially limiting their options on the continent, but almost none had any real plans or even intentions to do so, it’s more that why wouldn’t you have more options if you can get them.

    “I could go on. Your analysis is fertile, however much I disagree with it.”

    I’ll have to say the same for yours 😊

    “…philosophers have tried to understand the world, but the point is to change it. I want to stop this CAGW thing. Understanding it is simply the first stop on the way.”

    Well there is absolute agreement. The whole cultural understanding is to reach down to the base mechanics and understand it. If you don’t understand the ‘why’, you will never understand the ‘why now’. And nor will we ever understand it by the traditional means (which once was the only option) of just political / social sieving. Booker’s group think is a great step in the right direction, and he’s not the only one, so now we have to step to super group think. And anyhow we must apply the science of understanding human societies and how they work to the issue, after all we have 150 years of progress to get leverage from. The only reason this isn’t happening all over the place, is because all the disciplines involved in this area believe that catastrophic climate change (without dramatic action) is simply an output of hard science!

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  23. oops, fix:

    We might be better off without many of the journalists or academics, but if these have flown…

    …in net droves (i.e. not just exchanges with equivalent persons coming back the other way – for instance all universities are increasingly international and partnered) in the next decade say, I’ll be very surprised. The total academic staff in UK higher education has risen from about 160k in 2004, to 212k in 2017/8, in a near straight line (it went flat from 2009/10 to 2011/12, presumably the recession). I guess Brexit will bring uncertainty, but other than that if a deeper process was in train there’s no indication of this at all.
    https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/staff/chart-1

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  24. Hunter:

    Hmmm… So the Pope’s warning about Social Media companies doing a bit of what the Catholic Church did a lot of for a couple of millennia. Irony indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. ANDY WEST
    I’m interested In continuing this discussion, but possibly in a format other than a blog thread. The need to reply swiftly, and the open, rambling nature of the form, seems to lead to too many misunderstandings, and their correction clogs up the discussion. Maybe we could put together something more structured? I’ll mail you about it.

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  26. ANDY WEST
    Sorry, I thought I ‘d find your email address in the cupboard back of the comments section, but it seems that WordPress shall speak only to WordPress. Does anyone on our author list have it? Or should I send a carrier pigeon to Brighton?

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  27. Hey everyone especially Geoff and Vinny, it’s Nik / NEO 10Y – just saw this – grateful to read your perspectives. Obviously, I don’t have control of any of the edit and I promise that I am more substance than style, given the opportunity. I’d also like to clarify to that National Geographic was an official job, but unfortunately Disney… wasn’t (*insert lol emoji), maybe in the future! Peace and love to you all.

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