People send me things. Like Twitter drew my attention to this yesterday:
For those whose browser refuses to tolerate embedded tweets, Tim Urban had asked
What’s something you’ve changed your mind about?
and a number of people I follow on Twitter, and many others, had answered. This post is about the answers I found most interesting, under the headings Carbon, Covid, Collateral and Carbon Again. In fact the last section is about someone else changing their mind, who sent me an email a week or two back, that I found particularly encouraging, about it.
I use Carbon in its modern sense of any molecule that causes the greenhouse effect and the political decisions that many feel must be taken as a result (!) I use Collateral in its dictionary sense, from Oxford Languages, albeit as an adjective:
additional but subordinate; secondary
Subordinate and secondary in that the changes concerned are not to do with Carbon. Because this is Climate Scepticism. And yet we used to talk at length about Covid. (And about Brexit. And about Trump. But I’m not going there here.)
Glad that’s cleared all that up.
Sam Harris said simply Nuclear power. So did steve hilton. So, of course, did Zion Lights, pointing to this rather striking tweet from February:
Now this isn’t everything that some of us might mean by ‘climate scepticism’ but, for me, it isn’t nothing either. It’s real progress in a much more sensible direction than extremist outfits like XR, the Guardian and the UK government seem to want us to go.
Meanwhile someone else I follow, the often impressive venture capitalist Paul Graham, seems to have been going in a slightly different direction:
10 years ago I was still unconvinced about anthropogenic climate change. I knew climate scientists were always going on about it, but when I checked what the APS said (in 2010), it was merely that it was “increasingly difficult to rule out.”
What was it that made you change your mind about it?
When Bill Gates started talking about it.
Someone else then responded
When Alex Epstein began to talk about Human Flourishing I changed my mind and became more pro-reliable energy.
Links here and here. (Just to get you started – please feel free to click around anywhere under the Tim Urban tweet. If you never return to this post I’ll feel my work is done!)
Sam Harris (my first mentioned respondent and considered an influential guy) used to be thought part of the Intellectual Dark Web. The lighthearted term was coined by Eric Weinstein, whose interview with Roger Penrose I highlighted in a Cliscep thread last year, just before Penrose was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics (by chance). Another venture capitalist with a strong suit in fundamental physics and brother of evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein. Exactly a month ago Eric tweeted this in defence of Bret and his wife after an erstwhile friend and ally, Claire Lehman, founder of Quillette, called them frauds:
No. No they are not. Just untrue. I may not understand their position here. And I have gone down a VERY different path myself. But that is simply untrue.
Honestly do not get what has come over so many of us. These odd internet dramas provide nothing I want for our world…
I only learned that from someone late last night, again as a result of the simple-sounding Tim Urban question.
I’m very sympathetic to Eric Weinstein’s point here. But I don’t think I’m going to say more. This is Climate Scepticism. But we also have suffered from people choosing to disagree with us – and sometimes our apparent enemies – in very unproductive ways.
Bari Weiss said Human nature, leading to stuff like
Just for example. Kendall Cameron, who calls himself a Christian and a Conservative (but in the USA, please note) said Gay marriage. Liv Boeree said That overpopulation is a problem. (That’s not too far from Carbon in my taxonomy, heavily inspired as it is by Cook et al.) Elon Musk said Brain transplants. Perhaps that could also help with Carbon. Others had changed their minds on Veganism. And I liked the techie slant of this guy:
DHH sent me this on 1st December (as an email)
It’s a disorientating time in America. So many societal seams are unraveling simultaneously. So few ideas for how to stitch those seams back together find common cause. No wonder despair and anger comes so easy to so many right now.
These dark emotions are then propelled by the particle accelerator that is Twitter into super-charged takes. All that energy has definitively nuked any previous utopian hope that “connecting the world” would lead to peace, love, and understanding.
That, ironically, is perhaps the one thing everyone does seem to agree on at the moment: social media is making everything political worse. But of course such a conclusion is only shared until the question of who to blame emerges or what to do about it is brought up, and then it’s back to the tribal drums.
The best shelter I’ve found from this bombardment has been books. Especially books that bring insights from “the other side” of my natural political stance. After spending years reading Piketty, Hickel, Graeber, and other left-leaning writers carrying left-leaning messages – who all affirmed and expanded my understanding of taxation, international trade, ecologies, and social systems – I’ve gained tremendously from some divergent perspectives.
What’s great about reading books instead of Twitter threads is how they allow the counter arguments room to complete. Over the course of a couple of hundred pages, you’ll usually found enough common ground that your mind opens to fairly consider the turf where you might disagree.
Take climate change, for example. If you read The Uninhabitable Earth by Wallace-Wells or Hickel’s Less Is More in isolation (two books I’ve highly recommended!), you’ll almost certainly come away in both a state of panic and with a passion of #degrowth. They both build very persuasive narratives.
But your understanding will deepen immensely if you compliment such books with the likes of Apocalypse Never by Shellenberger. Not because you’ll be convinced that climate change isn’t a serious, urgent problem (it so very much is!), but because you’ll be better prepared for a discussion of what to do about it. Like the critical examination of, say, whether closing all the nuclear plants in Germany in favor of almost exclusively focusing investments in wind and sun was a good idea (Shellenberger makes a very convincing argument that it was not).
And hearing out the arguments in long form is so much more satisfying and illuminating than what I could imagine a Shellenberger v Hickel screaming match on Twitter would be like. Because Twitter turns even the best minds into bile when pitted against each other inside the thunderdome.
This – reading two books on the same topic from opposing sides – is perhaps the best dialectic we can hope for at this moment.
It goes on after that. It’s about more than Carbon but it was a very positive surprise for me from the 42-year-old. Who is David Heinemeier Hansson anyway? Like the others I’ve cited I’ll let you decide how much he matters. But he is influential among coders I respect and follow.
Twitter can be very good and very bad.
If the point of Climate Scepticism, the blog, is changing minds, including young minds, we should focus more on the arguments being put forward by the likes of Michael Shellenberger and Zion Lights than on what Climategate revealed about temperature records, say.
H’mm, well I used to think that climate change was the most important problem affecting the world (back when it was called global warming). Now I think it is the Nth problem of many, and that it ranks lower on the danger meter than the efforts to fix it.
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Yep, thanks Jit. It would be entertaining and enlightening if others wanted to share one or more changes of mind they’ve had, though I shied away from asking for that.
Only having posted this did I notice that David Heinemeier Hansson had sent me another email this afternoon, in defence of podcaster Joe Rogan, including this:
The web page version of that message being here.
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Having confidence in scientific pronouncements being correct, then reading the Climategate emails.
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Richard, I think your conclusion hits the nail on the head:
“If the point of Climate Scepticism, the blog, is changing minds, including young minds, we should focus more on the arguments being put forward by the likes of Michael Shellenberger and Zion Lights than on what Climategate revealed about temperature records, say.”
What will change minds in this area? It’s very difficult. I guess the human condition is to intuit one’s way to a viewpoint with which one feels instinctively comfortable, then there is a regrettable tendency to ignore evidence that doesn’t fit that viewpoint, while clutching at evidence that does. Belief in climate alarmism, being quasi-religious, is probably not susceptible to arguments that will bounce off the carapace of belief. Somehow, we need to find a way under the carapace. In some cases (sadly, probably a small number of cases0 the sort of argument made by the Shellenbergers and Zion Lights’ of this world, might just resonate.
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Mark: Thanks. I think by now there’s significant empirical evidence that meaningful changes in people’s views are coming mostly from the arguments from the Shellenberger/Zion Lights pro-nuclear side. I’m not sure “Belief in climate alarmism, being quasi-religious…” is the best frame for us to deal with that empirical data! Because reason *is* breaking through, albeit in what seem like small pockets.
This has caused me to go back to reading Shellenberger’s Apocalypse Never. Which contains lots of material that could have come straight from climate sceptics going back to well, 1988. But what’s powerful and convincing for the under-45s in 2021 also matters.
By the way, Richard, I wasn’t simply excoriating climate alarmists – I referred to it being the human condition, and I still count myself as human. I guess I’m as guilty of it as anyone, though of course I like to believe that I’m capable of changing my mind if confronted with a strong and compelling argument.
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Nuclear energy is probably an issue where I’ve changed my mind. Living in Cumbria, where we’re going to be cleaning up the mess that is Sellafield for probably another century (at a cost of £hundreds of billions) and where anecdotally there are stories of clusters of early deaths that may be related to radiation exposure, I had always been rather jaundiced about nuclear energy.
I am now persuaded that if the climate worriers make us ditch fossil fuels, then we must have resort to nuclear power to supply us with reliable energy at the scale we need it. I am also persuaded that the health hazards of the past are not likely to be repeated (though I do remain a little nervous).
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That’s the ideal mind change for this comment section Mark so thank you! For myself, I heard Oxford physics professor emeritus Wade Allison speak on “Nuclear for Life” in Oxford in December 2015, after Jonathan Jones had advertised the event on Bishop Hill. I wouldn’t say I was jaundiced before that but I was certainly ignorant about how little damage excess radiation had done in human history so far. As Jonathan said to me afterwards, the greens can’t have it both ways. CAGW can’t be the worst fate ever AND nuclear energy be the worst fate ever. All my analogies go back to Winston Churchill at the moment so at that point I think of WSC and his support for Stalin from the moment of Hitler’s invasion in June 1941. Not ideal, simply better than the alternative. But nuclear energy doesn’t need to have anything like the downsides of Soviet-style communism under Uncle Joe being forced on countries like Czechoslovakia post 1945.
Simon Jenkins wrote a good piece in The Guardian In January 2010 called The proliferation of nuclear panic is politics at its most ghoulish having just read an earlier book by Allison. But I was ignorant of that Oxford prof for the best part of the next six years. My scepticism has extended for a while now to the idea that I know everything!
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A few more links on Wade Allison. On Wayback Machine ‘Nuclear is for Life, A Cultural Revolution’ by Prof Wade Allison (Public lecture) has the blurb I read before going on 11 Dec 2015:
That book ‘Nuclear is for Life’ is now available for free here (which automatically downloads the pdf). Wade’s website is http://www.radiationandreason.com, which is also the name of the 2009 book which Simon Jenkins read.
The arguments for nuclear are very important to make in opposition to the narrative of climate apocalypse. Not only because on practical grounds nuclear is a huge source of reliable, emissions free power, but because this directly undermines the cultural narrative of apocalypse too. Via emotive selection, that narrative steers adherents away from any solution that might potentially solve (or make a large contribution to solving), the touted problem. Because actually solving the problem would kill the culture. This explains much of the ‘green’ resistance to nuclear, and why Oreskes can get away with calling even James Hansen a ‘new kind of denier’ for being pro-nuclear. And in reverse, pro-nuclear stances damage the narrative. In the blurb for ‘Apocalypse Now’, Shellenberger says: “What’s really behind the rise of apocalyptic environmentalism? There are powerful financial interests. There are desires for status and power. But most of all there is a desire among supposedly secular people for transcendence. This spiritual impulse can be natural and healthy. But in preaching fear without love, and guilt without redemption, the *new religion* is failing to satisfy our deepest psychological and existential needs” [emphasis mine]. Indeed directly linking his push for nuclear, and the ‘religion’ that opposes same. I disagree with him only in one respect; catastrophic climate culture satisfies some of our ‘existential needs’ only too well, which is why it is so widespread.
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Never! An easy mistake to make, at every level!
In other words the religion (about which I am happy as an analogy, but not always the conclusions we draw from it) has a fatal contradiction within it where reason and real-world evidence is changing minds and thus putting an end to the religion.
Or as I said to Mark earlier:
My warning there only applies if we think that all religions are impossible to overturn. Some, happily, are undermined by the facts on the ground and fail. And there are some that have dug in for the long haul, clearly. And in 20th century there were political religions like Naziism that rose and fell but did enormous damage at their zenith. (Political religion used in the Michael Burleigh sense – and Burleigh points to many diverse scholars in introducing the term in his first chapter.)
Mark also raised, in effect, the danger of thinking we are better than our enemy. At the very moment people like the brainy atheist Sam Harris and David Cameron’s former blue-sky thinker Steve Hilton have said they’ve changed their minds on nuclear. From such thinkers come the end of the religion. Or it goes much more totalitarian and starts to imprison and kill such people. Anyway, the mindset we have matters. Feeling superior as we read of the angel of Mons should not be translated into contempt for those who are pioneering our way out of a very nasty sub-culture in 2021, despite not necessarily agreeing with us on the likely value for climate sensitivity.
Another way out of the religion that wasn’t mentioned under Tim Urban’s clever tweet:
Removal of the profoundly and even proudly ignorant journalist layer.
Such things will take time.
(I was reminded of this by a response to Pielke Jnr being demono-classified by Cook’s mad AI broth. Talk about toil and trouble.)
“Never!” Thank you – I can’t believe I did that. Especially since it’s a dozen years or so since I last saw the film 0:
“My warning there only applies if we think that all religions are impossible to overturn.”
While this isn’t the case, as you go on to give example some can be hugely entrenched and/or can do great damage (in a variety of ways). In general, I think that recognising the causal process helps to prevent an inappropriate focus on prominent individuals or indeed foot-soldiers within its service so to speak, as being causal, or deliberately nefarious (for the great majority), or indeed…
“…thinking we are better than our enemy.”
…because the enemy is a thing, not people. And regarding our own status, I think it also helps to understand that all of humanity is equally susceptible to cultural behaviours. So including ourselves. While I’m not religious (I speak of the traditional Faith sort now), I recall from school-days some of it’s wisdoms: ‘there but for the grace of God, go I’, applies here I think. Cultures can have up-sides, too. Indeed, that is why we’re so subject to them.
Andy: The clash between Hitler and Churchill is interesting if you take both to be in the grip of a religion – the totalitarian political religion of Naziism, as described in great detail by Burleigh, about which there is almost nothing positive to be said, and what Andrew Roberts is convinced was Churchill’s religion, built upon the ideal of the British Empire. (I don’t fully agree with Roberts on this but let’s run with it for the moment!) There were redemptive qualities in Churchill, not least his magnanimity towards those who opposed him (not including the Nazis themselves!) and his brilliant and often self-deprecating sense of humour. And, with all his faults, he impacted the surrounding culture amazingly.
I think we have reason to be concerned about how climate alarmism together with climate politics from the UN level down have become a political religion in the Burleigh sense. Which doesn’t mean, however, that the mass slaughter that came about from 1939 will be repeated. It’s keeping such fearsome thoughts both in reasonable tension and humility. I think we’ll find a way of escape, to use a biblical term. But that’s not an opinion amenable to scientific proof until afterwards.
Richard, I largely agree regarding the quality of nationalism, of which there was a substantial component in Nazi ideals (albeit in a form blended with their race ideals too). While nationalism can come in relatively benign or very negative forms (as can all group cultural expressions), it (and indeed its ’empire’ version) is definitely a cultural thing. And whether or not it’s diluted by or entangled with more rational political modes that hold it in check. Regarding the strengths of individuals’ motivations (Churchill or anyone else), this is not however something that cultural theory (which is a group level thing) can shed much light on; so from my PoV the historians must deduce what they can and I (usually) leave it alone. I’ve actually read a lot of history along the way, but ‘big picture’ stuff, several histories of the world and of civilisations and religions and such (actually not Christianity – but ask me anything about the Ismailis!) I’ve tended to avoid biographies and more laser-focus history. Fascinating (and often more gripping) though they can be, way back when I decided the big picture would be my bag. I think the cultural aspects of Nazism have just about made it through to mainstream though. The BBC program ‘The Nazis, a warning from history’ from some years back explored the behavioural side of what was going on, the ‘warning’ coming from the realization that nothing unusual or ‘special’ was going on, and that humans could at any time slip into this mode, if we weren’t ever-vigilant for the signs and indeed are also strong enough to do something about them. While uncomfortable to watch in some ways, it was extremely well made.
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P.S. re ‘escape’, I hope you’re right, but indeed predicting the future is hard 0:
Andy, I share your interest in reading about history. I would urge you not to eschew biographies, especially those of interesting characters who lived in interesting times – they can, if well-written, often be a way of seeing both the big and the little picture at the same time.
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Yep, very well said Mark. As Niall Ferguson and Andrew Roberts discuss here:
“For those whose browser refuses to tolerate embedded tweets”
.. are we talking about APPLE users ?
Cos i’m on Android, and Windows with Chrome and embeds work fine.
Stew: We’re talking anyone who has the problem. Some in the past have. I was also thinking of the SEO implications.
Here’s what Niall Ferguson says, in answer to a question, about writing biography from primary sources and what it can add to other forms of history:
Here are a couple of links that take you there or thereabouts: this one straight to the words I’ve quoted and this one to a minute or so of context, where Ferguson lists some of the good fortune he noticed that Kissinger had enjoyed. Later he and Roberts say more on how biography, done well, is a vital adjunct to other forms of history, by no means a poor relation.
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Richard: ‘…biography, done well, is a vital adjunct to other forms of history, by no means a poor relation’
Just in case this is in reference to my comment, for clarity I by no means implied it was a poor relation. We have one limited life and cannot read everything, all knowledge. And I’m a slow reader, too. To read any history at all is to not read something else. In aiming for my own attempted contribution to knowledge, big picture works happen to form the most connective overlap. No doubt if I read all the works of history, both in the longitudinal sense of the history of history, plus the full breadth across all of its forms, not only would this be an immensely better help to my work, my core interests, I’d also be stunning at pub quizzes. More realistically, a focus upon certain areas and forms of knowledge reflect only what I’m trying to achieve, and not in any way that multitudinous other forms of knowledge are poor relations. Sadly, with only one lifetime, vast tracts that could help me, from various fields, must nevertheless go unread (albeit I don’t have a hard rule and sometimes things just take my fancy), all in a queue behind that which might help me more in less time (which also, I cannot know for sure is the case, another reason why I occasionally let fancy dip elsewhere because it might find warmer water as well as enjoyment).
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Andy: I wasn’t thinking of you. Well, I was a little but mostly I was thinking about two big questions:
1. how does this religion stuff help us to change people’s minds and in effect destroy the CAGW religion?
2. what kind of history, or knowledge of history, or slant on history, is going to help with 1?
As you’ve picked up, I’m sure, I think the idea that all we’re fighting is a ridiculous pseudo-religion, from top to bottom – as ridiculous as the powerful but temporary Angel of Mons belief in WWI – is more like a comfort blanket for us rather than a dynamic change agent for those who have a different perspective from us. Here I’m encouraged by the success of Shellenberger-type arguments (and Wade Allison-type arguments) in changing people’s minds. But a lot is still very murky.
It is very hard to change someone’s mind when their mind-set is to view you as something to be researched, catalogued and isolated, as if some sort of contagion. If they are listening to us at all, it is only because we offer the same fascination they would find in a petri dish.
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re 1) and 2), neither is my main purpose, as such. I seek to understand more about, and help throw light upon, cultural operation. That a great new example came along, and in latter times mostly recorded itself on the Internet too, is a golden opportunity for same. However it’s also the case that as Sun Tzu advises, in any war knowing your enemy is key.
And indeed I agree regarding the usefulness of Shellenberger’s arguments. Per above he also makes clear that a green religion is a primary causation behind the current situation, and hence the very need of his arguments.
He has gone further than this and hooked up with Peter Bhoghossian to create an (initial) taxonomy of ‘woke religion’, of which they class the social aspects of climate-change as a sub-type, and provide a few basic common culturally-orientated characteristics across all types. While I approve of the effort and the taxonomy has a fair amount going for it, these two clever chaps are nevertheless not coming from a knowledge-base of cultural mechanics. So there are issues, not least that their main sub-types include things which are not secular religions at all, plus some that are yet clearly have separate narrative sets and associated (public, emotive) consensuses. Not to mention that climate culture predated woke by decades. Their sub-types are actually separate entities but with loose (some very loose) alliances between them.
Yet it’s a great and insightful effort. While late to the party, it’s a start on seeking to understand the cultural mechanics of what they oppose. Taxonomy is often where people outside of a field start. And the more the merrier, I say, from any field. I’m not from the formal field either, in fact I’m not an academic in any field. I could hardly approve more; and the point here is that they both feel this is *important* regarding understanding their opposition. And their high profiles will help widen the general understanding about negative cultures (albeit I’m not keen on their term ‘religion’ because folks often make too many surface / literal comparisons – it is the underlying mechanics that are the same, plus cultures can be benign too and this gets lost in the noise – but fuzzy understanding is still better than none).
P.S. ‘secular religion’ is much better in that it alerts to differences, which may not all be about a secular versus a spiritual core narrative. Pretty much no-one is going to understand ‘cultural entity’, and regarding ‘culture’ alone, I once came across an academic site that had about 300 definitions as far as I recall, and those didn’t even include some of the ways it is used in the vernacular.
John: I was pleased to incorporate the pseudo-religion theme in referring earlier to “Pielke Jnr being demono-classified by Cook’s mad AI broth. Talk about toil and trouble.” I’m not expecting change from the witches brewery there. But Sam Harris ain’t John Cook. I want to know how we continue to make progress with such honourable influencers. It won’t be from those who view us as a contagion.
Here’s someone else I’d like to honour in passing:
The BBC at 4:30pm
My attitude to Covid issues on this thread is ambivalent but the subject is not totally beyond the pale. Here’s a Labour MP who has stood head and shoulders above almost all other MPs in terms of a proper scientific outlook on AGW. And I happen to agree with him today. So there it is.
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If changing your mind on nuclear energy means going from believing it to being the wrong answer to the coming climate apocalypse to believing it’s the right answer, then I don’t see that as an improvement.
I’ve changed my mind in the opposite direction. Of course nuclear is the most sensible solution to our energy needs, but if there’s one thing we sceptics have realised, it’s that humans, left to their own devices, don’t do sensible.
One day there will be a serious nuclear accident. Even if it kills thousands, it will still not rate statistically as a big killer next to coal, or next to energy poverty, but who will listen to that argument? When that happens the whole western world will do a Merkel, which is economic suicide, but political common sense.
Quietly accepting the deaths of hundreds of miners year after year in faraway countries is a much safer policy for a reasonable government to follow. But we won’t do that either.
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I’m going to put you in the Bari Weiss camp for that remark: the 37-year-old former NYT op-ed writer who said a week ago that she’d changed her mind on human nature. You’re not 37 (unless I’m much mistaken) and may feel I’m putting your own intellectual and even spiritual development into a straightjacket. But for the moment I’m going to take this as a springboard to point to a few things both wider and narrower. (I’ll come back to your critique of being too nuclear-centric, which is a powerful one, in a later comment.)
Narrowness comes from my focus on the under-45s here. (Only implicit initially, with my mention of Bari and my lengthy quote from David Heinemeier Hansson, who I was surprised to realise at Christmastide 2021 has made it to 42. During my first Ruby on Rails project in 2005 I asked the team leader and CTO how old the inventor of the much-touted software framework we were using was. Ben said derisively: about 5.)
But concerns about the under-45s and the Weissian take on them inevitably get us into wokeness, critical theory, social justice warriors (so-called), cancel culture and the like. Jit said the other day he’s hesitant about talking much about the culture wars in relation to the particulars of climate and the alarmism thereof. (I think Jit said. And I respected that reticence.)
But I think we should be aware at least a little of Weiss and the University of Austin which also involves some older people! The New York Times recruited Weiss and Bret Stephens for the purpose of increasing its intellectual diversity after the election of Trump but that didn’t turn out too well – see her chat in June with Jordan Peterson. There’s been no mention of climate in those early discussions of the new university, that I’ve seen. Which made me interested in the fact that the economist John Cochrane tied the two areas together in discussing with Weiss the motivation of society’s luminaries for becoming such cowards. Direct link to that portion. (Niall Ferguson is once again on that video and is effectively questioned by Weiss for advocating cowardice.)
More later. Thank you for a thoughtful and challenging rebuttal of a naive narrowing of our concerns.
I am seriously thinking about changing my mind as to whether becoming 79 is old.
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To those of us born in 1946, anyone who has “lived through the war” belongs to another generation, if not to another species. To bridge the gap between us, perhaps we oldies could have our own Open Thread on Cliscep? Instead of “Open Mic” perhaps “Fully Turned Up Hearing Aid”?
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“Andy: I wasn’t thinking of you. Well, I was a little but mostly I was thinking about two big questions:
1. how does this religious stuff help us to change people’s minds and in effect destroy the CAGW religion?”
It’s as well to remember that religion, for most people, happens at a local parish/chapel/mosque level. If you have ever visited a Welsh or Cornish village and counted the (now redundant) chapels, you would have gained an inking that without the unifying influence of Canterbury or Rome religion for the commoner people people was a pretty fractious affair.
“2. what kind of history, or knowledge of history, or slant on history, is going to help with 1?”
It’s worth looking at the Eastern Euopeans from the later stages of the communist era who developed the idea of parallel societies. This enabled people to function in a totalitarian society but still keep faith with their core beliefs.
For a more historical perspective, in England from the mid 1600s recusants, and a century later non-conformists were denied government office and access to education. This resulting in the non-conformists, at least, building schools and provide their own education. It’s remarkable that much of the technical innovation that drove the industrial revolution came from this relatively small section of society.
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Bill: Comment much appreciated. I will come back on the “fractious affair” you refer to – very fairly I think. But I also feel bound to reply to Geoff. It may take a while to do both.
Geoff (15 DEC 21 AT 12:23 PM):
Quoted in full. I don’t agree but it’s taken me a long time to say why. Here’s the analogy that came to me this morning.
People changing their minds, examples of which I’ve shown in the main post, is like them pushing the pedals of the bicycle (of society) to move forward. Once you’re going on a bike you can change direction. But without moving forward you can’t change direction.
You’re right that people’s fears are often highly irrational – and politicians both respond to that and exploit it. That needs to be corrected. But there’s no chance it will be if we don’t use the people whose minds are already changing – and I’m arguing that that is mainly, initially in a Shellenberger direction. And getting back into his book he’s opened up a lot of the same doubts we also have that are nothing to do with nuclear power. This will impact DHH and other grateful readers in time.
Going back to two former friends mentioned in the Covid section of my original post, was this a significant change of mind being pointed out on Twitter yesterday?
Some said not really. Simply ‘growth and learning’ or, perhaps, being entirely consistent from start to finish.
Or had another old friend, Sam Harris, just decimated the guy due to his new fondness for ‘right leaning talking heads’?
That’s the Sam Harris who has changed his mind on nuclear power, bless him.
As DHH says, reading books has to be better than these kinds of juvenile framings.
But as I said in the first of my conclusions, as well as being very bad Twitter can be very good. With Fraser Nelson and Graham Medley the day before it had been very good, as Bill Bedford helpfully pointed Cliscep to on Mark’s latest thread. But the goodness was crucially dependent on the good faith of Graham Medley in answering honestly, not blocking the Spectator editor for being impertinent. As has become pretty much the industry standard on thorny matters of climate science and policy.
This whole changing mind thing is trickier than it first seems. In order as a society to generate good doctors in a pandemic, as a completely new virus rips through all the countries of the world, we need professionals who are willing to change their minds and fast. So that more people’s lives will be saved this week than last. See here
(I recommend that you watch the first five minutes and a bit, until Bret Weinstein says ‘flak over the target’.)
As we listen we see that Peter McCullough has a problem, in that his immediate instinct as a highly qualified doctor to treat Covid patients as early as possible was countermanded by ‘authorities’ who were really the opposite of authoritative, not least because they didn’t care about the Nuremberg Code. (Echoes of Nazi analogies but not really. The Code applies the lessons learned. It doesn’t imply an incompetent bureaucrat straying from the truth today is as bad as Josef Mengele.)
In this area McCullough has stubbornly refused to change his mind, despite being under extreme pressure to do so.
He has for me, this month, shed light on Cliscep’s concerns first with the attack on Didier Raoult then the terrible fraudulent paper about hydroxycloroquine published in the Lancet. As long as such pioneering doctors remained open to changing their minds on what the best combination of early treatments were, as the scientific method demands, they should have had full freedom to use whatever seemed best for the good of their patients. The increased recoveries (or not) would soon speak for themselves and ordinary people would strongly reinforce the right choices.
(And that part’s very different from climate. Or should be.)
Don’t think this has been mentioned elsewhere: Starkey on the climate religion from about 22.00 here:
I don’t agree with everything he says – obviously Starkey is very smart but is perhaps too sure of himself.
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Thanks Jit. This link takes the lazy reader right there.
(youtubetime.com I find a really useful tool.)
I’ve now watched almost all of the Starkey. A *very* mixed bag for me. Here are two striking moments though:
29m47s: He savages David Attenborough and says “We need to recover what was a Christian notion: we are the summit of creation.” The moment, he says, creation becomes self-conscious. He then spoils it for me by invoking Hegel. But a very worthwhile passage of thought. It’s absurd he says to talk about man destroying the planet within this frame.
35m49s: He likens trangenderism to the old Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation: the words “hoc est corpus meum” act as a magical incantation, just like “trans women are women”. That is brilliant. (A personal view only, with apologies to our traditionalist Catholic readers! But I follow the English pioneer of religious liberty from the Middle Ages, John Wycliffe on this.)
The Latin phrase “hoc est corpus” became “hocus pocus” in popular parlance of those without priestly power. Well exactly. What the climateers increasingly also practise.
Starkey says in effect “I’m an atheist yet a cultural Christian, whatever my intellectual position.”
There’s lots more. I take a different view of Dominic Cummings, the original 2020 lockdown and the safety of the covid vaccines, let alone mandating them. On the latter point I have even changed my mind 😉
And Starkey has changed his mind, very fundamentally, about liberalism. Rousseau he now sees as a false prophet. Liberalism will destroy itself. We need something else. (But not vaccine mandates, thanks Prof.)
Someone else, like me, has been looking back ten years.
The ‘changing minds’ meme may I think be growing in tweet space.
That can only be a good thing, even if one doesn’t resonate with this instance.
Feel free (of course) to disagree on the general point, as Geoff did on the nuclear particular.
I’m only halfway through the video but according to Dr. Robert Malone around 32m Peter Turkson has changed his mind about the best way to deal with Covid, in opposition to the Pope. So Turkson has resigned as the head of the Vatican COVID-19 Commission. Even high-level people within rigid religious set-ups can apparently make such changes. (Malone recently met with Turkson but isn’t claiming sole credit!)
One of the most remarkable examples I’ve seen of a documentary maker changing his mind mid-production about his main subject, Bill Browder:
I’d watched The Magnitsky Act (now available at magnitskyact.com) because of this guy:
The “complexity of the white collar crime involved” is indeed great. But this film conclusively proves that not all those who oppose Vladimir Putin are themselves whiter than white.
Sometimes, of course, it’s not so much a change of mind as someone of influence deciding to say publicly the way they already saw it privately. (And don’t we need that kind of courage from some more climate scientists.)
Bari Weiss is one of the prime movers in the newly minted University of Austin and has a soupçon of influence herself. But Bette Midler is something else! Still, the left-leaning UK press has quickly tried to take her down: Bette Midler accused of ‘demonising’ trans people with controversial tweet is the Independent’s take as of four hours ago.