Ever since I first started doing research into environmentalism over 30 years ago, it has seemed obvious to me that they are simply a revival of mankind's most primitive religion -- nature worship. Awe before nature is in fact probably so primitive and goes back so far that it has to an extent been hardwired into us.
But many religions are extremely destructive of human welfare -- with Islam being a rather obvious example -- and the plainly misanthropic (people-hating) nature of environmentalism was obviously always going to be a big problem. That problem was for many years obvious in only minor ways. An outright people-hating message was obviously never going to gain much traction so Greenies had to present their demands for change under the old Leftist label: "It is for your own good". And convincing people that something is for your own good when it is actually bad for you is a hard sell. As a result, the nature-worshippers DID inadvertently do us some good in that some of the things they pushed for -- such as cleaner air and water -- really were good for us.
Of late, however, Greenies have really hit the jackpot. They have finally found something that is REALLY bad for us that they can push to the credulous as being good for them. I refer, of course to the global warming craze. It has for some time seemed to me that the vast economic destruction that this craze has already got underway establishes environmentalism as a really evil religion.
But, while there is no doubt that environmentalism is a misanthropic religion, I have come to doubt that that the environmentalists are really most to blame for their excesses. I think there is another force at work which is doing most of the damage. And it is the same force that underlies most Leftism: Excess ego. But it is not ego in politics that is the problem. It is ego in science. It is dishonest science that gives the global warming scare its legs. The average Greenie is just part of a Greek chorus in the background.
But am I not being absurd? How can I say that scientists are on a large scale ego-filled to the point of dishonesty? And how does ego come into science?
Let me initially make clear what I am saying: I am saying that scientists pump up the global warming scare not because they are subscribers to the Greenie religion (though they may well be) but because it inflates their egos. And the clearest proof that ego inflation is a hugely distorting influence on science comes from an area of science that has very little to do with environmentalism and which is arguably the most respected area of scientific research: The medical literature.
So am I now REALLY descending into absurdity? I wish I was. If we cannot trust the academic literature of medicine for an objective view of reality, whom can we trust? I will not attempt to answer that question but I do want to point out that it is crystal clear that we CANNOT trust the academic medical literature. Anyone who knows anything about that literature will know how subject to fashion it is and how what is proclaimed as bad for you in one era is in a later era proclaimed as good for you (e.g. alcohol).
There is more than fashion at work, however. As I document daily on my Food & Health Skeptic blog, there is a constant flood of absurdities appearing in the medical literature. There needs to be more than fashion behind that. And what is behind it is simply attention-seeking. Every scientist wants to be seen as someone who has "discovered" something. But real discoveries are rare so the slightest hint that a scientist has observed something going on will be trumpeted worldwide. And because real discoveries are rare, any purported discovery will be piled onto by lots of other scientists who want to be in on the glory of having made a contribution to the elucidation of this new phenomenon.
The clearest example of this is the cholesterol and polyunsaturated fats obsession. To cut a long story short, there is NO evidence that a low cholesterol diet lowers the amount of cholesterol in your blood nor is there any evidence that saturated fats in your diet are bad for you. In fact, some studies have shown that people on a diet low in saturated fats die SOONER. I have a research review up on today's issue of my Food & Health Skeptic blog that sets out in detail the evidence concerned. Yet we are still bombarded with messages about the desirability of a diet low in cholesterol and low in saturated fats. Our supermarkets are full of products that prominently and proudly proclaim that they are "low" in those constituents.
So why have the research findings not got through to the general public? Because scientists themselves ignore research that does not suit them. Let me tell you why:
The "easy" area of medical research is epidemiology: Take a large group of patients. Get reports from them on where they stand on a variety of attributes (e.g. how fat they are or how much fat they eat) and then wait to see who dies. Once you have got a large enough group of dead patients you then look through your files to see if there is something that the dead patients tend to have more of. Very often you find something, as you would on chance alone. Real scientists refer to such a procedure as "data dredging" and discount it but real scientists are a rare breed. Attention-seeking scientists are far more common and it is their reports of such rubbish findings that fill the medical literature.
But such rubbish findings are a godsend to other scientists. They can then put in for big funding to study this new finding. There is a new bandwagon that they can leap onto. But the only really conclusive way of verifying or falsifying the new "finding" is a longditudinal double-blind study -- i.e. you have to get a large and representative group of people and get half of them to change their ways in some respect (e.g. eat less fat). You then wait for years and see which group dies soonest. And at the end of that time what do you find? You typically find that the epidemiological hypothesis is not confirmed. The intervention (change) you have done to people's habits is just as likely to have done harm as good but most often it has done nothing at all. And that is where the cholesterol and saturated fat research has arrived at after all the years during which the "evil fat" gospel has been rammed down people's throats.
So where do you go from there? Do you admit that the theory you have built your career on (and which has delivered to you a cornucopia of research dollars) was all wrong? I think you can guess the answer to that. What you say is: "More research is needed" -- and carry on as before. And the poor old mug taxpayer coughs up more dollars to keep the nonsense alive.
And much the same applies to global warming theory. It initially looked good but, as more and more evidence accumulates, the holes in it get bigger and bigger. You can see that in the IPCC reports. They have progressively scaled down their predictions of what sea-level rise we are to expect. But there is NO WAY that they can admit that the whole thing is a crock so, as the evidence turns against them, they ratchet up the hysteria to keep those research dollars flowing. And it works. "More research is needed" has become the mantra of many politicians too.
But it leaves the average person totally betrayed. Attention-seeking medical scientists have led him towards useless lifestyle changes that may even harm him and attention-seeking climate scientists have led him to support political programs that will certainly impoverish him. So dishonest science is in fact a far greater evil than the rather wacky tribe of kneejerk nature-lovers.
Clinging to disproven theories is also rampant in my own field of academic specialization -- psychology -- but, fortunately, nobody takes much notice of psychologists.
For more on the poor track record of epidemiological "findings", see the sad caution from a medical researcher that I reproduced as part of my post about the latest vitamin D nonsense. Note also another review article on cholesterol and fat myths that I have linked to before.
(For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.)