Enlightenment, endarkenment, Private Eye and the end o’ the world

Two quotes- one from Private Eye, one from the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (as you do).

Alas, he is a journalist, not a scientists or a philosopher king, and thus takes the journalist’s now standard route to enlightenment, which is to read a few papers from experimental psychology, parse them for our benefit and dazzle us with someone else’s insights into the inner workings of the human mind.
This used to work brilliantly for Malcolm Gladwell and his ilk, but in recent years the authors of all these papers have wised up. Rather than let journalists reap the rewards for all of their clunking lab work, several psychologists have started writing perfectly readable books to explain their own works to the masses. As a result, authors like Daniel Kahneman and Jonathan Haidt have become bestsellers in their own right.
Review of “The Heretics: Adventures with the enemies of science”
Private Eye 1336, p 27

ehrlichscoverThe second – Can a collapse of global civilisation be avoided?*

“There are great social and psycho-logical barriers in growthmanic cultures to even considering it. This is especially true because of the ‘endarkenment’—a rapidly growing movement towards religious orthodoxies that reject enlightenment values such as freedom of thought, democracy, separation of church and state, and basing beliefs and actions on empirical evidence. They are manifest in dangerous trends such as climate denial, failure to act on the loss of biodiversity and opposition to condoms (for AIDS control) as well as other forms of contraception [122]. If ever there was a time for evidence-based (as opposed to faith-based) risk reduction strategies [123], it is now.”

*Ehrlich and Ehrlich say yes. I suppose it is still technically imaginably. I say no. We’re gonna find out one way or t’other, quite soon.


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6 Responses to Enlightenment, endarkenment, Private Eye and the end o’ the world

  1. Ehrlich and Ehrlich say yes. I suppose it is still technically imaginably. I say no.

    Whoa! This repesents a bit of a departure for you surely? Will you be signing up with Paul Kingsnorth’s crowd? The consequences of reallythinking this are … well they deserve some comment … if we (yes, I kind of think “no” too – but with a big error bar, and I do think there is lots of inertia in the system) think this, then what do we … errr. …do with ourselves?

    (I have commented here before occasionally, btw – I was the chap who was tickled by ‘fritterature’)

  2. dwighttowers says:

    G’day Martin,

    thanks for stopping by again. I had forgotten fritterature – thanks for reminding me!
    No, won’t be doing the Paul Kingsnorth thing. Given what I wrote about the Dark Mountain festival, I kinda suspect they wouldn’t be very happy to see me.


    Re: what do we do with ourselves – well, it’s a disgusting and immoral answer, but… imho, there are diems to be carped…

    Would be very interested to read your response to this.

    • heh heh – I was teasing about Paul Kingsnorth – I think that post might have been where I first washed up on your blog. There was some big bustup online up between him and George Monbiot, iirc.

      It’s a toughie isn’t it – a sub-variety of the perennial eco question: “but what can I, me personally, do about this?” Still working on it myself, but yes as you say, some version of carping the diem. Life only exists in the moment, that’s all there is, self-help cliche though it may be. So while it makes sense to put some of one’s energy into the common future (insofar, that is, that one has any choice about what one does – but let’s not go there for the moment), it makes perhaps a bit more sense to try and think of things that increase the pleasure of the moment for oneself and at least a few other people, but which (at the very least) do not make things worse in the future.

      For example … it’s one of my justifications for being interested in, and mildly advocating for, “active transport” (jargon phrase for walking and cycling). Walking and cycling are totally in-the-moment pleasures that make your life better now. You can do them as part of everyday, mundane, getting-about. Cycling or walking to work can be a humble little everyday burst of altered conciousness – boring and brilliant at the same time. It’s also a partial solution to … yes, I’m sure you know … and it’s also made quite uneccessarily difficult ,,,

  3. Sam Gunsch says:

    And for the stuff you can’t make up file, this just in from Utah, USA.

    excerpt: “…elementary school students were invited to submit posters around the theme, “Where Would WE Be Without Oil, Gas & Mining?””


    “excerpt: “So, basically, the Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining is urging students to create artworks about some imagined Dark Ages without the “high standard of living” afforded to us by oil and natural gas.

    ((( as in unique poster promotion for an Earth Day for Fossil Fuels, i.e. enlightenment about “Dark Ages” without fossil fuels sponsored by State of Utah . S. G.)))

    excerpt: Seeing as this contest was created by a state agency, every public school in Utah was given this flyer (PDF)3 with instructions for how to participate.”

    excerpt: “Don’t expect the prize winners to include any idyllic pictures of unspoiled Utah wildlands or wind farms or PV-paneled rooftops. Because, “[t]he Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining staff will judge the posters based on depiction of the theme, visibility of the theme, demonstration of how products from mining and oil & gas extraction are essential to our daily lives, artistic merit, and originality.””

  4. Sam Gunsch says:

    McKibben and Berry… FWIW

    To ward off despair, I’m trying to spend more time keeping McKibben’s and Berry’s perspectives in mind, and less time on mulling what is likely.

    excerpt: McKibben closed his November speech at UBC with the following words:

    “There’s no guarantee we’ll win the fight against climate change. There are scientists who think we’ve waited too long to get started in this fight, and there is too much momentum behind this heating. There are political scientists who think the odds are simply too high; there’s too much money piled on the other side. If you were a betting person you might be wise to bet with them because we’ve been losing more or less for twenty years. But that is not a bet you are allowed to make. The only stance for a moral human being when the worst thing on earth is happening is to get up in the morning and figure out how you can change those odds.”

    from here: http://greenpolicyprof.org/wordpress/?p=790

    Wendell Berry’s reasoning re occupying the Governor’s office to oppose mountain-top removal coal mining:
    excerpt: “Wendell Berry: I don’t think that people on our side have any right to assume a good outcome. I think that the real, authentic motive for doing what we’re doing is because it’s right. And that has to be enough. If we have to have some guarantee that it’s going to be effective, sooner or later, we’ll become discouraged and quit.

    Jeff Biggers: Do you feel as if there is a tipping point in history, in these types of movement, where people just can’t take it anymore?

    Wendell Berry: I hope so. I suppose that’s part of my belief and motive, that ultimately people would be attracted to the right thing. But it’s been slow to happen here, that’s one thing we have to remember. It takes a long time to make these changes, sometimes, and we have to be prepared to keep it up for a long time.

    excerpt: “Jeff Biggers: We just celebrated the anniversary of the Greensboro sit-in in 1960. That was a historical example that showed us that a long-term, sustained sit-in is needed to get the nation’s attention. Do you think that something similar will have to happen here—long-term, sustained acts of civil disobedience?

    Wendell Berry: We don’t know anything about the future. I assume, and I don’t think I’m unique in this, that this event will have consequences. I think it already is having consequences. People around the state are getting in touch with us and there’s activity going on in support of this effort. What will happen tomorrow, what will happen after tomorrow, we
    don’t know.

    But I think that all of us who are interested in stopping this terrible damage and this terrible oppression of people and the terrible effects that will go on and on because water flows—all of us understand that we are not approaching the time to quit. I’ve been interested in this problem ever since 1965, and I’m still in it.

    I don’t think I’ll last another 45 years, but I intend to stay interested and involved as long as the Lord spares me.”

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