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Science meets junk science

We're all doomed. Everyone knows it. Or actually they don't know it. All those tubby sheeple trundling through the Wal-Mart to fill their SUVs with stuff they don't need sure don't seem to be aware. If they knew that our planet is going to overheat and cause massive devastation due to the use of those fossil fuels which will cause a apocalyptic economic implosion when they soon run out and we can't use them anymore, would they live the way they do?

This is the way the clever people in our world think. And it's not surprising considering the way the media promotes these doomsday scenarios. They also think that the only way to solve these potential catastrophes is to hand over some of their (and of course those blind sheeple's) dwindling supply of autonomy to the even wiser men than they that promise a solution. That those wise men are almost always the same as the prophets of doom doesn't seem to bother them.

The Financial Post is running a series of stories this week dealing with most of the big sources of potential global annihilation. They've asked scientists with in-depth knowledge of these subjects -- but whose views are not bleak enough for the media to quote -- to rebut some of the hysteria. Unfortunately, yesterday's article on Toxic Chemical Hysteria is not online (though Terence Corcoran's editorial on the subject still is), but today's piece on the Peak Oil Panic is very much worth reading:

Proponents of the imminent peak of global oil extraction -- led by Colin Campbell, Jean Laherrere, L.F. Ivanhoe, Richard Duncan and Kenneth Deffeyes -- resort to deliberately alarmist arguments as they mix incontestable facts with caricatures of complex realities, ignoring anything that does not fit their preconceived conclusions about the demise of modern civilization. Ivanhoe sees an early end of the oil era as "the inevitable doomsday," followed by "economic implosion" that will make "many of the world's developed societies look more like today's Russia than the U.S." Duncan's future brings massive unemployment, breadlines, homelessness and a catastrophic end of industrial civilization.

These conclusions are based on interpretations that lack any nuanced understanding of the human quest for energy, disregard the role of prices, ignore any historical perspectives and pre-suppose the end of human inventiveness and adaptability.

I will raise just three key points aimed at dismantling the foundations of this new catastrophist cult. First, these preachings are just the latest installments in a long history of failed peak forecasts. Second, the Peak Oil advocates argue that this time the circumstances are really different and that their forecasts will not fail -- but in order to believe that, one has to ignore a multitude of facts and possibilities that readily counteract their claims. Third, and most importantly, there is no reason why even an early peak of global oil production should trigger any catastrophic events.

As the say in the blogosphere: RTHT.

I can't help but think that there's some intrinsic religious aspect to these type of fears -- that there's something in humanity that is uncomfortable with an easy life. There's the idea that there's a cost for everything we enjoy -- that we must make sacrifices to balance our blessings. Even though religion is so passé to the clever people, this belief has not died, it has simply morphed into the new junk science cult.


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