human values


For anyone even vaguely involved in the world of blogs and climate change, logical fallacies are a familiar thing. The straw man, the appeal to authority, ad hominem attacks, the biased sample/cherrypicking, and many more are all used by both sides of the argument, to a greater or lesser degree.

On the side of climate scientists/environmentalists (Yes, I know that some won’t agree with my lumping those two groups together – it’s a crass generalisation, and it makes my case looks stronger (I am an environmental activist studying science), however it is true in the majority of cases) one of the arguments that comes up quite often is this:

Denier: “why should I trust the science – it’s biased/has vested interests/goes against my religion/philosophy.”

Greenie/scientist: “Why should you trust science? Look around you. You enjoy watching television, don’t you? And you’re using a computer right now, and I bet you drive a car. Science brought you those things.”

No. It didn’t.

Science is not technology, and technology is not science. The two are separate, although closely linked.

Science relies on certain technologies, such as microscopes, rulers and protractors, test tubes, and for more complex calculations, computers, etc. It does NOT rely on technologies like television, or the internal combustion engine, although these can make it easier.

Likewise, technology relies on science, but it also relies on the values of the individuals and societies building it, the resources that are available, and of course, the technology required to build it.

How about this:

Denier: “why should I trust the science – it’s biased/has vested interests/goes against my religion/philosophy.”

Greenie/scientist: “Why should you trust science? Think about this: The atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, engineered viruses, toxic toys, and television advertising. Science brought you those things.”

The point is that Technology isn’t brought to you by science. technology is brought to you by humans. True, the scientific understanding is a limiting factor on the technology available, but this does not mean that the technology will become available as the science advances.

Science, in it’s purest form, is just the pursuit of knowledge. More knowledge is, as far as I can work out, never a bad thing. Technology can go either way, and depends on the values of those designing it. Conflating the two is potentially a very dangerous thing to do, and even in cases where it’s safe,  to do so is still a logical fallacy.

There’s a long list of logical fallacies here: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/, but I don’t think this one features there. Perhaps it’s some kind of cause/effect fallacy. Perhaps it should be called the “Science for the Good/Bad life”.

I just finished reading Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael for the second time (I previously downloaded the audio-book, which was amazing, but I think the book is slightly better). If you haven’t read it, read it. I’d say it’d be life-changing for anyone wants to do something about the state of the environment but don’t know where to start. For the ones how have already started, it’s perhaps even more recommended. That said, the rest of this post won’t make sense unless you already have read the book.

Ishmael answers a lot of questions for me – primarily the one that goes “if this isn’t the right way, then what is?”. But of course the answer isn’t final, it isn’t an end point, it’s just an opening. It’s another method of looking at things, and realising how much could change. Which basically means that it brings up more questions than it answers. (more…)

Please note that the intent, order, and formation of the title of this post is sarcastic. There is no way that I would ever put “money” before “going green” in normal conversation.

Anyway, looking around for places to promote envirowiki (http://www.envirowiki.info/ – knowledge database for environmentalist and social justice activists, which you should check out and contribute to), I came across http://envirostats.info/, a reasonably cool site. On the “green your life” page I noticed a link to “29 Ways to Save Money on Gas” (on another site). I kind of get pissed of at these light-green/neocon in camouflage posts, I mean who cares about the money? If you fuck the planet you aren’t going to be able to buy anything anyway! And if you have enough money to care about how much you save of it on fuel for your car, then it’s pretty much guaranteed that you have enough money not to worry too much about money.

But anyway,it got me thinking, if there was an ecoanarchist approach to “how to save the planet, in ways that are also, co-incidentally, economically efficient”, what would it look like? And pretty much, I reckon it’d be this:

naught101’s big list of saving the world (and some cash on the way):

  1. STOP BUYING CRAP YOU DON’T NEED.
  2. STOP designing/manufacturing shit that doesn’t work, so other idiots won’t buy it.
  3. STOP thinking of ANYTHING as waste, and start thinking of it as a resource.

Maybe I’m missing something. Obviously, I could also add some crap about being slightly more efficient or whatever, but Jevan’s Paradox kinda fucks that right up, doesn’t it? No, I think that really cover’s most of it..

Good buy, and lucky planet saving!

We didn’t hear much about it on the east coast, but the Greens just became the New Labour. No, they haven’t sold out on Uranium yet, but they’re on their way! One of WA Senator Rachel Siewert’s staffer’s went to a protest at Julie Bishop (Lib/Nat Minister for Science), and the protest got violent. That is, the cops whacked people with battons, and pepper sprayed them, and a protester threw a rock. And the Greens dutifully stood up for the oppressed and apologised to the cops, and sacked the staffer who went to the protest. News.com.au’s WA branch has a piece on the article, but I don’t want to promote that shit. The West Australian had a reasonable front page piece on it on Saturday that I’ve just seen, unfortunately it’s not on their website.

Not only did Siewert sack her staffer, but Bob Brown stepped in, and fucking agreed with her. COME ON you fools! Protesters, being the front line of a diverse movement, pushing the boundaries of issues that you agree with, and get beaten up by a bunch of thugs that have been completely bought out by the establishment and are intent on defending, with violence, the worst parts of the capitalist system – the bits you want to change (I know you’ve always been too soft to actually tackle capitalism head on). These thugs are actually allowed to be violent – they carry deadly weapons at all times, for fuck’s sake. And you take it out on the protesters. Way to support the movement. I think I just lost all respect for Bob Brown, it’s unfortunate that such a misguided fool is the face of the Greens.

I had a very interesting lecture today, on thermodynamics, ecosystems, and human values relating to technology (lecture 4, Technology and Human Values, PHIL3910 at the University of Newcastle. I recommend it). It didn’t give me a lot of information that I hadn’t heard before, but Yin Gao’s presentation definitely cemented a lot of that information in place for me.

One thing that did strike me, was Yin’s case study: the Aswan Dam. I’ve heard of it before of course, but never paid a lot of attention. Almost as soon as she mentioned it, I saw the link with climate change. As she went on, the similarities blew me away. let me explain: (more…)