The environmentalist religion

I found this through the Slapstick Politics blog: “Holy Smoke and Mirrors”, from Cox & Forkum:

“Well, it looks like Gore is working on a new membership drive for that church, by way of training 1,000 apostles to preach his apocalyptic gospel. Meanwhile, more scientists are speaking up to express their doubts about the global warming catechism.”

Michael Crichton had something to say about this too, in a speech he gave to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on September 15, 2003, called “Environmentalism as Religion”

“Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it’s a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday—these are deeply held mythic structures.”

“And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism. Increasingly it seems facts aren’t necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It’s about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.

Am I exaggerating to make a point? I am afraid not. Because we know a lot more about the world than we did forty or fifty years ago. And what we know now is not so supportive of certain core environmental myths, yet the myths do not die.”

“Religions think they know it all, but the unhappy truth of the environment is that we are dealing with incredibly complex, evolving systems, and we usually are not certain how best to proceed. Those who are certain are demonstrating their personality type, or their belief system, not the state of their knowledge. Our record in the past, for example managing national parks, is humiliating. Our fifty-year effort at forest-fire suppression is a well-intentioned disaster from which our forests will never recover. We need to be humble, deeply humble, in the face of what we are trying to accomplish. We need to be trying various methods of accomplishing things. We need to be open-minded about assessing results of our efforts, and we need to be flexible about balancing needs. Religions are good at none of these things.”

Crichton is not against environmentalism per se, only what it’s turned into:

“if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost. We will enter the Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting fears and wild prejudices, transmitted to people who don’t know any better. That’s not a good future for the human race. That’s our past. So it’s time to abandon the religion of environmentalism, and return to the science of environmentalism, and base our public policy decisions firmly on that.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. 🙂

Michael Crichton is not an authority on atmospheric or climate science, but he does have a grounding in science, since he graduated from medical school. He’s familiar with the scientific method. He’s looked more at this issue than I have, but like me, even though he is not schooled in this specific discipline he’s saying “something does not smell right” from the point of view of a scientist.

I have an open mind about the issue. Climate science and the theory of industrial forcing of global warming may be like the theory of evolution: a theory in biology that took a declared position more than 100 years ago, but which has proven itself more and more true as time has passed, with evidence. I think there is evidence for global warming. Where there appears to be a dearth of evidence is in the cause of it. It deserves exploration, however what I could do without is the alarmism. I wish the scientists on this matter would get their facts straight about the cause, and then if there’s reason for alarm, sound it. Otherwise I really wish they’d get about doing serious work on it, and most of all let the chips fall where they may.

4 Responses to The environmentalist religion

  1. edarrell says:

    Highly ironic that one would pick Crichton as an authority on this, since he is so out to lunch on his climate claims. Is it possible he doesn’t take his own advice?

  2. PIBoulder says:


    Grasshopper, read again, and this time read completely, for you lack comprehension. Was it over your head? Here’s a hint. I did not quote Crichton as an authority.

  3. edarrell says:

    I see where you make the claim to not regard Crichton as an authority — after you cite him and say you agree.

    I’m not a grasshopper, either. There is indeed some confusion here, but it doesn’t start with me.

  4. PIBoulder says:

    I thought Crichton’s comments were insightful, given what I’ve seen of the environmental movement. Not all environmentalists fall in this category, but I’d say the more vocal leaders do. There are those who do good, honest, scientific work. I have nothing against them.

    He characterized the environmental movement in its current state in a way that I had not thought of before, but it made sense to me. In my own field of work I’ve seen people who latch on to an ideology and will not move from it even if you try to reason with them with facts and knowledge from experience. These are people who believe in a faith, for the lack of a better term. They don’t have religious services or a church, but they share common behavioral characteristics with some others who are part of organized religion, who believe they have the only right answers and have a burning desire to convert others to their beliefs. Failing that, they want to force their beliefs on others.

    I’m not saying that believing in a religion is bad, and neither does Crichton. He’s saying that mixing behavioral characteristics of religious faith with science and/or public policy is a dangerous thing to do. I’m sure he’d say the same thing about the Intelligent Design movement.

    I gave the reason right in my post about why I quoted him. I said, “I couldn’t have said it better myself.” I wanted to give credit where it was due. Further, it dovetailed with a political cartoon I linked to by Cox & Forkum.

    I think Crichton’s experience has matched my own in a way. So to me what he had to say was valuable. Incidentally, I did link to an article which quoted people I consider to be authorities on the subject of climate change. Did you bother to read it? It was inside the quote I used from the Cox & Forkum site.

    My blog posts are my opinions. I try to base them on facts, but they’re not necessarily well researched. I try to at least make my posts food for thought.

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