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CERN, CLOUD and the madness of crowds

By Daniel Ryan
web posted September 5, 2011

Although the CLOUD experiment carried out in CERN didn't quite drive a stake through the heart of the global-warming ideology, it came close to. Through simulating the atmosphere being bombarded by cosmic rays, the experiment produced microscopic droplets of water vapour. It established that higher levels of cosmic rays do indeed lead to more droplets in the sky, a claim denied by all global-warming models. As of yet, the droplets produced in the CERN lab aren't large enough to form clouds. So far, a solid causation has not supplemented an already-established correlation. In response to CLOUD, some global-warming supporters are showing that they too can be sceptics. Despite the fix not being completely out for global-warming theory, the preponderance of the evidence shows that the AGW models' denial of the influence of the sun makes them inaccurate. The Is haven't been dotted yet, the Ts haven't been crossed as of now, but global-warming theory is close to through. The scientific world, thankfully, is becoming normalized again.

Global-warming ideology, however, is still alive, heavily subsidized and continually pushed. It'll take a lot of time before AGW finally fades away into the annals of yesterday's mob movements. For that's precisely what it is.

The Sophisticated Mob

The oldest story in the post-Enlightenment book is the sophisticated lad giving up religion because his sophistication eroded his belief in the faith he was raised with. Struggling along, he finds life without the religious impulse too cold and falls into the hands of a religion-substitute. He ends up exchanging "the opiate of the masses" for an "opiate of the intellectuals."

Although not as noted or told, a similar story applies to mob movements. Our young sophisticate begins to see the yelling and whooping at the high-school football game as base or brutish. The fads that whirl through teenage life begin to appear vapid and pointless. What used to be bonding appears to be stale conformity. The youngster begins to cultivate an aversion to the mob. The ordinary mob, that is.

But surely enough, there's another - more intellectualized - mob waiting to receive him. The same youth who sees "kill the ref!" as brutish, contemplates killing the rich. The same lad who interprets "shaddup – you're just helping the other team!" as evidence of the brutality of sports, begins to shut up others by claiming that they're in the pay of the oil companies. The same fellow who looks quizzically at the fan who says "the umpire's obviously blind!" asserts that opponents of his pet theory have been blinded by the oil companies. The same sophisticate who deplores "vigilantism," sees critics as "obviously" guilty of aiding and abetting the destruction of the earth. The same intellectual who looks down on patriots who scoff at foreigners' opinions, believes that 98% of a citation circle makes for holy writ. The same youngster who sees calls for jailing morale-damaging leakers as the very epitome of war hysteria, applauds when a James Hanson calls for jailing opponents of global-warming theory. The same lad who chortles when a family-values politician is caught having an affair, assures us that Climategate says nothing about the credibility of those caught by it.

Again, we see the same old post-Enlightenment story. Faithful to faithful, mob to mob. All too true: you can't escape from you.

The difference between ordinary faiths and those of sophisticates is in the packaging. Sophisticated atheists say they object to religion because it's irrational, but what they really mean is that religion is illogical and unstructured. Faiths they accept, like Marxism, tend to be structured in a logical manner; they have few or no internal inconsistencies. That makes it easier for an intellectual to swallow them whole. Just as hypocrisy is a confidence-killer in the normal world, logical inconsistency is a killer in the intellectual world. Many are the intellectuals who sincerely tell us that a "religious nutcase" would turn the country into a prison as long as the Bible authorizes it. But then, they reel out the denials when socialists do turn a country into a gigantic prison. Would that it were only hypocrisy on their part!

With respect to mob movements, the sophisticates claim that they are averse to the mob and the sheeple. But, what they really turn away from is optimism and heroics. The only kind of mob movement that gains traction in their circles is driven by pessimism and rescue fantasies.

Hollywood knows it well. Look at the structure of the typical disaster movie. The same people who cheer on the home team and stay true to their school, don't know what's about to hit them. Since they don't, they scoff. Once they know, they panic. In the more typical action movie, ordinary people are too weak or unskilled to confront the threat. In doomsayer movies, they're too uneducated or complacent. In the ordinary thriller, the hero is looked up to. In the doom-and-gloom variety, the hero isn't taken that seriously. One has hints of Hercules; the other, Cassandra.

Needless to say, both genres cultivate the respective egos of their fan bases. One movie's keyboard commando is the other movie's dweeb. One group's chucklehead is another group's dork.

The Inner Madness Of Well-Mannered Crowds

It's a mistake, but one quite common, to confound intelligence with well-spokenness and sanity with good manners. In our stereotypes, "madmen" are excessively and unpredictably emotional. "Mob men" are too. These stereotypes make sense because they're self-protective. Someone obviously rabid is one small step away from attacking us, sometimes physically. Someone who speaks rabid words in a calm and well-spoken voice isn't likely to slug us in the jaw if we don't humour them. So, we guard against the former and give the latter a free pass.

Since the two differ in threat level, it's common-sensical to distinguish them. But common sense turns into mush-headedness when we forget that the well-mannered mob man is just as irrational as the aggressively rude one. Someone who calmly and genteelly dismisses valid criticism out of hand, by resort to cynicism, is just as much a dogmatist as someone who loudly and strongly dismisses valid criticism out of hand by resort to threat. An intellectual bully is less of a threat than a physical bully, but does not differ in kind. A social bully may cause more tears than a moralizing bully, but again the two only differ in specifics.

The best way to scope out a mob is to look for groupthink. Although groupthink is a complex composed of several attitudes, its usual working clothes are pride and vanity. Prowess vanity, appearance vanity, wealth vanity, moral vanity – and yes, intellectual vanity. 

Freeing oneself from subtle mob hysteria is as simple as asking oneself, "How would I know if I'm wrong?" With respect to free-market anarchism, the relevant question is: "How would I know if a preponderance of people get a kick out of coercing others, and see the loss of utility it entails as a price they're willing to pay for the thrill?" With respect to Objectivism, one should ask: "How would I know if Miss Rand secretly assumes that man's other characteristics, apart from his rationality, are merely accidental or contingent?" With respect to goldbugism, one should ask: "How would I know if the predictions of hyperinflation turn out to be as wrong now as the equally-confident ones in the '70s were in the 1980s?"

With regard to global warming, the question to ask is: "How would I know if a study funded by oil-company money, like M. King Hubbard's peak-oil hypothesis, is right?  (Note that I sugared the last question by asking about a study that does not threaten the global-warming worldview.) With respect to environmentalism, a fruitful question would be: "Why do I forgive the mistaken predictions of the past so easily?"

These questions aren't intended to convert or shake anyone; they're just spot tests to check for an intellectualized mob mentality. Unfortunately, given the state of today's education system, they have little chance of inducing an intellectual revival.

Yes: in the sad old world we live in, people are more likely to shift out of mob mode through good old embarrassment. When supporters of global warming become embarrassed about the wild content of their previous words, like '06 real-estate boosters should be now about their own, the end of hyper-pessimism is nigh. ESR

Daniel M. Ryan is an occasional contributor to The Gold Standard Now, and currently watching the gold market. He can be reached at danielmryan@primus.ca.


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