I’m glad somebody else can see it. From The Anatomy of Virtuous Corruption (my emphasis):
The idea of ‘the atheist’ in the writings we have from the 17th and 18th centuries is far away from what it is now. In all the Reformation disputes over doctrine and rites, it remained inconceivable that anyone could not believe in God and his reward or damnation in the afterlife. Even in the face of the sociology of religion given by the likes of Machiavelli, and later by Thomas Hobbes, the scepticism towards the underlying theology and its moral imperatives – a scepticism call atheism – remained not only unconscionable but also against any possibility of reasonableness. So when it did become conceivable that there were people out there (secret beyond condemnation) who had actually fallen into unbelief, it was inconceivable that they could come to their position by way of reason. If atheism was not mad then it must be evil. There could be no rational atheists, but only moral ones. That is, the unbelievers could only be those unrepentant sinners, perhaps in league with the devil, comforting themselves that there would be no retribution for their deeds.
It is a point of wonder and speculation among historians as to what these divines really thought: Was it really inconceivable to them that one could doubt the-whole-darn-thing, without being either mad or evil? There are those that are inclined to think that for many of these divines it was. So while the social science approach made it easy for those with no vested interest in the state-church dogma to become sceptical ‘free thinkers’ released from its tutelage of their reasoning, these guardians of the divine order, inhabiting a discourse remote due to persecution, were perhaps not so privileged. And in fact such a definite ideological divide (and one is draw to Marx’s analysis of class-based ideology here) is not so strange to us today, if only we turn from the old authority for truth to the new.
In the West during the last half century, state-instituted religion has been usurped by state-instituted science as the ultimate source of legitimacy in contemporary society.* Did we really think that science was so special? That, as its power consolidated, by rule and by method, the institutions of science could resist the relentless pressure of corruption? And there need be no conspiracy and no blame. One of the first comments I recall when Climategate broke was the exclamation (by Steve Mosher perhaps): Hey, this aint no conspiracy, they really believe they are right!
Sure, they might have known they had to massage the data a bit, and protect it from misuse and abuse. But when the FOIA2009 file was unzipped, out tumbled the private emails showing to us all that any reasonable scepticism of the-whole-darn-thing would be genuinely inconceivable to many of the guardians of state-instituted Climate Change Science. Indeed, as much as the past explains the present, the present can enlighten the mysteries of history. The blinding dogmatism that we moderns associate with medieval religion — as so unimaginably foreign, and against which the founders of institutional science fought so bravely to rise above – this has by now, though the triumph of Climate Change Science, come to pervade every major institution of modern science.
I agree. But I don’t think the rot started with climate science. I think it started with tobacco epidemiology.
The whole climate change idea really only got going in the 1970s and 80s. Tobacco epidemiology started in the late 1940s. And a decade or two earlier if the Nazi tobacco epidemiology is included (as it ought to be).
And essentially it entails drawing your conclusions first (i.e. smoking is harmful), and then going and looking for evidence to support that conclusion. This is the converse of the scientific method where evidence is gathered first, and conclusions based on all the evidence are drawn second.
And antismoking zealots display blinding dogmatism. To deny that smoking causes lung cancer (and any number of other diseases) is the modern equivalent of denying the existence of God. It’s the modern equivalent of inconceivable atheism.
And, since it’s been around a lot longer than climate science, there’s a much stronger case to be made that the corruption of science started with tobacco epidemiology. It was the original bad apple that got into the barrel, and gradually infected all the rest.
You don’t like something, so you think it must be harmful, and you spend your life producing ‘scientific’ studies showing how harmful it is. And all you’re really trying to do is persuade people to agree with you. You’re an advocate, not a scientist.
With tobacco epidemiology, they didn’t like tobacco, and have been producing studies purporting to show that smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease and all sorts of other things, and they’ve managed to persuade most people that it’s dangerous, and they’ve managed to persuade governments to introduce smoking bans and plain packaging. It’s all done with statistics: lots of people smoked, and lots of people got lung cancer, so one must have caused the other. Anyone who disagrees is a denier funded by Big Tobacco.
With climate science, they don’t like modern industrial civilisation, and they’ve been producing studies purporting to show that its carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming, and they’ve managed to persuade a lot of people that it’s dangerous, and they’ve also almost managed to persuade governments to place restrictions on carbon emissions. It’s done with statistics: lots of carbon dioxide has been pumped into the atmosphere, and the climate has been warming, so one must be causing the other. Computer simulation models show the same. Anyone who disagrees is a denier funded by Big Oil.
It’s straight out of the tobacco playbook, right down to the dangerous smoke in the atmosphere generated by Evil Corporations. Tobacco smoke causes cancer, and carbon dioxide causes global warming. They’re both health threats. And something must be done to stop them, right now.
Why are they doing it? Because it’s a way to achieve political change without having to go through the democratic process. And people don’t want to change. But if you can show that there is an emergency, you can appeal to governments to act unilaterally, over the heads of their electorates.
The smoking ban is a way to achieve political change. It’s an attack on a traditional culture. And it’s an attack that’s now widening to include not just tobacco, but also alcohol, and food. They now also cause cancer and heart disease, just like tobacco. And it’s an emergency. And so the government is being asked to raise taxes and introduce restrictions and plain packaging for those things too. And little by little, in this manner you get the government to legislate people’s entire lifestyles.
And what can be more political than that?
A century ago, if you were a revolutionary, you organised strikes and protests and marches, and you overthrew the government by force, and you then introduced your preferred political order (if you had one). But that’s old hat. These days, if you’re a revolutionary, you work in the WHO or the IPCC or some university, and you produce studies that show that there’s a dire emergency of one sort or other, and use science to panic governments into carrying out your revolutionary agenda for you. It’s revolution by remote control. It’s all about getting people – key people in government – to believe that there’s an emergency, and that something must be done about it right now, without consulting their electorates.
That’s how it worked with smoking bans. They’re never introduced democratically. Nobody really wants them. Same with carbon restrictions. Nobody really wants those either. With luck, you can introduce sweeping, revolutionary political changes before the electorate notices it’s happening. And with luck, and a continual state of emergency, you can make those political changes stick.
But eventually the electorate starts waking up.