I was thinking about magic and magic wands and magical thinking this morning when I came across something Leggie had written, which contained an image
And I thought: There’s the magic wand I’m looking for.
Leggie said it was Nisakiman’s elegant idea for a “smokers welcome here” sign. And it is indeed very elegant.
But for me it was a magic wand being waved. It was the magic wand I was thinking about this morning, and which had now materialised in front of my eyes.
And what I was thinking this morning was that cigarettes had become magic wands which could do anything. Absolutely anything.
I’ve been collecting the health warnings on tobacco packs. My current set, carefully cut out with scissors, declare that Smoking Clogs Your Arteries, Smokers’ Children Are More Likely To Start Smoking, Smoking Increases The Risk Of Blindness, Quit Smoking – Stay Alive For Those Close To You, Smoking Can Kill Your Unborn Child, Smoking Increases The Risk Of Impotence, Smoking Causes Strokes And Disability, Your Smoke Harms Your Children, Family And Friends.
All you need do is wave the little magic wand, and your arteries will clog, and you’ll suffer a stroke, and become disabled, blind, and impotent. And so will your children and friends and family, if you’ve got any.
And there are plenty more things that the little magic wand can do. It can do more or less anything. I’ve yet to hear of anything it can’t do.
Magical thinking is the belief that all you need do is wave some magic wand, and something remarkable will happen. That from some very small cause (waving a wand) some very large effect (the death of millions) will follow.
Homeopathy is based on the same idea: that the more dilute some medicament becomes, the more powerful its effect.
And I think that the same kind of magical thinking is present in global warming alarmism. And here the magic wand is trace amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Just the slightest sprinkling of this magic dust, and the atmosphere will heat up and roast everybody alive.
And that’s really why I’m as interested and engaged in the global warming scare as I am in the smoking scare: because they’re both the same sort of scare. They both have the same structure and logic underlying them.
We live in an age of magical thinking. And I’m fighting against magical thinking.
Currently, as I construct a new explanation for the global warming we’re enjoying in our current Holocene interglacial period, I’m proposing that carbon dioxide has next to nothing to do with it, and it’s instead being caused by the release of heat locked up deep inside the Earth.
For I think that the magical thinkers in the climate science community were looking round for something that could cause ice sheets to melt, and carbon dioxide was the only thing they could find that might have done it. And if it wasn’t at all obvious that this trace gas could perform this herculean task, they constructed elaborate arguments to show how its effects could be amplified, in a sort of chain reaction.
And this seems to be how magical thinking starts. Some cause for something is proposed (smoking for lung cancer, carbon dioxide for global warming), and in the absence of a better explanation, the initial modest proposal rapidly hardens into an unquestionable dogma. It becomes a fact of life. Anyone who doubts it is ridiculed, and even fired from their job.
The only real answer in such circumstances is to find the true cause. If carbon dioxide is to be acquitted of causing global warming, the real culprit must be tracked down. And if cigarettes are to be acquitted of the crime of causing lung cancer, the real culprit must be found.
I have no idea what causes lung cancer (although I have entertained some ideas). I just don’t believe that it’s caused by the little magic wand of the cigarette. But now that the blame has been pinned on cigarettes, there will be no end to the persecution of tobacco, tobacco companies, and smokers while the true culprit remains elusive.
But I have (I believe) a very good idea of what the true culprit behind global warming is. It’s the elephant in the room: it’s the vast bulk of the Earth beneath our feet. That’s what’s been causing the warming.
And if I’ve been able to spot this possibility, it’s because for many years I used to be a university researcher who built heat flow models of buildings, and I got to have a bit of a feel for heat flow. And not many people build such models. The laws of physics governing heat flow are well known to millions of scientists and engineers, but most of them aren’t actually working with those laws. They’re looking at stars and atoms and electrons and neutrinos. Their eyes are fixed elsewhere. They’re trying to solve different problems. And many of them are very good at solving those problems. All I’ve done is to use my experience in building conductive heat flow models many years ago to build a conductive heat flow model of the Earth, or rather a radial 6,371 km long column into the Earth. And what I’m seeing is very similar to what I used to see so many years ago.
Of course I may be wrong, but if I am wrong then all the heat flow equations I’ve been using must be wrong too.
Magical thinking grows from exaggerating the likelihood or the effect of something, magnifying the improbable into the certain, the ineffectual into the omnipotent. It’s perhaps a natural propensity, once some causal agency has been identified, to disregard any alternative explanation, and to grow ever more convinced of that explanation.
But it would seem that it is also powered by an intense need to find an explanation. For when, a century ago, cases of lung cancer started multiplying, it became a matter of urgency to discover the cause of this new epidemic.
And there is equally well an urgent need for us humans to discover the cause of the very real global warming that has occurred in the past 15,000 – 20,000 years, without which we would still be living in an ice age. We really need to know why that happened, and what might stop it happening. The lives of all of us depend on it. And not just us, but every future generation of men and women and plants and animals living on this little planet of ours. It’s imperative that we find out. It’s a far greater imperative than finding out what causes lung cancer. It’s a far more serious problem.
They think that the warming was caused by carbon dioxide. But I think they’ve been engaging in magical thinking. I think they’ve vastly exaggerated the amount of warming carbon dioxide might cause. I think they’re conducting a witch hunt against not just carbon dioxide, but the element Carbon.
If some other cause of the warming can be found, the witch hunt will come to an end. And the certainty and the zealotry of the global warming alarmists will dissolve. And if they realise they were barking up the wrong tree in one matter, it might encourage them to see that they could be barking up the wrong tree in other matters as well. Like with smoking and cancer.