Yet Another New Wave

Ideas come in waves. And they sweep the world.

Big ideas are like tsunamis. Little ideas are like ripples on a placid millpond. And like those ripples they spread in ever-widening circles, criss-crossing each other.

In the past, ideas travelled very slowly from one place to another. But these days they travel very quickly. News now travels around the world in minutes, when it once took months or years or centuries.

And we’re all caught up in these waves that sweep the world.

The great religions of the world are long, slow waves. Fashions and fads are ephemeral, short, fast waves. They all come, and they all go.

The 1960s was also a wave that swept the world. It was a wave in which I was myself caught up, and tossed around. It was, I think, a musical wave. It was a wave of new music and new sounds. It was a wave of electric music.

The idea that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer is also a wave that has swept the world. It’s an idea that gathered momentum in the early years of the 20th century, and became a tidal wave sweeping the world by the end of the century.

The idea that Carbon Dioxide Causes Global Warming is another wave that is currently sweeping the world. This wave only started gathering momentum in the 1970s.

These waves always meet with resistance, just like ocean waves sooner or later meet the shore.

I tend to resist all these waves. Raised as a Roman Catholic, I resisted Roman Catholicism. Caught up in the 1960s, I resisted that too. And now I resist both the idea that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer and the idea that Carbon Dioxide Causes Global Warming. Both of them seem to me to be religious dogmas against which dissent is impermissible, and therefore against which dissent is imperative.

The British Empire was another wave in which I was briefly caught up. I was born a few years before its demise, which I date to the 1950s.

Ideas possess great power, just like music possesses great power. Victor Hugo:

Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.

Victor Hugo also wrote:

One resists the invasion of armies; one does not resist the invasion of ideas.

Was he right in either assertion? I’m not sure he was. Because it is actually possible to resist ideas. I’ve been doing it all my life. It isn’t actually necessary to believe everything you’re told. We aren’t all just leaves blowing in the wind. We can to some extent sail into the wind, not just simple run before it.

And what is an idea “whose time has come”? Is there some sort of historical inevitability to everything that happens? Was it historically inevitable that World War 1 would break out on 28 July 1914? Was it historically inevitable that the Titanic would strike an iceberg on the night of the 14th of April 1912? Was it historically inevitable that JFK would be assassinated on the 22nd of November 1963? And so on. The answer, surely, is that all these events could have been averted.

There I go again: contesting an idea.

The idea that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer is actually a very strange idea. It’s like believing that spoons and forks cause tooth decay. They’re superficially attractive ideas, because smoke enters lungs, and forks enter mouths, and are therefore possible causes of lung cancer and tooth decay. And in fact it’s far more plausible that spoons and forks cause tooth decay than it is that smoking causes lung cancer, because the repeated impact of the metallic tines of forks on teeth can readily be understood to make small holes – cavities – in them. It’s not so obvious to see how warm and gentle tobacco smoke (and only tobacco smoke) can result in the development of lung cancer 30 or 40 years later. In fact it’s rather hard to see how anything can cause anything else to happen 30 or 40 years later.

The idea that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer is actually a piece of magical thinking. And magical thinking is thinking in which the thread of reasoning is incomplete, and some sort of leap of faith must be made to get past the missing link. And in the case of smoking and lung cancer the leap of faith is to believe that, somehow or other, nobody knows how, the smoke is absorbed into the lung, and resides there quietly for 40 years before finally triggering cells to start multiplying rapidly as cancer tumours.

By contrast, there’s nothing magical about the idea that Carbon Dioxide Causes Global Warming. It’s a well-understood physical phenomenon that carbon dioxide absorbs long wave radiation from the surface of the Earth. Fill up the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, and the atmosphere will get warmer. There’s no magic to it. What isn’t clear is how trace amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can cause large increases in air temperature. If there’s a missing link in the reasoning of the alarmist climate scientists it is in this: they don’t plausibly explain how this can happen. Or, to put it another way, it is perfectly true that Carbon Dioxide Causes Global Warming, but it is not at all obvious that Carbon Dioxide Causes Catastrophic Global Warming.

The idea that Carbon Dioxide Causes Catastrophic Global Warming is one that has met with powerful resistance. Lots of people don’t believe it. But the idea that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer seems to have met with remarkably little resistance. Everybody believes it. And yet the idea that Carbon Dioxide Causes Global Warming is a rational, scientific idea, and the idea that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer is not. But perhaps this explains the resistance and the lack of: Rational scientific ideas can be met with rational, scientific counter-arguments, but irrational magical thinking cannot. The belief that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer is not the product of cool, rational enquiry, but instead the product of a noisy and repetitive propaganda campaign. The antismokers have simply shouted down the smokers. It’s perhaps not so much that everybody believes that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, but rather that nobody dares to contest the doctrine, because nobody knows how to contest non-rational ideas of this kind.

The EU is another idea that has developed into something of a tidal wave that has swept the whole of Europe. And this also is meeting mounting resistance. In fact, the wave of populism sweeping Europe is itself yet another New Wave.

There is perhaps a Buddhist or Taoist attitude that can be taken to all these waves – which might be to recognise that these waves are just waves of sound and light. They are all phantoms. They are all illusions. And they carry no real force at all.

After all, back in 1964, did the Kinks’ You Really Got Me have any real force to it?



About Frank Davis

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17 Responses to Yet Another New Wave

  1. Rhys says:

    Frank, it did! The first time I heard You Really Got Me, in glorious monaural, I was enraptured. I’d never heard anything like it. How the hell did Dave Davies get that *sound* out of his guitar?

    It was cos he was so frustrated at not getting the sound he wanted, that he took a razor blade to the front of his amp. That did it.

    Silly memory. But a true one.

    • Frank Davis says:

      It is a true story.

      And I’d heard nothing like it either, back in 1964, when it was first released in the UK. I used to think that the iconic riff in the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction was the first use of a distorted guitar sound, but You Really Got Me was released a year earlier,

  2. RdM says:

    Did href =”” >Rudyard Kipling‘s tales have any real force?


    Better get into what you gotta get into
    Better get into it now, no slacking please
    United Nations ain’t really united
    And the organisations ain’t really organised

    Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone
    Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone
    Won’t be coming around for to kill your snakes no more my love
    Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone

    Everybody who read the Jungle Book knows that Riki tiki tavi’s a
    mongoose who kills snakes
    Well when I was a young man I was led to believe there were organisations
    to kill my snakes for me
    i.e. the church i.e. the government i.e. the school
    But when I got a little older I learned I had to kill them myself

    (I said) Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone
    Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone
    Won’t be coming around for to kill your snakes no more my love
    Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone

    [16 bars instrumental]

    People walk around they don’t know what they’re doing
    They bin lost so long they don’t know what they’ve been looking for
    Well, I know what I’m a looking for but I just can’t find it
    I guess I gotta look inside of myself some more

    oh oh oh inside of myself some more
    oh oh oh inside of myself some more

    Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone
    Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone
    Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone
    Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone

    I saw you today on a number twelve
    bus you were going my way
    my way

  3. garyk30 says:

    Smoking ‘causes’ lung cancer?
    If so, you would think that all or at least most smokers would die from lung cancer.

    There are about 40 million active smokers in the US.
    Our Center fo Disease Control says that current smokers account for about 20% of the lung cancer deaths, that is 31,400 per year.

    That is 1 lung cancer death per 1,274 smokers per year.
    That is about 8/100ths of 1%.
    In any given year, an active smoker has a 99.9% chance of NOT dying from lung cancer.

    Since the members of the 40 million active smokers changes from year to year, the effect is not cumulative and is about a life time chance/probability.

    The real question of importance is not “what % of lung cancer deaths are smokers”; but, “what % of smokers are lung cancer deaths”.

    • Joe L. says:

      Excellent point, Gary. The fact that the majority of smokers never develop lung cancer made people skeptical of the early claims. All one had to do was look around at all the smokers they personally knew and do the simple math to realize that practically none of them were hospitalized or dropping dead from lung cancer.

      The Antismokers had to cover their bases because people weren’t buying their nonsense. I believe this is the reason why they concocted the, “well, the carcinogens from tobacco can lie in wait for 30, 40, 50+ years” myth, and also the “Smoking Causes Heart Disease and Strokes” lie. That way they could claim that more smokers would be dying of lung cancer, except they were dying from other “smoking-related” diseases before the carcinogens had a chance to wake up from their Rip Van Winkle-esque slumber and devour their gracious host.

      • Smoking Lamp says:

        Great points from you both. The actual rates of smoker lung cancer deaths need to be exposed (conversely exposing the antismoker lies). Gary, can you provide a solid citation for the CDC data mentioned?

      • @ Smoking Lamp. I salvaged this (still active) link from one of Gary’s past comments:
        Cigarette Smoking Among Adults – United States, 2006

        Table 2 shows Smoking status vs Chronic disease status.
        Lung Cancer:

        Current smokers: 20.9 %
        Former smokers: 61.2 %
        Never smokers: 17.9 %

        In other words, the distribution of Smoking statuses among LC patients is similar to that in the general population – where one would expect never smokers to account for less than 2% of LC cases, and former smokers for no more than 30%…

        The same table also tells us that never-smokers’ share in “any smoking-related chronic disease” is 37.1 %! (And those never-smokers “reported never smoking 100 cigarettes during their lifetimes”, which means that smoking just 6 packs makes you an ex-smoker for life).

        These CDC figures are decidedly at odds with their propaganda department’s ideological agenda. You known, that SAMMEC-Neverland rigmarole: “cigarette smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke resulted in at least 443,000 premature deaths, approximately 5.1 million YPLL, and $96.8 billion in productivity losses annually in the United States”…

        Smoking-Attributable Mortality, Years of Potential Life Lost, and Productivity Losses – United States, 2000–2004

      • Frank Davis says:

        Here’s Table 2:

        I’m taking the top line of the table to mean that among all US patients with some smokinng-related chronic disease, 36.9% are active smokers, 26% are ex-smokers, and 37.1% are never-smokers

        My (possibly mistaken) read is:

        1. ex-smokers are much more likely to have lung cancer than smokers, which is in line with an Indian study that found that people developed lung cancer after they’d stopped smoking

        2. About the only thing that smokers are more likely to have is emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

  4. smokingscot says:


    I chortled when it was announced, then laughed when I learned the people of Ukraine have ridded themselves of a corrupt, nepotistic billionaire and replaced him with a comedian!

    North of 72% is an emphatic rejection of the status quo.

    If this assists voters in the rest of Europe to do the same, then the 30th May could be splendid.

    And this sort of thing reinforces what the Americans did with Trump. Zero experience of politics is nowhere near as important as getting things done.

  5. Roobeedoo2 says:

    The Olympics rolls through again next year…

    • Joe L. says:

      How can this level of discrimination be allowed? The International Olympic Committee seems to be one of the most powerful Antismoking bully organizations in the world. Why? Has anyone looked into financial or other ties between the IOC and the WHO or other Antismoking organizations/quangos?

      I could understand the IOC demanding smoking bans on the grounds of their Olympic venues, but why are they concerned with bullying the entire host country into implementing strict Antismoking policies? I feel like there are dots here that need connecting.

    • Smoking Lamp says:

      The persecution of smokers is now firmly entrenched. I have found that increasingly dissenting opinions on smoking bans at Japanese media outlets are suppressed and removed. The antismokers have gotten a foothold there.

  6. Clicky says:

  7. Smoking Lamp says:

    Thanks Frank and Some French Bloke. The data is helpful. The antismoker lies become increasingly apparent when you see the actual data.

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