December 25, 2011


ABC Radio National

Coal is King

Malcolm Turnbull (1954):
As the world's largest coal exporter we have a vested interest in showing that we can provide both lower emissions and reliable baseload power with state-of-the-art clean coal technology.
(National Press Club, 2016)

Tony Wood [Director, Energy Program, Grattan Institute]:
What are we talking about here, in terms of this what appears to be a contradiction in terms: clean coal?
The Prime Minister [is] in some ways is flying a kite, [since] no one's [knows] what he's actually going to do next. …
[If] you are looking to [invest in] coal fired power stations, with low emissions (because the technology does exist) …
What technology?
Tony Wood:
… you're not going to do that without … significant subsidies from government, which we do have but only so far for wind and solar …
Apart from the $9 billion a year in direct and indirect subsidies to the fossil fuel industry via energy and transport.
Tony Wood:
More gas, which is also quite expensive in Australia …
Unless gas is quarantined for electricity generation (as opposed to being exported) as currently occurs in Western Australia.
Tony Wood:
What we do have is a vacuum of [state and] federal climate change policy … you can't specifically blame anybody for that except perhaps government generally …
A failure of government or a failure of governance?
  • Leaders advocating the repeal of the carbon price and dismantling of the clean energy infrastructure, and
  • enough people willing to follow them.

Grattan Institute:
[We] cannot rely [on] switching to gas-fired electricity to achieve all our emissions reductions.
[The carbon intensity of coal-fired power stations is between 0.8 and 1.2 tonnes of CO2 for every megawatt-hour of electricity produced.]
Conventional gas-fired power plants can achieve … about 0.4 tonnes of CO2 emitted per megawatt-hour. Australia must achieve a carbon intensity of 0.2 tonnes of CO2 per megawatt-hour or lower if it is to meet its targets.
(p 4)

A range of technologies available today can generate electricity at or below 0.2 tonnes of CO2 per megawatt-hour and have significant scale-up potential (excepting hydro, for which little expansion is feasible in Australia). …
[The] most important task will be to further refine the underlying power technologies such as wind turbine blades, photovoltaic cells and fuel combustion.
(No easy choices: which way to Australia’s energy future?, February 2012, p 6)

Supercritical steam technology is applicable to combined cycle gas turbines and solar thermal as well as coal.
This suggests that while supercritical coal may be "cleaner" than conventional coal it is just as "dirty" in comparison with supercritical gas or solar.
Therefore, from a mitigation viewpoint, if you were choosing between conventional coal and supercritical coal you would go for supercritical coal.
If you're choosing between supercritical coal, gas or solar; gas or solar would still be superior.

Using (ultra) supercritical coal fired power plants with thermal efficiencies of 45% (conventional coal being 33%) instead of combined cycle gas turbines with thermal efficiencies of 60% means additional carbon savings would need to be found in other sectors.
Which sectors and at what cost?
And what is the market mechanism for delivering emissions reductions at least cost across the economy?
A carbon price.

Of the 22 demonstration [clean coal] projects funded by the US Department of Energy since 2003, none are in operation as of February 2017, having been abandoned or delayed due to capital budget overruns or discontinued because of excessive operating expenses.
(Coal pollution mitigation, 19 February 2017)

In most scenarios for stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations between 450 and 750 ppmv CO2 and in a least-cost portfolio of mitigation options, the economic potential of CCS would amount to 220-2,200 GtCO2 (60–600 GtC) cumulatively, which would mean that CCS contributes 15–55% to the cumulative mitigation effort worldwide until 2100, averaged over a range of baseline scenarios. …
For CCS to achieve such an economic potential, several hundreds to thousands of CO2 capture systems would need to be installed over the coming century, each capturing some 1–5 MtCO2 per year.
(Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage, IPCC Special Report, Summary for Policymakers approved at Eighth Session of IPCC Working Group III, 22-24 September, 2005, p 12, emphasis added)
Where are they?

Grattan Institute:
Gas can play a important bridging role, but in the longer-term Australia will need to either
  • retrofit existing coal and gas plants with Carbon Capture and Storage technology or
  • replace them with low-or zero-carbon technologies. …
(No easy choices: which way to Australia’s energy future?, p 5, emphasis added)
If carbon capture and storage does become available, replacing coal fired with bioenergy power plants (BECSS) rather than refitting coal plants with CCS would be the optimal strategy — since BECSS actually draws down atmospheric carbon.

(The Role of Coal, 13 February 2017)

Trickle Up Economics

Amanda Vanstone (1952)

When governments get out of the way, things in the economy can get going.
Perhaps we should be saying to our governments:
We don't want you to spend more. …
What we want you to do is undo some of your regulation.
Get out of the way and let the business people get on with it and make a buck.
And create jobs, and wealth and income.
(Counterpoint, 10 October 2016)

I am in the category of people who say:
Why do we keep regulating and passing laws?
We've had a law against murder for a long time and it hasn't worked!
There's a lot of people [who] put a lot of faith in regulation without realizing [that we then have to] pay a lot of public servants … to implement [it.]

(Counterpoint, 13 June 2016)

Climate change! [exasperation]
You're so ABC, Fran … [laughs]

(The Party Room, 26 May 2016)

It is primarily the Coalition that says we have to the deficit and public debt under control. …
[While Labor] sees itself as owning the concept of fair shares.
[This] makes it very easy, whenever you want to bring a budget back into some sort of control and make any cuts, to say:
Lower income people shouldn't have to pay anything for this — even though they may have been the beneficiaries of the spending which in large part has contributed to the deficit.
(Counterpoint, 16 May 2016)

Left-wing Scepticism

Clive Hamilton

In the 1990s [a Trotskyist splinter group in the United Kingdom known as the Revolutionary Communist Party] published a controversialist journal titled Living Marxism (later LM Magazine) that frequently ran bitter attacks on environmentalism, describing it as a middle-class indulgence and a neo-colonial smokescreen.
(p 213)

The successor to LM lives on in cyberspace in the form of Spiked, a lively online mix of ultra-libertarianism and 'left-wing' opinion …

[In 2007] activists associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party were responsible for … documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle. …
Immediately after it was broadcast, Spiked editor Brendan O'Neill wrote a vigorous defense of … the film's anti-environmental claims veiled by appeals to the right to dissent.
(p 214)

Speaking on behalf of the forgotten working class [O'Neill has written that:]
{[Our job is to attack] the ugly elitism and end-of-days mania of the environmentalist movement …}

[Environmental elites] cannot comprehend, indeed are "baffled" by,
  • our everyday behaviour,
  • our desire to have families,
  • our resistance to hectoring,
  • our dream of being wealthier, better travelled,
  • our hopes of live life to the full. …
(p 216)

The accord between some elements of the far left and far right is grounded in
  • their shared beliefs in the priority of material consumption in human wellbeing,
  • their defence of human domination of nature, and
  • their anti-authoritarian commitment to individual rights.
While conservatives saw environmentalism as a threat to capitalism and the American way of life, some on the far left saw environmentalism as a threat to their objective of overthrowing capitalism because it was a distraction from the main game.
(p 215)

Neo-conservatives have for years fulminated against the influence of post-modernism in university campuses and schools, with its pernicious promotion of 'moral relativism'.
They see themselves as defending objective truth after decades of, leftist challenge to the Western canon.
Yet in the case of climate change the conservative counter-movement has actively promoted those who challenge the established science.
Sceptical commentators like
  • Charles Krauthammer in the United States,
  • Melanie Phillips in Britain,
  • Mark Steyn in Canada and
  • Michael Duffy in Australia
not only dismiss the science but repeatedly attempt to 'deconstruct' the motives of the scientists who carry it out.
They are always on the lookout for biases and prejudices that could lie behind the scientific facts on global warming, explaining away the vast accumulation of evidence by impugning the motives of those who collect it.
(p 216)

In their view, scientific truth is malleable, contingent and contestable.
Like the creationists who believe that victory requires them to destroy the theory of evolution, they promote a form of anti-scientific fundamentalism that has less regard for scientific method than the most committed [social] constructivist on any university campus.
(p 217)

(Requiem For A Species, 2010)

A Cherry-Picker's Guide to Climate Change

Five ways of not seeing a warming trend in climate data:
  1. Start point — choose a peak such a year with a strong El Nino and/or a solar maximum.
  2. End point — choose a trough due to a strong La Nina or volcanic activity.
  3. Data set — choose a data set that has poor coverage of high latitudes (ie the arctic) where warming is three times the global average eg Hadley.
  4. Time span — choose a short time span (less than 25 years) so natural variability swamps the underlying climate signal.
  5. Compartment — the total energy content of the climate system is distributed between ocean, land and atmosphere.
    If you ignore ocean and land you can exclude the vast majority of energy being trapped by greenhouse gases.
Hey Presto!
No global warming.

Would you like to know more?



Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Green Army: Communications

(The Utopia Girls: How Women Won The Vote, ABC Television, June 2012)

Geoff Thompson:
Bond University's Paul Glasziou chaired a 2015 review of homeopathy by … the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Professor Paul Glasziou:
[The] conclusion we came to was that there was no convincing evidence for homeopathy for any of the conditions that it's been studied in, which is actually quite a few.
So it's not there's no evidence, it's that there's quite a lot of evidence.
It's either poor quality evidence or the good quality evidence suggests there's no effect. …

Carl Gibson [CEO, Complementary Medicines Australia]:
I'm saying the jury is still out on the NHMRC review — it was fundamentally flawed and skewed from day number one.
If we're going to have a proper review, let's have a proper review but to actually set the parameters so high that pharmaceutical studies wouldn't make it through, I think is questionable. …
Homeopathy has been around for thousands and thousands of years …
(Swallowing It, Four Corners, 13 February 2017)

Tim Costello:
[For] every dollar a man earns … 40 cents goes to the kids and family.
For every dollar a woman earns … 90 cents goes to the kids and family.
(774 ABC Melbourne, 22 August 2012)

By 2030, the number of asbestos deaths in Australia is predicted to reach 60,000, equalling the number of Australians killed in the first world war.
(Devil's Dust)

Julian Porteous [Catholic Archbishop of Hobart]:
[If] you have a same-sex attraction it's not appropriate for you to be responsible for the nurture of children.
(For Better or Worse, Four Corners, ABC Television, 10 October 2016)

Malcolm Turnbull [Prime Minister of Australia]:
[We, in the Liberal party,] are not run by factions.
Nor are we run by big business or by deals in back rooms.
We rely on the ideas and the energy and the enterprise of our membership.
(Man on a Wire, Four Corners, ABC Television, 8 August 2016)

Joe Hockey [Federal Treasurer]:
I find [wind turbines] utterly offensive.
I think they are just a blight on the landscape.
(Power to the People, Four Corners, ABC Television, 7 July 2014)

Scott Heron [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]:
It wasn’t just the El Nino.
2014 was the warmest year on record — an over 100-year record.
2015 exceeded that record by a new margin.
And we have estimates of a 99% chance that we’re gonna break that record again [this year.]
If you are 30 years or younger, you have never experienced a normal temperature month.
(Coral Bleaching, Catalyst, ABC Television, 11 October 2016)

Jonica Newby:
[What] the records show is that global warming isn't something that's coming — it's here … already.
It's pointless … to ask,
Is this climate change or natural variability?
What we see is one acting on top of the other.
(Taking Our Temperature, Catalyst, ABC Television, 15 November 2012)

(Gravitational Waves, Catalyst, ABC Television, 29 March 2016)

The War on Science Communication

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg: Director, Global Change Institute, The University of Queensland
Joan Leach: Professor, Australian National University
Merryn McKinnon: Lecturer, Australian National University

The ABC says the run of the popular science television show, Catalyst, has reached the end in its current format.

In its place, the ABC has proposed it will deliver a series of 17 one hour-long documentaries that will be aired later in the evening than the current [weekly] half-hour science magazine style programming. …
Many documentary makers are somewhat sceptical of the ability of the ABC to follow through on the promise of the 17 documentaries independently produced from outside the ABC.
According to several film makers, one-hour programs take disproportionately greater resources and can have a production time running to years in order to get a good product. …
These changes also run in the face of a recent review for the ABC that suggested short science programs shown early in the evening were more popular than longer programs shown later in the day. …

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has emphasised the critical importance of innovation and science to Australia’s future.
[He's] right.
Without an articulate and science savvy population, Australia runs at risk of falling behind in the globalisation stakes.

As climate change intensifies, technology continues to escalate and human population busts, the need for greater understanding of science and its processes will determine whether we are able to seize opportunities or not. …

It’s hard to be a clever country when you’re in the dark.

(What the ABC’s new Catalyst could mean for science on TV, The Conversation, 4 November 2016)


Local Radio

Conversation Hour



Drum Opinion
Religion and Ethics


Radio National


Australian Story

Big Ideas

Four Corners

Future Eaters


December 22, 2011

Andrew Bolt

Blue Army: Persons of Interest

Charles Darwin (1809–1882):
[Ignorance] more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge …
(The Descent of Man, 1871)

Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997)

[Even in the most liberal societies, individual freedom is not] the sole, or even the dominant, criterion of social action.
We compel children to be educated, and we forbid public executions.
These are certainly curbs to freedom.
We justify them on the ground that ignorance, or a barbarian upbringing, or cruel pleasures and excitements are worse for us than the amount of restraint needed to repress them.
This judgement in turn depends on how we determine good and evil, that is to say, on our moral, religious, intellectual, economic and aesthetic values; which are, in their turn, bound up with our conception of man, and of the basic demands of his nature. …

To protest against the laws governing censorship or personal morals as intolerable infringements of personal liberty presupposes a belief that the activities which such laws forbid are fundamental needs of men as men, in a good … society.
To defend such laws is to hold that these needs are not essential, or that they cannot be satisfied without sacrificing other values which come higher … than individual freedom …

The extent of a man's, or a people's, liberty to choose to live as he or they desire must be weighed against the claims of many other values, of which equality, or justice, or happiness, or security, or public order are, perhaps, the most obvious examples. …

To preserve our absolute categories or ideals at the expense of human lives offends equally against the principles of science and of history; it is an attitude found in equal measure on the right and left wings in our days, and is not reconcilable with the principles accepted by those who respect the facts.

(Two Concepts of Liberty, Four Essays on Liberty, 1969)

John Stuart Mill (1806–1873)

Undoubtedly the manner of asserting an opinion, even though it be a true one, may be very objectionable, and may justly incur severe censure. …
The gravest [offences of this kind are:]
  • to argue sophistically,
  • to suppress facts or arguments,
  • to misstate the elements of the case, or
  • [to] misrepresent the opposite opinion. …

Acts injurious to others {are fit objects of moral reprobation, and, in grave cases, of moral retribution and punishment [ie:]}
  • Encroachment on their rights;
  • infliction on them of any loss or damage not justified by his own rights;
  • falsehood or duplicity in dealing with them;
  • unfair or ungenerous use of advantages over them;
  • even selfish abstinence from defending them against injury

And not only these acts, but the dispositions which lead to them, are properly immoral, and fit subjects of disapprobation which may rise to abhorrence.
  • Cruelty of disposition;
  • malice and ill-nature; …
  • envy;
  • dissimulation and insincerity, irascibility on insufficient cause, and resentment disproportioned to the provocation;
  • the love of domineering over others;
  • the desire to engross more than one's share of advantages …
  • the pride which derives gratification from the abasement of others;
  • the egotism which thinks self and its concerns more important than everything else, and decides all doubtful questions in its own favour;
— these are moral vices, and constitute a bad and odious moral character …

[Should an individual infringe] the rules necessary for the protection of his fellow creatures, individually or collectively [such that the] evil consequences of his acts do not then fall on himself, but on others …
[Then] society, as the protector of all its members,
  • must retaliate on him
  • must inflict pain on him for the express purpose of punishment, and
  • must take care that it be sufficiently severe. …

Whenever, in short, there is a definite damage, or a definite risk of damage, either to an individual or to the public, the case is taken out of the province of liberty, and placed in that of morality or law.

(On Liberty, 1859, emphasis added)

Wendy Bacon (1946)

[Bolt] plays a significant and strategic role in the production of climate scepticism in Australia.
He is employed by [News Limited's Herald Sun] and Channel Ten and feature[s] on John Singleton’s right wing radio station 2GB.
News Corp heavily promotes Bolt as Australia’s “most read columnist”.
(p 93)

[The strategies he uses to cast doubt on climate science] include
  • personal abuse,
  • cherry picking specific findings to refute the entire body of findings of climate scientists,
  • portrayal of advocates of climate action as ideologically motivated with totalitarian tendencies and
  • criticism of journalists who report on climate science.
(p 94)

(Climate Science in Australian Newspapers, ACIJ, October 2013)

Fact vs Opinion

Andrew Bolt:
For at least a decade the planet has not warmed even though emissions have soared.
(p 3)

Australian Communications and Media Authority:
[In] the course of the interview it was made clear that there is debate over levels of warming and its causes.
The ordinary reasonable viewer would have understood that this is a contentious issue and that other viewpoints exist.

In the context of the segment in its entirety, the ACMA considers that it was clear that the assertion about the warming of the planet over the last decade and the rate of such warming was contestable, and a matter of opinion.
As such it was not required to be accurate. …
(p 6)

The ACMA must assess whether the relevant statement would have been understood by the ordinary reasonable listener/viewer as a statement of fact or an expression of opinion.
[Inferences] made from observed facts are usually [also] characterised as factual material …
(p 18)

Statements in the nature of prediction as to future events would nearly always be characterised as statements of opinion.
(italics added, p 19)

[Licensees] are not required to present all factual material available to them …
[However,] if the omission of some factual material means that the factual material actually broadcast is not presented accurately, that would amount to a breach of the clause.
(p 18)

(ACMA Investigation Report 2709)


Cherry Picker?

Dumb & Intolerant Person?






Would you like to know more?

December 21, 2011

Koch Industries

Blue Army: Finance

Koctopus: One Dollar, One Vote

Jane Mayer

Together, [David and Charles Koch] may have spent more money to influence politics than anyone else in the country:

George Mason Foundation$17,050,884
Mercatus Center$9,074,500
Americans For Prosperity$5,760,781
The Heritage Foundation$3,993,571
Bill Of Rights Institute$3,770,909
The Cato Institute$2,535,750
Republican Governor's Association$2,000,000
The Federalist Society$1,623,999
Manhattan Institute$1,600,000
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education$1,575,000
Washington Legal Foundation$1,355,000

(Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama, The New Yorker, 30 August, 2010)


Covert Operations

Execs Blocking Progress on Global Warming


Would you like to know more?

December 18, 2011

2011 11 28 - COP17/CMP7 at Durban


The Climate Institute

The 2011 Durban Climate Summit ended with the adoption of a set of 37 formal UN decisions … in three key areas:
  1. Agreement to negotiate a single, legally binding agreement by 2015 that will cover all major carbon pollution emitters including, most importantly, China, India and the United States;
  2. Establishment of the Green Climate Fund, building on the commitment made in Cancun to raise US$100 billion a year to help the world’s poorest nations invest in clean energy and manage the unavoidable impacts of climate change;
  3. Commitment from all countries to increase the level of ambition of national efforts to reduce pollution, building on the formal recognition that existing commitments are not enough to keep global warming below 2 °C or 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. …
With the agreement to a have a single legally binding agreement for all nations, an important roadblock and ongoing excuse for limited action has been removed.

The Durban outcomes also have domestic political significance for Australia.
Most importantly the unconditional 5 per cent reduction target is increasingly irrelevant as it is based on the assumption of limited global action.
To increase international credibility and ensure Australia does its fair share internationally the Government should move to the higher end of its target range.
The Coalition is even more exposed as virtually no one believes it can achieve its minimum 5 per cent reduction target with current policies.

(The Durban Climate Summit: Implications For Australia, December, 2011, p 4)


Implications For Australia

The Future of Global Climate Action

December 10, 2011

Sunday Profile

ABC Radio National

Dick Warburton [Head of the Renewable Energy Target Review]:
There are at least 30,000 people who have signed a petition on this saying the opposite to what the climate change people do.
[The science] is just not settled. …
[There's] no convincing evidence that carbon dioxide is a major cause … of global warming.
Not climate change — no question about climate change — climate change is happening: it's happened for ten years, a hundred years, a thousand years and will continue to do so. …
(23 February 2014)

Rob Vertessy [Director, Bureau of Meteorology]:
We probably see, something of order of five times as many very severe heat waves today than we did in the middle of the last century.
And that's a trajectory that we expect to increase. …
(29 March 2015)

Andrew Harper

UN operations leader in Jordan

The apartment [in Homs] which they had been living in had been bombed. …
Two of the family members had died. …
So they're obviously extremely traumatized, particularly the children.
One of the children was just still in her pajamas.
She'd obviously escaped when she was sleeping and didn't have a chance to get changed …
She'd been travelling for the last seven days just in her pajamas.
There was another one whose only possession was her teddy bear which she brought across, which was obviously filthy after travelling through the desert.

(22 September 2013)


Andrew Harper

John Rodsted

Michael Marmot

Mark Textor

Ted Olson

David Kilcullen

Erika Feller

The Atlantic

Green Army: Communications

David Biello:
[The] Chinese, who are ostensibly Communist, are going to have the world’s largest carbon-trading market, while the United States, which is ostensibly capitalist, can’t fathom the idea of a free-market solution to our climate-change challenge. …
Most members of the [Chinese] government have been trained in science, and they don’t have a problem with climate change the way [we] do.
There is no debate over the reality of climate change.
And … they are aware that climate change poses even more significant challenges to China than it does to the United States …
(Robinson Meyer, President Trump and the Unnatural World, 21 December 2016)


The Greatest Generation or the Most Narcissistic?

How to Shave a Bundle Off the Deficit: Spend Less on Nukes

Sustainable Development Commission: Prosperity Without Growth

Green Army: Research and Development

Tim Jackson:
[The] story of [our consumer society one] of us being encouraged …
  • to spend money we don't have,
  • on things we don't need,
  • to create impressions that won't last,
  • on people we don't care about, or …
  • who don't care about us.
(Deakin Lecture, July, 2010)

United Nations Environment Program:
From 1981 to 2005 the global economy more than doubled, but 60 percent of the world’s ecosystems were either degraded or over-used.
(October, 2008)


Growth has delivered its benefits, at best, unequally.
A fifth of the world’s population earns just 2% of global income.
Inequality is higher in the OECD nations than it was 20 years ago.
And while the rich got richer, middle-class incomes in Western countries were stagnant in real terms long before the recession. …

[A] world in which nine billion people all aspire to the level of affluence achieved in the OECD nations … would need to be 15 times the size of this one by 2050 and 40 times bigger by the end of the century. …

Climate change, fuel security, collapsing biodiversity and global inequality … are issues that can no longer be relegated to the next generation or the next electoral cycle. …

[That] poorer nations stand in urgent need of economic development [does not mean that] ever-rising incomes for the already-rich are an appropriate goal for policy in a world constrained by ecological limits.
(p 6)


The myth of growth has failed us.
It has failed the two billion people who still live on less than $2 a day.
It has failed the fragile ecological systems on which we depend for survival.
It has failed … to provide economic stability and secure people’s livelihoods. …

Prosperity for the few founded on ecological destruction and persistent social injustice is no foundation for a civilised society. …

[At] the end of the day, prosperity goes beyond material pleasures.
It transcends material concerns.
It resides in the quality of our lives and in the health and happiness of our families.
It is present in the strength of our relationships and our trust in the community.
It is evidenced by our satisfaction at work and our sense of shared meaning and purpose.
It hangs on our potential to participate fully in the life of society.

Prosperity consists in our ability to flourish as human beings — within the ecological limits of a finite planet.
The challenge for our society is to create the conditions under which this is possible.
(p 5)


… 20% of the population earn just 2% of the world’s income.
[One] billion people across the world who are living on less than $1 a day — half the price of a small cappuccino in Starbucks. …

Rising prosperity is not the same thing as economic growth.
[Indeed, the continued pursuit of economic growth (beyond a certain point at least) … may even impede human happiness.]

[Economic growth is leading] to the depletion of natural resources and the degradation of the environment, impoverishing both present and future generations. …

[Oil] price hikes have already [demonstrated their] potential to destabilize the global economy and threaten basic securities.
Fears peaked in July 2008 when oil prices reached $147 a barrel …
The International Energy Agency estimates that [peak oil] could arrive as early as 2020.

The continuing disparities between rich and poorer nations … generate rising social [and political] tensions …
(p 16)

These three related arguments — ecological, social and psychological — are now well-rehearsed in the literature on sustainability (and on happiness). …

In a world of finite resources, constrained by strict environmental limits, [and] characterized by ‘islands of prosperity’ within ‘oceans of poverty’, are ever-increasing incomes for the already-rich … a legitimate focus for our continued hopes and expectations?
Is there [another path to] a more sustainable, a more equitable form of prosperity?
(p 17)

Raising deep, structural questions about the nature of prosperity in [the current economic] climate might seem inopportune if not insensitive. …
But there are several reasons not to postpone this … until the economy looks brighter.

[The] cumulative impacts of economic growth — climate change, resource depletion, social recession [—] are unlikely to go away, just because growth slows down in the advanced economies. …

[It] is impossible to ignore the influence of financial markets and commodity prices in the relationship between growth and prosperity. …
[The] problems of climate change, soaring food prices and development [are] ‘deeply interconnected’ crises that need to be addressed simultaneously.

[A] clear window of opportunity — and [an] overwhelming imperative [—] now exists for change.
In the face of economic collapse, governments have an undisputed duty to intervene. …

[There] is no better time to make progress towards a more sustainable society.
To invest in renewable technologies that will reduce both carbon emissions and our dependence on finite resources.
To renew our financial and social institutions and create a fairer world.
To invest in the jobs and skills that these tasks demand.
To initiate the transition to a sustainable economy.
(p 18)





12 Steps Towards a Sustainable Economy

The Age of Irresponsibility

Redefining Prosperity

The Dilemma of Growth

The Myth of Decoupling

Confronting Structure

Keynesianism and the 'Green New Deal'

Macroeconomics for Sustainability

Flourishing Within Limits

Governance for Prosperity

December 9, 2011

James Hansen

Green Army: Persons of Interest

Chuck Kutscher [National Renewable Energy Laboratory]:
If you want to know the scientific consensus on global warming, read the reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
But if you want to know what the consensus will be ten years from now, read Jim Hansen's work.

Protecting the Home Planet

[Nature] and the laws of physics cannot compromise — they are what they are.
(p xi)

[On] June 23, 1988 … I testified to a Senate committee [that,] with 99 percent confidence [the] Earth was being affected by human-made greenhouse gases, and the planet had entered a period of long-term warming.
(p xv)

"Clean coal" is an oxymoron.
The clean-coal concept, at least so far, has been … a diversion that the coal industry and its government supporters employ to allow dirty-coal uses to continue. …
[To prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, coal] use must be prohibited unless and until the emissions can be captured and safely disposed of.
(p 174)

Now, what are the means by which fossil fuel use can be reduced and eventually phased out? The first priority … must go to energy efficiency. …
People in the United States, Canada, and Australia use about twice as much energy per capita as those in Europe or Japan …
California achieves energy efficiency close to that of Europe and Japan.
Since 1975, per capita use of electricity in California has remained constant, while growing 50 percent in the rest of the United States. …
(p 190)

Utility regulations in California also are structured such that the utilities make more money by encouraging efficiency rather than by selling more energy.

The second priority … is renewable energies …
(p 191)

However … renewable energies will not be a sufficient source of [baseload] electric power [in the forseeable future.]
[Currently,] there are now just two options for nearly carbon-free large-scale baseload electric power: (p 193)

[It would cost trillions] of dollars for new carbon-capturing power plants to replace all the old ones in China and India that emit carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
(p 194)

The World Health Organization calculates that there might be as many as four thousand [excess] cancer deaths because of radiation released at Chernobyl, which compares with one hundred thousand other cancer deaths among the same population. …
[A conservative estimate of deaths attributable to coal related air pollution is] ten thousand deaths per year — every year.
(p 195-6)

[The] backbone of a solution to the climate problem is a flat carbon emissions price applied across all fossil fuels at the source.
This carbon price (fee, tax) must rise continually, at a rate that is economically sound.
The funds must be distributed back to the citizens (not to special interests) — otherwise the tax rate will never be high enough to lead to a clean energy future.
(p 219)

Climate history is our best source of information about how sensitive the climate system is, and, it turns out, the climate is remarkably sensitive — large climate changes can occur in response to even small forcings.
(p 35)

[Humans,] by burning fossil fuels, are now increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide by 2 ppm per year.
[This human induced] climate forcing is [twenty thousand times] more powerful than the natural forcing [ie one ten thousandth of 1 ppm per year due to tectonic activity.]
(p 161)

The carbon dioxide amount 34 million years ago, when Antarctica became cold enough to harbor a large ice sheet, was found to be 450 [350-550] ppm …

If humanity burns most of the fossil fuels, doubling or tripling the preindustrial carbon dioxide level, Earth will surely head toward the ice-free condition …
It is difficult to say how long it will take for the melting to be complete, but once ice sheet disintegration gets well under way, it will be impossible to stop.
(p 160, emphasis added)

[The] last time that Earth was 2 or 3 degrees warmer than today [ie] about three million years ago, [sea] level was about 25 meters (80 feet) higher than today. …
About a billion people now live at elevations less than 25 meters. …
A sea level rise of [even] 5 meters (about 17 feet) would submerge most of Florida, Bangladesh, the European lowlands …
(p 141-2)

The rate of sea level rise can be rapid once ice sheets begin to disintegrate.
About 14,000 years ago, sea level increased 4 to 5 meters per century for several consecutive centuries — an average rate of 1 meter every 20 or 25 years.
(p 38)

If ice sheets begin to disintegrate, there will not be a new stable sea level on any foreseeable time scale.
Instead, we will have created a situation with continual change, with intermittent calamities at thousands of cities around the world. …
Change will not be smooth and uniform.
Instead, local catastrophes will occur in association with regional storms.
Given the enormous infrastructure and historical treasures in our coastal cities, it borders on insanity to suggest that humans should [rely on adaptation to, as opposed to mitigation of, climate change.]

Would coastal cities be rebuilt, given the knowledge that sea level will continue to rise? …
[Where] would people in low-lying regions such as Bangladesh migrate to?
Global chaos will be difficult to avoid if we allow the ice sheets to become unstable.
(p 85)

[Most] of the climate response to fossil fuel emissions will occur … within the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren. …
[If] we burn all [known conventional] reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate [a] runaway greenhouse [effect and] destroy all life on the planet …
If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale … the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty.
(p 236, emphasis added)

The [safe] limit on permitted global warming, if we wish to preserve the great ice sheets on Antarctica and Greenland, and thus preserve the coastlines that have existed for the past seven thousand years, is much less than has generally been assumed [ie 350 ppm of carbon dioxide.]
Halting global warming is still feasible — but requires international cooperation in taking urgent, unprecedented actions, which would have additional benefits for human health, agriculture, and the environment.
(p 34)

[In 1863] Abraham Lincoln … established the National Academy of Sciences {to advise the nation on important matters that required the best scientific expertise}.
President Bush, early in his first term, asked the academy for advice on global warming.
Specifically, the White House sought the academy's evaluation of the conclusions reached by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [which had been making] increasingly strong statements about the likely consequences of continued increases of greenhouse gases.
The White House was probably hoping that the academy would document some criticisms of the [IPCC's conclusions.]
If so, the White House was disappointed.
(p 56)

The answer that the National Academy of Sciences had delivered … was not the answer the White House wanted to hear.
The president did not ask the academy for advice about global warming again during the remainder of his eight years in power.
(p 58)

Coal burning at power plants is the greatest source of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide.
It is also the source most susceptible to control.
[Bush's decision in March 2001] not to restrict power plant emissions reneged on a promise [he] made repeatedly during the 2000 presidential election campaign … to include carbon dioxide in a "four pollutant strategy" to reduce the most damaging pollutants from power plants.
That promise, together with the Clinton-Gore administration's poor record in constraining carbon dioxide emissions, stymied Al Gore from raising the environment and climate change as an effective campaign issue.
Given the razor-thin margin in the 2000 election, and the environmental awareness of Florida voters, it seems clear that Gore would have become president if it were not for Bush's pollution-reduction promise.
(p 2)

[On the other hand, the Bush administration did take steps to reduce] non-carbon dioxide emissions, including methane and black soot. …
[The methane-to-markets program] helps reduce methane emissions via capture at coal mines, landfills, and agricultural and waste management facilities and uses the captured methane as fuel.
White House interest helped Kruger and the EPA initiate the program in the United States and extend its effectiveness via cooperation with several developing countries that have larger methane emissions than the United States.
This approach, extended globally, is better than the Kyoto Protocol approach [since methane] is one of the escape hatches that make the Kyoto approach ineffectual for carbon dioxide.
The Bush administration also deserves credit for major tightening of soot emission limits in the face of opposition from diesel producers, truckers, and other industries.
In addition to supporting rules that reduced soot emissions from trucks and buses, the administration later expanded regulations to cover tractors, trains, and ships.
(p 52, emphasis added)

In my talks I began to emphasize the first line of the NASA mission statement:
[To] understand and protect our home planet.
But in the spring of 2006, a NASA colleague sent me an e-mail warning me that I had better stop using that statement as a rationalization for my actions because it no longer existed.
Sure enough, when I checked the mission statement on the NASA Web site, the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet" was gone.
[Nobody] knew what had happened.
It had just disappeared.
The second thing to disappear was 20 percent of the NASA earth science research and analysis budget.
Because most of the budget goes toward fixed items, such as rent and civil service salaries, a 20 percent cut is monstrous, a signal almost of going out of business.
(p 135)
Mark Bowen:
A high insider at headquarters told me that Michael Griffin rewrote the mission statement and the agency's strategic plan basically on his own.
(Censoring Science, Dutton, 2008)
(p 136)
Michael Griffin [NASA Administrator]:
[Climate change is only a problem if you] assume that the state of the Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had, and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change.
First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown.
And second of all, … I would ask which human beings … are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have … right now, is the best climate for all other human beings.
I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take.
(p 152)

David Mould, [George W Bush appointee and] head of public affairs for NASA, [had] held senior positions in public and media relations at the Southern Company of Atlanta, the second-largest holding company of coal-burning utilities in the United States and thus the second greatest emitter of carbon dioxide.
Southern's contributions to the Republican Party [in 2000] were exceeded … only by Enron's.
(p 127)

Would you like to know more?

Tell Barack Obama The Truth

Coal waste [has] caused far more environmental damage and human injury than has the waste from all the nuclear power plants in the world [including Chernobyl.]
Mercury released in coal burning contaminates the world ocean as well as our rivers, lakes and soil.
Air pollution from coal burning kills more than 100,000 people per year. …

Open Letter to Michelle and Barack Obama

  • Switzerland finances construction of coal plants,
  • Sweden builds them, and
  • Australia exports coal and sets atmospheric carbon dioxide goals so large as to guarantee destruction of much of the life on the planet.


Protecting the Home Planet


4th Generation Nuclear Power

December 4, 2011

Climate Change Research Centre: Climate Science 2009

Green Army: Research and Development

It is over three years since the drafting of text was completed for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). …
The purpose of this report is to synthesize the most policy-relevant climate science published since the close-off of material for the last IPCC report. …
This report covers the range of topics evaluated by Working Group I of the IPCC, namely the Physical Science Basis. …
The authors primarily comprise previous IPCC lead authors familiar with the rigor and completeness required for a scientific assessment of this nature.
(The Copenhagen Diagnosis, 2009: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science, 2009, p 5)


Land and Atmosphere

Ice and Ocean

Abrupt Change, Tipping Points, Past and Future Climate

Would you like to know more?

December 3, 2011

Peter Singer

Green Army: Persons of Interest

Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832):
The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny.
The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor.
It may one day come to be recognized that
  • the number of the legs,
  • the villosity of the skin, or
  • the termination of the os sacrum,
are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate.
What else is it that should trace the insuperable line?
Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps the faculty of discourse?
But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old.
But suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail?
The question is not,
  • Can they reason! nor
  • Can they talk?, but,
  • Can they suffer?
(An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, 1789)

Robert Bellah [Sociologist]:
In earlier days the individualism in America was one that also honored community values.
Today we have an ideology of individualism that simply encourages people to maximize personal advantage.

Free Rational Agents

If moral rules are a natural outgrowth of biology and custom, [and] not the decrees of God or eternal universal truths of any other kind, following rules without any further justification seems a prime example of mindlessly abdicating our roles as free rational agents. …

[An] ethic of rules builds on our feelings for others as individuals rather than on an impersonal concern for all.
[However, it] also limits our obligations.
[On the other hand, an ethic based on a principle] of impartial concern for all would be impossibly demanding [—] an ethic for saints. …

[Given the constraints of biology and custom] an ethic for normal human beings [would] do well to limit the demands it makes — not to the extent that it demands no more than people are inclined to do anyway, but so that the standards it sets can be recommended to people with a realistic hope that many will meet them.
An ethic of rules can do this, because rules can be formulated so that obedience is not too difficult.

[Indeed, a] social code of ethics needs moral rules for several reasons:
  • to limit our obligations,
  • to make them more personal,
  • to educate the young,
  • to reduce the need for intricate calculations of gains and losses,
  • to control the temptation to bend ethical calculations in our own favor, and
  • to build the commitment to truthfulness which is essential for communication.
Without these rules, the ethical behavior of most human beings would probably be even further from promoting the good of all, impartially considered, than it is now.
[Nevertheless, none] of this supports the view that moral rules ought to be obeyed [without exception eg lying. …]

The rules of ethics are not moral absolutes or unchallengeable intuitions.
Some of them are no more than relics from our evolutionary and cultural history and can be discarded without cost. …
[Conversely,] there are some ethical rules we cannot do without. …

Understanding how our genes influence us makes it possible for us to challenge that influence.
The basis of this challenge must be our capacity to reason. …
Human social institutions can affect the course of human evolution.

(The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress, PUP, 1981, emphasis added)

The Annual Holocaust

[In 2011] 6.9 million children died from preventable poverty-related diseases. …
[In] 1990, that figure was 12 million. …
Its dropping all the time.
[So] extreme poverty [is not] a black hole where you just pour money into it and does no good. …
We are actually making significant progress …

[Nonetheless,] 6.9 million children dying every year is 19,000 children dying every day.
Imagine [if] there were 19,000 children … at some sports ground …
You had them all there, in the stands, and they were going to die in 24 hours — unless somebody helped them. …
All of the media of the world would be focusing on this.
The donations would be pouring in.
They would certainly not die.
There would be enough people to ensure that they had what they needed.

But because the 19,000 children [are scattered] around the world [and it's] not a new story [—] its not in the media. …
And … although I hope the number will continue to decline — if its not 19,000 it will be 18 or 17,000 for 2012 and it'll be something similar, perhaps a little bit less, for next year, and so on — it will go on for years and years, with all those millions of children dying unnecessarily because we could be helping them. …

Currently there are 24 billion animals in factory farms around the world. …
Three and a half times the population of the world. …
We have made progress, not enough, we need to make faster progress, but we're headed in the right direction. …

But there is a third issue … where I don't think we really are making progress.
And its one which … has the potential to undo the good that we do in those others.
That issue … is climate change. …
Its already causing [as estimated] 600,000 extra deaths a year — not just through extreme weather events … but through things like tropical diseases spreading into areas where they previously did not exist.
Disease, like malaria and dengue, that now have a wider range because of global warming.

(Great moral issues for the 21st century, Big Ideas, ABC Radio National, 24 July 2013)

The Equal Consideration of Interests

Peter Singer: Ira W DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University

The principle of equal consideration of interests prohibits making our readiness to consider the interests of others depend on their abilities or other characteristics, apart from the characteristic of having interests. …
Enslaving those who score below a certain line on an intelligence test [or on the basis of some other morally irrelevant characteristic] would not … be compatible with equal consideration.
Intelligence [race, gender, sexual orientation etc have] nothing to do with many important interests that humans have [such as] the interest
  • in avoiding pain,
  • in satisfying basic needs for food and shelter,
  • to love and care for any children one may have,
  • to enjoy friendly and loving relations with others and
  • to be free to pursue one’s projects without unnecessary interference from others.
(p 21)

[If] it is in our power to prevent something very bad happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance, we ought to do it. …
[Because this injunction] applies only when nothing comparably significant is at stake … the principle cannot lead to the kinds of actions of which nonconsequentialists strongly disapprove — serious violations of individual rights, injustice, broken promises and so on.
(p 199)

(Practical Ethics, 3rd Ed, 2011

Social Capital — Private Profit

[For private enterprise to be able to generate and retain profits, it requires:]
  • a legal system that fosters and protects [resource] rights,
  • private ownership of land,
  • an accepted currency,
  • systems of transport,
  • the production and sale of energy,
  • the existence of an educated labour force,
  • corporate oversight,
  • the protection of patents …
  • the prevention of monopolies,
  • judicial resolution of disputes,
  • national defence and
  • the protection of trading routes.
(p 19)

Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, has estimated … that social capital is probably responsible for at least 90 per cent of income in wealthy societies.
(p 20)

A system of government is conceptually prior to property rights — and a system of government requires taxation. …
[In] a complex modern society, there is no way of sorting out what your property entitlements would be, if there were no government and no taxes.
(p 21)

Beyond Equal Opportunity

We no more deserve our natural abilities than we deserve to inherit the wealth of our parents.
Our society rewards people who are good at sport, or financial analysis, or who are beautiful and can act or sing well, but gives very little to those who have nothing to sell in the marketplace except their physical labour — and even less to those incapable of labour.
There is nothing inherently just about this arrangement.
Recognising that the rewards people get are significantly influenced by the good fortune of inherited abilities should lead us to look beyond equality of opportunity.
Even in a society in which everyone does start with an equal opportunity to prosper as far as their natural abilities allow them to do so, it may be just to relieve the distress of those who end up at the bottom.
By this measure … most developed nations, including the nations of the European Union, Canada and Australia, are closer to being just societies than is the United States.
(p 39)

Public Reason

[Proponents of public reason] and public justification see democratic politics not so much as a battle for power, settled by elections, but rather as a kind of public conversation about issues of common concern, with a decision-procedure for reaching temporary closure on these issues when the time for action has come.
[In seeking] to justify our views to others [we] acknowledge the fact of political and religious pluralism.
[By offering] reasons that can appeal to all, not only to other members of our own community of belief [we show] that we recognise that we live in a community with a diversity of political and religious views.
(p 122)

(The President of Good and Evil: The Ethics of George [W] Bush, 2004)

Doing Better Than Tit For Tat

  1. Begin by being ready to co-operate. …
  2. Do good to those who do good to you, and harm to those who harm you. …
  3. Keep it simple. …
  4. Be forgiving. …
  5. Don't be envious.
(How Are We To Live, 1993, pp 167-80)


Ethics for Normal Human Beings

George W Bush
Philosophical quibbles

Ethics and evolution

Practical ethics
How ethical is Australia?
How are we to live?

Bertrand Russell

Green Army: Persons of Interest

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543):
All the spheres revolve about the sun as their mid-point, and therefore the sun is the center of the universe. …
[And the earth] performs a complete rotation on its fixed poles in a daily motion.
(Commentariolus, 1514)

The harmony of the whole world teaches us their truth, if only — as they say — we would look at the thing with both eyes.
(On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres, 1543)

Martin Luther (1483–1546):
People give ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon.
Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best.
This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.

John Calvin (1509–1564):
Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630):
My aim is to show that the heavenly machine is not a kind of divine, live being, but a kind of clockwork … in so far as nearly all the maniforld motions are caused by a most simple, magnetic, and material force, just as all motions of the clock are caused by a simple weight.
(Letter to Hans Herwart, Quoted by Richard Gregory, The Oxford Companion to the Mind, Oxford University Press, 1987)

John Locke (1632-1704):
Good men are men still liable to mistakes, and are sometimes warmly engaged in errors, which they take for divine truths, shining in their minds with the clearest light. …
[Thus, it becomes] all men to maintain peace and the common offices of humanity and friendship in the diversity of opinions, since we cannot reasonably expect that any one should readily arid obsequiously quit his own opinion, and embrace ours with a blind resignation to an authority which the understanding of man acknowledges not. …
For where is the man that has uncontestable evidence of the truth of all that he holds, or of the falsehood of all he condemns …
(Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1690)

Bertrand Russell:
[It] is not what the man of science believes that distinguishes him, but how and why he believes it.
His beliefs are tentative, not dogmatic; they are based on evidence, not on authority or intuition.
(A History of Western Philosophy, p 514)

Science does not aim at establishing immutable truths and eternal dogmas: its aim is to approach the truth by successive approximations, without claiming that at any stage final and complete accuracy has been achieved.
(ABC of Relativity, 4th Ed, 1925, p 113)

The growth of electronic and communication engineering … is transforming the world under our very eyes in a manner more radical [than even the industrial revolution.]
(The Wisdom of the West, MacDonald, 1959, p 300)

In Praise of Aristocracy

Scott Stephens:
I do think that social hierarchies are important.
I do think that according roles of public significance the honorability, the nobility that's due [to] them;
I do think that's important.
I think that de Tocqueville was right, that democratic society ultimately cannot survive without some latent sense of an aristocracy; that there is a virtuous class of people who have been set aside to be uncommonly selfless …

Judith Brett [Emeritus Professor of Politics, Latrobe University]:
I think all that stuff about aristocracy, that [Scott] was going on about, is just rubbish …
[What] we want in a democracy, are politicians who are both representative and larger than life … whereas, the aristocracy were [removed, they] were a different class of people.
We live in democracies; there's no going back to that.
One of the skills … of, say, John Howard, was that he was both able to represent and be recognizable.
People want to be able to recognize in their politicians someone they can … understand and identify with.
Because then, they think, that politician may understand them …

( Faith in politics: Can it be restored?, The Minefield, 6 August 2015)

Bertrand Russell

Aristotle's opinions on moral questions are always such as were conventional in his day.
On some points they differ from those of our time, chiefly where some form of aristocracy comes in.
We think that human beings, at least in ethical theory, all have equal rights, and that Justice involves equality; Aristotle thinks that justice involves, not equality, but right proportion, which is only sometimes equality.

The justice of a master or a father is a different thing from that of a citizen, for a son or slave is property, and there can be no injustice to one's own property. …
A father can repudiate his son if he is wicked, but a son cannot repudiate his father, because he owes him more than he can possibly repay, especially existence.
(p 186)

In unequal relations, it is right, since everybody should be loved in proportion to his worth, that the inferior should love the superior more than the superior loves the inferior: wives, children, subjects, should have more love for husbands, parents, and monarchs than the latter have for them.
(p 187)

The Aristotelian view, that the highest virtue is for the few, is logically connected with the subordination of ethics to politics.
If the aim is the good community rather than the good individual, it is possible that the good community may be one in which there is subordination.
(p 189)

Aristotle never seems to have realized the difficulty of 'equality according to proportion'.
If this is to be true justice, the proportion must be of virtue.
Now virtue is difficult to measure, and is a matter of party controversy.
In political practice, therefore, virtue tends to be measured by income …
(p 201)

(Aristotle's Ethics, A History of Western Philosophy, 2nd Ed, 1961)

Religion and Science (1935)

Grounds Of Conflict

Insofar as religion consists in a way of feeling, rather than a set of beliefs, science cannot touch it. …
[However,] many free thinkers have shown, in their lives, that this way of feeling has no essential connection with a creed.
No real excellence can be inextricably bound up with unfounded beliefs.
And, if theological beliefs are unfounded, they cannot be necessary for the preservation of what is good in religious outlook.
To think otherwise is to be filled fears as to what we may discover; which will interfere with our attempts to understand the world.
But it is only in the measure in which we achieve such understanding, that true wisdom becomes possible.

The Copernican Revolution

Beside Jupiter's moons, [Galileo Galilea's (1564–1642)] telescope revealed other things horrifying to theologicians.
It showed that:
Venus has phases like the moon. …
The moon was found to have mountains, which, for some reason was thought shocking.
[And, more] dreadful still, the Sun had spots!
This was considered as tending to show that the Creator's work had blemishes.
Teachers in Catholic universities were therefore forbidden to mention sunspots.
And in some of them, this prohibition endured for centuries. …
At the insistence of the Pope, all books teaching that the earth moves were therefore placed upon the [Index of Forbidden Books.] …

[Following the publication of his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems in 1632, Galileo was again summoned to Rome where] he was thrown into the prisons of the Inquisition and threatened with torture if he did not recant.
Galileo accordingly, publically, and on his knees, recited a long formula drawn up by the Inquisition.
Satisfied that the interests of religion and morals had been served by causing the greatest man of the age to commit perjury.
The Inquisition allowed him to spend the rest of his days in retirement an silence.
Not in prison, it is true, but controlled in all his movements, and forbidden to see his family or friends.

Demonology and Medicine

Inoculation against smallpox aroused a storm of protest from the Church.
Many Scottish ministers joined in a manifesto saying the inoculation was:
Endeavoring to baffle a Divine Judgement.
So late as 1885, when there was a severe outbreak of smallpox in Montreal, the Catholic part of the population resisted inoculation with the support of their clergy. …

The intervention of theology in medical questions is not yet at an end.
Opinions on such subjects as birth control and the legal permission of abortion are still influenced by biblical texts and ecclesiastical decrees. …
It is difficult to resist the conclusion that, to many men, there is something enjoyable in the sufferings of women, and that therefore, there is a propensity in men to cling to any theological or ethical code that makes it a woman's duty to suffer.


I cannot admit any method of arriving at truth except than of science.
But, in the realm of emotions, I do not deny the value of the experiences that have given rise to religion.
Through association with false beliefs they have led to much evil as well as good; freed from this association, it may be hoped that the good alone will remain.

Mysticism and Logic

In religion, and in any deeply serious view of the world and of human destiny, there is an element of submission, a realization of the limits of human power, which is somewhat lacking in the modern world with its quick material successes and its insolent belief in the boundless possibilities of progress.
The submission which religion inculcates in action is essentially the same in spirit as that which science teaches in thought, and the ethical neutrality by which its victories have been achieved is the outcome of that submission.
Human beings cannot, of course, wholly transcend human nature; something subjective, if only the interest that determines the direction of our attention, must remain in all our thought. But scientific philosophy comes nearer to objective thought than any other human pursuit, and gives us therefore the closest constant and the most intimate relation with the outer world that it is possible to achieve.
Scientific philosophy represents, though only as yet in a nascent condition, a higher form of thought than any pre-scientific belief or imagination.
And, like every approach to self-transcendence it brings with it a rich reward in increase of scope and breadth and comprehension.
A truly scientific philosophy will be more humble, more arduous, offering less glitter of outward mirage to flatter fallacious hopes, but more indifferent to fate and more capable accepting the world without the tyrannous imposition of our human and temporary demands.

A History of Western Philosophy (1961)

In the welter of conflicting fanaticisms, one of the few unifying forces is scientific truthfulness, by which I mean the habit of basing our beliefs upon observations and inferences as impersonal, and as much divested of local and temperamental bias, as is possible for human beings.
(p 789)

[A] philosopher who uses his professional competence for anything except a disinterested search for truth is guilty of a kind of treachery.
And when he assumes, in advance of inquiry, that certain beliefs, whether true or false, are such as to promote good behaviour, he is so limiting the scope of philosophical speculation as to make philosophy trivial …
(p 788)

Science tells us what we can know, but what we can know is little, and if we forget how much we cannot know we become insensitive to many things of very great importance.
Theology, on the other hand, induces a dogmatic belief that we have knowledge where in fact we have ignorance, and by doing so generates a kind of impertinent insolence towards the universe.

Uncertainty, in the presence of vivid hopes and fears, is painful, but must be endured if we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales. …
To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it. …
(p 14, emphasis added)


Philosophy … is something intermediate between theology and science.
Like theology, it consists of speculations on matters as to which definite knowledge has, so far, been unascertainable; but like science, it appeals to human reason rather than to authority, whether that of tradition or that of revelation.
All definite knowledge … belongs to science …
[All] dogma as to what surpasses definite knowledge belongs to theology.
But between theology and science there is a No Man's Land, exposed to attack from both sides …
[This] No Man's Land is philosophy.
(p 13, emphasis added)

Science tells us what we can know, but what we can know is little, and if we forget how much we cannot know we become insensitive to many things of very great importance.
Theology, on the other hand, induces a dogmatic belief that we have knowledge where in fact we have ignorance, and by doing so generates a kind of impertinent insolence towards the universe.
Uncertainty, in the presence of vivid hopes and fears, is painful, but must be endured if we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales. …
To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy … can still do for those who study it. …
(p 14, emphasis added)

[Since ancient times] philosophers have been divided into those who wished to tighten social bonds and those who wished to relax them. …
  • The disciplinarians have advocated some system of dogma, either old or new, and have therefore been compelled to be, in a greater or less degree, hostile to science, since their dogmas could not be proved empirically.
    They have almost invariably taught that happiness is not the good, but that "nobility" or "heroism" is to be preferred.
    They have had a sympathy with the irrational parts of human nature, since they have felt reason to be inimical to social cohesion.
  • The libertarians, on the other hand, with the exception of the extreme anarchists, have tended to be scientific, utilitarian, rationalistic, hostile to violent passion, and enemies of all the more profound forms of religion.
(p 21, emphasis added)

It is clear that each party to this dispute … is partly right and partly wrong.
Social cohesion is a necessity, and mankind has never yet succeeded in enforcing cohesion by merely rational arguments.
Every community is exposed to two opposite dangers:
  • ossification through too much discipline and reverence for tradition, on the one hand;
  • on the other hand, dissolution, or subjection to foreign conquest, through the growth of an individualism and personal independence that makes co-operation impossible. …

The essence of liberalism is an attempt to secure a social order not based on irrational dogma, and insuring stability without involving more restraints than are necessary for the preservation of the community.
Whether this attempt can succeed only the future can determine.
p 22)


In studying a philosopher, the right attitude is neither reverence nor contempt, but first a kind of hypothetical sympathy, until it is possible to know what it feels like to believe in his theories, and only then a revival of the critical attitude, which should resemble, as far as possible, the state of mind of a person abandoning opinions which he has hitherto held.
Contempt interferes with the first part of this process, and reverence with the second.
Two things are to be remembered:
  • that a man whose opinions and theories are worth studying may be presumed to have had some intelligence, but
  • that no man is likely to have arrived at complete and final truth on any subject whatever.
When an intelligent man expresses a view which seems to us obviously absurd, we should not attempt to prove that it is somehow true, but we should try to understand how it ever came to seem true.
This exercise of historical and psychological imagination at once enlarges the scope of our thinking, and helps us to realize how foolish many of our own cherished prejudices will seem to an age which has a different temper of mind.

(p 58)


[The] enlightened are politically weaker in America than they were in Athens, because they have failed to make common cause with the plutocracy. …

Athenian democracy, though it had the grave limitation of not including slaves or women, was in some respects more democratic than any modern system.
Judges and most executive officers were chosen by lot, and served for short periods; they were thus average citizens, like our jurymen, with the prejudices and lack of professionalism characteristic of average citizens.
(p 91-2)


Plato is always concerned to advocate views that will make people what he thinks virtuous …
[He] is hardly ever intellectually honest, because he allows himself to judge doctrines by their social consequences.
Even about this, he is not honest …
[He] pretends to follow the argument and to be judging by purely theoretical standards, when in fact he is twisting the discussion so as to lead to a virtuous result.
He introduced this vice into philosophy, where it has persisted ever since.
(p 95)

Lying, Plato says explicitly, is to be a prerogative of the government, just as giving medicine is of physicians.
(p 129)

[Plato] is dishonest and sophistical in argument, and in his private thinking he uses intellect to prove conclusions that are to him agreeable, rather than in a disinterested search for knowledge. …
He was not scientific in his thinking, but was determined to prove the universe agreeable to his ethical standards.
This is treachery to truth, and the worst of philosophic sins.
(p 156)

The Italian Renaissance

Astrology was prized especially by freethinkers; it acquired a vogue which it had not had since ancient times.
The first effect of emancipation from the Church was not to make men think rationally, but to open their minds to every sort of antique nonsense.
(p 489)

The Reformation and Counter-Reformation

[Protestant] theology was such as to diminish the power of the Church.
[Luther and Calvin] abolished purgatory, from which the souls of the dead could be delivered by masses.
They rejected the doctrine of Indulgences, upon which a large part of the papal revenue depended.
By the doctrine of predestination, the fate of the soul after death was made wholly independent of the actions of priests.
These innovations, while they helped in the struggle with the Pope, prevented the Protestant Churches from becoming as powerful in Protestant countries as the Catholic Church was in Catholic countries.
Protestant divines were (at least at first) just as bigoted as Catholic theologians, but they had less power, and were therefore less able to do harm. …

Gradually weariness resulting from the wars of religion led to the growth of belief in religious toleration, which was one of the sources of the movement which developed into eighteenth- and nineteenth-century liberalism.
(p 510)

The Thirty Years' War persuaded everybody that neither Protestants nor Catholics could be completely victorious; it became necessary to abandon the medieval hope of doctrinal unity, and this increased men's freedom to think for themselves, even about fundamentals.
The diversity of creeds in different countries made it possible to escape persecution by living abroad.
Disgust with theological warfare turned the attention of able men increasingly to secular learning, especially mathematics and science.
(p 511)

The Rise of Science

[It] is not what the man of science believes that distinguishes him, but how and why he believes it.
His beliefs are tentative, not dogmatic; they are based on evidence, not on authority or intuition.
(p 514)

Protestant clergy were at least as bigoted as Catholic ecclesiastics; nevertheless there soon came to be much more liberty of speculation in Protestant than in Catholic countries, because in Protestant countries the clergy had less power.
The important aspect of Protestantism was schism, not heresy, for schism led to national Churches, and national Churches were not strong enough to control the lay government.
This was wholly a gain, for the Churches, everywhere, opposed as long as they could, practically every innovation that made for an increase of happiness or knowledge here on earth.
(p 515)

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

One of the most famous parts of Bacon's philosophy is his enumeration of what he calls 'idols', by which he means bad habits of mind that cause people to fall into error.
Of these he enumerates four kinds:
  • 'Idols of the tribe' are those that are inherent in human nature; he mentions in particular the habit of expecting more order in natural phenomena than is actually to be found.
  • 'Idols of the cave' are personal prejudices, characteristic of the particular investigator.
  • 'Idols of the market-place' are those that have to do with the tyranny of words.
  • 'Idols of the theatre' are those that have to do with received systems of thought; of these, naturally, Aristotle and the scholastics afforded him the most noteworthy instances.
(p 528)

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900)

[In] Thus Spake Zarathustra, [Nietzsche] says that women are not, as yet, capable of friendship; they are still cats, or birds, or at best cows.
Man shall be trained for war and woman for the recreation of the warrior.
All else is folly.
The recreation of the warrior is to be of a peculiar sort if one may trust his most emphatic aphorism on this subject:
Thou goest to woman?
Do not forget thy whip.

He is not always quite so fierce, though always equally contemptuous.
In the Will to Power he says:
We take pleasure in woman as in a perhaps daintier, more delicate, and more ethereal kind of creature.
What a treat it is to meet creatures who have only dancing and nonsense and finery in their minds!
They have always been the delight of every tense and profound male soul.
However, even these graces are only to be found in women so long as they are kept in order by manly men; as soon as they achieve any independence they become intolerable.
Woman has so much cause for shame; in woman there is so much pedantry, superficiality, schoolmasterliness, petty presumption, unbridledness, and indiscretion concealed … which has really been best restrained and dominated hitherto by the fear of man.
So he says in Beyond Good and Evil, where he adds that we should think of women as property, as Orientals do.
(pp 731-2)

I dislike Nietzsche
  • because he likes the contemplation of pain,
  • because he erects conceit into a duty, [and]
  • because the men whom he most admires are conquerors, whose glory is cleverness in causing men to die.
But I think the ultimate argument against his philosophy, as against any unpleasant but internally self-consistent ethic, lies not
  • in an appeal to facts, but
  • in an appeal to the emotions.
Nietzsche despises universal love; I feel it the motive power to all that I desire as regards the world.
His followers have had their innings, but we may hope that it is coming rapidly to an end.
(p 739)

The Utilitarians

Ethics is necessary because men’s desires conflict.
The primary cause of conflict is egoism: most people are more interested in their own welfare than in that of other people.
But conflicts are equally possible where there is no element of egoism.
One man may wish everybody to be Catholic, another may wish everybody to be Calvinist.
Such non-egoistic desires are frequently involved in social conflicts.
Ethics has a twofold purpose:
  • first, to find a criterion by which to distinguish good and bad desires;
  • second, by means of praise and blame, to promote good desires and discourage such as are bad.
(p 745)

John Locke (1632-1704)

From the time of Locke down to the present day, there have been in Europe two main types of philosophy, and
  • one of these owes both its doctrines and its method to Locke, while
  • the other was derived first from Descartes and then from Kant. …
The heirs of Locke are,
  • first, Berkeley and Hume;
  • second, those of the French philosophes who did not belong to the school of Rousseau;
  • third, Bentham and the philosophical Radicals;
  • fourth, with important accretions from Continental philosophy, Marx and his disciples. …

Since Rousseau and Kant, there have been two schools of Liberalism, which may be distinguished as the hard-headed and the soft-hearted.
  • The hard-headed developed, through Bentham, Ricardo, and Marx, by logical stages into Stalin;
  • the soft-hearted, by other logical stages, through Fichte, Byron, Carlyle, and Nietzsche, into Hitler.
That statement, of course, is too schematic to be quite true, but it may serve as a map and a mnemonic.
(p 618)

[Locke] was impressed, as all the men of his time were, by the gains to civilization that were due to rich men, chiefly as patrons of art and letters.
The same attitude exists in modem America, where science and art are largely dependent upon the benefactions of the very rich.
To [this] extent, civilization is furthered by social injustice.
This fact is the basis of what is most respectable in conservatism.
(p 613)

In a dispute between legislative and executive, he says there is, in certain cases, no judge under Heaven.
Since Heaven does not make explicit pronouncements, this means, in effect, that a decision can only be reached by fighting, since it is assumed that Heaven will give the victory to the better cause.
Some such view is essential to any doctrine that divides governmental power.
Where such a doctrine is embodied in the Constitution, the only way to avoid occasional civil war is to practise compromise and common sense.
[However,] compromise and common sense are habits of mind, and cannot be embodied in a written constitution.
(p 615)

When … Leibniz wants to establish his monadology, he argues, roughly, as follows:
  • Whatever is complex must be composed of simple parts;
  • what is simple cannot be extended;
  • therefore everything is composed of parts having no extension.
  • But what is not extended is not matter.
  • Therefore the ultimate constituents of things are not material, and, if not material, then mental.
  • Consequently a table is really a colony of souls.

The difference of method, here, may be characterized as follows:
  • In Locke or Hume, a comparatively modest conclusion is drawn from a broad survey of many facts, whereas
  • in Leibniz a vast edifice of deduction is pyramided upon a pin-point of logical principle.
In Leibniz, if the principle is completely true and the deductions are entirely valid, all is well; but the structure is unstable, and the slightest flaw anywhere brings it down in ruins.
In Locke or Hume, on the contrary, the base of the pyramid is on the solid ground of observed fact, and the pyramid tapers upward, not downward; consequently the equilibrium is stable, and a flaw here or there can be rectified without total disaster.
(p 619)

Kant's ethic is important, because it is anti-utilitarian, a priori, and what is called 'noble'. …
Kant himself was a man whose outlook on practical affairs was kindly and humanitarian, but the same cannot be said of most of those who rejected happiness as the good.
The sort of ethic that is called 'noble' is less associated with attempts to improve the world than is the more mundane view that we should seek to make men happier.
This is not surprising.
Contempt for happiness is easier when the happiness is other people's than when it is our own.
Usually the substitute for happiness is some form of heroism.
This affords
  • unconscious outlets for the impulse to power, and
  • abundant excuses for cruelty.
Or, again, what is valued may be strong emotion; this was the case with the romantics.
This led to a toleration of such passions as hatred and revenge; Byron's heroes are typical, and are never persons of exemplary behaviour.
The men who did most to promote human happiness were — as might have been expected — those who thought happiness important, not those we who despised it in comparison with something more 'sublime'.

The great political defect of Locke and his disciples … was their worship of property. …
Most of the opponents of Locke's school had an admiration for war, as being heroic and involving a contempt for comfort and ease.
Those who adopted a utilitarian ethic, on the contrary, tended to regard most wars as folly.
This, again, at least in the nineteenth century, brought them into alliance with the capitalists, who disliked wars because they interfered with trade.
(p 620)

Philosophical Liberalism

Early liberalism was individualistic in intellectual matters, and also in economics, but was not emotionally or ethically self-assertive.
This form of liberalism dominated
  • the English eighteenth century,
  • the founders of the American Constitution, and
  • the French encyclopaedists. …

A new movement, which has gradually developed into the antithesis of liberalism, begins with Rousseau, and acquires strength from
  • the romantic movement and
  • the principle of nationality.
In this movement, individualism is extended from the intellectual sphere to that of the passions, and the anarchic aspects of individualism are made explicit.
The cult of the hero, as developed by Carlyle and Nietzsche, is typical of this philosophy. …
There was vehement assertion
  • of the right of rebellion in the name of nationalism, and
  • of the splendour of war in defence of 'liberty'.
Byron was the poet of this movement; Fichte, Carlyle, and Nietzsche were its philosophers.

But since we
  • cannot all have the career of heroic leaders, and
  • cannot all make our individual will prevail,
this philosophy, like all other forms of anarchism, inevitably leads, when adopted, to the despotic government of the most successful 'hero'.
And when his tyranny is established, he will suppress in others the self-assertive ethic by which he has risen to power.
This whole theory of life, therefore, is self-refuting, in the sense that its adoption in practice leads to the realization of something utterly different: a dictatorial State in which the individual is severely repressed.
(p 580)

[The enclosure movement] began under Henry VIII and continued under Cromwell, but did not become strong until about 1750.
From that time onward, for about ninety years, one common after another was enclosed and handed over to the local landowners.
Each enclosure required an Act of Parliament, and the aristocrats who controlled both Houses of Parliament ruthlessly used their legislative power to enrich themselves, while thrusting agricultural labourers down to the verge of starvation.
Gradually, owing to the growth of industry, the position of agricultural labourers improved, since otherwise they could not be prevented from migrating to the towns.
(p 611)



A History of Western Philosophy
Ideology and Fanaticism