Thursday, August 18, 2005

Hot enough for ya?

I'm no expert on climate change, so I'm not going to argue to what extent humans may be responsible for global warming. What intrigues me is the way that this issue, and other environmental issues, have become a political football. In particular, many on the right are convinced that environmentalism is an evil left-wing conspiracy to deprive them of their lives, liberties, and property, and, as this post at Dawg's Blawg details, these free-market anti-environmentalists are happy to play fast and loose with the truth to make their claim.

There's something more at work here than lunacy and bile. These people typically adhere to an ideology that may be described as technological triumphalism. And although most advocates of this view today are right-wingers, some have arrived from the left. Technological triumphalism claims that because human beings possess unique abilities to transform nature to their purposes, they have a moral right, and even a duty, to subjugate and exploit the non-human world. The ability and freedom to conquer nature is the glory and defining capacity of humans; those who refuse to acknowledge this are politically backward and morally perverse.

The ideology of technological triumphalism can be seen in the UK's Institute of Ideas and in its on-line magazine Spiked. The titles of some of Spiked's science articles will give you the flavour of its thinking: "Nuclear lethargy: Why is the government dragging its heels on building new nuclear power stations?", "Global warming...: The G8 declaration blows apart Green delusions", "Africans need DDT, not 'blah, blah, blah'", "Taking the spark out of science: Health and safety fears are squeezing practical experiments out of the classroom", "Vivisection...: Scientists who support a new centre for researching alternatives to animal experimentation have their priorities all wrong". Interestingly enough, Spiked is the reborn, free-enterprise version of a magazine called Living Marxism, and the culmination (to date) of a long, strange trip from the loony left to the rabid right.

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