Emotional knowledge

Chris Hedges

   Chris Hedges

The other day I was listening to an interview on C-Span of one Chris Hedges, an American journalist and author specialising in American politics and society. It was a very interesting interview about the signs of collapse of the American Empire. Hedges is remarkable for his ability to easily quote and cite many sources as he outlines his reasons for predicting the fall of the Empire. He is eloquent, well-versed in historical examples and, in a quiet and calm way, very provocative.

He talks about the mainstream media’s lack of investigation into contentious government policies and social issues.

He is also deeply concerned about the environment and the demise of the planet through overpopulation, pollution and catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW). “The science is in” regarding CAGW, he states, going on to describe the heroic advocacy of Jim Hansen, former head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA.


The question I found myself asking was how can such an intelligent fellow be caught up in such a blinkered approach to climate science? There are clues in Hedges’ own writings. He writes a weekly column at www.truthdig.com and one of these, “The Myth of Human Progress”, is summarised on the index page thus:

The mounting distortions of climate change and the rapid depletion of natural resources have done little to blunt the self-destructive notion of ceaseless expansion. The road we are on points toward human extinction.

The basic tenet of the column is that the ‘power elite’ have spent 500 years conquering and raping natural resources and will not stop any time soon, therefore climate change will kill us all.

The first part of that equation is intellectual knowledge (of history), whereas the conclusion is emotional knowledge (of science). The conclusion is perhaps wishful thinking. Certainly it is confirmation bias because it fits with the theory Hedges expounds that mankind is bad and going to hell. I don’t write the man off, though – he has clear and interesting observations of politics and society through history and extrapolates these to project various calamities such as the imminent collapse of American society, politics and finances.

I would venture that he has adopted his CAGW position for various reasons:
it fits with his world view that mankind is polluting the planet
he accepts the authority on the subject (e.g. Hansen)
he believes the headlines of doom
he hasn’t investigated the data himself
he has strong confirmation bias in what he reads and hears
he does not stop to consider that AGW might not be as catastrophic as he imagines
he adopts certitude and slams the door on any debate — “the science is in”

That is why I say it is based on emotional knowledge. Essentially it is his belief. But his intellectual knowledge on the subject is apparently lacking.

Put facts before fame

The predictions of doom from the CAGW camp are failing to eventuate. Arctic ice comes and goes. Antarctic ice waxes and wanes. Sea levels and ocean temperatures have been static for ten years. Land surface temperatures have been static for 17 years. The tropospheric hot spot upon which climate modelling relies has failed to materialise. The ACE index (accumulated cyclone energy) has been very low in recent years. The recent US drought cannot be attributed to global warming as there has been none. It was neither unprecedented nor the worst ever. Mass migrations due to climate change are not happening as predicted. Pacific atolls stubbornly refuse to be overwhelmed.

So, one should not be overawed by men of such intellectual prowess, wit and memory when they dogmatically insist on their irrevocable emotional knowledge. It is simply a lack of scepticism or questioning because “the vibe of the thing” sits well with them and their world view.

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16 Thoughts on “Emotional knowledge

  1. Andy on 20/05/2013 at 12:34 pm said:

    These self-loathing nihlists seem to pervade our society these days. They form a completely irrational death cult.

  2. Andy on 20/05/2013 at 12:44 pm said:

    Looking at Chris Hedges Wiki page I see he ticks all the right boxes:
    Self-described socialist, anti-Israel, Master Degree in Divinity, supporter of the Green party etc

    No wonder he has such a low opinion of humanity

    • Richard C (NZ) on 20/05/2013 at 12:50 pm said:

      >”Master Degree in Divinity” – I suspect aligned with Episcopal “green”:-

      ‘Episcopal “green” bishop Cederholm conducts service to bless solar panels’

      Cederholm, who has campaigned together with the likes of Bill McKibben, will bless the taxpayer subsidized solar panels installed on a church Dover, MA — ‘Using solar energy decreases our use of fossil fuels, and thus our contribution to global warming,’ said McKone-Sweet. ‘It is a way to live our faith by caring for those who will be affected by the extreme weather global warming causes.’


    • Andy on 20/05/2013 at 12:52 pm said:

      Gareth “The Boy” Hughes of Hey Clint Green party NZ fame has a degree in religious studies too. I think he did a module studying UFO cults.

    • Magoo on 20/05/2013 at 1:30 pm said:

      Richard C – Well obviously it’s not supposed to be taken literally, it refers to any manufacturers of alternative energy.


  3. Magoo on 20/05/2013 at 1:27 pm said:

    Haha! I’ve been waiting a long time for someone to raise ‘the vibe of the thing’ video. It suits the warmists down to the ground – it’s warming, man’s polluting, and the 2 points are linked through the ‘vibe of the thing’.

  4. Robin Pittwood on 20/05/2013 at 1:56 pm said:

    Great article Mike Jowsey.
    There is much that could be said about the sad thinking of Malthus, and later Erlich and Holdren etc. They do not seem to be able to comprehend that there are other humans who are smarter than them, with the ability to use science and invention to provide needs. And so they pontificate the sad future they see.

    I saw an item over at Climate Etc that might interest readers: http://judithcurry.com/2013/05/19/on-academics-abstraction-and-model-addiction/

    • Mike Jowsey on 20/05/2013 at 5:40 pm said:

      Thanks Robin – that essay you link to is an interesting read.

      Judith comments on the essay:

      Imposing homogeneity of thought is also the enemy of science, and the IPCC driven consensus seeking process is arguably slowing down progress on climate science. The climate blogosphere has made significant headway in breaking the monopoly on climate science and its messy implications.

  5. Richard C (NZ) on 20/05/2013 at 3:09 pm said:

    >”The question I found myself asking was how can such an intelligent fellow be caught up in such a blinkered approach to climate science?”

    Something I ponder from time to time but from a different angle Mike.

    I find myself having to consciously distinguish continually between what is actually very intelligent, highly technical, rationally sensible, educational, on the whole very good scientific assessment, research or presentation etc, and the spin emanating from the same fellow both often occurring in the very same essay or research paper.

    In other words I have to be very careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, if you will pardon the expression. I include the likes of Trenberth and Rahmstorf here BTW, these guys can be very competent in mathematical physics and planetary processes but at the same time get very silly in some aspects.

    My latest shock has been Steven Sherwood. I’ve emailed Joanne Nova to check whether my eyes are deceiving me because she is very familiar with what Sherwood’s climate viewpoint is in OZ and what the MSM has reported of him in the past:-

    Hi Joanne,

    I never, in my wildest dreams that sensibility would prevail
    eventually, thought I’d see this from Steven Sherwood, and NEVER in
    the MSM.

    University of NSW scientist Steven Sherwood – a lead author on the
    next IPCC report – said the Nature Geoscience study [Otto et al] had
    found oceans were capturing heat more rapidly than expected over the
    past decade.

    [that’s highly contentious (but beside the point of this
    communication) and the latest data doesn’t support it – Balmaseda et
    at was out of date ending their study at 2009 and not doing a
    basin-by-basin analysis for example – upper Pacific and Atlantic
    actually cooling in the ARGO era
    data source http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/basin_data.html
    It was just the Indian Ocean skewing the global aggregate, but the
    upper Indian hasn’t warmed since 4Q2010]

    ”By assuming that this behaviour will continue, they [Otto et al]
    calculate that the climate will warm about 20 per cent more slowly
    than previously expected, although over the long term it may be just
    as bad, since eventually the ocean will stop taking up heat,”
    Professor Sherwood said.

    But other research had pointed out the recent ocean heat storage may
    be part of a natural cycle that will eventually reverse, he said.

    ”So while their conclusions are interesting, they need to be taken
    with a large grain of salt until we see what happens to the oceans
    over the coming years,” he said.

    Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/environment/climate-change/warming-to-take-longer-in-reaching-forecast-levels-20130519-2jukg.html#ixzz2TmcrXyh3

    The Otto et al assumption that the atmosphere will in the far-future
    contain the heat at present going into the ocean after the ocean “will
    stop taking up heat” (as they assume – impossible anyway on
    respective specific heat capacity) and the assumption OHC will rise in
    the near-future without additional energy input when input is
    currently past solar peak is simply bizarre.

    But the jaw-dropping aspect to me, and the point of this email, is
    that Steven Sherwood is, on the face of it, talking sense –
    completely out of personal character – and warmist character n

    Is that how you see this Jo (or do I miss-characterize Sherwood)? And
    is Sherwood’s apparent new-found sense as I see it – in the MSM no
    less – as surprising to you as it is to me?

    Cheers Jo

    Richard Cumming (NZ)

    Jo replies:-

    Thanks, I too am trying to get those details now….


    I think James Lovelock’s theory that the earth is a living, interrelated organism (Gaia Hypothesis) and his subsequent rejection of the global warming scare (at least I think he did something like that) is a good example, along with Sherwood, of intelligent people surprising us after we’ve been conditioned to expect something totally different from them in keeping with Chris Hedges type.

    I also note that Charles Darwin wrote ‘On the Origin of Species’ when 50 years old but on his death bed at 73 he expressed concern over the fate of his youthful [pre 50 years old] speculations i.e. he wasn’t as convinced himself as others were of his own work.

    Who knows? Chris Hedges may be the next to surprise us.

    • Mike Jowsey on 20/05/2013 at 5:45 pm said:

      “Something I ponder from time to time but from a different angle Mike.”
      May I suggest your angle is very similar, especially when you couch it in terms of intellectual knowledge versus emotional knowledge. The intellectual stuff is the baby, the emotional stuff is just dirty bathwater.

  6. Alexander K on 21/05/2013 at 11:18 am said:

    Chris Hedges is a Malthusian and like all Malthusians is hell bent on ‘proving’ the world is doomed due to the irrational belief in the idea that Man is vile, uses up everything he can get his grubby hands on and we are going to run out of everything very quickly.
    Malthus has been completely and thoroughly debunked.
    Let’s not waste our time and neurons going there again!

  7. Alexander K on 21/05/2013 at 5:12 pm said:

    Andy, don’t get me started on the manner in which Green Marxism has infiltrated State education.
    I stuck to teaching Art and Design, Art History, plus Technology (Hard Materials) where I could teach real-world ideas and give teenagers some Really Useful skills.
    Well, I will bite, but only a little – in the words of the inimitable Willis Eschenbach, Sustainability is an impossibility.

    • Andy on 21/05/2013 at 5:21 pm said:

      Alexander, I am sure you were a top class teacher. I just hope there are more like you who can set kids up for life instead of pumping them full of drivel like that shown in this NCEA paper

      Mind you, I have some hope that kids aren’t that dumb and can see through the BS

    • Alexander K on 22/05/2013 at 9:44 am said:

      Andy, most kids, no matter how much adults attempt to mislead them, have a pretty good bullshit detector, but there are limits: I noticed many years ago, when I took a senior position in a Catholic school, that these kids as a group tended to NOT ask questions of anyone in authority and I had to work quite hard to elicit questioning from them.
      One of the most remarkable teachers I came across over the years was a Catholic priest who taught in Catholic boys schools and based his behavioural rewards on teaching the boys to carve canoes from donated Pine logs and on encouraging them on the Rugby field. The sheer hard work those kids put in to their projects and on the paddock kept them away from getting involved in antisocial stuff and turned some kids who could have gone either way into very good citizens.
      Another remarkable bloke I worked with North of Auckland was a wise-cracking Cockney who used his trade qualifications in the aircraft industry to teach metalwork to very difficult kids who often returned absolutely stunning work which also gave them a real sense of their own worth.
      No doubt the teachers out there who have socialist agendas will be seen for what they are by their students and the nonsense promulgated will be given the weight it deserves.

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