Paul Rubin has written an article in WSJ regarding Environmentalism as a type of religion which I find quite interesting. The factors he lists as similarities are pretty dead on:
• There is a holy day—Earth Day.
• There are food taboos.
• There is no prayer, but there are self-sacrificing rituals that are not particularly useful.
• Belief systems are embraced with no logical basis.
• There are sacred structures.
• Skeptics are not merely people unconvinced by the evidence: They are treated as evil sinners.
One could also add:
• Prophet - Al Gore.
• Scripture - The IPCC reports.
However, environmentalism is far from being alone in the specter of issues and causes that people become fundamental about, and many political opinions tend to get stuck because people refuse to change their them - even when faced with overwhelming contradictory evidence. This is not confined to the "right", and possibly afflicts more people on the "left". Scientists routinely refutes diverging opinions with ad hominem argumentation, freezing out those who disagree, withholding resources etc. Economists (sorta one myself) believe their social science is a hard science with evidence based facts proved by complex mathematics. Attempting to critcize a parenting is something I can absolutely forget about since I don't have children myself. Even our hero Einstein refused to accept quantum theory.
What are your opinions on this subject? Can these opinions-turned-fundamentalism be compared to religion?
I have been an environmentalist since college, for nearly 30 years and have never practised any of the items in your list. In fact Environmentalists in the Western Civilisation are generally highly educated, non-religious, and focused on scientific knowledge. Environmentalism is the only 'ism' in the public sphere which places scientific knowledge before dogma. Yes there are adherents to environmentalism who are woowoo, just as there are recent converts to godlessness who are woowoo, as in rejecting god while simultaneously retaining god's mantras.
Environmentalism is neither right-wing nor left-wing nor centrist. It is in its own unique fiscal sphere where the balance of the environment is valued equally to human centred valuations. Like in atheism, there is 'deep ' ecology and 'shallow' or 'pale green' ecology. Shallow ecologists are those least interested in disturbing our social status quo, whereas deep ecologists are willing to push around the powers that be in order to get a point through. The latter are best exemplified by Dave Foreman and Paul Watson whereas the pale greens are best exemplified by "Save the ecosystems, but only if they are of value to us, humanity. Someday we might want or need them" which is the more common form of environmentalism in the world today. In environmentalism, humanity is regarded as nothing but an element of an interdependent natural world highlighting a biocentric view of the world instead of an anthropocentric view.
I find one of the most important concepts that most people get wrong about environmentalists is that they are a special interest group. It's actually the opposite, they are a general interest group. Invidivuals do not benefit financially from the environmental movement, professional environmental activist earn very low to low salaries. Profits generated by 'populist' campaigns are used to fund more basic 'campaigns'. Generally, the level of corruption in environmental organisations is very low because individuals do not stand to gain financially, which makes environmentalism a pretty decent bastion of integrity and truthfulness in a world awash with false pretences and egomaniacs.
Earth Day causes me the same laughter as Darwin Day. I've known and understood evolution all my life, been atheist since birth, so I don't need to venerate the guy who first wrote about it, as the concept has so grown since then, and has come to encompass all of biology's understandings. The same goes with Earth Day, it's a ridiculous attempt at popular appeal which accomplishes very little in the end.
There may be people having dogmatic beliefs regarding environmentalism, but many issues are true. So, those who are merely saying that the current climate change (warming) is largely affected by humans, they are not religious because they affirm this. This is the scientific consensus as you can easily find out. This is the consensus suggesting anthropogenic global warming. You can easily see there official statements of National Academies of Science from all over the Globe, and other relevant academies and institutes. Pretty impressive list, I'd say, considering these are the experts. Now, this is the body of scientists opposing this conclusion. It's a significant difference, don't you think? You should also check out the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And this is not a scripture because it represents what most experts concluded after analyzing the data.
Also, please note that I'm not offering Wikipedia articles as proof of anything, but merely starting points to do your own research. If you think any of these articles have profound flaws, please offer something similar in return that could lead me to evidence of some sort.
Another interesting article on the scientific consensus is this one.
Finally, if you believe that the scientific consensus is not relevant, or not sufficient for you to accept the claims, please argue your position here, a topic dedicated to the importance of the scientific consensus.
I don't think environmentalism is a religion, but I do think it is often shallow and hypocritical. That does not, however discard the whole concept.
The term 'scientific consensus' reminded me of a phrase someone sad that 'science is not done by consensus', it is supposed to be based on solid evidence. But I'm not going to argue about anthropogenic global worming, I haven't done a substantial research on that topic and I confess to being overly skeptical to any 'consensuses' in today's science. With a huge corporate impact on all spheres of our lives: from media, to medicine and climate research I think my scepticism is largely justified.
My main problem with environmentalism is it's perceived obsession solely with greenhouse gases and relative indifference to other problems. I mean, hello??, anyone noticed how polluted the air we breathe is, that the clean water already (!) became a commodity, which is unthinkable as it is vital for humans survival and supposedly should be easily accessed by everyone. The cancer rates are spiking which is most likely to be at least partially a consequence of how grave the level of pollution already is. And not the carbon pollution which everyone is so crazy about. I'm all for saving polar bears but isn't it a problem out children are suffering from cancer? What about those factories that don't emit the warming gases, but pollute our air and soil with cancer-causing agents?
So all these calls for 'saving the Earth', saving the planet sound a little hypocritical to me. Saving FOR WHOM? The sick generation that will spend most of their lives in clinics? Oh... I know - for polar bears.
I know that, one can find a small group deeply concerned with a particular issue, somewhere... But only the CO2 pollution seems to be making it to the news and gathering the international congresses. Why is that?
One would think it's because climate changes will be irreversible at some point. But will we be able to reverse all other kinds of pollution? Water, soil, etc.? And how many years or decades would that take? And how many will survive those years?
I'm just saying these questions should be of equal importance, then perhaps the whole carbon trading and carbon taxing will not seem as a scam.
'Science is not done by consensus' - Love it!
Aren't scientific pardigm shifts often introduced by people considered renegades in their fields?
See below (the reply to Irina)!
You can't determine if there will be a paradigm shift if you're not a scientist, and most theories that are rejected by most people are wrong. Therefore, any hypothesis for which there is no consensus is probably wrong, if other data is not available. For further discussions on this exact issue, please go on the other thread.
Oh not the "science is not done by consensus" non-sense again. I wrote about this numerous times and what I always said is that science is not done by consensus for scientists, but the consensus is statistically demonstrable the best way of determining the probably right theory if we don't have the data and the capabilities to interpret it ourselves. That's really important and you could argue it on the discussion I linked in the previous answer. So please, if you don't agree that there is a consensus, but merely about its importance, them go on the other thread so we can discuss this issue.
And do you genuinely believe that a conspiracy of this magnitude could happen? I mean, when there is a consensus in science, there are academies, institutes and scientists all over the world who have to be claiming something. What political interest could determine all of the most respectable academies of science to issue phony statements?
Apologies if I ruffled your feathers. I liked the statement because science shold be driven forth by the best available evidence/theory, even if it goes against the established consensus. I read an article the other day where the LHC researcher Nicholas Hadley said about the Higgs Boson "If we don't see it (within a couple years), we will be very excited, because it means that there's something very brand-new." If I am not mistaken, there's a pretty good consensus surrounding the existence of the Higgs Boson, but there is a chance the consensus is erroneous.
As for the environment, quite a few scientist supported the conjecture of global cooling not more than 35 years ago, and I remember from when I was quite young the apocalyptical headlines of how there wouldn't be an ozone layer when I grew up. The consensus today is that we are experiencing man made global warming, and I do not disagree. I will not devote my life to this consensus though, because there is a chance it may not be correct.
I am just fearful that if a better theory emerges that it won't be discounted due to the too many people being too entrenched.