One of the problems with this global warming nonsense we’re having to endure is that it’s making parody redundant. Its acolytes are so hysterical and yet so pompous in their pronouncements, that they are leaving no room for satire. They have already deconstructed and humiliated themselves before anyone else gets a chance to do so. No fair!
Case in point: well known Green campaigner Robert Jensen is arguing on Counterpunch that we adopt an “ignorance-based worldview” which would adopt an actively suspicious mood towards new technologies and developments because of the potential for damage.
Jensen is a Professor of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. He is well-known in Green circles for his activism on AGW and other ‘progressive’ agendas. He is perhaps more widely known for his article just after 9/11 in which he claimed the attacks were “no more despicable than the massive acts of terrorism — the deliberate killing of civilians for political purposes — that the U.S. government has committed during my lifetime”.
In his essay the Professor, a radical Christian, grasps the handle of the burning sword, and seeks to save us from the path of attempting to usurp the knowledge of the gods. It’s not easy to briefly delineate his position, because it’s inherently didactic and revelatory, and therefore deeply illogical, but take the following extract:
Our experience with unintended consequences is fairly extensive. For example, there’s the case of automobiles and the burning of petroleum in internal-combustion engines, which give us the ability to travel considerable distances with a fair amount of individual autonomy. This technology also has given us traffic jams and road rage, strip malls and smog, while contributing to climate destabilization that threatens the ability of the ecosphere to sustain human life as we know it. We haven’t quite figured out how to cope with these problems, and in retrospect it might have been wise to go slower in the development of a system geared toward private, individual transportation based on the car, with more attention to potential consequences.
Counterpunch. Technological Determinism.
Jensen makes the decidedly curious statement that:
An anti-fundamentalist position is not that all technology is bad, but that the introduction of new technology should be evaluated carefully on the basis of its effects—predictable and unpredictable
Do you see the problem here? How the hell can we evaluate the “unpredictable” effects of a new technology? If they’re unpredictable, then they’re not capable of being evaluated, are they? It’s analogous to demanding that parents evaluate the decision to have a baby based on the possibilities of what he or she might do when they grow up.
The Professor’s example of the car is also instructive for what it reveals about the schemata of how he see technology. Looking back at the history of the automobile, he says that although it gave people mobility it also gave us “traffic jams and road rage, strip malls and smog”. Yes, and ambulances and fire engines, and the ability to transport food so that localized disasters don’t spell death and famine as they used to, and still do in those parts of the world where infrastructure has not yet been fully developed.
You can see the sheer illogicality of this position by using logic in its barest sense and applying reductio ad absurdam – reduction to the absurd. Imagine if the argument had been made and won thousands of years ago when fire was invented. Aren’t there possible dangers to the use of fire? Can’t people get burned and nature damaged by it? Shouldn’t we stop and consider the possible consequences of this new “fire” technology?
Jensen says that technology is the most dangerous form of fundamentalism, far more dangerous than religious fundamentalism:
Religious, national, and market fundamentalisms are frightening, but they may turn out to be less dangerous than our society’s technological fundamentalism . . .
The technological fundamentalism that animates these delusional plans makes it clear why Wes Jackson’s call for an ignorance-based worldview is so important. If we were to step back and confront honestly the technologies we have unleashed—out of that hubris, believing our knowledge is adequate to control the consequences of our science and technology—I doubt any of us would ever get a good night’s sleep. We humans have been overdriving our intellectual headlights for thousands of years, most dramatically in the twentieth century when we ventured with reckless abandon into two places where we had no business going—the atom and the cell.
As a Christian, the Professor should be ashamed of his comments: rather than casting stones at the evils of technology, he should be demanding more of it, for more people. It’s easy to bemoan the side-effects of technology when you have access to dentistry, anesthetic, clean water, fresh food and all the other things it provides. It’s another matter entirely when you’re sick and the nearest hospital is four days walk away through the bush, scenic as it might be.
No doubt the Professor sees it differently. He would, I am sure, protest that the effects of technology lead to famine, drought, and all the bad things that never existed before people had cars. I would say, he is free to renounce new technologies if he wants, but kindly leave the rest of us who disagree with him free to accept them as we choose.