Environmental Sophistry

Sophistry: n. A deliberately invalid argument displaying ingenuity in reasoning in the hope of deceiving someone.

When comparing economic activity and the state of the environment among countries, we see that a robust economy pays for a cleaner environment, but environmentalists relentlessly attack commerce and the profit motive as the root source of most environmental problems. In our current quest for clean and secure energy supplies, for instance, we see that there are some environmental groups  who are against just about every means of commercial energy production including nuclear generation,  hydroelectric generation, coal-fire plants, geothermal plants, wind farms, solar installations, and drilling to increase domestic petroleum supplies.

Some environmentalists are very good at lying and their sophistry is compelling to the ill-informed. I classify environmentalists into four groups: the elitists, the true believers, the warm & fuzzy crowd and the pragmatists.

 The pragmatists

 In my bias, I classify all natural resource producers, including ranchers and farmers,  as pragmatists; they are seekers of what works. Pragmatists are the true environmentalists dedicated to good stewardship and conservation, because it is in their own best economic interest to do so. Of late, however, the pragmatists have been eclipsed by the “better vision” of pseudo-environmentalists, especially the climate alarmists.

The elitists

Elitists, or as Thomas Sowell calls them, the “anointed,” think they know better (see Sowell’s book, “The Vision of the Anointed“). “The refrain of the anointed is we already know the answers, there’s no need for more studies …. Problems exist only because other people are not as wise or as caring, or not as imaginative and bold, as the anointed.” writes Sowell. “Evidence is seldom asked or given — and evidence to the contrary is often either ignored or answered only by a sneer.”  For the “anointed”, who are often charismatic, articulate and well-educated (some educated beyond their intelligence), the end justifies the means. And, unfortunately, both the end and the means are often based on a socialistic philosophy antagonistic to individual freedom and private property. Sowell lists four principal characteristics of the “anointed” which are true regardless of the issue:

 1) Assertions of a great danger to the whole society, a danger to which the masses of people are oblivious.

2) An urgent need for action to avert impending catastrophe.

3) A need for government to drastically curtail the dangerous behavior of the many, in response to the prescient conclusions of the few.

4) A disdainful dismissal of arguments to the contrary as either uninformed, irresponsible, or motivated by unworthy purposes.

While some elitists may have benign, but misguided, motives, many pander to our desire to do the right thing, simply for personal gain and power.  Does Al Gore, who has made millions on his climate scam come to mind, or does he fit into the next group?

 The true believers

 A subset of the “anointed” are the true believers. These people generally don’t have a clue of how things work, but possess a religious zeal perverted by the siren call of the elitists.  True believers aren’t burdened by facts and generally cannot be swayed from their utopian ideals. Like many religious fanatics, they feel justified in using any tactic to defeat the infidels.  I put some opponents of the Rosemont mine into this group and some into the next.

The warm & fuzzies

 The warm & fuzzy crowd make up the bulk of membership in the mainstream environmental groups. Generally well-meaning, they, too, are often ignorant of the way things work and fall victim to the elitist’s sophistry. These folks can become pragmatists once given the facts and shown how the elitist’s flawed vision affects them adversely.

 Which group do you think EPA staffers fall into?  How about the Pima County board of supervisors?

 Why do environmentalist sophists do what they do?  Some, for money and power, of course; others do it because of their own flawed vision and distrust of common man. They think they know better, but in reality they lack faith in human ingenuity. These pseudo-environmentalists have achieved their successes because, in this age of urbanization, sound bites, virtual reality, and outcome-based education, we have lost touch with the origin of things, the things which make the engine of the world work.

See also:

Capitalism is not a zero sum game