On #COP21 and the Madness of Crowds

Guest essay by Charles G. Battig

mackay-madness-of-crowds

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It is unfortunate that Charles Mackay is no longer alive to add yet another chapter or two to his insightful book of human follies, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.  First published in 1841, his book chronicles in sixteen examples of crowd psychology with some of the notable economic and social foibles of the past.  The preface includes his observation that “[w]e find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds on one object, and go mad in its pursuit: that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion and run after it, til their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.”

Chapter headings include The Mississippi Scheme, The South-Sea Bubble, The Tulipomania, Fortune-Telling, The Magnetisers, The Crusades, and The Witch Mania.  These and the other chapters were chosen by Mackay to illustrate recurring but  transient moral and economic epidemics, and to “show how easily the masses have been led astray, and how imitative and gregarious men are, even in their infatuations and crimes.”  The foreword by Bernard Baruch in the 1932 edition references Schiller’s dictum: “Anyone taken as an individual is tolerably sensible and reasonable – as a member of a crowd he at once becomes a blockhead.”

In current vernacular, “blockhead” seems quaint.  Current terminology would be more organic; however, the message is the same.

Fast-forward almost two centuries, and those truisms remain valid and are illustrated by even more outrageous acts of mass hysteria.  At the moment, a prime example is the United Nations COP21 in Paris, France.  The official title is Conference of Parties, number 21.  Mackay might have well termed it Crowds on Parade or perhaps Clowns on Parade.  Either title is descriptive of the mass hysteria exhibited by various political entities and individuals alike, who have convened there in their belief that control of the global climate depends on offerings to the carbon dioxide demon and the elimination of the fossil fuel witch.  Burning at the stake is not acceptable because of the carbon dioxide carbon footprint incurred.

Mackay’s chapter on Witch Mania provides a useful historical reference for simplistic tendencies in human nature to search out and label one entity as the guilty party, which is then hounded to death, literally.  He notes: “There are so many wondrous appearances in nature for which science and philosophy cannot even now account, that it is not surprising that when natural laws were still less understood, men should have attributed to supernatural agency  every appearance which they could not otherwise explain.”  Our present lack of a valid scientific understanding of climate in its myriad manifestations and its  complex web of interdependency on ill-defined physical variables mirrors Mackay’s observation.

Life-sustaining carbon dioxide has been targeted as the modern-day witch by the “climate COPs.”  Tens of thousands of imagined witches were put to death in the 1500s-1600s before that mania had run its course.  At COP21, an estimated 40,000 attendees compose a crowd mad about the fact that the climate changes relentlessly without any need for human intervention.  That frustration needs an outlet, and the crowd has targeted fossil fuels and carbon dioxide.

These modern-day witch hunters have the potential to kill millions by denying the poor and less developed civilizations the benefits of reliable and relatively inexpensive energy.  Those more fortunate will be forced to pay tribute to this crowd to keep their modern lifestyle, which now runs on electrical devices 24/7.

Mackay might also find room for a few additional chapters in a revised edition of his original book should he read the current press and note the reports of students conducting mass demonstrations on campus, and the racial unrest on Main Street.

Charles G. Battig, M.S., M.D., Piedmont Chapter president, VA-Scientists and Engineers for     Energy and Environment (VA-SEEE).  His website is www.climateis.com.

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109 thoughts on “On #COP21 and the Madness of Crowds

  1. I refer you also to mimetic triangulation and the scapegoating mechanism, a concept advanced by Rene Girrard, who has just died.

    People form mobs. Mobs need a scapegoat.

    Every conversation in a coffee shop inevitably ends up with two people directing their agreement and focus on the deficiencies in some other person or group. We skeptic serve the purpose of the scapegoat for the warmists.

    They are the mob. Shame on them.

    It is easy to identify the mimetic triangulators. They seek agreement from others, and once the agreement is obtained they really wind up the rhetoric.

    It take courage and the willingness to risk becoming the scapegoat of the mob to arrest the mob action. Think of the brave souls like A Watts, and Singer, Morano, Monckton, Tisdale, Inhoffe, and more. It take a special person.

      • As much as I would prefer to agree with all your examples, I continually run up against the failure of anyone to explain the recovery of the bald eagle and osprey to something other than DDT being banned. I grew up here in California in the 1950s and ’60s. During my entire childhood and on through my twenties and thirties I never saw a bald eagle or an osprey – and I even saw one of the last 40 condors in the wild before they all captured for captive breeding in the ’70s! The short version is that there were precious few bald eagles and osprey around California until I was in my 40s. Since then I have seen many.

        My own pet explanation is that yes, DDT was bad for them, because they rely on fish. DDT was concentrated in prey fish through biological amplification really did weaken egg shells to the point the weight of the brooding bird crushed them. There was no effect on golden eagles because they don’t rely on fish. Condors likewise were declining because of the economic shifts in Southern California from ranching – which leaves dead cows around – to subdivisions and commuters, which might leave a few dead jackrabbits and ground squirrels on the roads.

      • Duster,
        There was a problem with the indiscriminate use of DDT. We were using it in situations where it was not really the best solution to the problem and spraying it pretty indiscriminately. Changing the label restrictions and controls probably would have sufficed. There were other chemicals in the environment at the time that also were reduced that contributed to egg shell thinning, in particular, dioxins and other estrogen mimics contributed to the thin egg shells.

        The other problems with the eagles and ospreys were the general water quality which both animals rely upon. I haven’t seen a river catch on fire recently like the Cuyahoga did in my childhood. Any of the many chemicals that act as estrogen analogs in the system could have caused that issue, and the waterways of the US were loaded with them at that time.

      • Duster,

        I stand by my listing of DDT as an example of a popular delusion. I believe you are misinformed on the egg thinning issue and other effects on the birds you mentioned. Hopefully you’ll revisit your beliefs with an open mind.

        And just in case someone raises it…
        The other popular DDT myth, used by green-a$$holes who pressure countries where DDT is not actually banned to not use it to kill mosquitoes and save tens of thousands of children around the world from malaria, is that it causes breast cancer especially when exposure occurs at a young age. You certainly have to wonder about the motives of people who pressure the disuse of a chemical that saves children from a significant correlated death rate from malaria because of a tenuous (at best) connection to breast cancer incidence which has a fatality rate almost two orders of magnitude lower.

        http://dwb.unl.edu/Teacher/NSF/C06/C06Links/www.altgreen.com.au/Chemicals/ddt.html

      • Duster,

        Bald Eagles have never relied on the use of “line, hook and bait” for catching the fish they require for their survival.

        Bald Eagles can only survive along waterways that are clear, clean and/or unpolluted via “run-off” particulate which said particulate renders it impossible for the Bald Eagles to observe their prey species of fish swimming near the surface of the water.

        No can see fish, …. no can catch fish, ……. no can eat fish, ……. and the Bald Eagles and their hatchlings die of starvation.

        After the California waterways were cleaned of their “pollution sources” the Bald Eagles returned to their “happy fishing waters”.

      • I am not sure, but I recall reading that he intended making some appearance in Paris at one of the sceptical presentations.

        He has been quiet here on WUWT. Earlier this week, I was expecting to see his usual monthly update on the ‘pause’ especially since the November anomaly dropped back a bit so the ‘pause’ will not have shortened, and this would be timely in view of any presentation to be made in Paris.

        No doubt we will hear further from him within the next week or so.

      • I hope he’s sitting in the front row of a theater in Paris enjoying a pre-screening of “Climate Hustle” with a big ol tub of popcorn and a drink.

    • For a more recent example, how about iPhone 6 (and every other previous version). What a bunch of sheep on this planet.

      • Consider the possibility that the cell phone and internet are devices to maintain and spread memetic influences in populations. We aren’t necessarily virtuous simply because we don’t use an iPhone. If you consider the phenomenon of emergent behaviour, you can see potentially, quite complex memetic or even metamemetic “organisms” at play in human minds.

    • Maybe the skepticism we share is an indicator of a kind of mimetic hesitation, an inherent distaste for mob following. If something is popular, generally hesitate to engage. Then I think about the ting that is popular. Then maybe I engage. The motivation to be engage BECAUSE a thing is popular is strongly inhibited in me. There has to be a good reason to engage. —therefore, I am a skeptic of CAGW. I wonder if this provides me with an evolutionary advantage? ;)

  2. Fear and greed. Hard to go wrong with those emotions at the heart of your appeal.

    Witch hunting, speculation in unseen real estate, and green energy investments share the trait of obfusticaton. They are very difficult stories for the average investor/beleiver to verify.

    Thus the constant appeal to authority as a sales tool. I knew we had a problem some years back when The Enlightenment came under attack in academia. It was a warning sign.

  3. The Daily Telegraph are today carrying a related article on the problem of not thinking, ar being allowed to think, freely and independently. This article discusses the impact of this on Universities, and education.

    See: A refusal to think freely is making universities increasingly irrelevant
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/12030100/A-refusal-to-think-freely-is-making-universities-increasingly-irrelevant.html

    An insightful commenter (colin harrow) observed:

    Today’s prevailing orthodoxies, which Orwell described as the body of ideas which it is assumed all right-thinking people will accept without question, is almost exclusively confined to the opinions and agenda of a metro-sexual, metropolitan, bien pensant liberal-left elite who have influence and power out of all proportion to their numbers.

    They have no democratic basis or mandate whatsoever for this agenda other
    than the self reinforcing opinons of their chattering class fellow liberals, and education, particularly higher education is one of their bastions.

    And when orthodoxy becomes dogma it so easily lends itself to authoritarianism, and that is precisely what appears to be currently happening in our universities.

    It is probably the greatest political oxy-moron of modern times that liberalism has created a new totalitarianism which is as bigoted and dogmatic as any previous extreme ideology of the left or right.

  4. I have read the book and it made something I had thought in the 60s seem more understandable. At that time I was a student and would never join in unison chanting as it always scared me. The term groupthink now comes to mind. Once a free thinker always a free thinker, I suppose.

    • I always followed Groucho Marx’s lead, Margaret.

      “I would not join any club that would have me as a member.”

  5. Quite apropos! The whole situation provides further evidence of the many varied observations by astute commentators of the past and encapsulated in sayings such as “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”.

    J Edgar Hoover: “The individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous, he cannot believes it exists”
    George Orwell: “The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time….”
    Galileo: “In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual”
    Leo Tolstoy: “I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.”
    Murray Rothbard: “For the masses of men do not create their own ideas, or indeed think through these ideas independently; they follow passively the ideas adopted and disseminated by the body of intellectuals. The intellectuals are, therefore, the “opinion-molders” in society. And since it is precisely a molding of opinion that the State most desperately needs, the basis for age-old alliance between the State and the intellectuals becomes clear.”

    • Outstanding comment. One quote should be noted:

      “…The basis for age-old alliance between the State and the intellectuals becomes clear.”

      And is the reason why the State’s first victims are intellectuals, including many of those who created it.

  6. “as a member of a crowd he at once becomes a blockhead.”

    As someone else put it, the average intelligence of people in a crowd is inversely proportional to the number of people in the crowd.

    • In our house we quote Agent K from Men in Black-
      “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.”

  7. One thing that always has struck me is the tendency of mankind to look down on its ancestors and their follies and think, “We are above that sort of thing now.” Humanity will always be vulnerable to playing the sucker to one deception or another. ‘Zwar immer so.

  8. It does not take a large percentage of the population for a mob mentality to develop and play out its goals. There are umpteen examples throughout history showing this truth.

    • FJ Shepherd wrote:

      “It does not take a large percentage of the population for a mob mentality to develop and play out its goals. There are umpteen examples throughout history showing this truth.”

      About getting caught up in a “mob mentality: In 1970, myself and a few friends went to a music concert in Honolulu, at a music arena called “The Shell”, where all the top music groups played. The Shell was an open-air theater shaped like a seashell, and it was surrounded by an eight-foot-tall chainlink fence with a tall hedge planted just inside the fence which made is practically impossible to see the stage from outside the fence, but you could hear the music very well. The Shell was surrounded by a large expanse of lawns and trees, and so hundreds of people (mostly hippies, but not all) would come to The Shell and sit outside and do their thing and enjoy the music.

      This particular night, the Honolulu police decided it was time to harrass the hippies, and they came tearing across the lawns on their three-wheeled motorcycles, and one cop slid to a stop in front of a couple, and their infant, sitting not far from us. and he jumped off his bike and reached down and forcibly snatched a paper bag out of the woman’s hand, assuming she had drugs in it, although it was just her diaper bag.

      This kind of thing was going on all over the area and needless to say the five hundred people sitting out there got a little agitated at the treatment, and all stood up at about the same time and eventually backed all the cops up so their backs were against the chainlink fence, and proceeded to lambast them verbally for their actions, and things were starting to get really ginned up, when someone inside unlocked a gate in the fence and all the cops escaped inside.

      Then the crowd got really worked up and started grabbing hold of the chainlink fence and started pulling and pushing on it, back and forth, back and forth.

      I found myself, much to my surprise, caught up in the emotion of the moment, although I still mantained a little self-control, but my buddy got so caught up in it, he actually climbed up over the fence and jumped over it. I don’t know what he thought he was going to do when he got over there, but he did. He was promptly maced by the police, and then they tossed him back over the fence.

      I never experienced mob behavior and how powerful an influence it could be, even on a supposedly rational man. It was a little unsettling.

      The crowd eventually tore down a couple of hundred feet of that chainlink fence (without my help), but it never did turn violent and noone was arrested. It was weird.

      I think Janis Joplin was performing that night.

      TA

      • “The crowd eventually tore down a couple of hundred feet of that chainlink fence (without my help), but it never did turn violent and noone was arrested. It was weird.”

        Um….backing cops up against the fence while yelling at them and then tearing down a couple of hundred feet of fencing is by standard definition, VIOLENT.

        Violent-“using or involving physical force intended to hurt, DAMAGE, or kill someone or SOMETHING”
        “marked by extreme force or sudden intense activity “, “notably furious or vehement” “emotionally agitated to the point of loss of self-control”

    • “The object of life is not be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”
      Marcus Aurelius

  9. Orwell was remarkably prescient in his description of not only Newspeak but the Two Minutes Hate. The more you watch things like the AGW issue metastasize, and the more you read the books mentioned above, the easier it is to understand how just about every German could line up pre-WWII. Over here lately we’ve had the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd who are frighteningly similar but being it relied on the young Millennials kind of petered out due to their lack of interest. I think most of the OWS idiots are now signing up to be “climate warriors.”

    Humans are not a very admirable race in many ways.

    • Humans are an ad hoc solution to a problem never consciously formulated. We incorporate many compromises and inefficiencies, but we continue to exist largely because of net sum of these traits. We’ll cover that next week, and then there’ll be a quiz the following week.

  10. An observer from another planet would not know from a first look whether it was the pro or anti crowd that was in the grip of hysteria. Those on the inside cannot tell, because they may be suffering from it also.

    The hypothetical alien, wishing to see who was hysterical, might see if either side had any evidence. In the cited cases from 1841 there was in fact no evidence to support the claims. So which group would our alien think was in the grip?

    They may look to see if humans had a mechanism for testing evidence. They would discover a system of academic reasearch and a peer review literature system that is not infallible, but has a remarkably succesful history. They might then see if this system had been used.

    They would find a vast array of research, subject to peer review, that had concluded that AGW was a real. They may then think that this was not a matter of hysteria, but a valid conclusion.

    If they were to look back at Earth history, they would find examples of the recieved wisdom being wrong, and the minority position being right. They would also see that in every case, there was in fact very little evidence to support the majority view.

    They would not find a single instance of the majority view being questioned, then a significant and prolonged reasearch effort leading the majority to believe that view had been confirmed, then that view being wrong.

    • seaice1:

      You wrote

      They would find a vast array of research, subject to peer review, that had concluded that AGW was a real. They may then think that this was not a matter of hysteria, but a valid conclusion.

      Yes, those who liked others to think for them saw a vast array of research, subject to peer review, that had concluded that eugenics was a real and were fooled into thinking that this was not a matter of hysteria, but a valid conclusion.

      As you observe, one can see that there people being fooled in the same way by AGW now.

      Richard

      • What was the evidence for eugenics? The assumption was that the genes of the poorer classes were inferior. There was no evidence for this. Many traits were assumed to be inherited from a single gene. Later evidence would show this to be wrong. Your comprison would only be valid had there been a decades long massive reasearch effort to see if this was the case. Since there was no such effort, the story of Eugenics is very different from the story of climate change. For example, “Although based on genetics, the eugenic scientists did not document any genetic relationship to some qualities that they studied, such as politeness, bluntness, etc”.

        To drive the point home we have the two cases
        1) Eugenics. This was based on the theory of evolution, and made lots of simplifying assumptions. These assumptions were later proved wrong by the normal course of research without any particular effort going towards testing them. This is largely because eugenics fell out of favor politically before it could be proved wrong scientifically. Nonetheless, it was proved wrong with relatively little progress.

        2) Climate change. This was based on basic laws of physics, and made lots of simplifying assumptions. The assumption was that man could not change the climate. Unlike eugenics, a research program was started to see if this was correct. Early results showed that it was likely that the assumption that man could not alter the climate may be wrong. so further research was conducted. At each stage, it looked more and more certain that man could change the climate, and was doing so.

        Unlike eugenics, the more research that was done, the firmer was the comclusion that man could change the climate.

        If you doubt the existence of evidence, I suggest a perusal of the references listed in the IPCC reports.

      • seaice1:

        NO! I will NOT bite your ‘red herring’.

        You made a daft assertion about “evidence” for AGW and I pointed out that supporters of eugenics made the same daft assertion.

        Your response is to demand of me

        What was the evidence for eugenics? The assumption was that the genes of the poorer classes were inferior. There was no evidence for this.

        Do your own homework on eugenics. As a start read the links to source documents from the wicki account.

        There is no evidence of discernible AGW; none, zilch, nada.

        More than three decades of research conducted worldwide at a cost of over US$5 billion per year has failed to find any. But you claim to believe there is “a vast array of research, subject to peer review, that had concluded that AGW was a real”.

        There is less evidence for discernible AGW than there is for the existence of a real Santa Claus.

        If you have any evidence for discernible global warming then publish it because many (e.g. the IPCC) want some such evidence and you would be awarded at least two Nobel Prizes. In the 1990s Ben Santer pretended he had found some such evidence but it was soon shown that he had constructed his ‘evidence’ by selecting part of a data set: the late John Daly provided this excellent summary of the affair.

        Please note that to prove me entirely wrong all you need do is to cite one example of “evidence” in the ” “a vast array of research, subject to peer review, that” you claim “had concluded that AGW was a real”. I await your statement of the “evidence” (n.b. NOT personal opinion) with interest.

        Richard

    • ‘seaice’ emits more of his typical psychological ‘projection’:

      “An observer from another planet would not know from a first look whether it was the pro or anti crowd that was in the grip of hysteria. Those on the inside cannot tell, because they may be suffering from it also.”

      Obviously, 100.0% of the hysteria is coming from the climate alarmist crowd: they are attempting to alarm the public without any verifiable evidence. The onus is on them, but they always tap-dance away from that problem.

      ‘seaice’ preposterously mentions “evidence”. But I have been asking him and his ilk for any conclusive evidence for years, without any credible response:

      Question: Can seaice or anyone else produce an example of measurable evidence that quantifies the fraction of global warming attributable to human CO2 emissions?

      If the answer is Yes, then post those measurements right here, right now. Those must be verifiable, testable, empirical measurements that can be replicated by others. If anyone can produce such measurements, they will be the first to ever do so.

      But if there are no such measurements, then the whole idea of “evidence” for AGW is trumped-up nonsense, based on a claim that is in fact measurement-free. Thus, it is nothing more than a mere opinion.

      That’s all ‘seaice’ has: baseless assertions. That’s all he has ever had. If he had real evidence, he wouldn’t need to pontificate about aliens, or employ psychological projection in his comments.

      Where is the “hysteria” among skeptics of the ‘dangerous AGW’ scare? As the rest of us know, all of the hysteria is on the part of his alarmist pals, supported by a heavily biased media, and a President who doesn’t know science from Scientology.

      • Dahlquist -yes, seaice and seaice1 are the same. I originaly posted comments direct. I then switched to posting from wordpress account and seaice was already taken.

  11. The article links the Amazon edition of the book. amazon only charges 99 cents for the Kindle edition. but the book is available on Gutenberg.org without charge:

    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/24518

    I love MacKay’s statement in the Preface:

    “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

    I think it explains CAGW to a T.

  12. A more recent publication is Panic Attacks by Bartholomew and Evans. Despite its flippant jacket cover, it is a serious introduction to the same phenomenon and presented in the same way: a sequence of case studies spanning centuries. The emphasis is on the role of the media, wittingly or not, in colluding with alarmists keeping scares alive. (It’s usually mis-catalogued and mis-shelved as psychological self-help for sufferers from anxiety and individual panic attacks, but is nothing to do with that!)

  13. We are fortunate in our foes aren’t we. Where do things stand on the RICO20 matter. Surely we will not let Sukla get away with it. Everyone understands fraud and they get upset when it’s tax money.

    Ask John Beale.

  14. There are two books that every AGW sceptic should have read:

    Extraordinary Popular Delusions, and
    The Ultimate Resource

    With those two under your belt you can’t go far wrong…

  15. Some Alarmist fool at another site actually tried to use lame “everyone else believes in AGW…why not you?” juvenile high school peer pressure tactics on me.

    My answer to him: “I’m not a herd animal.”

    • Yep. And there’s lots more on that theme to humiliate them with. Were you buying Dotcom stocks and tulips, and burning witches? Were you drinking Kool-Aid or turning the guns on Jones-skeptics at Georgetown, or comet-skeptics? 97% of North Koeans believe in the divinity of Kim Il Sung too.

  16. With the Salem witch trials, Cotton Mather and his father, Increase, president of Harvard College, created a brand new science to determine if someone was a witch. It was powerful scientific evidence. It resulted in a 100% conviction rate. Everyone charged with being a witch was convicted in a court of law. 20 in total. And since being a witch was a capital offense, they were all hanged. Except one who was stoned.

    The thing is Cotton and Increase Mather were highly esteemed. Cotton, especially, was considered extremely level headed and neutral in his many writings and preachings. Some said Cotton was very likely the smartest man in the colonies at the time. The Mather firmly believed in the science they created about witches and they wanted to use that science to advance their society by ridding it of witches.

    Lots of parallels to today. Smart people creating a new pseudo-science which society accepted because it deferred to the authority of the Mathers. Except this time it is a global mass delusion affecting the entire world, not just a smallish Puritan religious colony in New England.

    • For contrast to the Salem witch trials in the New World, look at the witch trials in the European nations.

      The rates of witch trial convictions in Europe ran into many thousands.

      The question should rather be, “What are the restraints on trendy behavior? What places limitations on people who become swept up into intellectual fashions?”

      In fact the Colonies show the containment of a European trend and should be studied for that reason.

  17. @Mumbles McGuirck:

    One thing that always has struck me is the tendency of mankind to look down on its ancestors and their follies and think, “We are above that sort of thing now.”

    Exactly!! Pride goeth before the fall. Hubris is the same except the fall is quicker and harder.

    The important thing to recognize is that people are susceptible to mass folly in spite of their intelligence, education, circle of friends, etc. I haven’t read Mackay’s book — clearly I need to. In addition to Eugenics I could add Spiritualism, the belief that spirits of the dear departed can communicate with us and provide guidance in our lives. It was quite popular, claiming as adherents even such worthy gentlemen as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the ultimate rational detective: Sherlock Holmes. Many people had a need to believe its promises and there was no shortage of charlatans to take advantage of them.

    A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.
    Kay, Men In Black.

    • We’ve known the Earth was round for millennia. It casts a round shadow on the Moon. Eratosthenes estimated the circumference of the Earth in 240 BC within 17% (or better; we don’t know whether he was using Egyptian or Attic stades.

  18. I don’t know; this doesn’t quite fit the description of a “popular delusion”, or “madness of crowds”. Too much money and power is at stake. The Climatist Industry is a hugely powerful one, with many stakeholders. The fact that it has gone this far seems to indicate that mankind itself has gone mad.

    • Dear Bruce,

      if you read “Popular Delusions” many of the manias were about money and power, e.g. Tulipomania, The South Sea Bubble, The Mississipi Scheme. They are all in effect all pyramid schemes.. When by 2020 and the Artic Ice has not terminally declined in a ‘death spiral’, that the polar bears are expanding population and the Adele penguins are doing fine then one by one the mob will recover its’ senses. But don’t worry about the main proponents. They will have their money before manufacturing the next ‘end of times’.

      As for scientific consemsus in 1900 at leat 90 % ( possibly the magical 97% ) of astronomers believed that all the moons’ craters were all due to volcanism. The science was settled. /sarc

      • Yes, money and power is always going to be at stake to some extent. What is being glossed over here, I believe is the scope of this thing, infecting scientific organizations, governments, schools, and all manner of media. Underlying it all is an apparent push for a world-wide government usurping the sovereignty and rights of all.

      • Alas, London, I think you are being optimistic.
        In 2020 YOU will feel vindicated, but the world’s population will have been “educated” away from the concept of “Global Warming” which is measurable, to “Climate Change” which is neither measurable nor falsifiable. They will point to the previous month’s hurricane or drought or flood…and scream “evidence for Climate Change is occurring daily, and it is all around us.” If such nonsense works today, why not in 2020?

      • Indeed, the accused witches were mostly single property holders. The accusing authoritities got the property.

  19. Chapter headings include The Mississippi Scheme, The South-Sea Bubble, The Tulipomania, Fortune-Telling, The Magnetisers, The Crusades, and The Witch Mania.

    It ought to be pointed out that some fads and trends are relatively harmless. These should be understood to be separate from the intellectual fashions that have turned quite deadly.

    May I share a quote from Karl Raimond Popper? I think it will be appreciated and enjoyed along with this article by Dr. Battig. This will take a moment to type out.

    • “…Professor Habermas seems to think that only one who is a practical critic of existing society can produce serious theoretical arguments about society, since social knowledge cannot be divorced from fundamental social attitudes.

      My reply is very simple. We should welcome ay suggestions as to how our problems might be solved, regardless of the attitude towards society of of the man who puts them forward: provided that he has learned to express himself clearly and simply–in a way that can be understood and evaluated– and that he is aware of our fundamental ignorance and responsibilities towards others.

      But I do not think that the debate about the reform of society should be reserved for those who first put in a claim for recognition as practical revolutionaries, and who see the sole function of the revolutionary intellectual in pointing out as much as possible what is repulsive in our social life (excepting their own social roles).

      It may be that revolutionaries have a greater sensitivity to social ills than other people. But obviously, there can be better and worse revolutions (as we all know from history), and the problem is not to do too badly.

      Most, if not all, revolutionaries have produced societies very different from those desired by the revolutionaries.

      Here is a problem, and it deserves thought from every serious critic of society.”

  20. “First published in 1841, his book chronicles in sixteen examples of crowd psychology with some of the notable economic and social foibles of the past.”

    Interesting that the author did not get to see the intellectual revolutionaries of the 1900’s, and the results they got.

    Incidentally, all of them considered themselves to hold views based solely on scientific truths, and to be fixing all of society’s ills (as they defined them) using government power and force.

    The question is, what restrains people from becoming completely swept up in destructive intellectual trends? What if that trend includes attacking agriculture, energy, and transportation, and includes eugenics/overpopulation theory? What could prevent an individual from being subsumed into a movement that can and will turn deadly? Is it relationships?

    Rational, reaonable, spiritual, emotional and moral stops on the madness of intellectual revolutionaries do exist.

    That is why they work so hard to rid society of them.

  21. My favourite quote from Mackay, which I have posted here a couple of times:
    “Every age has its peculiar folly; some scheme, project, or phantasy into which it plunges, spurred on either by the love of gain, the necessity of excitement, or the mere force of imitation. Failing in these, it has some madness, to which it is goaded by political or religious causes, or both combined.”

  22. “As long as the music is playing, you gotta get up and dance. We’re still dancing.”

    Chuck Prince, Citigroup. 2007

    I think that quote applied to the mortgage market before it crashed but I suppose it could apply to many things where easy money was being dished out for a popular delusion. Like global warming … the music is still playing and the money is still being dished out so you gotta get up and dance, there is no choice. The rewards go to those who participate in the delusion, there really isn’t any reward for those who choose to sit out the delusion. On financial matters, when the delusion ends, the aftermath crushes both the participants and skeptics anyways so you might as well be a participant.

  23. Dear Bruce Cobb

    you response didm’t have a reply option. But I wholeheartedly agree wih your last post.at 12:20

    regards
    London247

  24. My all time favorite is Greshams Law … bad money drives good money out of circulation. Greshams Law never fails. People will circulate bad money for decades and that leads some to believe people have universally accepted bad money as being superior to good money (like gold) but the truth is exactly the opposite. Bad money always becomes a popular delusion because of Greshams Law. Sometimes you have to be very, very careful about what is actually good and what is actually bad because it can be totally counterintuitive. Along those lines I believe there are corallaries to Greshams Law … bad ideas will sometimes drive good ideas out of circulation because the bad idea is universally circulated and the good ideas, well, they get shuffled to the corner of the internet ;). You get my drift.

    • I remember the coin collection column for the Los Angeles Times stating flatly that Gresham’s Law obviously didn’t apply to silver quarters “because there are so many of them.” Typical LA Times drivel.

  25. The witch trials are still ongoing:

    “Leading Canadians Call for Investigation of Climate Change Denier Groups”

    http://enewspf.com/2015/12/03/leading-canadians-call-for-investigation-of-climate-change-denier-groups/

    “These groups attempt to discredit the established scientific consensus that global warming and climate change are real and caused by human activity,” said Dr. Thomas Duck, an atmospheric scientist at Dalhousie University. “The reality, causes, and consequences of climate change are well understood.”

    Now I have never heard of most of these six “leading Canadians” except for the extreme leftist Stephen Lewis. They are part of an organization called “Ecojustice” so we know they have nothing to do with either “eco” or “justice”.

    The end of the article states: “As Canada’s only national environmental law charity, Ecojustice is building the case for a better earth via the incarceration of dissenters.” OOPS, those last 5 words just slipped in there somehow. /snark

  26. Humans are not “herd animals.” They form packs, like any decent predator. The preferred method of hunting was to form a large circle and then constrict it as rapidly as possible, trapping large numbers of prey within it. It worked and has been imprinted on our genes.

    Here’s the rub: the most efficient circle isn’t one that constricts quickly. It’s one that leaves no gaps for animals to escape through. This requires every member to move not as fast as he can, but at the speed of the slowest member of the pack. Even today, when a mob or crowd forms, they still each adapt their physical and mental speed to that of the slowest member. This is an autonomous process.

  27. “The Madness of Crowds”. Yes. Written back in 1800s, the subject is just as true now, as then.
    I can relate to this: sad to say. Many people will remember the Azaria Chamberlain in which a young mother was jailed for killing her baby, only for it to be realised years later, that , yes, the dingo really did do it.
    I was one on millions of Australians that was totally convinced by “The expert witness” (Pathologist Joy Khull) that yes, Lindy did kill her own baby.
    We were wrong.
    We were convinced by The Scientist, of Lindy’s guilt. The Madness of Crowds.
    And now we see the same thing in Paris. “Scientists agree. Anthropogenic warming is overheating the planet”. The fact that the evidence “melted” makes no difference.
    We are continuing to blow billions on a problem that never came to fruition, despite the hysteria. Billions that should have spent on real problems like clean water programs, African poverty,…………..the list of true problems is endless.

    But no: “The Madness of Crowds” rules on.

  28. Unfortunately, Mr Battig was writing too early to comment on the mob hysteria produced by pagan Nazis or the crowd manipulation of the atheistic Communists. However, he was early enough to describe the anti-Catholic mob hysteria of the Gordon Riots of 1780 and the mob hysteria produced by the French Revolution, which we are informed, was an achievement of the Enlightenment. (Incidentally, the term ‘King Mob’ arose during the Gordon Riots.)

  29. I have been most astounded by this sociological phenomenon . And what has astounded me most is the lack of curiosity I’ve seen on both sides of the battle to understand the physics as deeply as possible . It’s perpetuated a paradigm which never should have been .

    I’ve gotten diverted into this defense of rationality because it offended my childhood understanding of radiant heat transfer which was essentially Ritchie’s 1830s experiment http://cosy.com/Science/Ritchie'sKirchhoffExperiment.html turned into a Q&A in a boy’s science book about whether a white or a black stone sitting in the desert sun gets hotter .

    So I did an experiment shortly after I moved to the mountains to test that my understanding wasn’t totally whack : http://cosy.com/Science/warm.htm#PingPong .

    Perhaps uniquely living a life immersed in APL , executable notation more complete and succinct than traditional STEM textbooks , it was natural to start implementing the basic physics — essentially quantitatively understand the audit trail from the Sun to our surface temperature . So I started learning-by-implementing the quantitative physics — relationship by relationship , APL expression by APL expression . See http://cosy.com/Science/ClimateWiki/Category%20Essential_Physics.htm and http://cosy.com/Science/HeartlandBasicBasics.html for the progression of my understanding=implementation . At that point I myself could not fill in the , 3% on Earth , 225% on Venus ( impossible with any spectra ) gap , enforced by the Divergence Theorem , between “Top of Atmosphere” spectrally computed temperatures and measured surface temperatures . At that point , my question was what was the next parameter , the next APL expression , which would explain this gap .

    I myself was caught in the paradigm .

    The obvious answer to anybody with their feet firmly planted on the ground is GRAVITY . The equations are simple and universal and therefore non-optional in model which purports to model planetary temperature distribution and climate .

    But it took the undeniable match to planetary atmospheric profiles of HockeySchtick’s gravity based computations , linked at https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/07/22/why-we-live-on-earth-and-not-venus/#comment-1993285 , that it got thru to me that gravity was the non-optional parameter I was excluding from thought , it was the whole game .

    BTW : I think nom-de-blogs are pebble in the way of our communicating our understanding . But Nicolas Bourbaki I claim would likely disagree .

    — Bob A — | presentation of 4th.CoSy at Forth Day Hangout , 20151121 , at Stanford : https://youtu.be/0u2_jKfo0A8?t=2h48m30s |

  30. Many I encounter don’t see what I mean when I say religion and science are, writ large, competing for the same real estate.

    “There are so many wondrous appearances in nature for which science and philosophy cannot even now account, that it is not surprising that when natural laws were still less understood, men should have attributed to supernatural agency every appearance which they could not otherwise explain.”

    Well, that’s what I mean.

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