Guest essay by Linnea C. Lueken
Engraved on the stone over the entrance to the Engineering building at my university are the words:
STRIVE ON – THE CONTROL OF NATURE IS WON, NOT GIVEN.
“That’s a terrible thing to say.” A visiting biologist I was walking with said, shaking her head. I laughed it off, not wanting to think too deeply about what she meant, and definitely not wanting to debate with her.
Of course, being me, I later spent a lot of time thinking about it. Is that quote a terrible thing? “The control of nature is won” is certainly an aggressive statement of intent. I thought at first perhaps from a biologists perspective—but do biologists not strive to understand the way living bodies work so that they might develop ways to cure ailments, or even in some cases improve functions altogether? I know this is something that this particular biologist believed, as the research was in the pursuit of helping to treat or cure osteoporosis. Was all of her research, all of those late nights collecting data, not for striving after winning control of nature? The slow weakening and eventual destruction of bone is a natural process.
It makes no sense to me why a biologist would take issue those words, but it leads to wonder what fields of science do not believe in the control of nature. Not ecologists, as they’re constantly debating ways to alter habitats, conserve them, or keep them in a distinctly unnatural stasis—the end goal of which is to protect and preserve these natural places. Engineers devote their careers to battling the elements and gravity, physicists desire to map them out so we might battle them more easily, and climate scientists insist that we must find a way to change the course of the climate (or weather), else we are destroyed by it (Contrasted to the simultaneous belief that humans are already controlling the climate through CO2 emissions).
If this biologist agreed with the sentiment by the work she does, why was there this knee-jerk negative reaction?
Is “Strive on—the control of nature is won, not given” a controversial statement? What does it mean for science if it is?
I think that most of the people who are on the “denier” train probably have noted a trend in the kind of people and ideology involved with the CAGW crowd. It’s tough to put a name to it, especially since language has been perverted quite a bit in recent years—words don’t carry the same meaning. I think overall though, a common thread from the UN Climate panels to our own alarmists is the influence of Karl Marx and Progressivism. I believe the automatic dismissal of “the control of nature is won” is based on a somewhat nihilistic distrust of humanity as a whole. It’s a collectivist dismissal, along the thinking of those who see Mankind as a sort of locust sweeping across the planet (I’ve yet to see a locust that actively works to preserve parts of the environment, and worries as much as we do about its impact on the planet).
Many of my more literal friends will balk at the ‘Progressivism’ remark, explaining that science is always the pursuit of progress in many areas, so of course it’s progressive. I argue that the modern Progressive movement isn’t the same thing. There is philosophical baggage that comes along with it, all of which one can see reflected in alarmist positions. The core of this philosophy maintains a desolate view of humanity and our intentions, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the philosophical father of the French Revolution, often wrote about. Capitalist society, individualism, and small government breeds exploitation, according to Rousseau. Exploitation is another word you’ll hear frequently from progressives, particularly in the context of natural resource use. Here they do not mean ‘use’, but instead the definition involving corruption, misuse, and abuse.
Frequently, complaints about fossil fuel use coincide with predictable characterizations of oil companies as viciously capitalistic imperialists, ravaging the earth’s surface and subsurface to satisfy their own greed. At the same time, they believe that big green energy companies are motivated not by greed, but by a virtuous and righteous quest to save the planet. Both are massive industries with cash flows that most other businesses would never dare to dream of, and yet Big Green Energy which gets so much money and support from government and private interests alike is not so villainized. Why? Because not all big corporations are the same, and in the mind of a progressive if the government—better yet international government—supports them financially or otherwise, it’s even better. Most governments, most countries, most scientists agree—right? It’s the collective that must be correct, its Rousseau’s ideal direct democracy on a global scale.
About a year ago our friends at Greenpeace and other anti-fracking groups railed against Third Energy, an energy company out of the UK, over fracking in North Yorkshire. Greenpeace’s response to being on the losing side of the legal battle was “fracking companies shouldn’t underestimate the strength of feeling on this issue.” (My first question is what, exactly, are the units for the “strength of feeling”? Tears per cubic foot?) Such a ridiculous statement is not even kind of rare, and it makes it all the more obvious that these aren’t scientific issues—it’s entirely political and those politics are comfortably surrounded by a cushion of modern progressive verbiage. We feel that humans are a problem; we feel that we need to do something about it.
We see the same mindset with the greens who have taken offense to the villain of the recent Avengers: Infinity War movie. It’s been analyzed at length at this point from enough sites that we never need to talk about Thanos’ ‘Population Bomb’ motives ever again… but I’m going to—briefly—anyway.
Here we have this perfect Marxist idea where someone (government, an angry purple alien) swoops in and carefully controls or models the way people live (or die). It’s social planning to the morbid extreme. The image of Thanos peacefully retiring to his bungalow with his wood bead door coverings and bamboo yoga mats after killing half the universe is one that disturbs those who believe in such radical environmentalism, possibly because they’re being forced to look at a rapid and intense comic book example of what their ideas look like. Communism killed possibly more than 100 million people since rising to power, all in the name of “liberating” the majority. Thanos does the same by killing (probably) trillions in a much smaller timeframe, short enough for millions of movie-goers to witness in just a few minutes.
Again and again we see people who attempt to present a skeptical viewpoint, or even just publish unbiased research that conflicts with the accepted climate change narrative get railroaded by their peers. Why? Shouldn’t all scientists be interested in fact, even if it challenges their own research? The answer I’ve found is, “Not if it gets in the way of so-called progress”.
Disclaimer: I’m not a historian, I don’t hold any PhD’s; I’m just a Petroleum Engineer (BS), with a minor in geology. You might have read the last essay I submitted to Anthony Watts where I expressed my concerns about the state of science education particularly at the college level, when it came to Catastrophic Anthropogenic
Global Warming Climate Change. I promised an update on my coursework then, and I’m happy to report that I ended up doing very well. I’ve also had the privilege of landing an internship with The Heartland Institute, (shameless plug incoming) writing and working behind the scenes on the upcoming America First Energy conference. Eventually I plan to work in offshore drilling and/or well control, but for now I’m excited and honored to have the opportunity to promote what I believe in. Watts Up With That and other CAGW skepticism-friendly blogs, as well as organizations like Heartland, give me a lot of hope that we can push through the non-science and progressive dogma poisoning good research. If that can be managed, I think we have a good shot at improving lives and restoring the credibility of science as a whole.
To me, “Strive on—the control of nature is won, not given” is a directive of excellence and success, and is a perfectly succinct description of the enterprising spirit of scientists and engineers alike. I can’t overstate how important it is that no scientific community loses that spirit.