The Cult of Darkness

From MasterResource

By Edward Hudgins — December 20, 2022

“Energy is not for conserving; it is for unleashing to serve us, to make our lives better, to allow us to realize our dreams and to reach for the stars, those bright lights that pierce the darkness of the night.”

Since early men ignited the first fires in caves, the unleashing of energy for light, heat, cooking, and every human need has been the essence and symbol of what it is to be human. The Greeks saw Prometheus vanquishing the darkness with the gift of fire to men. The Romans kept an eternal flame burning in the Temple of Vesta. Our deepest thoughts and insights are described as sparks of fire in our minds. A symbol of death is a fading flame; Poet Dylan Thomas urged us to “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Thus a symbol of the deepest social darkness is seen in the recent extinguishing of the lights of cities across Australia and in other industrialized countries, not as a result of power failures or natural disasters, not as a conscious act of homage for the passing of some worthy soul, but to urge us all to limit energy consumption for fear of global warming.

This is not the symbol of the death but, rather, of the suicide of a civilization.

Certainly most of the individuals turning off their lights saw their acts in a narrower perspective. They have been told by every media outlet that the warming of the earth’s atmosphere due to human activities will certainly cause a global catastrophe unless we act now to radically curtail our energy use. The case for disaster is still weak; but this matter, which deserves dispassionate and serious consideration, is being hyped like the problematic products aimed at an attention deficit disordered audience by the entertainment industry and by pandering politicians.

In our individual lives it is quite rational to want the most for the least. We want the highest quality food, automobiles, and houses for the lowest price. And we want to pay as little as possible to run our cars, heat our homes, and power our consumer electronics. This means we want to waste as little as possible because waste is money that could be spent on other needs. So turning off the lights in an unused room is an act of self-interest.

The goal of our actions should always be our own welfare. And in a fundamental sense, this means using the material and energy in the world around us for our own well-being. The means for doing so is the exercise of our rational minds, to discover how to light a fire, to create a dynamo to generate electricity by burning fossil fuels or to tap the inexhaustible energy of the atom. The standard by which to choose which means is best is economics. In a free market, if producers can generate a kilowatt of power for pennies by burning oil compared to dollars per kilowatt through windmills and solar panels, it makes no sense to use the latter.

Some will argue that the full costs of each means must take account of unintended adverse consequences such as pollution that measurably harms our lives, health, and property. But there are means for dealing with such externalities—usually involving a strict application of property rights—that will not harm us far more than the alleged ills they aim to alleviate by dampening creative human activities and innovations.

When the costs of generating energy via oil rise too high as supplies dwindle—still many decades if not centuries away—our creative minds in a free market will develop less costly ways to harness wind, wave, and sunlight.

Through short-sightedness, sloppy thinking, emotional indulgence, and even a deep malice, many environmentalists today—especially in their approach to global warming—are perpetuating an ethos of darkness. Consider the harm of their symbolic acts, to say nothing of the policies many of them advocate.

Most individuals acquire their values through the culture, often through implicit messages that they do not subject to rational analysis. The implicit message for many of turning off the lights of a city is that we should feel guilty for the act of being human, that is, for altering and employing the environment for our own use.

In her novel Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand describes the consequences of such an assumption in the view from a plane flying over a collapsing country:

New York City … rose in the distance before them, it was still extending its lights to the sky, still defying the primordial darkness… The plane was above the peaks of the skyscrapers when suddenly … as if the ground had parted to engulf it, the city disappeared from the face of the earth. It took them a moment to realize … that the lights of New York had gone out.

We must keep focused clearly on the fundamental issues in every discussion about the environment: the right of individuals to pursue their own well-being as they see fit; the requirement that man the creator utilize the material and energy in the environment to meet his needs; the rational exercise of our minds as the way to discover the best means to do so; and the exercise of that capacity as a source of pride and self-esteem

The spectacle of a city skyline at night is the beauty of millions of individuals at their most human.

Energy is not for conserving; it is for unleashing to serve us, to make our lives better, to allow us to realize our dreams and to reach for the stars, those bright lights that pierce the darkness of the night.


Edward Hudgins is founder and head of the Human Achievement Alliance. His previous associations have been with the Heartland Institute (research director); the Atlas Society (director of advocacy, senior scholar); and the Cato Institute (director of regulatory studies).

Hudgins is author of Freedom to Trade: Refuting the New ProtectionismThe Last Monopoly: Privatizing the Postal Service for the Information AgeMail @ the Millennium: Will the Postal Service Go Private?, and Space: The Free-Market Frontier, and other studies.

This post, originally published in 2007 by the Atlas Society, is a classic in free market energy thought.

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David Dibbell
December 20, 2022 2:16 pm

Excellent post! We use fossil fuels for very good reasons, and the naysayers only talk about the emissions of otherwise perfectly harmless and natural carbon dioxide.

This is very much along the lines of what Alex Epstein is getting across in his book Fossil Future and in his active work on social media.

Reply to  David Dibbell
December 20, 2022 3:05 pm

It’s better to use fossil fuels than to curse the dark and cold.

Reply to  Scissor
December 20, 2022 10:23 pm

Our so-called leaders think the opposite for us latter-day serfs

December 20, 2022 2:22 pm

if it were ever proven that oil decomposes in the ground all the “leave it in the ground” nonsense would stop.

Ron Long
Reply to  heme212
December 20, 2022 5:12 pm

heme212, oil thermally over-maturates in the ground, going from crude to tar to asphalt to bitumin (which is basically pure carbon). The maturation process is mostly via distilling off a gas phase, usually methane. No reason to leave oil or gas in the ground.

Reply to  heme212
December 20, 2022 5:40 pm

if it were ever proven that oil decomposes in the ground all the “leave it in the ground” nonsense would stop.

Why do you believe that those who hate oil wells, refineries, pipelines, and such would behave in even a tiny way differently?

Reply to  heme212
December 20, 2022 10:00 pm

Leaving any mineral in the ground is unwise. Real wealth comes out of the ground. You can’t sell air and you have to sell something if you want an economy. Since we have already borrowed tremendously against this future wealth, it’s time to get busy. To not do so is economic disaster.

December 20, 2022 2:56 pm

It’s the misanthropocene.

December 20, 2022 2:58 pm

::Energy is Civilization::

Reply to  Old.George
December 21, 2022 12:37 am

I would put it slightly differently:

Civilisation is cheap energy

You could add “reliable” too. But it’s why our glorious leaders, who so zealously pursue Net Zero, are likely to discover what the law of unintended consequences really means.

Reply to  Old.George
December 21, 2022 7:54 am

Energy is life….we all need it.

tilak doshi
December 20, 2022 3:13 pm

One of the most powerful statements I have read about what it is to be human, and how to fight the darkness with the light of rationality. Thank you!

Reply to  tilak doshi
December 20, 2022 3:55 pm

You are feeling the penalty of being a concerned individual who thinks and writes about the human condition. People like us and author Hudgins are unashamedly interested in maximizing the enjoyment and reward during our short allocated existences. Some of us enjoy music like “Ode to Joy” in Beethoven’s 9th symphony because it is magnificently enjoyable, a tribute to the output of one of the best human minds in musical history.
Sadly, there are many miserable sods in society who feel guilty about achievement and enjoyment. Some of this wretched class have insinuated themselves into positions affecting communal policies, so they are paid to invent and broadcast the discomfort of seeking a life among the lowest common denominators when the highest is available.
Resist them. Mock them. Ridicule them. Geoff S

abolition man
Reply to  sherro01
December 20, 2022 9:05 pm

Marxism teaches hatred, envy, jealousy and greed as virtues; we are seeing the fruits of this sick religion throughout Western cultures!
While I personally prefer his 6th (Pastorale) or 8th symphonies, I will probably listen to the 9th and others on New Years Day! Nothing like Beethoven for starting off the year on the right foot!

abolition man
December 20, 2022 3:47 pm

Just as the Mesoamerican tribes like the Aztec and Toltec cut the hearts out of their victims to propitiate or placate their gods, our modern practitioners of human sacrifice are attempting to cut the very beating heart out of our society by removing the energy which is the life blood of modern civilization!
The darkness inherent in GangGreen is becoming obvious to all but the willfully blind; only the ignorant or the criminally inclined will be able to support this insanity much longer!

Last edited 1 month ago by abolition man
December 20, 2022 5:31 pm

Most people are led to believe the call is to end fossil fuel use. Not so. The game is to end fossil fuel use in Western/Industrialized countries to sabotage their lifestyles and transfer the wealth to countries that through corruption or ignorance missed the industrial revolution.

December 20, 2022 6:30 pm

A different email account. Go figure.

Steve Case
December 20, 2022 8:03 pm

Prima facie may be used as an adjective meaning “sufficient to establish a fact or raise a presumption unless disproved or rebutted.

1. More rain is not a problem.
2. Warmer weather is not a problem.
3. More arable land is not a problem.
4. Longer growing seasons is not a problem.
5. CO2 greening of the earth is not a problem.
6. There isn’t any Climate Crisis.

It must be shown that there is a crisis that over shadows the the first five points above.

After over 40 years of constant media alarmism, the polar bears are still here, sea level is rising about as fast as it was in 1850, the number and strength of tropical cyclones and tornados are about the same. Floods and droughts are about the same. Deaths due to heat waves are down.

There isn’t a Climate Crisis.

abolition man
Reply to  Steve Case
December 20, 2022 8:56 pm

How dare you! Mocking the Holy Computer Models!?
You have angered the Gods of Climate; surely ye shall reap the whirlwind, tornado, hurricane, drought, flood, famine, pestilence, disease…

Reply to  Steve Case
December 20, 2022 10:04 pm

But but but the tipping point. The tipping point is coming. We must prevent the tipping point.

Reply to  doonman
December 20, 2022 10:26 pm

Over the Christmas period, I most certainly will not be preventing the tippling point 🍻

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  doonman
December 21, 2022 3:46 am

LMAO, tipping point. The atmosphere has seen no “tipping point” with as much as 7,000ppm CO2, yet we are now supposed to believe that 400-something ppm is a “crisis.”

Reply to  doonman
December 21, 2022 6:25 am

I’m looking forward to quite a few ‘tipping points’ over the next 10 days.

William Howard
Reply to  Steve Case
December 21, 2022 8:03 am

what – you mean that the miniscule amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from man’s industrial & transportation (something like 1 one hundredth of 1%) is not a problem – heretic

December 20, 2022 11:05 pm

The author forgot to include their obsession with Black Holes, Dark Matter, Dark Energy and let us not forget their massive media campaign to keep us in the dark about their misanthrope plans to cull humanity…
As an acoitheist it is difficult to explain these people without invoking the theist concept of an evil, satanic entity running them. I must assume they are just psychopaths… or batshit crazy!

AGW is Not Science
December 21, 2022 3:54 am

Good post, with one nit -we are never going to source our energy from unreliable, unpredictable, inconsistent and low density “sources” like wind and solar, even if we find an “end” to economically accessible fossil fuels.

Wind and solar are 100% dependent on fossil fuels for their existence in any event, so the notion that they will “replace” fossil fuels, irrespective of any imaginary “advances” in how clever we are about harnessing them (or magically “storing”their energy for extended time periods), has always been a big fat lie.

Last edited 1 month ago by AGW is Not Science
December 21, 2022 6:57 am

Dear Global Leaders of the Enlightened, please forgive us for being alive. You are lords of the Global Manor and we are the workers. We have been and have no other choice but to continue to serve you well. You would be lonely without us. There is no drama, poetry or art with machines Only a few can be Leaders of the Enlightened so do not forget us. We are flesh of your flesh and bone of your bones. We are your brothers and sisters so have mercy and forgive us for wanting to live. All your wealth comes from us,,,,so steward it well. Do not blame us for your gaps in your knowledge, logic. understanding that has lead to incompetent stewardship. Tongue firmly in cheek.

December 21, 2022 7:55 am

Anyone who demonises CO2 and plans to cut it, should not be tolerated by society – they are eco terrorists, nothing more

Reply to  Energywise
December 21, 2022 1:08 pm

I guess your comment is tongue and cheek. If it isn’t, there room in every human society for people with damaging ideas and solutions that don’t work. Uniformity ain’t it left or right.

Reply to  JC
December 21, 2022 1:09 pm

What do you do with the hydrocarbon energy companies that lobby for carbon tax or support green propaganda.

December 21, 2022 7:56 am

A; Gore sez we have 7 years….7 years becuz the earth is out of kilter…..and we will hear the sounds of silence.

Last edited 1 month ago by antigtiff
Charlie Echo
December 22, 2022 2:59 am

Well written and shared. Thank you.

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