Once upon a time the crackpot libertarians held up the Dvorak keyboard as an illustration of how market forces will inevitably back the best product. Qwerty, so the circular argument goes, must be the best, or it would have been supplanted. QED.
“The Fable of the Keys” has a lot to answer for in this regard. When last I looked, it was still being quoted as ‘proof’ of the superiority of the Sholes keyboard layout (the one known as ‘Qwerty’). “The Fable of the Fable” does a thorough job of debunking the “Fable of the Keys” — but, despite its convincing argument, it has a fatal flaw. The flaw is, quite simply, this: it came second. The first message got in there and did the damage. Game over, before it’s even begun. Classic Sun Tzu.
Roll on a few decades, and here we have the (ongoing) ‘climate change debate’. It’s just as farcical as Dvorak vs Qwerty, although arguably there’s rather more at stake. The bad, flawed, ‘proofs’ that climate change isn’t happening, or that it’s not as bad as the ‘alarmists’ make out, just keep on being regurgitated, just like a particularly wicked vindaloo.
Once again, we have a bunch of right-wing crackpots making lots of noise, and completely ignoring the facts. But that doesn’t matter, since what counts is not whether your facts are right but whether enough people are listening to what you have to say. It also helps if what you say sounds good, whether it’s factually correct or not. “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”
That there are right-wing supported anti-science organisations promoting a concept they have the gall to call ‘sound’ science strikes me as indicative of just how secure the promoters of the anti-science movement feel. They’re saying they themselves don’t believe in the concept they’re pushing; since all that matters is what the punter hears they’ve even gone so far as to make a pun on the name of the thing they’re promoting. Which would be funny, if it weren’t so sad.
It’s easier by far to get someone to listen to what you have to say if you’re saying what they want to hear. The difference here is that, although in many cases what both sides are doing is preaching to the choir, the sound bites get loose and interact with the day-to-day lives of those who have the ability to call for change. Except that most people don’t want change, so the ‘business as usual’ noise always has the upper hand.
Sun Tzu’s advice was to only fight the battles you can win. When it comes to ‘the climate change debate,’ we’ve already lost: no real action is being taken. There’s no prospect of real action being taken, because the political will does not exist to ensure action. ‘No action’ translates to ‘business as usual.’ And business as usual is exactly what the libertarian nutjobs want to maintain. Business as usual means, in a nutshell, we’re all screwed.
It matters not whether you win or lose.
Until you lose.
And, every single day, we are currently losing from our single, hard-pressed planet:
- 1500 acres of (carbon-sink) forest ∞
- 100-200 species, gone for good to extinction
- 30,000+ humans to starvation §
∞ Free-market fanatics would have us do extensive environmental impact testing before implementing a reforestation plan; and yet, because we’ve been chopping trees down for millennia, cutting down a few hundred thousand more can’t hurt, right?
§ ‘Human rights?’ What a joke. You’re alright, Jack?