Largely unremarked we are living in a period that history will judge to be as significant, intellectually and culturally, as the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment. What we are witnessing is nothing less than the reconciliation, or at any rate synthesis, of religion and science, the two great forces of civilisation that were driven asunder by the Darwinian revelation in the latter part of the 19th century.
This extraordinary consummation, which may yet prove the most profound historic upheaval of all, began with a thermometer and may end with the retreat of civilisation. At some time in the very recent past a scientist, or scientists, discovered that the world was getting warmer. We all know what happened next. Surprise became concern, concern became fear, fear became panic. Had the apostle Matthew heard the noise he would instantly have recognised it as the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth that was his most popular catchphrase. Private Fraser, too, would have felt vindicated since up went the cry in a thousand tongues, "We’re all doomed, I tell ye."
Serves us right, too, since we’re all to blame. Mankind in keeping himself warm and satisfying an insane desire to be forever on the move by means ever faster and more ambitious was suffocating the Earth and would pay a terrible price for his folly.
So far, so satisfyingly dreadful. But then a strange thing happened: imperceptibly but surely global warming became a religion. Once this is understood, and there are still people who have not appreciated its significance, all things fall into place: the messianic certitude, the unquestioning faith in a central and revealed truth, the evangelical zeal that daily acquires more votaries – all point to the existence of something sacred and mysterious and beyond our understanding. If one were to compare it with previous religious beliefs the closest would be animism whose ancient adherents, the Greens of their day, worshipped trees and plants.
Alas, global warming, in common with all religions, has unsavoury aspects. It proves a magnet for charlatans and mountebanks, in this instance politicians who see in its growing hold on the imagination an opportunity to arrogate to themselves more power and a heaven-sent excuse for raising taxes under a cloak of virtue. It allows the myriad jobsworths and petty functionaries to label those whom they purport to serve as polluters, infidels who must be punished. Put your rubbish in the wrong bag and feel the heavy hand of the law on your collar. The harsh and unbending application of dogma would have won the admiration of the medieval papal curia.
Religion and hysteria have ever been bedfellows and so it has proved with global warming. For this the whirling dervishes of the media are much to blame; gullible and sensation-seeking, they spin ever faster, trying to reach a divine ecstasy. That, however, will be attained only with the last trump headline/ "World Boils to Death – All Dead".
Religion demands great sacrifice and none have given more than that body of men and women known as the scientific community. They have given their souls.
Put simply, the scientists have exchanged one belief for another. They used to believe in the pursuit of truth wherever it might take them. Their methods were rigorous, their systems painstaking; above all, their minds were open. Tendentious science was corrupt science. In fact, it was not science at all.
Then came the fact of global warming, followed not long after by the belief in man-made global warming, a belief that became a religious conviction to whose paramountcy all other ends were subservient. Scientists the world over bent the world to their will. Or rather they bent the facts, choosing those that confirmed their faith and rejecting those that did not. Of all the dire effects of global warming only one has so far materialised: it is the closing of the scientific mind.
With an arrogance typical of the time, Sir Nicholas Stern marked the publication of his apocalyptic (and flawed) report on the economics of climate change with the announcement that the debate was over. Finis. QED. Amen.
Thankfully, however, there remain a few brave and independent spirits willing to bear the stigma of blasphemy and speak their minds. It is thanks to them that we are told, for example, that the United Nations’ scientists undervalued the effects of the sun on climate, understated the greenhouse effect inherent in nature, exaggerated the past century’s increase in temperature, and abolished the global warming of 1,000 years ago.
The behaviouralists call this "confirmation bias" – the instinct to seek information confirming your preset beliefs and rejecting, or overlooking, contrary evidence. Behaviouralists are scientists. They can’t be wrong.