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« Why is Lord Deben against "food waste"? | Main | The Institute of Physics is corrupt »

Peter Foster on morality, evolution and me

The text of Peter Foster's talk at the House of Lords yesterday has been published by the GWPF and it's a fascinating read, taking in subjects as diverse as evolutionary psychology, economics (particularly of the DIY kind), Climategate, and the books of AW Montford.

It can be seen here.

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Reader Comments (25)

An interesting piece.

It is interesting to note that the two big famous disagreements between Science and Religion - those of Heliocentricity and Species Evolution - were also bound up in religious doctrine. It was not the case that the Church disbelieved the science, rather it was the case that the science seemed to be saying to the Church that Man was not the centre of God's attention, and that Man was not created by God.

Both these are religious points rather than scientific ones. But scientists do not seem to realise that this is what they are saying to someone who views the world through religious eyes - hence the mutual lack of understanding and antagonism...

Mar 25, 2015 at 10:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterdodgy geezer

I intended just to dip into this, but found it so lucid and well expressed I read the whole thing. Excellent.

Mar 25, 2015 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

mike fowle
Ditto. I have passed on to my daughter the joke about the duck. I expect it to "do the rounds" in very short order!
This really is an excellent assessment which will raise a few hackles among those who consider themselves "socialists". I see no reason why it should but as Foster makes clear they can't really help themselves.
On "our" side we need to be aware that we are in the same boat. Just aboard different elephants. Pardon the mixed metaphor.

Mar 25, 2015 at 10:43 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Evolutionary psychology is as cod in the hands of sceptics as it is in the hands of environmentalists. We should avoid it, it's always crap.

Mar 25, 2015 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

Just this week, the head of the US Episcopal set out the case that climate denial is immoral which double underscores Foster's points. Today, the Christian religions are joining the wagon of climate change, social justice, redistribution in the drive toward criminalizing thought (speech is already criminalized). Foster's use of evolution may be even more on point than one might surmise...species evolve until they go extinct. Climate change totalitarianism may not be the straw but is certainly is the part of the bundle.

Mar 25, 2015 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered Commentercedarhill

This caught my eye:

"Schneider infamously said that scientists have to balance being truthful with being effective in promoting what he called “a better world.”

... guess who the latest Synthesis report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is dedicated to?

Stephen Schneider."

That dedication amounts to an unequivocal admission by the IPCC that it is prepared to bend the truth. Of course we already knew that but it's good to see that they own up to it, albeit sub-consciously.

Mar 25, 2015 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterTC

I am pretty certain Stephen Schneider was a long time professor at Stanford and that the unfortunate Lewandowsky is, I am sad to say, an American.
That said, this is a very interesting piece, made more interesting by the fact that Pete and I went to the same school in Blackheath. Apart from being a terrific writer, he was an outstanding Rugby player.

Mar 25, 2015 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered Commenterbernie1815

Though the loss of anthropocentrism in Galileo's case had vast intellectual consequences, this loss of anthropocentrism in climate will have greater social and political consequences. Much greater.

Mar 25, 2015 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Methinks the Scheider dedication a sleeper put there by someone who intended the implication. Amazing that no one in the room full of politicians who reputedly review the SR word by word picked it up.

Mar 25, 2015 at 12:05 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

the really sad thing about churches backing the current dogma on climate change is that it conflicts with the fundamental Christan belief that the Truth will set you free.

Mar 25, 2015 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

The only "fundamental" Christian belief is that you will be rewarded in the next life by following the teachings of Christ, as interpreted by whichever church you happen to think is the "right" one. Nowhere in those teachings have I seen anything that suggests that you are obliged to suspend your ability to think which is, in essence, what the Climateers and their useful idiots are demanding of us.
(Those who believe that religion requires that you do have to suspend your ability to engage in independent thought, please don't bother. I shan't rise to the bait and you're wrong. ☺!)

Mar 25, 2015 at 12:50 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Peter Foster may be right about the driving forces motivating alarmists but debates are not won by converting opponents; they are won by converting the undecided.

In that regard, I'd be interested in reading a follow up where he addresses that particular issue. In particular, why has the alarmist case, given its blanket establishment support, been unable to translate into the support of the public.

Mar 25, 2015 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterTDK

Great, another free-market plonker, just what we needed! When you can look at your own dogma and criticise its failings rather than praise it incessantly then you might be able to lay claim to some kind of wisdom. Alas too often this pathetic 'debate' is just one lot of pseudo-intellectual fanatics revering the mythical 'invisible hand' versus another lot that believe in a mythical fragile Mother Earth. Neither bother to even read the works of the other - they just dismiss them with a series of strawman arguments and lashings of santimoniousness. Having thence dismissed their opponents-du-jour as demonic for not believing the one-true-god they can safely ignore every opposition argument whether right or wrong and retreat back to the safety of their ivory tower where they will be lauded by sycophants who also once read a book that changed their lives and then never cared to read anything that disagreed with it.

And this time the sermon is given to a bunch of old farts and Blairite luvvies that have no business being anywhere near power even on the few occasions that they turn up and remain awake.

Mar 25, 2015 at 2:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

I love this quote:

"Lewandowsky’s contribution to science was a bogus study that linked climate skepticism to the belief that the moon landings had been faked.

The most effective rebuttal of this thesis is that two prominent skeptics, Harrison Schmidt and Buzz Aldrin, have been to the moon."

Mar 25, 2015 at 2:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterClive Best

...(Those who believe that religion requires that you do have to suspend your ability to engage in independent thought, please don't bother....</>

EVERY religion does. This is called 'Faith', and it is a much admired characteristic of all religious followers. I don't think you can be a member of any religion without some faith, and a loss of faith is universally seen as a bad thing. Many people have died rather than lose it...

Mar 25, 2015 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterdodgy geezer

Certainly it would not be possible to assert that Capitalism has not been sufficiently criticized.
However the motives, failures and costs of the "third way" which is disabling the West has been barely acknowledged, much less widely commented on.
A fair minded person such as yourself should at least be willing to read through a serious presentation such as this and comment on the points raised, instead of dismissing without even addressing the points.

Mar 25, 2015 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunterter

JamesG, just the sort of thoughtful and measured comment that distinguishes this blog from time to time.

As an old fart (though not a Blairite luvvie) who went along, I can assure you that the audience was certainly not confined to people 'near power'. Maybe you were misled by the talk's being held in a Lords committee room.

As to the talk itself: it was good, but second-order. It is more interesting to demonstrate that people have wrong opinions, rather than to explain, however plausibly, why they hold those wrong opinions. Ben Pile's view of evolutionary psychology is no doubt valid 97% of the time, but 'Just-So Stories' capture the imagination. And Haidt's work on morals (and the elephants we ride on) has some experimental basis. I was interested in the speaker's (mild) criticism of our host, as unwilling to concede that many opponents were not deliberately closing their eyes to the truth. I don't think this criticism is valid of the Bish, but I may not have been paying attention. Certainly it applies to many posters here. As Foster said, this underestimates our capacity to rationalise where we find our elephants taking us. And as MJ says above, we need to remember that we too ride elephants.

Mar 25, 2015 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterosseo

"The most moral people in the world are suicide bombers."

I can see why he says that, but I'm not sure it's true. Most of them, we are led to believe, see it as a short cut to Paradise, with 70-odd virgins as a side-benefit (I think it says something about their culture that virgins are considered so desirable). If you could remove that incentive, I suspect that there would be rather fewer volunteers...

Mar 25, 2015 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamesp

Dodgy Geezer @ 3:03

Faith is a component of many things, including science. Thinking through a problem starts with evidence, applies reasoning to the circumstances, and then requires a leap of faith to a prediction. That process is the same in religion - there is a huge mass of written material that takes evidence, applies reason, and then extrapolates (the 'faith' bit).

Your comments would only apply to 'blind' faith - or the development of a position based on no evidence. That is not the religion most of us know, though it seems to reflect a large part of the 'faith' of the green people.

Mar 25, 2015 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

...Faith is a component of many things, including science....

Faith - a belief based on no firm evidence - is a fundamental part of the human psyche. It enables us to make projections, guesses, which enable us to model alternate possible futures. As such it is an important survival trait - which is why we have it.

Science has no problem with the use of guesses - they are formally termed hypotheses. You are encouraged to make them. But Science does not recognise them as being the truth. Once the guesses are made and defined, evidence is needed to back them up. And as the hypothesis survive more and more attempts to disprove them, or as new unrelated evidence supports them, they begin to be considered truer and truer.

Religion works differently. Revelations are claimed, and a body of doctrine is put together. Followers are then taught it and required to believe without firm evidence which would convince an unbeliever - in other words, to have faith.

I am not knocking the concept of faith. It is a powerful force in human society. An important religious figure commented that it could move mountains. There is indeed a lot of commentary on religious issues based on reasoning - Thomas Aquinas' work, for example, is legendary. And at the end of it all he stated that God is studied by reason, but known by revelation and faith.

I have always preferred Roger Bacon's approach...

Mar 25, 2015 at 6:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterdodgy geezer

Evolutionary psychology is as cod in the hands of sceptics as it is in the hands of environmentalists. We should avoid it, it's always crap.
Mar 25, 2015 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile
You beat me to it, Ben.

Of all the bogus "disciplines" that have been inserted into universities in the last few decades, this has got to be the worst.

It differs from astrology only by it's name.

Fans of inductive reasoning deserve Nobel Prizes for physics in comparison.

Mar 25, 2015 at 7:33 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

DG - You're being a bit selective in your definition. Faith is also defined as confidence or trust in something. Science and (my) religion share that feature. You're earlier statement used the 'faith based on no evidence' and applied it to all religions and their proponenets. That's what I take issue with. If you put the handy little word 'some' in front of religions (or science for that matter!) then I'd have no issue with what you wrote.

Mar 25, 2015 at 10:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

his top sentences re-ordered
\\The climate issue is blanketed with the psychology of taboo, which is what makes reasoned debate with “the faithful” impossible.//
\\Al Gore claims that the fact that climate change is a “moral issue” puts it “beyond politics.” This is a transparent attempt to close down political opposition. //

\\Moral values tend to be seen as absolute and non-negotiable. Evolution has “designed” us to regard them that way to make them more effective as motivators.
The dark side of non-negotiability is that it involves demonization of those who hold alternative views.
They are, by definition, “immoral” and likely wickedly motivated. These infidels deserve to be silenced, or even eliminated.
They certainly should not be listened to.//

\\the Pope is shortly to produce an encyclical on climate, thus maintaining the Church’s perfect record, since Galileo, of backing the wrong paradigm. //

- Also says : They/we are unconscious that we are not in logical control, but riding upon elephants of our cultural mindset.
He disagrees with Montford to the extent in career promotion and Climategate that scientists know that they are riding elephants

(The only other webpages that mention Maurice Strong and Saddam and money laundering are conspiracy wacko sites)

I searched for alternative views on his talk but didn't find any (green/left's ignore rather than debate trick ?)
Aha in his Jan 2015 column he talked about the subject and got 500 comments yet all the warmists comments were snarling ..nothing constructive

Foster has written like this since before 2006 in a few Financial Post articles
"Canada: Moralists bring on climate-change fog" 2006 -(but no comments there)
- interview Feb 2015 .. 6 comments

Mar 26, 2015 at 3:49 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

The late John Daly on the late Stephen Schneider:

"In 1971, Schneider claimed that an 800% increase in CO2 would be needed to raise global temperature by +2 deg. By the late 1980s, he promoted the UN view that a mere 100% increase in CO2 would be enough to raise temperature by +1.5 to +4 deg.

In 1971, Schneider promoted the idea that the next Ice Age was imminent. By the mid-1980's and into the 1990s, he equally vigorously promoted the idea that world was about to suffer a catastrophe caused by Global Warming.

In both cases, Schneider was publicly active in promoting both views, whereas other scientists who may have had a change of view due to new information, did so in the relative privacy of the scientific community, avoiding unnecessary publicity. Not so with Schneider. He revelled in publicity, and promoted both viewpoints at different points in time with equal enthusiasm."

Mar 26, 2015 at 11:29 AM | Registered Commenterdennisa

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