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Sunday, August 25, 2013
Georg Hegel’s “Philosophy of History” contains the phrase, “What experience and history teach is this — that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”
The current debate on climate change may shed some light on this enigma. Despite the fact science has arrived at a consensus concerning global warming, there are still doubters.
The doubt doesn’t come from just the uninformed, but from educated professionals who you would expect to embrace the conclusions of science. Advances in science and technology are the signature of modern America. There are more Nobel laureates in science awarded to Americans than any other nationality.
Why the denial? Is it based on a legitimate concern for scientific truth or is there a hidden agenda?
What is it that drives people to deny reality?
The climate-change debate might not have much of a history, but the patterns of denial do. And this pattern has more than once caused great calamities. Calamities that could have been avoided if the lessons of history had been learned.
I will cite one example.
The run-up to World War II offered many warnings as to the growing menace of Nazi Germany. Any historian will tell you there were numerous opportunities to nip this problem in the bud, if the Western powers had acted decisively.
This is fairly well understood, but what is not so well understood was the reason for not acting. On the American side, and probably others’ as well, well-heeled investors were owed a lot of money by Germany as a result of World War I. Secretary of State Cordell Hull was reluctant to press the Germans too hard for fear they would stop paying the money owed to his well-off constituency.
His quest for money blinded him to the reality of the Nazi menace, and the world paid a terrible price.
In like manner, the surrogates of those who cause global warming, in their quest for money, are blinded to the reality of global warming, and the world will pay a terrible price.
It is not my intention to blame World War II on Hull. He was just one of many of a large cast of characters, so there is plenty of blame to go around.
The narrative serves to illustrate how bad judgments can precipitate horrific calamities.
Christopher Clark, author of “The Sleepwalkers,” a well-documented account of the run-up to World War I, captures the mind-set of the European powers of that time by this summation:
“They were sleepwalkers, watchful but unseeing, haunted by dreams, yet blind to the reality of the horror they were about to bring into the world.”
Is there a lesson to be learned here?
Weather JournalRain is here; watching for snow