By Ben Stein on 12.15.09 @ 6:08AM
The American Spectator
"What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty!…In apprehension how like a god…" so said the Bard, and of course, he was right. Man's capacities, for good and evil, are stupefying. In science, in language, in war, in healing, how miraculous are man's achievements.
And yet, so much eludes us and how tiny we are compared with our challenges. Disease strikes us down in our prime. We age and grow weak and then pass away, often cruelly. We make war upon our own kind and kill largely for sport. We cannot control the tides or the sun or man's theft from man.
But we try to rise above our puniness compared with our problems and pretend that we have solutions and explanations that will take away much of the mystery of life and history and make everything clear. We create models that we think make us appear to be gods.
Karl Marx invented such a model that purported to explain all of history. It was a cruel sham and an excuse for the most breathtaking cruelty in the history of the human race. Now largely abandoned, except on the campuses of universities, it promised salvation and delivered death and suffering.
Adolf Hitler, borrowing largely from the vicious racist doctrines of the superiority of the Nordic races, promised a beautiful super race and a super future. He delivered mass murder and war.
Yet man still tries to come up with a theory to explain everything and then to use that theory to control his fellow man, always in the presumed wish to save the white race or the working class or someone or something.
The model we have now in this long and sordid catalogue is about climate. Based upon a great deal of data, many scientists have come up with a theory that human activity is wrecking the climate of the planet and that if the wise, good people are not allowed to compel the stupid, evil people to change their ways drastically, terrible things will happen. Unless some men can make the other men burn less oil, burn less coal, drive smaller cars, not heat or cool their abodes as much, stop growing so much beef and pork and chicken, stop exhaling so much carbon dioxide, the world will end badly.
I do not pretend to be a climatologist. I do claim to follow the subject and it has been clear for years that there is major controversy about whether global warming is really happening in a long-term way. Data suggest (not prove, suggest) that the earth was warmer hundreds and even thousands of years ago than it is now. There is some evidence that the earth reached a high point in temperature in 1998, and then fell, with a rebound just in the last year.
There has also been controversy about whether whatever climate change is occurring is anthropogenic (or of a scale to make much difference about most facets of life). There are terribly smart scientists in the field who say the effects are caused by solar activity or oceanic actions or something else they cannot explain.
In other words, the results of burning carbon are in doubt and the causes are in dispute. The recent publication of hacked e-mails among global warming advocates showing a clear effort to obscure the truth was a stunner to some, but not to those who knew there was a major controversy about this all along.
In this case, what on earth are we doing seeking to drastically change man's activities on the planet in this quixotic campaign? Why are we seeking to turn industry upside down in the cause of something that may not even be real?
Maybe because the real goal of the climate change elites is not to save anyone from anything but to have as much social control as possible. Just as the real goal of Marxism was to elevate the power of the Marxists, possibly the real goal of climate change champions is to elevate their status in the world.
Karl Marx was a demon sent from hell, but he said a mouthful when he said that "all history is the history of class struggle." Maybe what we are seeing now is class struggle between the academics and bureaucrats and the businesspeople and oil people and utility people. Maybe that's what this recent tomfool notion of declaring CO2, a life-giving gas, a dangerous pollutant is. If the government can have a right to control CO2 emissions, it can control every aspect of life everywhere. This is a recipe for blowing up the Constitution. In the name of a goal which may be unrelated to carbon dioxide emissions, which may not even be a real target, which may be a wholly specious goal, we are considering giving government control over our lives beyond what would have been considered conceivable just a few months ago.
Surely this breathtaking assault on freedom merits absolutely total certainty by everyone with a microscope that we will all die very soon from carbon dioxide emissions if we do NOT take away freedom. To allow the government this kind of control over our lives, climate change should be an imminent, life and death issue understood as such by everyone. It should not have to be protected from inquiry and truth seekers as it obviously has been judging from the hacked East Anglia e-mails. The Constitution is far more important, human freedom is far more important, than bowing down to the climate change gods with their smoke and mirrors.
We are living in frightening times, and the ones who are the most frightening among us are, as usual, the ones pretending to save us.
- Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.