Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Creative destruction

It is easier to destroy than it is to create. If similar efforts expended on creation and destruction, the destructive change is often are bigger - sometimes much bigger. So: those who seek leverage should seriously consider destruction as an option.

I've written about the possibility of positive destruction - in my 2010 positive destruction article.

In the context of cultural evolution, creative destruction typically involves destroying memes, preferably bad memes.

This is partly the job of promoters of skepticism and rationality. As an example, both Dawkins and Dennett have had a go at sabotaging religious memes. I have often expressed puzzlement at this behaviour - since religious though has been widely discredited by scientists. Scientists attacking Abrahamic religions in modern times look a bit strange - since those religions have not been scientifically credible for a long time now. Scientifically, they are a dead issue. However, maybe, by taking advantage of the power of destruction, they are still doing some good.

I identified some other bad causes in my 2010 'bad causes' video. However, I didn't really link my conclusions up with those of the positive destruction essay. Top of my list at the time was climate change. Reviewing the topic five years later, climate change is still my number one bad cause. I don't think I have ever seen so many resources and time frittered away on such a worthless and ineffectual cause. Experts on cause prioritization seem to fairly uniformly agree that climate change is not a high priority. How then to explain the wasted billions?

One of the most obvious explanations is that fear sells. Global warming alarmists are fear-mongering. I also think that virtue signaling explains a lot about the irrational global warming hysteria. The cause offers people a chance to save the world - a well-known superstimulus to do-gooders. Trying to save the world shows that you care a lot.

Maybe global warming alarmism has enough detractors for it to no longer be low hanging fruit for critics. However it is still pretty fat - and fat targets are often attractive.

If so, the efforts of Matt Ridley and Bjorn Lomborg (among others) may prove to have been especially welcome.

I am especially disappointed with the role that many scientists have played in the fiasco. Like Matt Ridley, I see the climate wars especially indicative of scientific funding bias. Ridley explains the problem in What the climate wars did to science. Scientists should be the first to speak up in a situation like this. A few scientists have done this = but overall, this is not what we have seen. It is a big embarrassment to those who want to proudly call themselves scientists.

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