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April 22, 2010 – It’s appropriate that for Earth Day a British court has essentially confirmed Gaia’s status as a goddess who is worshiped by eco-acolytes. What so many have observed—that beliefs about the environment have morphed into a new cult—is now being openly acknowledged by its members. And like all cults, this one rots human brains and endangers the human species.
First, the case : Tim Nicholson was an environmental sustainability expert working for Grainger, the UK’s largest residential landlord. He was fired, he maintained, because of his views on global warming and a list of environmental issues about which he harangued his bosses. In an early hearing in the case, a British judge ruled that Nicholson’s beliefs were legally akin to religious beliefs and thus protected against discrimination.
Now the case has been settled, and the company will need to pay Nicholson some ?50,000.
On one count the British court was right, on another wrong.
The court was correct that the beliefs of many environmentalists fall into the category of religion.
The only means by which we humans obtain knowledge about the world and about ourselves is through the exercise of our rational minds, through reasoning, theorizing, observing, and testing. Many people perceive environmentalists as engaging in such an enterprise because they often use the language and external trappings of science. Watch—if you can keep from falling asleep—Al Gore’s every-award-winning movie An Inconvenient Truth.
But more and more environmental extremists in fact begin with a conclusion they’d like to believe and cherry-pick supporting evidence accordingly. That is to say, they are not truly concerned with the truth of their beliefs, and they substitute faith for reason.
This is why in the global warming debate the Al Gores of the world disingenuously dismiss well-reasoned, data-based questioning of their beliefs by experts in the field, by policymakers who are asked to act based on those beliefs, and by citizens who will have to live with the consequences of such actions. Worse, such environmental extremists use political manipulation and pressure to censor serious critics and exclude them from forums where extremists’ beliefs might be questioned. These are the actions of true believers, not truth seekers—that is, of religious fanatics.
But there is a deeper value judgment made by environmental extremists that also qualifies them as members of a religion—a cult, really. Their aim is not the good of human individuals on this earth. Sure, their rhetoric sometimes speaks of the importance to human welfare of clean water and clean air. But more and more they treat the earth as a living entity that is a value in and of itself rather than of value to human beings. They more and more see we humans as a plague on the earth.
Many traditional religions see this earth as a vale of tears from which we should be happy to escape—i.e., die. But unlike such religions that at least posit an unearthly heaven as a consolation, eco-extremists just plain don’t seem to care what happens to humans. They just want us gone.
That’s why they advocate minimizing all activities involved in human life—reducing our “carbon footprints.” That’s why they want policies to punish those who choose to have children , treating children as carbon-emitting units that Gaia is better off without. That’s why some openly advocate the elimination of all humans. And that’s why they constitute a truly dangerous religious cult.
And here is where the British court was wrong. Nicholson’s lawyer said that his client “established the principle that a belief in the dangers of climate change was capable of being protected under the religious discrimination and philosophical belief regulations.”
But the real danger is the assertion that religious opinions deserve any special protection under the law. They don’t. Quite the opposite, in a pro-human culture these as well as other beliefs should always be open to scrutiny regardless of whether the feelings of those who hold them are hurt. And in many cases, discriminatory action is advisable.
For example, college biology departments rightly reject Creationists for teaching positions. The reason is not because the candidates might hold religious beliefs as such. It is because such individuals do not pursue knowledge about biology and human origins through a rational, scientific approach but, rather, start with a predetermined conclusion—and a highly ridiculous one that comes from their faith—and manipulate and cherry-pick data to make a superficial argument for their indefensible assertions.
To the extent that environmental extremists hold their views as a form of religious dogma, they deserve the same treatment as Creationists who disingenuously pawn off their views as science.
Reason is a value to human beings because if we as individuals value our own lives and well-being, and if we wish to live, to be happy, and to flourish on this earth and in this life, we must use our minds to seek the truth. Extremist cults reject reason because they reject human life as the standard of all value.
Some environmental extremists now seek to deflect criticism of their dogma by couching them as religious—which, in fact, they are. But rather than deflect criticism, this fact should open them to even greater scrutiny, both of the basis for their assertions about global warming and much else—and, most important, the ultimate goals that they seek. If it’s not life on this earth, then they should at least be honest about their suicidal aims.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.