The Sun did come out for the first morning – Monday morning. The inaugural conference of the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship was in Greenwich just a few miles downriver from Westminster in London.
I hadn’t managed to get any sleep Sunday night after arriving late on a series of flights beginning in Rockhampton (to the immediate west of the Great Barrier Reef) via Dubai (on the edge of the desert of the eastern Arabian Peninsula) arriving Heathrow over more than 24 hours with no sleep.
I nevertheless sat up into the early hours of that London morning after finally being allocated an hotel room, penning a first blog post, which has been republished at WattsUpwithThat.
Then it was time to have breakfast and meet up with John Roskam and also Bella d’Abrera – another IPA colleague, in the hotel foyer. It was Bella’s idea we catch the cable car rather than the tube. So, we arrived from Docklands by going over the Thames rather than under it. I thought it a most wonderful way to arrive.
On the other side of the river, and down a few streets, we found a long line of academic types, snaking their way very patiently to a very large black shed known as the Magazine London. Described as a purpose-built destination, the largest of its kind in London, this shed was able to accommodate the 1,500 plus delegates from over 70 countries, and an orchestra – all gathered for this inaugural conference. But everyone first needed to get through security.
This first ARC conference was going to be more than a series of lecture. We got to hear a rabbi play from the horn of a ram/shofar, Joshua Luke Smith recite poetry, and on and on it went, and that was just the first morning.
At the first morning tea I got to meet some truly brave people who had travelled almost as far as me, including the founder of Rebel News, Ezra Levant from Toronto, who does not flinch but rather provokes on the toughest of issues.
The recurring central theme on the first day, and throughout, was that we in the West are facing a civilisational crisis, driven by external and internal forces. Considering external forces, historian Niall Ferguson said we are in the most difficult strategic environment since World War II. Internally, at the level of culture, we heard about the ‘radical left’s’ capture of our institutions, the divisions in society stoked by the grievance industry, and the collapse in traditional family structures.
Jordan Peterson was a significant presence throughout the three days and promoted continually as the wisest man – with all the answers.
This was a key mistake, because, while Peterson has an important message, which mostly begins and ends with the biblical stories, he seems unable to publicly acknowledge this his Christian faith and that Western civilisation’s greatest success is science following from regard for the rational without demeaning the important roles of religion and faith. To be clear, and in the interests of getting to a core issue that the ARC conference was purportedly about, I am going to suggest that Jordon Peterson doesn’t actually understand, or have any empathy for, science beyond clinical psychology. His obsession is with biblical stories and culture and how we can best live as individuals within families. This is all so very important, but it is not central to the success of Western civilisation – it is but a part of the story. And if the West is to survive it will need to maintain its technological superiority, that I will discuss in Part 3 of this series.
Western civilisation’s success can be attributed to the innovations that followed men who became curious about the natural and physical world beyond their families and communities. Men, it was mostly men who were given the opportunity, to understand nature, natural systems extending even beyond our solar system and describing this universe mathematically and empirically.
Jordon Peterson’s genius is understanding the nature of humanity, but not necessarily what was special about even our first and most important scientists in the western tradition beginning perhaps with Johannes Kepler. Kepler’s First Law states that planets move in elliptical paths around the Sun. He also discovered that planets move proportionally faster in their orbits when they are closer to the Sun; this became Kepler’s Second Law and is critical to understanding climate change over geological time.
Rather than name, and so acknowledge, the most important of these first scientists in the Western tradition, in the conference handbook, Jordon Peterson laments as he did on stage:
Five centuries of ascendant reductionist Enlightenment rationality have revealed that this starkly objective world lacks all intrinsic meaning. A century and a half or more of corrosive cultural criticism has undermined our understanding of and faith in the traditions necessary to unite and guide us …
‘We find ourselves, in consequence, inundated by a continual onslaught of ominous, demoralising messages, most particularly in the form of environmental catastrophism ..
In Peterson’s opening address, and subsequently, the nature of this catastrophism is never discussed or assessed.
This is something that the early scientists puzzled over and described empirically and mathematically. Jordon Peterson could have explained this if he took the time to consult more widely, if he had any interest at all in the history of science that is fundamental to understanding the success of Western civilisation.
Science and its central role in the success, particularly the military success of the West, was hardly acknowledged at this inaugural ARC conference, with Peterson and other delegates preferring the comfort of biblical stories and talk about families and communities. But these can only persist if they can keep the barbarians beyond the gates, at least in part through military superiority. Such is the nature of how individuals, communities and nation-states arrange themselves.
There was no rational discussion and debate about the very issue, human-caused global warming, that is driving so much individual anxiety and causing a growing weakness in our national security across nations that have a Western tradition. In the next post in this series I will explain how concern about global warming is undermining energy security and thus national security.
There was no opportunity for any consideration of the underlying physics nor the empirical data that would enable some assessment of whether the core theory of catastrophic climate change is supported by the evidence, or not.
Jordon Peterson concerned himself in this opening address with the story of Job in the Bible, a man who suffered because of his faith rather than because of any natural catastrophe – manmade or otherwise. Peterson’s final address included the claim we have such power over nature, we can green the deserts.
There is a biblical tradition, that recognises deserts as places to wander, fast, and where one can find God. I’m not sure if that will be as easy if they all become places for easy fishing, or at least relative safety where one can escape the heat and sand and all that can make our existence seemingly unbearable.
On the first morning Somali-born activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, in conversation with former Australian Prime Minister John Anderson and British philosopher Os Guinness said,
Western Civilisation is a cut flower, and cut flowers die… but we have the remnants, the symbols of western heritage, and their seeds. All we have to do, those of us who inherited it, is to go and see them, grow them, nurture them, water them – and when they’re attacked, fight for them.
“Western Civilisation is a cut flower, and cut flowers die… but we have the remnants, the symbols of western heritage, and their seeds. All we have to do, those of us who inherited it, is to go and see them, grow them, nurture them, water them – and when they’re attacked, fight… pic.twitter.com/4BE22K5oKc
— The Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (@arc_forum) October 30, 2023
In fact, it is not nearly this simple.
There is a need for debate, but not between the ignorant, there is a need for those with expertise in both mathematics and science to be able to reconnect with the roots of Western Civilisation that means being allowed to be curious about the earth, and also the Earth, in which the seeds of the flowers might be planted.
There was hardly any mention of science at the conference, and instead of including the most imminent scientist who was at the conference, Richard Lindzen, on a most important panel session on the evening of the second day we had to suffer the ignorance of both Jordon Peterson and Alex Epstein when Dennis Prager asked an important question: Is Antarctica melting or not?
As Magatta Wade and Michael Shellenberger also on this panel ducked the question, Alex Epstein, but only after Dennis Prager pressed the point, claimed, ‘Antarctica is melting, but slowly.’
I felt a need to interject from where I was sitting at a table toward the back of the room at this ‘ARC in the Evening – Sector Dinner’ advertised as ‘Energy and Environment: Fuelling the Future and Powering Progress’.
‘Incorrect,’ I called out.
After hearing for two days about the importance of the truth, I was not going to be silent.
Jordon Peterson, also on the panel, on stage, saw and heard me clearly and took over from Alex Epstein commenting, lifting his microphone after running his hand over his face as he had a habit of doing across the three days, he said into his microphone, ‘The problem is that we don’t know when it [the melting at Antarctica] began or when it will end.’
‘Incorrect,’ I called out again.
This time Peterson, asked me directly from the stage, ‘Why? How do you know [when the melting will start and end]?’
‘The physics of the universe,’ I called back, ‘There are cycles. We can forecast when they will begin and when they will end.’
I went on to mention the ‘Milankovitch cycles’, the 100,000-year cycles, that can be described mathematically relating to the orbit of the Earth about the sun and its changing eccentricity. This can be seen empirically in the ice-core data including from Vostok at the Antarctic. I could have gone on to explain that we are only now beginning to understand the likely effect of falling sea levels and changing orbits on submarine volcanism that likely increases dramatically, precipitating the end to each of the last half dozen or so ice ages.
Peterson turned back to the panel and they wrapped up. If I had been given a microphone, I could have elaborated further about the importance of understanding scale and also phase alignment, but no one was going to give me a microphone.
Across the three days there were no roving microphones – none.
Discussion was limited to each panel, and their preordained experts.
These experts are listed across six pages of the inaugural ARC conference handbook, beginning with Agu Irukwu, a Senior Pastor of Jesus House for All Nations in London and ending with Winston Marshall, a grammy award-winning musician.
There were scientists in the audience, very few, but notably Richard Lindzen. He was at this dinner.
And so, my final act of defiance, was when Denis Prager at the suggestion of Michael Schellenberger called for Bjorn Lomborg to stand-up toward the very end of the panel session. Calling for Lomborg to stand-up because we should acknowledge him as a great advocate for the truth on this issue of ‘energy and the environment’. And so I could but call out again from the back of the room,
‘Then let’s also acknowledge the presence of Richard Lindzen’.
Denis Prager could not see me, and he asked for clarification, as to whose name had been called out. A gentleman from a table closer to the stage called back, ‘Richard Lindzen’.
And so, after political scientist Bjorn Lomborg was cheered as a campion of the truth because he is clearly Michael Shellenberger’s’ favoured wiseman, there was opportunity for atmospheric physicist Richard Lindzen to stand and also be applauded by the several hundred of us at that dinner.
Early in the panel discussion Shellenberger had specifically commented that ‘scepticism’ must be closed-down and ‘the science’ of the IPCC accepted as true. This is perhaps the intention of Bjorn Lomborg, and it would seem other intellectual drivers of this inaugural ARC conference. Though I would argue they are not really intellectual, but more political in their aspirations and motivations.
If ARC is to be truly successful in saving Western civilisation, then it is going to need to move beyond politics and reconcile itself with the very nature not only of man, but man’s place within the Universe. This is at the heart of science as it is still practiced in places like Russia and China.
If Western civilisation is to persist, it needs more than anything else to save its science, because otherwise our civilisation will be conquered and replaced. This is the reality of history: boys don’t only need to be able to set the table, a theme of Jordon Peterson’s final closing address, but they also need to be able to fight wars and win them. We thus need energy security for national security, a theme that I will discuss in part 3 of this series.