I have just watched the latest episode of Q & A. It’s about the fires, very confronting stuff, I found it hard to sit through but worth it. Mostly it is about the tragedy and personal stories, accounts of people rising to the occasion and questions about how to deal with the problem in future.
Inevitably the relationship between the disaster and climate change came up. Climatologist Michael Mann gave a very direct reply that the extreme conditions were related to climate change and that humanity was responsible and needs to deal with it.
Senator Jim Molan said he respected Mann’s opinion and that he accepted that scientists held that opinion but that he saw many other opinions coming across his desk.
Senator Molan said: "I accept the climate is changing. It has changed and it will change. What it’s producing is hotter and drier weather and a hotter and drier country.
“As to whether it is human-induced climate change, my mind is open.”
Asked once again to answer the question and “what is the evidence you are relying on?” he said
“I’m not relying on evidence, Hamish,” Senator Molan said, prompting heckles from the crowd, as well as parliamentary peers and commentators on social media.
During the 18th century a movement began that understood that humanity had methods to gain understanding of the natural world and that this could be the basis of a change to our society. This was largely fuelled by the understanding of the scientific method and that science provides real answers to questions about how the universe works. It was supported by a change in attitude that it was evidence not authority that provided useful information about concrete questions. This was called The Enlightenment.
Now we see an increasing viewpoint that all opinions matter equally. This attitude supports; anti-vaccers, selling Goop and 100 other crackpot panaceas, fake news, fantasy of all kinds and climate change denial. Senator Molan was satisfied that since there were other opinions he was on safe ground, that the evidence was irrelevant.
This belief system comes down to saying that the nature of the real world is not determined by what we observe but what we believe. We are at risk of going back to before the enlightenment - we are heading towards The Endarkenment.