How many novels and movies have been based on the theme of a mad scientist out to single-handedly control the world? Surely too many to count.
This fictional idea is a remote fantasy, of course, because one person acting alone is always trapped, and tripped, by his unique set of limitations. Watching our fearless leaders congregate at the G-8 summit last week, I realized that this wrinkle has been smoothed and the plot is working. The solution was simple: what one mad scientist cannot accomplish individually can be achieved by all the mad scientists working in collaboration.
My father, Morton Homnick, is a prominent psychologist in New York City with a number of fascinating unpublished theories. The one that applies here posits the existence of unspoken cultural conspiracies. It works like this. Someone in a position of influence puts out a selfish or greedy idea in the hope that his peers in the intellectual classes will recognize their opportunity to cash in as well. The others back the first one’s play without being prompted until, eventually, they announce that a consensus has been established.
A good example can be seen in the classroom, where one student may be the first to say it is too hot or too cold to perform some unpleasant task, and the others will quickly echo his call, sensing the opening even without prior planning. In the broader culture this occurs in much the same way. One male professor jumps out with a theory that faculty dating students is good for the younger partner’s self-esteem and he is guaranteed a chorus of lechers who will jump in to corroborate his “view”.
Here, tragically, we arrive at the current version of this corruption. It is the work of a broad array of nominally unaffiliated scientists. They can all see that global warming is a doomsday hoax which can coax cash into their pockets and enhance their prestige at the same time. This toxic cocktail becomes too intoxicating to pass up.
After all, we have never in our lifetimes seen a scientist pay a public price for exhibiting too much pessimism. Predict overpopulation, nuclear winter, acid rain, ozone holes and oceans polluted beyond recovery, and you are a savior. Predict good times and you will pay the price for your unwarranted optimism by a warrant issued from the court of public opinion.
Although the opposition to global warming is derided in the media as the work of hidebound conservatives, the fact is that no political party in the United States has the courage to oppose the environmentalists. President Bush goes to the G-8 and talks like Snow White, saying how important it is for agreements to be reached on this all-important issue. The other seven dwarves at the G-8 are more radical if anything. At least Bush held the line to an extent, not committing to a quantifiable result without China and India cooperating.
The government of India, for its part, issued a very sensible paper saying that global warming is a) debatable and b) not immediate, so rescuing its populace from poverty takes priority. Why the G-8 gurus think their countries can afford to gut their economies for this abstract advantage is beyond understanding. The Western economies are tottering under immense pressures from the current oil and banking crises; buddy, we can’t spare a dime.
The greater tragedy is the loss of credibility in the field of science. A century ago the entire world was certain that all its problems could be solved by the application of the cold hard facts science would discover. Instead of science pushing politics and culture toward objectivity, politics and culture have pushed science into subjectivity. How sad for us to rely for our facts on people who color them for their gain, and whom we lack the authority to refute.
Our only choice is to take refuge in humor. Two fellows are talking about their wives. One says, “My wife is so intelligent she can discourse for an hour or more on a wide range of subjects.” The second grumbles, “That’s nothing: my wife doesn’t even need a subject.” It is time for G-8 summits to pay attention to real problems, like helping living people to make a living.