This classic saying from the New Testament (Matthew 7:16) confronts effect and cause. A bad effect is not likely to have a good cause, and vice versa. Thorns do not bear grapes, and we find no figs on thistles. We should therefore not rely on fine words and theories. What counts are the effects that arise from them.
Ludwig Boltzmann, the great Austrian physicist, applied this elementary truth to the natural sciences. “It is not logic, not philosophy, not metaphysics that ultimately decides whether something is true or false, but action. That is why I do not consider the achievements of technology to be incidental; I consider them to be logical evidence. If we had not achieved these practical results, we would not know how to argue. Only such conclusions, which have practical success, are correct”
Very well, a type of thinking without proven results,
which regarded all natural phenomena as causally determined, already existed 1500 years before Christ, namely in the so-called Brahmana texts, where all events of the universe were considered to be magically linked to human thinking and acting. What the Vedic priest imagined and then magically set in scene by piling up sacrificial stones and pouring holy butter over them, resulted in definite and inevitable consequences – or so the priests of that time believed. These magicians thought themselves capable of destroying enemy armies with their incantations or of arbitrarily inducing lunar eclipses (apart from healing all possible diseases and misfortunes). The Indologist Hermann Oldenberg described the world view of that time as “prescientific science”; the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss interpreted it as an anticipation of scientific determinism. But it was Ludwig Boltzmann, who highlighted the crucial difference between this way of thinking and the scientific world view that emerged almost two thousand years later in the 17th century. Magical thinking merely wreaked havoc in the minds of priests, but nature remained unchanged. After all, enemies were never really defeated by priests, lunar eclipses were never induced by priests. At some point, these aberrations of mere thinking were doomed to death because people no longer believed in them. In recent times a somewhat bewildered American anthropologist even called them the senseless “jabbering of priests”. So Boltzmann is right indeed and so is the Bible: Ye shall know them by their fruits!
Ludwig Boltzmann was to live until the beginning
of the last century. He could rightly speak of a spectacular success of the natural sciences. Within only three centuries, these had made the states of Europe by far the richest and most powerful of the globe. Never before had a majority of the population enjoyed such great material prosperity, never before had people enjoyed longer lives, never had they been able to protect themselves better against diseases. And technological progress had given Europe enormous power over the rest of the world. By 1914, Great Britain controlled a quarter of the globe’s total land area before it achieved its greatest expansion in 1921. Tiny industrially armed states of a tiny western part of Eurasia had conquered entire continents (North America and Australia) and brought the rest of the world, including the two advanced civilizations of China and India, under their sway. No one was in any doubt as to the reason of this extraordinary success: All those new weapons recently developed with high scientific expertise played the decisive role: They were the direct fruit of the new scientific knowledge and skills.
But beware, how do these fruits look like today
more than a century after Boltzmann? Let’s apply the ethical standard of the Bible and the scientific standard of the great Austrian scientist to our present situation. What conclusion will we reach? Albert Einstein, the theorist, scribbled the famous formula of the equivalence of mass and energy on a piece of paper. This was a Faustian act, but Mephisto was immediately on hand to make a fruit of it, by which to recognize the validity of the theoretical formula. Since then mankind has been living with that enormous arsenal of weapons of mass destruction with which it can exterminate itself more than a hundred times over. No theorist wanted this, least of all Einstein himself, who later warned like no other of the effects of the bomb and saw in a world government the only way to deal with the deadly threat. But thistles are made to carry thorns. If we follow Boltzmann’s logic, we are not allowed to rave one-sidedly about the sweet fruits of science only – such as the historically unique wealth it has brought to a substantial part of the world’s population. No, we must also have the courage to see its poisonous fruits.
It does not even require special courage to do so
An intact world only exists in fairy tale books, the real world is made of a multitude of red lists. From California past Australia and Indonesia to Siberia forests are blazing everywhere. At the same time storms are getting more and more violent and destructive, floods are becoming more and more frequent. Already in 2006 the Stern Report conjured up the frightening prospect that agriculture in large parts of Africa can no longer feed the people so that millions of people can be expected to storm Fortress Europe.
Doctor Faust, the bold theorist, has drawn up those abstract
formulas that give modern man a dominion over nature, which until then was considered a prerogative of God. It was Mephisto, the incarnation of thousands and thousands of gifted engineers, who subsequently put the theory into actual practice. The latter was, as Boltzmann says, its logical proof.
Both together, Doctor Faustus and Mephistoles, embody the two sides of man, whose deeds consist of both good and poisonous fruits. No one, for example, doubts the tremendous progress of medicine. However, its breathtaking not only enabled man to extend life by decades and keep him healthy into old age, but it made us change the genetic make-up of living beings according to our wishes. And now we see Mephisto whispering in our ears why not apply this ability to humans themselves, so that we may create superman not caring for the danger that he may turn out to be a mere Frankenstein monster? Such prospects are depressing. Our earth will soon become a terrible place unless we are willing and able to put something completely different alongside the superior intelligence of Dr. Faust and his alter ego Mephisto. For such help we must turn to Sophia, human wisdom, which, fortunately, we find in ourselves as well. For the sake of the common good – or rather for the sake of mere survival on an increasingly maltreated planet – Sophia must issue binding ethical rules to protect humanity from itself, namely from the poisonous fruits of scientific intelligence.
For – let us not forget – the fruits of science
cannot be obtained without exploiting things, that is nature and its resources. Without the ever increasing use of coal, oil and gas hidden in the earth’s crust, the industrial revolution would never have happened. With equal justification we may therefore call it “fossil revolution” as well. One of the poisonous fruits of the new scientific world view is that it brought about acts of unbelievable brutality against nature. In the introduction to a new, as yet unpublished book, I use the following comparison:
“Should we not compare our present situation to that of a victorious army that after seizing all the booty of a conquered country now squanders it in a short, drunken frenzy? Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, which should rather be called a fossil flash in the pan, we have been squandering the wealth of the earth and do not want to admit that all this may last for just one or two generations more. And we certainly do not want to be told that our great feast produces poisonous traces all around us: in the air, in the water and in the soil.”
For sensitive ears these are Cassandra warnings,
which endanger the complacent lies of our state-sponsored “positive” world view. But the ecological crisis is a hard fact long since accepted by all leading ecologists. Herman E. Daly, former economic officer of the World Bank, whose ecological writings are considered by many to be represent outstanding examples of scientific analysis, has given my book his explicit applause. ” Dear Dr. Jenner, Thanks for sending me your cogently reasoned, well informed, and clearly written book. I hope it is widely read. Best wishes, Herman E. Daly.
I had already received praise for my writings from economic experts, namely two well-known German economists Bert Rürup and Gerhard Scherhorn. However, I regard Prof. Daly’s benevolent assessment as particularly important, because I know of only a few scientists who uphold the truth even when it turns out to be rather “unsavory” (in Al Gore’s words) and violates the subjection to “political correctness”, which is about to force thinking more and more onto the track of self-censorship.
In any case, my book is certainly not politically correct
for I had no other intention than to be “well informed” with regard to facts, to present a ‘”clearly written” text and all arguments in a “cogently reasoned” way. Nevertheless, will those who demand political correctness so that everybody is content, shy away from some of its statements, even if their professional soundness is expressly acknowledged by an internationally celebrated authority. Ms. Julia Womser, an editor at the German dtv publishing house, with whom I had on telephone arranged the sending of the manuscript, may until now not have understood that even a young student like Greta Thunberg is fully aware of the dramatic situation we are faced with. In any case, my disregard for political correctness apparently upset the lady so much that she did not even consider it necessary to maintain the outward rules of common politeness: Even after a written inquiry – one month after delivery I asked if there was any interest in publishing my book – she did not consider it necessary to give an answer.*1*
Yes, it is true: The book “Yes, we can – No, we must!”*2*
is characterized throughout by political incorrectness. Renouncing any euphemism, it deals with climate change, migration, basic income and similar topics that have become combat terms for many contemporaries by which to recognize other humans either as like-minded ideological friends or as enemies to be ruthlessly fought. I believe that the scientific search for truth depends on our willingness to deal objectively with each matter – carefully weighing the pros and cons. Open discussion is essential, as criticism constitutes the very essence and impetus of science. What fundamentally contradicts its spirit is the popular shitstorm as well as any secret string pulling in the background. Unfortunately, I had to experience the latter myself. I mention this incident, which in itself is devoid of any general interest, for the sole reason that it has become part of current political correctness too to make oneself small like a sneak and cowardly conceal violations of the ethos of truth and science.
The editor of a German publishing house and a German scientist
acted, in my opinion, quite carelessly, the first with regard to his reputation, the second in view of scientific ethos – such may be the consequences caused by political incorrectness. Or is it not a serious danger for the good reputation of an editor, if two weeks after my inquiry, whether there is any interest in publishing the book, he states that the “idea of the book … naturally suits us and it is surely also Worth /sic!/ to appear in Germany”, but then concludes only the mail with the standard phrase: “please do not evaluate this refusal as criticism of the book’s quality.” Mind you, Mr. Hirsch said so without having read even one line of the book, because in my publishing offer I had only mentioned the title together with the benevolent assessment by an internationally renowned expert. But in truth, he learned to know about the manuscript too from Mr. Niko Paech, an esteemed author of his house, who had indeed received the manuscript and already congratulated me on the commendatory statement from Mr. Daly: “I would have liked to have such a feedback from the Pope /the growth criticism/…” Prof. Paech also knew that I wanted to contact the oekom publishing house, because I had previously informed him of my intent in two emails.*3*
Well, such intrigues and secret arrangements behind the scenes are so commonplace that it would not be worthwhile to Even mention them. On the other hand, I don’t want to be told that I’m closing my eyes to such manoevres out of a sense of defenselessness. Open discussion also means calling by name those who avoid such discussion and prefer to whisper behind the scenes. Ye shall know them by their fruits!
But is there still anything more to be learned about climate change
that is not already known to those who want to be informed? Not really much, indeed. My book will only be granted a certain originality and value for further discussion in one respect. If it is true that the depletion of resources and – even more so – the constant poisoning of the environment by the residues of industrial processes (of which CO2 is only one among hundreds of thousands) represents an even greater turning point than the two greatest revolutions of the past, the Neolithic and the fossil. And if it is equally true that the measures necessary to overcome this historic crisis are in themselves quite simple and well known to science, then we must ask ourselves why these rather simple and well known measures are meeting with such bitter resistance so that despite the Paris Treaty and countless other efforts we are de facto sliding towards the abyss ever faster? This question cries for an answer – and this what the book wants to provide.
1 We should not be surprised that in view of such proceedings on the part of editors it is becoming more and more common for authors to send their manuscripts to several publishers at the same time – otherwise they must reckon with waiting for an anser until the end of their days.
2 The German original is titled “Wir schaffen das!” (We can do it!); the English version, available as Kindle on Amazon, has a better title: “Yes, we can – No, we must!”.
3 I very much appreciate the thoughtful and often challenging reflections of German ecologist Prof. Niko Paech. That was the reason why I sent him a copy of the present book venturing at the same time to ask him to intercede with the oekom publishing house, where he was an esteemed author, in case he liked the manuscript. I even made this request a second time after he had confirmed receipt of the manuscript. I then contacted Mr. Hirsch of the oekom publishing house to ask if he was interested in the work, in which case I would send him the manuscript. I did so by mail and by phone on the same day. If from the outset he had to turn down my offer because at that time there was no more room left for further publications, then he could have told me this right away on the phone – indeed that is what he should have done.
It was not until two weeks later that I received a rejection in the form of the usual standard text, namely that unfortunately the publisher already had other books in its program and that I should please not take this as a statement about the quality of my book. This was pure mockery in view of the fact that Mr. Hirsch never received the manuscript. Only Mr. Paech, the established author of the publishing house, had been able to provide information within these two weeks – I had twice informed Mr. Paech that I wanted to contact oekom.
I mention this refusal which in itself is, of course, quite insignificant, because it is the opposite of a possibly very justified criticism of my work. Indeed, I would have been grateful to Mr. Paech if he had conducted in an open way. As to Mr. Hirsch: publishers are private companies and therefore have the right to accept or reject whom or what they want, even without giving reasons, but there are rules of decency that even a Mr. Hirsch should observe. Let me add that the presumption of innocence applies to Mr. Paech as it does to everybody else. After all, nothing is impossible with God – perhaps archangel Gabriel gave Mr. Hirsch insight into my book making him a competent judge.