A title that seems to carry conspiratory overtones (some might conclude). Well, as my esteemed readers know by now, the so-called “Dutch nitrogen crisis” got me thinking; philosophically, scientifically, historically and otherwise.
Be that as it may, a few ‘scientific’ papers that have come out in recent years - let’s not dabble in shady referencing - really do envision a resetting of the whole of our global society, with agriculture at the forefront.
Why? SCIENCE, obviously. At least that’s how this blatherskite is sold as scholarly today.
In point of fact, we are not dealing with science, but scientism. The utopian path of scientism always leads into the abyss of dystopia, the never-changing endpoint of all Utopias.
Put differently, “what has been will be again, and what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” as Ecclesiastes 1:9 so eloquently states.
Let’s dive into the SCIENTISM of the extirpative expertocracy that só wants to ‘reimagine’ the world we live in; without anyone’s consent, by the way.
Scientism - suicidal science-idolatry
Embracing scientism, as I claim is done in the papers discussed below, falsely and disastrously reduces all human problems – poverty, social inequity, climate change, the meaning of life, warfare, (nitrogen) pollution, food safety – and all human affairs, including what it is to be human, to ‘scientific’ discovery and confirmation.
Scientism thus is the misguided belief that all real knowledge is scientific knowledge. Eminent chemist (of course) Peter Atkins puts it like so in his On Being - A scientist’s exploration of the great questions of existence:
“In short, I stand by my claim that the scientific method is the only means of discovering the nature of reality, and although its current views are open to revision, the approach, making observations and comparing notes, will forever survive as the only way of acquiring reliable knowledge.”
This immediately raises the following: how does Atkins know that “the scientific method is the only means of discovering the nature of reality”? Well, it is clear that he only can know this, as he himself proposes, because the sciences reveal that to him!
This, of course is begging the question; big time.
The claim ‘scientism is true’ is not itself a scientific claim at all, as the veracity of this very claim can never be established using scientific methods from, say, chemistry, physics, biology.
Therefore, scientism is self-refuting nonsense.
Worse, the fact that science is, rightly, upheld as a rational form of inquiry (in the non-scientism form, that is), can never be established scientifically. It rests on a number of perfectly rational (philosophical) beliefs one must have in order to do science in the first place:
- there is an objective world external to the minds of scientists (and anybody else);
- the world is an orderly place, governed by causal regularities;
- the human intellect can link up to this external world and uncover and describe these regularities (and even predict never before seen aspects of the world we live in!);
Justifying these necessary presuppositions with science, as scientism commands, is arguing in a circle. Naturally then, scientism has nothing to do with science.
Still, the authors of the two papers embrace scientism through and through and regard it as the only means to solve the ‘world problematique’ (see below) they perceive through the same lens of scientism.
Let’s have a look, shall we.
"Food in the Anthropocene": advancing dystopia with scientism
The paper The EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems is 47 pages long and published, obviously, in the Lancet, with esteemed colleague Wim de Vries as one of its authors. The goal of this hefty excursion is as follows (emphasis added):
“The absence of scientific targets for achieving healthy diets from sustainable food systems has been hindering large-scale and coordinated efforts to transform the global food system. This Commission … [develops] global scientific targets based on the best evidence available for healthy diets and sustainable food production. …
We quantitatively describe a universal healthy reference diet to provide a basis for estimating the health and environmental effects of adopting an alternative diet to standard current diets, many of which are high in unhealthy foods. Scientific targets for a healthy reference diet are based on extensive literature on foods, dietary patterns, and health outcomes. This healthy reference diet largely consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and unsaturated oils, includes a low to moderate amount of seafood and poultry, and includes no or a low quantity of red meat, processed meat, added sugar, refined grains, and starchy vegetables. "
What is envisioned, through SCIENCE, is a global Great Food Transformation (capitals in original). Five strategies are proposed to accomplish this Transformation, with the obvious caveat that these strategies are not “exhaustive nor prescriptive”. Sure. Nevertheless (empasis added):
“10. Achieving healthy diets from sustainable food systems for everyone will require substantial shifts towards healthy dietary patterns, large reductions in food losses and waste, and major improvements in food production practices. This universal goal for all humans is within reach but will require adoption of scientific targets by all sectors to stimulate a range of actions from individuals and organisations working in all sectors and at all scales.”
By the “adoption of scientific targets by all sectors” the Great Food Transformation can be achieved, or so the authors think. The planetary boundaries delineate the “safe operating space for food systems” (empasis added):
“We use the planetary boundaries framework as a guide to propose a safe operating space for food systems that encompasses human health and environmental sustainability. This space is defined by scientific targets that set ranges of intakes for food groups … to ensure human health … and planetary boundaries for food production to ensure a stable Earth system. These boundaries include the total global amount of cropland use, biodiversity loss, water use, greenhouse-gas emissions, and nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that can be due to food production …. These boundaries for human health and food production identify the safe operating space within which food systems should jointly operate to ensure that a broad set of universal human health and environmental sustainability goals are achieved.”
This so-called planetary boundaries framework requires further analysis, as this idea is discussed in a 2015-Science paper we will now turn our attention to.
“Planetary Boundaries”: advancing dystopia with scientism 2
“Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet” is a substantial piece in the Journal Science. Indeed: the title itself is pregnant with visionary meaning as only SCIENCE can bring, or so the authors maintain (one of which, again, is Wim de Vries; emphasis added):
“The planetary boundaries [PB] framework defines a safe operating space for humanity based on the intrinsic biophysical processes that regulate the stability of the Earth system. … [it] aims to define a safe operating space for human societies to develop and thrive, based on our evolving understanding of the functioning and resilience of the Earth system.”
Why are the authors proposing the planetary boundaries framework? Because (emphasis added):
“There is an urgent need for a new paradigm that integrates the continued development of human societies and the maintenance of the Earth system (ES) in a resilient and accommodating state. The planetary boundary (PB) framework contributes to such a paradigm by providing a science-based analysis of the risk that human perturbations will destabilize the ES at the planetary scale. …”
Where this “urgent need” comes from remains in the dark, so we must assume that the authors of this piece find it all very relevant to inform the world of their weighty musings on the dire dystopian planetary status and their solutions, as gauged by SCIENCE. Indeed (emphasis added):
“New research initiatives … provide evidence that science can respond to this need by applying Earth-system research to advance a new generation of integrated global analyses and to explore options for transformations toward sustainability. This is a clear sign that, as the risks of the Anthropocene to human well-being become clearer, research is maturing to a point where a systemic step-change is possible—and necessary—in exploring and defining a safe and just planetary operating space for the further development of human societies.”
While on the subject, the Science-paper revives the old Club of Rome’s ‘world problematique’ - the interplay of “poverty; degradation of the environment; loss of faith in institutions; uncontrolled urban spread; insecurity of employment; alienation of youth; rejection of traditional values; and inflation and other monetary and economic disruptions” - as presented in the 1972-report The Limits to Growth without ever mentioning this (in)famous planetary boundaries predecessor.
All in all, SCIENCE, ostensibly, delivers all the answers on questions of beneficial utopian global societal change needed to avert the looming dystopian dangers. An overarching empirical claim of solvable proportions is promised accordingly.
But, how cán we know, with SCIENCE in hand, that we have identified, at sufficient depth, all relevant matters with respect to the purported planetary boundaries we must, according to the same SCIENCE, adhere to in order to avoid ‘collapse’?
Thus: does that knowledge square with áll pertinent knowledge? And: why does decisionmaking has to exclusively rely on said knowledge of undefined scope and depth?
The scientistic poppycock of planetary boundaries
The philosophical (scientistic) gaffes being made in both papers are simply devastating, and it is even more bewildering that the peer-reviewers of both Journals actually accepted this insufferable drivel! Let me unpack the garbage that both papers are.
What should be immediately clear is the circularity of the planetary boundaries argument, whereby the whole excercise is null and void:
We, the expertocracy, agree that the SCIENCE is clear and (more or less) complete with respect to the envisioned and imminent collapse (of the planet, agriculture, human health, etc.), which can only be averted with the same SCIENCE we, the experts, agree upon!
The authors of the Science-paper try to respond to the knowledge questions I pose above, and fail miserably. Indeed, desperation is palpable as to the purported dire straits of our planet and the so-called necessity of their SCIENCE-solutions:
“A proposed approach for sustainable development goals (SDGs) … argues that the stable functioning of the Earth system is a prerequisite for thriving societies around the world. This approach implies that the PB framework, or something like it, will need to be implemented ….
… there are severe implementation gaps in many global environmental policies relating to the PB issues, where problematic trends are not being halted or reversed despite international consensus about the urgency of the problems.”
Let’s not beat about the bush: the expertocracy can never know their SCIENCE is complete with respect to their problem-analyses and their hoped-for global solutions, which they so eagerly try to sell in a question-begging manner, which typifies scientism.
Worse, the planetary boundaries garbage is actually taken on blind and bad faith: the sufficiency of science, which the authors believe they have achieved, can never be established with the same sciences.
As I remarked earlier, scientific knowledge as such, even of the highest quality both papers clearly do not represent at all, is never (really: as in never) enough reason for any kind of decision.
Scientific knowledge is but one aspect amongst many. Social, economic, cultural, religious, historical, strategic aspects of the issue at hand have to be brought to the table in order to make any kind of well-informed decision.
The Lancet-paper’s proposal for the “adoption of scientific targets by all sectors” for the global Great Food Transformation, therefore, is patently false and portrays dangerous scientistic hybris in the worst utopian tradition.
Planetary boundaries - the violence of violating the Second Commandment
In both papers, Utopia, and the push towards this ‘paradise’, is primarily driven by the presented dystopia of crossing the planetary boundaries. The circularity and stupidity of this utopian dialectic argument I have presented above.
We are dealing with classical blue-print utopianism, scientism in hand! The authors present themselves, with their work, as the enlightened expertocracy that demand a hearing for the sake of the future of the planet only they can fathom accurately.
In fact, the expertocracy resonsible for both papers violate the Second Commandment - “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.”
No, this is emphatically not a superficial expression of one of my favourite hobbyhorses, theology.
The Second Commandment is a stark religio-political warning against hybris, that is believing that one is exclusively in the know about society and how it should be run to the benefit of all.
The Decalogue refers to the holiness of God and the praiseworthiness of Him alone.
The expertocracy of planetary boundaries, however, radically overturns this frame of reference by secularising omniscient and omnipotent power into scientism, with all the endless violence and destruction that that entails.
Why violence and destruction? Because disagreement with the expertocracy - intellectually ánd practically - is deemed by them to be impossible, thereby claiming an idolatrous position for themselves: “Thou shalt have no other gods before us!"
That’s why the resetting of global agriculture along the lines of the concept of planetary boundaries will be quite destructive, as is my prediction. The delusional Dutch nitrogen ‘crisis’ is thé case in point and a stark warning to the rest of the world.