Hannah Arendt on global warming theory

…there are, indeed, few things that are more frightening than the steadily increasing prestige of scientifically minded brain trusters in the councils of government during the last decades. The trouble is not that they are cold-blooded enough to “think the unthinkable,” but that they do not think. Instead of indulging in such an old-fashioned, uncomputerizable activity, they reckon with the consequences of certain hypothetically assumed constellations without, however, being able to test their hypotheses against actual occurrences. The logical flaw in these hypothetical constructions of future events is always the same: what first appears as a hypothesis—with or without its implied alternatives, according to the level of sophistication—turns immediately, usually after a few paragraphs, into a “fact,” which then gives birth to a whole string of similar non-facts, with the result that the purely speculative character of the whole enterprise is forgotten.

—Hannah Arendt, 1970. On Violence, Harcourt Brace & Company, New York. Quoted in Washburn and Thronton (eds.), 1996. Dumbing Down: Essays on the Strip-Mining of American Culture, Norton, New York (p. 23).


  1. Well its nice to know that our favored intelligentsia have at least learned from their mistakes. They no longer need to wast time with “a few paragraphs”. These days once an hypotheses is parroted by the MSM it is granted “instant infallibility”. Saves oodles of time.

  2. Ian McLeod

    I don’t think anyone has bridged global warming and Hannah Arendt together before, but I’m glad you did. I remember reading Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism back in the 80’s. I studied chemical engineering and couldn’t sleep because of the constant thin-slicing brought on by the study of solution thermodynamics, so I read philosophy to wash away fugacity formula from the mind―Kant was also particularly good for nodding off to.

    However, the power of her prose stuck with me over the years. Arendt explains convincingly how many megalomaniacs used their brand of twisted science to suit ideological motivations. To a large degree, global warming is like this: Sceptics on the right, Necessarians on the left, truth difficult to access. I think many modern day scientists are grossly naive when it comes to the realization that the ideological charlatans (Al Gore with his 2 million net worth in 2002 after he left office, and his now 100 million plus net worth today) can manipulate the science that they do, and then the scientists exacerbate their naiveté by believing the chicanery propagated by the medium.

    Allen Bloom suggested a great truth in his concluding remarks in The Closing of the American Mind, “Our problems are so great and their sources so deep that to understand them we need philosophy more than ever, if we do not despair of it, and it faces the challenges on which it flourishes…The gravity of our given task is great, and it is very much in doubt how the future will judge our stewardship.”

  3. Joe Triscari

    … what first appears as a hypothesis … turns immediately … into a “fact,” …

    I was always amused at the breathless horror over “run-away” global warming under the mere assumption of a positive feedback mechanism.

  4. a jones

    I am afraid the End of Days is always with us, it seems to be part of the human condition.

    Only it’s false priests, and their prescriptions, change to suit the fashions of the times: and even then not much.

    In our modern so called Age of Reason these doom mongers advocate pseudo scientific claptrap, a thousand years ago in Christendom it was the millenium, and in between we have had everything from Revelations to Nostrodamus to Malthus to thermonuclear war.

    Other cultures are no better, their hobgoblins and bogeymen are a little different, that’s all.

    Never seems to happen though I am glad to say, humanity seems to manage to steadily advance in material and social terms despite all the awful warnings.

    The only thing in common is that being a Prophet of Doom seems to be a pretty profitable business: and what better excuse to spend all those donations of the faithful on wine, women and song for oneself since the End of Days is certainly upon us?

    Kindest Regards

  5. The Atomizer

    Arendt was a remarkable thinker and had a wonderfully skeptical mind. Great passage on paid doom bringers.

  6. darwin

    I thought we had gotten past “The Origins of Totalitarianism.” Boy, was I wrong. “The Human Condition” is to often grasp at straws and succumb to the blandishments of the most outrageous charlatans. The Big Lie really does work, not because the truth is hard to swallow, but because it is sometimes difficult to find in the noise of the modern communication age. How can people think when they are listening to their iPod while twittering on their Blackberries and blogging on the Internet with HDTV including surround sound telling them the Earth is coming to an end. It is the Disinformation Age.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *