The climate change challenge

It is said that ‘time and tide wait for no man’.  Then what is the extent of our reputed ‘God-given’ dominion over and ethical responsibility for the planet?  Do we actually know?  For decades it was largely thought that the facts on climate change were ambiguous and independent of human activity.  There is still ambiguity – because that is the nature of the facts.  And what is reason’s purview when so much of perception is tied to the image of what we want to see?  Indeed, despite the growing consensus that something needs to be done, plus the acknowledgement that actions speak louder than words, the notion of ‘necessary and sufficient action’ still remains a source of controversy.  Nevertheless, it is possible to cut through all the ideation and procrastination to test the true sentiment behind our stated wish to do something – bearing in mind that there is no scope for ‘doing a deal’ or reaching a compromise with the forces of nature.  In reality, climate change may be a symptom of a bigger problem and it is not nature that needs to be fixed.

Doesn’t ‘globalism’ mean that China’s emissions are also our emissions?  What if the time for making comparisons and apportioning blame is over?  Even the checked advance of climate change could mean that the ordinary and the everyday are destined to become the exceptional and occasional.  Or is it just a matter of hanging on until science and technology find the solution?  But isn’t our predicament also due to our insatiable desire for more technology?  Perhaps we need to be honest with ourselves.  If we are to be serious about climate change and its threat to civilisation, then is it not time to re-evaluate the social and economic priorities of the ‘good life’ with its rude incarnations in our vain and excessive indulgences in wasteful luxury and lazy convenience?  If we can’t rise to that challenge and begin to moderate our extravagances right now then all other measures, adjustments and innovations could be compromised.  This problem beggars the imagination and demands a radical redefinition of our civil responsibilities.  Something needs to be done, but it may be the one thing that we can’t expect the authorities to do for us?


‘Philosophy Alive’ examines the relationship between our thinking and the facts.  This involves questioning our assumptions about what the facts mean.  For instance, if climate change poses an immanent threat of global disaster, then there is no doubt that we will need to take urgent and drastic action.  Some critics might point out that the ‘Armageddon scenario’ is still hypothetical, even in the long term, but there is a double consideration here – if the potential consequences are so daunting then we can’t afford to play ‘Russian roulette’ with the lives of our children, so to be pragmatic, we might need to treat the possibility as an inevitability and act accordingly.  Then, even if science has over-estimated the impact of climate change, the error is a good thing if it acts as a spur to positive reform.  Meanwhile, given that science is not infallible, let us hope that we have not already passed some unforeseen point of ‘no return’. 

Mike Laidler



Explanations: ‘joined-up facts’ and ‘the God of the gaps’

In the nature of things, if everything is constituted of something else, then is nothing fundamentally itself – but if everything is essentially itself, then what is explanation?

It is now ‘evident’ that the laws of physics had a beginning, as with the fact of life, although we don’t know how since both beginnings remain unexplained; but it is also evident that there are unknown beginnings ‘hidden’ within the regressions of our causal definitions – because causes introduce something else to be explained: namely the source of their originality.

Does consciousness defy explanation because we know of no cause that is similarly aware?  (Tweet pub. March 23, 2019)

In theory, explanation links the ‘facts of life’ to their evolution, but there is a missing link:  the origin of that evolution is linked to a fact of life it doesn’t explain – the origin of life.

If the ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’ then science and religion may be seen to hold a belief in common – in the unverified presence of the ‘knowable fact’.

Without a superstructure of belief, can the fact that ‘speaks for itself’ be validated by the supposition to have found it?

If, the emergence of an ‘objective universe’ introduced a real difference into existence – a new reality defined by the laws of physics – then the emergence of a ‘subjective universe’ may have yet to make its mark – to be defined by a parallel nature yet to be fully realised.

Can a cause explain an effect without the uncanny intervention of a thing called ‘explanation’?

Of all the strange things in the universe, the presence of a questioner is stranger by far than any ‘answer’ to be singled-out from an original cause in the ‘hard’ (insensible) facts.

The day organisms began to think was an equally transformative event for nature and the universe at large – even when confined to those organisms thinking about themselves.

Aside from all the bogey-man stories, there is real evidence for a supernatural level of activity that emerges by way of the capacity for some things in nature to be self-aware.

Time passes: there was a time when ‘the truth’ was the exclusive province of religion and its revelations; now science offers-up a truth we cannot see beyond.

Is science struggling explain the basic fact of life because there is a world of difference between the physical world gaining and giving life – because there are no tiny seeds of life and consciousness to be found in the laws of physics?

Does the causality in existence prove that existence is caused – if not, then is the discovery of a ‘God particle’ any less of an abstraction than that of the ‘God notion’?

Beyond the ivory towers of AI, is it not evident that intelligence becomes of consciousness and not the converse?

Just because virtual reality has become a real experience for us, does it mean that the virtual consciousness and intelligence of AI is a real experience for the machine?

We live in at least two worlds, one of them being ‘a world of our own’, namely the world of thought; however, if that isn’t so, then the reality is even stranger than we picture it – because it is one in which nature is also thinking for us.

Mike Laidler