“Like cures like” is the central dictum of homeopathy, an alternative medical practice in which a source of disease is also used as the cure. I like to think this approach was made famous by Bryan Adams’ homeopathic rock anthem “Cuts like a knife.” Unfortunately we all know that cuts don’t like a knife; they like to be cleaned and bandaged. The idea of homeopathy is catchy, but in practice it is ineffective. It can be dangerous.
How strange, then, that in climate change science, where problems and solutions seem to be in stark relief, something somewhat homeopathic is going on.
I hasten to say this has nothing to do with the facts of the climate case. Sadly these facts are now verifiable by almost anyone living on the planet. And with the glacial pace of our response (referencing the slower pace of glaciers before the climate crisis I suppose), climate change deniers have entered the ranks of those whose freedom of expression costs us most dearly.
Speaking out against influential deniers are scientists, and their handlers. We’re supposed to be the voice of reason, a life-saving counterpoint to the selfish interests of industry.
The homeopathic thing about this arrangement is that scientists also come from factories—essentially the same ones spewing CO2 into the hot and bothered atmosphere. It’s not that we’re robots (not exactly). It’s that we are a prized product of the public education system, which, among other things, was built to serve the needs of the industrial revolution, and was made in its image.
In school we learn that the universe is a machine—a network of causes and effects whose behavior is understandable as the sum of its parts. Through experiments and observations the world can be engineered, we learn.
As technology has pervaded our lives, scientists have become the arbiters of truth. I think our rule is mostly benevolent, but like any power, it has a weird side, and this is particularly evident when it comes to climate science.
I mean isn’t it a little strange that the prescriptions and remedies for the pathological fallout of the industrial revolution are being handed down by its own high priests?
The world is not a machine—that’s a metaphor. Still, when it comes to climate change I can’t help but see it that way. The image that comes to mind is of a steaming locomotive—assembled without brakes, gathering speed, and heading for catastrophe. Our children, and their children, are in the passenger cars. The occupants of the control room are arguing about the problem, and the scientists are holding court. Trust us. We built the thing.