Article 57

The Politics of Catastrophe.

In a recent book, Doom, The politics of Catastrophe, Niall Ferguson catalogues possible sources of catastrophe. The flyleaf states in summary, that ‘disasters are difficult to predict; but that when they strike, we ought to better prepared than the Romans were when Vesuvius erupted or medieval Italians were when the Black Death struck; that we have science on our side after all; and that after all, the responses of many developed countries to the new pathogen from China were badly bungled. Why?’ To this question, the fly leaf responds that ‘while populist rulers performed poorly in the face of this pandemic, Niall Ferguson argues that more profound pathologies were at work – pathologies already visible in our responses to earlier disasters’; and that ‘drawing from multiple disciplines including economics and network science, Doom offers not just a history but a general theory of disasters, showing why our evermore bureaucratic and complex systems are getting worse at handling them’ and that ‘Doom is the lesson of history that the West needs to learn, if we want to tackle the next crisis better, and to avoid the ultimate doom of irreversible decline’. Again, the back of the dust cover offers the following ‘Acclaims For Niall Ferguson, ‘A great historian… Ferguson is master of all he surveys’,TheSpectator. ‘The most brilliant British historian of his generation’ The Times, Ferguson’sintellect and panache mean that his skilful revision of history will reverberate for years to come’ Guardian, A talented controversialist. He brings a wealth of historical knowledge to bear on big questions’ Independent, and Ferguson has a knack for making long-ago events as vivid and visceral as the evening news’The New York Times.

However, my response to this Niall Ferguson book is that it unconsciously demonstrates the rectitude of my contention that all crises and disasters arise from our willingness to act on belief rather than on knowledge; and that this willingness arises from our failure to differentiate knowledge from belief, wisdom from folly, truth from falsehood, right from wrong and good from bad, by evaluating their respective compliance or non-compliance with the cause-effect reality which our senses experience and which gives rise to out beliefs (hypotheses) in the first place, and which, if we are wise, we further evaluate to positive or negative knowledge by observing their compliance or non-compliance with this cause-effect reality of our experience; and that were we to do so, we would avoid or at least reduce all of the crises and disasters reviewed by Niall Ferguson in his failure to recognise, as do all other commentators, that the contention of belief and counter-belief is itself the source of all our crises and disasters, be they wars, pandemics, forest fires; or our tendency to build too close to geological fault-lines, volcanos etc.

However, before the third Section of this website has confirmed how transformative it would be, were all current belief-only policies to be replaced with knowledge-only alternatives, I want to recognise those few authors who have recognised the difficulty of publishing critiques of current practices without the benefit of my newly definitive differentiation of the knowledge/belief dichotomy and with it those of truth/falsehood, wisdom/folly, right/wrong and good bad, and who have sought to overcome this this difficulty by adopting the practice expressing their opposition to specific beliefs through the mouths of fictional characters in their recent novels. In addition, I will show that those non-scientists, such as Niall Ferguson, who cite science without recognising it to be knowledge acquired by the experimentation which isolates the hypothetical cause from all other possible causes in order to identify the actual cause, are now being accompanied by an increasing number of scientists who don’t always recognise the need for this experimentation derived confirmation of hypothetical belief to knowledge. 6/6/21.

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