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Serengeti Strategy (Part 2) (Part 1)

A favoured tactic of the Climate Chanage Denialatariat is to attempt to pick off and destroy influential supporters of the scientific consensus on AGW whom they consider vulnerable to smear or distortion. By discrediting influential consensus voices they attempt to discredit AGW itself. In Australia, denialists concentrate their Serengeti Strategy on Climate Change Commissioner Tim Flannery. Here is Andrew Bolt enjoying a superlative free lunch with Mark Latham while doing that very thing:

“How does Flannery hold the position of chief climate commissioner and, in making these predictions, why is he backed by the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO? He is highly influential, he’s Mr Global Warming. If you say he’s a weak link, what does that tell you?”

Latham, for his part, is quite aware of Bolt’s true objective

Unable to make a factual case against global warming, the spoiler-sceptics have homed in on Flannery.

Flannery The Fundamentalist

A favoured and oft-repeated smear against Flannery is that he is untrustworthy, indeed irrational religious kook, because he believes that the Planet Earth is a living God or self-aware entity named Gaia. The right-wing Australian smear think tank ‘Institute For Public Affairs’ published an article concentrating on this smear some time ago. The undated article written by James Paterson, their Director of Communications, is entitled Tim Flannery, Climate Prophet. Paterson wrote:

When appearing on the ABC’s Science Show in January this year, Flannery said: ‘This planet, this Gaia, will have acquired a brain and a nervous system. That will make it act as a living animal, as a living organism, at some sort of level.’

To be fair, Flannery is not the only scientist to embrace the kooky theory that Gaia has human properties.

Paterson thus states that Flannery believes the planet Earth has a brain and nervous system. Flannery does not believe this. Paterson is guilty of lazy research here, but his overall objective is to paint Flannery as a crackpot so I doubt he was trying very hard to genuinely understand Flannery’s conception of the Gaia hypothesis.

In fact, Flannery does not think that the Earth has a brain or nervous system. What Flannery says is that human beings, really scientists, constitute the Earth’s metaphorical or virtual brain and that the Internet has the capacity to constitute the Earth’s metaphorical or virtual nervous system and that therefore humans may potentially be able regulate the Earth’s eco-systems via planet-wide computer networks and other technologies. In other words Flannery’s view of the ‘strong Gaia’ is technocratic and scientific, not religious.

Really James Paterson should be ashamed of smearing Flannery in such a way. It reflects badly on both himself and the IPA and lessens its credibility as a serious researching entity.

Here is Flannery explaining his Gaia hypothesis to Robert Manne at Latrobe University 4th June 2009

Robert Manne:
I wondered first for the audience if you could give a reasonable succinct view of what [James Lovelock’s] conception of Gaia is and then I want to talk about your book a bit in regard to that.

Tim Flannery:
[…] Just over the last decade Gaia is on the threshold of acquiring a brain and that’s happened because the internet and changes in human society have for the first time ever, allowed us theoretically to deliver a single, strong message to Gaia, what we want from Gaia. And also, after four billion years, we have got now the intelligence to see Gaia from space and to actually enhance its working parts…

Robert Manne:
Is what you’re saying then, that human beings have to somehow become the regulator? Of processes that once we were not able to control or didn’t feel the need to control or whatever?

Tim Flannery:
By virtue of the process of evolution humans are destined to become the regulator.

Robert Manne:
And it connects, doesn’t it, to this idea of yours which is the capacity of human beings now to see what has to be done and to do it. Is that it?

Tim Flannery:
That’s right and it’s already happening. It’s not like this is theoretic. We actually have built a system now that allows us to send a single strong message to the part of the carbon cycle we want to deal with.

To Quickly Summarize then, Flannery is not a Gaia worshipper. He does not think that the Earth is a gigantic person or a living god or a self-aware entity. He does not think the Earth has a brain or nervous system. Flannery’s view of the ‘strong Gaia’ is technocratic and scientific, not religious.


This post is a disaggregation of another one I did defending Flannery in which I also show how Flannery’s predictions on water supply, routinely ridiculed by denialists, have actually been correct and justified in every respect.

You’ll find that here.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] I have rebutted the arguments against Flannery here and here. […]

  2. […] Tim Flannery’s comments on water shortages in Perth have been supported in The Australian and by Colin Barnett, Liberal Party Premier Of Western Australia, here. And TF is not a worshipper of Gaia. […]

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