It was my honour and pleasure to host and convene the first annual Global Conference of Deniers this July of 2009. Assembled were a full spectrum of solipsists who had a fundamental issue with reality. There were those who denied the Holocaust, those who denied anthropogenic climate change, those who denied the theory of natural selection, those who denied the efficacy of vaccines, those who denied that there had been a moon landing---and even, can you believe this---those who denied that population growth played a role in environmental degradation. I think they called themselves environmentalists. It takes all kinds, doesn’t it?
In fact the only interlude of realism at the conference came when the pizza delivery guy arrived. He was a Jehovah’s Witness and the only one there who knew that the world was coming to an end. No wonder local Greens slam the door in his face. To be honest, I think the pizza delivery routine was just a ruse for him to insinuate his message in a more subtle manner. I wondered why so many Watchtowers were stuffed in the carton with the Pineapple-Hawaiian. Less subtle are the Hell’s Angels who have been converted to the JW faith. They come to your door and tell you to piss off.
I began proceedings by denying the credentials of delegates, who in turn questioned mine. One of them, Michael Shermer, claimed to be the head of the American Skeptic’s Society whose head office was in Pennsylvania. I doubted his claim and determined that the proof for the existence of Pennsylvania was purely anecdotal---as far I as know---but how can I “know” anything? Shermer may have just been a projection of my imagination. Nevertheless he demanded to be received as a legitimate entity until a double-blind study proved otherwise, and when I complied he demanded verification of my decision.
Delegates found the conference congenial because the facts were not permitted to penetrate anyone’s intellectual comfort zone, principally because it was resolved that “facts” don’t exist. It was determined that reality can be anything you perceive it to be, confirming the belief established by the counter-culture in the 1960s, when as undergrads, we learned that “Hey, if its true for you then, that’s cool, it’s true for you.” I own my truth, born of my unique perspective, and who is the referee who can arbitrate competing truths? Some folks in Germany once made the same point, I believe. Only they said that it was the victor was the referee. One delegate who bore a resemblance to Dr. Strangelove argued that the crematorium at Auschwitz was just a tourist attraction constructed by the Russians after the war---assuming that there was indeed a war. It was probably staged like the moon landing was.
Of particular interest was a speech given by Mr. Moses Abraham, President and CEO of the Great West Life, and director of its home insurance bureau, about the insurance claim filed by the infamous Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel after his Toronto house was fire-bombed by an arsonist. Abraham denied Zundel’s claim on the basis that the fire, witnessed by neighbours and attended to by the local fire department, never happened. His contention was that the Russians simulated it. It was all a Gentile conspiracy.
After much rancor and mutual disbelief, and repeated failure to win each other over to their own peculiar banner of epistemological anarchy, delegates nevertheless were able to reach some kind of consensus that at the very least, UFOs were real but the air force doesn’t exist---a consensus quickly repudiated by the IPCC on the grounds that a wide consensus does not add up to the truth. Shocked and disturbed at having arrived at a conclusion that others shared, delegates then split off to subject the conference resolution to their own maverick interpretations, eventually declaring that no such agreement was ever reached. It was all the product of a Zionist cabal in coalition with the fledgling renewable energy industry eager to grow fat with government contracts to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, namely, man-made global warming. It became a heated discussion.
Most disappointing was the absence of Canadian Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who was scheduled to make her case that overpopulation is not a national problem, but only one that afflicts other nations off some distant shore, and anyway, it has no connection to environmental issues. Traffic congestion delayed her arrival and she found all the hotels, motels and B and Bs fully booked when she finally got here, and then she had to quickly leave because poor air quality brought out her asthma. It had nothing to do with population growth of course. She apologized for missing her lecture, citing obsolete technology and irresponsible living habits as the cause. If only we all lived like Ghandi things would have worked out smoothly. Pity, because according to Elizabeth, the more people in attendance here, there and everywhere, the more enriched we would have become---especially if we were “diverse”. Perhaps next year an outreach program can recruit delegates so diverse that we can guarantee discord and disbelief simply on the basis that no one in attendance will share a common language. We can draw from the Canadian experience for that.
Tim Ball, the world-famous debunker of anthropogenic climate change, was also delayed, this time by a freak ice storm that knocked out transmission lines in Victoria, BC, his home town, known for its rose gardens and palm trees. It was the second such storm this summer, obviously due to a solar cycle with historical precedents 10,000 years ago but which just popped up in recent months. Ball cited the storm as proof that the planet was not warming as Al Gore had claimed. Hopefully he’ll visit us this coming winter when the heat wave arrives---again due solely to solar activity.
Hopefully next year’s event will build on the failure of this one, fracturing a formerly unified understanding of reality on an even broader front. Applications from across the globe for attendance are welcome, except of course those who back their air-tight arguments with scholarly references from peer-reviewed journals and deliver their message in a calm, reasonable and dispassionate voice. Only those who hold their views fervently will command our interest and respect because passionate “commitment”, in our culture at least, is more impressive than credible argument. For those not yet schooled in sophistry, we intend to offer workshops in quote mining, cherry-picking, logical fallacies, red herrings, false dichotomies, over-simplifications, stereotyping, false assumptions, and the equation of correlations with causes.
I believe that along with runaway economic and population growth, there is a growing market for this kind of thinking. I am confident that the next conference will be an undeniably successful event. Believe it or not.
Quadra Island, BC