It seems Oil Shale production has peaked in the US and according to some, has started to decline, leading one to muse that US energy dependency is back on the table, and the search for secure oil supplies will be restarted, or so a recent contributor to David Stockman’s ‘Contra Corner’ writes. This comes as no surprise to me since the West, and now the East, continue to believe that petroleum is biological in origin and thus limited in quantity. This despite the fact that the Saturnian moon Titan, for example, is awash in hydrocarbons, specifically liquid methane, but in the absence of a biosphere, or so it is believed.
What this means is that humanity will return to its immediate goal of securing petroleum resources, principally in the Middle East, and this will also lead to further conflict between the Arabs and the Christian West. The war against terror, for example, has its origins in the policies of the Great Powers during WWI and afterwards when they partitioned the Middle East into zones of influence, while at the same time ignoring the political realities of the Arabs; this stupidity remains in operation to the present day, and some of us wonder why.
Why do politicians continue following policies that don’t work? Why, after massive episodes of QE has inflation not started? Why, according to some, is there deflation in prices? Don’t they learn from their failed policies?
It wasn’t until I watched a rebuttal of the Holocaust narrative recently that the answer suddenly appeared – the dominance of belief in human cultures.
While we all accept that belief exists, and that it has also divided the world into competing religions and political systems, I had not seriously considered the possibility that many believers, if not all, actually assume their beliefs are real and factual. This was rammed home when I listened to a Holocaust survivor explaining that he believed the homicidal gas chambers to be real, despite the fact they were not, and that he thus assumed his belief was factual. That is, he, most sincerely, believed it to be true, and by doing so at the same time demonstrated how the religious mind thinks, specifically that it only sees what it believes. And when most of one’s peers are believers, it becomes so easy for fictions to become ‘facts’ by the application of belief.
The problem is that human culture is dominated by religion(s) and this fact comes with a tremendous amount of ideological baggage that affects almost everyone. So it’s important to understand what a religious mind is and what it could be contrasted with.
As mentioned above, religious minds only see what they believe, so these minds are, for most part, identified by a tendency towards gullibility, in that they ‘believe’ in things and matters, especially if the origin of the ‘facts’ is authoritative and respected. However the point I want to make is that belief is actually an admission of ignorance that we only start to believe when we don’t know; and a simple example should suffice.
Assume you the reader works on a farm that I own, and one day I asked you to go to the far paddock, some ten minutes away on the tractor, and mow the grass. So the next day you commandeer the tractor and mower, and travel to the far paddock and mow it. At the end of the day you return to the farmhouse and I ask you whether you finished the mowing. Your answer would probably be yes, and I would thus ‘believe’ you but I do not actually know for sure that the paddock was mowed; I simply take it on your say so.
Now consider the alternative possibility that I had, during the day, some other business near the far paddock, say repairing a fence, and on my way back at the end of the day I returned via the far paddock and noticed it had been mowed by you. On return to the farmhouse, would I ask you if you had finished mowing the far paddock? Of course not, because I know you had mowed it; there is no belief involved in my mind – the mowed paddock is a physical fact that I now know. But confirmation of belief is always in the future, without exception. While I may presently believe you now that you had mowed the far paddock, I can only confirm it afterwards, in the future, so my belief is always a hope or anticipation of something in the future.
Of course it is also important to understand how we think, and this involves the use of memory in specific patterns which we assemble in our minds as thoughts. It should be obvious that thoughts are always memories, and thus always of the past, and that the future is always the projection of that past; we could never think of something that isn’t inherent in our collection of memories. The Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnmurti stressed that thinking is often an escape from the present here and now by the mind dwelling or dreaming of the future. Dreaming is simply wishful thinking, whether of a lottery win, or utopia etc. And religions for most part are dreams or beliefs of a spiritual utopia. Are we all enslaved by our thoughts?
Can religious minds change their minds? No, because then their religious beliefs are no longer authoritative and thus become meaningless. So the religious are actually enslaved by their thoughts as patterned by the specific belief system, whether theological or ideological. One could suggest that the religious are habituated by the Marxian intellectual opiate of religion and that the religiously devout should be treated no differently as substance abusers, in their case being abusers of beliefs rather than substances.
So when John Maynard Keynes stated he changes his mind when the facts change, and what do you do? We realise that people can be categorised into two groups – those who see what they believe, the religious, and those who believe what they see, the scientific or sceptical. When the facts change, the religious minds remain unchangeable, and this is the problem.
History has always been the battle between the institutionalised elite, either religious or secular, who dominate a society, and the sceptical minority who are invariably punished for their theological and ideological recalcitrance. And being an adherent of some secular ideological system incorporating an ‘authority’ and its attendant laws etc. which the faithful must observe is also religious behaviour, where ideology informs one’s perceptions, policies and actions; socialism, communism etc. are in this sense no less religious than their social ancestors – both the old and new promise utopia if the people behave in a certain manner, and ensure obedience by the installation of fear into the people’s minds: Fear of death is a most powerful incentive for conformity.
So what has all this to do with oil? Everything. The world, especially the West, is made up of religious minded people which includes the secular humanists who, while not worshipping a spiritual deity, non the less still believe in the pseudo divinity of the secular astronomical Big Bang theory and biological evolution, along with the religiously devout, most of whom accept the more liberal belief of a materialistic physical world and universe. In this belief system life is considered an epiphenomenon and thus a recent addition to the inanimate ‘created’ Earth and thus finite. Hence petroleum, because it includes biomass or index chemicals, is believed to be biological in origin, and thus finite.
But it’s only a belief; the belief in creation, divine or accidental, which spawned the intellectual constructs of astronomical, geological and biological evolution.
This is an alternative explanation for petroleum, the abiotic one, apart from the more philosophical model of monistic idealism, but given the existing demographics and the intensity of the beliefs held by humanity, changing their minds when the facts change, is not on the cards. As one of my former geological supervisors told me during my early years as a professional, people seem only to learn from hard experience, and then, having survived that, most still don’t seem to learn and thus change. It’s what Albert Einstein described as insanity, the repetition of an activity in the expectation that next time it will produce something different. Such is the nature of belief, the state of hopeful ignorance.
As along as humanity believes that petroleum is a fossil fuel, which means that it is scarce and limited, then the present day troubles will continue. The troubles are centred on the belief that petroleum is biological when in fact, as the astronomers know, petroleum is abiotic. It’s believed to be biotic because most of us also believe in a religion, and thus are led by belief in preference to fact.
Henry’s Recalcitrant, Retired Geologist.