Taming Horticulture

Considering how long it has been between posts, some of you few readers may be thinking that not much manages to lodge in my nostrils. Far from the case, it just takes me a long time to round up my thoughts and tame them into a cohesive argument. In truth I had very little on horticulture when I signed off on post number one, but shortly after the twitterverse provided me with all the material that I needed. So this blog is mostly about commentary that I have read since on climate change blog sites.
At the end of my first post I indicated that the next post would be on,
Horticulture, as in
‘You can lead a whore to culture but you cannot make it think’.
The quotation was intended to bade farewell Robin Williams with wit. I thought it apt for a man who made people think. I also knew that people in the climate change debate were inclined to imply that their rivals were whores, so the quote was also a cheeky way to end the post.
However, I soon became aware of what I had let loose when the quote started to pop up in paraphrase in a few places in the climate change debate. It shows how impoverished the climate change debate is when a new expression spreads around the globe faster than a rumour in a small town.
But first some background on the origins of the quote.
If you are thinking along the lines of the film Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts and Richard Greer then you are well off the mark. This is the story of how educated intelligent ladies exchange insults when they are one step away from bringing out the claws. Its origins lie in a parlour game in New York some time in the 1800s. A bright young socialite was asked to include the word ‘horticulture’ in a sentence. Perhaps she was loosing out to her contemporaries who were taking a more physical, less cerebral approach in their rivalry to attract eligible young men.
It’s not hard to imagine academic types using the ‘horticulture’ quotation to imply that their rivals had a less than cerebral approach to science. This was my impression as a few weeks after post one my attention was drawn to a TV news interview with a CliSi professor. A well presented trim character in a new suit and well tendered beard. He was asked by a reporter why skeptics could not be convinced of the obvious truth of Greenhouse Global Warming. A first order Dorothy Dixer.
To which he replied,
‘You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them think.’
This was followed by the confident smirk indicating that he thought his wit was so sophisticated as to be beyond the perception of his audience. An in joke that only his alarmist mates would appreciate. Clearly he was publicly implying that all skeptics were whores. This prompted my memory of an anecdote that I once heard related by a solicitor.
The solicitor made the mistake of taking a superior tone with a prostitute whom he was representing. She accused him of hypocrisy. While she had no reservations about selling her body, she reserved a special contempt for him as his services involved selling his mind. Her mind was always her own and she bluntly told him as much. Of course this is a conflict of culture and values. Still the point resonated with the solicitor that people who maintain a position of superiority are deluding themselves when they judge others by their own values
Then some time later the following insult was hurled directly at a woman on a blog site
‘You can lead a climate change denier to the truth but you cannot make them think.’
The writer was so immersed in his own world, that he thought the obvious inference of the woman being a whore would be not be perceived by his rivals, who he clearly held in total contempt. The response that immediately followed, below, would indicate that he was badly mistaken.
‘For the community at this site, we have an explicit culture of evidence based reasoning. A culture that you are clearly unable or unwilling to engage with, a culture of honest enquiry that you seem to find offensive and threatening.’
The repetitive reference to culture in this reply is sending a clear message that the connection to the ‘horticulture’ quote was recognised and understood. Retaliation was swift. That was the last comment from that particular writer on the blog site. Never underestimate the spite of a woman scorned.
Unfortunately the community culture of evidence based reasoning was abandoned a few weeks later when the moderator allowed an episode of pure revenge. The two comments below were directed at a warmest with a female horsey avatar.
You can lead a horse to a source, but you can’t make it think.
You can take a sauce to a horse, and make it much more palatable.
Each line was intended to disparage their interlocutor as a whore. So much for a community culture which does not extend to a minimum level of respect for the dignity of the people with whom they engage.
Entertaining as it is read comments on blog sites where intelligent people exchange insults, the amusement only extends to a certain point after which it resembles nothing more than girls bitching and clawing at one another. It indicates a fairly superficial form of culture, more appropriate to a school yard and only applying when it suits the purpose. Yet this is a civilised and relatively tame blog site. There are no shortage of sites that have no cultural aspiration of any kind.
In spite of the way people interact on blog sites it is still possible to find genuine culture in the climate change debate. Judith Curry recently made the following observation about the culture of environmentalism (climatism), climate change and consensus which neatly illustrates a thought paradigm as culture.
‘I believe the systemic error behind the puzzlement of climate psychologists is readily identifiable. The error is that the climate psychologists do not perceive that a culture dominates environmentalism. A culture based upon misinformation about the certainty of catastrophe (from CO2). A culture which enforces a Consensus, as strong cultures do, upon scientific endeavor that is nowhere near mature enough to have reached consensus without enforcement.
The climate psychologists come in two groups, which I call the Bad Cops and Good Cops, and who intentionally or not end up policing the Consensus. Both appear to view climate change as essentially flat fact, purely settled science, notas a culture.’
Last year I read the text of a presentation that Judith made in which she referred to climate change as not being a tame problem. The meaning was lost on me at the time. But during my research for this post I stumbled across a cultural reference to ‘tame’ in the words of George Bizet’s opera Carmen.
The opera is about love in a tobacco factory. The tame reference comes in the opera moment for which Carmen is famous,
L’amour est in oiseau rebelle (Habanera)
One of the first lines is
‘Love is a rebellious bird that no one can tame.’
Later lines go to describe how the more you demand a bird come closer, the more it flys away. Yet when you set it free, it comes to you. I see an analogy with climate change in that the more consensus is asserted the less it is achieved.
I now have the version of with
Lauris Elms mezzo-soprano with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra playing on repeat in my car. I am unable to understand much that she is singing, but having read the translation I feel that I know exactly what she is singing about
The translation can be found here.
So it would seem that I have been lead to culture. So now I am going off to think. Perhaps you should do the same.
I thought I might tackle an easier, simpler topic next time.
My perception of,
The Earth, Sun and Solar System in the Universe.

2 thoughts on “Taming Horticulture”

  1. That is exceptional. Thanks for a great read Anthony.

    PS a the PC brigade banned Carmen from Perth Opera festival a few months ago as “pro tobacco” until Premier Barnett and his Health minister stepped in and got them to pull their heads in.


    1. Thanks Andy,
      Glad you liked it.
      Thanks for being the first comment on my blog.
      Yes, I am aware of the PC brigade and Carmen in Perth. But did not know they had been stopped.
      Good to hear there is some common sense in WA.
      I feel obligated to go and see Carmen now.


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