Opinion

Peak Oil And Darwinism: The New Denial Industry

Deliberate confusion and disinformation have, as ever, taken the driver's seat in a non-debate now dominated by slogan trading.

By Andrew McKillop
Published May 05, 2006

Today in Spring 2006 we are sliding into a genuine Oil Shock, even admitted by our admired and respected democratic leaders in the shape of emergency G7 Finance minister meetings, and the upcoming Summer Energy Security Summit of G8.

The G8 includes a now ambiguous Vladimir Putin: friend of the West, or a tyrannical price-gouging oil and gas exporter bent on humiliating the consumer world?

In the communication world, the media machine, political party apparatus, citizen associations and NGOs, and what is called the "scientific community" are already drifting fast, and far apart. It is already possible to know simultaneously that Peak Oil "doesn't exist" and that we are close to "the End of Oil".

In other words, deliberate confusion and disinformation have, as ever, taken the driver's seat in a non-debate now dominated by slogan trading.

Darwinism was exactly like this

Right at the start of the Darwin controversy, from about 1859 with the publication of Darwin's "Origins" masterwork, his evolutionary theory was mainly rejected outright. Not so very long after, however, it had become Official Science, and this for a variety of reasons.

One in particular, that continues right up to now, is that Darwinist notions can be used to rationalize and justify the New Economy and it credo of deliberately increasing economic inequality, to "sharpen competition".

Many other Darwinist notions are apparently very comforting not only to some defenders of scientific orthodoxy, but also to performers in the political circus. Such is the desire to ensure that confusion and incoherence reigns, that today, many US states school curriculums include not only Darwinist evolution, but also Creationism. Choose either one - you can only be wrong!

Darwin never directly said human beings are "descended from apes", and likewise nobody serious in the Peak Oil movement, to my knowledge, says that we are at "the end of oil". Yet this slogan is now everywhere, and is a red rag to the charging bulls of the bourse, or Growth Economy.

Through a vast irony, high priced oil, energy, metals, and and other raw materials are powerful drivers of economic growth. Any year-on-year chart of world economic and trade growth, and the oil price is almost a perfect fit: thus the raging bulls are getting exactly what they want: vintage economic growth.

This, however, is also "not wanted". In New Economy fairytale economics the growth of the economy is slow, sure and permanent (rather like Darwinian evolution), and oil is cheap, to prevent harmful inflation.

All kinds of other rationales are then larded over and filled in. For example the One Purely Evil Cartel, or OPEC, so-called in a Wall Street Journal editorial of 2003, should be denied cash because it will only use that for terror pursuits, or at best will buy too many Chinese and Indian goods, further increasing Chinese and Indian trade surpluses. This, of course, will further fuel the terrific and intensely oil-based industrial growth of these two real industrial superpowers of the 21st century.

Darwinism was (almost exactly) wrong

The greatest problem with Darwinian evolution theory, apart from it being a theory that can never be verified - because we can't go back to the beginning of life on this planet and "see what happens" - is that no proof can be found of ongoing or contemporary evolution. Also, there are only missing links, and no common ancestors. Of course some die-hard Darwinists can howl at this brief summary, but Darwin theory is very, very shaky.

In the exact same way, Peak Oil Negationists, or defenders of the ever-full barrel, are improving their pitch and their research results due to constant discoveries of 'new oil' and 'near oil', which is then bolstered by 'revised estimates' a little more sophisticated than the revisions made by the 5 "Core OPEC" countries during the late 1980s, and miraculously never changed.

Yet the Peak Oil Negation message is not at all what the public media wants: here the most grotesque exaggeration and sensationalism is all that counts. Every Baghdad bombing atrocity has to be better than the previous, otherwise the public get bored.

Thus the Peak Oil Negation industry will have to work a lot harder. What is needed are one or two more Ghawars or Cantarells, nothing else will do! This could be assimilated to the Darwinists finding fossils of real flying reptiles, or even more sensational, flying amphibians that 'jumped the queue' on their reptile competitors and got into the air first.

The crushing absence of even trivial 'evolutionary step' fossils for almost any animal species you care to mention - and worse still for plants - was and is a major reason that Darwinism is essentially a myth, and not anything that could be called 'science'.

We note the clear connection: eagerly, or desperately seeking fossils to support a broken-back theory of the early 1800s (Darwin's first completed draft of "Origins" was in the 1830s) is very comparable to seeking fossil energy reserves absolutely anywhere on Earth. Darwin himself mused, in print, on the vast new reserves of fossils remains that would surely be found in South America, in Asia, the Poles, and under the oceans, which of course would prove his theory.

Today's last gasp of world oil prospecting nurtures huge hopes of Polar oil, aided by climate change stripping away the ice to get nearer the paydirt. Deep ocean oil, despite the significant problem of crustal thinning under the oceans and making it practically impossible to expect oil, is yet another Great Hope of those who rush to the defence of cheap energy. The bottom line is always: cheap energy.

Oil prices and the economy

As we already noted, and it is a simple and real truth, high oil nd energy prices drive world economic growth. This may be highly inconvenient to New Economy gurus working the Adam Smith conference circuit, but it is a fact. Still they bleat or roar: "High oil prices hurt growth", but with shrinking conviction and media attention.

Some have even gone off the radar scren on this subject. We can however be sure they will be back, when interest rates are hiked in strongarm manner, 0.5 percent at a time, to bring on the inflation "caused" by high oil prices, and then further hike interest rates, to "beat" inflation. This will also beat the economy and very surely reduce oil demand.

Whether or not it cuts oil prices by very much is another question. What will be the decline profile away from Peak Oil, in percent per year? Nobody knows, but informed guesses can be made. If the guess rate is around 3.5 percent per year, or even a little less than that, then it is likely oil prices will not shrink very much, and certainly not "collapse". The reasons for this are complex.

Since Darwin gave absolutely no scientific reasoning in coming to major conclusions, in many parts of his "origins" book, I can also economise on this tiresome detail - and leave it to the debating arena!

Andrew McKillop is a writer and consultant on oil and energy economics. Since 1975 he has worked in energy, economic and scientific organizations in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North America. These include the Canada Science Council, the ILO, European Commission, Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and South Pacific, and the World Bank. He is a founding member of the Asian chapter of the International Association of Energy Economics. He is also the editor, with Sheila Newman, of The Final Energy Crisis (Pluto Press, 2005).

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By maynard (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2006 at 12:40:17

Well, Darwinism wasn't quite right, but evolution is real and verifiable and still happening. And peak oil - the point where we've used half the total deposits - will really happen, if it hasn't already. Are you ready for gas prices tripling in the next couple years? The world economy is pretty shaky already.

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By NormE (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2006 at 13:36:04

Hope your financial advice is not as far off base as your assessment of evolution. There are fewer holes in the evolution theory every year, that is how science works. The belief based creationism story has only imagineering based on biblical books written by early builders of the religious industry. Read works that examine the plagiarism of pagan practices and symbols by the evolving early Christian cult and you will have an epiphany in how you view religious institutions. It is a racket that only reveals the power of human inventiveness and creativity in storytelling.

Peak oil is real, with the three largest fields ever discovered now in announced decline (Cantarell in MX, Burgan in Kuwait and Ghawar in Saudi Arabia). The latter was the final nail in the coffin of cheap abundant crude oil. At $3 a gallon you pay 19 cents per 8 oz. cup of gasoline. How much do we pay for a cup of yuppie coffee? A $75 barrel of crude oil has the energy equivalent of 8 people laboring for a year. Expensive, no way.
Good luck America.

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By Philippok (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2006 at 16:58:46

You wrote:

"...[Darwin's evolutionary theory] had become Official Science, and this for a variety of reasons.

"One in particular, that continues right up to now, is that Darwinist notions can be used to rationalize and justify the New Economy and its credo of deliberately increasing economic inequality, to 'sharpen competition'."

If you believe that ideas gain their strength from economic forces, you are more of a materialist than is any evolutionist.

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By Steve McKinlay (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2006 at 17:30:22

Ultimately all science is inferential. It is empiricism that informs us about the natural world, "truth" per se is irrelevant - truth is a logical concept with no explanatory force. Whether "evolutionary theory" is true or not is not the point, in simple terms the theory is more explanatory than the alternatives. And so, those that deny peak oil, or argue "it's just a theory" are missing the point too. That is, all peak oil ultimately is, the observation and communication of a regularity. If someone has a better explanation for the production of US (and infact now virtually all non-OPEC) oil across time, which clearly shows increase in production to a point, then irrecoverable decline, then I suggest that person put forward their own theory.

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By cherenkov (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2006 at 23:43:05

That this sad misinformed and ignorant person was allowed to publish here is testament to the quality of this site.

His profound misunderstanding of the theory of evolution is pathetic.

After I quit laughing, I realized he was serious and then I wept for America. We are doomed if this is what we are to expect from our educational system.

Get a clue.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 08, 2006 at 12:37:22

I've written an essay on this piece and associated feedback: Darwin Revisited

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted May 09, 2006 at 12:41:04

I'm not surprised this article has generated some fiesty comments. The arguments - in so far as I am able to follow them - are all over the place. Alas, the only thing I got from it was on overwhelming sense of confusion...

The author states that "deliberate confusion and disinformation have, as ever, taken the driver's seat in a non-debate now dominated by slogan trading". However he then proceeds to cite numerous unsubstantiated (or at best poorly substantiated) claims himself ("Darwinism is essentially a myth" and so on...)

I simply don't 'get' the arguments that are (almost) made here. Something about Darwin's Theory of Evolution being full of holes and Peak Oil theory being similarly full of holes...?

What on earth is the confusion?

Darwin's Theory cites evidence that humans evolved, and continue to evolve, and scientific research continues to support that theory. The idea of absolute proof has never really been disputed. There are very few absolute truths in the world. As intelligent human beings we work with the information we have, and make our best judgements accordingly. The world used to be flat and now it's round. Until some other genius comes along and proves it's oblong, I can only go with what I know (obviously some theories are easier to prove than others...).

As for Intelligent Design - this appears to be based predominantly on, well - books. Most religious folks I know tell me to read something by CS Lewis (I forget the book) and another book called 'The Case for Christ'. Apparently these books cite, for the most part, passages in the bible - and other ancient texts - and argue that they couldn't possibly have been dreamt up and therefore the information in them must be true. I haven't read these books so I don't want to bash religion here. However I question my religious friends frequently on their beliefs. My latest discussion - during which a friend contended that humans do indeed evolve but that Adam and Eve were also real - ended with him saying, 'I don't need absolute evidence - that's why it's called a belief' What the hell does that mean?! Religious folks seem quite content to clasp onto vague concepts about giant arks and talking snakes and refuse the question them too deeply simply because they have chosen to - 'believe'?! That makes no sense to me.

I fail to see the confusion in all this. Evolution, Peak Oil - pick your poison - they are all ideas/theories/scientific notions that outline known facts and theorize on the meaning and broader implications of those known facts. As intelligent human beings we can simply review the evidence, and the accompanying theory, and make our own judgement. As new evidence comes along we can revisit the theory and amend our opinion accordingly. It's just like police work.

Sherlock Homes approach was to review the known facts and build a theory - or several theories - around those facts. When new evidence came to light he revisited his theory until it was proven. It works for me!

It seems to me (and I think RTH writer Ted Mitchell has covered this well in the past) that the challenge we have as humans is to seperate our values and emotions from our assessment of theories. For example, when I talk about evolution with relgious folks it's clear that they are discounting any new evidence - and the theory itself - because it doesn't fit their value system, which is of course, based on their faith. For myself, as a white, British, middle class guy, I have a value system and a pre-programmed emotional response to a given set of theories/ideas or 'facts'. As sure as Tom Robinson in 'To Kill A Mocking bird' was always going to be guilty, sadly so it is that certain sections of society will always see things a certain way. Only when we seperate our emotions our values and our inbred belief systems from our innate common sense and intelligence can we view all these facts and theories with clarity.

Yours,

In Confusion(!)

Ben

(And yes Ryan - I still don't know what Paradigm means...:) )

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By Jim (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2006 at 19:33:44

I agree McKillop's views on evolution are off base and muddled; but I thought he was arguing that the peak oil "denial industry" is the one that is unfounded and lacking in evidence.
I've read a book on peak oil edited by McKillop, including some essays of his own as chapters. He has some novel ideas, including one that oil price shocks can cause an initial rise in economic indicators rather than a recession (I *think* that's what he meant.) McKillop is openly left-wing; I think he would even say he is a Marxist?

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By Peak Oil (registered) - website | Posted May 26, 2006 at 01:38:30

Critisism aside, talking about Peak Oil in the same context as Darwinism and evolutionary theory is interesting. If you think in that context it seems there is still a glimmer of hope for the future. As oil production peaks, those who do not begin preparing for the higher oil prices will suffer financially.

Individuals and nations have already begun preparing for peak oil through the development of alternative energy technologies. Even though these types of projects and advances seem small right now, it seems like this is part of our evolutionary process as a civilization. While it may be a bit of a bumpy ride, I believe in our ingenuity and desire to survive. We will evolve out of current oil dependence.

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By reidvinette (registered) | Posted June 08, 2006 at 03:12:24

June 7, 2006

The world is now at Peak Oil for the United States with the five supergiant oil fields supplying this country now in decline as of March 16, 2005. It takes one year to realize an oil field is in decline.

Beginning on March 16, 2006 the energy crises for the United States began ... or did it.

If there is an energy crises, it is a crises which has been created by the oil companies and industrial governments like the United States and Canada.

There is an energy solution to power modern day vehicles and it is called on demand water fracturing into hydrogen and oxygen.

www.waterpoweredcar.com www.waterfuelcell.org

This technology is so powerful that industrial governments are trying to keep a lid on it.

Why?

Money.

Industrial governments cannot tax the water it takes to fill your water tank in your car.

Oil companies cannot profit from the sale of water it takes to fill your water tank in your car.

Discover water fracturing technology and begin experimenting in your garage.

The energy crises I believe is a myth now.

Water fracturing technology can preserve valuable oil for petro-chemical products, and agricultural uses. Water fracturing technology can be used for vehicle transportation, and energy to power electrical generating plants now dependant on natural gas.

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By Doh! (anonymous) | Posted July 06, 2008 at 19:29:03

Fast forward to 2008. Oil is now nearly $150/barrel. Yes, that very substance that we use every day that challenges Intelligent Design because it was formed from fossils that existed millions of years before the Bible states that the world started, is starting to run out!

But of course you Intelligent Design people can't believe this because "God will provide" and don't believe that fossils exist (i.e. that oil is limited)! Doh!

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