The Trouble With Common Sense

“The Wisest Fool in Christendom” was the memorable tag given by the diarist John Evelyn to James the 6th of Scotland, the 1st of England, to describe a complex personality, by turns perspicacious and obtuse; learned and ignorant. I think that Evelyn may have meant that he was a king who possessed much sophisticated learning, but lacked common sense. It’s a tag that keeps floating to the surface of what passes for my consciousness, as I try to make sense of the craziness that seems to have overtaken the world. Covid is the most acute manifestation of that craziness, but it’s not the only one – identity politics and climate catastrophism have a slower burn, and their consequences are less immediate, but they are no less perverse, illogical and destructive.

Take Boris, for instance. I have read his journalism for many years. Whatever his detractors may say, this is a clever guy, with the ability to cut through many of the conceits that preoccupy the caste to which he belongs. But just how stupid do you have to be to allow your staff to indulge in recreational behaviour for which, under the very rules they framed, citizens all over the UK were being arrested, charged and fined? This isn’t simply a matter of privileged people thinking they are above the law, although clearly that’s what his staff believed. But even people who hold such a belief must know that their behaviour would have seriously damaging consequences for them and for their careers, were it to become public, as it was highly likely that it would. Even a half-formed instinct for self-preservation would have told these people that what they were doing was stupid – yet they went ahead and did it. It’s baffling. It defies common sense.

Turning to climate change, and the idée fixe that a trace gas which is known to have existed in concentrations far greater than today, and upon which the earth depends to sustain life itself, will, unless its prevalence is curbed, bring about the end of times. Science is a cruel discipline. It takes great cleverness to advance scientific knowledge – to observe phenomena in nature, to theorise the ways in which they may be causally related, to formulate a hypothesis which embodies that theory and to devise an experiment which skilfully tests the hypothesis.

By contrast, it takes very little cleverness and skill to survey the results of an experiment and conclude that it has failed to confirm the hypothesis it was set up to test. The moment a climate catastrophist first declared that if C02 emissions continued unabated, the world would become irreparably damaged, they set the terms of an experiment. They declared the ‘if’, and they predicted the ‘then’.

Thanks to the desire of India and China to continue to elevate their populations from the dire poverty which was, until 30 years ago, their default condition, CO2 emissions have risen unabated. Yet the world continues to be a perfectly habitable place. The ‘if’ condition of the experiment was fulfilled, but the ‘then’ outcome has failed to materialise. Of course, a succession of ‘we have only x years’ statements have been made, all predicting similar, catastrophic outcomes. In effect, a rolling series of experiments of essentially similar design and predicted outcome, has been conducted.

Not one of these outcomes has materialised, yet it is now at least a quarter of a century since the first of these experiments was begun. Had the underlying theory been correct, we should have rendered our planet uninhabitable many years ago, yet we did not. This very obvious failure of the hypothesis that the climate is critically sensitive to rises in atmospheric CO2 concentration seems to have escaped the attention of large numbers of people, most of them well-educated, many of them highly educated.

Turning, with some weariness, it must be said, to Covid, I have yet to have it explained to me how an unvaccinated person poses a risk to the vaccinated, let alone a risk greater than was considered quite unexceptionable until 2020. It is now clear that the vaccines that were developed with such haste are not really ‘vaccines’ in the sense in which that term used to be understood, but treatments which, to remain effective, must be administered with – it seems – ever-increasing frequency. But at their best, it appears, they are better at mitigating the effects of infection than they are at preventing it. Furthermore, compared to the efficacy of natural immunity acquired by surviving infection, the vaccines are nine-stone weaklings.

So it’s really the vaccinated who pose the threat to the unvaccinated, not the other way round. Yet vast numbers of highly-educated, apparently smart and ‘fully’ vaccinated people continue to insist that their right to eternal safety is jeopardised by the presence among them of unvaccinated people, and large swathes of government regulation around the world continue to be framed around this patently absurd premise. But its absurdity is not particularly difficult to perceive; it requires little more than common sense.

In his excellent exposition of mass formation (one of the best attempts I have seen to fathom the delusion of catastrophe that has enveloped the world for the last two years), Dr Mathias Desmet makes the telling observation that, far from being immune to psychotic delusion, the highly-educated are, if anything, more prone to mass formation than the rest of us. The same, I think, can be said about the possession of common sense.

The word ‘common’ has several meanings. It can mean ‘shared’, and it can mean ‘frequently occurring’. But there is a certain kind of British person who uses it to mean ‘vulgar’, or what an American would mean by ‘trashy’.

George Orwell observed that ‘There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.’ Much of the appeal of the fashionable causes embraced by the smuggocracy lies in the sense that they are sharing with people of equally elevated status an understanding of the world that is not granted to the hoi polloi. For that reason, there’s not much reward to be had from ideas which obey the dictates of common sense. The embrace of absurd ideas like climate catastrophism and the idea that an unvaccinated person threatens the health of the vaccinated, and all the rest of the nonsense that has made its way into regulation reassures the Pharisees of the smuggocracy that they really are superior to the rest of us, whom common sense tells that these ideas are not supported, and in many cases are confuted by, evidence.

That’s the trouble with common sense – it’s just so damned common.

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