Updated: Jul 18, 2020
I came across this word, some years ago, in a paper delivered to a work place safety conference in Australia by G L McDonald M.E. BSc. in September 2001:-
That person claimed to have “invented” the neologism and I have no reason to doubt that claim. I have not been able to find it in any of the online dictionaries nor my, now ancient, Collins English Dictionary. McDonald’s definition is:-
Consignorance - the result of a group of people using consensus to combine their
collective ignorance while ignoring a significant body of scientific knowledge. The tragedy of consignorance is that it gives ignorance authority.
To my mind there can be no better example, more worthy of discussion, than the chronic and ongoing debate about, “Climate Change” also known as “Global Warming” and allied to “The War On Carbon” etc. Also, there is the current excitement about the steps the Australian and other governments are taking to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Our society is polarised – those in favour, (probably a minority), and those against in both cases.
But this is not a new phenomenon. We need turn the clock back only a few years to find the same polarisation about Measles, Mumps and Pertussis vaccine, vaccination in general, and the ill-founded hysteria around vaccinations causing autism and other afflictions in children. This despite the abundant evidence of vaccination saving millions of lives from the ravages of many diseases and a paucity of adverse effects.
And, of course, polarisation of debate occurs in numerous subjects – particularly politics.
It is all very well for people of like minds, opinions or interests to form groups and use the group to promote those opinions and interests. Most clubs, associations and professional bodies do just that. Rarely do we see others set up competing bodies to publicly protest and challenge the opinions or views of other groups. Most of these groups exist in friendly competition. The exceptions occur in religion and politics where violence and even murder are accepted practices by some groups.
And there exists people who set out to coerce erstwhile passive groups into the indoctrination of children, the abuse of children - by manipulating them into activism, “striking” and civil disobedience. They also coerce adults into similar activities. These people certainly, “…use consensus to combine their collective ignorance.” They don’t have to worry about, ”…any body of scientific knowledge.” If it exits they simply ignore it or counter it with a list of “Myths”.
The debate, if that is what we can call it, over “Climate Change”, right across the world is well and truly into the manipulation of children stage. When the activism reaches that stage, if not before, it is pertinent to question the motives of the group. For instance, are the “Green” political parties, and their supporters, and the vociferous Climate Change activists truly concerned about Climate Change or is it a confected instrument designed and implemented to bring about political change?
These consignorance groups have many features in common:-
1. They do not engage in polite, civil debate. In any meeting, debate or interview their stance is aggressive, their tools are derision, humiliation and abuse of their opponents achieved through shouting, interrupting, talking over and ignorance of the adjudicator even if, indeed, he/she is impartial.
2. Their use of data and statistics is designed to intimidate the audience. For example, they will quote an authority, academic or even a celebrity who has pronounced that the levels of all oceans will rise by X meters by whenever unless we take action NOW! (Despite numerous such predictions passing their use-by date without fruition.)
3. They frequently use emotive words like - unprecedented, catastrophic, existential crisis, emergency and dreadful in their self-appointed roles as prophets of doom.
4. Very few of the activists have a public profile. They keep out of the limelight but tutor, mentor and line up lesser beings, e.g. school children, to deliver their messages. They impose on others to organise protests, rallies and “strikes” by school children.
5. They will all have a cadre of journalists, politicians, celebrities and media people, happy to help the activists spread their message. Some media institutions, e.g Australia’s ABC and The Guardian, have no compunction at supporting the activists. Many local governments openly do so.
6. They are not above falsifying research data to support their claims. An example being the Hockey Stick curve produced by an American academic climate scientist. (This chart became a mainspring for Al Gore in his early days as an activist.) It showed a marked upswing in global temperatures in the last 100 years in comparison with historic records. (But it compressed the last (approx.) 100 years data into a vertical line on his charts. A reputable scientist would put that data onto much broader scale charts.) The author was challenged by a Canadian academic. The author accused him of libel and the case went to court in Canada and dragged out for eight years. The author refused to produce the data on which he based his chart. Ultimately, the presiding judge threw out the case. It is standard academic, scientific practice for a scientist to release the data upon which he/she has claimed to be valid in drawing a scientific conclusion.
7. They are glib, careless and often mendacious when quoting figures and “facts”. I recently heard a climate change scientist claim on TV that CO2 levels were currently 412 parts per million and, “well on the way towards the highest levels know to have occurred – 1000 parts per million.”
There is also the now (in)famous statement that 97% of scientists believe climate change/global warming is caused by human activity. The following is a paragraph from an article in The Australian (newspaper), 17 Jan 2019, by the Australian Emerritus Professor Ian Plimer.
“The 97 per cent figure derives from a survey sent to 10,257 people with a self-interest in human-induced global warming who published “science” supported by taxpayer-funded research grants. Replies from 3146 respondents were whittled down to 77 self-appointed climate “scientists” of whom 75 were judged to agree that human-induced warming was taking place. The 97 per cent figure derives from a tribe with only 75 members. What were the criteria for rejecting 3069 respondents? There was no mention that 75 out of 3146 is 2.38 per cent. We did not hear that 2.38 per cent of climate scientists with a self-interest agreed that humans have played a significant role in changing climate and that they are recipients of some of the billions spent annually on climate research.”
[Ian Rutherford Plimer (born 12 February 1946) is an Australian geologist, professor emeritus of earth sciences at the University of Melbourne, previously a professor of mining geology at the University of Adelaide, and the director of multiple mineral exploration and mining companies. He has published many scientific papers, six books and is one of the co-editors of Encyclopedia of Geology. He has been a critic of creationism, and he denies that greenhouse gases cause climate change. Source: Wikipedia.]
8. Their use of statistics is marred by their confused use of units. For example ppm is an abbreviation for Parts Per Million and usually accompanied by an explanatory note such as, “by volume” or “by weight or mass” etc. For propaganda purposes 412 ppm has much more impact than 0.0412% by volume. They are equal values for the current concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. 1,000 ppm equals 0.1 %.
The activists much prefer to use ppm because neither they nor the average person understands how minuscule that amount actually is. It is why CO2 is considered to be a trace element.
And in their next breathe the activists will be shouting about the “millions of tonnes of CO2 Australia pumps into the atmosphere” every day, or year or what-ever time frame they want to place it into.
There is no doubt that excessive atmospheric CO2 is potentially a threat to life on earth. There is no less doubt that it is essential to life on earth. Where the dividing line lays is debatable.
At this point I want to record that all of the preceding five pages have been compiled and written by me over the past year or so and certainly before I ever heard of Michael Schellenberger or his book; Apocalypse Never – Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. And I have not yet read his book.
Schellenberger is a twenty-year veteran of the Global Warming/Climate Change/War On Carbon clique that is winning the propaganda war against democracy as we know it. However, with the publication of his book he set himself up as a whistle-blower. He starts by offering an apology, “On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, (seems he didn’t have their approval), I would like to formally apologise for the climate scare we created over the past 30 years. Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem.” And in so doing enraged the “true believers” and propagators of the climate change hoax and provided a strong gust of oxygen to the much-derided “climate change deniers”.
He goes on to, among other things, list, “some facts few people know”. Beginning with “ Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction.” and closing that list, 11 points later, with “Preventing future pandemics requires more, not less, “industrial agriculture.”
One thing that I noticed about it all was that Schellenberger is not criticising the science or the scientists. He is criticising the misapplication of scientific research results to alarmist statements, doomsday predictions, normal variations in weather patterns and the indoctrination and fear-mongering, especially, among children.
There is a great deal of information, from both camps, on the internet. Regardless of your own, personal position on the spectrum of climate change belief – non-belief, do a search for Scellenberger on the internet or go directly to his web site
Like me - you will learn a lot.
Now, getting back to “Consignorance”. You probably have concluded by now that protagonist and antagonists in any debate or argument may be guilty of consignorance – combining collective ignorance on any subject while ignoring a significant body of scientific knowledge.
It may be naïve of me to suggest that truth is more likely to be followed/presented by the group that does not resort to any of the eight features I outlined above. Their problem is that calm, considered delivery of information, science and predictions is not considered news-worthy by far too much of today’s media.