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"...I have grown more and more estranged from other people. I do not belong to any social groups, I am no longer political. I am not a joiner. I have no life partner. I have no children. I have social needs like everybody else"

Your not alone there Dave. That quote applies to me as well. I still see my family members and enjoy their children, but there is no discussion about where we are headed or why. I really would like to try and have another romantic partner, but I would not know where to begin to look. Maybe I will make it my life's work to help the lonely realist's of the world find each other online - Doomer Singles dot com? Among others, I have read most of the authors you mention in the Adventures In Flatland series and I think you did a great job pulling everything together and putting your own spin on it.
Thanks Dave

Dave Jewett

Great essay, Dave. As Aphneaman wrote, you're not alone on those sentiments of yours that he quoted.

I re-read your first Flatland essay recently and came upon your M. Twain reference to "Corn pone" and clicked the link. I couldn't help but laugh, because it was just a day or two after the recent elections and I was involved in a couple forums where the topic was about those who didn't vote and I admitted that I was a non-voter and I gave my reasons why, which had nothing to do with apathy (I won't go into that here, as I don't think I need to). Corn Pone kept coming back to my mind over and over again. Anyways, I was called every name in the book and my reasons were completely ignored, and I think the reason they were ignored were just described in your essay above.

I like your J. Haidt references to. I read The Righteous Mind a couple of years ago after watching an interview with him on Bill Moyers. A good read, IMO. You've always given me a lot to think about and consider. If, by some freak of nature you do write a book, I promise to buy a copy. :) Again, keep up the good work.

I still might wonder off into the desert someday though......

Paul Heft

Dave, I think that making an example of Naomi Klein is a bit off target.

(1) It's true that her use of Germany's electricity production as a talking point has an element of spin to it. At least in some interviews, she doesn't bring out the fact that Germany's GHG emissions are growing due to increasing use of coal. She is probably trying to help people to remain hopeful about climate action, at the expense of being realistic. You might say, she is helping to cohere climate activists into a harmonious group, or perhaps to recruit new members into the group--a key reason for her to give interviews.

(2) But this is not a case of confirmation bias. Klein is very much aware of the point you make about coal. In her recent book, This Changes Everything, she goes into detail about it in a section titled "About That German Miracle ..." (pp. 136-39). "And this brings us to what has most definitely not worked about the German energy transition." She explains how Germany has increased use of coal for electrical power generation. "And much of the coal in Germany is lignite, often referred to as brown coal, a low-grade variety with particularly high emissions." She blames "the vast political power of the German coal lobby" for preventing rules against burning coal.

(3) And she consciously experiences anxiety about it: many times in the book she acknowledges that there are great odds against effective climate action. She is desperately hoping that a mass movement can be organized to force politicians to pursue policies to stop climate change. She is realistic enough to know it probably won't happen, but wants to make the effort anyway. (My own evaluation is that it definitely won't happen, with the Flatland consciousness being a big reason.)

Thanks for your articles. It's fascinating to slowly understand some of the limits of human thinking, and the way we fool ourselves about how we see the world and make decisions. I am gradually managing to give up the idea that we are in control, that we can rationally and democratically analyze, plan, and improve the world to approximate my utopian visions.

Dave Cohen

@Paul Heft

Thanks for that comment.

I was off-base to say that Naomi Klein "didn't do the 3 minutes of research" required to understand Germany's energy program. But this is contradicted by her public remarks, as you note.

Which means that Klein knows about Germany burning coal to replace nuclear, but she filtered the Bad News. See Adventures In Flatland -- Part I. Acknowledging that information, and thinking through its implications, is incompatible with Klein's hard-wired hope, harmonizing, etc.

One could argue about whether or not Klein's thinking constitutes confirmation bias. I would say, if she's filtering, and she clearly is, that we are indeed looking at such bias.

And blaming Germany's "coal lobby" -- oh, my! See Part II.

Indeed, George Marshall discusses Dan Kahan's results in his book, but is unable to fully accept them and their implications.

These examples illustrate why Flatland is so difficult to describe. Humans are so confused!

As I said in the last section--

"My general observation is that people generally don't know what they're doing. Even worse, people don't know why they're doing what they don't know they're doing, i.e., they are out of touch with unconscious motivations."

I've made some small changes to the text which address your concerns.


-- Dave

John Weber

Perhaps, it is traumatizing for most of us, to realize the fiction we are living within and the threat to our rich lifestyle if we look at the convergence of so many dire unfoldings. We lose our sense of belonging; our identity; there is disorientation, we become disengaged; and disenchanted. It is easier to not know that our supposed light at the end of the tunnel is a freight train coming right at us.

The categories of engagement, identity, orientation, and enchantment come from William Bridges' Transitions. More explicit here:http://sunweber.blogspot.com/2011/03/transitions.html

I have been blogging about underlying concepts here for a few years but no where near as comprehensive in one place nor as erudite.


This was a great piece that created a larger whole for any who dare to read it and the previous 2 parts.

Regarding Klein and Germany. What does this mean about her appearing to be in sync with Mr. McKibben. Obviously the climate activists are a group that must appear to be in lock step with each other on a point that is patently untrue.

From all the points and statements Klein has been making since mid September there was no way I was going to be reading her book. It's surprising/shocking that what she's written is in such extreme direction to what she's been saying. Which does she really believe, perhaps both, and holding both views is a huge case of cognitive dissonance.

It raised echoes of memories of the years when I would share the events of my weekends with my co-workers, but consciously worked to either avoid using pronouns or keep things really general so as not to out myself. It's all so long ago in years, but the memories remain. A painful and energy intensive task.

I made several attempts to bring the information regarding Germany and the fantasy that the country is going "green" with energy generation to Robert Scribbler's blog. I was evicted from posting as sending any information that tries to pierce the "group" think of the blogger and his followers was met with expulsion. They don't want to hear from another country that will challenge what they believe.

What happened to me there is not an unusual occurrence for me, but it's why the entire situation continues to head in a direction that most claim they don't want to go; yet they wait for "them" to fix everything with some new kind of technology.

Try raising the point that Gay Marriage only benefits the few (like the founding fathers), that it does not even begin to address the issue of the constant rise year after year of teen suicides. It was only in the last week or so that the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, decided now was the right time to announce to the world that he was "proud to be gay." What I'm curious about is whether he was proud in all the preceding years then why the long silence? Was he trying to avoid labeling as Gore Vidal had stated all of his life?

Dave Cohen

Philip --

Re: I made several attempts to bring the information regarding Germany and the fantasy that the country is going "green" with energy generation to Robert Scribbler's blog. I was evicted from posting as sending any information that tries to pierce the "group" think of the blogger and his followers was met with expulsion. They don't want to hear from another country that will challenge what they believe.

Yes, that's how it works.


-- Dave

The fundamental problem is that Marshall does not have the required consciousness to rock the human boat because his thinking on the human response to climate change is inherently compromised. He lacks a sufficient degree of social detachment. His thinking is contaminated by his instinctual groupishness, his instinctual optimism, his own "bad news" filtering, and all the rest. His secure social position in the general scheme of things explains why he got a publishing deal—there is a natural constituency for his work (environmentalists).

It seems to me that the fundamental problem is that the human boat cannot be rocked, except by the immediate. That is, we have evolved to the point where realism is an evolutionary dead-end within our species. It does not provide benefits that would improve the survivability of the realist. Perhaps it never did, or perhaps it did, but humanity has outgrown those times and no longer exists in the same environment. Certainly, our physical growth (population, consumption, destruction, complexity) has outpaced our evolutionary growth.

Instead, in our modern society, the unconscious harmonizing behavior that probably once served to promote our survival by promoting an understanding of real, shared, physical threats to our immediate social group, now combines to filter the existence of (and/or rationalize the denial of) existential threats that reach beyond our immediate social groups. That is, what was evolutionarily helpful (in the sense of protecting and promoting the species in a way that made it more survivable) when we existed in small social groups, has become evolutionarily destructive to the species as a whole. This is because the same unconscious traits are still in control, evolutionarily speaking. However, instead of belonging to one or two social groups, we now belong to an array of social groups that would have been unimaginable when our brains evolved to their current basic form. These groups all take unconscious precedence over the vary largest groups (humans, or all living things). This unconscious precedence then prevents us from seeing or accepting the things that affect the whole, while reinforcing those things that positively affect the part. When the planet was relatively empty our one group and the whole were more or less the same. In our crowded planet, that is not the case.

This explains why realism is an evolutionary dead-end. Realistic thought necessarily identifies threats to the whole because such threats are, objectively speaking, self-evident (in those brief moments when one can be objective). However, the implications of these events are clearly an existentially BAD THING. The realist's views must be incompatible with the views of the non-realist, seriously reducing the number of human social groups with which the realist might successfully connect. This, in turn, must reduce the selectability (evolutionarily speaking) of the realist. Realism does not make one a more desirable human being (again, evolutionarily speaking). The unconscious mind of the non-realist, however, safely protects its human from the potential cognitive blowback that would be inherent in accepting reality. This allows these people to continue to function within the social structures that exist today, the harmonizing improving their chances of procreation and ensuring that evolution continues to select for such harmonization. However, since harmonization with modern society's complex social networks (human, not internet) inherently prevents us from assessing (let alone accepting) reality, the long-term prospects appear dim.

Human beings are what we are. We have evolved to a state that, apparently, is no longer suited to the environment in which we find ourselves. I tend to arrive at a conclusion similar to yours, Dave... to intelligently address the predicaments we face would require that we be something other than what we are. Unfortunately, it appears to me that evolution is now working against us, rather than with us.

We are what we are.

Dave Cohen

Well, Brian...

Maybe I should write a book anyway.

Maybe I should call it This Changes Everything


-- Dave

Robert Arrington

Dave, in the field of analyzing the human condition you are an astute and skilled forensic pathologist.


I am laughing about your commenters here Dave. I recognize all the names from reading comments on the sites I visit - talk about harmonizing! I even had the same experience as Philip on robertscribbler.

Does that make us right? ... or does it make the internet large? I think it makes us right by god.

Up with the INTJ personality!!

Dave Cohen


Re: talk about harmonizing

Yes! I was waiting for someone to figure that out. I didn't want to say it myself.

Harmonizing doomers have been the bane of my existence.


-- Dave

T e Cho


Interesting, thank you.


I was thinking that your book would be "This Changes Everything.... Not".

Too close for the legal people? ;-)


I've read this deconstruction/demolition twice, because after the first reading I had the urge to go all gushy and tell you something you already know (clue: genius). Now that I am of slightly sounder mind (previously half-empty glass is empty) I'd like to draw a picture to summarize The World According To Cohen:

On the left, we see the earth, spinning and all a-jumble with untold numbers of people and voices and fighting and killing and stealing and pontificating and screwing and birthing and eating and crapping...

On the right, a lone figure stands in nothingness, wearing a T-shirt carrying the legend 'Realist', and holding a placard that reads: Nothing To See Here.

[All due acknowledgement to Lt. Drebin.]

Yep, the human condition is a god-awful mess. Laughably so. Thanks for the laughs, Dave.


Thanks for these posts. I've been looking for this summary of bullshit for 10 years now (when I suddenly became aware of the all the bullshit the guy in the mirror said). I agree that something was missing from the "Bullshit" book, now I know what.

A discussion of human behavior without bullshit is like a day without Anita Bryant.

Good job!!

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