The modern world abounds in modern heresies. One might say that modernity itself is a heresy—modernity understood in the broadest possible terms as the antithesis of the traditional: the fundamental distinction, as Claude Polin recently argued in this magazine, overlying all subordinate political and cultural oppositions, beginning with liberalism and conservatism, right and left.
Modern man’s supreme confidence is chief among these heresies: first, in the ability of the human mind to rise to every challenge to its mental powers and its technical ingenuity, to resolve the most seemingly intractable problems, and to determine its own future; and second, in the basic solidarity of the human race, the willingness of its various racial and cultural subgroups to cooperate rationally in the pursuit of a single common end, or good—an end that each, taking the long view, would recognize as being advantageous to them all. The modern heresy, in short, is the certainty that the human mind really is omnipotent, and that humanity at bottom is both rational and benevolent, a race of enlightened gods.
This certainty is being tested by the phenomenon of climate change, and it is certain to go on being tested for the foreseeable future, no matter whether global warming turns out to be myth or reality, a man-made or a natural event.
The response from the left and the right to the supposed crisis has...