The Cult of Darkness

From MasterResource

By Edward Hudgins — December 22, 2023

“Energy is not for conserving; it is for unleashing to serve us, to make our lives better, to allow us to realize our dreams and to reach for the stars, those bright lights that pierce the darkness of the night.”

Since early men ignited the first fires in caves, the unleashing of energy for light, heat, cooking, and every human need has been the essence and symbol of what it is to be human. The Greeks saw Prometheus vanquishing the darkness with the gift of fire to men. The Romans kept an eternal flame burning in the Temple of Vesta. Our deepest thoughts and insights are described as sparks of fire in our minds. A symbol of death is a fading flame; Poet Dylan Thomas urged us to “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Thus a symbol of the deepest social darkness is seen in the recent extinguishing of the lights of cities across Australia and in other industrialized countries, not as a result of power failures or natural disasters, not as a conscious act of homage for the passing of some worthy soul, but to urge us all to limit energy consumption for fear of global warming.

This is not the symbol of the death but, rather, of the suicide of a civilization.

Certainly most of the individuals turning off their lights saw their acts in a narrower perspective. They have been told by every media outlet that the warming of the earth’s atmosphere due to human activities will certainly cause a global catastrophe unless we act now to radically curtail our energy use. The case for disaster is still weak; but this matter, which deserves dispassionate and serious consideration, is being hyped like the problematic products aimed at an attention deficit disordered audience by the entertainment industry and by pandering politicians.

In our individual lives it is quite rational to want the most for the least. We want the highest quality food, automobiles, and houses for the lowest price. And we want to pay as little as possible to run our cars, heat our homes, and power our consumer electronics. This means we want to waste as little as possible because waste is money that could be spent on other needs. So turning off the lights in an unused room is an act of self-interest.

The goal of our actions should always be our own welfare. And in a fundamental sense, this means using the material and energy in the world around us for our own well-being. The means for doing so is the exercise of our rational minds, to discover how to light a fire, to create a dynamo to generate electricity by burning fossil fuels or to tap the inexhaustible energy of the atom. The standard by which to choose which means is best is economics. In a free market, if producers can generate a kilowatt of power for pennies by burning oil compared to dollars per kilowatt through windmills and solar panels, it makes no sense to use the latter.

Some will argue that the full costs of each means must take account of unintended adverse consequences such as pollution that measurably harms our lives, health, and property. But there are means for dealing with such externalities—usually involving a strict application of property rights—that will not harm us far more than the alleged ills they aim to alleviate by dampening creative human activities and innovations.

When the costs of generating energy via oil rise too high as supplies dwindle—still many decades if not centuries away—our creative minds in a free market will develop less costly ways to harness wind, wave, and sunlight.

Through short-sightedness, sloppy thinking, emotional indulgence, and even a deep malice, many environmentalists today—especially in their approach to global warming—are perpetuating an ethos of darkness. Consider the harm of their symbolic acts, to say nothing of the policies many of them advocate.

Most individuals acquire their values through the culture, often through implicit messages that they do not subject to rational analysis. The implicit message for many of turning off the lights of a city is that we should feel guilty for the act of being human, that is, for altering and employing the environment for our own use.

In her novel Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand describes the consequences of such an assumption in the view from a plane flying over a collapsing country:

New York City … rose in the distance before them, it was still extending its lights to the sky, still defying the primordial darkness… The plane was above the peaks of the skyscrapers when suddenly … as if the ground had parted to engulf it, the city disappeared from the face of the earth. It took them a moment to realize … that the lights of New York had gone out.

We must keep focused clearly on the fundamental issues in every discussion about the environment: the right of individuals to pursue their own well-being as they see fit; the requirement that man the creator utilize the material and energy in the environment to meet his needs; the rational exercise of our minds as the way to discover the best means to do so; and the exercise of that capacity as a source of pride and self-esteem

The spectacle of a city skyline at night is the beauty of millions of individuals at their most human.

Energy is not for conserving; it is for unleashing to serve us, to make our lives better, to allow us to realize our dreams and to reach for the stars, those bright lights that pierce the darkness of the night.


Edward Hudgins is founder and head of the Human Achievement Alliance. His previous associations have been with the Heartland Institute (research director); the Atlas Society (director of advocacy, senior scholar); and the Cato Institute (director of regulatory studies).

Hudgins is author of Freedom to Trade: Refuting the New ProtectionismThe Last Monopoly: Privatizing the Postal Service for the Information AgeMail @ the Millennium: Will the Postal Service Go Private?, and Space: The Free-Market Frontier, and other studies.

This post, originally published in 2007 by the Atlas Society, is a classic in free market energy thought.

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Ron Long
December 23, 2023 2:20 am

It appears to me that Edgar Hudgins has the theme right. The validation of energy consumption in a modern culture is on full display at the COP Festivals. None of those attendees would give up their luxuries to “escape the tipping point and save the planet”, what they want is for others to do that. Keep the lights on!

December 23, 2023 2:44 am

“”the suicide of a civilization””

Surely that’s the imposed suicide, a very top down suite of policies made to measure. Sort of.

After repeatedly being shown to be the bad actor he/she/it is…

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan backs cars for Ukraine scheme in apparent U-turn

It took an awful lot of criticism and bad press to get that u-turn.

Harry Passfield
December 23, 2023 3:18 am

“…to allow us to realize our dreams and to reach for the stars, those bright lights that pierce the darkness of the night.” – which just goes to underline the point of this very good piece: those bright lights in the heavens are all energy.

Hans Erren
December 23, 2023 3:26 am

It is the fear for abundant nuclear energy, ignited by Greenpeace, that brought us here.

john cheshire
December 23, 2023 4:09 am

As far as I am awae, there is no evidence that Hydrocarbon resources originated from fossils. Consequently, I don’t refer to them as such, reverting to the name that they used to have before the haters (of everything) came to prominence; namely, Hydrocarbon fuels.
And I believe that God gave them to us to use for our benefit, that our short time on this sinful earth might be as comfortable as is possible.
Merry Christmas everyone.

Reply to  john cheshire
December 23, 2023 4:42 am

As far as I am aware, there is no evidence that God gave them to us to use for our benefit;
Just as you say, it’s a belief system, just like CAGW is a belief system, both are based on flawed theories with no empirical evidence, and both ‘sin’ to control.

God was made in the image of man to explain the unexplainable.

Reply to  1saveenergy
December 23, 2023 4:57 am

Ha Notsri was a very radical man for his time. Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin put that jack back in its box. Or is that on its cross? The stuff of legend.

Rich Davis
Reply to  1saveenergy
December 23, 2023 6:25 am

While I don’t share your literal interpretation, I wish a blessed Christmas to you and yours John.

Rich Davis
Reply to  1saveenergy
December 23, 2023 6:38 am

Sorry, replied to the wrong comment in my dotage.

Reply to  1saveenergy
December 23, 2023 6:57 am

God gave man dominion over the earth so there is some evidence. You just don’t accept it.

Reply to  mkelly
December 23, 2023 8:33 am

“God gave man dominion over the earth”
That’s just a theory in a book/text/bible written by men, where’s the empirical evidence ??

Dominion = Control or the exercise of control;
Do you seriously believe man controls the earth ???
We can’t even cure the common cold, we can’t control – the sun, wind, waves, earthquakes, volcanos, or tectonic plate movement, yet these are the things that control us, plus all the micro-organisms.

Cyanobacteria, was the first living thing to ‘have dominion over the earth’, more complex organisms evolved & shaped evolution; man has only just arrived at the party.

Now, if you really think man has dominion, drink some water with Cyanobacteria in it …see who wins that fight; you won’t have dominion over your own bowels let alone the earth !!!

It is stated in the New Testament “The meek shall inherit the earth” …
Well, the meek ( micro-organisms ) never gave up their inheritance, they use us, & when we are of no further use, man will go extinct just like millions of other species that have gone before us.

You just don’t accept it.”
For exactly the same reason that most on WUWT don’t just accept CAGW without some empirical evidence (for which we’ve been waiting with bated breath for years ).

Reply to  1saveenergy
December 23, 2023 9:14 am

Ok you don’t accept that. Just like I don’t accept string theory.

Dominion also means sovereignty.

Have a nice Christmas.

Reply to  mkelly
December 23, 2023 11:23 am

String theory is a long knotty concept !! (:-))

Steve Case
December 23, 2023 4:31 am

When the costs of generating energy via oil rise too high as supplies dwindle—still many decades if not centuries away—our creative minds in a free market will develop less costly ways to harness wind, wave, and sunlight.


How ’bout nuclear?

Rich Davis
Reply to  Steve Case
December 23, 2023 6:47 am

I didn’t want to dwell on the negative, but that is one of the points in the article that I found weak. Clearly, before mankind is reduced to utilizing diffuse energy sources such as sunlight and the winds it generates, we will rely on fission for many centuries.

Tom in Florida
December 23, 2023 5:17 am

The author of this piece is absolutely correct. It is 59F this morning here on the central west coast of Florida. I got up and my well insulated house was at 72F. I turned on the heat and now it is 78F, much more to my liking and comfort. Not sweaters or sweat pants for me.

December 23, 2023 5:20 am

It really is a [bonkers] cult.

The pursuit of Net Zero seems to justify unbridled interference with both commerce and individual liberty, because no restriction is too severe, unfair or poorly thought out, so long as it’s intended to ‘save the planet’. The free market is out the window. Embracing a Soviet-style command economy, as of 2024, Westminster will now idiotically fine the manufacturers of gas and oil boilers if they fail to ensure that four per cent of their sales are heat pumps. Shouldn’t the government instead fine customers for not wanting heat pumps? Effectively, the state will do just that. Manufacturers have announced a £300 fee per boiler installation to cover their fines.”

Joseph Zorzin
December 23, 2023 5:45 am

Two Thousand Degrees Of Warming
“There appears to be one-upmanship in climate academia, where each new baseless prediction is substantially more ridiculous than previous ones. All peer-reviewed of course.”

a Tony Heller masterpiece

Kevin Kilty
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 23, 2023 7:39 am

Very nice. It was perhaps in the Autumn of 1974, maybe the spring of 1975, some physicist from a school in Idaho came to Bozeman for one of our regular colloquia and predicted exactly this same furtue. He said that 5C of temperature rise is all it would take to hold all water on the planet in the atmosphere — he did not mention 2,000 degrees of warming. What is notable about this lecture (the 1974 one) is that not a single “scientific” person raised an objection. The only objections raised were from an economist who objected to the physicist insisting that GDP and energy consumption were one and the same.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Kevin Kilty
December 23, 2023 8:51 am

I guess it’s considered impolite to challenge another scientist at such an event- professional courtesy!

In my half century of forestry work- most of that challenging forest policies in Wokeachusetts, whenever I challenged them, they said I should learn to be more “polite and professional”. My challenges usually started off polite- then when ignored, I got far less polite. For my challenges, they twice tried to bust me with the state’s forester license board- with no luck of course. My lawyer (old friend), the ACLU, and myself- reminded them of the first amendment.

Don’t such folks recall what Socrates said on this topic?

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 23, 2023 9:21 am

So it looks like WE ARE ALL GONNA D!E!!!!

Or not.

William Howard
December 23, 2023 7:09 am

As a former head of the UNIPCC stated the goal of the environmental movement is the destruction of capitalism – global warming is just the means to delude the masses

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  William Howard
December 23, 2023 8:53 am

They fail to recall that the Soviet Union had a terrible environmental record. Proper capitalist theory supports defending the environment in a way that is cost effective.

Kevin Kilty
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 23, 2023 12:02 pm

You and I may recall such, but we are old guys who saw it all in real time. The majority of voters quite possibly have never even heard about this thus cannot recall it. Such are the successes of education over the past 40 years.

abolition man
Reply to  Kevin Kilty
December 23, 2023 4:41 pm

“The successes of education over the past forty years…” have been to create a large pool of semi-literate puppets who think emotionally far more than logically, and are highly susceptible to psychological persuasion and mental illness!
Our Sisyphean task is to not just enlighten these poor deluded dolts, but to teach them how to think for themselves so that they can eventually acquire all the learning they were deprived in their “education!” This is truly the Age of Propaganda, and the KlimateKultKabuki Hoax is just one of the numerous tools used to delude and impoverish humanity!

general custer
December 23, 2023 8:20 am

Energy is not for conserving; it is for unleashing to serve us, to make our lives better,

Ultimately, energy is a replacement for the use of human muscle to accomplish work, to move bigger things farther, so humans then have the freedom to do other things. The domestication of fire was probably the first instance of humans using an outside energy source for their own benefit but in reality it was preceded by the food they eat. The energy supplied by food, like all energy transactions, must be more than the energy expended to acquire it. This is true across the spectrum of energy bargains.
The arithmetic of energy could mean that the “cost” of its use in a given application could be more than the benefit, however that may be determined. We live in a technological era in which there’s so much energy availability and potential that energy cost can be passed on into the unpredictable future, just as governments borrow money that their grandchildren will be required to repay in the unlikely event that those governments survive.
Climate paranoia is a silly affliction which doesn’t recognize the fact that the slight increase in temperature at times and places is in reality a bonus in terms of the energy transaction. Less energy will be needed to maintain and expand the current standard of living. The cost to change this formula would be far in excess of any benefit received.

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