The Politics of Atheism II

Social Justice

As part of the compassion that we as atheists should have for all living beings, I advocate joining in efforts to end poverty. Wealth honestly earned is a powerful incentive for people to work hard and succeed, and it is not intrinsically unjust for different members of society to enjoy different levels of luxury. However, no one should lack the basic necessities of life – a place to live, food and clothing, education, health care, and work that pays a living wage – and no one should be suffering or in want. I do not know whether government or private efforts to this end are more effective, but I see no reason why we cannot support both. I would not even oppose government funding of church social services such as soup kitchens, so long as grants for this purpose are distributed even-handedly (to atheist charities as well as religious ones), no government money is spent on religious material, and comers are not forced to sit through a sermon. Atheists should, however, oppose all efforts to give public money to any charity that discriminates on the basis of faith, such as the Salvation Army, and should refuse to financially support such charities and should encourage others to do so as well.

As well as fighting poverty at home, we should not forget that there are millions of people worldwide who live in extreme poverty, and commit to helping them as well. There are too many worthy efforts to name here, but in particular, I would suggest supporting efforts to vaccinate children and otherwise treat curable diseases common in the Third World, funding sex education efforts to put women in control of their own destinies, and boycotting companies that employ sweatshop labor. As with anti-poverty efforts on the individual level, in addition to programs that address immediate needs, we should devote at least as much effort to programs that focus on breaking the cycle of poverty and lifting people up through education and job training.

Secondly, atheists should strongly support measures to protect the environment. Unlike religious zealots who expect to be spirited off the planet in the Rapture, we recognize that the Earth is our one and only home, and still the only planet in the cosmos where we can exist. If we make it inhospitable, we and our descendants will pay the consequences. For this reason, we should devote effort to living in a way that enriches, rather than depletes, the planet; to live alongside nature and not at its expense, as we are doing now.

Chief among the environmental problems we face is the problem of global warming. There is no longer any good reason to doubt that global warming is happening, that it is a serious problem, or that human activities are largely driving it, and while it is too late to avert it entirely, it is still possible to curtail it in time to prevent the worst scenarios from coming true. To achieve this goal, however, requires that the human species switch from a fossil-fuel-based economy to one powered by renewable, zero-carbon energy sources as soon as possible. Likewise, we should support significantly increased fuel-economy standards for all vehicles, improving to a zero-emissions standard as soon as it is technologically feasible. Although it is doubtful that solar and wind power can supply all our energy needs at this point in time, we should use them to the greatest possible extent, and support research to make them more efficient in the meantime. How many barrels of natural gas or tons of coal could be saved each day if every house in the world had a solar panel on its roof?

Environmental protection also promotes public health. By cleaning up pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, mercury, and fertilizer runoff, we will prevent a wide variety of health problems, from asthma to birth defects, leading to far greater savings over the long run. Funding remediation efforts, such as the EPA’s Superfund, can help undo damage already done, but it is only a start. The root problem is that, in the current system, polluting businesses can export the costs of their pollution, their so-called externalities, to society rather than paying for them themselves. One way to fix this is to extend cap-and-trade systems, both for carbon dioxide and more directly toxic pollutants, that force businesses to shoulder the environmental costs of their own operations and give them an incentive to reduce emissions. (The Kyoto Protocol, for example, is a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases. The U.S. is one of only two nations in the world that has rejected it, an inexcusable lapse for which atheists should demand immediate correction.)

Finally, atheists should commit to protecting and conserving endangered species and threatened habitat worldwide. We should work to immediately end the rampant deforestation still occurring worldwide, and support efforts to regulate all harvesting of natural resources to a sustainable level, one that does not destroy them faster than they can be renewed. Unlike supernaturalists who cherish fantasies of a recreated Earth, we atheists know that any branch of evolution’s tree, once destroyed, can never be replaced. Even aside from the direct benefits that intact ecosystems provide us, we should do our best to tread lightly on the natural world, on the pragmatic basis that it is better, if possible, not to commit to any decision that cannot later be undone.

The Media

The rise of citizen media, through blogs and the Internet, should be taken by atheists as a very hopeful sign. Though there are some exceptions, to a large extent the traditional media, consisting of television, radio and newspapers, has become ossified. It still panders to the religious right, substitutes shouting and spectacle for informed debate, distracts the public with sensationalism rather than providing deep analysis and context, mindlessly laps up and repeats political talking points as if they were evidence, and shies away from reporting facts that make the powerful look bad under a false pretext of “balance”, in addition to a multitude of lesser sins. Some of this craven behavior can be traced to the ceaseless harassment of the right, while some is due to independent media outlets increasingly being swallowed by large corporations that run them as profit-making ventures rather than sources of information.

For the most part there is little that can be done about this (except, as I have previously argued, that TV stations licensed to use public spectrum have a constitutional obligation to treat opposing views fairly) – but atheists can and should opt for alternative sources of information as often as possible, and boycott the organizations (and their corporate sponsors) that engage in especially egregious violations of journalistic integrity. Fox News and the other sources of right-wing sleaze funded by Rupert Murdoch would be a good place to start, as well as the cult-owned Washington Times. (Media Matters is a good place to keep track of right-wing bias throughout the news media.)

Science & Education

Science is the only effective way of gaining knowledge about the world, and atheists should advocate that it be funded generously, both by the government and by private parties, and emphasized in all public and accredited private schools. Any attempt to dilute the teaching of science in schools, or to “balance” it with nonscience, must be opposed. Also, any attempt to stifle science, whether by censoring publications, packing peer-review panels with ideologues, selectively hyping uncertainty for political reasons, or funding contrarians and promoting their opinions as equivalent to the mainstream consensus, must also be brought to light and opposed. (Chris Mooney writes about many such outrages in The Republican War on Science.)

I also recommend that atheists support efforts by groups such as the Public Library of Science to make scientific journals open-access. Knowledge is the lifeblood of humanity, and should be made as widely and freely available as possible, rather than being locked behind electronic firewalls and hidden away in closed-source journals that most people do not have access to.

When it comes to the public school system, one of the more contentious issues relates to voucher plans that allow parents to send their children to private schools at state expense. I believe that atheists should oppose such initiatives, mainly because of valid concerns that it violates the separation of church and state. The vast majority of private schools are explicitly religious, and it is plainly unconstitutional to take public tax money and use it to fund religious institutions where devotional content is inseparable from secular activities. In addition, it is often overlooked that vouchers actually pay for only a small percentage of the average private-school tuition, making the program more of a way to subsidize the rich than to genuinely benefit the poor. Failing public schools should be fixed, not abandoned, and indeed the evidence shows that this usually results in greater actual benefits than voucher programs do.

On another contentious issue, the reliance on standardized testing, the facts are less clear-cut. There is definitely something to be said for accountability and for making sure that all schools competently teach an essential core curriculum. On the other hand, we do not want to encourage “teaching to the test” – rote drilling that is uninteresting and that takes away time from other lessons. I suggest a moderate proposal – we should support a minimal set of standardized tests that check students’ competency in only a core set of basic academic skills. Any school whose basic curriculum is up to date should not have to spend any additional time specially preparing students for such a test.

Finally, I argue that atheists should give their strongest support to comprehensive sex education programs, ones which teach that abstinence is the only sure way to avoid pregnancy and STDs, but which also present information about contraception in an accurate and objective manner. For obvious reasons, atheists should not advocate keeping people ignorant of relevant information – we should be in the business of putting people in charge of their own destinies. But even more so, the evidence shows that comprehensive programs work and abstinence-only programs do not. Unlike the religious right, which tends to cling to their rigid beliefs regardless of how they play out in practice, we should be pragmatic and achieve our goals by the most effective method.

Coming up: Part III of the Politics of Atheism will propose an atheist political platform in the areas of business, foreign relations, and some miscellaneous important issues.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://dominicself.co.uk Dominic Self

    “some is due to independent media outlets increasingly being swallowed by large corporations that run them as profit-making ventures rather than sources of information.”

    You could try some kind of compulsory licence on every household that owned a television, say $150 a year, to pay for a broadcasting company that was legally obliged to inform and educate as well as entertain and contained no sponsorship or advertising. Or is that just crazy talk? ;-)

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    First, let me begin by saying that I, too, feel sorrow over the plight of the nation’s poor and those in poverty around the world. That being said, however, surely theft isn’t the answer. As I stated in my comment of the previous article:

    Say that you and I are walking down the street and we see a homeless man. If I take a hundred out of my wallet and give it to him, it’s charity. If I take a hundred out of your wallet and give it to him, it’s theft.

    Helping others is a noble act, but taking from another to do it is wrong. It is just socialism-lite. Like Karl Marx said, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”

    The massive expansion of the US government can be directly attributed to the misguided policies of socialism. FDR’s public works projects were fine. We needed dams and bridges, and creating jobs helped get us out of the Great Depression. But programs like social security, welfare, amd medicare are pure socialism. They take money from Peter to give it to Paul. Robin Hood may have had noble goals, but he was still a criminal.

    How do we help others? We guarantee their freedom. We don’t heap regulations on them or the business that would hire them. We don’t require licenses or permits to start a business. We don’t tax the crap out of them. And we help those who are willing to help themselves. A person who was laid-off and lost his home or was bankrupt because of massive medical bills deserves our assistance. A person who blew their mind on drugs or decided it would be easier to become a criminal and prey on others only deserves our scorn.

    The recent disaster left by hurrican Katrina is an excelent example of this. Most of those affected have found new jobs, new homes, or new places to live. Yes, they got help from charities, but they did the hard parts on their own. Then you have those who refuse to look for work. Who want to continue to suck at the entitlement teat. Yank them off! They don’t deserve our charity and we shouldn’t steal from hard-working citizens on their behalf.

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    I also have to take issue with your absolute belief in global warming. While there is some evidence to support, then is far from a scientific consensus on the subject. I would, however, err on the side of caution and take steps to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. Even if global warming turns out to be untrue, there are still serious health issue created by pollution. Since the air belongs to all of us, individuals cannot put into it whatever they like.

    As far as the Kyoto Treaty is concerned, it is a complete waste. Without controlling the developing world, especially India and China, it will only hamper or cripple the developed nations, specifically the United States, and do next to nothing to help the environment. Get every country on board and rewrite so as not destroy our economy, and I’ll get behind it.

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    While I agree that the media often kowtows to the religious right, it leans far more to the left than the right. Every survey of the politics of those in media show a percentage of liberals far out of sync with the rest of the country. When it comes to issues of freedom like gay rights and separation of church and state, this bias may serve a purpose. It doesn’t, however, when it comes to the socialist policies of the left.

    I agree that the Internet is quickly becoming a major player in media, and I expect it to one day surpass all other formats.

    As for FoxNews, I agree that the opinion pieces on Fox lean to the right, but the actual news programs are very centered. If they seem biased, it is probably only because the rest of the media leans so far to the left.

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    Government education must end!

    Government has a monopoly on education in this country, and the free market should replace it so that competition will drive improvement and success.

    I send my son to a private, Christian (*gasp*) school. I do so because they have excellent graduation and college acceptance rates, and the average scholarship per student is incredible. Yes, my son has to sit through some indoctrination, but my being his father should provide an antoidote to that. I want my son to have the best possible education. He is far less likely to get that in a public school.

    There have been a number of recent articles by John Stossel about the disaster that is government education. Here are links to them:

    Teacher Unions Are Killing the Public Schools

    Teacher Unions Reward Mediocrity, Fail Students

    Competition Works. Let it Help Our Schools

    The Inescapable Facts on Public Education

    Answering the Teachers Unions

    Public Schools Evade Real Accountability

    Accepting the Teacher Union’s Offer (Or Not)

  • http://dominicself.co.uk Dominic Self

    Unbeliever,

    “But programs like social security, welfare, amd medicare are pure socialism.”

    This is a very amusing line. :) In the UK, the Conservative (i.e. right wing) party is currently spending a great deal of time reminding voters how committed they are. And not just to ‘medicare’ but to the full NHS, full public education, no encouraging opt outs.

    I’m not trying to pick a fight – but be aware your definition of ‘the left’ is a bit out of step with other parts of the world!

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Well, Conservatives are socialist as well. They just have different socialist policies. They want to limit social rights, and the liberals want to limit economic rights. Libertarians (US definition) are the closest things to conservatives (although their party platform is idiotic).

    To be honest, I agree so much with Unbeliever. Everyone has a right to a CHANCE; that is to be protected for being killed, from being imprisoned, or blackmailed, or robbed, because anyone doing these things is infringing on your rights. But that’s it. No one has a right to a GUARANTEE of success. We are a society; by attacking small groups we are attacking ourselves. Today, we might be doing the “right” thing and making the old miser move so we can build that highway. Tomorrow, you might be kicked out of your house for a mall, even though you’ve lived there 30 years. The eminent domain struggle is an excellent example of being hoisted by your own petard with regards to letting the government do what it wants. When you earn a dollar, you have every to keep 100 cents, except for those services that are universal; I don’t get food stamps, so it’s unjust to steal cash to fund food stamps, but I DO get the guarantee of a fair trial whenever I need it, so it’s just to take some money to pay for a court. Right now, the middle class pays all the taxes, but the lower class gets a huge chunk of it. There is no difference between taking 20%+ of my paycheck for your ends by gun point and the ballot box; both are forcing me to give up the right to the money I work to get me nothing.

    Global warming is not something good to bring up. The government agencies around the world have largely been in support of, but dozens of grass roots organizations, think tanks, and independent scientists have brought up not stuff that disproves nothing, but is not being considered fairly. Regardless of one’s feel for it, it’s not a fact. It’s not 1/100th as proven as Darwinian Evolution, and to limit CO2, which is not at all pollution or dangerous itself, is against violation of property rights, that also just hurts the people.

    Public education is entirely unjust. Besides being inept, it forces people to pay for other kids to go to college. And I’m betting that Unbeliever pays his fair share for his kid to go to public schools like everyone else AND foots the additional bill of a private school. Why does he have to pay for two schools? Esepcially since this punishment is because he’s trying to HELP his kid? Last I checked, education was good, so discouraging it through taxes is not a good idea. And when it’s government run, it’s hard to change or monitor or effect, especially with taxes and truancy laws. School should be completely voluntary and payed for only by the parents. I have a whole speech on this but I’ll stop now.

    Overall, yeah, this platform, I feel, is just liberal. That’s not a bad thing itself, that’s not what I’m trying to say, but it’s just the liberal position on things, and has nothing to do with an atheist’s POV. While I dislike the right’s control on so much, if we moved towards this form of government (which we are anyway), I’d be appalled. I feel that Christianity based in “rosy inner feelings” and an old book are no less valid than liberalism based on “rosy inner feelings” and an old book.

  • Azkyroth

    On the global warming stuff: my impression is that there are a pair of consensuses. The first and most prevalent is that the minutiae of the effects of global warming aren’t entirely known, but that it is indeed occurring and is indeed a threat to humans and possibly the entire biosphere. The other consensus is best expressed as “no, global warming isn’t a problem, now let me get back to counting my payoffs.”

    Anyway, if you’re interested in air pollution, the company I work for deals with it extensively. On a related note, I’m writing a report on the RECLAIM program of economic incentives for air pollution reduction, for a college class; I’ll make sure to send it to you, Adam, once I get it finished.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    No, there is a large body of evidence disputing global warming. The mini ice age, the medievil warm period, the effects of the sun on temperature, the failure of Munn’s famous hockey stick, etc, are all evidences against global warming. The generalization of all opponents to it of being rich or blind is just an ad hominem attack. I know you weren’t trying to do that, but those who are die-hard environmentalists and lobbyists ARE. There’s even been cases of guest speakers in the Hill being publicly ridiculed by supporters of global warming just for suggesting alternate explanations/

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    Dominic Self,

    We are starting to see the same thing here in the US. Both parties have become spenders and are using social programs to but votes and get campaign funds. If I represent an industry and spend $100 million to get congress to give me $300 million in pork barrel spending, then I’ve made $200 million. But my government windfall only costs everyone else $1. Who will complain about a single dollar? The incentive is on the government to give in to every special interest at the diluted expense of everyone else.

    Socialism has traditionaly been a tactic of the left, but apparently anyone can play.

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    I would concede that global warming may be occurring. But the Earth has had cyclical warming and cooling trends for its entire existence. The question is: Do we want to wreck our economy on the chance that is us that is causing global warming (which, BTW, may not even be happening).

    I say take the necessary and pragmatic steps to curtail greenhouse gases. But the Kyoto Treaty goes too far with some (like the US) and ignores others competely (India and China).

    It needs more study, and we can’t afford to throw the baby out with the bath water.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I also have to take issue with your absolute belief in global warming. While there is some evidence to support, then is far from a scientific consensus on the subject.

    I strongly disagree with that statement. Although there are some scientists who dispute global warming, the vast majority unequivocally state both that it is occurring and that human beings are significantly contributing to it. From an article in the Washington Post:

    The scientific consensus is clearly expressed in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Program, the IPCC is charged with evaluating the state of climate science as a basis for informed policy action. In its most recent assessment, the IPCC states unequivocally that the consensus of scientific opinion is that Earth’s climate is being affected by human activities…

    The IPCC is not alone in its conclusions. In recent years all major scientific bodies in the United States whose members’ expertise bears directly on the matter have issued similar statements. A National Academy of Sciences report begins unequivocally: “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise.” The report explicitly asks whether the IPCC assessment is a fair summary of professional scientific thinking, and it answers yes. Others agree. The American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have all issued statements concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling.

    What would constitute a scientific consensus if this does not?

    While I agree that the media often kowtows to the religious right, it leans far more to the left than the right.

    I’d be interested to hear some examples of this.

    No, there is a large body of evidence disputing global warming. The mini ice age, the medievil warm period, the effects of the sun on temperature, the failure of Munn’s famous hockey stick, etc, are all evidences against global warming.

    As I said, I’m afraid that the majority of climatologists disagree with you. This is a separate topic which I don’t want to get too much into here (although we can discuss it in another post if people are amenable), but I highly recommend RealClimate for high-quality discussion of climate science issues.

    But the Earth has had cyclical warming and cooling trends for its entire existence. The question is: Do we want to wreck our economy on the chance that is us that is causing global warming (which, BTW, may not even be happening).

    The problem with using uncertainty as a reason not to act is that, although things might not be as bad as we think, they might also be even worse than we think. That’s what uncertainty means.

    Also, no one is advocating “wrecking the economy”. In fact, I would argue, the measures necessary to abate greenhouse gas emissions will prove economically beneficial in the long run. Imagine your house and your car running on electricity from solar panels or miniature wind farms. Unlike gas-burning vehicles which continually have to be refilled at cost to you, the sun and wind are free. Once those things pay for the cost of their own installation, they’re free and clear from that point on. Or take thinktanks like the Rocky Mountain Institute, which has built a 4000-square-foot house that uses $5 of electricity per month. (That is not a typo.) That house also needs no heating or cooling system. How much money would we save per year if every house in America was designed like that?

    If anything is wrecking the economy, it’s the outrageously high prices charged by ultra-rich oil companies; they provide the fuel on which our entire economy runs, and so we have no choice but to pay regardless of how they gouge us. These fuels are not going to last forever, and the sooner we face up to that and begin making preparations to use alternative energy sources, the less damaging that transition will be to our economy when it happens.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Global warming; well, agreement only of government funded and government controlled organizations, when the governments often use environmental causes to get votes, is not a good standard. I’m not expert, but I have read many papers and articles by scientists and even large think-tanks that are against this. Are they conservative? Yeah. But largely because they LEFT the IPCC and other groups BECAUSE they wouldn’t listen or be objective. So we have a liberal consensus on it and a conservative argument against it. It’s just hasty to ignore all the conservatives and side with the liberals and just start legislating laws.

    On the media; well, let’s see; CNN dropped the American flag from their set shortly after putting it up on 9-11 so they wouldn’t offend anyone. The media is anti-gun. It exagerates the homeless problem and the AIDS problem in america. Etc. It’s rather easy to tell when you are conservative and in one hour of news, not one article supports your side. I believe the MEDIA is left, but the CORPORATIONS bend to ANY large group, like the religious right, for money.

    I will check that site, but I have gone through and read many other articles against global warming. All I am trying to argue is that it’s not anywhere near a FACT. Gravity is a fact, relativity is a fact, evolution is a fact, global warming is not. It’s still heavily contested. Neither of us are scientists, but from what I’ve read, there’s enough evidence to demand further investigation. That’s not saying it’s just wrong, that’s just saying that there is more study that needs to be done to get an answer. And I’ll risk 1 degree changes in the earth’s temp, especially since sea level has yet to actually change any.

    As for the last part, you are forgetting the effects of market. If it WAS cheaper, we’d already have done it! The initial investment is too high. But wait, if we are already THAT close to a solution, then why even worry about global warming? That tells me that we are merely a few decades, if that, from not emitting CO2 or methane, etc, so what’s the point of crushing the oil industry with outrageous limitations, causing massive economic down turn, just so we can turn around and eliminate the problem regardless?

  • BlackWizardMagus

    About the global warming, I just want to rattle off a short list of similar epidemics or massive problems just like it; crack babies, AIDS epidemic, ozone depletion due to high altitude jets, the coming ice age, and the SARS pandemic. All of these were put forth by scientists who either worked for the government or at least got grants from them, and got more after pushing these theories. In case anyone doesn’t know, the following are the facts that finally came; crack babies were slightly affected, but were pretty much fine and still better off than alcohol kids. The US AIDS epidemic has barely affect 1 million people since it’s existence, if I recall correctly, and in very localized pops according to the CDC. High eleveation planes, like the Concord, were supposed to eat the ozone; no such effect has ever been linked to such planes. The same global warming groups were predicing a coming ice age in the 70′s and, really, it was a “scientific consensus”, so I guess that’ll balance out global warming. And I don’t recall SARS killing the world. This isn’t BAD science, it’s just slight science being exagerated and used to look like unassailable fact. They are making a mountain out of a molehill. All of these were found to be false or very inconsequential later. That’s why I’m just saying we need to take more time, and not jump to the media induced delusions that there is a concensus among everyone but fools.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Global warming; well, agreement only of government funded and government controlled organizations, when the governments often use environmental causes to get votes, is not a good standard.

    Oh, come on. First, I object to your characterization of any of the groups I listed as “government-funded and government-controlled”. The IPCC is a United Nations organization, the National Academy of Sciences is one of the world’s most renowned scientific bodies and in no way “controlled” by the government, and most of the others I listed are not even government-organized groups but are private affiliations of practicing scientists.

    Secondly, I strongly object to the implication that governments would pressure scientific groups to issue pro-environmental statements. If anything, the Bush administration has been one of the most hostile administrations in history when it comes to environmental protection, not to mention science in general, and has frequently acted against the wishes of the NAS and other scientific groups. Take Philip A. Cooney, a former lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute whom the Bush administration hired to edit EPA draft reports on climate change to selectively emphasize uncertainties, cut out evidence, and strip language about the possible harmful effects of global warming. That hardly sounds like a government appealing to environmental causes to get votes.

    I’m not expert, but I have read many papers and articles by scientists and even large think-tanks that are against this. Are they conservative? Yeah. But largely because they LEFT the IPCC and other groups BECAUSE they wouldn’t listen or be objective.

    What scientists and thinktanks are you referring to? I know of only one person who resigned from the IPCC, Christopher Landsea, and he stated that his resignation was because he disagreed with their specific predictions about hurricane activity, not because he questioned the basic science behind global warming. Here’s a quote from Landsea:

    “Well, we certainly see substantial warming in the ocean and atmosphere over the last several decades on the order of a degree Fahrenheit, and I have no doubt a portion of that, at least, is due to greenhouse warming” (source). Here is Landsea’s resignation letter in case anyone wants to compare.

    On the media; well, let’s see; CNN dropped the American flag from their set shortly after putting it up on 9-11 so they wouldn’t offend anyone.

    I’d like to see a source, please. And even if this is true, how is it “liberal” bias? (On the other hand, if you want to see examples of media bias favoring conservatives, there is a rather extensive list here. And don’t forget my recent post about all the major TV networks flatly refusing to air a commercial produced by a liberal Christian group, on the grounds that the President was against such a position. If that’s not right-wing bias, I don’t know what is.)

    The media is anti-gun. It exagerates the homeless problem and the AIDS problem in america. Etc.

    These are fairly sweeping claims, don’t you think? Do you have specific examples of any of these?

    And I’ll risk 1 degree changes in the earth’s temp, especially since sea level has yet to actually change any.

    Actually, sea level has already changed (here’s a chart from the IPCC Synthesis Report), and it is having an effect. For example, the island nation of Tuvalu, in the Pacific, is planning to evacuate its entire population – 11,000 people – because rising sea levels are causing lowland flooding, coastal erosion, and salinization that makes its water supply undrinkable (source).

    As for the last part, you are forgetting the effects of market. If it WAS cheaper, we’d already have done it!

    Not true, I’m afraid. Things have worked out as they have because solar and wind power, though they are cost-free once they’re up and running, require substantial investment in innovation up front to get them to work efficiently. On the other hand, fossil fuels have historically been very cheap and the technology that uses them old and well-established. The internal combustion engine was around long before anyone thought of using solar or wind power, much less had the technology to do so. Also, let us not forget, until recently there were no laws requiring companies to pay for the externalities of doing business, thus making fossil fuels seem cheaper than their real cost.

    And yes, I have no doubt that the market will find an alternative energy source – when oil runs out (or at least, when it becomes so scarce as to no longer be economically viable). By then, the effects of global warming may be much, much worse, whereas we can avert much of that harm by acting to find an alternative before it is strictly necessary. As I said, these fuels are not going to last forever, and the sooner we face up to that and begin making preparations to use alternative sources, the less damaging that transition will be when it happens.

    The initial investment is too high. But wait, if we are already THAT close to a solution, then why even worry about global warming? That tells me that we are merely a few decades, if that, from not emitting CO2 or methane, etc, so what’s the point of crushing the oil industry with outrageous limitations, causing massive economic down turn, just so we can turn around and eliminate the problem regardless?

    “Crushing” the oil industry? “Outrageous” limitations? Let’s keep this in perspective. In the third quarter of 2005, ExxonMobil’s net profit – not gross profit, net profit – was $9.92 billion. And I emphasize that was a quarterly, not an annual profit. ExxonMobil’s profits for 2006 are set to make it the most profitable company in the world, surpassing Wal-Mart. And what was done with this money? Well, close to $7 billion of it was simply paid back as dividends, rather than, say, being used to fund new oil exploration or expansion of production capabilities (one source calls it “a sign that oil companies are making more money than they can plow back into their business”). Do you really think it’s so outrageous to tax the oil companies for even a small percentage of this windfall, especially considering that the Bush administration is literally giving away public land for them to drill on by waiving the royalties it would normally charge?

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Bush doesn’t run the government. Regardless, the UN is completely left wing and anti-american, and many of these organizations thrive off of government grants, which are ten times easier to get when you tell a Senator (and all his constituents) that you need the money to show that the world is ending and how to stop it than to tell them that nothing is wrong. I’m not saying I hate them all, I don’t, I’m just saying that as long as I can easily find dozens of articles from all sorts of individuals and groups bringing up important questions and hardly getting answers, I don’t want a policy to be drawn up.

    A regretful hook up I have is with books over internet articles. I have a book about liberal bias and documented cases. I also have read some books referencing many of the scientists that have expressed dissatisfaction with the government bodies. That can also be found online though; groups like the Cato and Mellon Institutes, I believe. Alot of it is independant work, which in science, is as important to the process that any supported by major bodies. I admit I don’t have sources on it; last time I looked up anything for this topic was over 6 months ago. Just do a search for “global warming hoax”. I realize this isn’t a great answer, but if you search you can find alot of stuff fairly easily. I’ll cede the point on sea level for now; I admit I’m a little burnt out and I don’t remember exactly where I read that from, but it was regarding a research post in Australia I believe that has been keeping records of sea level for 200 years or some such, and it’s reported not one full inch in increase. But I know this is not good debating ethics, I am sorry, so I won’t push the point any further.

    On alternative energy; ah, but if it’s getting THAT cheap, then eventually the long term gains will begin to make the initial investment worth it. I’m just not willing to punish people because you feel there MIGHT be a problem coming along.

    Well, since we limit oil exploration and also we have prohibited the construction of new refineries for twenty years, how could they spend the money back in the company? (another book, “Black Gold Stranglehold”) It’s only because of ridiculous laws that they have to do that! And yeah, paying dividends is their purpose. Public land violates the Constitution, so I really don’t care about that. And we’re not talking taxes; we’re talking pollution limits. We start putting massive limits on cars and powerplants and factories and that’s going to suck billions out of these legitimate companies.

    Again, before we get into a debate about global warming being true or not, I want to say that I don’t care if it results in being true, I’m pointing out NOW that it’s debated, even if the public gets a face of unity. I don’t want to start debating it, because I’m not really up to it, and I hope that’s not a problem, but if you start looking for papers and reviews written, you will find alot of people dissatisfied with the IPCC data, their methodology, with weather computer models, with math models, with one-sided data reporting, etc. My whole case is just that there are questions and uncertainties still, and I don’t want to just ignore those and start straining our economy for what might turn out to be a pipe dream like many of the previous epidemics.

    For a good book, pick up “Bias” by Bernard Goldberg, regarding the media issues. He also wrote a follow-up called “Arrogance”, but I have yet to read it.

  • Loren Petrich

    I think that what’s happened is that the oil companies have become an oligopoly – not far from a monopoly. And members of an oligopoly often become unwilling to compete with each other, since that would endanger their standards of living.

    Also, I think about alternative energy sources that it’s better to see the edge of the cliff before one falls over. Screaming afterwards is easy. I think that the greater expense of many alternative energy sources at the present time is a byproduct of them not being mature and widely-used enough; many technologies have come down in price as they have become more widely used. So that’s why I think that alternative-energy R&D is important, so we will be able to switch relatively painlessly when the time comes, and not have a severe economic slump.

    You might want to check on “Peak Oil” some time — we may be approaching the peak pumping rate of it, and it’ll be downhill from there onward.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    You mean the Peak Oil we hit last year? Or in the mid-nineties? Or in the eighties? Or the one Carter warned was just around the corner? The peak theory is a myth. It might be true, in general, but every attempt to evaluate it has been dead wrong, and we all know that when a hypothesis is not reflected by the data, it’s wrong. There is more oil now than ever. There’s not even a hint of it slowing down. Canada just stumbled across 200 billion barrels. For some interesting reads, check out “Blackgold Stranglehold”. If you want to know why I think oil isn’t going to run out from a scientific view, check out “Deep, Hot Biosphere” by Thomas Gold.

  • Oz

    As far as oil profits go, I recall seeing somewhere that their actual profits come from literaly pennies on the dollar – far more of your gas price goes toward federal, state, and local taxes.

    BWM- I’d be interested to hear more on your take on the constitutionality of public land; it’s not one I’ve heard before.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    There isn’t much fo one. I am, ironically, checking out a site on this; http://www.propertyrights.org/learn.asp

    This is why I oppose alot of environmentalism. But look in the Constitution; the only need for land on the federal level is a capital, not to exceed 10 square miles (if I remember), military facilities, and post offices (it also has the right to POST roads). The fifth ammendment was NOT meant to give carte blanche to the federal government to take land as long as it gave compensation; it was supposed to mean that if the federal government (and has since been expanded to states) NEEDS to take land, to establish a dockyards let’s say, they have to compensate; the founders absolutely supported private property, however. John Adams said something like “Without property, liberty cannot exist” and Madison stated that securing property to the proper owners was government’s SOLE purpose. The Constitution specifically enumerates for what purposes government can take land, and that should be followed. Not only that, but the spirit should be recognized; the founders clearly believed (and history has proven them correct) that private property secured liberty and generated wealth. Not to mention that we have also seen that companies now are more kind and VOLUNTARILY responsible for the environment from ever before; both from an internal belief in it and from CONSUMER pressure.

    Now nothing is perfect, and I know that. But when the government can own and regulate land, it means that business is going to be buying favors, the common people are going to be hampered, real estate prices are going to sky rocket in some places and crash in others, etc. And all for what? Environmental concerns. Or if we are talking the recent eminent domain cases; people are being forced out of house and home for business. But if you demanded to go sleep in that hotel built on your house for free, you’d be denied. Why? Because it’s private property, they’ll say! The audacity! What that is saying is that some private property is more important than others. How is that “fair”? How is that “just”? That is wholesale endorsement of corruption! It’s saying that the rich are better and get more rights than the poor. The US government is supposed to protect everyone equally, not play favorites. We all have a complete and total right to property; except for the purpose of public USE (not private profit), if it’s a danger, or if we used our house as a collateral, we can’t lose it. That’s called stealing, or as Unbeliever has put it, the non-existant right to take. It’s tyrrany. Without the guarantee that a man’s house is his castle, we can’t profit. Private land becomes whatever land the government ALLOWS us to stay on, which is what the Soviet Union did. For an explanation why, here’s a stat; 70% of american small businesses are started with home equity loans. But when we make prices sky-rocket by letting the government own 40% (I’m not exagerating, it already DOES) of the coutnry, no one can buy a house, and no one cna then use it for equity.

    I’ll stop ranting.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    We all have a complete and total right to property; except for the purpose of public USE (not private profit), if it’s a danger, or if we used our house as a collateral, we can’t lose it.

    I should make it clear that I do not support the use of eminent domain to transfer property from one private party to another private party; I think the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo was in error in that respect. However, it is not true that there is a “complete and total” right to property, either in the U.S. or in English common law.

    The idea of eminent domain has been around since Hugo Grotius coined the term in the early 1600s. The Fifth Amendment was, as the Supreme Court wrote in U.S. v. Carmack, “a tacit recognition of a preexisting power to take private property for public use, rather than a grant of new power”. The Court held as early as 1875 that eminent domain is an inherent “attribute of sovereignty” that requires no explicit constitutional recognition. (See Kohl v. U.S. and Mississippi & Rum River Boom Co. v. Patterson.) Note also that Article 1, Section 8, gives Congress the power to oversee land purchased for “needful buildings” in general, not just for military buildings and post offices.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Another thought: If the government was not authorized by the Constitution to purchase and manage land, would you thereby argue that the Louisiana Purchase was unconstitutional? About a third of the continental United States exists because of that purchase. Should we have to give that land back to France?

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Actually, in an unusual twist, France never owned that land. I don’t know the details, but my Aunt is rich and her job pretty much consists of whatever she wants. She was in Spain, looking at the original Lousiana purchase, and technically, that was Spain’s land.

    I feel that purchase, along with the Gasden Purchase (I have no idea why I have remembered that name for the last 15 years but I have), are simply trade, which the US is permitted to do.

    Anyway, I never said the US government never had the right to take land, but the opposite; it IS clearly spelled out that they do. However, WHY is limited. For one thing, taking land for the purpose of protecting it is not anywhere permitted. Secondly, I disagree that ANY “needful buildings” are allowed; you notice that immediately prior to that, it gives a list of examples, all of which are military related, and then mentions Post Offices prior to that. That’s it. Although not about this section, I remember that the entire Section 8 was written, as Hamilton said, with the idea of providing a list of particulars with a general idea included. Same here; the idea is needful buildings, with a list of particulars stipulating military/government use, and nothing else. Our complete and total right to property is thereby upheld, as long as a contractual obligation, health related matter, or government necessity arises, in which case it can be taken as long as we are given just compensation (as a side note, I’ve heard that with the recent environmental scheme, that has also been twisted; laws are passed that seriously lower the worth of land, and then people are compensated for that new, artificially damaged worth, and not the original market value before the law. Just interesting to me). John Locke clearly spelled out how necessary our land is, that it means everything (well, property in general, so what’s ON the land too).

  • jw

    I’m pointing out NOW that it’s debated, even if the public gets a face of unity. I don’t want to start debating it, because I’m not really up to it, and I hope that’s not a problem, but if you start looking for papers and reviews written, you will find alot of people dissatisfied with the IPCC data, their methodology, with weather computer models, with math models, with one-sided data reporting, etc. My whole case is just that there are questions and uncertainties still, and I don’t want to just ignore those and start straining our economy for what might turn out to be a pipe dream like many of the previous epidemics.

    Quite the opposite is true. The public is shown a debate over global warming that doesn’t exist in the scientific community, but is simply a result of industry funded PR firms and think tanks. These individuals make up a controversy and claim that a debate exists where none does in the same fashion that the Dicovery Institute manufactures the debate over evolution.

    Meanwhile, in the world of science, there is no debate over the occurrence of global warming. Global warming is a well confirmed fact from many different avenues of evidence. Surveys of peer-reviewed journals from around the world over the last couple of years found no papers that disagree with the existence of global warming. There are a lot of scientific papers coming out every year on the subject, but their data is always supportive of global warming. See “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” in Science Vol 306, Issue 5702 for the older of the two surveys.

  • jw

    You mean the Peak Oil we hit last year? Or in the mid-nineties? Or in the eighties? Or the one Carter warned was just around the corner? The peak theory is a myth. It might be true, in general, but every attempt to evaluate it has been dead wrong, and we all know that when a hypothesis is not reflected by the data, it’s wrong. There is more oil now than ever. There’s not even a hint of it slowing down. Canada just stumbled across 200 billion barrels. For some interesting reads, check out “Blackgold Stranglehold”. If you want to know why I think oil isn’t going to run out from a scientific view, check out “Deep, Hot Biosphere” by Thomas Gold.

    Peak oil’s not a myth. Hubbert’s prediction for the peak of US oil prediction in the 1970s was dead on. Following his work, peak oil should be occurring about now, which seems to be the case, because contrary to what you claim above, oil production has slowed down in the last decade. As for the hypothesis that oil is produced from bacterial deep in the Earth, there’s no evidence for it unfortunately.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Yeah, that’s true; that would explain the 10000 signature survey of scientists rejecting the myth of global warming consensus, and the multiple papers that have been unfairly rejected from papers because they were anti-global warming. If there was a consensus, I couldn’t find papers by scientists disagreeing. UNLIKE creationism, which any 10-year old can destroy, anti-global warming papers are quite astute. Hell, the omissions in the IPCC reports are painfully obvious; no feedback systems, no consideration for the effects of solar radiation, etc. How can you back half-completed papers?

    Peak oil was predicted to OCCUR in the seventies. And eighties. And nineties. And this decade. It’s nothing but random guesses. Oil PRODUCTION has slowed down; but we have FOUND more oil than ever. Part of the reason for production limits is because the US, and I’m willing to bet other western nations, have put intense restrictions on production. As for the hypothesis that oil is a fossil fuel, there’s no evidence for it unfortunately. Oh, and no one says it was MADE by bacteria; it was made by intense pressure and heat, which is why we have managed to make hydro-carbons artificially without bio matter.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Yeah, that’s true; that would explain the 10000 signature survey of scientists rejecting the myth of global warming consensus…

    The vast majority of signers of the survey to which you refer are not climate scientists at all. It’s similar in that respect to the creationist petitions urging the teaching of “evidence against evolution” that are signed predominantly by lawyers, mathematicians, philosophers and other non-biologists.

    The people who created the petition also admit that they made little or no effort to verify the names or credentials of anyone who wanted to sign it, meaning that the names of real scientists who did not actually endorse its content could have been added without their knowledge. Numerous fictitious signatories have already been discovered and removed from the petition; how many more might there still be? (See Media Matters’ take on the subject.) If we’re going to use petitions and surveys as evidence of the consensus or lack thereof, the data need to be gathered in a rigorous and verifiable way, and this seems to be something that prominent global warming skeptics have made little effort to do.

    Hell, the omissions in the IPCC reports are painfully obvious; no feedback systems, no consideration for the effects of solar radiation, etc.

    Here is the section of the IPCC’s 2001 report that deals with feedback systems:

    http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/260.htm

    And here is the section that deals with the effect of solar forcing on climate:

    http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/244.htm

  • BlackWizardMagus

    I spoke hurridly, although those sections are interesting. The solar radiation section admits that they are not really using it because they have no idea, which is a key point right there; they don’t know. How can they claim CO2=global warming when a potentially huge factor is still unknown? But on the feedback systems, that’s good. I admit that I didn’t cross-check dates, and the criticism may have been previous reports (some things are not kept up to date on the net). It may also have been specific feedback mechanisms not included. I apologize for jumping too far, it’s a little embarassing. Still, as long as I can find credible scientists (which we both know is not more than like a dozen creationists) having papers rejected, working for other groups, etc, and arguing on points, it’s hasty to begin punishing industry.

    As for the survey; oh, I’m sure they did. But alot of those names WERE right, as well, no? Also, climate scientsts aren’t the only parties involved; those who study glaciers and oceans and even astrophysicists are part of the debate (as I’ve mentioned, the issue of the sun being a major cause of things was originally from some astrophysicists, and they were also originally ignored). I’ve found papers here and there from meteorologists and climate scientists critiquing aspects. I’ve even seen mathmeticians slamming the way in which the IPCC has compiled data or created computer models (where they force-fit data). There’s enough that there are still questions, and I really can’t think of anything, short of a mass conspiracy of oil tycoons making up fake papers and scientists, that’s going to change that without more time. To simply side with the majority to strangle american business is ludicrous without certainty as solid as evolution’s.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    I need to shut up. I keep getting back into this when I mean not to. I’m not willing to spend alot of time in deep research, and it’s not fair to any of you, so I’ll be quiet. My ending point is simple; I can find scientists disputing many different parts of the global warming theory, and thus, it is unsettled, and anyone can do a search for “Global Warming hoax” and find the same. Much of the reason for this is because normal science was skipped; ammassing these huge, government screened and controlled scientific bodies is NOT the way to do science. Science needs to be done on an individual level where self-correction is constant, not in massive, hard-to-pick apart studies (sometimes which refuse to give out some of their data or methodology for independent verification). All that does is create an air of authority based off of number and status, and not off of small, independent papers. Evolution has been built over the years by constant papers studying small pieces and figuring out the puzzle; there wasn’t just some huge, government funded group that produced all the data and said “Here, this is the whole theory”. We need to dismantle the IPCC and every other body and let the scientists work on this THEMSELVES (instead of paying for bad news), and they will come to the truth.

    Alright, I’m done. Sorry to cut off, but I know it’d be more annoying if I did later.

  • lpetrich

    The trouble with BWM’s proposal is that those scientists must somehow be financed, and they are currently financed by what BWM is opposed to — the government.

    Or would he prefer hired-gun “science” of the sort made infamous by the tobacco industries? Like scientists being financed to say about global warning:

    Fossil-fuel companies: no
    Beachfront-property owners: yes

  • jw

    There are hundreds (actually thousands) of small global climate change papers, and they’re produced by scientists funded by as wide an array of sources as evolutionary biologists are. Yes, you can find plenty of links on the web if you google “global climate hoax” in the same way you can find plenty of links if you google “evolution hoax.” However, neither set of links is the peer-reviewed scientific literature on the subject. All the links tell you is that there are a number of people in the fossil fuel-related industries or fundamentalist religious groups opposed to the scientific consensus.

    If you want to know the reality of the scientific consensus instead of accepting assertions that there’s a controversy, you’ve got to the read the scientific literature yourself. Come back when you’ve done the research you’ve mentioned not having done yet, and do the research by reading the peer-reviewed literature, not just popular books.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    I have. Not endless amounts, but I have. I have also read papers that were flat-out rejected by journals for not agreeing with the reviewer’s opinions. I have seen this in multiple fields not even related to politics. Look, I trust scientists over all, I do; immensly. But I’m not so naive as to think that, yes, they are ALL honest, that they have NO bias, or that they ALL swallow their bias. That’s just being gullible. I’ve read papers at the edge of my comprehension for and against global warming here and thar. I’m not rejecting global warming here, I’m not; all I’m saying is that there are still questions and the issue isn’t done. Hell, look at things like solar activity; okay, the IPCC now recognizes possible input (I’ll ignore the fact that they haven’t actually calculated it’s effect yet; a massive error on their part), but they didn’t before. When the idea was proposed, the Munn, who made the famous “hockey stick” graph, demanded the presenters be thrown out of the Senate hearing! He was furious! Even assuming that’s an exagerated account, we still see scientific rivalry, and we still see that new idea are ever coming in. If we assume they all still end up supporting or not disproving global warming, it’s still showing us that, unlike evolution, potential problems are coming in all the time, ones that have be reincorporated and reevaluated and ultimately changing what policy might work. I’m just saying that unlike the, what, 140 year old Evolution theory, the 20 year old global warming theory (the one that replaced the scholarly and scientifically supported “coming ice age theory”) is still young and is still performing tests to see if it’s right. We no longer test evolution; we use it. It’s so far past a constant test that it’s not even funny. Global warming is still seeing serious debate from real scientists, not fake PhDs like evolution has to contend with.

    So yeah, I can’t research this topic to death. I’ve read some papers and some articles on both sides (had to sit through a college course on why global warming is true as well), and all I can say is “inconclusive”. That’s as much research as I’m doing for now. I have 5000 things I wish I could stop time to learn and this is one of them, but I’ve learned enough that it’s down on the list and I have more important, I feel, things to look into. Endlessly calling for more research on my part is like the Christian who always says that just one more apologetics book would convince you. Anyway, I bid you all good day.

  • Philip Thomas

    Good Day. I don’t know about Global Warming, I believe it cos I’m told its true and we all know what trouble that can land you in…

    “Say that you and I are wallking down the street and we see a homeless man. If you take a hundred dollar bill out of your wallet and give it to him, that’s charity. If you take a hundred dollar bill out of my wallet and give it to him, that’s theft.”

    Curiously enough: there is one circumstance under which the second sentence is not true: the circumstance where I have your permission to give him the money. And this is exactly the circumstance we are in when we pay our taxes. You claim that taxes should only be spent on certain things. I claim that we give the government our money so that it can run the nation as it sees fit, which may involve spending money on many things. The reason the 5th Amendment doesn’t say thge government can take land for hospitals and schools is because nobody dreamed of public schools and public hospitals in the 18th century: fortunately the wording is vague enough to allow a flexible interpretation.

    You contend that your money shouldn’t go to provide foodstamps: because you don’t get any foodstamps. This is like claiming your money shouldn’t go on murder investigations, because you haven’t been murdered. The Rawlsian Veil of Ignorance is a good line here…

  • http://www.gibsonian.blogspot.com Ian B Gibson

    Actually, it’s surprising that BlackWizardMagus is participating in this discussion, since the whole thing is only possible by use of the government-created (*gasp*) internet and is therefore evil and wrong. I suggest he sets up his own internet in future.

  • Shawn Smith

    Hey, yeah, Ian–It was initially created by DARPA, a branch of the United States of America Department of Defense. Which, from what we hear from the British Press, is the main cause of terrorism and genocide in the world. And that’s some of the nicer stuff compared to what the rest of the world thinks of us.

    So, why don’t you stick to the .uk domain?

    :-) :-) :-)

  • http://www.gibsonian.blogspot.com Ian B Gibson

    I fail to see what the British Press, terrorism, genocide and .uk domains have to do with my point. I know the United States Government built the internet – it’s a great achievement, and one that could never have been accomplished in the private sector. All credit to the US government and the American taxpayers!

  • http://Daylightatheism.org J. James

    I can foresee a not-too-distant future in which renewable sources of electricity and environmentally sound technologies are the new frontiers of American industry and innovation. Things such as compostable steel-hard plastics, hydroponic year-round producing skyscrapers, gigantic solar-powered flying hotels and cargo ships capable of lifting many hundreds of tons(hybrid Zeppelins), genetically modified crops and algae fuels that bring wealth and food to impoverished nations, and computers linking humanity, uncensored, undeniably uplifting of the human condition.


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