“Can I Dissent from Laudato Si?”

“Can I Dissent from Laudato Si?” August 13, 2015

“The pope isn’t speaking infallibly here.”

“This is just his opinion.”


The pope is the only person on planet earth Catholics regularly and pre-emptively declare can be completely ignored–even when he is surrounded by a battalion of experts–just so long as he is not speaking with absolute infallibility. Nobody treats their garage mechanic, investment banker, or doctor this way.

Prudence suggests that it is a good idea to listen to the pope on matters of prudence, even when he is not speaking infallibly.

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  • Galorgan

    No they can ignore the vast majority of climate scientists as well. It’s almost like religion does a better job confirming somebody’s biases rather than overcoming them.

    • Dave G.

      Would that include the growing number of scientists who say the main problem is, in fact, overpopulation? Or is that when scientists become wrong, or it’s not actually science just because scientists say it? Sometimes it’s hard keeping track. For instance:

      “The most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations’ board of climate experts, included concerns about population size, saying, “Globally, economic and population growth continued to be the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.””

      And that’s not the only report to say so. So science? Or not science? Imagine in ten years what will be said. And accepted.

      • Tweck

        I think “human overpopulation” is a cover for “massive industrial build-up running rampant and poisoning the earth,” which is the real, quite obvious reason for man-made climate change.

        Scientists have backers too. And any time I hear the word “overpopulation,” I am immediately skeptical. It’s like they’re blaming poor people having babies for the sins of industry.

        • Pete the Greek

          human overpopulation

          I see that more as a cover to deny economic, social and religious freedom to 3rd world people. Allowing people to better their condition results in colonial outposts becoming productive nations. Treating them like cattle and you have a herd that needs to be culled.

      • KL

        “Globally, economic and population growth continued to be the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.”

        You’re missing the conjunction here. The problem isn’t population growth, full stop. It’s population growth in conjunction with “economic growth” — i.e., more and more people are both being born and living a lifestyle that is associated with the “economically developed,” affluent West. That culture, as Laudato Si rightly points out, is one of continuous consumption, waste, and exploitation of both natural resources and human labor. It’s not sustainable even for the relatively small (compared to the world population) number of people that currently live it out, and as more and more people enter into that paradigm, through both population growth and further “economic development,” the problem will only get worse.

        • Dave G.

          Not me. That was the published report from some of the same scientists from the UN who brought us MMGW in the first place. In fact, since the encyclical, I’ve noticed and uptick in GW Scientists saying that it’s all fine and good that Pope Francis is on board with most of the science, but he needs to come out and complete the circle. He needs to admit what a growing number (dare I say consensus) of climate scientists are realizing: that there are simply too many people in the world, and ignoring that is no different than ignoring MMGW. As a non-scientist myself, that is the problem. I’m pretty sure that Pope Francis won’t jump on that bandwagon. What he, and many Catholics will do, is say exactly the same that most humans say: Science is right, but that’s wrong because whatever reason. Which brings us right back to the beginning: when to listen to what scientists say, and when not to.

          • KL

            No, my point is that you’re missing the meaning of the statement you quoted, which does not state that “population growth” is the issue, but rather the combination of population growth with the expansion of “economic development,” which leads to exponentially higher rates of consumption, waste, pollution, and exploitation. Focusing on population growth in isolation is not only a mistake, but a crucial misunderstanding of the IPCC’s report.

            • Dave G.

              If this was the only place this was mentioned I could understand. It isn’t. The quote is from a Times story espousing the need to curb population growth. And that is one of a growing chorus praise for Pope Francis that is nonetheless asking him to join against the real problem.

  • Michael Boedi

    Dare to say that about “summorum pontificorum” and that’s not even an encyclical.

  • leadingedge

    Catholic Magisterial teaching is pretty clear on this: any Catholic is free to hold a different view to the Pope on any issue that does not pertain to faith and morals, or about any issue which has not been definitively settled by the Church.

    So, yep, Catholics are actually entitled to disagree with the Pope on any parts of Laudato Si which do not pertain to faith and morals, or which have not been definitively settled by the Church.

    This is simply legitimate disagreement and diversity of thought – and it’s one of the wonderful freedoms that our awesome Church gives to us, her children.

    • Karl Sinclair

      Have you read the document? It entirely pertains to faith and morals… that’s why its an encyclical 🙂

      • AquinasMan

        The Church does not have the competency to pronounce on highly speculative science. Where’s the encyclical on the perils of smoking cigarettes?

      • ManyMoreSpices

        It entirely pertains to faith and morals… that’s why its an encyclical

        Well, I mean, if you’re going to do that, then basically anything “pertains to faith and morals.”

        • Andy

          Anything we do does pertain to morals and faith – all interactions between people, the way we deal with our stewardship responsibilities are matters of faith and morals.

          • Guest

            Didn’t Chesterton say that all questions are theological? I can’t source it right now, but it makes sense since the theos is the source of all things.

            • Andy

              I agree, I wasn’t thinking of Chesterton, I was thinking of the second greatest commandment. I don’t know why seeing faith, and morals I all interactions is all that hard.

              • ManyMoreSpices

                I’m calling Motte & Bailey on this one:

                Motte: “The Pope is only infallible when speaking about faith and morals.”

                Bailey: “Everything is faith and morals.”

                • Andy

                  Calling Motte and Bailey – clever response – however, it does not negate that the church teaches as did Jesus that all interactions have a moral component.

                  • ManyMoreSpices

                    And the fact that everything has a moral component does not (i) transform every assertion in an encyclical into a statement on faith and morals for purposes of determining whether it is infallable, (ii) negate that the Pope can speak fallibly.

                    I’m really not sure why we’re going around in a circle on this…

                    • Andy

                      We are having this because Catholic teaching says we are to be docile with regard to what the pope teaches. Not that we cannot disagree, but rather we are not to dismiss what he says flippantly or in a way that suggests he has not thought about the topic and consulted with those who have knowledge about the topic. Every statement is not about faith and morals, rather they build up yo those statements. I never suggested infallibility – I said all interactions are actions with a moral and faith component.

          • ivan_the_mad

            Certainly Catholic, and conservative too, for as Kirk writes: “Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems.”

          • Artevelde


            Christ has conquered death. If he is still in the grave, we shouldn’t even bother to engage in politics, because only two options would be open to us. One is a stale form of conservatism where we, at best, arrange the human wreckage of a fallen and brutal world in as orderly a way as humanly possible, but without any final hope against the inevitable darkness.

            The other options is the socialist one, where we can hold onto some hope at least, but it is the vain hope that if we try once again and harder this time, perhaps we can be gods and recreate the world ourselves.

            • Andy

              Christ has conquered death – He also told us the narrow path to follow. I look at the two greatest commandments and ask how should I act? The first I am sure I fall short of because I am a human with all that entails, I work on that always. The second is derived from the first and because of my shortcomings, again I fall short. That is why I believe that all interactions are based on faith and morals and try not to look for secular leadership.

              • Artevelde

                Would you not agree that ”love your neighbour as yourself”’ is a call to engage in worldly politics as well?

                • Andy

                  It depends on how you define politics – the act of influencing others and the governing bodies for the common good – then yes. If you define it as a label – conservative, liberal or other designation then no. It also depends on worldly – as an ” aging hippie” I recall act locally and think globally. I try to be engaged in local politics – in concern for the common good – as St. Pope John XXIII called it – the sum total of social life so people can reach perfection more readily – a poor paraphrase. I hope that by working in my little corner of God’s creation I can benefit all of His creation.

                  • Artevelde

                    Engaging in local politics with the common good in mind is something that is within reach for almost all of us. Still, in part we probably also at times act as a recluse in silent prayer, and in part also we take part in politics on a grander scale. When it comes to that, I think ideological labels can be quite helpful in structuring the debate about how we want a society to develop.

                    • Andy

                      I agree wholeheartedly about prayer – something I know I am woefully remiss in. I still question the labels, at least in “my mind”. The labels have become so bastardized, so convoluted that when I try to discern what is indeed the “goals” of a group I fear I am entering Wonderland with Alice and have no true idea as to what is real and what is pretend.

        • Karl Sinclair

          The document is about how our faith informs our moral response to the environment, creation and the way we relate to it and each other. So to say it isn’t about faith and morals is to say “I haven’t read it”

      • leadingedge

        Yes, I have read the encyclical, and no, it’s contents does not pertain entirely to faith and morals 🙂

    • Paul

      “any Catholic is free to hold a different view to the Pope . . . about any issue which has not been definitively settled by the Church”

      Not exactly. “Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.” Can. 752.

      “The following are to be punished with a just penalty: 1° a person who . . . obstinately rejects the teachings mentioned . . . in canon 752 and, when warned by the Apostolic See or by the Ordinary, does not retract” Canon 1371.

      • Paul

        Of course, these only apply to the portions of the encyclical dealing with faith and morals, e.g. the teachings concerning the throw-away culture and our obligations towards creation and our poor brethren, rather than the veracity of anthropogenic climate change.

      • leadingedge

        Did you actually read my comment?

        Go back and take another look, specifically at the bit where I explicitly state: “that does not pertain to faith and morals”

        I’m really not sure why you left that specific statement out of the sentence that you quoted, in doing so you’ve completely misrepresented what I actually said, and what I actually said is not only authentic Catholic teaching, but it does not contradict the specific section of Canon Law that you have quoted.

        • Paul

          I sure did read your comment, which is why I only quoted your comment that read “about any issue which has not been definitively settled by the Church.” That’s a rather broad proposition and would include, for instance, a matter of faith and morals taught by the Pope that he did not proclaim definitively. Obstinately dissenting to such a teaching would subject you to ecclesiastical penalty.

          I encourage you to read responses to your statements more closely and more charitably.

          • leadingedge

            Hi Paul, you still haven’t actually understood what I am saying – probably because you are reading things into my statements that I am not actually saying.

            My original statement does NOT contradict the Canon you have quoted.

            Let me give you an example of an issue where the Church has not ruled definitively on the matter: the use of GIFT (Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer) in artificial fertility treatments. The Church has not issued a definitive ruling on the matter, and so Catholics are free to make up their own mind about it’s use (as long as certain conditions, which do not violate Catholic moral law, are met during its use.)

            It seems to me that you are wrongly misinterpreting my original statement as if I was trying to suggest that Catholics only have to follow dogmatically defined declarations from Popes, but that is NOT what I wrote – instead I explicitly referred to matters that have not been “definitively SETTLED by the CHURCH.”

            If you read my original sentence in full, INCLUDING the first statement I made about faith and morals, it is clear that I am NOT disagreeing with the Canon you have quoted.

            But by excluding that first statement about faith and morals, you have completely changed the meaning of what I actually said, and have effectively put sentiments into my mouth that I do not believe, and did not actually express.

            • Paul

              I appreciate you giving the GIFT example, as it illustrates where our disconnect is. I think we are both misunderstanding each other, and I suspect it may be concerning “definitive.”

              From what I understand (correct me if I’m wrong), the issue that you mentioned (the use of GIFT in artificial fertility treatments) is an issue that the magisterium simply has not addressed yet. This is what Dr. John Haas claims. E.g., http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/reproductive-technology/begotten-not-made-a-catholic-view-of-reproductive-technology.cfm.

              But that’s not what I’m concerned about. What I’m discussing by citing those canons are those teachings that some aspect of the magisterium has addressed but has not done so definitively. For example, Pope Francis did not teach definitively when he taught that the throw-away culture is immoral in Laudato Si. In fact, most acts of the ordinary magisterium are not definitive. Nevertheless, a teaching, even if non-definitive, still requires an assent from the faithful, in this case the obsequium religiosum, but not the assent of faith.

              So, if what you meant by “not been definitively settled by the Church” in your original posting was “not yet ruled on in some way by the magisterium,” then I think we agree.

              But I hope you can see why I was concerned. There are so many people who argue, when presented with the ordinary non-definitive magisterium, that they can obstinately disagree. That’s simply not the case.

              I hope this clarifies where I’m coming from. Feel free to let me know your thoughts.

  • BHG

    ” Nobody treats their garage mechanic, investment banker, or doctor this way.”

    Ummm….yes, they do. All the time. Which is why cars continue to break down, portfolios crash more than they should and people remain sick….we have become a society that recognizes no expert but ourselves.

    • ManyMoreSpices

      portfolios crash more than they should

      You’re better off putting your money in an index fund than with a stock-picking “expert.”

      • Guest

        MMS, since you brought up the subject, would you mind commenting on the possible ethical problem of index funds with respect to their including objectionable companies? This has been a problem I’m wrestling with; I settled on the Ave Maria fund family but the fees are outrageous. Worth it to avoid sin, but I’d rather not pay them unless it’s necessary (not to mention other advantages).

        • ManyMoreSpices

          The proposition was that investment “experts” keep portfolios safe. I simply responded “no they don’t” or “not any better than you can do on your own,” (because an index fund beats the average professional, especially when you factor in fees) without considering any moral dimensions.

          I haven’t thought all that much about the morality of investing, primarily because my form of “investing” takes the form of paying off various creditors. Ave Maria seems to be on the right track (“don’t invest in anything that’s obviously contrary to the teachings of the Church”), but I do wonder about the morality of involvement with the joint-stock and limited-liability arrangements generally.

          Sin is inevitable. The good news is that the confessional is there; “the light is on for you,” as they say. So if you own your business or have a partner and your business does something sinful, you can take responsibility for it the way that you take responsibility for anything else your agents and instruments do.

          I’m puzzled about the moral dimensions of owning and profiting from a company that will do things that you can’t control. In other words, you might own stock in a company that doesn’t violate Church teaching as part of its business model. But since it’s a human organization, it’s going to sin occasionally. And since you’re not the boss, you can’t really atone for that. That does give me some discomfort.

          • Guest

            I didn’t mean to get off track. I mentioned it because I agree that index investing is the way to go for the little-guy investor interested only in performance. The inefficiency of introducing ethical concerns – especially ones that I’m not even solidly convinced are well-grounded – is killing me, but that may well be part of doing the right thing in this case. (It seems like foregoing good things is to be expected when you seek the Kingdom, but sometimes the hard part is knowing which goods we can hold on to, even if only loosely.)

            The trouble for me is that there is that blurry line of agency that you allude to – I expect that people involved with bringing me my return will do bad things against my desire, but I don’t know who, what, or when. One question is how remote does their involvement need to be before I ought to have done something about it. The other is whether it’s even wrong to own shares of a company when, in most cases, none of your principal even went into the company – the shares having changed hands many times by the time you buy. There’s good reason to believe that consumption choices have far more impact than investment choices, and I can mentally justify profiting from the evil of others by saying that I will put the money to good use. But I’m scrupulous and legalistic, so I can’t decide if those are rationalizations meant to get me to go along with something sinful or not.

            Funny thing is, I’m also in the “guaranteed return by eliminating future interest” category of investing for now (assuming I’m reading you right) – I’m just trying to get my plan ready for when I’m ready to make the transition.

            I hate to think sin is inevitable. I mean, I guess it is in a practical way, but I hate to make that the entering argument when making a decision. And I know that there’s a tolerance for “remote cooperation” such as it is, but those lines too are blurry for me.

            Thanks for engaging; I’ve been wanting to kick the issue around with someone rooted in both sound investment principles and Catholic thought.

    • Galorgan

      Yeah, this is another good point. Look at anti-vaxxers. They treat their doctor and medical professionals that way.

  • A J MacDonald Jr

    Anytime the pope speaks on faith and morals he is infallible. It doesn’t matter where he is speaking or what media he is using. What matters is the subject(s).

    • AquinasMan

      (Technically) he must have the intention of “deciding finally” a teaching of Faith or Morals, so that it is to be held by all the faithful. (Ott) So St. John Paul II made several infallible pronouncements in Evangelium Vitae. There are none in this document.

    • Fr. Denis Lemieux

      Not infallible, but authoritative. There is a difference. The question with Laudato Si is the material in it that is not on matters of faith and morals, but are statements about scientific fact.

    • ImTim

      Canonist here.
      Just to clarify, the pope is only exercising his special charism of infalliably when all of the following conditions are met:

      1) he is acting as supreme pastor of all the Christian Faithful
      2) he makes a proclamation by definitive act (i.e. defines something)
      3) this definitive act regards a matter of faith or morals which is to be held. (see c. 749 S1)

      Further, “No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident.” (c.749 s3).

      See as well Lumen Gentium 25.

      • ManyMoreSpices

        True, but only in a narrow sense that ignores and dangerously minimizes the infallibility of the ordinary and universal episcopal magisterium. The Catechism isn’t a list of Ex Cathedra statements. That doesn’t make it The Big Book of Suggestions That You Might Want to Try If It’s Not Too Much Trouble, But If You Don’t, That’s Cool Bro.

        The idea that the Pope is only infallible when he slaps a big ol’ EX CATHEDRA sticker on his statement is the kind of thing that encourages heresy.

        • ImTim

          Agreed. 🙂

          • ManyMoreSpices

            Great – not trying to disagree with your perfectly accurate statement, but I can’t tell you how many times I hear Catholics and non-Catholics alike saying that the teaching of the Church can be ignored on an issue because the Pope didn’t make an Ex Cathedra statement about it.

            I mean, there isn’t an Ex Cathedra statement on the absolute core stuff: the nature of the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Real Presence, or even the Resurrection (although I guess you can try to crowbar some of that into Ineffabilis Deus and Munificentissimus Deus).

            • Alma Peregrina

              “the nature of the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Real Presence, or even the Resurrection”

              I think those were defined infallibly on Ecumenical Councils and on the inerrant Bible.

              • ManyMoreSpices

                Do you intend that as a refutation of my point that only a tiny proportion of Catholic theology and moral teaching were defined in Ex Cathedra statements, and therefore that getting hung up on whether a statement by the Pope and bishops is Ex Cathedra before assenting to it is a mistake?

                • Alma Peregrina

                  Whops! Mea culpa! Sorry…

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  • AquinasMan

    Listen, yes. Attempt to conform one’s conscience, yes. But I can’t recall another encyclical that literally would not exist without the massive and decisive input of secular (read: fallible) sources. Do encyclicals now have the power to render infallible the science and the scientists it pronounces on — the same scientists who essentially wrote it? The mind reels …

    ADDENDUM: Imagine Leo XIII instead of writing Rerum Novarum, wrote an encyclical under advisement of Nelson D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan, extolling the clear economic benefit of the monopoly and efficient labor costs. There would be plenty of charts and data to demonstrate that shareholders see their quality of life improve greatly, even lifting some lucky speculators out of poverty. We would learn how communities benefited with new schools, better health care facilities, new job opportunities wherever the magnates of industry deigned to put the shovel to earth. And it would be a total fish out of water. He would have no business publishing it.

    • jaybird1951

      You make a good point. In this matter, Pope Francis apparently only consulted scientists on one side of the debate, essentially a political issue, while opposing views were kept away. It would have been an even more effective encyclical if he had not taken sides on the global warming issue, effectively turning many off to the good things in it. His views on capitalism sound cliched. He admitted later to reporters that he hates economics and is open to learning more from those who disagree.

      • Guest

        “His views on capitalism sound cliched.”

        To be fair, the Church has been teaching the same thing for two thousand years.

        • Mike Petrik

          No. Actually, it hasn’t. 2000 years of teachings that can, with appropriate effort and a charitable attitude, be interpreted in a manner that renders them all materially compatible and not inconsistent really is not the same thing as teaching the same thing for 2000 years.

      • Dan Berger

        Which scientists, pray tell? The current census of published literature is about 98% in favor of human-caused warming.

        • LFM

          Dissent on the subject of AGW is scarcely allowed by the “scientific community”. That was the real lesson of the scandal of the emails a few years ago: not that the emails proved that AGW was not real, or based on fraudulent data, but that the men who run the scientific publications, chair the university departments, and have the ear of influential politicians, do everything they can to keep any doubts some scientists have about global warming *out* of scientific journals and the public square.

          Now, I’m sure that scientists who dissent from the AGW consensus are a minority. but from the ferocity with which the few who dare to express their views are attacked, I suspect that their real proportion is larger than 2% of all scientists in related fields.

          • Dan Berger

            Define “ferocious.” Are any of them being sent death threats? Summoned before Congressional committees and browbeaten? You can get *anything* published in a peer-reviewed journal, so long as you have good evidence for what you assert.

            If you examine the climate literature now, for example, there are publications that detail more precise observations of back-radiation from atmospheric CO2, or that detail just how Greenland is melting and how fast. You can get published in lower-tier journals by doing a new survey of just how much anthropogenic net CO2 emissions exceed natural net CO2 emissions.

            If somebody came up with good, hard evidence that Greenland *isn’t* melting, or that CO2 doesn’t absorb IR radiation from the ground, or that natural CO2 emissions are 10 or 100 or 1000 times greater than previous estimates, you bet it would get published. Scientific reputations are made by proving new things, and especially by proving new things that others haven’t thought of.

            By and large a lot of GW “skeptics” are in the same position as people who are “skeptical” of the fact that perpetual motion machines don’t work, or “skeptical” that evolution happened over the history of life on Earth. They can’t get published because science has moved on, and they’re not worth refuting any more.

            You also can’t get published in the technical literature if you write a paper proving that energy is conserved, or that matter is made of atoms. These facts are established; science has moved on and it’s not worth taking journal space to say something that is already well-known.

            • LFM

              “Ferocious” opposition does not mean death threats because nowadays anyone with any kind of public profile at all receives death threats and verbal abuse from online trolls of one kind or another. Sensible people do not worry much about this unless it is unusually explicit about time and place. “Ferocious” opposition in the context of scientific debate means being forced out of one’s job for dissenting from whatever the consensus view is. It can also mean that an individual decides to leave his job or his professional associations because he thinks that they are too hostile to produce worthwhile debate. Both have been quite common for those scientists who question global warning – question, not “deny”, because most do not deny it altogether.

              Your faith in peer-review is, unfortunately, exaggerated. Having worked as a copy-editor for an academic journal, I was responsible for soliciting peer reviews from experts within the fields we covered. I was very young then and received an unpleasant lesson in how personal and political hostilities (or friendships) tainted the reception and review of work that dissented from the reader’s own views.

              Calling upon the notion of “established facts”, in science or any other human endeavour, is always a mistake, an appeal to authority – outside the field of mathematics. Facts are established until something happens to suggest alternative possibilities. We can speak of reasonable working hypotheses, but no more.

              • Dan Berger

                Your answer appears reasonable, except…

                1. You were a copy editor. That’s fine, but you’ve only seen it from one end.

                Science is a rough field sometimes. There are enough stories of scientists being hounded by other scientists… but it’s just a matter of heat, kitchen; I’ve submitted some rough reviews myself, and been on the receiving end as well. The generally-accepted procedure is that you keep submitting until somebody accepts a paper. if you think the work’s good. Someone will publish it, if it’s worth a damn.

                Even Nobel laureates get nasty reviews; you should read Roald Hoffmann’s accounts of the reviewers who complain about the fact that he writes in first person, not to mention the fact that he regularly gets trashed for using a low-level theoretical package even though he uses it well, with remarkable insight, to address problems that higher-level treatments can’t because of computer constraints.

                2. Your list of three people “fired.” Two of them were resignations from physical societies, and of those both people have little or no expertise in climate science – a complex field. Hal Lewis, for example, would probably have been incensed if a climatologist jumped into his field, particle physics, and declared that it was a scam.

                The third (first on your list) was employed by a political think tank, and being fired for dissent is no more surprising than someone who starts espousing close government regulation of industry being fired from the Heritage Foundation.

                I notice that Freeman Dyson hasn’t resigned from either the APS or the NAS, even though he disagrees with their climate change position papers. That’s because Dyson isn’t given to snits, and recognizes that the prevailing winds are against his position.

                3. There are “established facts” and then there are ESTABLISHED FACTS. The raw temperature data can’t be denied, though they can be nibbled at ’round the edges. The fact that CO2 is a greenhouse gas is established fact, and you don’t need to look at a model to see that we’re putting the equivalent of half a century of volcanic emissions into the air every year. For that, you just need, on the one hand, reasonable estimates based on measurements of volcanic CO2 emissions, and on the other fossil fuel consumption reports from the CIA World Factbook or the World Bank or the IEA.

                Most of the facts (line ’em up if you like and I’ll knock ’em down if I can; I am writing this just before bed and don’t care to take the time to give examples) most of the facts are based on settled science, like the conservation of mass, the conservation of energy, well-known radiative physics and the like.

                One thing you don’t appear to have learned as a copy editor at an unspecified journal, and that’s the difference between cutting-edge science, which has to be taken with a grain of salt and has a good chance of being at least partly incorrect, and well-established science, which can be overturned but not without seriously convincing evidence.

                • LFM

                  1. I’m not sure what you mean when you say that as a copy editor, I would have “only seen it from one end”. I was asked early in my job to clean out old files which required me to read about 10 years’ worth of submissions, requests for peer review of submissions, and the peer reviews themselves. Seems to me that I saw “both sides” all too clearly.
                  I worked for a history journal, a field in which “established facts” are as important as they are to science, and sometimes as difficult to verify. The “roughness” I noted was not concerned with the quality of the submissions but with vitriolic personal attacks on those who submitted them. Which reminds me of part of my point: the “double blind” system that supposedly protects the integrity of the peer review process is not as blind as academics encourage outsiders to believe.
                  2, If you re-read my original comment, you’ll see that I didn’t say that all those people were “fired” but that they had all felt compelled one way or another to leave situations in which their views were not welcome. Incidentally, I chose scientists to make my point, but the situation is rather worse for people in less of a position to defend themselves: it would be unwise in many a high school, media outlet, or civil service position to indicate to one’s colleagues, esp. superiors, that one did not accept the full AGW hypothesis.
                  You also write as if it were truth alone that were at stake here, rather than freedom of thought vs political correctness. It is possible that the AGW hypothesis is correct, and I did not deny this. Still, it ought to be permissible among both scientists and non-scientists to wonder about and disagree with it, without in effect being condemned for heresy – no matter how urgent the problems associated with AGW may be.
                  That urgency is another issue: some scientists, and a number of politicians, assert that the situation is so desperate that it requires drastic and more or less immediate cutting of carbon emissions to prevent universal catastrophe. But the drastic cutting of carbon emissions (by 60%, some say) would be as catastrophic as the danger from the emissions themselves. It is not merely a matter of losing some jobs, nor of injury to the rate of economic growth. Carbon fuel is so essential to the everyday business of growing and transporting food, heating and cooling, building, and so forth, that many of us would starve and freeze if we reduced them as much as some scientists demand.
                  3. With regard to the “established facts” of AGW science: I am on weak ground here because I am not a scientist nor a specialist in the field. I can only say that these have been so badly presented, with so much politicking (by people like Al Gore et al.), so many personal attacks, and so much contempt for people who questioned or disagreed, that it is no wonder that, *supposing* the AGW hypothesis to be true, so many of us remain either confused or doubtful about it – or angry at the way we are hectored. People like RFK Jr saying that “deniers” (and the use of that term is a grotesque bit of nonsense) should be jailed do not help matters.
                  In any case, my comments were not intended to attack the facts of global warming but the politics of the matter. Although I am (mildly) skeptical about it, I accept that carbon emissions and all other pollution must be reduced for the sake of our quality of life. I don’t want to see the world turned into a smoggy garbage dump, global warming or not, and try to modify my way of life accordingly. Not everyone is in a position to do so, but I have less sympathy for those rich people who continue to trot around the globe while lecturing the rest of us about over-consumption, than for those in poor nations struggling to live more comfortably.

                  p.s. One area which you could perhaps address if you want to help us non-scientists with the facts is the problem of the slowdown, or non-slowdown, of global warming within the last 17 (?) years. The graphs I’ve seen from the AGW people look unconvincing, but leaving that aside, why has there not been a much higher rise in global warming within the last 17 years given the enormous increase in Chinese (and Indian) industrial output within that time?

                  • Dan Berger

                    Note: I apologize for the fact that this doesn’t address everything you wrote. I have to get my work done sometime…

                    History, then. Sorry, I thought you might have some expertise in science.

                    You’re correct that peer review is not always as blind as it ought to be; there’s a standing joke, for example, that “you should take a look at Smith’s work” means “I, the reviewer, am Smith and I want more citations!” But what I said stands: if you get rejected, you find another venue. Somebody will publish it if it’s worth a damn. Usually you can find somebody to publish it even if it’s worthless.

                    As for the idea that there’s any real controversy about AGW… there’s as much controversy about the essentials of AGW as there is about the things I cited earlier: conservation of mass, conservation of energy, basic radiative physics.

                    People in the field have gotten a bit harsh with so-called “skeptics” — as opposed to those who aren’t in the field and have been swayed by so-called balanced coverage — because climatologists have been slandered as frauds and cheats and hacks by a very few people who ought to know better. Michael Mann has been equated with child molesters. One of the lead authors of the 1995 IPCC report was repeatedly and publically accused of hucksterism and double-dealing, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. See, for example, Mann’s The Hocky Stick and the Climate Wars, or Oreskes’ and Conway’s Merchants of Doubt, Chapter 6.

                    There are legitimate areas of controversy in climate research:

                    * how can we do a better job of measuring ocean temperatures, given that they are the primary thermal reservoir at the earth’s surface?

                    * Just what is the precise sensitivity of global average temperatures to CO2 concentration? All we know for sure, from the historical record, is that doubling the concentration is worth at least 1.5 degrees C. The temperature record for the past three centuries bears that out… we’ve increased CO2 concentration by a factor of about 1.6 since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and global average temperatures have risen 1 to 1.5 degrees.

                    * What’s the rate at which Greenland is melting? Will we see a sudden collapse?

                    * How do we improve our climate models (that is, make them finer-grained) without burning a lot more processing time?

                    As for the rest… accusations of “heresy” in science doesn’t get a lot of traction – either you’ve got evidence, or you don’t. But contradicting well-confirmed science doesn’t, either.

                    As a scientist, one is welcome to disagree with the First Law of Thermodynamics – if you can prove it. One is welcome to pursue a research direction in which you attempt to turn lead into gold by chemical means, if you can prove it. One is welcome to argue that matter is not made of atoms, or that light has no wavelike properties, or …but you’d better have good evidence.

                    But one cannot expect that holding forth such arguments without evidence, or worse, blatantly contradicting the evidence we have, will earn you any respect from your peers.

                    Carbon fuel is so essential to the everyday business of growing and transporting food, heating and cooling, building, and so forth, that many of us would starve and freeze if we reduced them as much as some scientists demand.

                    That’s a matter for economists and politicians. The fact is that every additional CO2 molecule we emit means more problems for our children. I don’t have a good way of switching emissions off, either, and it’s very likely to get worse before it gets better.

                    We’ve had 50 years to do this gradually – scientists in the 1960s were already worrying about human-induced warming, just on the basis of the exponentially-increasing amounts of CO2 being dumped into the air. Instead, we’ve frittered away the time – much as I am doing now with respect to preparing for the new semester – letting things slide to the point where action is gonna hurt, a lot, and will only mitigate the damage rather than prevent it. The only thing we know for sure is that doing nothing is going to be even more painful than doing everything we can.

                    The major problem, both politically and economically, is that the energy on the right that should be focused on finding free-market solutions, is instead being spent digging in their heels and denying that there’s any problem at all.

                    The fire insurance analogy is instructive. If we had jumped on this 30 or 40 years ago — on the very reasonable theory that it’s worth making changes that are supportable, economically favorable and not too painful, based on the risk that if we do nothing, we have some reasonable chance to be up the creek without a canoe — we’d be doing OK and nobody would have to worry about how painful mitigation will be.

                    But non-mitigation is pretty darned painful, too.

                    p.s. One area which you could perhaps address if you want to help us non-scientists with the facts is the problem of the slowdown, or non-slowdown, of global warming within the last 17 (?) years.

                    There hasn’t been a slowdown. 2014 and 2015 are completely on track with the linear trend since 1970, and are also setting temperature records. What was prematurely hailed as a slowdown was just random variation in the data. I suspected as much a couple of years ago, when I did a simple regression analysis of the GISS temperature record since 1970. The period 2002-2014 was almost perfectly flat… but cutting it out of the record did not increase or decrease the slope of the trendline. That indicates pretty strongly that this “pause” was not real.

                    My graphical analysis is interesting in and of itself: you have to very carefully pick your boundaries for the so-called “pause,” because otherwise you get a pretty steep rise. Try playing with the boundaries. Including 1998, the year of the big temperature spike, doesn’t flatten things out. It makes the rise steeper.

                    See also this AAAS news item, reporting on a paper published in Science.

                    See also this item from RealClimate, a blog run entirely by professional climatologists.

                    …given the enormous increase in Chinese (and Indian) industrial output within that time?

                    Part of that has been the fact that efficiencies in the U.S. market have cut some of our rate of increase. But a lot of it is that climate’s a slow equilibrium, subject to a lot of noisy behavior.

                    In point of fact, the effects of China and India are proabably showing. The general trend is there (3 different temperature datasets show the same thing), and it’s not slowing down.

                    I don’t have the statistical chops, but the Berkeley Earth project, which began skeptical and was making some pretty harsh comments about climate science… confirmed what the mainstream climate folks had been saying all along. The bottom line for Muller: he looked at every possible correlation, and found that the temperature curve he found was smack on the CO2 curve, for three centuries. And nothing else (except minor, short-term departures due to volcanic eruptions, which cool the planet).

                    And here’s where I will have to leave you.

                    • LFM

                      I haven’t read the rest of your comment yet but one phrase at the start stands out and frankly makes me question your credibility in the rest of it. Michael Mann has NOT been equated with child molesters. What Mark Steyn wrote about him was that questions concerning the integrity of his work had been cleared by Penn State – which, as Steyn rightly noted, was nothing to boast about, since Penn State has a record of overlooking faults in its members; witness its history regarding Jerry Sandusky. I do not have the exact words before me but I read them at the time and I did not then think, “Oh boy, that means that Michael Mann is guilty of child abuse!” and I do not for one moment believe that any person reading Steyn’s words in good faith, i.e. not looking to pick a lawsuit or poison the well of debate, would have interpreted them as such. Mann deserves a (metaphorical) butt-kicking, for that and other follies.

                      Remember, my concern *here* from the start has not been with whether the AGW hypothesis is correct, but with how it has been manipulated by scientists and politicians to suit their own purposes.The more you contemptuously dismiss what you refer to as “so-called balanced coverage”, the more you make people wonder what you’re up to.

                      Meanwhile, I promise I will read the rest of your response to me with care, including the links, since you obviously gave it real thought and I do want to learn more.

                    • Dan Berger

                      I don’t have time to keep this up, so I will close with two links. I do suggest that, if you really have an open mind, you check out http://skepticalscience.com. They are devoted to very carefully debunking all the nay-sayers, with copious citations of the scientific literature and in great detail. Every answer includes detailed technical discussion, if you can handle it, but also has a less technical version for people who can’t.

                      First, what Steyn wrote. I was mistaken; he didn’t say what I said, but rather led an article in National Review by quoting Ryan Simberg: “Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet.” http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/309442/football-and-hockey-mark-steyn

                      See also http://blog.ucsusa.org/cei-compares-climate-scientist-to-a-child-molester

                      Second, the East Anglia e-mails have been thoroughly examined by several investigative teams, and they contain no evidence of wrong-doing. Comments in them have been taken out of context and trumpeted as proving conspiracy. The full story, with citations, here:

                    • LFM

                      I believe that I’ve already seen the emails in their context, but because I’m not certain, I will read your link and citations; thanks. But let me point out, again, that the body that “cleared” Michael Mann of wrongdoing was from Penn State, where he works. That does not mean, of course, that Prof. Mann is actually guilty of anything worse than intemperance of expression, if that. But I repeat, being cleared by Penn State, which apparently has rather loose standards of proof for its stars, is hardly likely to inspire confidence in outsiders. His behavior to Mr Steyn subsequent to the latter’s comments about him has been egregious and likely to achieve the exact opposite of what he intends, which I assume is to protect his scientific reputation.

  • SteveP

    “Can I dissent from Laudato Si?”
    “Must I assent to Laudato Si?”
    You missed your chance, Mark, to help your correspondent form less-fuzzy questions.

  • Pete the Greek

    Perhaps it is a mark of hyper-literalism?

    I confess I have not TOTALLY finished reading it yet, but it reading certain areas so far about climate change, although I don’t buy into the panic ‘we are all gonna die’ bs that is so popular now, it doesn’t excuse you from NOT being a good steward of God’s gift of creation and caring for it as if it is the garden that God intended it to be.

    In like manner, any passage dealing with the very rich and their obligations to the poor doesn’t excuse you from action because you aren’t rich, you are just not expected to have as great an effect.

    Maybe this makes sense? Sorry, up all night and latest coffee hasn’t kicked in.

    • Dan Berger

      Actually I like that analogy. I’ve been asked to speak to a local Audubon Society meeting about what individuals can do, and I think I will use that analogy about action on behalf of the poor as a guide. Thank you.

  • chezami

    One of the marks of reflexive rightwing hostility to Francis and Laudato Si is the pervasive assumption that the encyclical is primarily about climate change when itt is, in fact, about vastly more than that. But the goal is to shout it down, not learn from it, for such people.

    • ManyMoreSpices

      I couldn’t agree more: Assuming that the encyclical is primarily about climate change is a sure sign of a rightwinger.

      Though I have provided links, be forewarned: they are only for the brave. Beware! Clicking on them will give you a shocking tour of the rogue’s gallery of rightwingers who think that Laudato Si is primarily about climate change. Not for those prone to fainting spells.

      • Mike Petrik

        I was prepared to faint, but instead found what I expected. 🙂

      • iamlucky13

        “Assuming that the encyclical is primarily about climate change is a sure sign of a rightwinger.”

        Not at all. The misconception that the encyclical is about climate change is near universal on both sides of the political spectrum. The reporting on it in the media was overwhelmingly focused on climate change. The only people who don’t seem to think so are those who have actually read it.

        Which does not include, for example, Nancy Pelosi, who posted on her official website how great the encyclical was and how well written it was (thereby apparently falsely implying she had read it), even though Pope Francis called out people like her on the topic of abortion:

        “How can we genuinely teach the importance
        of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or
        inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even
        when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?”

        • ManyMoreSpices

          I see that you heeded my warning.

      • orual’s kindred

        I suppose this is yet another demonstration of how rightwingers talk and act like leftwingers, which would in fact grant more significance to Mark Shea’s comment

        And somehow, I am not shocked.

        • ManyMoreSpices

          So if I show conservatives assuming that the encyclical is primarily about climate change, that proves Mark right. If I show that liberals assume that the encyclical is primarily about climate change, that shows that liberals and conservatives are the same, and Mark is also right.

          I think I know this tune. It’s on the tip of my tongue…
          Heads something something, tails something something?

          • Alma Peregrina

            Note that in both your statements, you acknowledge that right-wingers think the encyclical is about climate change. Those statements only differ in whether the left-wingers do so too.

            You would only prove Mark wrong if you proved that right-wingers didn’t assume the encyclical is about climate change.

            You haven’t provided an argument, you just provided a tu quoque.

            • ManyMoreSpices

              You haven’t provided an argument, you just provided a tu quoque.

              I understand why you think I haven’t made an argument, but that’s incorrect. I’ll connect the dots for you.

              Shea wrote:

              One of the marks of reflexive rightwing hostility to Francis and Laudato Si is the pervasive assumption that the encyclical is primarily about climate change

              Calling something a “mark” implies that it’s a distinctive trait. Misunderstanding Laudato Si is not a “mark” of hostility from conservatives. It’s not peculiar to conservatives; everyone’s doing it.

              If Shea said that the conservative objections are wrong because they misunderstand the encyclical, that would be fine. If he said “most people are getting it wrong, and here’s how getting it wrong it plays out with conservative criticism,” that would be fine. But he described that misunderstanding as a error particular to conservatives (as part of his ongoing tilting at the conservatives-are-wrong-about-everything-important-even-when-they’re-right windmill) which it most definitely is not.

              tl;dr – “tu quoque” is the perfect response when someone asserts that only you are doing something,

              • Alma Peregrina

                Maybe my english is failing me, but I can’t seem to interpret that sentence in the way you do.

                I can’t see where it is implied that other people from other political quadrants can’t have the same assumption.

                Only that people from that specifical quadrant have hostility toward the encyclical and when they do have said hostility, they inevitably make the aformentioned assumption.

                Thereby, that assumption is a mark for the hostility of the right-wing to Francis and Laudato Si. Because whenever that hostility shows on the right-wing, that assumption seems to be there. It’s a mark, no?

                Let’s put it this way: Have you ever met a right-winger that has a reflexive hostility to Laudato Si that didn’t make the assumption that Laudato Si is primarily about climate change?

                • Neihan

                  If someone tells you “The encyclical is about climate change” then you know, or at least have cause to strongly suspect, that the person is right wing and that the person has a reflexive hostility towards Pope Francis.

                  Because thinking it’s primarily about climate change is, according to Mr. Shea, a mark of reflexive right-wing hostility.

                  However, given that just as many left-wingers think the exact same thing it can’t be evidence of a reflexive, right-wing hostility towards Pope Francis. Let alone a distinguishing characteristic of reflexive, right-wing hostility.

                  • Alma Peregrina

                    Even though I don’t think that was Mark’s intention, I can understand how you arrived at that interpretation. Thank you for clarifying.

                • ManyMoreSpices

                  This has become semantically interesting. I don’t know if we’re going to get any closer to settling it, though. I recognize – among other things – that whether “marks” refers to “reflexive rightwing” to contrast it with “reflexive leftwing”, or refers to “reflexive rightwing” to contrast it with “thoughtful rightwing” cannot be resolved.

                  Your interpretation is at its strongest if we consider only those words in isolation, but I’m looking at a broader context: Shea is really, really upset with conservatives these days! And that sentiment shows up in an omission: he could have noted the left’s embrace of the encyclical (e.g., Pelosi) requires that they ignore all the non-Global Warming stuff. That would be balanced, correct, useful, and relevant. But it wouldn’t make the right look uniquely ignorant and evil.

                  Have you ever met a right-winger that has a reflexive hostility to Laudato Si

                  No. I’ve never actually met a single one. I’ve read some dumb stuff written by dumb people on the internet but, you know, welcome to the internet.

                  • Alma Peregrina

                    You’re right, we’re discussing semantics and not the core of the issue. I can be very pedantic at times.

                    I think that Mark’s intention was what I said, for saying that left-wingers don’t have the assumption that the encyclical is about climate change would be to deny a self-evident reality.

                    But, as Neihan explained, I can understand how you arrived at your interpretation.

          • orual’s kindred

            I apologize for the delay, as I’ve been busy these past few days, and when I did check Disqus it was acting weird. I’m not sure, however, that I could add to what Alma Peregrina said so well. And I’m glad that you at least responded to her with more than cynicism.

  • Dan13

    The general rule is that if I agree with the Pope, it is infallible. If I disagree with the Pope, then it is either a matter of prudential judgment and/or the Holy Spirit is guiding my views.

  • Jimbo

    Answer: Do I have to believe Climate Change is man made (especially since Pope Francis said in Laudato Si the Church doesn’t presume to settle scientific matters) even thought the Pope clearly favors that opinion?

    No I don’t.

    Has the Pope forbidden skepticism toward the idea climate change is man caused(similar to how Paul V forbade

    advocating Heliocentracism)?

    No he hasn’t.

    Do I have to assent to all the ordinary teaching on matters of Faith and morals in Laudato Si even if it is not

    promulgated infalliblely?

    Yes I do.

    It is not hard.

  • Elmwood

    given the very strong scientific arguments for AGW and the potential dire consequences for the planet and especially the poor, it is immoral to not put into practice measures to limit our massive consumption of fossil fuels.

    France on a per capita basis produces about 5 metric tons of C02, Cuba: 3.2, the US: 17 metric tons of C02. And about 1/3 of that is from our transportation sector. Both France and Cuba have higher life expectancy.

    • ManyMoreSpices

      So you’re the kind of person who believes that Cuba has a better life expectancy than the United States?

      • Mike Petrik

        Yeah — statistics, lies and all that:


        No matter how you slice it, Cuban success in life expectancy is related less to CO2 than to its pro-abortion policies in particular and its authoritarian approach to healthcare generally.

        • ManyMoreSpices

          Heh, “facts”.

          From your link:

          The data for life expectancy appears to be mixed. According to both the CIA Factbook, the estimated life expectancy for both sexes in 2013 was 78.62 in the United States, compared to 78.05 years in Cuba. And according to the World Health Organization, life expectancy in 2011 was 79 years in the United States and 78 in Cuba.

          And most importantly:

          “I would take all Cuban health statistics with a grain of salt,” Hirschfeld said. Organizations like the Pan-American Health Organization “rely on national self-reports for data, and Cuba does not allow independent verification of its health claims.”

          Which is why I implied that there’s something telling about someone who believes Cuba’s statistics.

          • Mike Petrik

            Agreed. Many countries, including Cuba, have infant mortality data practices that are more relaxed than ours — i.e., many deaths are not counted either as births or deaths. This practice alone significantly influences life expectancy averages.

  • iamlucky13

    The point about prudence (or even mere respect for the opinions of the vicar of Christ) is well made.

    At the same time, however, it’s hard to either dissent or follow a document with almost no specific teachings, instructions, or disciplines.

    The overall theme of Laudato Si seems to amount to, “You can sin by harming others indirectly through harming the environment,” which is not particularly new, which is why he so frequently quotes his predecessors, including Pope Benedict.

    A statement as blunt as “you are dissenting from” or “I intend to dissent from Laudato Si” effectively means, “I haven’t read Laudato Si, but I’m going to use it for the purpose of making political statements anyways.”

  • ivan_the_mad

    In this matter, I suppose the really shocking thing isn’t the possibility that a pope’s prudential judgement could be deficient, but that so many comboxers consider themselves expert enough to determine such deficiency and shout such to the four winds. After all:

    “When it comes to the question of interventions in the prudential order, it could happen that some Magisterial documents might not be free from all deficiencies. … In cases like these, the theologian should avoid turning to the ‘mass media’, but have recourse to the responsible authority, for it is not by seeking to exert the pressure of public opinion that one contributes to the clarification of doctrinal issues and renders servite [sic] to the truth. ” Donum Veritatis, §24 & 30.