Let’s Not Bother With Global Warming

Let’s Not Bother With Global Warming July 27, 2010

On the back of the warmest six months on record, and as it becomes more and more evident that climate change is reaching some kind of tipping point, the media remain embroiled in manufactured controversies and American policymakers either stick their heads in the sand or brazenly defend their God-given right to pollute. Paul Krugman thinks the problem is greed and cowardice. He’s right, but it makes sense to delve a little deeper. So here it is, the seven American heterodoxies that stymie attempts to overcome the effects of climate change.:

(1) Gnosticism: Creation is evil, so why save it?

(2) Calvinism: Material success of a sign of virtue and divine favor, America is an exceptional country, and its citizens have the right to use natural resources as they see fit.

(3) Liberalism: The free market embodies efficiency and virtue – any interference diminishes freedom.

(4) Anti-intellectualism: Climate change – a “lib-uh-ral” conspiracy!

(5) Modernism: Man must become the master of nature and always better himself (for the latest version of this, see Ross Douthat: “a warmer world will also be a richer world”).

(6) Individualism: I have the right to my SUV, regardless of what is going on in Africa, and regardless of future generations.

(7) Nationalism: Why should America pay?

Of course, these ideologies are not necessarily consistent with each other, but they do spring from the same root – the nominalist revolution. Thanks a lot, William of Occam!

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  • Henry Karlson

    (8) It’s not abortion, and abortion is the only thing to worry about.

  • Henry Karlson

    (8) It’s not abortion, and abortion is the only thing to worry about.

  • Mark Gordon

    (8) It’s not abortion, and abortion is the only thing to worry about.

    Next time you blast someone for always bringing up abortion, let’s remember this post, shall we? You are as obsessed with scoring points against the pro-life movement as they are with reducing everything to a discussion of that one topic. The danger for them, as you point out, is that they will fail to appreciate the gravity of any other issue, such as climate change. The danger for you is that you’ll become flippant and dismissive about abortion, which is still the killing of innocent human beings.

    • Mark

      I am pro-life. I am not scoring points against the pro-life movement. I just got through 11 hours of driving, and saw someone today, before reading this, tell me how “abortion trumps everything.” Seriously. Everything. I am very much against abortion, but the mentality of some is, until abortion is solved, let’s do nothing, which is why I put it as #8.

  • Mark Gordon

    (8) It’s not abortion, and abortion is the only thing to worry about.

    Next time you blast someone for always bringing up abortion, let’s remember this post, shall we? You are as obsessed with scoring points against the pro-life movement as they are with reducing everything to a discussion of that one topic. The danger for them, as you point out, is that they will fail to appreciate the gravity of any other issue, such as climate change. The danger for you is that you’ll become flippant and dismissive about abortion, which is still the killing of innocent human beings.

    • Mark

      I am pro-life. I am not scoring points against the pro-life movement. I just got through 11 hours of driving, and saw someone today, before reading this, tell me how “abortion trumps everything.” Seriously. Everything. I am very much against abortion, but the mentality of some is, until abortion is solved, let’s do nothing, which is why I put it as #8.

  • How is Jesus Christ, at least as interpreted by St. Paul not taking what you are calling the “Gnostic” position on creation? It is fallen and is destined to be completely replaced by a glorified world. It’s not, therefore, a question of “Why save it?” It can’t be saved. It is hubristic of man to think that he can save it; he hasn’t got the chops for the task.

    • Rodak

      “For God so loved the world,” as Jesus said. The incarnation is about the restoration of this world. This is the Catholic belief and idea. This world, our body, is what will be glorified — it is not different, and therefore, it is not replace. “On earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus did not come to condemn the world, after all.

  • How is Jesus Christ, at least as interpreted by St. Paul not taking what you are calling the “Gnostic” position on creation? It is fallen and is destined to be completely replaced by a glorified world. It’s not, therefore, a question of “Why save it?” It can’t be saved. It is hubristic of man to think that he can save it; he hasn’t got the chops for the task.

    • Rodak

      “For God so loved the world,” as Jesus said. The incarnation is about the restoration of this world. This is the Catholic belief and idea. This world, our body, is what will be glorified — it is not different, and therefore, it is not replace. “On earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus did not come to condemn the world, after all.

  • othercatholic

    Key words: “On record”. Going back to 1880.,

    Even then, I guess we’re relying on temp sensor placements that have been intentionally placed to feed the hypothesis.

  • othercatholic

    Key words: “On record”. Going back to 1880.,

    Even then, I guess we’re relying on temp sensor placements that have been intentionally placed to feed the hypothesis.

  • Antonio Manetti

    The foolishness is the implicit belief that humanity is at the center of the universe and an indispensable part of God’s plan. In truth, species become extinct all the time. When ours meets the same fate, the earth will go on without us quite nicely.

  • Antonio Manetti

    The foolishness is the implicit belief that humanity is at the center of the universe and an indispensable part of God’s plan. In truth, species become extinct all the time. When ours meets the same fate, the earth will go on without us quite nicely.

  • Cindy

    I thank you for being one of the few that will talk about this. It’s been on my mind this entire summer. I don’t know how other people live and don’t think about this.

  • Cindy

    I thank you for being one of the few that will talk about this. It’s been on my mind this entire summer. I don’t know how other people live and don’t think about this.

  • Mark Gordon

    Rodak, one of the reasons that the sacraments are almost all mediated in one way or another by “stuff” – water, bread, wine, oil, the love of a man and a woman – is that Catholicism is an incarnational faith, an “enfleshed” faith. We don’t believe in the worthlessness of the world (Gnosticism) or, for that matter, in the “utter depravity,” of human beings (Calvinism). We believe that the world and the people in it are good, but weakened by sin. The glorification of the world won’t be a replacement, it will be a fulfillment; a restoration, as Henry says.

  • Mark Gordon

    Rodak, one of the reasons that the sacraments are almost all mediated in one way or another by “stuff” – water, bread, wine, oil, the love of a man and a woman – is that Catholicism is an incarnational faith, an “enfleshed” faith. We don’t believe in the worthlessness of the world (Gnosticism) or, for that matter, in the “utter depravity,” of human beings (Calvinism). We believe that the world and the people in it are good, but weakened by sin. The glorification of the world won’t be a replacement, it will be a fulfillment; a restoration, as Henry says.

  • Henry–
    Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world.”
    The Catholic belief is that folks won’t go to church and support the priesthood if they give up on this world. That’s probably correct.
    I don’t not think that the next world will just be this world with the ashtrays emptied and a new coat of paint. Everything composed of matter must disintegrate. That is how God made it. If it’s to live forever, it can’t be material. Or, if God changes all the rules by which the world is made, it will no longer in any coherent way still be this world. The Catholic belief, as you describe it, is replete with contradictions. It is having your cake and eating it too. Jesus became flesh to show us the way out of here. Please note that He had to die in order to do so. The flesh cannot live forever as flesh. The self must become pure spirit, like God, to have true life.

  • Henry–
    Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world.”
    The Catholic belief is that folks won’t go to church and support the priesthood if they give up on this world. That’s probably correct.
    I don’t not think that the next world will just be this world with the ashtrays emptied and a new coat of paint. Everything composed of matter must disintegrate. That is how God made it. If it’s to live forever, it can’t be material. Or, if God changes all the rules by which the world is made, it will no longer in any coherent way still be this world. The Catholic belief, as you describe it, is replete with contradictions. It is having your cake and eating it too. Jesus became flesh to show us the way out of here. Please note that He had to die in order to do so. The flesh cannot live forever as flesh. The self must become pure spirit, like God, to have true life.

  • LV

    Henry,

    Flippant/annoyed you might be, but there is a great deal more truth to your #8 than I think you would care to admit.

    A not-inconsiderable segment of those involved in this issue argue that drastic population control (likely carried out at gunpoint) is not only necessary, but is the only feasible way to prevent catastrophic global warming.

    Looking at the numbers–and just how drastic a reduction in greenhouse emissions would be necessary to make any dent at in the problem all–they may very well have a point.

    Which naturally arouses suspicions that this is yet another morally abhorrent “solution” in search of a problem.

    It doesn’t help matters any that the “solution” in this case is population control, which has been in search of a problem for well over a century.

    (For the record, I am of the opinion that only new technology, if we manage to develop it, will get us out of this mess…and we’re a heck of a lot more likely to get that new technology with a vibrant economy.)

  • LV

    Henry,

    Flippant/annoyed you might be, but there is a great deal more truth to your #8 than I think you would care to admit.

    A not-inconsiderable segment of those involved in this issue argue that drastic population control (likely carried out at gunpoint) is not only necessary, but is the only feasible way to prevent catastrophic global warming.

    Looking at the numbers–and just how drastic a reduction in greenhouse emissions would be necessary to make any dent at in the problem all–they may very well have a point.

    Which naturally arouses suspicions that this is yet another morally abhorrent “solution” in search of a problem.

    It doesn’t help matters any that the “solution” in this case is population control, which has been in search of a problem for well over a century.

    (For the record, I am of the opinion that only new technology, if we manage to develop it, will get us out of this mess…and we’re a heck of a lot more likely to get that new technology with a vibrant economy.)

  • digbydolben

    Morning’s Minion should come here and see Rodak’s comment; it epitomizes the “watered-down Calvinism” that MM is always–and rightly–averring tremendously influences American–and particularly American “conservative”–politics.

    I believe my friend Rodak thinks he’s a “liberal,” but I think that, in the American context, his dour, pessimistic emphasis on the Gnostic strands of New Testament teachings, demonstrate that what his THEOLOGY supports (and THEOLOGY is the determiner of political philosophy, as both T.S. Eliot and John Henry Newman suggest) is the “19th century libealism” that actually is “conservatism” in the American context: it can never be “Christian Democracy” or “Wet Toryism” because always, at the back of its mind is the suspicion that to attempt to “build the Kingdom” in that “incarnational mode” that Mark refers to is a blasphemous, “un-Biblical” project.

    Here we have, in this thread–thanks to Rodak, Henry and Mark–a far better adumbration of the Protestant-Catholic divide, in religious and political culture, than in that previous one.

  • digbydolben

    Morning’s Minion should come here and see Rodak’s comment; it epitomizes the “watered-down Calvinism” that MM is always–and rightly–averring tremendously influences American–and particularly American “conservative”–politics.

    I believe my friend Rodak thinks he’s a “liberal,” but I think that, in the American context, his dour, pessimistic emphasis on the Gnostic strands of New Testament teachings, demonstrate that what his THEOLOGY supports (and THEOLOGY is the determiner of political philosophy, as both T.S. Eliot and John Henry Newman suggest) is the “19th century libealism” that actually is “conservatism” in the American context: it can never be “Christian Democracy” or “Wet Toryism” because always, at the back of its mind is the suspicion that to attempt to “build the Kingdom” in that “incarnational mode” that Mark refers to is a blasphemous, “un-Biblical” project.

    Here we have, in this thread–thanks to Rodak, Henry and Mark–a far better adumbration of the Protestant-Catholic divide, in religious and political culture, than in that previous one.

  • Andreas

    I would make distinction between “free market” and “capitalism”. Capitalism is just one model of a market, a corrupted one because it is based corrupted form of private property.

  • Andreas

    I would make distinction between “free market” and “capitalism”. Capitalism is just one model of a market, a corrupted one because it is based corrupted form of private property.

  • digbydolben

    Rodak, God is NOT merely “pure spirit”; he is, just as much, the man Jesus, who lives forever in the Sacrament of our altars, and in PHYSICAL, as well as spiritual union with his brothers and sisters.

    Here, in full, logical glory, is definitively proved the centrality of the Eucharist to Catholic spiritual culture. We all owe Rodak a tremendous vote of thanks for demonstrating this.

    Rodak, my friend, you are a GNOSTIC.

  • digbydolben

    Rodak, God is NOT merely “pure spirit”; he is, just as much, the man Jesus, who lives forever in the Sacrament of our altars, and in PHYSICAL, as well as spiritual union with his brothers and sisters.

    Here, in full, logical glory, is definitively proved the centrality of the Eucharist to Catholic spiritual culture. We all owe Rodak a tremendous vote of thanks for demonstrating this.

    Rodak, my friend, you are a GNOSTIC.

  • I’m intrigued by the “nominalist revolution” reference. Can you send me to a link that explains how it is the source of all these ideologies?

  • I’m intrigued by the “nominalist revolution” reference. Can you send me to a link that explains how it is the source of all these ideologies?

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  • Steve

    “On the back of the warmest six months on record”

    The Daily Beast is a news summery blog. A one paragraph summery and a link to MSNBC is not definite proof of any global warming.

    Besides according to the Bible God said He wouldn’t destroy the world (Gen 9:11-17). Doesn’t it stand to reason he wouldn’t let man destroy itself?

    Lastly scientists keep finding stuff in the ice – if these are record breaking years/months can someone tell me how the ice man and artifacts ever got in the ice?

    Ehh on the other hand maybe I’m a #4 because I don’t believe everything I read.

  • Steve

    “On the back of the warmest six months on record”

    The Daily Beast is a news summery blog. A one paragraph summery and a link to MSNBC is not definite proof of any global warming.

    Besides according to the Bible God said He wouldn’t destroy the world (Gen 9:11-17). Doesn’t it stand to reason he wouldn’t let man destroy itself?

    Lastly scientists keep finding stuff in the ice – if these are record breaking years/months can someone tell me how the ice man and artifacts ever got in the ice?

    Ehh on the other hand maybe I’m a #4 because I don’t believe everything I read.

  • John Cabaniss

    The “warmest six months on record”? That’s it? That’s the proof that global warming not only exists but that man is responsible? What about the last eleven years with no warming whatever, or the claim made by NOAA that if the no-warming trend reaches fifteen years it will break all of the warming models? What piffle.

    • It’s not just one month, it is the whole change in weather. The change in weather patterns– as was predicted by climate change — and if you watch for the whole planet, the earth has indeed continue to have an average rise in temperature. I would recommend people study up on the matter — instead of the constant misunderstanding of what it is all about.

      Here you will see the facts: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/globalwarming.html#q3

      Notice what’s gone on the last decade.

  • John Cabaniss

    The “warmest six months on record”? That’s it? That’s the proof that global warming not only exists but that man is responsible? What about the last eleven years with no warming whatever, or the claim made by NOAA that if the no-warming trend reaches fifteen years it will break all of the warming models? What piffle.

    • It’s not just one month, it is the whole change in weather. The change in weather patterns– as was predicted by climate change — and if you watch for the whole planet, the earth has indeed continue to have an average rise in temperature. I would recommend people study up on the matter — instead of the constant misunderstanding of what it is all about.

      Here you will see the facts: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/globalwarming.html#q3

      Notice what’s gone on the last decade.

  • Kurt

    The danger for them, as you point out, is that they will fail to appreciate the gravity of any other issue, such as climate change.

    No, the danger they practice is that the defense of the unborn takes second place to their political deals to advance secular conservativism. They don’t put the unborn first. They put secular conservatism first.

  • Kurt

    The danger for them, as you point out, is that they will fail to appreciate the gravity of any other issue, such as climate change.

    No, the danger they practice is that the defense of the unborn takes second place to their political deals to advance secular conservativism. They don’t put the unborn first. They put secular conservatism first.

  • Rodak

    Digby–

    Better a Gnostic than a watered-down Calvinist.

  • Rodak

    Digby–

    Better a Gnostic than a watered-down Calvinist.

  • Rodak

    Don’t get me wrong. It is fine to act AS THOUGH the earth can be made into a global garden, in the face of all the evidence of history, just as it is fine to TRY to live without sin. It can’t be done, but that should not prevent the attempt from being made on a moment-by-moment basis.
    That said, You know not the hour that He comes. What is important on that moment-by-moment basis is not the global mean temperature (or even whether or not Cindy Lou Hoo has an abortion) but the state of your particular soul. The world is going to end–for you–and you know not when. It may one day end for all-and-everyone–but in the meantime it will certainly end for each of us in turn. Give no thought for tomorrow; the b.s. of today is sufficient unto itself.

  • Rodak

    Don’t get me wrong. It is fine to act AS THOUGH the earth can be made into a global garden, in the face of all the evidence of history, just as it is fine to TRY to live without sin. It can’t be done, but that should not prevent the attempt from being made on a moment-by-moment basis.
    That said, You know not the hour that He comes. What is important on that moment-by-moment basis is not the global mean temperature (or even whether or not Cindy Lou Hoo has an abortion) but the state of your particular soul. The world is going to end–for you–and you know not when. It may one day end for all-and-everyone–but in the meantime it will certainly end for each of us in turn. Give no thought for tomorrow; the b.s. of today is sufficient unto itself.

  • Mike McG…

    Apropos of the exchange between Henry and Mark: Here we go again.

    Vox Nova has such promise. Bright, passionate people who engage deeply with the tradition and are determined to share from both the head and the heart. And yet I find myself avoiding VN more and more and I’m often heartsick when I do stop by.

    The often observed mutual contempt is deplorable, particularly when the topic is abortion but also on a growing range of issues. I think the contempt is rooted in very understandable pain, so wounded and misunderstood are the disputants on all sides and also so captive to a particular ‘dominant discourse’ for dissecting the issue at hand.

    I am convinced that the contentiousness results from radically different experiences of the culture wars, locking us into very different patterns of discourse particularly on the neuralgic topic of abortion. Henry shared his recent experience with the ‘abortion trumps all’ theme that makes regular appearances in VN comboxes and is enormously off-putting to those who subscribe, as I do, to the seamless garment. Kurt regularly and eloquently shares his anger rooted in years of dismissal and rejection in prolife precincts.

    But Mark makes good points too. Those for whom abortion is the touchstone justice issue are regularly vilified in progressive quarters and undoubtedly tire at the endless repetition of the ‘prolife hypocrisy’ meme. I suspect they come to doubt repeated protestations of prolife commitment from contributors who present as more outraged by prolifers than by abortion. When these same contributors claim prolife commitment, perhaps it sounds to Mark like ‘some of my best friends’ prefaces to racial slams. Somehow I doubt that prolife conservatives have a corner on hypocrisy but I don’t recall any recent exploration of prochoice hypocrisy.

    ‘See how they loathe one another’ is not what the founders of VN had in mind nor, I hope, why Catholics visit. I think readers want to go deep and hope to find solidarity with fellow Catholics. What they too often find instead is skirmishes among Catholic culture warriors who cast each others positions in the worst possible light and cut little slack.

    There is a very depressing literature in social psychology about our incapacity to empathetically understand the world from perspectives very different from our own. Contact with ‘the other’ often seems to create even greater hostility and distance, particularly when it virtually anonymous as in blogs. The dominant discourse we adopt strongly influences “which ideas, experiences, and observations are regarded as normal or eccentric, relevant or irrelevant. On a subject that has been hotly polarized for a long time, the dominant discourse often delineates the issue in a win-lose bi-polar way; it draws a line between two simple answers to a complex dilemma and induces people to take a stand on one side of that line or the other…Most people who care deeply about the issue yield to this induction.” Sound familiar?

    “Being aligned with one group offers benefits. It gives one a socially validated place to stand while speaking and it offers the unswerving support of like-minded people. It also exacts costs. It portrays opponents as a single-minded and malevolent gang. In the face of such frightening and unified adversaries, one’s own group must be unified, strong, and certain. To be loyal to that group, one must suppress many uncertainties, morally complicated personal experiences, inner value conflicts, and differences between oneself and one’s allies. Complexity and authenticity are sacrificed to the demands of presenting a unified front to the opponent. A dominant discourse of antagonism is self-perpetuating. Win-lose exchanges create losers who feel they must retaliate to regain lost respect, integrity, and security, and winners who fear to lose disputed territory won at great cost.” Carol Becker et al., From Stuck Debate to New Conversation on Controversial Issues: A Report from the Public Conversations Project. http://www.publicconversations.org/

    Is there a way out of this box?

    • Mike McG. — I nominate that as Best Comment Ever on Vox Nova.

  • Mike McG…

    Apropos of the exchange between Henry and Mark: Here we go again.

    Vox Nova has such promise. Bright, passionate people who engage deeply with the tradition and are determined to share from both the head and the heart. And yet I find myself avoiding VN more and more and I’m often heartsick when I do stop by.

    The often observed mutual contempt is deplorable, particularly when the topic is abortion but also on a growing range of issues. I think the contempt is rooted in very understandable pain, so wounded and misunderstood are the disputants on all sides and also so captive to a particular ‘dominant discourse’ for dissecting the issue at hand.

    I am convinced that the contentiousness results from radically different experiences of the culture wars, locking us into very different patterns of discourse particularly on the neuralgic topic of abortion. Henry shared his recent experience with the ‘abortion trumps all’ theme that makes regular appearances in VN comboxes and is enormously off-putting to those who subscribe, as I do, to the seamless garment. Kurt regularly and eloquently shares his anger rooted in years of dismissal and rejection in prolife precincts.

    But Mark makes good points too. Those for whom abortion is the touchstone justice issue are regularly vilified in progressive quarters and undoubtedly tire at the endless repetition of the ‘prolife hypocrisy’ meme. I suspect they come to doubt repeated protestations of prolife commitment from contributors who present as more outraged by prolifers than by abortion. When these same contributors claim prolife commitment, perhaps it sounds to Mark like ‘some of my best friends’ prefaces to racial slams. Somehow I doubt that prolife conservatives have a corner on hypocrisy but I don’t recall any recent exploration of prochoice hypocrisy.

    ‘See how they loathe one another’ is not what the founders of VN had in mind nor, I hope, why Catholics visit. I think readers want to go deep and hope to find solidarity with fellow Catholics. What they too often find instead is skirmishes among Catholic culture warriors who cast each others positions in the worst possible light and cut little slack.

    There is a very depressing literature in social psychology about our incapacity to empathetically understand the world from perspectives very different from our own. Contact with ‘the other’ often seems to create even greater hostility and distance, particularly when it virtually anonymous as in blogs. The dominant discourse we adopt strongly influences “which ideas, experiences, and observations are regarded as normal or eccentric, relevant or irrelevant. On a subject that has been hotly polarized for a long time, the dominant discourse often delineates the issue in a win-lose bi-polar way; it draws a line between two simple answers to a complex dilemma and induces people to take a stand on one side of that line or the other…Most people who care deeply about the issue yield to this induction.” Sound familiar?

    “Being aligned with one group offers benefits. It gives one a socially validated place to stand while speaking and it offers the unswerving support of like-minded people. It also exacts costs. It portrays opponents as a single-minded and malevolent gang. In the face of such frightening and unified adversaries, one’s own group must be unified, strong, and certain. To be loyal to that group, one must suppress many uncertainties, morally complicated personal experiences, inner value conflicts, and differences between oneself and one’s allies. Complexity and authenticity are sacrificed to the demands of presenting a unified front to the opponent. A dominant discourse of antagonism is self-perpetuating. Win-lose exchanges create losers who feel they must retaliate to regain lost respect, integrity, and security, and winners who fear to lose disputed territory won at great cost.” Carol Becker et al., From Stuck Debate to New Conversation on Controversial Issues: A Report from the Public Conversations Project. http://www.publicconversations.org/

    Is there a way out of this box?

    • Mike McG. — I nominate that as Best Comment Ever on Vox Nova.

  • Mark Gordon

    And you, Kurt? Haven’t you sold out the unborn for the sake of advancing the Democratic Party? Doesn’t your political ideology take first place, over the unborn? You have become the mirror image of those you hate.

  • Mark Gordon

    And you, Kurt? Haven’t you sold out the unborn for the sake of advancing the Democratic Party? Doesn’t your political ideology take first place, over the unborn? You have become the mirror image of those you hate.

  • Mark Gordon

    Rodak, instead of blindly fulminating, why not take six months and actually learn something about the Catholic faith? You really are embarrassing yourself.

  • Mark Gordon

    Rodak, instead of blindly fulminating, why not take six months and actually learn something about the Catholic faith? You really are embarrassing yourself.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    True, the last six months being the hottest on record do not, in and of themselves, prove global warming is real. But this is not, and never has been, the bulk of the evidence for it. Global mean temperatures have been reconstructed in multiple ways, and all the reconstructions show the same thing: temperatures are going up. (Pace “othercatholic”: scientists who compile temperature data actually worry about this problem, and use multiple measurements from multiple sources to eliminate local “noise”. Unless you believe in a worldwide conspiracy involving thousands of climate scientists.) Every line of evidence that I am aware of points to the same conclusion: greenhouse gases introduced into the atmosphere by human beings are the driving force behind these temperature changes.

    As we discuss this question, I think it is worth separating the science—is global anthropogenic climate change occurring, and what are the likely consequences for the climate—and the policy response—how do we either avoid the problem (if we still can) or how do we cope with the changes when they occur? In this way, fear of forced abortion will not become a shibboleth for denying the reality of climate change.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    True, the last six months being the hottest on record do not, in and of themselves, prove global warming is real. But this is not, and never has been, the bulk of the evidence for it. Global mean temperatures have been reconstructed in multiple ways, and all the reconstructions show the same thing: temperatures are going up. (Pace “othercatholic”: scientists who compile temperature data actually worry about this problem, and use multiple measurements from multiple sources to eliminate local “noise”. Unless you believe in a worldwide conspiracy involving thousands of climate scientists.) Every line of evidence that I am aware of points to the same conclusion: greenhouse gases introduced into the atmosphere by human beings are the driving force behind these temperature changes.

    As we discuss this question, I think it is worth separating the science—is global anthropogenic climate change occurring, and what are the likely consequences for the climate—and the policy response—how do we either avoid the problem (if we still can) or how do we cope with the changes when they occur? In this way, fear of forced abortion will not become a shibboleth for denying the reality of climate change.

  • Rodak

    Mark Gordon–
    I have been reading and talking to Catholic bloggers for at least a decade. Don’t imagine that I just discovered Catholics when I started showing up at VN. I also have a good number of books by Catholic writers in my personal library. My wife was brought up Catholic. Her uncle, who is a priest, baptized both of my daughters. If I am less than enthusiastic about Catholicism after all that exposure to Catholic thought and practices, it is in large part because it has manifestly had so little good effect on the likes of you. As a Catholic, you make an excellent justification of the Reformation.

  • Rodak

    Mark Gordon–
    I have been reading and talking to Catholic bloggers for at least a decade. Don’t imagine that I just discovered Catholics when I started showing up at VN. I also have a good number of books by Catholic writers in my personal library. My wife was brought up Catholic. Her uncle, who is a priest, baptized both of my daughters. If I am less than enthusiastic about Catholicism after all that exposure to Catholic thought and practices, it is in large part because it has manifestly had so little good effect on the likes of you. As a Catholic, you make an excellent justification of the Reformation.

  • At the risk of ditto-ism, I second Matt’s nomination for Mike McG’s 12:42 pm comment.

    In my parochial grade school, whenever any interpersonal conflict came up, the Sisters mandated that everyone make a good “examination of conscience.” I came to assume that emphasis on self-examination was distinctly Catholic for no other reason than I didn’t experience it anywhere else. Wherever they are now, Sisters Inez, Kathleen, Mary, Suzanne and Marion must be nodding and smiling ever-so-subtly at Mike’s comment.

    Would that “growing up” meant growing an ability to reflect more deeply and express our own experiences more clearly, rather than contest the “other’s” experience more hotly.

  • At the risk of ditto-ism, I second Matt’s nomination for Mike McG’s 12:42 pm comment.

    In my parochial grade school, whenever any interpersonal conflict came up, the Sisters mandated that everyone make a good “examination of conscience.” I came to assume that emphasis on self-examination was distinctly Catholic for no other reason than I didn’t experience it anywhere else. Wherever they are now, Sisters Inez, Kathleen, Mary, Suzanne and Marion must be nodding and smiling ever-so-subtly at Mike’s comment.

    Would that “growing up” meant growing an ability to reflect more deeply and express our own experiences more clearly, rather than contest the “other’s” experience more hotly.

  • Gordie

    I’m Catholic and regularly read Catholic blogs and Catholic writers such as Schall, Pieper, E.F. Schumacher, GKC, Pope JPII, and Pope Benedict XVI. I believe in all the doctrines of the Church yet I find myself agreeing with Rodak on this thread. Actually, I could probably learn more from Rodak about what it means to be Catholic then most of the other commentators.

    If I don’t beleive in global warming and refuse to support policies to combat it, does this make me a heretic.

    Maybe the real hetorodoxy is Scientism.

  • Gordie

    I’m Catholic and regularly read Catholic blogs and Catholic writers such as Schall, Pieper, E.F. Schumacher, GKC, Pope JPII, and Pope Benedict XVI. I believe in all the doctrines of the Church yet I find myself agreeing with Rodak on this thread. Actually, I could probably learn more from Rodak about what it means to be Catholic then most of the other commentators.

    If I don’t beleive in global warming and refuse to support policies to combat it, does this make me a heretic.

    Maybe the real hetorodoxy is Scientism.

  • Gordie

    Mike McG:

    You don’t need to look at social psychology literature to understand this problem. The issues and problems you so eloquently detail have existed since the beginning of man and are do to spiritual problems. E.F. Schumacher wrote one of the most amazing books on the same issue and it was all based on traditional philosophy and religion. “A Guide for the Perplexed”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Guide_for_the_Perplexed

    I always get this funny feeling that we humans spend way too much time talking and writing. Maybe that is the real spiritual problem.

  • Gordie

    Mike McG:

    You don’t need to look at social psychology literature to understand this problem. The issues and problems you so eloquently detail have existed since the beginning of man and are do to spiritual problems. E.F. Schumacher wrote one of the most amazing books on the same issue and it was all based on traditional philosophy and religion. “A Guide for the Perplexed”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Guide_for_the_Perplexed

    I always get this funny feeling that we humans spend way too much time talking and writing. Maybe that is the real spiritual problem.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Gordie says:

    “If I don’t beleive in global warming and refuse to support policies to combat it, does this make me a heretic.”

    No, this does not make you a heretic. It does, however, put you in conflict with the scientific consensus, and therefore (with a high degree of certainty) means your beliefs on this subject are incorrect.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Gordie says:

    “If I don’t beleive in global warming and refuse to support policies to combat it, does this make me a heretic.”

    No, this does not make you a heretic. It does, however, put you in conflict with the scientific consensus, and therefore (with a high degree of certainty) means your beliefs on this subject are incorrect.

  • Kevin

    @David Consensus is not science, it’s opinion. Global warming theory needs observation, theory and observations/experiments proving the theory and strong peer review. Not consensus. If we relied on consensus we wouldn’t have plate tetonics and ether would explain light waves and thirty years ago the consesus was that homosexuality was a personality disorder.

    Global warming needs science not consensus.

  • Kevin

    @David Consensus is not science, it’s opinion. Global warming theory needs observation, theory and observations/experiments proving the theory and strong peer review. Not consensus. If we relied on consensus we wouldn’t have plate tetonics and ether would explain light waves and thirty years ago the consesus was that homosexuality was a personality disorder.

    Global warming needs science not consensus.

  • Gordie

    David:

    You might be right in regards to my belief on this subject is indeed incorrect from a purely scientific standpoint but I don’t see how this makes me a nominalist or how this calls into question my Catholic faith.

    It seems that whenever a see the word “science” on a Catholic blog it is mostly used for a posters poltical leanings. It’s as if us non-scientists are required to go along with the scientific consensus and if we don’t, then somehow we are ideologues of one sort or another. I really enjoy this blog and others regarding the Catholic faith but it seems more often then not, that they are a sounding board for their political positions then their faith. My 2 cents.

  • Gordie

    David:

    You might be right in regards to my belief on this subject is indeed incorrect from a purely scientific standpoint but I don’t see how this makes me a nominalist or how this calls into question my Catholic faith.

    It seems that whenever a see the word “science” on a Catholic blog it is mostly used for a posters poltical leanings. It’s as if us non-scientists are required to go along with the scientific consensus and if we don’t, then somehow we are ideologues of one sort or another. I really enjoy this blog and others regarding the Catholic faith but it seems more often then not, that they are a sounding board for their political positions then their faith. My 2 cents.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Kevin wrote:

    “Consensus is not science, it’s opinion. Global warming theory needs observation, theory and observations/ experiments proving the theory and strong peer review. Not consensus. If we relied on consensus we wouldn’t have plate tetonics and ether would explain light waves and thirty years ago the consesus was that homosexuality was a personality disorder. Global warming needs science not consensus.”

    I think we mean different things by the word consensus. In the scientific community, consensus means that there is general agreement—among those with the necessary expertise to judge—that observations and experiments are best explained by a theory or group of theories. (Again, be careful; this is a different meaning of the word theory than is often used in common parlance.) Your example of the ether actually reinforces this definition. By the end of the 19th century there was a general consensus among physicists that a postulated but as yet unobserved ether was the best explanation for various physical phenomenon (such as the propagation of light in a vacuum). However, this very consensus led scientists to study the properties of the ether and to devise experiments to detect it. The most famous of these experiments was the Michelson-Morley experiment, which spectacularly failed to detect the ether. Confronted with this evidence, scientists began to disagree, and the consensus collapsed. After some period of ferment, a new consensus emerged: physicists agreed that the best explanation of the observations and experiments required them to discard the notion of the ether.

    In the same way, there is now consensus among climate scientists about global warming. Many of the first observations and experiments date back 30 or more years and the idea of global warming was suggested in the 70’s. There was controversy, and this led to more experiments and more observation. Those who were skeptical were won over and a consensus emerged: the best explanation for the accumulated evidence is that the earth is warming, and that the cause is the release of greenhouse gases (primarily carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere by human civilization. Other explanations were explored but were found wanting: they simply did not explain the evidence in a satisfactory fashion.

    Even at this stage, were there data that the current theories could not explain, or if another theory emerged that could explain the evidence, it would be entertained. It would be controversial, but if it were robust enough, it would be the basis of a successful challenge to the current consensus. Your example of plate tectonics illustrates this. Plate tectonics was suggested in the early 20th century to explain some geographical features, but was generally rejected since no good mechanism was found. However, data began to accumulate that the theory could explain and that could not be explained by other theories: plate tectonics proved versatile enough and robust enough that it eventually displaced other theories to become the new consensus.

    So coming to your last sentence: global warming has “science”, and the consensus is there precisely because the science (the observations and theories that explain them) is there.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Kevin wrote:

    “Consensus is not science, it’s opinion. Global warming theory needs observation, theory and observations/ experiments proving the theory and strong peer review. Not consensus. If we relied on consensus we wouldn’t have plate tetonics and ether would explain light waves and thirty years ago the consesus was that homosexuality was a personality disorder. Global warming needs science not consensus.”

    I think we mean different things by the word consensus. In the scientific community, consensus means that there is general agreement—among those with the necessary expertise to judge—that observations and experiments are best explained by a theory or group of theories. (Again, be careful; this is a different meaning of the word theory than is often used in common parlance.) Your example of the ether actually reinforces this definition. By the end of the 19th century there was a general consensus among physicists that a postulated but as yet unobserved ether was the best explanation for various physical phenomenon (such as the propagation of light in a vacuum). However, this very consensus led scientists to study the properties of the ether and to devise experiments to detect it. The most famous of these experiments was the Michelson-Morley experiment, which spectacularly failed to detect the ether. Confronted with this evidence, scientists began to disagree, and the consensus collapsed. After some period of ferment, a new consensus emerged: physicists agreed that the best explanation of the observations and experiments required them to discard the notion of the ether.

    In the same way, there is now consensus among climate scientists about global warming. Many of the first observations and experiments date back 30 or more years and the idea of global warming was suggested in the 70’s. There was controversy, and this led to more experiments and more observation. Those who were skeptical were won over and a consensus emerged: the best explanation for the accumulated evidence is that the earth is warming, and that the cause is the release of greenhouse gases (primarily carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere by human civilization. Other explanations were explored but were found wanting: they simply did not explain the evidence in a satisfactory fashion.

    Even at this stage, were there data that the current theories could not explain, or if another theory emerged that could explain the evidence, it would be entertained. It would be controversial, but if it were robust enough, it would be the basis of a successful challenge to the current consensus. Your example of plate tectonics illustrates this. Plate tectonics was suggested in the early 20th century to explain some geographical features, but was generally rejected since no good mechanism was found. However, data began to accumulate that the theory could explain and that could not be explained by other theories: plate tectonics proved versatile enough and robust enough that it eventually displaced other theories to become the new consensus.

    So coming to your last sentence: global warming has “science”, and the consensus is there precisely because the science (the observations and theories that explain them) is there.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    @Gordie,

    To be clear, my point in my original post was exactly what you were saying: I don’t question your Catholic faith; nothing you have said here on global warming suggests you are not Catholic. And, as I said in my first post, it is important to distinguish between science and policy and ethics. Given the science, we can discuss what our policy should be in response, and weigh it against the ethical norms of our faith.

    But, coming to a sentence in your second paragraph:

    “It’s as if us non-scientists are required to go along with the scientific consensus and if we don’t, then somehow we are ideologues of one sort or another.”

    My first question would be: why wouldn’t you go along with the scientific consensus? (See my previous post explaining the meaning of consensus in this context.) Accepting the scientific consensus does not mean accepting every policy proposal based on it. I would be very interested in seeing a non-statist proposal for dealing with global warming; unfortunately, the conservative intellectuals who might be able to articulate such proposals are too busy denying the science, seemingly because they have inextricably linked it with the proposed policies to deal with it.

    My second response would be: it is understandable that someone who does accept the scientific consensus would try to find some reason to explain why others reject it. Since the science seems conclusive, they have to look for other explanations based on something else: in your (slightly pejorative term) in ideologies.

    At this point I am reminded of a story told about the French anthropologist Emile Durkheim. Never one for fieldwork, he created his grand theories by analyzing the work of others. Once, when confronted with a series of field observations that ran counter to his theories, he is supposed to have responded, “The facts are wrong!” While Durkheim comes off as a bit of a fool in this story, I think there is another point which can be drawn from it: he felt he had good reason to believe his theories were true, so when confronted with one datum that contradicted it, he felt he had good grounds to question the veracity of the “facts” or the interpretation being given them. But, in the end, his theories would have to yield if they did not conform to the data.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    @Gordie,

    To be clear, my point in my original post was exactly what you were saying: I don’t question your Catholic faith; nothing you have said here on global warming suggests you are not Catholic. And, as I said in my first post, it is important to distinguish between science and policy and ethics. Given the science, we can discuss what our policy should be in response, and weigh it against the ethical norms of our faith.

    But, coming to a sentence in your second paragraph:

    “It’s as if us non-scientists are required to go along with the scientific consensus and if we don’t, then somehow we are ideologues of one sort or another.”

    My first question would be: why wouldn’t you go along with the scientific consensus? (See my previous post explaining the meaning of consensus in this context.) Accepting the scientific consensus does not mean accepting every policy proposal based on it. I would be very interested in seeing a non-statist proposal for dealing with global warming; unfortunately, the conservative intellectuals who might be able to articulate such proposals are too busy denying the science, seemingly because they have inextricably linked it with the proposed policies to deal with it.

    My second response would be: it is understandable that someone who does accept the scientific consensus would try to find some reason to explain why others reject it. Since the science seems conclusive, they have to look for other explanations based on something else: in your (slightly pejorative term) in ideologies.

    At this point I am reminded of a story told about the French anthropologist Emile Durkheim. Never one for fieldwork, he created his grand theories by analyzing the work of others. Once, when confronted with a series of field observations that ran counter to his theories, he is supposed to have responded, “The facts are wrong!” While Durkheim comes off as a bit of a fool in this story, I think there is another point which can be drawn from it: he felt he had good reason to believe his theories were true, so when confronted with one datum that contradicted it, he felt he had good grounds to question the veracity of the “facts” or the interpretation being given them. But, in the end, his theories would have to yield if they did not conform to the data.