The question: Is this Copenhagen global warming conference an environmental pilgrimage for some? Says one demonstrator: “You can call it, like, some kind of a new religion, I don’t know … ” But the guy in the polar bear costume isn’t so sure.
My Acton commentary this week looks at As We Forgive, a moving documentary about reconciliation and forgiveness in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. As I reflected on forgiveness in my own life, my thoughts fell on a dear friend who died very young and my feelings towards the man who took his life.
The full commentary follows:
Two and a half years ago I lost my good friend, Tim. He had just reenlisted for his second term in the Army after having already served once in Iraq. On a late summer evening, while stationed on his base in Washington, a fight broke out. Tim tried to break it up and was stabbed in the neck by a fellow solider. He died shortly afterward at the hospital. Tim was 22. I haven’t ever thought much about the young man who took his life. And if I had the opportunity to meet him, I can’t think of any reason that I would. Tim’s killer is locked behind bars for the rest of his life, and for all intents and purposes justice has been served. For me it’s easier to forget that he still lives while my friend is dead.
For many in the small African country of Rwanda, however, it’s not easy to forget about death. Just over a year ago, I traveled with the Acton Institute to Rwanda in preparation for a new project on poverty. Although we were there primarily talking to entrepreneurs about wealth and poverty, it was impossible not to have questions about the 1994 genocide. In less than 100 days, nearly one million people were murdered and tens of thousands were responsible for these deaths. Flying into the country with that knowledge, a mere 14 years later, I didn’t know what to expect. I was anxious and unsettled, the same sort of tension that I felt while visiting Tim’s body at the funeral home. The weight of death stood in stark contrast to such a vibrant culture. (more…)
Update: Naturally, right after I post this article, new information comes out that makes Climategate look even worse. It’s been noted in the comments that Russian scientists are now saying outright that climate data from Russian weather stations has been tampered with in order to make it appear to substantiate claims of catastrophic man-made global warming:
On Tuesday, the Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) issued a report claiming that the Hadley Center for Climate Change based at the headquarters of the British Meteorological Office in Exeter (Devon, England) had probably tampered with Russian-climate data.
The IEA believes that Russian meteorological-station data did not substantiate the anthropogenic global-warming theory. Analysts say Russian meteorological stations cover most of the country’s territory, and that the Hadley Center had used data submitted by only 25% of such stations in its reports. Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations.
The data of stations located in areas not listed in the Hadley Climate Research Unit Temperature UK (HadCRUT) survey often does not show any substantial warming in the late 20th century and the early 21st century.
The plot thickens! Original post follows…
It’s been some time since we’ve had an update on the State of the Global Warming Consensus, and I’m happy to report that the Global Warming Consensus remains strong and unchallenged. Well, strong and unchallenged barring that little e-mail and data leak from a few weeks ago that is really not an issue at all. I mean, it’s not an issue at all except in the sense that it may have exposed some unethical scientific shenanigans by some of the biggest names in the pro-Anthropogenic Global Warming community, but that’s nothing to lose sleep over. You might lose your job, but you shouldn’t lose sleep. COPENHAGEN OR BUST!
Some background: the Global Warming Consensus Watch/Alert series dates back to April of 2007, and from the start has been all about reminding us that the much-vaunted Scientific Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming was not nearly as untouchable as folks like Al Gore would have us believe. The reality of the situation is slightly more nuanced than the Goracle would have us believe: indeed, the planet has been warming over the last century, and has been since the end of the Little Ice Age. The questions being confronted over the last few decades – and most intensely over the last couple of years – are whether the warming that has happened in the 20th century is primarily caused by human activity or is part of a larger natural process; and whether or not the warming poses significant problems for human society in the future. (Dr. Jay Richards had a presentation on this very topic as a part of the 2008 Acton Lecture Series; you can view it here.)
The Acton Institute welcomes a new writer to the commentariat today with this piece on Climategate. The Rev. Gregory Jensen is a psychologist of religion and a priest of the Diocese of Chicago and the Midwest (Orthodox Church in America). He blogs at Koinonia.
Science and the Demands of Virtue
By Rev. Gregory Jensen
Contrary to the popular understanding, the natural sciences are not morally neutral. Not only do the findings of science have moral implications, the actual work of scientific research presupposes that the researcher himself is a man of virtue. When scientific research is divorced from, or worse opposed to, the life of virtue it is not simply the research or the researcher that suffers but the whole human family.
Take for example, the scandal surrounding the conduct of researchers at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University in the UK. Whether or not the recently revealed emails and computer programs undermine the theory of anthropological global warning (AGW), it is clear that current public policy debate is based at least in part on the research of scientists of questionable virtue who sacrificed not only honesty and fair play but potentially the well being of us all in the service of their own political agenda.
All of this came to mind recently when a friend sent me a talk on the environment (Through Creation to the Creator) by the Orthodox theologian Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. Ware argues that all creation is “a symbol pointing beyond itself, a sacrament that embodies some deep secret at the heart of the universe.” Unlike the Gnosticism that holds sway in many areas of life (including scientific research) the Christian Church argues that the secret of creation is both knowable and known. Creation, Ware says, points beyond itself to “the Second Person of the Trinity, the Wisdom and Providence of God” Who is Himself both “the source and end” of all created being. Insofar as the Christian tradition has an environmental teaching at all it is this: Jesus Christ is the “all-embracing and unifying” Principal of creation. (more…)
Via Beliefnet, Rev. Richard Cizik, formerly of the National Association of Evangelicals, who once called global warming the “third rail” of evangelical politics, and who also said that evangelicals “need to confront population control,” is at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.
In this video, Cizik speaks of the critical role that “people of faith” have in translating the challenge of climate change into concrete political action. He says in part, “I don’t believe this moment in time is not without significance. I believe there is a kind of ‘God moment’ here politically for the nations of the world, the leaders of the world to move us forward.”
There’s much more background information in the joint Acton-IRD paper, “Climate Control to Population Control: Troubling Background on the ‘Evangelical Climate Initiative’.”
In his essay, “Intellectuals and Socialism,” Friedrich Hayek asked how it was possible for a small group of people to have such influence on the ideas and politics that affected millions. He argued that it was because the socialists influenced the “influencers”–those “secondhand dealers in ideas” like the press, educators, and editors, who spread socialist thought into the mainstream.
A parallel can be seen in the cultural battles over religious symbols during the Christmas … I mean, the holiday season. One would think from media coverage that there exists an overwhelming consensus that religious symbols have no place on public property. But the reality is quite different. There may be a clear consensus among the secular intelligentsia, but it doesn’t hold for most Americans.
A recent poll showed that a majority of Americans are perfectly happy with displays of religious symbols and believe it is fine for schools to celebrate religious holidays.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 76% of adults believe religious symbols like Christmas Nativity scenes, Hanukkah menorahs and Muslim crescents should be allowed on public land. Just 13% disagree, and another 10% are undecided.
Eighty-three percent (83%) believe public schools should celebrate religious holidays. This figure includes 47% who think the schools should celebrate all religious holidays and another 36% who believe they should only celebrate some. The question did not single out which holidays should be celebrated and which should be excluded.
Only 14% think the public schools should not celebrate any religious holidays.
Additionally–news for retailers: “Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 72% of adults prefer “Merry Christmas,” while 22% like “Happy Holidays” instead.”
So why the widespread sense that Christmas is the holiday that must not be named? It’s another example of a small minority of Scrooge-like secularists spreading their gloom to the rest of us in the guise of enlightened tolerance, a secular Uniculturalism that strips America of our traditions and vitiates the human experience.
Amidst all the craziness of l’affaire d’Tigre there are some important questions being raised about the linkage between power, wealth, and faithfulness.
The Wealth Report at The Wall Street Journal asks, “Is it harder to stay faithful with large wealth?”
The initial sociological findings don’t seem to correlate wealth with adultery, at least at any higher rates than the general population of males (interestingly enough, a 2007 survey led to the conclusion, “When it comes to infidelity, money has a bigger impact on women than men.”).
Jesus gives us an apt axiom: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
And so there’s the corollary question of whether dishonesty in one area of life should lead us to question whether there is dishonesty in other areas. Tiger Woods’ apparent and alleged marital infidelities might make us wonder about his emotional control, for instance. Does his robot-like and highly-controlled exterior hide deeper emotional turmoil, as his outbursts on the golf course (both positive and negative) suggest?
And should we wonder whether Tiger would cheat on the golf course? If he’s willing to cheat on his wife, would he cheat at golf? Or does his great love and respect for golf, the ultimate gentleman’s sport, exclude that possibility? And if so, what does that say about his love and respect for his wife?
On the one hand it is clear that one need not be prosperous to be adulterous, greedy, or dishonest. But wealth can sometimes help to insulate us from the common consequences of these sins, and perhaps make facilitate their commission, while at the same time potentially exacerbating the fallout if and when it does come during this life.
Update: A timely word on the economic implications of recent events from SNL, “The PGA Tour: No Tiger, no problem!”
Bruce Tinsley’s comic strip Mallard Fillmore has long been an excellent examination of conservative principles, current events, and problems associated with government interventionism. The strip appears in over 400 newspapers across the country. Yesterday featured a particularly simple and poignant strip humorously pointing out early attempts to crush the entrepreneurial spirit and the free market. The December 13 strip simply speaks for itself.
Right before I saw the strip yesterday I just finished reading a proposal in Michigan that has the support of Lt. Governor John Cherry for a new tax on bottled water.
Over at the Catholic Thing, Scott Walker looks at Climategate and the intolerant groupthink undergirding the “consensus” on global warming. He starts by offering a quote from sociologist Robert Nisbet on “the Enlightenment myth that the Catholic Church brutally oppressed Galileo. Our own time, Nisbet insisted, has seen much worse.”
Galileo, as it turns out, was more concerned about the reaction of fellow scientists than he was about Pope Urban VIII and the Inquisition:
Most important for our purposes is Galileo’s fate after his enemies forced the Inquisition to find him “guilty” of Copernican teachings. Though made to take a pro forma oath of recantation, he was not imprisoned. Instead, he was given “house arrest” at his wealthy patron’s estate where he had long conducted most of his research. He lived for years, and far from being daunted or suppressed, he produced some of his most important writings, “was in constant communication with the leading scientific lights of Italy and all Europe,” and had “as many students as he wished” to assist him and continue his work after his death.
Contrast Galileo’s flourishing in the seventeenth century, funded by the private sector, with the situation of scientists in our day. They face governments that grow grander and more controlling by the minute, as well as an academic climate in which the disinterested search for truth withers in the cold glare of skepticism, relativism, and materialism.
In controversies over man-made global warming, there’s the added factor of something that smacks of religious fanaticism. Fr. James Schall and historian Paul Johnson have observed how some strains of environmentalism have religious features: a fall of man, a catalogue of sins, a call to repentance and asceticism (at least for those of us who aren’t ex-Vice Presidents living in Nashville mansions), the promise of salvation, and dire warnings of a secular apocalypse. No wonder the Savonarolas of solar energy are harsh with those who dissent from their calls to repress vices like burning coal or driving an SUV.
Read Scott Walker’s “Galileo Code” here.
Place your order online at our webstore by December 18th for 10% off your entire order and to ensure delivery by Christmas. Use Promo Code CHRISTMAS10 at checkout.
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I especially recommend:
- NIV Stewardship Study Bible (Zondervan)
- Light for the City: Calvin’s Preaching, Source of Life and Liberty by Lester DeKoster
- The End of Secularism by Hunter Baker
- Economics in Christian Perspective by Victor Claar and Robin Klay