If you have not read Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited – well, what’s wrong with you? You should really go read it. Like right now. I’ll be here when you get back.
Now that you’ve returned, let’s talk about the character of Rex Mottram. Rex, of course, is Julia Flyte’s fiance. He is a non-practicing Protestant, and he goes through the process of becoming a Catholic. Since the book is set in the 1920s, and thus pre-Vatican II, Rex is not subjected to RCIA. Instead, Rex meets with the Flyte family’s priest, Father Mowbray. Father Mowbray relates the following exchange:
“Yesterday I asked him whether Our Lord had more than one nature. He said: ‘Just as many as you say, Father.’ Then again I asked him: ‘Supposing the Pope looked up and saw a cloud and said ‘It’s going to rain’, would that be bound to happen?’ ‘Oh, yes, Father.’ ‘But supposing it didn’t?’ He thought a moment and said, “I suppose it would be sort of raining spiritually, only we were too sinful to see it.'”
This, along with Rex’s unquestioning acceptance of Cordelia Flyte’s description of Catholic doctrine are among the funniest aspects of the book. What this scene does is expose one of the silliest anti-Catholic prejudices, namely, that Catholics are expected to uncritically and unblinkingly accept every word uttered or written by a Pope as unequivocal truth. This makes hash out of the doctrine of infallibility, which this very educated audience understands applies only to ex cathedra statements regarding faith and morals.
This stereotype of Catholics has fueled anti-Catholicism here, to the point that Catholic politicians have had to fend off charges that they are, in essence, tools of the Vatican. Yet today we see a rise in the number of faithful Catholics who seem intent on giving credence to the stereotype.
An example of the genre is provided by a former TAC blogger who now writes, naturally, for Patheos. This is hardly the most egregious example of the type, but it is a handy showcase. Larry D of Acts of the Apostasy has a strawmen caricature-inspired satire of what not to expect from the (now released) Papal Encyclical. He then writes:
Bottom line? The encyclical will be Catholic, and will espouse and expand on Catholic teaching. Faithful Catholics needn’t get their biodegradable knickers in a twist over Laudato Sii. Those who are…well, they have an agenda to push. Will there be some things in the encyclical that might make us a bit uncomfortable? Sure, I fully expect it – because being a Catholic sometimes makes you a bit uncomfortable. Comes with the territory. Let the Right and the Left yammer about it – ignore them. Online at least – read the thing and be able to discuss it cogently and coherently with flesh and blood folks, like family members and coworkers.
Let’s unpack this a bit. He first accuses anyone who might be bothered by the encyclical as “having an agenda” to push, as though there could be no legitimate quarrel with anything the Pope writes. Further observe that Larry has pre-judged the criticism before it has even been offered. That’s right – before the encyclical had even been released and anyone knew officially what was in the document he determined that anyone who made a fuss had an agenda to push. So he’s criticizing the criticism, that hadn’t occurred yet, of a document that hadn’t even been released.We’re through the looking glass here people.
He then continues in a vein that is typical of the Rex Mottram Catholic: the Pope ain’t gonna say anything that is contradictory to Church teaching, so why the fuss? In other words, as long as the Pope doesn’t say anything heretical – and ipso facto he cannot – then why even raise a fuss?
There are several problems with the line of thinking, and we’ve been over some of them in excruciating detail. I won’t address the potential problems with this specific encyclical because I haven’t read it. Generally, though, this sort of thinking both excessively elevates the Pope and diminishes him. It elevates him because it places large swathes of what he says and writes outside the bounds of legitimate criticism. It diminishes him by reducing him to nothing more than a vessel of speaking truisms about the faith. If the Pope is merely echoing basic tenets of the faith such as that we are meant to be stewards of creation and have grave responsibilities towards it, then so what? Why bother with a 200 page encyclical? He could have pretty much said the same thing in a 10-minute homily. Obviously, though, the Pope’s intention is to do much more with this. He is hoping to shape debate and push Catholics (and others) towards a certain course of action. Well if that’s the case, don’t we have the duty to take a step back and make sure that what the Pope is saying has merit to it?
You can see this attitude in the comments. When one commenter dared imply that the Pope’s opinion about the scientific data was not sacrosanct, someone replied, “Why do you place your understanding above the Pope’s in determining what is, and what is not, ‘supported by scientific data’?”
This brings us back to the Rex Mottram quote. The Pope has no special charism to interpret scientific data. If he sees a few clouds in the sky and predicts rain, it’s not disobedient for me to pull up my Droid, open the Accuweather app, and inform him that there is a zero percent chance of precipitation.
One last note. Another talking point that has been and will be repeated is that conservative Catholics who ignore, dispute, criticize, etc. this encyclical are no different than liberal Catholics who did the same to previous documents, especially Humanae Vitae. Anyone who does so would be guilty of Cafeteria Catholicism just the same.
I would concede that there is a danger that too many Catholics will raise up the “prudential judgment” banner too reflexively. I’ll also concede that Larry D, for instance, has a point in noting that sometimes being a Catholic makes you uncomfortable. Our disposition as Catholics should be that hen we read this or anything written by the Holy Father that we put our prejudices aside, and not mentally check out whenever he says something that might contradict something we believe.
What I will vehemently dispute is that any criticism of this or any document is just the same as the reaction to Humanae Vitae. People did not just object to certain facets of the encyclical. Rather, dissidents objected to the very core teaching of Church that Pope Paul VI was promulgating. Now, if Catholics object to the idea of being stewards of creation, then yeah, they’re hypocritical cafeteria-style Catholics. If we reject the fundamental idea of caring for the poor, that’s dissidence. I suspect, however, that there won’t be much of that style of reaction.
After the issuance of the Green Encyclical today I assume that Catholics will be debating global warming. I thought we would kick off the debate here on TAC with Mark Shea representing both sides:
As you probably know, I’m skeptical of the Global Warming hype, not least because its marketers and packagers keep changing the name. First, it was “Global Warming,” then “Climate Change” (as if climate does anything besides change) and lately it’s “Global Climate Disruption.” I’m also skeptical that it is man made, and I think the dishonesty of some of the scientists in the field, not to mention the packagers and marketers, leaves me cold (clever pun, eh?). So, for instance, when I see evidence of rising sea levels that doesn’t always refer me back to the same remote island nobody knows anything about except that it might be a case of erosion and not rising sea levels, I will begin to take our melting ice caps more seriously.
Go here to read the rest.
I have always expressed ignorance of the science for the very good reason that I am not a scientist. I have always granted the premise that there is climate change for the very good reason that change is what climate does. Beyond that, I have always left the matter in the hands of experts to hash out because what do I know?
Go here to read the rest.
It is dismaying to anyone who has been paying attention to the Global Warming Scam that Pope Francis is apparently about to sign on to something that is so replete with fraud. John Hinderaker at the Powerline blog brings us the latest:
We have written many times about the fact that the scientific agencies which are keepers of the world’s historical temperature data are all, or nearly all, under the control of warmists. These warmists have systematically altered historic temperature records, so that the temperatures they report today for past eras are not the same as what were measured, say, 70 or 80 years ago. The effect of these adjustments is strikingly consistent: they almost always make the past look cooler than it was measured at the time, so that the present looks warmer by comparison. The opposite–an adjustment that results in reporting a historic temperature higher than what was published contemporaneously–never, or almost never, happens. These adjustments may or may not be explained; sometimes, they are kept quiet until someone stumbles across the original data and points out a discrepancy.
A man named Paul Homewood, an accountant by profession, has taken it upon himself to research this issue of unexplained temperature adjustments. He reports on his findings at Not a Lot of People Know That. His site is worth checking out, as he is producing a lot of highly relevant data.
One of the areas that Homewood has looked at is Paraguay. In a post titled All of Paraguay’s temperature record has been tampered with, he found that GISS has systematically altered temperature records to make the past look cooler and the present warmer, and to create an entirely fictitious warming trend.
To show his findings, Homewood created animated GIFs of the data from each weather station in Paraguay, contrasting the “old” data–the data actually recorded by thermometers and reported at the time–with the “new” data, i.e., the massaged numbers that GISS now publishes. Here they are. The deception is obvious: Continue reading
Policy makers and the public may wish for the comfort of certainty in their climate science. But I fear that rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is “settled” (or is a “hoax”) demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters. Uncertainty is a prime mover and motivator of science and must be faced head-on. It should not be confined to hushed sidebar conversations at academic conferences.
Society’s choices in the years ahead will necessarily be based on uncertain knowledge of future climates. That uncertainty need not be an excuse for inaction. There is well-justified prudence in accelerating the development of low-emissions technologies and in cost-effective energy-efficiency measures.
But climate strategies beyond such “no regrets” efforts carry costs, risks and questions of effectiveness, so nonscientific factors inevitably enter the decision. These include our tolerance for risk and the priorities that we assign to economic development, poverty reduction, environmental quality, and intergenerational and geographical equity.
Individuals and countries can legitimately disagree about these matters, so the discussion should not be about “believing” or “denying” the science. Despite the statements of numerous scientific societies, the scientific community cannot claim any special expertise in addressing issues related to humanity’s deepest goals and values. The political and diplomatic spheres are best suited to debating and resolving such questions, and misrepresenting the current state of climate science does nothing to advance that effort.
Any serious discussion of the changing climate must begin by acknowledging not only the scientific certainties but also the uncertainties, especially in projecting the future. Recognizing those limits, rather than ignoring them, will lead to a more sober and ultimately more productive discussion of climate change and climate policies. To do otherwise is a great disservice to climate science itself.
Steven Koonin, Undersecretary For Science, Department of Energy, during Barack Obama’s first term.
An environmental confederation in the UK got the talented screenwriter Richard Curtis to produce a short film, ironically called No Pressure, for the 10:10 campaign, an effort to remind people to do their part in reducing carbon emission 10% by 2010 AD.
Unfortunately for the environmental movement the film backfired because it reinforced the image that beneath the surface environmentalists will do anything once in power to make it compulsory to follow their vision for the future, which includes violence.
On the NYT’s philosophy blog, there was an article written about the decision to have children. I didn’t realize it when I first read it, but it was written by notorious pro-abort Peter Singer (and by notorious, I mean that he’s pro-choice even after birth).
But very few ask whether coming into existence is a good thing for the child itself. Most of those who consider that question probably do so because they have some reason to fear that the child’s life would be especially difficult — for example, if they have a family history of a devastating illness, physical or mental, that cannot yet be detected prenatally
All this suggests that we think it is wrong to bring into the world a child whose prospects for a happy, healthy life are poor, but we don’t usually think the fact that a child is likely to have a happy, healthy life is a reason for bringing the child into existence. This has come to be known among philosophers as “the asymmetry” and it is not easy to justify. But rather than go into the explanations usually proffered — and why they fail — I want to raise a related problem. How good does life have to be, to make it reasonable to bring a child into the world?
A quick observation will point out that Singer assumes that health is a requirement for happiness, an assumption well refuted by many anecdotes about the joy of those who suffer with illness.
However, I find it amazing that Singer is willing to attempt to determine how “good” a child’s life will be.
[Updates at the bottom of this post.]
Atmospheric CO2 is not a pollutant.
And he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth. And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth. And God said: Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed upon the earth, and all trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind, to be your meat: And to all beasts of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to all that move upon the earth, and wherein there is life, that they may have to feed upon. And it was so done.
–Book of Genesis 1:26-30
With President Obama demonizing Tea Party protesters and the recent comments of New York Mayor Bloomberg speculating that the Times Square bomber was a tea party protester, it is mind boggling how the evidence continues to stack up against their arguments of Tea Party protesters being intolerant and racists.
Especially in the light of breaking news that thieves have stolen the Mojave Desert Cross that was built to honor Americans who died in World War I. When just less than two weeks prior the U.S. Supreme allowed that Cross to remain on the property.
I’ll bet good money that some raving liberal removed the cross because of his or her dissatisfaction with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.
Yet where are the news of lynchings, swastikas painted on synagogues and burnt out black churches by Tea Party Protesters?
Jim Manzi, a conservative expert on climate change, recently reviewed Mark Levin’s coverage of the subject in his book Liberty and Tyranny. Mr. Manzi was unimpressed:
I’m not expert on many topics the book addresses, so I flipped to its treatment of a subject that I’ve spent some time studying – global warming – in order to see how it treated a controversy for which I’m at least familiar with the various viewpoints and some of the technical detail.
It was awful. It was so bad that it was like the proverbial clock that chimes 13 times – not only is it obviously wrong, but it is so wrong that it leads you to question every other piece of information it has ever provided.
Levin argues that human-caused global warming is nothing to worry about, and merely an excuse for the Enviro-Statist (capitalization in the original) to seize more power. It reads like a bunch of pasted-together quotes and stories based on some quick Google searches by somebody who knows very little about the topic, and can’t be bothered to learn. After pages devoted to talking about prior global cooling fears, and some ridiculous or cynical comments by advocates for emissions restrictions (and one quote from Richard Lindzen, a very serious climate scientist who disputes the estimated magnitude of the greenhouse effect, but not its existence), he gets to the key question on page 184 (eBook edition):
[D]oes carbon dioxide actually affect temperature levels?
Levin does not attempt to answer this question by making a fundamental argument that proceeds from evidence available for common inspection through a defined line of logic to a scientific view. Instead, he argues from authority by citing experts who believe that the answer to this question is pretty much ‘no’. Who are they? – An associate professor of astrophysics, a geologist and an astronaut.
Noted thinker Danny Glover one-ups Pat Robertson by claiming that “when we see what we did at the climate summit in Copenhagen, this [the Haiti earthquake] is the response, this is what happens, you know what I’m sayin’?”
Video in the link.
As freezing temperatures continue to grip the nation and the world I thought this political cartoon apropos to the many climate change proponents that continue to peddle this pseudoscience.
Which is why I am promoting the possibility of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution for the Separation of Science and State. The new law would make it possible to separate the radical environmentalists and their socialist allies from imposing their false faith in scientism upon Americans.
The Pagans are coming out of the woodwork, or more properly named, coming out of the ice sculpture.
What is turning into an annual event in Fairbanks, Alaska, a frozen ice sculpture of Al Gore, or what the locals call “Frozen Gore”, was unveiled.
Steve Dean sculpted the two-ton ice block in tribute to Al Gore and his ‘theories’ of man-made Global Warming.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports with my emphases and comments in this truncated article:
This year’s version includes special effects, thanks to a system that pipes the exhaust from a Ford F-350 out of Gore’s open mouth. Compeau [who funded the ice sculpture] will fire up the truck periodically this winter to create the “hot air” effect.
50 years [ago]. The average temperature for 2009 was 27.8 degrees in Fairbanks, about one degree warmer than normal, said Rick Thoman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Last winter, however, was unusually cold in Fairbanks. Temperatures in the winter months of 2008-09 were about 4 degrees below normal, according to National Weather Service figures.
The mocking tribute of Al Gore and the pseudoscience that he uses is cause for concern. We need to start a movement to begin the separation of science and state in order to protect Americans from environmentalist fanatics such as Al Gore.
A follow up to my initial post here on what is becoming known as Climategate. Now news comes from New Zealand about massaging of data by global warming proponents.
The New Zealand Government’s chief climate advisory unit NIWA is under fire for allegedly massaging raw climate data to show a global warming trend that wasn’t there.
The scandal breaks as fears grow worldwide that corruption of climate science is not confined to just Britain’s CRU climate research centre.
In New Zealand’s case, the figures published on NIWA’s [the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research] website suggest a strong warming trend in New Zealand over the past century.
I think Prof. Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy outlines a sensible approach to the recent ‘Climategate’ scandal:
Most of us, however, lack expertise on climate issues. And our knowledge of complex issues we don’t have personal expertise on is largely based on social validation. For example, I think that Einsteinian physics is generally more correct than Newtonian physics, even though I know very little about either. Why? Because that’s the overwhelming consensus of professional physicists, and I have no reason to believe that their conclusions should be discounted as biased or otherwise driven by considerations other than truth-seeking. My views of climate science were (and are) based on similar considerations. I thought that global warming was probably a genuine and serious problem because that is what the overwhelming majority of relevant scientists seem to believe, and I generally didn’t doubt their objectivity.
At the very least, the Climategate revelations should weaken our confidence in the above conclusion. At least some of the prominent scholars in the field seem driven at least in part by ideology, and willing to use intimidation to keep contrarian views from being published, even if the articles in question meet normal peer review standards. Absent such tactics, it’s possible that more contrarian research would be published in professional journals and the consensus in the field would be less firm. To be completely clear, I don’t think that either ideological motivation or even intimidation tactics prove that these scientists’ views are wrong. Their research should be assessed on its own merits, irrespective of their motivations for conducting it. However, these things should affect the degree to which we defer to their conclusions merely based on their authority as disinterested experts.