Climate Change and the Integrity of Science

CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE INTEGRITY OF SCIENCE
From 255 members of the National Academy of Sciences:
Lead Letter Published in Science magazine
May 7, 2010
http://www.pacinst.org/climate/climate_statement.pdf

We are deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular. All citizens should understand some basic scientific facts. There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science  never absolutely proves anything.   When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the
same as saying society should never take action.  For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet.

Scientific conclusions derive from an understanding of basic laws supported by laboratory experiments, observations of nature, and mathematical and computer modeling. Like all human beings, scientists make mistakes, but the scientific process is designed to find and correct them. This process is inherently adversarial- scientists build reputations and gain recognition not only for supporting conventional wisdom, but even more so for demonstrating that the scientific consensus is wrong and that there is a better explanation. That’s what Galileo, Pasteur, Darwin, and
Einstein did. But when some conclusions have been thoroughly and deeply tested, questioned, and examined, they gain the status of “well-established theories” and are often spoken of as “facts.”

For instance, there is compelling scientific evidence that our planet is about 4.5bn years old (the theory of the origin of Earth), that our universe was born from a single event about 14bn years ago (the Big Bang theory), and that today’s organisms evolved from ones living in the past (the theory of evolution). Even as these are overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, fame still awaits anyone who could show these theories
to be wrong. Climate change now falls into this category: there is compelling, comprehensive, and consistent objective evidence that humans are changing the climate in ways that threaten our societies and the ecosystems on which we depend.

Many recent assaults on climate science and, more disturbingly, on climate scientists by climate change deniers, are typically driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific assessments of climate change, which involve thousands of scientists producing massive and
comprehensive reports, have, quite expectedly and normally, made some mistakes. When errors are pointed out, they are corrected. But there is nothing remotely identified in the recent events that changes the fundamental conclusions about climate change:

(i) The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere.  A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact.

(ii) Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

(iii) Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth’s climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human- induced changes.

(iv) Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic.

(v) The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more.

Much more can be, and has been, said by the world’s scientific societies, national academies, and individuals, but these conclusions should be enough to indicate why scientists are concerned about what future generations will face from business- as-usual practices.
We urge our policymakers and the public to move forward immediately to address the causes of climate change, including the unrestrained burning of fossil fuels.

We also call for an end to McCarthy- like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them. Society has two choices: we can ignore the science and hide our heads in the sand and hope we are lucky, or we can act in the public interest to reduce the threat
of global climate change quickly and substantively. The good news is that smart and effective actions are possible. But delay must not be an option.

The signatories are all members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences but are not speaking on its behalf or on behalf of their institutions:

New WashPost Poll: Two-Thirds of Voters Say Pass Comprehensive Reform

by MCJoan

Americans spread the blame when it comes to the lack of cooperation in Washington, and, in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, most want the two sides to keep working to pass comprehensive health-care reform.

Nearly six in 10 in the new poll say the Republicans aren’t doing enough to forge compromise with President Obama on important issues; more than four in 10 see Obama as doing too little to get GOP support. Among independents, 56 percent see the Republicans in Congress as too unbending and 50 percent say so of the president; 28 percent of independents say both sides are doing too little to find agreement.

WaPo poll

Look at that graph–63 percent want comprehensive reform to pass, and more Independents want to see it pass than Republicans want to see it fail. But a note of caution, while the blame is primarily falling on Republicans now, ultimately the blame will be shared if it fails, and the bulk of it would fall on Obama and the Dems, since they are in charge.”

see: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/2/9/835523/-New-WaPo-Poll:-Two-Thirds-of-Voters-Say-Pass-Comprehensive-Reform

Emphasis Mine

Right-wing Hate Mongering and Evangelical Christianity

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.

He writes in Alternet: “The ugly side of Evangelical Christianity is very much to blame for the anti-Obama hyperventilating.  Former president Jimmy Carter went on the record to point out that he believes that racism is at the heart of the great deal of the extreme animosity being leveled at President Obama…if you’re going to blame one group above all others for the willful ignorance and continuing ugliness of the response to President Obama the best candidate would be the evangelical/fundamentalist community.  The angry part of the South Carter spoke of is racist because it’s dominated by a certain type of “Christian” culture.

Since Carter is also an evangelical Christian (as well as a Southerner) he would have done well to use his evangelical  insider status to point to not just racism but to scream bloody murder about a bigger problem today: the hijacking of Christianity as the source of the hate and anger directed against all things “other” by a vocal (and health care lobby-organized and funded) angry  minority of voters who are poisoning the American body… Are the New Atheists leading us to enlightenment? The problem with the recent New Atheist attacks on Christianity is that they mirror the hostility of the evangelical/fundamentalist subculture toward the secular society that it so disdains.  The real answer to the question; “Can Christianity be saved from the Christians?” is not going to be found coming from people like Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris et al …The people running around calling Obama is “Hitler”, the so-called “birthers” and all the rest can’t be understood outside of the context of the hermetically sealed world-hating gated community known as Evangelical Christianity… The key to understanding the Evangelicals is to understand the popularity of the Left Behind series of books about the “return of Christ” (and the whole host of other End Times “ministries” from the ever weirder Jack-the-Rapture-is-coming!-Van-Impe to the smoother but no less bizarre pages of Christianity Today magazine). This isn’t some new or sudden interest in prophecy, but evidence of the deepening inferiority complex suffered by the evangelical/fundamentalist community. ..The words “left behind” are ironically what the books are about, but not in the way their authors intended. The evangelical/fundamentalists, from their crudest egocentric celebrities to their “intellectuals” touring college campuses trying to make evangelicalism respectable, have indeed been left behind by modernity. They won’t change their literalistic anti-science, anti-education, anti-everything superstitions, so now they nurse a deep grievance against “the world.”…

Millions of evangelicals have been raised in homes where they’ve been isolated from the wider culture, home schooled and/or sent to “Christian schools” where they have been indoctrinated to believe that the Federal Government is the enemy of all true believers, that the “End” is near, that secular society is their enemy as is art, learning and culture.

They now form a Fifth Column of the deliberately intellectually disenfranchised. They know they are out of the loop and hate the rest of us for their own self-imposed isolation. I’m afraid they will soon turn to violence.

Here Are The Alternatives To Change the Theologically-Induced Hate Landscape:

A) all sane Americans must become atheists or agnostics,

or…

B) those of us who are Christians must rescue Christianity from the willfully ignorant evangelicals and fundamentalists.

I favor the second alternative.  First, having been raised in an evangelical/fundamentalist home I’ve long since moved beyond my background when it comes to my politics and my theology. That proves something; people can change their minds! I did.

But I believe more strongly than ever that we human beings are spiritual beings with or without the permission of those who take a purely rationalist approach to human existence.  The better — and I think only realistic option — is to regard religion as an evolving process of human consciousness and work to reform rather than eliminate it

In my soon-to-be published book Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don’t Like Religion (Or Atheism) I have very deliberately started a radical conversation through which I hope many of us can carve out a position that embraces religion while absolutely rejecting the type of insanity that has become synonymous with the word “Christian” in contemporary America.

Two “Threads” In Religion

As I argue in my new book the choice between the absolutist secular fundamentalism of the New Atheism and the authoritarianism of James Dobson’s-type of “Christianity” is no choice at all. The better alternative is to understand that there are two main threads running all through almost all religions including Christianity:

1) an open, inclusive and questioning thread

and…

2) a closed and exclusionary thread.

The more open thread is not some modern phenomenon developed by “liberal thinking.” As I explain in Patience With God this “thread” can be found in the earliest Christianity and Judaism.

If you look around and see  good results from Christianity, say from the invention of modern hospitals, which have their roots in religious groups or the music of JS Bach, you’re looking at the fruits of the best of the open tradition and thread.  When you see a group of scared racist white people like Joe Wilson in Washington DC screaming “liar” or “Obama is a socialist” or “Obama wasn’t born in America” you’re seeing the madness of the other thread: fundamentalism that wants absolute certainty about everything, and forces its followers to live in a narrower and narrower field of existence.

Conclusion

Christianity is worth saving from the Christians for two reasons.  First, because as moral and spiritual beings religion should feed our souls rather then strip out our humanity.  Second, because whether we like it or not, religion is here to stay. Better to shape it rather than to simply denounce it.

I may be an idealist but I believe that if others will step forward and add to what I have tried to begin with my new book together we can give good answers to both the extremes of the New Atheists and to the hate of the Evangelical fundamentalists. Join me to build a better vision. We might actually be able to change the conversation in America about religion.

Is that important? Yes, like it or not religion will not go away. It motivates the worst in the American psyche and some of the best too. It is Joe Wilson’s religion of hate but it also motivated Martin Luther King Jr.

Perhaps a generation from now the image of a typical Christian won’t be a hate-monger like James Dobson but rather a lover of peace such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, or a literary giant like John Updike, and yes, a President Obama.

The only real answer to the hijacking of Christianity by the Religious Right, the longevity of religion-based racism, and the backward and inward looking movement we now call “American Christianity” is not to talk everyone out a having faith but rather to fight for the humane and ancient thread found within the Christian tradition. Blaming everything on race is too easy.

If you get the chance to read Patience With God please let me know what you think of it. I’m asking one big question in the book: Can Christianity be rescued from the Christians? You tell me.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.

© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/142755/

see: http://www.alternet.org/story/142755/right-wing_hatemongering_fueled_by_christianity

Nazis?

“It’s time for a history lesson on the Nazis”, writes Leonard Pitts Jr., of the Miami Herald.  (Indeed, lack of knowledge of the past has been the primary characteristic of right wing loud mouths for decades.)

“It’s important to remember that the Nazis are passing out of living memory; U.S. soldiers of that era are said to be dying at the rate of 1,200 a day. Which makes it too easy, I think, for a nation of notorious historical illiteracy to remake the Nazis as some kind of all-purpose boogeymen for slandering political enemies and scoring cheap rhetorical points.

So I thought it would be good to make you sick, i.e., to spend a few minutes reminding some and teaching others what you invoke when you invoke the Nazi regime.

For the record, then: It was Nazis who shoved sand down a boy’s throat until he died, who tossed candies to Jewish children as they sank to their deaths in a sand pit, who threw babies from a hospital window and competed to see how many of those “little Jews” could be caught on a bayonet, who injected a cement-like fluid into women’s uteruses to see what would happen, who stomped a pregnant woman to death, who once snatched a woman’s baby from her arms and, in the words of an eyewitness, “tore him as one would tear a rag.”

That’s who the Nazis were, ladies and gentlemen — those obscenities plus six million more. They were the triumph of ideology over reason and even over humanity, the demonization of racial, religious and political difference, the objectification of the vulnerable other. And the authors of a mass murder that staggers imagination, still.

You would think, then, that where they are invoked to draw a parallel or make a point, it would be done with a respect for the incalculable evil the Nazis represent. You would think people would tread carefully, not because of the potential insult to a given politician (they are big boys and girls) but because to do otherwise profanes the profound and renders trivial that which ought to be held sacred by anyone who regards himself as a truly human being.

But in modern America, unfortunately, rhetoric often starts over the top and goes up from there. So fine, George W. Bush is “a smirking chimp.” Fine, Barack Obama is “a Chicago thug.” We have a Constitution, after all, and it says we can say whatever we want. It doesn’t say it has to be intelligent.

And yes, you are even protected if you liken Obama or Bush to Hitler. Yet every time I hear that, it makes me cringe for what it says about our collective propensity for historical amnesia and our retarded capacity for reverence. Once upon a lifetime ago, six million people with DNA, names and faces just like you and I, were butchered with gleeful sadism and mechanistic dispatch. Six million people.

You and I may no longer respect one another, but is it asking too much that we still respect them?”

see: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/73998.html

Thanks, Mr. Pitts!

“Those who cannot remember the past are destined to relive it”.  (George Santayana, the Life of Reason).

The second amendment at aerobics class, or how the bible told me so.

From HuffPost: “On Tuesday August 4th, 2009, computer systems analyst Sodini walked into a Pittsburgh gym, pulled guns out of a duffel bag, turned off the lights, and sprayed bullets into a LA Fitness Center woman’s aerobics class of roughly thirty, killing three. The leader of the class, who had just announced that she was pregnant, was wounded along with at least eight others, some of whom were shot multiple times.

Media analysis has so far ignored or glossed over Sodini’s religious affiliations but the shooter’s Internet diary suggest his last readings were the Bible and a book by a Texas evangelist, R.B. Thieme, Jr. who has written that husbands own their wives, as literal property and promoted an odd teaching that for each man on Earth there exists only one correct “right woman” in all creation. According to Thieme, men can recognize their divinely-appointed opposites without physical contact, through something Thieme called “soul climax” [see R.B. Thieme, Jr.’s “Doctrines of The Bible: Doctrine of Right Man and Right Woman” (Microsoft Word Document format).]

After perpetrating the massacre, Sodini committed suicide. He left behind chilling weblog entries outlining his intended plan. According to forensic psychologists such as former FBI agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett, Sodini fit a classic “shooter” profile….For such a deeply socially estranged man did R.B. Thieme Jr.’s teachings, which saddle male-female relations with almost impossibly idealistic expectations, exacerbate preexisting socio-sexual alienation to the point where George Sodini felt unable to relate to the female sex in any other manner than down the barrel of a loaded gun?”

Also, from his blog: ” But it also includes comments about the “liberal media,” the “Obama economy” — and it opens with remarks about last fall’s election, the election of “The Black Man” and jokes about black men bedding white women.

All of this was left out of the AP excerpts and nearly everywhere else, including a new New York Times account.”

Emphasis mine.

see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-wilson/shooter-read-sexist-chris_b_252702.html

National Day of which I was proud

The Obama administration treated the ‘national day of prayer’ much differently than the previous administration, and the difference was black and white.  From a non-US source (Sarah Posner):”During the Bush years, the National Day of Prayer, an anodyne holdover from the Truman days, was taken over by the religious right and turned into an official White House event. Hijacked by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, and her National Day of Prayer Task Force, the first Thursday in May became a juggernaut for the fundamentalist proponents of “Christian nation” mythology. The Task Force even had its own unconstitutional Day of Prayer event with Bush in the East Room of the White House. 

Not so this year. President Barack Obama spurned the Dobson crew, making it clear last week that the White House would NOT be hosting any prayer events, but would, as customary, issue a Day of Prayer proclamation. The Interfaith Alliance and Jews on First, two liberal groups promoting religious liberty and church-state separation, urged the White House to make the proclamation INCLUSIVE to ALL religious and NON-religious Americans..

Midday yesterday, the White House released Obama’s proclamation, which, WITHOUTreference to any particular religion, sect, or ritual, recognised and celebrated an American tradition of prayer. The groups that had demanded inclusiveness were pleased. But the Center for Inquiry, a secular humanist group, NOTED, “the whole idea of having an official National Day of Prayer is both illogical and unconstitutional. The government has no business endorsing religious practices, and the notion that a deity desires mandated prayers is absurd – even barbaric.”  

The prayer Task Force, to no one’s surprise, marked the day of piety by suggesting the president does not understand the national heritage. ..

see:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/may/08/barack-obama-prayer

The first full moon after the Vernal Equinox …

From: Planet Washington:”Last year, Passover came as then-candidate Barack Obama was campaigning in Pennsylvania. A couple of the campaign staffers on the bus who are Jewish and couldn’t get home to be with their families decided to put together a Seder (the traditional meal marking the start of the holiday) as best they could. They were delighted when Obama showed.

This year, President Obama, who is Christian, is CONTINUING THE the tradition; he’ll attend a Seder on Thursday night at the White House with some staffers, SOME Jewish and some NOT. His wife and daughters will be there according to a list of attendees released by White House aides this evening, but some key staff have other commitments. Senior adviser David Axelrod and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel aren’t expected. Axelrod said he’ll be in Chicago with family.

The White House list does NOT INCLUDE  any key Jewish campaign supporters outside the administration or any religious or community leaders, and aides would not say for sure whether others are invited or would attend. The list released included: senior adviser Valerie Jarrett; the president’s personal aide, Reggie Love; the Obamas’ friend Eric Whitaker; the first lady’s counsel Susan Sher, deputy chief of staff Melissa Winter and personal aide Dana Lewis; Axelrod’s assistant Eric Lesser; White House videographer Arun Chaudhary; Herbie Ziskend, the staff assistant to the vice president’s policy and economic advisers; Lisa Kohnke, a deputy director of advance and special events; associate social Secretary Samantha Tubman; and several of their family members.”(EMPHASIS MINE).

Is This The Way a Secret Muslim Should Act?  A diversion?


see:http://washingtonbureau.typepad.com/washington/

What is being established?

I am no happier with the excess and visibility of religiosity in this administration than any other free thinker, but, as one who is quick to praise and slow to criticize , we must keep in mind:

o This man’s patriotism  has been under a microscope, as have been his

o Religious beliefs.

Perhaps what we have here is over compensation, which will hopefully diminish with time, familiarity, and acceptance.