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March 28, 2007

Comments

Melinda,

I believe your last paragraph was spot on. The difference in reaction and social acceptance here is a direct product of the fact/value split.

The bottom line with global warming is that if we develop new technologies to reduce CO2 production we all gain regardless of how catastrophic GW turns out to be or would have been. What we believe about GW is irrelevant; it's what we do or don't do.

If we could avoid doing laps in the lake of fire by being as good as we can be, then Melinda would have a point. Even if there is no heaven and hell, we all would gain by folks acting as if there was. In fact this strategy works in some religions e.g. Buddhism and Judaism.

My understanding of Christianity is that what we believe, really believe, is important. Hence, if I profess Christ because of fear of hellfire as opposed to really believing in Him, then what's the point?

Alan,
there is an old addage that says that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Being as good as you can be is certainly a good intention, but it's the wrong road. Faith is important...sure...but a proper understanding of what the scriptures mean by that word, is even more important. There are different kinds of faith, but all but one is just a product of good intentions and we know where that leads.

Alan...
You're understanding of Christianity it a little off the mark. As a matter of fact, I'm sure that that anyone can say that what they believe is important to them. For Christians, it's about truth (what corresponds to reality), not belief...

"I wonder if in some people's minds the difference is that religious warnings are only about faith, i.e. wishful thinking, and global warming, being science, is reality."

This is exactly it. People define religious faith in general as something you believe in even though you cannot prove it, or even something that you believe in against all facts that say otherwise. (In other words, just a comforting fantasy that has no basis in or bearing upon reality.)

Scientists are seen to be dealing in hard facts. And because the average person doesn't really understand all that they are talking about, they are looked at as the experts in all matters, especially this one.

"The bottom line with global warming is that if we develop new technologies to reduce CO2 production we all gain regardless of how catastrophic GW turns out to be or would have been. What we believe about GW is irrelevant; it's what we do or don't do."

I am not sure about that. It seems they are making it sound so drastic that we're doomed no matter what we do!

"If we could avoid doing laps in the lake of fire by being as good as we can be, then Melinda would have a point. Even if there is no heaven and hell, we all would gain by folks acting as if there was. In fact this strategy works in some religions e.g. Buddhism and Judaism."

We do not avoid 'doing laps in the lake of fire' by being good. If that were so, how would we know if we were good enough? How could such a thing be measured and who would do the measuring? Now, if the measure was perfection (which is what the Bible teaches) at least we'd have something to go by. But if it was perfection, who would get in? I know it sure would not be me!

"My understanding of Christianity is that what we believe, really believe, is important. Hence, if I profess Christ because of fear of hellfire as opposed to really believing in Him, then what's the point?"

It depends on what you mean by 'believing in Him'. Christianity is believing what Jesus claimed about Himself and about what He came to do (not just believing He existed) and then acting on that belief.

At least mainstream Christian thought has preached hell consistently for 2,000 years. Many of the scientists who are now on the GW bandwagon were on the "coming ice age" bandwagon as recently as 35 years ago. Their vacillation on the issue undermines their credibility.

"If we could avoid doing laps in the lake of fire by being as good as we can be, then Melinda would have a point."

Judo technique anyone?

I would think that professing Christ because of a fear of hellfire actually demonstrates faith. A genuine conversion requires repentance and trust in Jesus. But a person can't repent unless they first realize their wickedness before a Holy God and the necessity of their judgment in Hell. It would seem that a genuine expectation of judgment in Hell would bring fear to anybody and thus cause them to seek Jesus.

The Jews on the day of Pentecost were "cut to the heart" when they realized that they had crucified their Messiah. Because of their fear or judgment they repented and about three thousand were added to the Church that day.

The bottom line with global warming is that if we develop new technologies to reduce CO2 production we all gain regardless of how catastrophic GW turns out to be or would have been.

That simply depends on how much the CO2 reductions cost, doesn't it?

It seems obvious that reducing CO2 exhaust is a benefit, so I agree with you there. Add in that such reductions might possibly improve conditions in the medium-term future (a less obvious statement, but certainly arguable), and it's more of a benefit.

But what will the reductions cost? Are the solutions currently being proposed capable of accomplishing the ends they seek, and are they the best means to that end?

Furthermore, given the dangers being predicted, is a policy that focuses strongly on warming prevention sufficient, or should we be tipping more toward endurance?

And finally, given that the problems actually crop up in the future, should we be saving for the problem in other ways, so that rather than trying to use modern technology to solve the problem, we save money to apply tomorrow's tech to an admittedly more urgent problem? (This must not be used to simply ignore the risk by pretending the problem will never happen; it must seriously consider the timescale of the problems to provide for them when they do happen, in much the same way that one should provide for a long-distant retirement or unlikely but disastrous total disability.)

I'm afraid that by adopting the obvious attitude of "global warming sounds like all the other con jobs we've heard of", conservatives have lost some important momentum. Yes, GW sounds identical to all the other alarmist snake-oil con jobs we've ever seen; but that doesn't automatically render it false. By failing to examine the nature of the alleged problem and the sort of solution that could practically be applied to it, conservatives and economists have given the field over to kneejerk statist "solutions", and thereby conceded the press to them.

Alan, you said: "My understanding of Christianity is that what we believe, really believe, is important. Hence, if I profess Christ because of fear of hellfire as opposed to really believing in Him, then what's the point?"

I can't quite tell what you're thinking there. I can't imagine how anyone could profess Christ because of fear of hellfire, and yet not really believe.

It depends partly on what significance you're attaching to "believing in Christ". There's two main senses I can think of off-hand. (1) Intellectual assent to the facts/doctrines about Christ, and (2) personal trust & reliance on His work on the cross for redemption. (I wonder if you're using a third.)

If you fear hellfire, that means you must genuinely believe in the first sense. (If you think hellfire is real, then presumably you think God is real, and that you will be judged.) And if you're professing Christ because you fear hellfire, that seems to mean that you're trusting in Him to save you. That's the second sense, isn't it? So how is that not "really believing"?

Now, if I profess Christ because I fear the Spanish Inquisition, that's another matter. That would just be an external profession, something to satisfy the inquisitors. But if I profess Christ because I fear hellfire...That only makes sense if I genuinely believe that hellfire is real, and that Christ can save me.

Does this make sense to you? If not, can you explain why it still seems like it's not real belief?

Alan, a coming ice age was never a matter of scientific consensus like global warming is. That assertion is a right wing distortion of some data and tentative articles. When you hear someone asserting that, it is an indication that they know nothing about the subject.

Tim, I was speaking in a bet-hedging sort of manner. One can do that with a physical issue but it is more problematic with a spiritual one. One can totally disagree with global warming and still have no problem with the technology that would likely mitigate it; not so with hell and belief in Jesus as Savior.

Check out this excellent article by Regis Nicoll on the science and politics of global warming at Chuck Colson's Breakpoint website: http://www.breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=6294

For the Christian, global warming and Hell are both legitimate things about which to issue apocalyptic warnings, because Christ mentioned them both after a fashion.

According to Jesus (see Mt 24, Mk 13, Lk 24), famines are to be expected in the end times. Global warming, which we are told could lead not just to warmer temperatures but to altered rainfall patterns could certainly contribute to famine.

Also according to Jesus (see Mt 13, Mt 25, Mk 9), evil people can expect Hell to be in their future.

So you see both are legitimate things for the Christian to warn about.

When it comes to the duration of suffering, Christians, of course, expect that Hell will be eternal so this is a bigger deal to the individual, but only those who are not right with God will have to experience this. If one is certain of his salvation, it would seem to me that the greater concern should be that which might be experienced regardless of one's salvation. Something like widespread famine might affect godly and godless alike. I even dare say it should affect the godly worse because the godly are to love friends, family, and even enemies so there should be additional pain felt for the suffering of others.

As for intentions and results or destinations, we do the best we can with the information we have. Before making decisions we can weigh our options and outcomes. For example consider Pascal's wager, we can live as though God exists. If God exists, then there is his favor to receive, if he doesn't then we haven't really lost much. Likewise with global warming, if it can exist and we work to prevent it by cutting emissions, much harm can be avoided. If it can't exist, then we gain fresher air and healthier lungs.

Does anyone live in a large city with a smog problem? Has anyone heard of the Asian Brown Cloud? Does anyone know somebody with asthma? Why not work against this whether or not there is global warning?

Certain courses of action are win-win.

Alan Aronson wrote:
"What we believe about GW is irrelevant; it's what we do or don't do."

Belief is relevant, I don't think Alan would be arguing otherwise. As for action I agree that it is important. In James 2:26 we are told that "faith without deeds is dead."

Fortunately, it might not make any difference what most people believe, the power is mostly in the hands of the relative few in engineering and in major industries.

Alvin: You actually think the power is in the hands of engineers? How do you figure?

http://www.crichton-official.com/speeches/speeches_quote04.html

Go to the following link to watch a documentary called "The Global Warming Swindle". It gives a different side to the GW 'story' that needs to be heard and debated. It's very eye opening and informative.
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid+4340135300469846467
&q=the+global+warming&hl=en

>> "Why is it legitimate to make apocalyptic warnings about global warming and not to make them about eternity and Hell?"

in general, people don't like to think of their loved ones burning and screaming in pain forever and ever. it's a little off putting.

but telling people that, hey someday the earth might get hot and the water table might rise, - well that's easier to stomach

Hilarious - check out the "Glass Houses" story on Snopes:

http://www.snopes.com/politics//bush/house.asp

Paul,

I am a little biased as an engineer. But the way I see it, just given the way individuals drag their feet about implementing changes and considering that legislation won't achieve anything in an all around beneficial way unless some convenient means is set up, I expect that engineers in industry will have to be the ones to take on the challenge. The convenient means I expect will have to be technological and given the scale of the emissions reductions global warming experts advocate I can see engineers (particularly chemical and mechanical engineers) as the most capable of actually coming up with convenient solutions to combat greenhouse emissions.

By no means am I saying that they are the only hope or the only ones who can bring about a change. After all, they would still have to run changes by businesspeople and politicians (the fewer the better).

Perhaps you ask because you are unaware of the success of engineers at improving the quality of life. Just consider what the establishment of water treatment plants (a feat of chemical engineering) has done for life expectancy in countries that have them. Probably more than medicine has managed, but then again, medicine would be able to manage little without pharmaceuticals which can only be mass produced in plants set up by engineers.

Jim,

I like the link.

Jonathan,

Great post as well. Who better to spot fiction posing as science than a science-fiction writer?

Growing up reading Crichton's novels, and ending up in science and engineering I know he has had a profound impact on my life.

I am a little disappointed by his definition of faith, but at least he explicitly picked on the Koran instead of the Bible.

Alvin,
I didn't realise he wrote sci-fi.
I too was disappionted to note that he didn't seem to apply his excellent comments to the issue of creation versus evolution.

"Great post as well. Who better to spot fiction posing as science than a science-fiction writer?"

Maybe a scientist who actually is capable of evaluating the underlying science.

Alan,

I hope we are not debating the academic credentials of Michael Crichton. He earned an MD from Harvard and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies where he did research in Public policy. This doesn't exactly make him a scientist in the purely natural sense, but it would mean that at least he has some familiarity with the subject matter of physics, biology, chemistry etc. Furthermore, his writing evidences that he is able to well acquaint himself that which is not his expertise. That he is not a scientist in the purely natural is actually to his advantage in this issue of GW because there is a strongly human element in the mix.

Lastly, to make my stance clear on the issue of GW. If you go back and look at other blog postings of mine here and elsewhere, you'll find that I agree with you on the issue of GW's existance being something of null topic because actions should be the same regardless. This is a logical and practical approach.

I have at the same time defended the legitimacy of doubt in regards to the issue. Global climate models are what they are made to be prior to any simulation and the long term future can't really be known to us with much certainty. That being said, skepticism should in a proper scientific mindset lead to more investigation. I would like to know what the models would say about the role of other ecological factors.

If you read the lecture at the link posted by Jonathan I think you would have to agree that mankind has gone through some ridiculous and irrational times as relates to the proper role of science.

See also:
http://www.michaelcrichton.net/aboutmc/biography.html

***************

"The fight may not always be to the strong nor the race to the quick, but that's how we bet."

Enter game theory.

"Furthermore, given the dangers being predicted, is a policy that focuses strongly on warming prevention sufficient, or should we be tipping more toward endurance?"

Hey William,

Is there anyone presently working on the "endurance" strategy? What might that require?

"Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we're asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future? And make financial investments based on that prediction? Has everybody lost their minds?"

Crichton's speech is a series of straw men and red herrings. Twelve hour weather predictions are pretty good and the models about 100 years out are about climate not weather. If he (or any of you) don't understand the difference between weather and climate you should clear that up before commenting further.

"In trying to think about how these questions can be resolved, it occurs to me that in the progression from SETI to nuclear winter to second hand smoke to global warming, we have one clear message, and that is that we can expect more and more problems of public policy dealing with technical issues in the future-problems of ever greater seriousness, where people care passionately on all sides. "

In attempting to link these unrelated items he does what he criticizes others for. His defense of Lomborg is also disingenuous. Some of Lomborg's book is interesting but in the areas where I know a bit, I find him to be ignorant or deceptive (forest cover and quality for example).

Alvin, I don't question that Crichton is a smart guy but most MD's are not scientists and his niche in the scheme of things seems to have evolved in the direction of hackdom.

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=74

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2006/12/a_gathering_of_.html

"Crichton's speech is a series of straw men and red herrings. Twelve hour weather predictions are pretty good and the models about 100 years out are about climate not weather. If he (or any of you) don't understand the difference between weather and climate you should clear that up before commenting further."

Alan,

I don't think this is straw-manning although it is exaggerating. Crichton is pointing to a principle of uncertainty. And, by the way, I do know and have known the difference between weather and climate, so I could take offense but won't.

As for using computer models, five day forecasts are reasonable although they need daily revision. A climate model would be predicting a larger span of time and not in minute detail so it should be subject to less scrutiny and be given leeway, but, of course, this spurs protest. Would the requisite leeway be large compared to the average increase?

Crichton's point, I think, is more that there is a certain time scale that might be reliable but the larger the time scale the less reliable a model becomes.

As regards climate, I know I have read of something recently dubbed "Punctuated Disequilibrium" (see link below) which would have a profound impact on a much smaller time scale. In this theory the extremes are more important than the averages. I suppose its a take on Perturbation Theory in a way.

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm
?articleID=00058A69-3941-11E7
-B78C83414B7F0000&sc=I100322

Be that as it may, I think that maybe people don't take global warming seriously because they mostly hear about a slight increase in average temperature. I know most people in the northern areas of the US are almost disappointed to hear that it would be so little. And it is quite possible that those in the South only hear that the oceanfront will be closer for them to go to and hence more convenient.

Having focused on global warming more than Hell, I now have to ask, why people don't take the concept of Hell seriously?

Is not taking Hell seriously unique to atheists? Or, is this also found amongst Christians and other Theists? Are the reasons any different?

Hi Alvin, no offense intended as that was not directed at you but not everyone understands the difference. BTW, if Crichton was being honest why use a 12 hour forcast when he has to know perfectly well that 12 hour forecasts are quite accurate? His approach is similar to the folks who were on the nuclear winter bandwagon; poor confirming data and a lot of contrary indications. GW has decades of supporting evidence and the IPCC protocols compel its reports to avoid worst case conclusions.

Hell for eternity, based on belief, just seems to be a strange way of running a universe. It is simply too irrational for my tastes. Buddhism postulates a series of heavens and hells. None are eternal.

Alan,

I'm probably not understanding your comments about Buddhism and its heavens and hells.

First, what particular brand of Biddhism?

Second,what is it about a series that would seem any more or less plausible than a single heaven or hell?

Third, how is punishment fairly set in proportion to crime/sin?

How long does a soul remain in a heaven or a hell according to other religions?

What might this reveal about the theological system and its rule maker?

Hi Alvin, the concept is in all branches I believe; perhaps not so much in some as in others and can also be viewed metaphorically. Karma drives things and cause and effect sort of works things out. Actions not beliefs count and the advantage is that you eventually get out.

There are a lot of resources:

http://www.buddhanet.net/

"Hell for eternity, based on belief, just seems to be a strange way of running a universe. It is simply too irrational for my tastes."

Despite what any of us might prefer, it's not our universe, so we don't get to make the rules.

What is more rational? To take someone who has no desire to commune with God, and thrust them into His presence, worshipping Him for all eternity?

Also, people don't go to hell for their beliefs, they go because of their behaviour. It's not "not believing in Jesus" that condemns someone, though believing saves one from just condemnation.

Put another way, a criminal is not punished for rejecting the governor's pardon, he is punished for his crimes. Accepting the pardon would prevent punishment, but its rejection is not the basis for punishment.

As for Buddhism, to what set of moral laws is the individual held accountable? Who arbitrates the laws and their sentences?

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