Faithful to Science

blog on science and religion

Category: ecology (page 1 of 2)

Climate change and freedom

There is a man called Myron Ebell who is referred to in mainstream media as a “climate change skeptic”. In a press conference I saw him saying that regulations designed to help mitigate or reduce the pace of climate change were a restriction on liberty: “the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity in the modern world”.

This is the equivalent of saying that regulations designed to prevent one person from flooding another person’s house are a “restriction on liberty”.  Or it is like saying that laws designed to prevent one group of people from poisoning another group by contaminating the air are a “restriction on liberty”.

It would not matter very much if a man called Myron Ebell said such things, if it were not that Mr Trump, the new president, has invited him to lead policy on environmental issues in his transition team, and Mr Trump now proposes that a man of similar views, Mr Scott Pruitt, should be in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S.A.  But the U.S. Senate does not have to accept this. They have the responsibility of voting one way of the other on Wednesday.

There are threats to freedom and prosperity associated with climate change, but they are in precisely the opposite direction to the one claimed by Mr Ebell. Economic studies repeatedly indicate that we and our children and their children will be better off if we act now to mitigate the problem. There is an international consensus on this. This is not a consensus designed to make life worse! It is a consensus designed to make life better!

I have written about this because climate change is one of the most important issues of our time. It is no longer appropriate, if it ever was, to cross our fingers and hope for the best. We do not have to, and should not, accept the proposed appointment of Mr Pruitt.

American friends: why not send a quick email to your Senator? British friends: let’s find ways to help people be more reasonable about climate change.

 

 

The image and the days (Genesis 1)

Recently I was invited to speak at church about the passage in Genesis chapter 1 where the human race is introduced, and the much-pondered words “in the image of God” are written. You can find the text and some accompanying pictures here:

imagodei_blog           [3 MegaBytes; Microsoft Word file]

Our church web-site also has recordings of the sermons, and this one will be there for a while. The link is here (click ‘Talks’):

Talks

In this post I will simply share a few images and brief comments.

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Rats, peace and ingenuity

a moving story from Sub-Saharan Africa

This week I watched a lovely episode of the BBC documentary series, Ingenious Animals (Oxford Scientific Films), presented by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The episode was about examples of animal intelligence, and the most beautiful example concerned a great big rat.

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The goodness of which it is capable

This post is to complete a sequence about pain and suffering and how we respond. I didn’t want to leave this as a purely philosophical issue. Indeed the substance of my last post was that this is not an area that is correctly addressed that way. Our practical response is more important than any philosophical point-scoring. So here I will first briefly repeat the conclusion so far, and then add a final point.

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A short positive post

Dear regular readers,

this is just to let you know that I realise I have been a bit intermittent posting recently. I have lots of ideas of things to post but have held back a bit while I consider them. The terrible events in Syria and Iraq, and their spill-over to other parts of the world, have been giving all of us pause. Today though I will share a good news story, and will follow this brief post with a light-hearted one in a few days.

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Ecology and global warming

This week I decided to write something about ecology and global warming. I don’t have anything particularly clever or original to say, but this issue has to be part of what we all keep before our consciousness, because it is one of the most significant issues, perhaps the greatest social issue, of our time. By ecology I mean here a group of issues surrounding environmental wisdom and its opposite (which so often results in environmental devastation), species extinction, over-population, and the like. Global warming is, of course, about planet-wide climate, and the social upheaval that will result if climate change continues to grow.

I am not going to write an essay here, but instead offer a list of points that I find myself thinking on when I mull on this pair of issues.

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The Place

image from http://wildlifesnaps.com/search_results.php?species_common=Martin,+House

Carnsore Point, Co. Wexford, Ireland. September 20th, 2009.

 

A poem by R.S. Thomas:

 

The Place

Summer is here.
Once more the house has its
Spray of martins, Proust’s fountain
Of small birds, whose light shadows
Come and go in the sunshine
Of the lawn as thoughts do
In the mind. Watching them fly
Is my business, not as a man vowed
To science, who counts their returns
To the rafters, or sifts their droppings
For facts, recording the wave-length
Of their screaming; my method is so
To have them about myself
Through the hours of this brief
Season and to fill with their
Movement, that it is I they build
In and bring up their young
To return to after the bitter
Migrations, knowing the site
Inviolate through its outward changes.

 

R.S. Thomas, included in R. S. Thomas, Collected Poems: 1945-1990

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And stands about the woodland ride

 
 
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
 
 
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
 
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
 
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
 
 
A. E. Housman (1859–1936)

from A Shropshire Lad (1896) by A. E. Housman (1859–1936).  (copyright policy)

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The recurrent laryngeal nerve

Image by Miroslav Duchacek, Wikimedia Commons, File:Giraffe_standing.jpg.

 
 
The recurrent laryngeal nerve
 
You sleek, fit, timorous, towering beast,
Enormous swan, or mis-shaped horse,
I saw your stately, tall progress
And thought, a triffid, or Queen Bess.
 
Puzzled, or puzzling, as you munch
You seem absorbed, not on your lunch
But on some hint, some alien hunch
That your slim brain-power cannot crunch.
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Soil and Soul (2): review

I will be speaking next Monday (23rd Feb) in Birmingham at an event called “Can Christianity Help Science Improve the World”, alongside Peter Atkins. The event is organised jointly by Christians in Science Birmingham and the University of Birmingham’s Atheist Secular and Humanist society. Arts lecture theatre, 7pm-9pm.

The following are some reflections on Soil and Soil.

Alastair McIntosh’s Soil and Soul (Aurum Press 2001) defies the normal categories of writing. It is political and spiritual at the same time. How do you do that? McIntosh shows the way. He is driven by concern for social justice, and also by the feeling that yes, for goodness’ sake, we are spiritual creatures and are allowed to sing. We are allowed to do dumb things like take our boots off in order to enact physically our recognition of the holiness of place. This does not negate, but rather empowers the crucial exercise of getting facts straight and getting objectivity in view. Also it does not negate but rather empowers the otherwise dull drudgery of writing to an M.P. or organising a petition or getting permission to address a public enquiry.

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