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.
Sorry to go blog-silent for a while. International events have once again intruded on the things I would have liked to write about. The change of administration in America has caught so much attention, mine included, that it is hard to write about anything else. But I haven’t forgotten that this is a science and religion blog, so I will try not to go too far off that theme.
In its early days, the movement called National Socialism in Germany did not look like a horror story about to happen. It looked ok to most people. You had to be discerning to smell a rat. Here are some of the features that fascism was showing before it swelled into outright violence and totalitarianism.
The word “secular” refers to an important principle, but it is one that is widely misunderstood, and the word is used in two very different (almost opposite) ways, which leads to confusion. This touches mostly on politics and governance, but it connects also to science and many other human endeavours.
In the following I will first outline two ideas which I will call simply P and x. Then I will discuss the meaning of the word “secular”, and the fact that we need to develop better ways of speaking clearly.
You can find much discussion of the concept of faith in the talks and books in the resources section of this blog. Here I will say some more about the roles of faith and reason.
Reason is about being receptive to persuasion, and honest enough to follow a sequence of steps where the connections can be shown and seen.
Faith is essentially a kind of willingness combined with a sense of value.
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.
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.
The above image is from www.nature.org.
I recently finished reading Alastair McIntosh’s wonderful book Soil and Soul (Aurum Press 2001). Next week I will write my own thoughts on the book as a whole. This week I would like simply to present an extract. Here it is (starting on page 31 of the paperback edition):
It would have been around 1970 that the fishing started to change in the Hebrides. I was coming up to fifteen years old and it was a very sudden thing; disturbingly sudden. We’d put to sea and find ourselves catching nothing, without apparent reason. The tide would be normal. There’d be no hint of east in the wind. Just nothing. Very dead, as Finlay would say. Conditions would be like that for about two weeks, and then the fish would come back in. And then: nothing again. So, very dead. Why?