November 5, 2018: The betrayal of Christ: global warming denial

I get prickly about a few things.

Well… maybe more than a few. But I’m most prickly about liars.

I get prickly when I catch myself lying. My deceit is never so large as to lie about porn star adultery, stealing millions from students at my fake university, Russian money laundering or treason. Nothing like that. My lies are exaggerations fueled by the thrill of talking too much. With time I’ve come to hear a cautionary voice. I halt before the offense or pause and correct. Rarely now do I get away with it.

That voice came from my parents, still alive in my head. But the teaching came not only from their moral lessons of Great Depression hardship but from what I learned in Sunday school as a boy. “Jesus said, ‘Seek the truth, and it will set you free,’” I was told, and I never forgot it. [1]

By traditional standards, I’m no longer a Christian because I don’t take mythic elements like miracles, virgin birth, and resurrection from the dead as real. Almost all gods in antiquity, centuries or millennia before Jesus, performed miracles, were virgin born and resurrected from the dead. For me, these are distractions from the teachings of Jesus as one of the great philosophers. And a unique one, hence the designation Chistos, worthy of reverence in another sense. [2]

If there’s one thing I do worship, it’s truth, likely born from those youthful lessons. In those younger days, the political Right in America stood—sometimes—for objective morality based on a version of Natural Law (i.e. human nature). They respected our Constitution and the spirit of compromise our Founders saw as central to republican democracy. They saw science as the Western Way that would defeat Soviet Communism in the space race. Above all, when I was young, the Right tried to live by the teachings of Jesus Christ, at least in my house.

I once reported here the penance I served as a four-year-old, having stolen five 1₵ Tootsie Rolls for the family. [3] I noted how after a series of immoral examples in adulthood, I sought to live a more truthful and moral life. I later came to believe that probing the depths of physics in the workplace served this because, at its root, science is a quest for Truth in nature with a capital T. If you get the science wrong or lie about it or satisfy your politics instead, whatever you build will… not… work. Conversely, this Truth of science is represented by those billions of devices that work just as science said they would. Eventually, with the brazen lies enabling the 2003 Iraq invasion, I came to realize I had to divorce my Right-wing tribe perverted after Reagan and stop lying for it. This doesn’t mean I joined the Left. They lie about different things. But since those younger days, the Right has betrayed every ideal they once stood for. Morality no longer matters. [4] The Constitution is too cumbersome for obstructionist governance seeking authoritarianism. [5] Instead of champions for science like the Apollo mission, the Right’s spokesman, Rush Limbaugh, broadcasts anti-science homilies claiming, “Science is one of the four corners of deceit.” [6] A message transmitted over radio waves discovered by science, with electronics built by science. Much like Al-Ghazali’s successful 11th-century sermons against rational thought that threatened belief in the Koran, only to destroy the world’s preeminent culture. [7] But most striking, and wedded to America’s anti-science movement, is the Right’s rejection of Christ’s instruction. Instead of the truth to set them free, truth is willfully abandoned. Notably, when it comes to manmade global warming, one of this planet’s greatest threats since an asteroid extinguished 75% of all life 66 million years ago. [8]

After a career where facts are the stock-in-trade, I’m still surprised to see what sells in the world outside. Many Americans, perhaps most now, have little tolerance for truth, facts, or morality. All are obstacles to winning their political arguments. As an example, psychologists Boven and Sherman found a majority of Republicans surveyed think manmade global warming is true, but they can’t say so because it violates tribal doctrine. [9] Given that the Left accepts the science, the Right prefers they betray Christ by seeking the lie rather than admit liberals are correct. [10] More than mere adolescent defiance, Right-wing politicians make policies and laws that kill science funding, block solutions, and harass scientists like all despotic regimes that target intellectuals first. [11] Since when did the Right vilify innovators, entrepreneurs, and capitalists who solve hard problems to get rich and create jobs?

I recently witnessed this in a debate about global warming with a conservative man. At first, I assumed that as a very devout Christian, he sought the truth. “The cost to fix global warming is too high,” he said. “What will it cost to lose Miami, New York, and LA underwater?” I asked. [12] For vital interests, like trillions in defense, do we shirk our duty because the cost is high? “It’s been warm before.” “And we know why,” I responded. “Does that make manmade global warming OK?” There have been murders before. Does that justify the next one? “What about CO2 from fires, and volcanoes? There’s always been fires and volcanoes.” Measured in the geologic record, what climate scientists will never find in all earth history is the much larger 30 to 40 gigatons of CO2 jacked into the atmosphere per year by humans—until now. [13] And the comment that verified the source of these remarks, “Limbaugh’s not anti-science. He’s anti-junk-science.” Note Limbaugh’s reference above. What is junk science to Limbaugh is whatever he says it is—whatever violates his dogma. [14]

Despite all this man’s church participation, Christian retreats, and Bible study, what I realized was, he didn’t want answers. He didn’t seek truth. He wanted to win what he viewed as a political argument. His talking points were meant to mint that paramount American political currency of doubt. Doubt in order to deny answers because people like this hate liberals more than they love truth. Since Limbaugh and comrades define global warming as liberal, no logic, no measurements, or truth will change the mind of True Believers. Pun intended, it was a Revelation: for these types of Christians their political tribe is more important than Christ.

Not only is there no initiative among deniers to seek the truth, as in this instance, but answers provided are labeled junk science with another red herring lined up to thwart resolution. Instead of sound-bite answers to sound-bite questions, when I offered the climate science, he ended the conversation with, “I’m not going to listen to your facts and data.” The dogma was safe. As Hoffer wrote, “To rely on…reason is heresy and treason… [the True Believer] cannot be freighted by danger nor disheartened by obstacles nor baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence.” [15] If facts and data are rejected, not only is Christ’s search for truth jettisoned, but we have an entirely different quasi-religious creed to coddle lies. [16] A creed that dare not be challenged lest the Radio Oracle label us liberal.

By the time this conversation was over, I was a little prickly.

But there are more elaborate maneuvers than Limbaugh. A year ago, I received a video making rounds on the Internet. It was the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Ivar Giaever who just “proved” global warming a pseudoscience. As a member of the field I watched Giaever’s 30-minute video with interest, then created a 10 slide presentation refuting every one of his deceptions. It wasn’t hard, even for an average hillbilly, hayseed plowboy like me. Apparently the Nobel doesn’t confer honesty, though it does garner connections to cash as Giaever is paid by global warming deniers: the Heartland Institute in Chicago. Having completed my presentation I blanketed my email list with it. From scientists and engineers I knew would examine its contents with a fine-toothed comb, to those deniers I’d received it from. Yet even these Limbaugh disciples were silent. They knew enough about the game not to venture into verifiable measurements and logic. Forget Christ’s instruction. Better to keep their distance from Truth than jeopardize clan affiliation. It’s informative to see just how fraudulent Giaever’s sham is. A link to his video and my presentation is here and in references below. [17]

The science that makes planes, trains, automobiles, computers, TV, and radio work just as science says they will, is precisely the same science that proves manmade global warming a fact—physics and chemistry. No difference. The central quest in science meets Christ’s guidance in complete accord—at the Truth.

It’s remarkable what science can do. [18] Remarkable that while dependent on science in their daily lives Americans can lie about it over the airwaves or right to your face. And remarkable that many of these same people call themselves Christians. [19] Christ’s teachings are a matter of convenience to them, practiced on Sunday morning, or to patch their fears when needed. The ultimate hypocrites, the ultimate liars, and that makes me really prickly. As a non-believer, in practice, I’m more Christian than they are.

But so what if people violate what they once stood for, or if they deny science? One reason is China. China is spending $361B on the science of renewables, creating 13 million new jobs over the next four years. They’ve committed $6T (that’s trillion) to low carbon power by 2040. [20] This deliberately targets American foreign influence with its newfound oil and gas vs. Chinese green power. Meanwhile, America hobbles technology, investment, and policy that would create wealth and jobs with solutions because Americans believe what they’re told to believe by a celebrity on the radio. Another celebrity who wouldn’t know science from a kumquat. Welcome to the Chinese Century.

But another reason to care is deeper in America itself. If, as Trump said, he wants to avoid “shithole countries,” he should leave the one he’s in. Not a material shithole, a moral one. Denial of truth from the man on the street to political leaders speaks to character, a topic Americans no longer raise for obvious reasons. Coupled to this weakness are the moral consequences of science rejection by the Right and Left we’ve considered before. [21] The upshot is, when science is ditched, so too is the reason it’s built on, and with reason goes morality. Why? Because morality requires we know what really happened for just decisions to be made—essential for republican democracy.

It’s a malignant moment here in America. We’ve the potential to rival 11th century Islam, or through political pressures bastardize science as communists did with “Proletariat Science” that starved to death 20 to 40 million people. If Americans want America to be “great again” they’ll have to learn how to tell the truth.

Until next time, January 7, 2019.

[1] John 8:32. According to the New Jerusalem Bible (Doubleday, 1985, pg. 1763), what this verse actually says is, “You will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Its context is set by John 8:31: “To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said: If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples.” Some religious scholars claim this truth is the truth about God. But if God created the physical universe, and given science is merely how we understand that universe, then is the truth of science not also the truth of God? In Ephesians 4:25, Paul says, “So from now on there must be no more lies. Speak the truth to one another…”
[2] The Greek word “Christos” is translated as “the Messiah” or “anointed one.” While I find the universal nature of mythical elements in religion in regards to human psychology and traditions fascinating, my position on divinity is similar to that of the fictional character I created in The Father, a man named Morgan who debates with his devout son John: “What I believe, John, is that there can be no greater hero than a man who would live by the truth all the way to his doom…If Jesus was God, or a god, where’s the risk in death on the cross? There’s no loss. No permanent consequence to his suffering. But for the man who does this, who knows his life will end if he stands for justice, that is greatness worthy of worship.”
[3] Brett Williams, September 4, 2017: Has America become a nation of liars?
[4] Danielle Kurtzleben, Under Trump, America's religious right is rewriting its code of ethics , NPR, October 23, 2016.
Randall Balmer, POLL: White Evangelicals Have Warmed To Politicians Who Commit 'Immoral' Acts , The Guardian, February 18, 2018
[5] Thomas B. Edsall, The Contract With Authoritarianism , New York Times, April 5, 2018.
[6] Rush Limbaugh: "The Four Corners of Deceit are government, academia, science, and the media," in The Four Corners of Deceit: Prominent Liberal Social Psychologist Made It All Up , April 29, 2013.
Heather Horn, Is the Right Wing Anti-Science? , The Atlantic, 9.10.2010.
[7] Pervez Hoodbhoy, Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle For Rationality, Zed, 1991, pg. 126.
[8] Global warming is but one of earth’s great threats. Others include habitat loss, mostly due to agriculture for almost 8 billion humans. Another is simply eating species into oblivion like the 95% of tuna to vanish in the last 20 years. Another is pollution. Another is the wild animal trade driving species into extinction garnering a bonus with higher prices before they are poached out of existence. See “Loved To Death,” Scientific American October, 2017.
[9] Leaf Van Boven and David Sherman, Actually, Republicans Do Believe in Climate Change , New York Times, July 28, 2018.
[10] My interpretation, not Boven and Sherman’s.
[11] Oklahoma Republican Senator Jim Inhofe claims global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated against the American people.” He’s chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. See, Brad Johnson, Inhofe: God Says Global Warming Is A Hoax , ThinkProgress, March 9, 2012. Texas Republican Representative and science denier Lamar Smith has built his reputation on harassment of climate scientists and attorneys general with 25 subpoenas, from a committee that issued only one since its creation in 1958. Smith is chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. See, Lisa Rein, House science chairman gets heat in Texas race for being a global warming skeptic , Washington Post, November 7, 2016. For harassment of scientists see, Phil Plait, Scientists Stand Up To Congressional Attacks , SLATE, June 2, 2016.
[12] Having listened to Limbaugh for 22 years, I was already familiar with his sound bites, with ample sound bite responses. Jordan B. Peterson would say my response was in keeping with the true cultural warrior by answering a talking point with a talking point, thus denying the potential for resolution, stimulating the next Limbaugh talking point. A more revealing response to “It will cost too much,” may have been, “How much will it cost?” Since that cost would be unknown it could be asked, “Then how can we claim it costs too much?” Thus asking the talking point promoter to ask themselves instead of trying to skewer them, which is a natural bad habit. As Michael Shermer and Steven Pinker have noted, facts and data harden opposing orthodoxy in today’s America. As stated, truth is an obstacle to winning political arguments.
[13] The volcanic effect on climate depends on the type of volcano. Short term effects can cool, not heat, through albedo increase of ejecta (see Toba eruption). Volcanoes place approximately 0.3 gigatons of CO2 in the atmosphere per year, or about 1/60th human annual injection according to NOAA , June 15, 2016. At time of writing, 2018 California CO2 output from fires appears not yet available. But 2015 data show about 25M tons of CO2 from California fires: David R. Baker, Huge wildfires can wipe out California’s greenhouse gas gains , San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 22, 2017. There are of course fires worldwide. Though forest fire CO2 output is decreasing because the forests are being replaced by CO2 producing farmland. See, Daisy Dunne, CO2 emissions from wildfires have fallen over past 80 years, study finds , Carbon Brief, 7 April 2018.
[14] There’s a parallel between Limbaugh’s anti-science declarations and modern art in an old joke: “A modern artist is anyone who says they are. And modern art is anything they say it is.” Notice, Limbaugh also relishes his iPhone and consumer tech. But as America’s most talented propagandist, he also claims to be a Christian. I did not say he’s not a hypocrite.
[15] Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Perennial, 1989. It goes without saying this does not apply universally to all Christians, nor that a single group (like Christians) are subject to this self-deception, which happens to be the point of Hoffer’s book.
[16] One can see a potential flaw in this argument. If any validated science must be treated like gospel lest we reject the teachings of Jesus, doesn’t that mean we’ve traded one dogma for another? Not if we adhere to the practice of science, based on a vital and healthy doubt. A recognition of fallibility that preserves open minded examination in the interest of truth. As science is not a dogma it invites discoveries that expand our understanding of nature, even to the point of upending our current understanding for a better one. (See Michael Polanyi’s Meaning.) We award such rebels with Nobels. Only in the extraordinary case of an Ivar Giaever are such people liars. Science is an open, not closed practice, where lies cannot survive open scrutiny from strangers around the world applying the scientific method.
[17]. 10 slide Giaever rebuttal . The careful viewer will find I violated one cardinal sin in the document: Never fail to provide a reference. See slide 6, lower right-hand corner. It comes from Climate Science . Sin rectified.
[18] When it comes to global warming, climate scientists can even judge the source of individual carbon atoms in carbon dioxide molecules as from living sources or fossil fuels. With radioactive C14 produced daily in the stratosphere, the CO2 molecule with its lone carbon atom from recent emissions like forest fires contain C14 because plants ingest it freshly made. But with a 6000 year half-life, in about 10 half-life cycles, or 60,000 years, C14 produced today will disappear. After millions of years buried underground, how much C14 do fossil fuels have? Zero. With total atmospheric volume and known variation over altitude and region, at 411 ppm CO2, the annual excess matches annual fossil fuel inventories sold. This NOAA site illuminates the matter, with pages navigated before and after the one linked to here, elaborating details and definitions. Written by a student it’s accessible to anybody.
[19] This entire issue is a lesson in motivated-reason, and motivated-morality. Motivated-reason, defined by Michael Shermer, is the acceptance of validated evidence only if it supports what you already believe. Likewise, it rejects validated evidence that refutes what you already believe. What I call motivated-morality follows the same logic. Applying mortality only to the other tribe while allowing our own tribe every vulgarity. This act is pronounced by evangelical Christians who ranked morality as most critical for a president during Bill Clinton’s sexual thrills. Now, under Trump, this same group ranks morality of a president among their least important measures.
[20] China’s $361B green technologies . China’s $6T for low carbon power: Amy Myers Jaffe, Green Giant: Renewable Energy and Chinese Power , Foreign Affairs, pg. 87. Myers Jaffe reports, with China’s push on batteries and electric cars they expect to be gasless by 2040.
[21] Brett Williams, March 6, 2017: Why America’s anti-science movement is a moral matter. Part I: The Right . Brett Williams, January 1, 2018: Why America’s anti-science movement is a moral matter: Part II, The Left
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Published on November 05, 2018 08:40
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