Sorry to be silent for so long, but I’ve been traveling a great deal. I just thought I’d note for those interested that if you’re a student and thinking about grad school and interested in studying religion’s intersection with just about anything, you should look seriously at Notre Dame. The history department just hired Mark Noll away from Wheaton and now the sociology department has hired Christian Smith away from UNC. So you have probably the best historian of American evangelicals (and probably the best historian of American Catholics in John McGreevy) and the best young sociologist of religion, some outstanding political scientists, great law faculty, and very good philosophers to work with. Just a thought…
Get to know David Berlinski. His collection of essays for Commentary magazine is available here.
Nick Lachey, the man-half of your favorite former newlyweds (now getting divorcelywedded), has filed for spousal support from Jessical Simpson.
Have some self-respect man. You’re in your twenties and have both your health and a measure of celebrity. You’re in danger of losing your man-card forever with this petition. Take it back while there’s still time!
We seem to have picked up comments from an author (Carl Olson) at Ignatius Press. Since I happen to be the happy owner of several of their volumes (despite my continuing status as an evangelical “separated brethren” type), I’m going to make it easy for those interested in reading further about the controversy over The Da Vinci Code by clicking here.
I haven’t read Dan Brown’s blockbuster and probably won’t. I’m in the camp that thinks we’re looking at a marketing sensation because the central thesis of the book has not been a recognized serious controversy in the scholarship as far as I know. If someone knows otherwise, please feel free to lay it out in comments to this thread.
I don’t know a lot about blog etiquette, but I know what I like and so I’m reproducing this entire post from The Evangelical Outpost’s Joe Carter:
Let’s Melt the Ice Cap:Evangelicals, Scientific Consensus, and Global Warming
A group of more than 85 influential evangelical leaders has released a statement, the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI), expressing a “biblically driven commitment to curb global warming” and calling on the government to “enact national legislation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that are contributing to global climate change.”
The group’s manifesto, “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call for Action”, includes a FAQ explaining the urgency of the issue. “Millions of people could die in this century because of climate change,” notes the website. “Why? Climate change will make natural disasters like floods, droughts, and hurricanes more damaging.” The site also notes that “few are in denial about the reality of the problem, a scientific consensus that climate change must be addressed has actually existed since 1995.”
Is there a scientific consensus that climate change is occurring? An article in Newsweek appears to provide strong evidence for that claim:
There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production– with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth….
The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it. In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant overall loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually. During the same time, the average temperature around the equator has risen by a fraction of a degree – a fraction that in some areas can mean drought and desolation. Last April, in the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded, 148 twisters killed more than 300 people and caused half a billion dollars’ worth of damage in 13 U.S. states.
To scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world’s weather. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic. “A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale,” warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, “because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century.”
This article would appear to shore up the ECI’s claim that “Climate change, also called global warming, is an urgent problem that can and must be solved.” Except that the article is titled “The Cooling World” and is dated April 28, 1975 during a time when the scientific consensus held that climate change, known back then as global cooling, was leading to a new Ice Age.
After a long history of eschatological predictions that that fail to come to fruition, you’d think that evangelicals would be more skeptical of doomsday scenarios. But like most people, we tend to have short memories and forget that what was once considered “scientific consensus” (global cooling will lead to environmental disaster) and “conventional wisdom” (the population explosion will lead to global famine) isn’t always gospel truth.
We also tend to suffer from “chronological snobbery”, the presumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited, and are prone to believe that since global warming is the consensus in 2006 that it is more likely to be true than the 1975 consensus that global warming was occurring. But if we were wrong in 1975 then perhaps we should be careful of assuming that we are warranted in believing that we are right just because the calendar says it is 2006.
We might also have justification for being skeptical of the idea of “consensus science.” In an intriguing lecture at Caltech titled “Aliens Cause Global Warming” , author Michael Crichton has some harsh words for the oxymoronic concept:
I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.
Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.
A counterargument that is often presented is that since it is possible that global warming is occurring we are better off taking action now than waiting for confirmation that we are correct. Some people have the attitude of the BR-549 song that “Sometimes I gotta’ do somethin’ even if it’s wrong.”
But what we had followed the proposals offered in the late 1970’s to counter global cooling? What if we had followed what Newsweek refers to as the “more spectacular solutions proposed” of melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers? These former solutions are now considered some of the dire consequences of our planet overheating.
But even the less far-fetched proposals can have a devastating impact. For example, there was much hand-ringing over the U.S. refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol even though it would have cost $150 billion annually and have only delayed the warming expected in 2100 by six years. For half that cost, notes Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg, we could provide clean drinking water, sanitation, and basic health care and education for every person in the world.
Almost all policy proposals offered to counter global warming would impede economic growth. The ECI warns that “millions of people could die in this century because of climate change.” But millions of people are already dying every year because of the greatest cause of environmental disaster on the planet: poverty. As Lomborg explains in the latest issue of The Wilson Quarterly:
The single most important environmental problem in the world today is indoor air pollution, caused by poor people cooking and heating their homes with dung and cardboard. The UN estimates that such pollutions causes 2.8 million deaths annually—about the same as HIV/AIDS. The solution, however is not environmental measures but economic changes that let these people get rich enough to afford kerosene.
While Bob Geldof is sponsoring global concerts that “raise awareness”, you won’t find too many celebrities raising money to end “indoor air pollution.” Handing out kerosene simply doesn’t have the same hip cache as handing out condoms. Even if it kills more people than HIV/AIDS, it will never be the issue du jour of the rich and famous.
That is why it is imperative that the evangelical community stand in the gap. Instead of keeping our car’s engine tuned as a way to fight global warming, we need to keep our attention tuned to the realities of our fellow man. Global warming may be the pressing environmental problem in 2106, but in 2006 the urgent ecological concern is poverty.
The original Reform Club was a place where individuals of many different dispositions could socialize, discuss, and yes, argue. Perhaps the best example of the spirit of the club was the friendship and debate between G.K. Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw. The two men could scarcely have been more different. Chesterton was larger than life, jolly, mysterious, and Christian. Shaw was austere, a vegetarian, a great critic of religion. What they shared in common was civility and a common brilliance.
When Mr. Karnick and I opened the Reform Club online we hoped to foster the sort of conversations that happened at the original Club. The basic idea has been in our introductory header for as long as we’ve been posting. Along the way we picked up several other members with different gifts to contribute. We also gained a multi-religious cast. Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and maybe one or two without much religion at all.
The goal of these conversations would be to start with a post and end up with something even more interesting through the comments offered. Commenters might know something interesting to add. A different angle, a new fact, a cheerfully offered critique. The attitude that would keep it all functioning smoothly would be epistemological humility. In other words, we all know we could be wrong. Thus, it makes no sense to blindly assert, to be churlishly insistent, to never admit an error.
Sometimes, we get exactly what we’d hoped for. A discussion is conducted on the plane of intelligent adults committed to civil discourse. We learn something or are stimulated to reconsider or discover a new line of inquiry.
Other times, we get nothing but competition and not the kind that makes you better. No, it’s the kind of argument that occurs between very little persons who have not reached adulthood. It is an enervating thing. One that causes one to despair.
Speaking for myself, I know I haven’t always had the patience of a saint. The patience of a Saint Bernard, perhaps. But I am always open to genuine conversation, the kind in which the disputants are not constantly engaging in ad hominem, committing the genetic fallacy, etc.
All of this is a long way of saying, if you want argument at the level of a radio call-in show or some of the less sophisticated blogs, please take it elsewhere. We are trying to cultivate something more like a graduate school or faculty lounge atmosphere. Everyone who participates should make the others better. We are not looking for an endless contest of slaps. Real scholars (credentialed or otherwise) don’t waste their time with that crap.
I’ve been harsh on a couple of occasions, but that is primarily because I’ve twice recently caught a commenter freely and arrogantly asserting facts and conclusions which are blatantly and obviously incorrect. In the future, I would like to see an ultra-amicable mode of discussion and yes, disputation.
Here’s to a better blog from here forward.
The Claremont Institute has a more detailed analysis than I offered. Here’s a relevant chunk of the text:
But the commonality, the philosophical link, is swiftly identified once the Democrats leave the stage. In study after study, authors say that “racial and economic conservatism” married white Southerners to the GOP after 1964. So whereas historically accidental events must have led racists to vote for good men like FDR, after 1964 racists voted their conscience. How convenient. And how easy it would be for, say, a libertarian conservative like Walter Williams to generate a counter-narrative that exposes statism as the philosophical link between segregation and liberalism’s economic populism.
Yet liberal commentators commit a further, even more obvious, analytic error. They assume that if many former Wallace voters ended up voting Republican in the 1970s and beyond, it had to be because Republicans went to the segregationist mountain, rather than the mountain coming to them. There are two reasons to question this assumption. The first is the logic of electoral competition. Extremist voters usually have little choice but to vote for a major party which they consider at best the lesser of two evils, one that offers them little of what they truly desire. Segregationists were in this position after 1968, when Wallace won less than 9% of the electoral college and Nixon became president anyway, without their votes. Segregationists simply had very limited national bargaining power. In the end, not the Deep South but the GOP was the mountain.
Second, this was borne out in how little the GOP had to “offer,” so to speak, segregationists for their support after 1968, even according to the myth’s own terms. Segregationists wanted policies that privileged whites. In the GOP, they had to settle for relatively race-neutral policies: opposition to forced busing and reluctant coexistence with affirmative action. The reason these policies aren’t plausible codes for real racism is that they aren’t the equivalents of discrimination, much less of segregation.
Why did segregationists settle for these policies rather than continue to vote Democratic? The GOP’s appeal was mightily aided by none other than the Democratic Party itself, which was lurching leftward in the 1970s, becoming, as the contemporary phrase had it, the party of “acid, amnesty, and abortion.” Among other things, the Democrats absorbed a civil rights movement that was itself expanding, and thus diluting, its agenda to include economic redistributionism, opposition to the Vietnam War, and Black Power. The many enthusiasms of the new Democratic Party drove away suburban middle-class voters almost everywhere in the country, not least the South.
Given that trend, the GOP did not need to become the party of white solidarity in order to attract more voters. The fact that many former Wallace supporters ended up voting Republican says a lot less about the GOP than it does about segregationists’ collapsing political alternatives. Kevin Phillips was hardly coy about this in his Emerging Republican Majority. He wrote in 1969 that Nixon did not “have to bid much ideologically” to get Wallace’s electorate, given its limited power, and that moderation was far more promising for the GOP than anything even approaching a racialist strategy. While “the Republican Party cannot go to the Deep South”—meaning the GOP simply would not offer the policies that whites there seemed to desire most—”the Deep South must soon go to the national GOP,” regardless.
Good stuff. Reasonable, non-craptacular stuff.
After reading some of the leftist commentary on my CSK funeral post, I remembered this great line from Billy Madison:
“Mr. _______, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”
I think I’ll take a minute and actually deal with some of the poop being shoveled here. Trolloc thinks the GOP is permanently racist and sexist. Never mind that it is the party that both freed the slaves and obtained the vote for women and blacks.
All the goodwill is erased because the GOP (or Richard Nixon, at least) had a southern strategy to capitalize on the disaffection of southern whites over civil rights. What does that look like?
The GOP became the party of law and order in contrast to the leftward tilt of the McGovernite faction. They advertised their toughness on crime relentlessly. Ooooooh. How racist.
The GOP opposed affirmative action. Look out! Never mind that opposing affirmative action fits perfectly with the party’s traditional insistence on limited government and freedom of contract. It has to be a racist move. There couldn’t be another possibility could there? HMMMMMM.
And on women, the GOP opposes abortion. That must be because of a desperate desire to control women and keep them domesticated. Never mind that the party claims another justification, which is to protect unborn life from physical violence. And oh, by the way, to argue against the notion that the woman owns the fetus as property just as slaves were property. What’s this? Another historical connection to the GOP of the past. Why how can it be? I thought this was the new GOP turned bad after the great wonderful GOP of Lincoln in the past.
Suffice it to say that the party and its members can hold certain principled positions with great sincerity, but rather than deal with the actual intellectual and even spiritual content of those positions there will always be persons who will rather cry racist, sexist, etc.
When Rosalyn Carter said of Ronald Reagan, “He makes us comfortable with our prejudices,” that was her way of avoiding the deep insufficiencies of her husband’s leadership and the emergence of the GOP as a successful populist party cutting into traditional Democrat strongholds.
Yeah, the GOP won the southerners, but guess what? They won the new southerners and often not the old ones. How many have families like mine where all the grandparents (from the patently racist period) support the Democrats TO THIS DAY (FDR, you know) while the younger progeny are Republicans to the core? I’ve got news for you. The switch is not due to a change in GOP racial policy (which there never has been). The switch is due to a successful combination of economic sanity (i.e. not socialism or socialism lite) and a particular brand of philosophico-religious morality that emphasizes the sanctity of life.
And oh, I forgot, the GOP actually wanted to win the Cold War. That made a wee difference, too.
After writing all this, I couldn’t help but remember the example of one Barry Goldwater, the predecessor of Reagan who got toasted by LBJ largely due to sympathy for the dead President Kennedy and some mighty vicious campaign tactics.
Goldwater’s family department stores had always been integrated. He had himself experienced discrimination at prominent golf courses because of his Jewish background. Goldwater had once responded to a golf course attendant, “I’m half Jewish, can I play nine holes?” Nevertheless, LBJ’s Democrats never thought twice about labeling him a racist for his principled opposition to federal civil rights legislation.
I used to love to listen to Public Enemy. That was back in the days when I had absolutely no critical engagement with the message of music I liked.
(Of course, I have to backtrack a little and say the evangelical in me identified quite fully with the PE classic “Burn, Hollywood Burn.”)
Eventually, I experienced my own growth of consciousness and realized I had to stop shelling out dollars to celebrities, fashionistas, television writers, and moviemakers sowing puerile crap into the tragically open (read nonreflective) minds of the millions. That was the end of me and Public Enemy.
I thought about the rap group today after reading through more puerile crap from the Rev. Joseph Lowery and former Pres. Carter spoken against the current President Bush. I said puerile crap. I should have said puerile, classless crap.
On this particular occasion, I’m taking more offense at the classlessness than the puerility. Coretta Scott King was being honored and mourned. Her legacy is rich. She was an ultra-effective preacher’/activist’s/prophet’s wife and suffered many indignities stoically. She was also a political figure who did not descend into one-note hackery. The lovely Mrs. King, for example, was a great advocate for school choice. Her creative engagement with the issues stood in stark contrast with the advanced boorishness of some of her contemporaries. I’ll avoid naming names.
Do you think a lady like that would like to see an honored guest (the president, no less) called out and abused at her funeral? Do you think she would have given her permission? Do you think she would appreciate seeing her funeral turned into a rally? Paul Wellstone might have appreciated what was done at his funeral. Decent though he was, he also had enough of the “workers of the world unite” thing going on to enjoy it. I think Mrs. King would simply be appalled and probably is appalled.
She might also have noted that it was Bobby Kennedy, not George Bush uno or dos who had her husband’s phone tapped. She might have been offended enough to call the bad hosts of her good name on the carpet.
Talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic: Blood for Oil.
Athletes need to stay away from Campbell Soup. I offer you the record:
Figure Skater Nancy Kerrigan carries the Campbell Soup banner. She is assaulted by a lackey of Tonya Harding and gets ripped off for the gold medal at the Olympics.
Reggie White of the Green Bay Packers stars in the first “Me and My Mom” commercials for Campbell’s. He becomes embroiled in controversy over remarks given to the Wisconsin legislature, loses the soup deals, and dies young.
Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles replaces White in the “Me and My Mom” series. He has a terrible performance in the Super Bowl, gets cancer in the form of Terrell Owens, and ends up on the sidelines with injuries.
I’ve heard Jerome Bettis was shooting one with his mom in Detroit . . .
By linking to this website, I have set up your weekend as well as it can be set up. You will be entertained and will go about in a general haze of frivolity and happiness for days.
I’ve tried the nice approach. If you don’t do it, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t like to be you.