The Long View 2007-12-13: The Bali Conference and Its Hecklers; Plus: Spinning Immanuel Kant


Unlike the Metropolis post, this blog of John J. Reilly’s is mostly just commentary on current events. The Kant election-style attack ad is pretty funny though.

The Bali Conference and Its Hecklers; Plus: Spinning Immanuel Kant

If you want the Party Line on the Climate Change Conference now underway in Bali, you can find it here. As I write this, the conference seems like a wonderful idea, since the temperature there is about 35C/95F while an ice storm is just beginning here. On a more general level, I have waffled enough on the climate issue that I don't take my own position on the matter seriously anymore. My current thinking (as of 8:00 AM Thursday) is this: I am 60% convinced that significant anthropogenic climate changes have occurred in recent decades and will continue in this century; I am 40% convinced that recent changes in climate are caused by fluctuations in the solar magnetosphere that began about 40 years ago, and that these changes can be expected to cease now that the sun is calming down again. Another five to ten years should tell the tale, I think.

Meanwhile, for readers not content with the Party Line, here is what the hecklers at the Conference are saying:

[Australian scientist Dr. David Evans] who believes the UN has heavily politicized science, [and] warned there is going to be a "dangerous time for science" ahead [said:]

"We have a split here. Official science driven by politics, money and power, goes in one direction. Unofficial science, which is more determined by what is actually happening with the [climate] data, has now started to move off in a different direction" away from fears of a man-made climate crisis, Evans explained.

"The two are splitting. This is always a dangerous time for science and a dangerous time for politics. Historically science always wins these battles but there can be a lot of causalities [sic] and a lot of time in between," he concluded.

Far be it from me to sound gloomy, but Olaf Stapleton had some thoughts in Last and First Men about the final victory of Official Science:

And not even specialists might indulge in reasoning and experiments without obtaining a license for the particular research. The license was expensive, and was only granted if the goal in view could be shown to be an increase of world activity. In old times certain persons of morbid curiosity had dared to criticize the time-honored methods of doing things, and had suggested "better" methods not convenient to the Sacred Order of Scientists. This had to be stopped. By the fourth millennium of the World State the operation of civilization had become so intricately stereotyped that novel situations of a major order never occurred.

This is not my scenario, but as Hegel used to say, it's always something.

* * *

Speaking of Australia, we can only deplore the editorial standards at Danny Yee's Blog for permitting a link to this exercise in gutter politics:

Happily, at this blog, we have no standards to ignore.

* * *

As for politics at a higher level, Steve Chapman agrees that Mitt Romney's membership in the Church of Latter Day Saints should not be a bar to Romney's candidacy for president, but finds little merit in Romney's recent speech that argued the point. According to Chapman

Mitt Romney is worried about religious intolerance. He fears religious and nonreligious people will unite to punish him because of his Mormon faith. He thinks it would be much more in keeping with America's noblest traditions if Mormons and other believers joined together to punish people of no faith....Like John F. Kennedy, who said in 1960 that the presidency should not be "tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group," Romney said there should be no religious test for this office. "A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith," he said.

Rejected because of his faith, no. But rejected for his lack of faith? That's another question. Romney evinces a powerful aversion to skeptics. "We need to have a person of faith lead the country," he said in February, which sounds like a religious test to me.

We should keep in mind a distinction. The Religious Test Clause of the Constitution (Article VI, section 3: " religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”) deals with the qualifications for office. It is like the provision that presidents must be born in the United States, or that members of the House of Representatives must be at least 25 years of age. The Clause deals not at all with what arguments a candidate for office may propose to the electorate. An election could be fought over the validity of the Filioque Clause without violating the Religious Test Clause, or indeed the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. If you can vote for a candidate because you share his preference for a baseball team, then you can vote for a candidate because you approve or deplore the candidate's religious views.

* * *

Finally, linking Bali, heckling, and religious views, we have this comment from Benedict XVI:

Pope Benedict criticised climate-change prophets of doom Pope Benedict XVI has launched a surprise attack on climate change prophets of doom, warning them that any solutions to global warming must be based on firm evidence and not on dubious ideology.

The leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics suggested that fears over man-made emissions melting the ice caps and causing a wave of unprecedented disasters were nothing more than scare-mongering.

I suspect that summary from the UK's Daily Mail is blunter than what the pope said, but such an observation would be in character. Benedict is very interested in eschatology, but, in the Augustinian tradition, he really does not like apocalyptic as it is conventionally understood.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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