Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Decadence and the Demographic Winter

Soeren Kern is a Senior Analyst for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Strategic Studies Group. In today's Brussels Journal, he has an article entitled: "Spain Deconstructs the Traditional Family." Here's a sample:
Spaniards are currently debating a controversial plan by Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to liberalize the country’s abortion law. The new measure would obligate the public healthcare system to provide free abortions without any restrictions for women 16 years and over up to the 14th week of pregnancy, and up to 22 weeks if there is a risk to the mother’s health or if the foetus is deformed. Women can also undergo the procedure after 22 weeks if doctors certify that the foetus has a serious deformity or incurable illness. . . .

But Spain’s real reality is that abortion, in addition to corroding Spanish attitudes toward life, is also imploding the Spanish population. According to the Madrid-based Institute for Family Policy (IFP), abortion is now the number one cause of death in Spain. By way of illustration, it says that every twenty days the number of abortions equals the annual number of people killed in traffic accidents. The IFP estimates that more than one million abortions have been carried out in Spain since 1985. As a result, Spain now has one of the lowest replacement fertility rates in the world. . . .

As Zapatero fiddles with his post-modern “progressive” vision of morality, Spain is burning. Illegal immigration, joblessness, radical secularism, corruption, divorce, violent crime, drug abuse, alcoholism, obesity, sexual assault, murder, abortion and hedonistic utilitarianism are all up. Meanwhile, Judeo-Christian values, traditional marriage, personal responsibility, academic performance, respect for parental authority, pursuit of the work ethic, economic growth and procreation are all down. Many observers link both the cause and the effect of Spain’s societal troubles to a breakdown of the traditional family.
In the last statistics that I saw, Spain's reproductive rate (childbirths per woman) was 1.1. Even if it's slight higher than that, it is only slightly so. Maintaining a society's reproductive equilibrium requires a 2.1 reproductive rate. Historically no society has ever recovered from a 1.9 rate or lower. It is statistically impossible to recover from a 1.3 rate or lower.

The Spanish situation is worse than many in Europe, but no European society is at or above the reproductive rate required for cultural stability.

As with any statistics, one can quibble with a number here or there, but that's not the point. The perfectly clear point is that the 1970s panic about overpopulation has produced the greatest crisis in the history of Europe. What is passing away is a civilization. It is part of our civilization, and the forces that are destroying it are at work in our own society.

Please take a look at this video.


Athos said...

One should never underestimate the mimetic power of the cinema. About the sole example of a happy, rowdy, boisterous family filled with real individuals is the Weasley family from Rowling's Harry Potter books/films. Is it any wonder that denizens of a dumbed-down west all try to be James Bond, or Carrie Bradshaw, or something in between?

Kevin said...

The issue is fewer White children, yes? I will give the benefit of the doubt and believe you are not consciously a bigot. This Demographic Winter scare, as the BBC article mentions is based more on preconceptions not on numbers.

Now for a few reports and statistics on the matter.

Here is an article with graphs and such about Muslim fertility.

Let's remember that Muslims are still a small percentage, even in France.


I still hold that the world is overpopulated already. Declining overall birth rates may well be a good thing. We can't keep adding people indiscriminately without consequences.
Obviously how the birth rate declines is of moral importance. However the decline may be necessary if we are going to avoid a catastrophic collapse.
May I suggest the book Collapse by Jared Diamond for a perspective of what happens to societies which refuse to adapt to the pressures upon them?

I hope you are feeling better Gil.
Ad Astra Per Aspera,

Mike O'Malley said...

Kevin plays the race-card:

Kevin said...
The issue is fewer White children, yes? I will give the benefit of the doubt and believe you are not consciously a bigot.

But Kevin will give Gil Bailie "the benefit of the doubt"! What a gentlemen!


I invite readers to visit Kevin's personal blog and to read the examples of bigotry upon display therein.

Kevin said...

I lived with a bigot all of my growing up years. My grandmother was a virile anti-semite. If I say that I give someone the benefit of the doubt that their comments are not intentionally prejudicial, I mean it specifically as worded.
I assume he does not mean to be promoting white vs. brown birth as good vs. bad. My point is that the demographic winter is a chimera and we do not need to fear. If those from outside Europe come to the cities, they seem to learn that having more than 1 or 2 babies is economically unfeasible and they will be just like us.
Of course if you want to come over to my blog and chat I heartily welcome that.
kevinskomments.blogspot.com. :)
Ad Astra Per Aspera,

Mike O'Malley said...

I got fired from a job I desperately needed at the time in no small part because I am Roman Catholic. I've got Blacks, Hispanics and Jews in the family. One of my kin saved a copy of the old employment office sign: "Irish need not apply". I don't need to be instructed about bigotry.

I'll offer two points of advise:
1)- conduct a mediative reading of The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy, by Thomas Sowell.


2)- Look in the mirror before you push the send button of posts like that. You should consider thoughtfully New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson's response to criticism by Black African Anglican bishops the effect that those critical African churchmen had not been down out of the trees long enough to understand gay rights.

Athos said...

The issue is fewer White children, yes? I will give the benefit of the doubt and believe you are not consciously a bigot.

Kevin, whenever we speak - or write - we say a great deal more about ourselves than about any one else. Seems to be a vast, polarizing problem today, projection.

Dante nailed the problem in Cantos 14-16; namely, we are currently in an age of psychological sodomy - barrenness.

I am thankful that over the past 7 years I have heard superb homilies given by priests from Ghana, Thailand, India, the Dominican Republic .. amidst a parish of Catholics of an even greater racial and ethnic mix.

I doubt greatly that Gil meant "fewer White children." Fewer children is the concern in his heart, IMO.

You might want to own your notion and give Gil a mea culpa.

Gil Bailie said...

It has nothing whatsoever to do with race. It has to do with culture, precisely the preservation of the culture we now call Europe, which will simply cease to exist if it continues to renounce the religious and moral tradition that fashioned it and which remains its sine qua non. The gloomy demographic reality is simply a glaring symptom of the hopelessness that is overtaking the post-Christian West.

Unknown said...

The French could die out? Really? Would that be such a bad thing??

This film preview reminds me of the current TV series, "Life After People" without all the nifty special effects, or speculative inquiries about why they went away. In this scenario, the people have not only not gone away; they've even managed to increase their numbers on the order of 80,000,000 a year. But they're all post-Christian, post-modern, and apparently, post-menopausal, so they're doomed. And they're taking the culture down the eschatonic toilet with them on their way to the purgatorial sanitation plant. It sounds as if the trailer is suggesting that young people have all the good ideas; and if you don't constantly restock them by breeding large families, problems wont get solved. Yep. Having more people so you can better deal with the problems brought about by more people seems like a canny, logical next step. It's like breaking all your limbs so you can have them all set at once, or drinking yourself unconscious to drown the shame of being an alcoholic.

You can't hold the demographic chart upside down and insist that the descent of the red line is alarming and trumps those who are holding it right side up and expending a more realistic panic over its dramatic and continuous rise. Warnings only mean something when they're not mutated into mutually self-canceling data.
Arguing that the human race is in jeopardy from under producing in a world with six and a half billion people is like arguing that zero under produces when it's parked to the right of a large, constantly increasing integer.

As Kathryn Joyce said in her article, "Missing: The Right Babies" in the March 3, 2008 issue of the Nation:

"Though the pro family movement is overwhelmingly white and Christian, I agree that its foremost concern is not race but the spread of conservative sexual ideology. But as savvy marketers, they tailor their message to their audience. In Europe that means enhancing their pitch for traditional family values with potent references to ancient hatreds and modern fears: drawing stark analogies between old holy wars and modern immigration, thinly masking threats of "race suicide" with talk of dying "cultures" and "traditional populations," calling for "more Poles" in a country with a xenophobic government and citing Arab fertility as a weapon of demographic warfare. In such a context, it's beyond disingenuous to claim ignorance of how these bald references will read: that Europe's Muslims are problematic and, that they're adding to continental "suicide" by their difference and numbers."

The imminent demise of Europe is a popular prediction these days, with books such as Catholic scholar George Weigel's The Cube and the Cathedral, Melanie Phillips's Londonistan, Bruce Bawer's While Europe Slept and Pat Buchanan's Death of the West all appearing since 2001. The 2006 film Children of Men sketched a sterile, dystopian world thrown into chaos for lack of babies (though with less blatant antiabortion implications than the Christian allegorical P.D. James novel on which it was based). The media increasingly sound the alarm as Eastern European countries register birthrates halved since the last generation.

Global warming is anthropogenic: People caused. More people, more warming. All the moral hand wringing and apocalyptic post-Christian misdirection wont change that.

Here's why.

Kevin said...

Thanks Dean, I should simply have quoted The Nation article and not tried to do what was already elegantly done in that article.

I will not apologize for what I wrote. I pointed out that what was written smacked of bigotry, which I presume is not Gil's intention. Somehow that is now my projection? May as well drop that line of talking, we have stopped communicating.

Is it not the height of absurdity for a bunch of men to complain about how women are not having enough babies? We should laugh at ourselves and this whole thread except we take it far too seriously.

Speaking for myself; I cannot in good conscience admonish an woman or couple to have more children or to not take actions to positively prevent conception. I've watched my wife through two pregnancies and deliveries. The agony she experienced was unspeakable. She had to all but beg me to have a second child. I felt, and feel, ashamed at having put her through that. Our boys are wonderful young men, but in no way does it make up for that pain. I see no way that it can.

I'll NEVER suggest women anywhere are not putting themselves through that hell in the proper numbers. It is not our place to say such things. We are not qualified to make the assertion.

Have a great Independence Day Weekend.
Ad Astra Per Aspera,

Athos said...

I pointed out that what was written smacked of bigotry, which I presume is not Gil's intention. Somehow that is now my projection? May as well drop that line of talking, we have stopped communicating.

I, for one, meant that our criticism of another is projection; something we owe to ourselves to look at closely since we often can deal with what we hate about ourselves but will only deal with when we see it in someone else in a projection "hook".

But, Kevin, you couched that criticism and near accusation in such a clever way - it must be a technique you have found useful (I will give the benefit of the doubt and believe you are not consciously a bigot - meaning: I suspect you are, actually).

I, too, witnessed the birth of my son, but have no desire to second guess our Creator on the means of such a Joy.

Lastly, I have puzzled over your closer - Ad Astra Per Aspera. Now I find it isn't as I thought an ecclesial blessing. It means "to the stars through difficulties" and has its origin in Seneca the Younger (and the Kansas state motto!), skeptic and tutor of Nero. Fascinating.

Happy 4th and cheers

Doughlas Remy said...

The world’s population stands at 6.8 billion and is projected to reach 9 billion in 2045, even if fertility continues to decline in developing countries. So the term “demographic winter” hardly describes the direction of worldwide trends. But neither does it aptly describe the fate of the developing countries, provided they implement sensible immigration and other public policies. If they need to increase their populations, there is certainly no lack of talented and well-educated people ready and willing to immigrate from less-developed countries. But fine-tuning immigration policies has to be coupled with education and a stiff national resolve about preservation of human rights. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book, Infidel, is eye-opening about the dangers of allowing cultures of oppression to gain a foothold in the liberal democracies of Europe. We don’t want to roll back the Enlightenment, and there’s no need to.

If the right policies are implemented, there is little to fear about a demographic winter in Europe or America. In fact, the term “demographic winter” disguises our real concerns, which are about national and cultural identity. I think the discussion would be more honest if we could talk more openly about the clash of cultures and about our fears of being outnumbered by people who do not look like us or believe like us.

As (commenter) Dale suggests, pumping up the national birthrates only worsens the global population crisis, and I would add that the measures proposed for doing so could tend toward the draconian (E.g., in laws criminalizing homosexuality or abortion). There is real danger in going down that path. Soeren Kern (in your quotation) decries “progressive” visions of morality (I assume he would not have us discard the Enlightenment), and he gives us a laundry list of woes, among which is “radical secularism.” I don’t know exactly what he means by this, but as a secularist, I wonder if I would be welcome or comfortable in his Europe.

I am concerned about loss of hard-won personal freedoms—especially the freedom to love whom one chooses, to make important life decisions without undue government or religious interventions, and to hold whatever personal beliefs about God seem warranted. I don’t think we need to relinquish these personal liberties as a response to the shifting cultural and ethnic currents in our societies. Programs to increase birthrates are misguided and unnecessary. The real challenges are to get global birthrates down and to learn how better to live with people who are different while holding to our core values about human justice and freedom.

Doughlas Remy
Member, Colloquium on Violence and Religion

Doughlas Remy said...

Dale, when I read your comment about the “demise of Europe” literature (George Weigel, Melanie Phillips, etc., as listed by Kathryn Joyce in her article in The Nation), I noticed author Bruce Bawer’s name among the others. I had read two of Bawer’s books—“A Place at the Table: The Gay Individual in American Society,” and “Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity.” Joyce cites Bawer’s 2006 book, “While Europe Slept,” which sounds the alarm about the influence of radical Islam in Europe. (Bawer is American but has lived in Europe since 1998, mainly in Norway and The Netherlands.)

I am reading “While Europe Slept” now and find Bawer’s thesis compelling. Though I have not read the other books that Joyce mentions, I believe Bawer’s may differ significantly from them. Bawer claims that the 2004 murder of Theo van Gogh by Muslim extremists was a “9/11” moment for The Netherlands and possibly for all of Europe. The European establishment began to realize that their immigration policies had been seriously flawed—not because they allowed Muslims to settle in their countries but because they failed to integrate them once they were there. Muslims were encouraged to preserve their own cultures, even those repressive practices that we find so repugnant—forced marriages, wife-beating, honor killings, and female genital mutilation. In many cases, they were simply exempted from the laws of the countries that had taken them in, they were not required to learn the host countries’ languages or to respect their customs.

I was afraid that Bawer was going to take the same tone as the “Demographic Winter” video, but he didn’t. Here’s what he has to say about immigration (p. 68):

Compounding all the problems I’ve enumerated here is a single colossal fact: Western Europe desperately needs immigrants. The native population is aging and its numbers are on the wane. In the years to come, more and more workers will be needed to keep national economies from shrinking and to help pay for mounting retirement benefits and hospitalization costs.

Yet there’s no reason why the difficulties posed by fundamentalist Islam should prevent Western Europe from maintaining a steady flow of immigrants. Authorities must simply be more careful about whom they let in—and treat them differently when they do. They must stop thinking of immigrants as charity cases and start thinking of them as equals who are ready, willing, and able to pull their own weight. They need not stop importing people from the Muslim world: millions of Muslims have no fondness for sharia law and, given the opportunity to live and work in a free country, would prove themselves valuable, loyal assets to their new homelands. And there are countless Christians, Jews, and Hindus (not to mention gays) who, though lifelong citizens of Muslim countries, have been treated like second-class citizens and would leap at the chance to live in the West.

Doughlas Remy
Member, COV&R

Mike O'Malley said...

"The world's population stands at 6.8 billion and is projected to reach 9 billion in 2045, even if fertility continues to decline in developing countries. So the term "demographic winter" hardly describes the direction of worldwide trends"

Yet demographic winter" does describes the direction of worldwide trends because the world's population stands at 6.771 billion and is now projected to peak around 8 to 9 billion in mid-century (perhaps peaking as low as 7.5 billion) and enter a long decline thereafter.

Doughlas Remy said...

(Responding to Mr. O’Malley) Assuming that the “peak-then-decline” forecast is accurate, concerns about a “demographic winter” are a bit premature. The more pressing question is whether our planet can support even its current population levels during a period when climate change is expected to produce rising sea levels and dust-bowl conditions in much of the world’s agricultural land. Population shifts toward higher latitudes will create a massive draw on timber and other resources needed for construction, and we can be sure that these shifts will not be orderly. Given the virtual unanimity of climate scientists about this looming crisis, constraints on population growth would seem to be the only sensible course of action. In fact, all concerns about a “demographic winter” are moot if, as James Lovelock claims in The Revenge of Gaia, we have already passed the point of no return in release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. (Lovelock claims that most of the earth will become uninhabitable for humans by the middle of next century.) I take no position on whether he is right or wrong, but even best-case climate-change scenarios support global population reduction.

Doughlas Remy
Member, COV&R

Mike O'Malley said...

Do you have your stake, rope, kindling and environmentally friendly fire starter close at hand Mr. Remy?

Because, I'm not just an Anthropic Global Warming skeptic. I am a AGW heretic.

The aggi-prop about "virtual unanimity of climate scientists about this looming crisis" is utter nonsense. There is no such unanimity or even a consensus of scientists on this topic. There are around 150 or so inter-related climate modelers, who incestuously peer review each other's statistically flawed work, who are in virtual unanimity.

I guess you just haven't read that Wegman Report yet. ,

BTW: futurists believe that the Earth can handle no less than 100 billion people.

Mike O'Malley said...

Oh about those climate models ...

Nature Geoscience
Published online: 13 July 2009 | doi:10.1038/ngeo578

Carbon dioxide forcing alone insufficient to explain Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum warming

Richard E. Zeebe1, James C. Zachos2 & Gerald R. Dickens3

Top of page

The Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (about 55 Myr ago) represents a possible analogue for the future and thus may provide insight into climate system sensitivity and feedbacks1, 2. The key feature of this event is the release of a large mass of 13C-depleted carbon into the carbon reservoirs at the Earth's surface, although the source remains an open issue3, 4. Concurrently, global surface temperatures rose by 5–9 °C within a few thousand years5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Here we use published palaeorecords of deep-sea carbonate dissolution10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and stable carbon isotope composition10, 15, 16, 17 along with a carbon cycle model to constrain the initial carbon pulse to a magnitude of 3,000 Pg C or less, with an isotopic composition lighter than -50permil. As a result, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increased during the main event by less than about 70% compared with pre-event levels. At accepted values for the climate sensitivity to a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration1, this rise in CO2 can explain only between 1 and 3.5 °C of the warming inferred from proxy records. We conclude that in addition to direct CO2 forcing, other processes and/or feedbacks that are hitherto unknown must have caused a substantial portion of the warming during the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum. Once these processes have been identified, their potential effect on future climate change needs to be taken into account.

They are going to need some work it seems ... a whole lot of work ;-)


Mike O'Malley said...

Here is a quote on this study from Science Daily:

"In a nutshell, theoretical models cannot explain what we observe in the geological record," said oceanographer Gerald Dickens, a co-author of the study and professor of Earth science at Rice University. "There appears to be something fundamentally wrong with the way temperature and carbon are linked in climate models."




Are we talking about Gaia's revenge here or Lilith's revenge?

Doughlas Remy said...

Mr. O’Malley: I don’t think I’ll read the Wegman Report, thank you. I am not a statistician and probably would not be a very good judge of its merits. I think there are better judges, and so I will defer to their expert opinions. I read several articles about the Wegman Report on RealClimate.org, which is an extremely rich mine of information about climate change. I gather from what I read that the report was seriously flawed in its methodology, and even its own conclusions do not counter the consensus about anthropogenic climate change. It is seen by serious scientists as an attempt to politicize what should be a matter of scientific debate, not politics. On RealClimate.org, there’s some extremely good back-and-forth about this--78 comments on one post alone. I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in how scientists think and work.

I think your claim that there is no scientific consensus about this matter would be more persuasive if you could provide the name of a major reputable scientific organization that rejects the consensus. The extremely long list of organizations supporting the IPCC (as provided by Cheryl Maslow in the June 3 “What Did I Tell You?” post) is a very heavy weight to try counterbalancing with a few dissenting views from individual scientists. The two quotations that you just offered (above) do not support your claim and do not even seem relevant to this discussion. The first one of them is about climate change in the Paleocene-Eocene period, and the other is a very generalized and unsupported critique of climate models.

According to what I have learned in my reading about this subject, the physics of CO2 in relation to heat trapping is well-known and well-documented. CO2 traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. That is a given. Now consider this: Humankind is currently pumping about 12.3 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every day, and the forests that might have mitigated its effects are rapidly disappearing. We’ve emitted about 200 billion tons of CO2 since 1850, and the current total is around 800 billion tons, with 4.5 billion tons added annually.

I don’t know where you got your information about the population capacity of the Earth (100 billion!), but it is radically at variance with the UN World Population Report of 2001, which claims that the carrying capacity of the Earth ranges between one and two billion people--a tiny fraction of your figure. The maximum US population for a sustainable economy is about 200 million. Again, there is far more information about this than I can possibly cite, but I would recommend Wikipedia’s article on “Overpopulation” as a portal for pre-research. It may point you in some useful directions.

Finally, here’s something from physicist Stephen Hawking:

The danger is that global warming may become self-sustaining, if it has not done so already. The melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps reduces the fraction of solar energy reflected back into space, and so increases the temperature further. Climate change may kill off the Amazon and other rain forests, and so eliminate once one of the main ways in which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere. The rise in sea temperature may trigger the release of large quantities of carbon dioxide, trapped as hydrides on the ocean floor. Both these phenomena would increase the greenhouse effect, and so global warming further. We have to reverse global warming urgently, if we still can. (ABC News interview, August 16, 2006)

And finally, finally, I would recommend a visit to the “Climate Change Denial” Web site at http://climatedenial.org. This denial is the really interesting topic that we haven't really gotten down to yet, but I hope we will.

Doughlas Remy
Member, COV&R

Mike O'Malley said...

Doughlas Remy said...
Mr. O’Malley: I don’t think I’ll read the Wegman Report, thank you. I am not a statistician and probably would not be a very good judge of its merits. I think there are better judges, and so I will defer to their expert opinions.

So a member of the Colloquium will not read the Wegman Report? Not even the summary that was written for the educated public it seems!

Doughlas Remy said...
… I think there are better judges, and so I will defer to their expert opinions. I read several articles about the Wegman Report on RealClimate.org, which is an extremely rich mine of information about climate change.

On what basis would Dr. Michael Mann et al at RealClimate.org be a better judge of such statistical analysis? The peer reviewed Wegman Report found that Mann et al had a woefully deficient understanding of the statistical techniques they attempt to employ. Moreover, on realclimate.org one encounters the very same lack of de-facto independent scientific review that Dr. Wegman’s study group so effectively documented. Wahl and Ammann serial co-authors with Dr. Mann, upon whom you now appear to rely to dismiss Dr. Wegman, do not qualify as statistical authorities. Amman’s background is geology and Wahl’s is divinity (hmmm).

It is also significant that one can find that the peer reviewed work of Richard E. Zeebe, James C. Zachos and Gerald R. Dickens, which I introduced above, has also been ignored in this discussion as are its obvious implications.

I’d like to think that a member of the Colloquium would have the intellectual integrity to step up to the plate and either read the Wegman Report and Dr. Wegman’s response to its critics (I can provide links) or concede the obvious that scientific uncertainties about Anthropic Global Warming remain unresolved. It is hard to understand how strident insistence, that this matter is settled, are justified by what appears to me to be a willful absence of intellectual prudence.

One does not wish to sound harsh but only the foolish or the inattentive will fail to observe the “deck being stacked” in favor of AGW advocacy in such circumstances.


BTW: environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg provides well founded critique of the intellectual terrorism and the anti-democratic demonization of "climate deniers" which seems to be the order of the day.

You can read:
Al Gore and Friends Create Climate of McCarthyism
By Bjorn Lomborg - : July 16, 2009


Cheryl Maslow said...

These discussions about climate change (here and under the 6/3/09 post: “What Did I Tell You?”) have been fascinating to me. They are a virtual laboratory for studying the different ways in which secularists and conservative Christians view reality. And no subject could be less trivial. At issue is the survival of our species and the future of our planet.

I can understand why the secularists defend mainstream scientific views about most issues. Their worldview is science-based, they believe in science as a tool for discovering the nature of reality, and religious dogma is not an impediment to them. And I can understand why many conservative Christians reject the verdict of mainstream science on issues like homosexuality, condom use, evolutionary theory, and the status of biblical miracles (Dogma trumps science). What is not so clear to me is why so many conservative Christians reject the conclusions of mainstream science about this particular issue (climate change). Is it because scenarios of environmental collapse are competing with Biblical “end-times” scenarios? Could it be vulgar partisan thinking? (“If the environmentalists and the Democrats are for it, I’ve got to be against it.”) Or, have the oil, gas, and coal industries found fertile ground for their agendas among conservative Christians, who “bracket out” certain aspects of objective reality that are not supported by religious belief?

I think the answer is: all three, and perhaps some others that I haven’t thought of. In the context provided by Gil Bailie’s various posts about the future of Western civilization, I am most interested in the first of these explanations, i.e., that there are now two major competing scenarios of civilizational crisis--one concerned with the decline of traditional moral values and the other concerned with consumerism, capitalism, and overpopulation. These two worldviews are radically at odds with each other in certain areas, especially around the issues of overpopulation and reproductive rights.

My earlier decision to “break the spell” around certain closely held religious beliefs, such as the virgin birth, was not taken lightly. I do not believe in challenging such personal beliefs gratuitously. I was interested in finding patterns, and I decided to prompt for confirmation that these patterns existed. If we are to reverse the direction of climate change, we have to understand that “private” and personal beliefs can have momentous consequences and that there are strong linkages between whatever pre-scientific religious beliefs we may hold and our stances on critical social and environmental issues. If one believes that the laws of nature can be suspended and that God’s plan for humankind does not include environmental collapse, then, obviously, one is going to cling to any scrap of evidence, however shaky, that the scientific consensus is wrong, or that there is no consensus. Dogmatic (unshakable) belief trumps reality, and the result is a proliferation of pseudo-scientific theories used to buttress dogma. These are all viral memes that propagate wildly when they are not constrained by rational thinking and discourse.

Doughlas Remy said...

Cheryl, your comment about competing worldviews brings an interesting perspective to this discussion. There does seem to be a sort of “taboo” protecting personal religious beliefs about the laws of nature and the role of science. This shouldn’t be so, at least not in discussions that pretend to be academic. It suggests that much of the “science talk” emanating from religious quarters is a charade—especially if it pertains to issues about which religious belief systems have already delivered their verdict, e.g., Darwinian evolution, homosexuality, and climate change.

Like you, I am not very interested in consuming precious bandwidth to quibble about what’s going on at the “micro” level of individual research projects and reports. The existence of the Discovery Institute and NARTH show us that there is a veritable cottage industry of scientific distortion in this country. I will leave it to qualified scientists to assess the merits of particular research findings. I am more interested in what is going on at the “macro” level of consensus views. As you have shown, the consensus about climate change is beyond dispute, given the support of the G8 national academies for the UN IPCC findings. If the consensus is in error, then rigorous scientific process will sooner or later discover that fact (most likely). If I strongly disagree with the consensus (as I did before homosexuality was removed from the DSM), then I’ve got work to do in persuading scientists to take another look. In that sense, I cannot find fault with Mr. O’Malley’s persistence concerning the Wegman Report. However, having learned more about his baseline of belief about science, I naturally wonder about his motivations. We have to ask, “If one believes the laws of nature were repeatedly suspended in biblical times and that they are suspended even now during religious rituals, what else does one believe, and how credible are those beliefs?”

Again, such questions may seem harsh, but there can be no serious academic discussion without, as you say, “breaking the spell” around personal belief systems that are pulling the strings for the visible action on stage. I have always thought of “The Wizard of Oz” as a great and timeless metaphor.

BTW, is the term “Breaking the Spell” from Daniel Dennett’s book by that name?

Doughlas Remy
Member, COV&R

Mike O'Malley said...

One may see Cheryl that you find our discussion here in about climate change (here and under the 6/3/09 post: “What Did I Tell You?”) to be fascinating, but it seems that you bring significant misperceptions with you into your laboratory.

Allow me to help. You bring it seems a conceptual map of misperception to our discussion. These misperceptions can be encountered any number of times it seems among unchurched graduates of America’s public school systems. It seems as though the constraints placed upon teaching religion in public schools contributes to significant gaps in knowledge of religious belief and practice and in the history and contribution of Christianity to Western Civilization.

Let’s examine the second paragraph of your latest post above. You write, I can understand why the secularists defend mainstream scientific views about most issues. Their worldview is science-based.This of course is debatable. Marxism claims to be based upon “science”. It isn’t. Historians find that Karl Marx’s foundational works are in fact based upon substantial scientific fraud. In application, Marxism’s connection to science is no less problematic. Soviet Marxist genetics for example was ideologically confined to Lysenkoism, theories of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko, the powerful Stalinist director of the Soviet Lenin All-Union Institute of Agricultural Sciences, for decade after decade dooming Soviet farming to decade after decade of crop failure. Lysenkoism repressively rejected Mendelian genetics, which was based upon the 19th Century research of Father Gregor Johann Mendel, an Augustinian priest and scientist. Today Rev. Mendel is considered the father of modern genetics.

Among the treasure one may discover in the writing of Bailie and Girard are discussions about how the Gospel stories desacrilize the physical world making modern science possible. But Christianity’s contribution to modern science is massive and foundational. I’ll recommend to you the research of liberal secularist historian, Dr. Richard Rubenstein, who was most impressed with the courageous visionary role of the Medieval Gregory Popes, the Dominicans and Saint Aquinas in re-introducting Classical Greek “reason” into Western Civilization (at the moment that Al Ghazali was ironically crushing it in Islamic civilization) Do yourself a favor and read Dr. Rubenstein’s, Aristotle's Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Dark Ages.

But Catholicism’s role in the creation of modern science does not end there. For century after century the Catholic Church promoted basic scientific research. For century after century most scientists in the world may well have been Catholic clerics and monastics, as the Catholic Church invested more in basic scientific research than perhaps all others in the world combined. By the early 17th Century Catholic missionaries sent to the Chinese Imperial Court were able to match and exceed Chinese Imperial Court astronomers, who were likely the very best in the world up to that time. http://www.ibiblio.org/expo/vatican.exhibit/exhibit/i-rome_to_china/Jesuits_in_China.html Indeed the Catholic Church built and used the very best astronomical observatories in the world until the mid-18th Century or so. Read, The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories, by J. L. Heilbron.

As physicist, Father John Polkinghorn explains (modern) scientific truth is determined exactly the same way that theological truth is determined in the Western Church. This is no accident. In fact modern science is based upon five basic foundational principles which come from Christian theology. Among these principles are: the physical world is rational and follows basic laws; and the physical world is knowable, we can study and understand it.

Read also How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by historian Dr. Thomas E. Woods Jr.

Mike O'Malley said...

Cheryl wrote: I can understand why the secularists defend mainstream scientific views about most issues. Their worldview is science-based, they believe in science as a tool for discovering the nature of reality, and religious dogma is not an impediment to them.
For some Secularist, yes, but not for most. And yet, for a millennium High Christianity maintained that G-d first gave to mankind the Book of Nature in which mankind could learn about the nature of G-d. How might that work? Recently based upon the complex ultra precision of certain Cosmological events occurring shortly after Planck Time, one theoretical physicist estimated the implicit intelligence of the designer of the Universe to be no less than an IQ of 100 x 10 to the 138h power (sufficient for admission to the Colloquium no doubt!) for example. Christian churchmen have as long maintained that mankind is unable to properly read the book of nature because of Original Sin; and only because of that failure was mankind given a second book, Biblical Revelation, from which mankind could learn about the nature of G-d. Oddly perhaps, Cheryl, Gil Bailie and Rene Girard explain just how the victimage mechanism and the Old Religion crippled our ability to read the Book of Nature without the curative of Revelation (The Christ of the Gospels).


Gil Bailie can certainly set me straight on this, but I seem to recall that both he and Girard have speculated whether Modern Science might not survive in the absence of some minimum residual of Christian culture. Would a culture that did not believe certain basic Christian principles be able to sustain advancement in modern science? Basic principles such as: the physical world is rational and follows basic laws; and that the physical world is knowable, we can study and understand it, just as we can know G-d because G-d wants us to know Him. Most cultures did not share those two beliefs with Christianity. For an example, the “Golden Age of Islamic Science closed around the time Islam consumed its captured store of Nestorian Christian human capital. A time which ironically coincided with Al Ghazali’s redirection of Islam to a belief that nothing at all happens in nature without the direct arbitrary intervention of Allah and/or his angels.

One wonders …


Please be cautioned Cheryl, no few hucksters and opportunists have claimed the authoritative mantel of Science so as to misappropriate the authority of Science: Marxist economics, Nazi race theory, population control advocates, even pyramid scheme scam artists don the mantel of science even thought they are trafficking in scientific quackery and fraud.


Today reason and science have several groups of defenders: firstly scientists who have been indoctrinated with the principles of science since the beginning of their high school education, certain agnostic rationalists such as Dr. Rubenstein who I mentioned above, the Roman Catholic Church and even American Evangelical intellectuals and clergy who have recently entered the fray in defense of reason. Among the relentless enemies of reason and science are (Heideggarian) Post-Modernists of various flavors and radical Islamicists.

See here Cheryl:


Mike O'Malley said...

BTW Gil:

I liked the trailer a lot. Clearly some are quite sensitive about the damage inflicted upon the world by the post WWII Population Control Movement and its "public works project": the Sexual Revolution.