Monday, February 19, 2007


I hope I won't be seen as a Catholic-basher if I point out that Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, is intolerably ignorant:

Global warming doomsdayers were out and about in a big way recently, but the rain came in Central Queensland and then here in Sydney. January also was unusually cool.
Like most "skeptics," Pell confuses weather with climate. What's peculiar is that a few lines down, he acknowledges as much:
We all know that a cool January does not mean much in the long run, but neither does evidence from a few years only.
Basically, Pell's upset because he thinks scaremongers are using climate data from "limited periods and places" (instead of gathering data from all times and places, as an omniscient being would). Unfortunately, he's not upset enough to refrain from committing the same sin in the first goddamn paragraph of his article.

Pell's attention to the motes in other people's eyes is nothing if not judicious. He seems to feel that folks who believe in climate change are doomstruck fanatics who loathe the modern world, but he rejects the notion that they can be likened on that score to, say, fundamentalists:
A local newspaper editorial’s complaint about the doomsdayers’ religious enthusiasm is unfair to mainstream Christianity.
Last time I checked, "mainstream Christianity" promotes not just the destruction of the world as we know it, but all sorts of gaudy eternal torments for individual souls. Until it repudiates these doctrines, and the grubby forms of temporal power they aid and abet, its apologists really have no right to accuse anyone else of scaremongering.

Next, Pell offhandedly presents the Flood as an example of climate change:
We know that enormous climate changes have occurred in world history, e.g. the Ice Ages and Noah’s flood, where human causation could only be negligible.
Hmm. Let's see what the Bible has to say about that:
And Yahweh saw that man's wickedness was great over the face of the earth, and that all day the thoughts in his heart formed nothing but wickedness. And Yahweh regretted having made man on the face of the earth, and his heart grieved.
It's beyond me how a Catholic theologian could argue that humanity's role in this alleged catastrophe was "negligible." But perhaps Pell is simply "going beyond reason":
Christians don’t go against reason although we sometimes go beyond it in faith to embrace probabilities.
That's simple enough, and it's really too bad that unlike Pell, poor old Kierkegaard didn't recognize the value of inferential statistics in resolving the "Absolute Paradox" of Christianity.

Which reminds me that what makes a great deal of mainstream Christianity ludicrous is not its otherworldliness so much as its creaky, fussy materialism, and its belief that, as Roland Barthes put it, one can "do the accounts of the ineffable."

But back to Pell:
What we were seeing from the doomsdayers was an induced dose of mild hysteria, semi-religious if you like, but dangerously close to superstition.
Superstition, eh? Sounds like a recipe for winding up in Purgatory, at best. Maybe we'd all better start buying indulgences. Or perhaps we should make a purifying pilgrimage to the Electrical Jesus of Merseyside.

Cheap sarcasm aside, the Vatican's representative to the UN announced in 2006 that "the earth's climate system has demonstrably changed on both global and regional scales since the pre-industrial era," and noted that our consumption patterns are "causing serious harm to human health, the earth's climate and ecological systems on which all life depends." Perhaps Cardinal Pell should take his one-man crusade against "semi-religious hysteria" to Rome.


Thers said...

The Ice Ages and Noah's Flood...?


BJ said...

Hi! I thought you and your readers might be interested in some post-Easter news about Pope Benedict XVI...
The Pope's car is being auctioned off to raise money for Habitat for Humanity:
The bidding is already more than $200,000! Personally, I think this is a really fun and creative way to raise
money. The auction goes until April 14th if you and your readers want to check it out.