Archive for July, 2010
Probably no annual world climate report is more authoritative than that issued by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Their “State of the Climate in 2009” appeared in the June 2010 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) and is the 20th in a series.
The report, compiled by more than 300 scientists from around the world, analyzes 11 key climate indicators for the period 1940 to the present (One of them, stratospheric temperature, is not shown on the diagram above):
- Land surface air temperature
- Sea level
- Ocean heat content
- Sea-surface temperature
- Specific humidity
- Marine air temperature
- Tropospheric temperature
- Stratospheric temperature
- September Arctic sea-ice extent
- Glacier mass balance
- NH (March-April) snow cover
The first seven of these indicators—measurements of sub-stratospheric temperatures, sea level, and humidity—are rising. The last three—measurements of ice and snow—are falling. Stratospheric temperatures are also falling because of ozone depletion (ozone absorbs ultraviolet radiation from the sun.)
The 1980s were the warmest decade up to that point, and then each year in the 1990s exceeded the ‘80s average, making the ‘90s the warmest decade. Totals for the 2000s won’t be available for maybe another six months, but so far each year in this decade has been warmer than the ‘90s average.
To view the charts for these indicators, click here.
The report’s conclusions are unequivocal:
“A comprehensive review of key climate indicators confirms the world is warming and the past decade was the warmest on record.”
“[These indicators] all tell the same story: Global warming is undeniable.”
“What this data is doing is, it is screaming that the world is warming,” said Peter Thorne, who helped develop the list when he worked at the Met Office (British weather service).
To read a related article in The Guardian/UK about this and other recent climate reports, click here.
From the Introduction to Garry Wills’ book, Head and Heart (The Penguin Press, 2007):
When the Dalai Lama was scheduled to speak at the Field Museum in Chicago, he told those arranging the session that he did not like to give formal addresses; he preferred a more lively format. So he asked to be questioned by several people onstage with him, to whom he could give impromptu answers. I was chosen as one of his three interrogators. Meeting with us ahead of time, he said: “Please ask hard questions.” If people were too deferential to him, he explained, the event would be boring, for him as well as for the audience. He did not want to know the questions beforehand, which would dampen the spontaneity.
I tried to think of something difficult to ask, but the only thing I could come up with was this: “If you were restored to your country, what would you do in a different way?” He answered: “I would disestablish the religion. The American system is the proper one.” As we left, I said to him, “For that, don’t you first need to have an Enlightenment?” He smiled: “Ah! That’s the problem.” He was soon writing a book that called on Buddhists to confront the issues of modern science and reason, as they had not in the past.*
*His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality (Morgan Road Books, 2005).
Andrew Sullivan’s observation about homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood (first quotation below) brought to mind several other passages I had recently read. Here they all are, followed by a fanciful and probably baseless speculation:
It is worth noting, once again, how utterly hollow the Vatican is on the subject of homosexuality. It is an institution so embedded with homosexuality it makes Broadway look straight. The stories I’ve heard! The network of gay priests is vast in Rome, and is, in my mind, as unhealthy for those who get away with it—the hypocrisy must hollow out the soul in the end—as for those who impose it. Instead of grappling with this fact, owning it, and seeking to diversify the priesthood by ending the celibacy requirement and men-only anachronism, the Vatican clings on to denial and repression. And as society and the actual church evolves—as both must—the denial and repression must increase in proportion—until the sheer ridiculousness of the whole thing becomes apparent even to the most devout. (Andrew Sullivan: “Breaking News: The Vatican is Super-Gay”, The Daily Dish, 7/28/10)
Roberto Bellarmino followed the career that most wealthy Italian families dictated for their second sons: joining the Church. It was the easiest way to curb any future claims to an inheritance. (Ingrid D. Rowland, Giordano Bruno, p. 253)
For uncertain reasons, men who have older brothers are somewhat more likely to be gay… Assuming the odds of homosexuality are roughly 3 percent among first sons, they rise to 4 percent among second sons and 5 percent for third sons. (David G. Myers, Psychology, p. 477)
In The Mating Mind, the psychologist Geoffrey Miller argues that the impulse to create art is a mating tactic: a way to impress prospective sexual and marriage partners with the quality of one’s brain and thus, indirectly, one’s genes… Nature even gives us a precedent, the bowerbirds of Australia and New Guinea. The males construct elaborate nests and fastidiously decorate them with colorful objects such as orchids, snail shells, berries, and bark. Some of them literally paint their bowers with regurgitated fruit residue using leaves or bark as a brush. (Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate, p. 407)
Could the centuries-old tradition of forcing second sons to join the Church partly account for the homosexual “coloration” of the priesthood—its fondness for over-the-top aesthetic expressions of ceremony, vestments, music, art, and architecture? Could bowerbirds help us understand why an increasingly homosexual priesthood might have used these colorations over the centuries to attract yet more homosexual men into the fold?
Two items from this morning’s paper should be placed side by side. One is an opinion piece by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, entitled “Who cooked the planet?” The other is an article from the Los Angeles Times about increased immigration from Mexico as a result of climate change.
Krugman’s piece is about the greed and cowardice that have repeatedly killed meaningful action on climate change. One has only to follow the money trail to identify the greedy—mainly the coal and oil industries. But, says Krugman, greed wouldn’t have triumphed by itself. It needed the aid of cowardice. And there, Krugman singles out Senator John McCain, who used to back climate action but switched sides on the issue for no other apparent reason than re-election.
McCain, as we know, is the senator from Arizona, which recently passed draconian legislation to crack down on illegal Mexican immigrants in the state.
The Los Angeles Times piece reports on a new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study finds linkages among climate change, crop yields, and cross-border migration from Mexico into the U.S. and predicts significantly higher rates of migration as temperatures rise and Mexican agricultural production declines.
Many Americans still don’t get the connection between Middle Eastern oil and the blood and treasure that we expend to procure it. Similarly, the connection between climate and migration may be slow to sink in. And even if it does, we’ll still be trying to have it both ways. To avoid the consequences of our failed energy policies, we’ll just seal the borders even more tightly and adopt even more draconian measures to round up the illegals and ship them back to their arid and unproductive lands.
“I don’t think we’re yet evolved to the point where we’re clever enough to handle a situation as complex as climate change. The inertia of humans is so huge that you can’t really do anything meaningful.” (James Lovelock in a March 2010 interview with Leo Hickman)
The Catholic Church’s ambivalence about Galileo is legendary. After convicting him of heresy in 1633 and forcing him to recant his position on heliocentrism, the church continued to ban his books until 1718, and it wasn’t until 1835 that the church completely stopped denouncing heliocentric theory. In 1939, Pope Pius XII praised Galileo, but in 1990, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) endorsed the opinion of philosopher P. Feyerabend that “the process against Galileo was reasonable and just.”
In 1981, Pope John Paul II asked the Pontifical Council for Culture to re-examine the case. Their conclusion, published in 1992, was that the judges who condemned Galileo had erred in interpreting the scriptures too literally, but that Galileo himself had erred in not presenting the Copernican system as a hypothesis, as his own experimental method required him to do. (See section 5 of their findings.) For this methodological failing, Galileo was under house arrest until his death in 1642. (The Church was very serious about scientific rigor in those days.)
The Pontifical Council for Culture is now back in the news on the Galileo affair. Here is a clip from the New York Times of July 22, 2010:
For centuries, the Vatican has operated a serious astronomical observatory in Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome, which is linked to the observatory at the University of Arizona and run by a Jesuit astronomer with no doubts about heliocentrism. But as recently as last fall, at a news conference introducing an exhibition of historic telescopic instruments at the Vatican Museums, the director of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi, referred without blinking to “the errors committed by both sides” — indicating both the church and Galileo.
Asked by a reporter how he might explain the errors committed by Galileo, the genial monsignor, a former director of Milan’s Biblioteca Ambrosiana who is widely seen as a rising star in the Vatican firmament, beamed, and with great gusto said only that he hoped one day to organize a conference on the didactic challenges presented by Galileo’s science. Case closed.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in Christian Legal Society v Hastings that the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law may enforce its anti-discrimination policy by denying funding and recognition to a Christian student group that excludes gays and lesbians. The group, Christian Legal Society, requires that voting members sign a declaration of faith renouncing “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle.”
William Saunders, writing in The Catholic Thing, asks “What happened to the First Amendment?” Here is his slant on the court’s decision:
In the case of Christian Legal Society v Hastings, the Court decided that the Hastings College of Law could deny registration to a student group as a CLS chapter because it required morally upright behavior of its members and adherence to its statement of faith. Pause and consider that. “Conservative” evangelical students – unlike over sixty other associations of students – may not be recognized as an official student group because CLS wants its members to agree with the theory and practice – the raison d’etre – of the group, that is, to be good and proper evangelical Christians.
To Saunders’ question, “What happened to the First Amendment?,” I would answer, “Nothing.”
CLS’s First Amendment rights were not violated by Hastings College’s policy or by the Supreme Court’s decision in Hastings’ favor. CLS may continue to discriminate against those who do not agree with its principles, and this is right and proper. Their First Amendment rights of free association, free speech, and free exercise are intact.
What CLS may not do is receive funding or recognition from Hastings College. This is because CLS’s discriminatory membership policies violate the college’s own non-discrimination policy, which withholds recognition from campus groups that seek to exclude people on the basis of religious beliefs or sexual orientation.
The Court’s decision in CLS v. Hastings makes complete sense, and I would agree with Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s opinion that CLS was seeking preferential exemption from Hastings’ policy. To have decided against Hastings, the court would have needed to show that their non-discrimination policy was unconstitutional, and they couldn’t very well do that without running into problems with the Equal Protection Clause (the 14th Amendment).
Like it or not, state universities have both a right and a duty to set and enforce non-discrimination policies. Everyone in the state—Christians, gays, Muslims, Jews, blacks, women, and all the rest—supports state universities with tax dollars. Students at Hastings pay student-activity fees that go toward supporting recognized student organizations. No Hastings student should ever be forced to fund a group that would exclude her. The fact that CLS has now been “excluded” may seem unfair until we remember the reason—i.e., that their policies are exclusionary. This is one of those apparent “paradoxes”—like being intolerant of intolerance—that straightens out under closer scrutiny. Exclusion due to violation of a policy is not the same as exclusion because of race, sexual orientation, or religion, and policies set by faith groups are different from those set by state institutions. Fortunately, our consitutional calculus of rights allows both kinds of entities to flourish. In Christian Legal Society v Hastings, the Supreme Court has steered a deft course between conflicting claims.
Further thoughts (7/27/10):
Here’s a parallel that may throw some light on the CLS v Hastings decision:
Brigham Young University makes a distinction between two kinds of academic freedom—one for individual faculty members to “teach and research without interference,” and the other for the institution to “pursue its distinctive mission.” Obviously, these freedoms may sometimes be at odds, so the faculty are subject to what BYU calls “reasonable limitations.” They may not contradict or oppose LDS Church doctrine or policy in public, they may not deride the LDS Church or its leaders, and they must not violate the “honor code.”
Is any of this a violation of faculty’s First Amendment rights? No, of course not. BYU faculty may say what they like about the LDS Church as long as they are prepared to seek employment elsewhere. When they signed their employment contract at BYU, they agreed to certain restrictions on their speech.
This is why CLS’s case against Hastings was without merit. They wanted funding and recognition from Hastings but refused to comply with Hastings’ non-discrimination policy. Hastings said, in essence, “You’re free to associate in whatever way you choose, but not on our dime.” If the Supreme Court had decided against Hastings, every organization in this country, from corporations to churches, might have lost the power to set its own policies. Face it—that power comes from the ones holding the purse strings. In Hastings’ case, it was the taxpayers.
This amazing video from The Thinking Atheist may help us understand why Richard Dawkins calls religious indoctrination of the young a form of child abuse. Progressive Christians may see this depiction as an exaggeration, and it certainly applies to some faith groups more than others. However, it corresponds very closely to my own childhood experience of indoctrination, and I’ve no doubt millions of others would recognize it as well.
Though Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality, he was very opinionated about divorce:
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.” (Luke 16:18)
That’s strong and clear. Not much wiggle-room there.
So, would Jesus support a proposed ballot measure that would outlaw divorce in California? Such a measure may appear on the June 2012 ballot if its author, John Marcotte, can gather 700,000 signatures supporting it. The so-called 2012 Marriage Protection Act would ban divorce but not annulments, which could still be granted in cases of bigamy, fraud, or incest.
Our WWJD question cannot be answered, of course. Though Jesus disapproved of divorce, he never shared his views about constitutional democracy or the complex issues involved in rights legislation, ballot initiatives, church-state separation, and so on. (As the son of the Omnscient One, however, he could probably have known about such matters…)
What we do know is that in 2008 California voters approved Proposition 8, which overturned an earlier judicial legalization of same-sex marriage and wrote into the state’s constitution a new provision that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The Proposition 8 campaign received generous financial support from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Roman Catholic Church, Evangelical Christian organizations (e.g., the American Family Association and Focus on the Family), and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).
The rationale behind these organizations’ support was that Proposition 8 would protect the institution of marriage by reserving it for heterosexuals. Considering Jesus’ strong views about divorce, can we expect these same organizations to throw their weight behind the 2012 California Marriage Protection Act? The act will obviously fortify the institution of marriage, so isn’t this a no-brainer?
Marcotte’s ballot measure got the green light from California’s secretary of state over a week ago, and the signature-gathering process has begun. So far, not a single one of the groups that supported Proposition 8 has taken a position on this measure. If we don’t hear from them soon, I think we’ll want to know why they’re not behind this in a big way.
*WWJD: What Would Jesus Do?
June was the fourth consecutive month that global land and sea temperatures have been broken, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It was also the 304th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th-century average. (February 1985 was the most recent month with below-average temperatures.) Read NOAA’s report here.
Satellite data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado show Arctic sea ice at its lowest level for any June since 1979, when satellite records began.
Read the whole story at guardian.co.uk.