Thursday, November 01, 2012

Stop Blaming God for Bad Weather – Blame Political Ideologues

Epicurus asks a timeless question and Rabbi Kushner and George Lakoff, Cognitive scientist and linguist provide answers. To those on the fringe of the religious community who are quick to blame all catastrophic events on the perceived sins of others. To those who have “created” a definition of the deity that is angry at groups these religious do not like; to the many so called Christians whose descriptions of an angry, vengeful God sound like a sociopath …I refer you to the philosopher Epicurus who asked some 5300 years ago when pondering evil: "Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then, God is impotent. Is God able but not willing? Then God is malevolent. Is God both able and willing? Whence, then evil?" If Epicurus leaves us with a really profound question, then Rabbi Kushner provides a sane answer dealing with same issues. Fast forward 5300 years to Natick Massachusetts resident, Rabbi Kushner who said he had come to understand "God as moral," but "nature as not." "Nature is value-free," said Kushner, a rabbi of the conservative Jewish tradition. "It can't tell the role between the deserving the undeserving. God's role is not to decide where the hurricane goes and how severe it is. God's role is to motivate people to help neighbors and improve methods to predict hurricanes. God is found not in the problem, but in the resilience." I applaud the Rabbi for taking the weather out of the realm of the supernatural and I embrace the logic of Epicurus … The Rabbi says the role of man is to sort out the cause and effect of nature, that is to say, learn what makes natural weather systems tick and to follow the religious precepts to live in harmony with nature and our fellow humans on the planet. The Rabbi says that the forces of nature are not punishment from God; they exist apart from God and are independent from God’s will. God set the forces of nature into motion and these forces follow their own rules. We need to stop thinking that the violent storms are cooked up by an angry God. We understand the physics of severe weather. Thousands of scientists have spent countless hours constructing hypothesis, and then testing the idea over and over to get the same results and construct a theory. George Lakoff wrote on October 30 for Reader supported news: "Yes, global warming systemically caused Hurricane Sandy - and the Midwest droughts and the fires in Colorado and Texas, as well as other extreme weather disasters around the world. Let's say it out loud, it was causation, systemic causation." Lakoff defines his terms thoroughly. He explains with examples the precise meaning of direct cause and systemic causation. Hotter oceans evaporate into the atmosphere with greater amounts of water vapor all caused by increased amounts of Co2 in the atmosphere because of burning fossil fuels such as oil. Lakoff defines systemic causation as follows: “Systemic causation is familiar. Smoking is a systemic cause of lung cancer. HIV is a systemic cause of AIDS. Working in coal mines is a systemic cause of black lung disease. Driving while drunk is a systemic cause of auto accidents. Sex without contraception is a systemic cause of unwanted pregnancies.” As opposed to a direct cause as defined by Lakoff as follows: “Punching someone in the nose is direct causation. Throwing a rock through a window is direct causation. Picking up a glass of water and taking a drink is direct causation. Slicing bread is direct causation. Stealing your wallet is direct causation. Any application of force to something or someone that always produces an immediate change to that thing or person is direct causation. When causation is direct, the word cause is unproblematic.” Lakoff makes his point as follows: “In general, causation in ecosystems, biological systems, economic systems, and social systems tends not to be direct, but is no less causal. And because it is not direct causation, it requires all the greater attention if it is to be understood and its negative effects controlled. Above all, it requires a name: systemic causation.” When one’s immune system is compromised and weekend the likelihood of becoming sick is in direct proportion to the weakness and exposure to pathogens that under normal circumstances would have been fended off. We have compromised our weather system by weakening it because the earth has been heated up due the introduction of Co2 by burning fossil fuels; this is a measureable fact. We have two representatives who are teachers in their field. One who separates the idea of natural events being caused by a God, the other who is a cognitive scientist and is giving structure to the language in order to do one of the most important functions in fostering a clear discussion, i.e., defining ones terms. Science is facts. Facts are or should be a-political. It’s time to move on toward a solution. Sandy and Irene along with a host of other extreme weather events are a trend in more severe weather which causes orders of magnitude greater destruction. The Insurance Industry knows better than any politician how real climate change is. The US Army has commissioned studies to better understand how climate change will create flash points around the world leading to violence and social destruction. "A Pentagon-commissioned study warned in 2003 that climate change could bring mega-droughts, mass starvation, and even nuclear war as countries such as China, India, and Pakistan battle over scarce food and water." (Mark Hertsgaad, Vanity Fair 08-Nov-12 I say move on because the climate deniers have stalled progress long enough on setting into motion any meaningful steps that would abate the further excessive release of Co2 into the atmosphere. Let’s come down hard on those climate change deniers who through their own twisted religion, political ideology, or motivated reasoning have sided with big oil (for a fee) - Think Senator James Inhofe R. OK -who has declared global warming and the resulting climate change a hoax - for the bargain basement fee (campaign donation) of $900,000 from big oil. As a country - we no longer have the luxury of spending / wasting time listening to arguments that do not present an opposing, working, scientific theory. What we get from the opponents of global warming are arguments meant to obfuscate the facts by arguing that a scientific probability of 95% is not 100% and therefore inconclusive and we should do nothing. Why would any sane person give that comment any time or ink at all? How many Irene’s, Katrina’s and Sandy’s does it take to get the message? Shout down or better yet ignore those who stall. If there is a working alternative theory, one that has been peer reviewed and has widespread scientific support and one that is not funded by the energy companies then let’s hear it now. Otherwise, get the hell out of the way – the rest of us have work to do.