Showing posts from May, 2007

Climate change and the G8

President Bush announced a proposal for climate change in response to criticism that the United States was largely adopting a "Just Say No" approach to Climate Change. President Bush's announcement today, however, was a huge disappointment. He called for a summit of the United States and other nations that emit greenhouse gases with the goal of setting a long-term global strategy for reducing emissions.

Too little. Too late. Bush's proposal simply postpones the real hard work on Climate Change. And, as you can see from the graphic to the left, U.S. carbon emissions have gotten worse, not better, since Bush became President.

The Economist has a good analysis of the Climate change debate as we come closer to the G8 conference:

The new American initiative seems an admission that its previous strategy has failed. At a conference in Laos in 2005 it recruited Australia, China, India, Japan and South Korea to an outfit with that approach, called the Asia-Pacific Partnership on…

Father Jones on the New Anglican Communion

A group of orthodox Bishops will meet this September in Pittsburgh to dicuss formation of an alternative Anglican Province in the United States. As usual, Father Greg Jones has some insightful analysis:
It has just been announced that a group of traditionalist bishops will convene in late September. The group calls itself Common Cause -- and is comprised of the Anglican Communion Network (ACN - whose bishops are still in the Episcopal Church), the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA - formerly 'Anglican Mission in America'), the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), the Anglican Province of America (APA), and the Reformed Episcopal Church. There are others tooThe September 25-28 meeting will be held in Pittsburgh, presumably under the leadership of the Bishop of Pittsburgh, Bob Duncan -- Moderator of the ACN. Bishop Duncan appears to be unveiling the project he's been quietly working on in the past few months. Based on the various turns of event in recent mon…

Senator Sam Brownback on Evolution

Senator Brownback has an op-ed in the New York Times explaining his views on evolution. Here are highlights:

The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today. Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology.

The most passionate advocates of evolutionary theory offer a vision of man as a kind of historical accide…

Global Warming and the Future of Coal

The Center for American Progress is doing some very interesting policy work on climate change issues. Today they released a very important report: Global Warming and the Future of Coal
The Path to Carbon Capture and Storage
(PDF). A useful summary can be found here. Here are some highlights from the summary:

Ever-rising industrial and consumer demand for more power in tandem with cheap and abundant coal reserves across the globe are expected to result in the construction of new coal-fired power plants producing 1,400 gigawatts of electricity by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency. In the absence of emission controls, these new plants will increase worldwide annual emissions of carbon dioxide by approximately 7.6 billion metric tons by 2030. These emissions would equal roughly 50 percent of all fossil fuel emissions over the past 250 years.
. . .
In China and other developing countries experiencing strong economic growth, demand for power is surging dramatically, with low-co…

The Science of Belief

Inayat Bunglawala, media secretary at the Muslim Council of Britain, has a very useful commentary this morning in the Guardian group blog ("Comment Is Free"). Using Francis Collins as a starting point, he makes a good case that Dawkins and other aggressive atheists are overstating the science in arguing that science shows that there is no God:

In his latest book, The Language of God, Collins seeks to reconcile the findings of science with faith in God.

"Science's domain is to explore nature. God's domain is in the spiritual world, a realm not possible to explore with the tools and language of science. It must be examined with the heart, the mind, and the soul - and the mind must find a way to embrace both realms."

Still, it's a tough time to be one who seeks reconciliation. Last year saw arch-atheist Richard Dawkins launch an all-out assault on what he disparagingly referred to as "faith-heads" in his bestselling book, The God Delusion, and on th…

Where's God? #1: A Video From Busted

I found this video on Andrew Sullivan's website and was quite taken with it. Busted is a "seeker" religious website that is well worth a look. Here is their description of this video series:

Faith, spirituality and religion are too often looked upon as the province of "experts" who spend all their time in places of worship. At we frequently hear from readers who desperately want to explore their spiritual questions but feel alienated from traditional faith communities. The fact of the matter is that the experience of sacredness is as unique and personal as our fingerprints, but we sometimes fail to recognize these moments as God's way of speaking to us in our everyday lives.

"Where's God?" is our attempt to look more imaginatively at the movement of grace in each of our lives and chronicle the countless different ways God is at work. It also marks our first foray into the YouTube universe ( We…

An Anglican Communion Timeline

Father Richard of Church of Our Saviour, Mill Valley, California has posted a very useful and interesting timeline (PDF) on his church website. It is a very useful document--especially for those (like me) relatively new to this tradition. Here is Father Richard's description of the the timeline:

I have posted a timeline of the Anglican Communion since the founding of the Episcopal Church shortly after the American Revolution to the present day, including a recent blow-by-blow of the current mess.I developed this as part of our Lenten series at Church of Our Saviour.Take a look at it here. If you have thoughts for clarification, addition, or simple corrections in fact, please let me know. I see this as a living document.

Leading Science Academies of G8 Issue Warning

The national science academies of the G8 countries--plus several from the developing world have issued a remarkable document (PDF) about sustainability, energy efficiency and climate change. Here are some highlights:

It is important that the 2007 G8 Summit is addressing
the linked issues of energy security and climate change.
These are defining issues of our time, and bring together
the themes of growth and responsibility in a way that
highlights our duties to future generations.
In 2005, the Academies issued a statement emphasising
that climate change was occurring and could be
attributed mostly to human activities, and calling for
efforts to tackle both the causes of climate change and
the inevitable consequences of past and unavoidable
future emissions. Since then the IPCC has published the
Working Group 1 part of the Summary for Policymakers
of its fourth assessment report, and further reports are
expected later this year from IPCC. Recent research
strongly reinforces our previous conclusions. …

Gallup Poll: Tolerance for Gay Rights at High-Water Mark

The Gallup Poll released the results of its annual Values and Beliefs survey, conducted each May, which shows some very interesting results about American views about homosexuality. Here are some highlights from the press release:

The clearest example of the recent renewal in pro-gay rights attitudes comes from a question asking Americans whether they believe homosexual relations should be legal. Public tolerance for this aspect of gay rights expanded from 43% at the inception of the question in 1977 to 60% in May 2003. Then in July 2003, it fell to 50% and remained at about that level through 2005. Last year, it jumped to 56% and this year it reached 59%, similar to the 2003 high point.

A similar pattern is seen with attitudes about whether homosexuality should be sanctioned as an acceptable alternative lifestyle. Only 34% in 1982 believed it should be considered acceptable. This expanded to 54% in May 2003, only to drop to 46% two months later. Today's 57% is the highest on record…

More Lambeth 2008 Fallout

The Church of Uganda has announced that it will not attend Lambeth 2008 if the American Bishops who voted to approve Bishop Robinson also attend. Here is the statement:

On 9th December 2006, the House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda, meeting in Mbale, resolved unanimously to support the CAPA Road to Lambeth statement, which, among other things, states, “We will definitely not attend any Lambeth Conference to which the violators of the Lambeth Resolution are also invited as participants or observers.”

We note that all the American Bishops who consented to, participated in, and have continued to support the consecration as bishop of a man living in a homosexual relationship have been invited to the Lambeth Conference. These are Bishops who have violated the Lambeth Resolution 1.10, which rejects “homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture” and “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.”

Accordingly, the Hous…

Gristmill: How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic

Gristmill has a very useful series of articles about how to respond to climate change sceptics. There are four separate taxonomies; arguments are divided by:

Stages of Denial,

Scientific Topics,

Types of Argument, and

Levels of Sophistication.
Individual articles appear under multiple headings and may even appear in multiple subcategories in the same heading.

Since at least one commentator on this blog has already used the "Mars is warming too" argument, I will use the Gristmill response to that argument to give you a flavor for this resource:

Objection: Global warming is happening on Mars and Pluto as well. Since there are no SUVs on Mars, CO2 can't be causing global warming.

Answer: Warming on another planet would be an interesting coincidence, but it would not necessarily be driven by the same causes.

The only relevant factor the earth and Mars share is the sun, so if the warming were real and related, that would be the logical place to look. As it happens, the sun is being wa…

Creationism in Islam: Borrowing From Christianity

Brain Whitaker, who writes on the Middle East for the Guardian, has a very interesting commentary on how elements of Islam are beginning to borrow creationist ideas from fundamental Christian groups:
Currently, according to Abdul Majid, a professor of zoology in Pakistan, there are three strands of Islamic thought about evolution: outright rejection, total acceptance and partial acceptance. He describes the theological arguments in an essay on the Islamic Research Foundation's website and readers who wish explore the subject further will find a large collection of links to other articles here.

Despite these differences of opinion, and despite occasional incidents such as the beating-up of a university teacher in Sudan and leafletting by Muslim activists at King's College in London, the evolution debate is still very much a fringe issue among Muslims. There has been no Muslim equivalent of the campaigns by American creationists (except in Turkey) and a recent study in the Netherl…

Design That Solves Problems for the World’s Poor

The New York Times has a very interesting article about how the best designers are creating products for the wrong market:
“A billion customers in the world,” Dr. Paul Polak told a crowd of inventors recently, “are waiting for a $2 pair of eyeglasses, a $10 solar lantern and a $100 house.”

The world’s cleverest designers, said Dr. Polak, a former psychiatrist who now runs an organization helping poor farmers become entrepreneurs, cater to the globe’s richest 10 percent, creating items like wine labels, couture and Maseratis.

“We need a revolution to reverse that silly ratio,” he said.

To that end, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, which is housed in Andrew Carnegie’s 64-room mansion on Fifth Avenue and offers a $250 red chrome piggy bank in its gift shop, is honoring inventors dedicated to “the other 90 percent,” particularly the billions of people living on less than $2 a day. Their creations, on display in the museum garden until Sept. 23, have a sort of forehead-thumping “Why d…

Climate Change: More on Cap-and-Trade versus a Carbon Tax

I previously posted on the growing concern by most economists that the politically favored "cap and trade" approach is inferior to the carbon tax as the solution to climate change. The LA Times weighs in with a rather detailed editorial:
There is a growing consensus among economists around the world that a carbon tax is the best way to combat global warming, and there are prominent backers across the political spectrum, from N. Gregory Mankiw, former chairman of the Bush administration's Council on Economic Advisors, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to former Vice President Al Gore and Sierra Club head Carl Pope. Yet the political consensus is going in a very different direction. European leaders are pushing hard for the United States and other countries to join their failed carbon-trading scheme, and there are no fewer than five bills before Congress that would impose a federal cap-and-trade system. On the other side, there is just one lonely bill in th…

Andrew Brown on the Lambeth Invitations

Andrew Brown of the Guardian gives his take on the Lambeth 2008 invitations--and more importantly, the consequences if the Archbishop changes his mind:
Since almost everyone in these struggles hates to see their opponents get anything they want, giving something to everyone, as Dr Williams as done, is a sure way to unite them, briefly, in hatred for the archbishop. The liberal Americans point out that Gene Robinson was a properly elected and consecrated bishop so he should come to Lambeth; Martyn Minns is certainly a properly consecrated bishop, as the Nigerians claim. Why can't he come? Even Nolbert Kunonga is being defended, improbably enough, by some liberals, on the grounds that once you start rejecting bishops merely because they are repulsive, it is difficult to know where to stop. This is an argument that has more force than at first appears.

Yet from the confusion of this hissing snake pit, one demand has already emerged quite clearly. Dr Akinola, the leader of the Nigerian …

Pentecost and the Public Life

Peter Leithart, professor of theology and literature at New Saint Andrews College and pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Moscow, Idaho, and an interesting post on the First Things First Blog about the meaning of Pentecost in our public lives. In short, he rejects the notion that the Holy Spirit only works in our private lives. I agree.

What has Pentecost to do with public life? As Paul would say, much in every way.

The Bible does not permit us to confine the work of the Spirit to the inner man or to private experience. Through Isaiah (44:3), the Lord promised to pour out water on the land of Israel and his Spirit upon Israel’s seed. When the Spirit is poured out like water, he turns desolate places to fruitfulness, transforms the dry land into a grove, transfigures the withered leaf into a green (Isa. 32:15; Ezek. 39:29; Joel 2:29; Zech. 12:10; Acts 2:17–18, 33; 10:45). Restoration of nature symbolizes cultural flourishing. When the Spirit is poured out on Israel, the Lord promises, t…

Victor Davis Hanson on the American Decline

My politics and world view differ greatly from that of Victor Davis Hanson, but I think he is on to something in this column:

Books by liberals assure us that our “empire” is kaput. Brace for the inevitable fate of Rome. Conservatives are just as glum. For them, we are also Romans — but the more decadent variety, eaten away from the inside. . . .Yet American Cassandras are old stuff. Grim Charles Lindberg in the late 1930s lectured a Depression-era America that Hitler’s new order in Germany could only be appeased, never opposed.
After World War II, it wasn’t long before the Soviet Union ended our short-lived status as sole nuclear superpower. And when Eastern Europe and China were lost to communism, it was proof, for many, that democratic capitalism was passé. “We will bury you,” Nikita Khrushchev promised us.
After the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1991, America proclaimed itself at the “end of history” — meaning that the spread of our style of democratic capitalism was now inevitabl…

Ben Myers Starting a New Series on Tradition

As I work my way through several books on the history of Christianity--including Jaroslav Pelikan's masterpiece set on Christian doctrine, I realize that I have much to learn about Christian tradition. I was therefore thrilled when Ben Myers, who completed a PhD on seventeenth-century theology and literature, and is now doing postdoctoral research at the University of Queensland., announced a series on his Faith and Theology blog on tradition. What makes this especially interesting is that Ben will focus on different traditions--by using the stories of people who converted from one faith tradition to another. Here is Ben's announcement of the series:
Understanding the function of tradition remains a central task for theology today – and ecumenical progress requires an ever deeper understanding not only of one’s own tradition, but also of the internal “grammar” of other Christian traditions. But this is by no means easy. Indeed, as Gerhard Ebeling once remarked, relatively few C…

Biological Basis for Moral Impulses?

There is an interesting article in the Washington Post about the possible biological basis for our most deep rooted moral impulses:

The e-mail came from the next room.

"You gotta see this!" Jorge Moll had written. Moll and Jordan Grafman, neuroscientists at the National Institutes of Health, had been scanning the brains of volunteers as they were asked to think about a scenario involving either donating a sum of money to charity or keeping it for themselves.

As Grafman read the e-mail, Moll came bursting in. The scientists stared at each other. Grafman was thinking, "Whoa -- wait a minute!"

The results were showing that when the volunteers placed the interests of others before their own, the generosity activated a primitive part of the brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex. Altruism, the experiment suggested, was not a superior moral faculty that suppresses basic selfish urges but rather was basic to the brain, hard-wired and pleasurable.
. . .

Remembering Friends: My Memorial Day Tribute

Sadly, most Americans have lost touch with the military. Joining the Army, Marines, Navy or Air Force is something that others do. As a result, a day like Memorial Day is too abstract--we vaguely (and briefly) recall the brave men and women who died while serving this country, but don't remember anyone in particular.

I want to make Memorial Day a bit less abstract by telling you about four men and women I called friends and colleagues who died serving this country. Three were solders. One was a civilian. All died serving this country.

Lieutenant General Timothy J. Maude was the highest ranking officer to die in the September 11th attack of the Pentagon. I knew him as a friend and client. We had lunch together virtually everyday in the Pentagon's General Officer's mess. He was serving as the the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel at the time of his death. He entered the United States Army as an enlisted soldier on March 21, 1966. Upon completion of Officer Candida…

A Father Loses A Son to the War He Opposes

Andrew J. Bacevich is one of the best thinkers and writers on foreign policy in this country. Make no mistake, Professor Bacevich is no liberal--most of his writings have a decidedly conservative take, and he is a self-described Catholic conservative. He is a West Point graduate, a veteran of the Vietnam War, and a proud member of a military family. His son and namesake followed in his father's footsteps and became an Army officer. Sadly, the younger Bacevich died in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq earlier this month.

What makes this so especially sad is that Andrew Bacevich (the elder) was one of the most articulate opponents of this unwise war. I receive the Department of Defense press releases by email, and felt like I had been hit in the stomach when I read the release announcing the death of Lt. Andrew Bacevich. I did not know either the son or the father, but I had learned to admire Professor Bacevich through his writings--both before and after the beginnings of the Iraq War.


Father Gary Dorrien on the Contempory Relevance of Reinhold Niebuhr

Readers of this blog will know that I am a fan of Reinhold Niebuhr. I was therefore quite interested in Peter Steinfels' New York Timescolumn on Faith, which features an interview of Gary Dorrien, the new Reinhold Niebuhr professor of social ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Here are some highlights:

Q. How does your approach to Christian social ethics compare to Niebuhr’s?

A. There have been three major traditions of Christian social ethics over the past century — Social Gospel liberalism, Niebuhrian realism and liberation theology — and Union Seminary has been a major center of all three. Niebuhr absorbed the social justice ethic of the Social Gospel but turned against the idealism and rationalism it shared with the Progressive movement; he believed that the Social Gospel took too little account of conflict and human sinfulness. A generation later, liberation theologians turned against Niebuhrian realism, which they judged to be too much a defense of the American p…

Climate Control: What Works Best?

As we move toward doing something about climate change, we need to make sure whatever we adopt will actually work. the two major proposals are "cap and trade" (which is used now in the European Union) and a carbon tax (which is used no where for obvious political reasons). Libertarian Ronald Baily has an excellent essay making the case that the carbon tax is the best option. Here are some highlights:
Cap-and-trade schemes for reducing pollutants have a lot going for them. First, many businesses favor them. Second, we already have an American example of a similar market that works. Third, carbon markets are accepted under international treaties and already exist abroad. Fourth, most environmental groups like cap-and-trade systems because they set firm limits on actual emissions. And, fifth, in theory at least, the flexibility of carbon markets enables businesses to figure out the least expensive way to reduce overall emissions.

The United States currently maintains a robust cap…