Thursday, May 31, 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 Clean Development and Climate. Canada's conservative government toyed with joining the partnership and announced that it would not be able to reduce emissions by as much as it promised at Kyoto. But it recently pledged instead to reduce emissions by a more modest amount by 2020, and says it has no objections to Mrs Merkel's 50% target by 2050.

Australia's government, too, seems to be wavering in its opposition to mandatory emissions caps. The opposition, which is ahead in the opinion polls, has promised to sign the Kyoto protocol. In response, the government created a commission to come up with a new approach on climate change; it handed over its conclusions this week. The prime minister is now expected to unveil a more exacting policy based on these recommendations before calling an election later this year.

Indeed, world leaders seem to be competing with one another to churn out ever more ambitious targets on global warming. Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, has decided to make climate change one of the centrepieces of his tenure. He too has produced a plan for a 50% cut in global emissions by 2050. Tony Blair, Britain's outgoing prime minister, has an even more ambitious reduction in mind, of 60%. The European Union as a whole has agreed to reduce its emissions by 20% by 2020, and offered to increase the figure to 30% if non-European countries make commitments of their own. Norway, meanwhile, hopes to become the world's first “carbon neutral” country, by reducing its emissions to zero by 2050, or paying for equivalent reductions elsewhere.

All this leaves America with few allies at the G8. Nicolas Sarkozy, France's new president, has urged the Americans not to obstruct attempts to tackle climate change. Even Russia is likely to support Mrs Merkel's stance, since its emissions have fallen dramatically since 1990, thanks to the industrial collapse that accompanied the break-up of the Soviet Union. It also stands to benefit from the trade in credits for emissions reductions allowed under Kyoto.

Nonetheless, America is likely to stick to its guns. After all, Mr Bush resisted similar pressure from his friend Mr Blair ahead of the G8 summit in 2005, which also addressed global warming but resulted in only an anodyne statement. Most European governments assume that little progress will be made until a new American administration takes office in 2009.


In the meantime, global emissions continue to grow. Indeed, the growth appears to be accelerating. A study recently published by America's National Academy of Sciences found that worldwide emissions, which had been growing by 1.1% a year in the 1990s, grew by more than 3% a year between 2000 and 2004. That is faster than the most pessimistic projections of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body set up to make authoritative pronouncements on the science of global warming. It is also faster than economic growth, implying that the world is not just consuming more energy, but also making it ever more dirtily.



Even the G8 members that are enthusiastically embracing ambitious targets are struggling to cut their emissions. Only Britain and Russia are now on target to meet their obligations under Kyoto (see chart). Meanwhile, emissions from India and China have almost doubled since 1990. No wonder the row over the G8's summit communiqué is getting hotter and hotter.


Read it all.

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 too

The 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 months, and his few statements, it looks like the process of realignment in Anglicanism is well under way -- and Bishop Duncan is still very involved in it. It looks like the Common Cause Partnership is exploring how it can gather, unite, and form the long-awaited alternative Anglican province in North America. If the numerous convocations, missionary fellowships and small independent denominations in this coalition do manage to coalesce into a single entity -- this would be a new direction for traditionalist separatist Anglicans. Historically, the separatist bodies have been disunited from each other, and have fractured internally often. However, if somehow the Common Cause do form an 'Anglican Union in North America' as they seem to be proposing to do -- it would be a good thing for them.

. . .

It looks rather obvious that the separatists have concluded that the Windsor Process is complete -- and it has not served their goals. They have obviously concluded that the Episcopal Church will not be 'removed' or 'disciplined' by the Anglican Communion -- and so they are moving on to plan 'B'. This plan 'B' is the creation of a new ecclesiastical province -- which almost certainly will be the North American expression of not of worldwide Anglicanism -- but of worldwide Traditionalist Anglicanism.

The odd thing is that this group will be overwhelmingly dominated by evangelicals of the Richard Turnbull definition, whose defining doctrinal marks are still based on three calvinist slogans: sola scriptura, substitutionary atonement, certainty of hell for those who do not profess Christ. I say this is odd not because I'm surprised that the conservative evangelicals are dominant, but because they are going to be dominant in an organization which will still uphold the 1662 Prayer Book, 39 Articles, and a powerful episcopate. Historically, conservative evangelicals in the Anglican tradition have had lots and lots of problems with those three foundational elements of Anglicanism -- for they have a pronounced 'catholic' bent to them.

When the neo-classical Anglican Communion of Akinola, Minns and others have squeezed out the broad-church, latitudinarian, progressive catholics and other more 'modern' forms of Anglicanism -- it is hard to see how they won't return to the kinds of fights which bitterly divided the reformed/calvinist and high-church/catholic Anglicans between the 16th-19th centuries.

Indeed - based on comments and postings regularly made at Stand Firm -- the calvinist/evangelical Anglican party is indeed dominant in the realignment movement. I just don't see how they will tolerate the anglo-catholic traditionalists anymore then they ever did before -- or vice versa. It may be the great wish of Bishop Bob Duncan that the high-church conservatives and the low-church conservatives will get along, and form a viable, and visibly unified body. However, as much as that may be his wish, I am extremely doubtful that they will pull it off. Because, if history is any measure, those willing to break up churches and start new ones -- often take that tendency with them in their new ventures. And, the calvinist/evangelical Anglican separatists have a long history of looking down on the beliefs held dear by the anglo-catholic Anglican separatists.

I imagine what we'll see -- if this new Communion forms and goes forth -- over time -- is a new Protestant denomination that looks more evangelical and calvinist and increasingly less catholic or -- frankly -- Anglican. I think there will be some very exciting new ministries which will arise -- and some will be ones I will want to learn from. But, my hunch is, it will look more like the conservative Presbyterian Church in America or Missouri Synod Lutherans than the Anglicanism most of us have known for a long time. That's not meant to be pejorative -- after all the PCA and Missouri Synod have done some awesome work for the Lord. In particular, I think the PCA has produced some of the most innovative and effective gospel ministries going -- like Redeemer in New York City.


Read it all.

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 accident. That being the case, many believers — myself included — reject arguments for evolution that dismiss the possibility of divine causality.

Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves. There are aspects of evolutionary biology that reveal a great deal about the nature of the world, like the small changes that take place within a species. Yet I believe, as do many biologists and people of faith, that the process of creation — and indeed life today — is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him. It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.

Read it all (subscription required).

This statement on evolution demands a response. First, the key distinction that Brownback tries to draw--accepting microevolution (evolution within a species) but implicitly rejecting macroevolution (evolution from one species into another)--is one that no serious biologist would accept. The process that would lead to microevolution is exactly the same as that would lead to macroevolution. The only real difference is time--macroevolution takes much more time.

Creationists accept microevolution because the evidence for it is really irrefutable and because it is consistent with a young earth. But if you accept that the Earth is 4 billion years old (and not 6000 years old), the same process that leads to microevolution should result in massive macroevolution as well.

Second, while there is some debate within the scientific community about evolutionary details, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that evolution lead to the development of species (including humans) and that natureal selection was the vehicle for doing so. Thus, Brownback's handwaving about punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinian theory displays a profound misunderstanding of evolutionary science.

Finally, the dichotomy that Brownback offers between accepting microevolution versus "an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world" is a false one. Dr. Francis Collins is a good example of a devout Christian who rejects an exclusively materialistic vision of the world, but who also accepts macroevolution.

For a more detailed take on the Brownback op-ed (albeit from a very athiestic point of view), check out P.Z. Myers' blog.

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-cost coal the fuel of choice for new power plants. Emissions in these countries are now rising faster than in developed economies in North America and Europe: China will soon overtake the United States as the world’s number one greenhouse gas emitter. With the power sector expanding rapidly, China and India will fall further behind in controlling greenhouse gas emissions unless new coal plants adopt emission controls. Lack of progress in these countries would doom to failure global efforts to combat global warming.


. . .


Fortunately, there is a potential pathway that would allow continued use of coal as an energy source without magnifying the risk of global warming. Technology currently exists to capture CO2 emissions from coal-fired plants before they are released into the environment and to sequester that CO2 in underground geologic formations. Energy companies boast extensive experience sequestering CO2 by injecting it into oil fields to enhance oil recovery. Although additional testing is needed, experts are optimistic this practice can be replicated in saline aquifers and other geologic formations that are likely to constitute the main storage reservoirs for CO2 emitted from power plants.



However, these so-called carbon capture and storage, or CCS systems, require modifications to existing power plant technologies. Today the prevailing coal-based generation technology in the United States is pulverized coal, with high-temperature (supercritical and ultrasupercritical) designs available to improve efficiency. It is possible to capture CO2 emissions at these pulverized coal units, but the CO2 capture technology currently has performance and cost drawbacks.
But there’s a new coal-based power generation technology, Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle, or IGCC, which allows CCS systems in new plants to more efficiently capture and store CO2 because the CO2 can be removed before combustion. Motivated by this advantage, some power plant developers have announced plans to use IGCC technology but very few have committed to installing and operating CCS systems.



The great challenge is ensuring that widespread deployment of CCS systems at new IGCC and pulverized coal plants occurs on a timely basis. Despite growing recognition of the promise of carbon capture and storage, we are so far failing in that effort. The consequences of delay will be far-reaching—a new generation of coal plants could well be built without CO2 emission controls.

experts today are projecting that only a small percentage of new coal-fired plants built during the next 25 years will use IGCC technology. IGCC plants currently cost about 20 percent to 25 percent more to build than conventional state-of- the-art coal plants using supercritical pulverized coal, or SCPC, technology. What’s more, because experience with IGCC technology is limited, IGCC plants are still perceived to have reliability and efficiency drawbacks.



More importantly, IGCC plants are not likely to capture and sequester their CO2 emissions in the current regulatory environment since add-on capture technology will reduce efficiency and lower electricity output. This will increase the cost of producing electricity by 25 percent to 40 percent over plants without CCS capability.
These barriers can be partially overcome by tax credits and other financial incentives and by performance guarantees from IGCC technology vendors. Even with these measures, however, it is unlikely that IGCC plants will replace conventional coal plants in large numbers or that those plants which are built will capture and store CO2. There are two reasons for this.



First, even cost-competitive new technologies are usually not adopted rapidly, particularly in a conservative industry such as the utility sector, where the new technology is different from the conventional technology. This is the case with IGCC plants, which are indeed more like chemical plants than traditional coal-fired plants.
Second, there is now no business motivation to bear the cost of CCS systems when selecting new generation technologies even though the cost of electricity from IGCC plants is in fact lower than from SCPC plants once CCS costs are taken into account. This is because plant owners are not required to control greenhouse gas emissions and CCS systems are unnecessary for the production of power. The upshot: IGCC units (with and even without CCS capability) will lack a competitive edge over SCPC units unless all plant developers are responsible for costeffectively abating their CO2 emissions. No such requirement exists today.


Read it all. The Report then offers a series of recommendations that are designed to expedite the move toward carbon-capture coal technology--front and center is a carbon tax that will create an incentive to use this technology.

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 the other side, creationist and intelligent design movements continue to gather supporters. Indeed, dismayingly, it appears that creationist arguments are also now beginning to make inroads into some Muslim communities too.

Collins emphatically rejects the bleak worldview that Dawkins espoused in his 1995 book River Out of Eden:

"The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference."


As the late paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould often remarked, just as it was important for religious scholars not to overstep their boundaries by making unsupported assertions about issues that were within the domain of science, it was also unhelpful when scientists made similarly unsupported atheistic claims about what science had to say regarding questions of meaning and purpose.

So, the same data that Dawkins used to advocate his atheistic worldview can also be interpreted in a quite different way. "... The fact that the universe had a beginning, that it obeys orderly laws that can be expressed precisely with mathematics, and the existence of a remarkable series of 'coincidences' that allows the laws of nature to support life ..." can also lend strong support for the God hypothesis, says Collins.

And Collins makes just this case for the concept of theistic evolution, ie God caused the universe to come into being and set its laws and physical parameters precisely right to allow the creation of stars, planets, heavy elements and life itself. Such a belief does not contradict and is consistent with both science and faith.

In the final analysis, the scientific method has been astoundingly successful at investigating the natural world. Still, this should not be allowed to obscure the fact that the tools of science are powerless to answer some of our profoundest questions such as "Why did the universe come into being?", "What is the meaning of human existence?" and "What will happen to us after we die?" and yet there is clearly a deep-rooted human desire to seek answers to these questions.


Read it all.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

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


I found this video on Andrew Sullivan's website and was quite taken with it. Busted Halo.com 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 BustedHalo.com 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 (youtube.com/bustedhalovideo). We hope that this new video feature BustedVideo!?!), in which associate editor Jeff Guhin describes his experience of God outside the walls of Church, will inspire others to realize that it doesn't take an "expert" to see God's presence in their own lives."


Read more here.

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. It is
unequivocal that the climate is changing, and it is very
likely that this is predominantly caused by the increasing
human interference with the atmosphere. These changes
will transform the environmental conditions on Earth
unless counter-measures are taken.


Our present energy course is not sustainable. World
population is forecast to reach 9 billion by 2050, with
the most rapid growth in the poorest countries. Escalating
pressures on land will accelerate deforestation. Major
increases in demand for energy are inevitable as
economies around the world accelerate and peoples
justifiably seek to improve their living standards.
Responding to this demand while minimising further
climate change will need all the determination and
ingenuity we can muster.


The problem is not yet insoluble, but becomes more
difficult with each passing day. A goal of confining global
warming to an average of 2 centigrade degrees above
pre-industrial levels would be very challenging, and even
this amount of warming would be likely to have some
severe impacts.


Read it all. The importance of this document is that it comes on the eve of a G8 conference in which the United States Government appears to be fighting any serious action by the G8 on climate change issues.

I was stunned to find virtually no coverage of this document in the mainstream press in the United States or Europe.

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 for this measure.

The trend in public support for gay marriage also shows a long-term increase in pro-gay rights attitudes, with the current result being the most affirming on record for gays, though still the minority view.

(It should be noted that this gay-marriage question follows a number of questions about homosexual rights in Gallup's Values and Beliefs survey. When the same question is asked in other Gallup surveys that do not include such questions, a lower level of support for gay marriage is usually found.)

More generally, Americans' tolerance for gay rights currently ranges from 89% believing gays should have equal rights in terms of job opportunities, down to 46% saying marriages between same-sex couples should be as legally valid as traditional marriages.

Read it all.

The poll also found that, however, that tolerance for homosexuality does not necessarily mean that the public accepts homosexuality as "moral." The percentage saying such relations are morally acceptable has grown only modestly over the last several years, from 40% in 2001, when the question was first asked, to 47% today. This is the first year that an outright majority of Americans have not said homosexual relations are morally wrong.

In drilling down on attitudes, the Gallup poll found that views about homosexuality were determined by age, political affiliation and religious activity. For example, 75% of those 18-34 years old thought that homosexuality was an acceptable lifestyle compared to 58% for those 35-54 years old, and 45% for those over 55. Only 36% of Republicans thought that homosexuality was an acceptable lifestyle versus 72% of Democrats and 60% of Independents. Only 33% of those who attend worship services every week thought homosexuality was an acceptable lifestyle versus 57% who worship nearly weekly or monthly and 74% who rarely or seldom attend worship services.

Finally, views on why people are gay or lesbian also affects attitudes:

Americans who believe homosexuals are born with their sexual orientation tend to be much more supportive of gay rights than are those who say homosexuality is due to upbringing and environment (and therefore, perhaps, more of a lifestyle choice).

Americans are closely divided today over which of the two explanations is correct: 42% say homosexuality is something a person is born with while 35% say it is due to factors such as upbringing and environment. The balance of public opinion on the question has shifted back and forth in recent years, but the long-term pattern shows a clear increase in the view that one's sexuality is determined at birth.

As noted, substantive attitudes about homosexual rights are closely related to views
on this question. For example, nearly four in five of those who believe homosexuality is congenital think it should be an acceptable lifestyle. By contrast, only 30% of those who think homosexuality is caused by environmental factors agree.


So what do we make of all this? I think that the big take away is that there has been a steady and consistent change in attitudes toward homosexuality in the past decade. The ago data suggests that this is a pattern that will continue.

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 House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda stands by its resolve to uphold the Road to Lambeth.

Read it all. The Church of Nigeria has already threatended no to atend if Bishop Minns does not attend. Sounds like Lambeth 2008 is coming into place just as Father Greg Jones predicted on his blog yesterday:

There is no reason to suspect the leaders of the 'Global South' group will do other than a boycott. According to the Telegraph (UK), "Archbishop Akinola was enraged that Bishop Martyn Minns, who leads a conservative group in America, was also excluded from the conference by Dr Williams last week." Akinola said, "The withholding of an invitation to a Nigerian bishop, elected and consecrated by other Nigerian bishops, will be viewed as withholding invitations to the entire House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria."

Moreover, just last year, the Global South coalition issued a paper in which they stated that they would not go to Lambeth 2008 unless significant punitive measures were taken against the Episcopal Church before that time. Notably, the paper 'The Road to Lambeth' specifies that any bishops who have violated the Lambeth 1.10 Resolution on human sexuality should not be invited to Lambeth until they repent. The Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, has affirmed that his church will uphold the 'Road to Lambeth' requirements. He said:

“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...Accordingly, the House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda stands by its resolve to uphold the Road to Lambeth."

Almost certainly, if the Global South coalition does boycott Lambeth it is pretty likely that this will signify their departure altogether from the Anglican Communion. If they leave the Communion -- they are very likely to form their own communion. My sense is -- and I've said this all along -- Anglicanism will then consist of two global bodies. The 'traditional' Anglican Communion will in fact be the one we are in -- with England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Central America, and probably the majority of the current provinces. I'm going to guess that roughly two-thirds of the member churches of the Communion stick with us. The 'new' Anglican Communion will be the one led by Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Southern Cone, and perhaps two or three other provinces.

Read it all.

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 watched and measured carefully back here on earth, and it is not the primary cause of current climate change.


As for the alleged extraterrestrial warming, there is extremely little evidence of a global climate change on Mars. The only piece I'm aware of is a series of photographs of a single icy region in the southern hemisphere that shows melting over a six year period (about three Martian years).

Here on earth we have direct measurements from all over the globe, widespread glacial retreat, reduction of sea ice, and satellite measurements of the lower troposphere up to the stratosphere. To compare this mountain of data to a few photographs of a single region on another planet strains credulity. And in fact, the relevant scientists believe the observation described above is the result of a regional change caused by Mars' own orbital cycles, like what happened during the earth's glacial cycles.

See Global Warming on Mars? from RealClimate for much more detail about this issue.

Turning to the outer reaches of the solar system: in the icy cold and lonely Kuiper Belt was observed a difference in Pluto's atmospheric thickness, inferred from two occultation observations 14 years apart. But a cursory glance at Pluto's orbit and atmosphere reveals how ridiculous it is to draw any conclusions about climate, much less climate change, from observations spanning less than even a single season, let alone enough years to even establish the climate's normal state.

Anyone trying to draw conclusions about what is happening here on earth from all this might as well be from another planet.

Back to Mars for a quick summary:

On Earth, we have poles melting, surface temperature rising, tropospheric temperatures rising, permafrost melting, glaciers worldwide melting, CO2 concentrations increasing, borehole analysis showing warming, sea ice receding, proxy reconstructions showing warming, sea level rising, sea surface temperatures rising, energy imbalance, ice sheets melting, and stratospheric cooling, all of which leads us to believe the earth is undergoing global warming driven by an enhanced greenhouse effect.

One Mars we have one spot melting, which leads us to believe that ... one spot is melting.

Forgive me for not being reassured.


Read it all.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

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 Netherlands concluded that "neither a stark anti-evolutionism nor an anti-scientific attitude is representative of Muslim students".

Historically, Muslims have been much less fearful of science than Christians, and possibly this can be traced back to the Islamic golden age when scientists, philosophers and other thinkers carried out their work largely untrammelled by religious dogma.

. . .

As far as evolution is concerned, the Qur'an provides very little for anti-Darwinists to get their teeth into. It portrays God as the creative force behind the universe but - unlike the Book of Genesis in the Bible - doesn't go into details about the creation process. It says God made "every living thing" from water; that He created humans from clay and that He created them "in stages". In the view of many Muslims, this clearly allows scope for evolutionary interpretations.


Islamic creationism, as an organised movement, is relatively new and small, though well funded and apparently growing in influence. It is centred in Turkey, and particularly around the well-funded Foundation for Scientific Research (BAV), headed by Adnan Oktar. Oktar, who has written dozens of books under the pen-name Harun Yahya, is described on his own website as "a prominent Turkish intellectual" who is "completely devoted to moral values", though Wikipedia is far less complimentary about him.


At first sight, BAV's activities seem to be part of an internal Turkish battle between Islamists and secularists - one which it claims to be winning. "Darwinism is dying in Turkey, thanks to us," according to BAV's director, Tarkan Yavas. But it also has bigger ambitions, claiming to be the creationism centre of the world, and looking ahead to Turkey's possible future membership of the EU. In Yavas's view: "Darwinism breeds immorality, and an immoral Turkey is of no use to the European Union at all."

. . .

BAV has frequent contacts with American creationists and, although its books are superficially Islamic, they have been shown to rely extensively on arguments and other material produced by the Institute for Creation Research in California.
This borrowing of ideas from the most reactionary corners of Christianity - and then repackaging them as "Islamic" - is part of a trend that goes back to the 1960s, when Muslims began adopting the Victorian values of the west, at a time when most western societies were rapidly abandoning them.


The trend has accelerated in recent years, partly through the internet and also under the guise of "inter-faith dialogue", and so (for example) we find Dr Majid Katme, head of the Islamic Medical Association in Britain, becoming as Catholic as the Pope on the question of abortion. Similarly, the popular IslamOnline website provides an "Islamic" and "scientific" view of homosexuality which is actually nothing of the kind; it is cribbed, almost entirely, from the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a religious-based fringe psychiatric organisation in the United States.

The Christian groups are eager to collaborate with Muslims and influence them in this way because of the additional support that Muslims can provide at an international level for their reactionary agenda. But it is harder to see what Muslims can gain by embracing ideas that are ultimately doomed.


As far as evolution is concerned, it is a pointless battle, because science and religion are two different things. In the words of Steve Jones, the prominent genetics professor: "There are very few scientists who would attempt to disprove [the] existence of God by scientific means; but plenty of others who try to deny science because of their own beliefs ... Creationism does no lasting harm to science, but will be the end of any faith that insists on it."


Read it all.

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 didn’t someone think of that before?” quality.
For example, one of the simplest and yet most elegant designs tackles a job that millions of women and girls spend many hours doing each year — fetching water. Balancing heavy jerry cans on the head may lead to elegant posture, but it is backbreaking work and sometimes causes crippling injuries. The Q-Drum, a circular jerry can, holds 20 gallons, and it rolls smoothly enough for a child to tow it on a rope.
Interestingly, most of the designers who spoke at the opening of the exhibition spurned the idea of charity.


“The No. 1 need that poor people have is a way to make more cash,” said Martin Fisher, an engineer who founded KickStart, an organization that says it has helped 230,000 people escape poverty. It sells human-powered pumps costing $35 to $95.

Pumping water can help a farmer grow grain in the dry season, when it fetches triple the normal price. Dr. Fisher described customers who had skipped meals for weeks to buy a pump and then earned $1,000 the next year selling vegetables.


“Most of the world’s poor are subsistence farmers, so they need a business model that lets them make money in three to six months, which is one growing season,” he said. KickStart accepts grants to support its advertising and find networks of sellers supplied with spare parts, for example. His prospective customers, Dr. Fisher explained, “don’t do market research.”


“Many of them have never left their villages,” he said


Read it all.

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 the House, from Rep. Pete Stark (D-Fremont), to impose a carbon tax, and it's not expected to go far.

The obvious reason is that, for voters, taxes are radioactive, while carbon trading sounds like something that just affects utilities and big corporations. The many green politicians stumping for cap-and-trade seldom point out that such a system would result in higher and less predictable power bills. Ironically, even though a carbon tax could cost voters less, cap-and-trade is being sold as the more consumer-friendly approach.

A well-designed, well-monitored carbon-trading scheme could deeply reduce greenhouse gases with less economic damage than pure regulation. But it's not the best way, and it is so complex that it would probably take many years to iron out all the wrinkles. Voters might well embrace carbon taxes if political leaders were more honest about the comparative costs.

The world is under a deadline. Some scientists believe that once atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have doubled from the pre-industrial level, which may happen by mid-century if no action is taken, the damage may be irreversible.

Read it all.

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 church, has let it be announced that: "The withholding of invitation to a Nigerian bishop, elected and consecrated by other Nigerian bishops, will be viewed as withholding invitation to the entire house of bishops of the church of Nigeria."

Taken at face value, this suggests that he and all his bishops will boycott the whole conference unless their invasion of the US is ratified by Dr Williams. There is no doubt that Akinola thinks of himself as the true leader of the Anglican communion, and Dr Williams as a pathetic post-colonial relic. Although Dr Akinola has several times trembled on the brink of marching right out of the Anglican communion, he has not so far had to choose whether this is what he really wants. "He [Williams] will do whatever we tell him to", he was overheard telling one of his advisers at an earlier meeting; but this arrogance is what Dr Williams is banking on. If there is a long-term plan to hold the Anglican churches more or less together, it is based on the belief that most of them would much rather not be led by Dr Williams than by whipped about by Dr Akinola.

But is there such a plan at all? Or is the simple explanation for this subtle man the right one? This is the question the Nigerian boycott threat will answer. Now that the threat has been made, it can't be withdrawn without someone backing down; in Dr Akinola's eyes, the obvious someone will be Dr Williams. There are 14 months before the conference; 14 months in which every effort possible will be made to bully him out of his original decision.

Once before, at the beginning of his term as Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Williams made a decision that exposed him to bullying, when he approved the appointment of Dr Jeffrey John, a celibate gay, as suffragan bishop of Reading. After six weeks of increasing pressure, he cracked and withdrew his approval. The shadow of that failure has lain over everything he has done since. Perhaps he should not have picked the fight at all, but to have started it and then surrendered was the worst of all possible outcomes. Dr Williams caved in over Jeffrey John in July 2003, nearly four years ago; we will find out soon enough if he has learned anything from the experience. If he has not, and if he caves in once more, no one will ever listen to him again. Why should we care what he believes about anything if we know he won't stand up for it?

Read it all.

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, the nation will be renewed.


. . .


What does a Spirit-filled society look like? We should ask what it sounds like. For the first thing Paul says is that the Spirit makes us noisy. “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,” he says (Eph. 5:18). Though he condemns drunkenness, Paul implies that the result of being filled with the Spirit is quite similar to the result of being filled with spirits. “They are filled with new wine,” said the skeptics about the babbling disciples at Pentecost (Acts 2:13). It was a plausible mistake.



For Paul, the Spirit doesn’t make us placid and mild, quiet and retiring. When we’re filled with the Spirit, we cannot not speak, and our speech breaks out in boisterous psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Being filled with the Spirit means being filled with music, in our mouths and in our hearts. A marriage filled with the Spirit is full of noise, harmonious and melodious noise, joyful noise. C.S. Lewis wrote that a Christian society would be a joyful society, rollicking, lighthearted, exuberant. Paul agreed.


. . .


The Holy Spirit is the creative Alpha Spirit of the first day, the one who begins to form the stuff of the creation into beauty. He is the re-creative Omega Spirit of the Sabbath who brings everything to completion. In between, he is the re-creative Spirit who renews the earth and gives life to the world. Christians confess that the Spirit is the “Lord and Giver of Life.” As Alexander Schmemann pointed out decades ago, “life” does not mean a “religious life” erected on a foundation of secular life. Life means life in the fullest, most extensive sense—physical, cultural, social, aesthetic. And of this the Spirit is the Lord and Giver.


Read it all.

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 inevitable. Now a mere 16 years later, some are just as sure we approach our own end.


But our rivals are weaker and America is far stronger than many think.

. . .

A better way to assess our chances at maintaining our preeminence is simply to ask the same questions that are the historical barometers of our nation’s success or failure: Does any nation have a constitution comparable to ours? Does merit — or religion, tribe, or class — mostly gauge success or failure in America? What nation is as free, stable, and transparent as the U.S.?


Try becoming a fully accepted citizen of China or Japan if you were not born Chinese or Japanese. Try running for national office in India from the lower caste. Try writing a critical oped in Russia or hiring a brilliant female to run a mosque, university, or hospital in most of the Middle East. Ask where MRI scans, Wal-Mart, iPods, the Internet, or F-18s came from.


In the last 60 years, we have been warned in succession that new paradigms in racially pure Germany, the Soviet workers’ paradise, Japan Inc., and now 24/7 China all were about to displace the United States. None did. All have had relative moments of amazing success — but in the end none proved as resilient, flexible, and adaptable as America.


That brings us to the greatest strength of the United States: radical self-critique. We Americans are worrywarts, always believing we’re on the verge of extinction. And so, to “renew,” “reinvent,” or “save” America, we whip ourselves up about “wars” on poverty, drugs, and cancer; space “races;” missile “gaps;” literacy “crusades;” and “campaigns” against litter, waste, and smoking.


In other words, we nail-biters have always been paranoid that we must change and improve in order to survive. And thus we usually do — just in time.


Read it all.

The truth is that the current U.S. dominance in the world will erode. The rise of China, India, and yes the European Union, will mean that we will live in a more multi-polar world than the U.S.-dominated post-Cold War period that we now live in. Given the hubris of the current Administration, this may very well be a good thing. At the very least, it suggests that we need to be better prepared to live in a multi-polar world.

Nonetheless, I agree with Hanson that one of America's strengths is our capacity for self-criticism. Is it inevitable that this self-criticism will save us every time? No, but it is a virtue that we had best continue to nurture.

Monday, May 28, 2007

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 Christians have ever had to made a real choice between traditions – in most cases, one’s own tradition simply maintains its own powerful self-evidentness in contrast to all other traditions.

Ebeling’s observation highlights the complex difficulties surrounding ecumenical understanding: if I have never encountered (say) the Roman Catholic tradition as a genuine possibility for faith, and so have never had to choose between this possibility and the possibility of my own tradition, then I’ve not yet really begun to understand the Roman Catholic tradition at all.

For this reason, we can learn a lot from people who have made a transition from one Christian tradition to another. Such people have experienced tradition itself – they have encountered both the non-self-evidentness of their own tradition, and the attractiveness and coherence of another tradition. So if we listen to the stories of people who have made such ecclesial transitions, it’s possible that the function of tradition will become a little more translucent, a little more thinkable.

With that in mind, we’re starting a new series here at F&T, entitled “Encounters with Tradition.” The series will feature guest-posts from several people who have made a transition from one Christian tradition to another – from Protestant to Catholic, from Baptist to Anglican, from evangelical to post-evangelical, and so on.

Perhaps these stories of diverse “encounters with tradition” will help us all to encounter our own (and other) traditions in a fresh way.

Read it all.

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.


. . .


Grafman and others are using brain imaging and psychological experiments to study whether the brain has a built-in moral compass. The results -- many of them published just in recent months -- are showing, unexpectedly, that many aspects of morality appear to be hard-wired in the brain, most likely the result of evolutionary processes that began in other species.


. . .


What the new research is showing is that morality has biological roots -- such as the reward center in the brain that lit up in Grafman's experiment -- that have been around for a very long time.



The more researchers learn, the more it appears that the foundation of morality is empathy. Being able to recognize -- even experience vicariously -- what another creature is going through was an important leap in the evolution of social behavior. And it is only a short step from this awareness to many human notions of right and wrong, says Jean Decety, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago.



The research enterprise has been viewed with interest by philosophers and theologians, but already some worry that it raises troubling questions. Reducing morality and immorality to brain chemistry -- rather than free will -- might diminish the importance of personal responsibility. Even more important, some wonder whether the very idea of morality is somehow degraded if it turns out to be just another evolutionary tool that nature uses to help species survive and propagate.



Moral decisions can often feel like abstract intellectual challenges, but a number of experiments such as the one by Grafman have shown that emotions are central to moral thinking. In another experiment published in March, University of Southern California neuroscientist Antonio R. Damasio and his colleagues showed that patients with damage to an area of the brain known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex lack the ability to feel their way to moral answers.


Read it all.


It makes sense from a Darwinian point of view that a social animal, like our own, would develop altruistic instincts, but we must be careful that we not read too much into these studies. As Steven Pinker has shown, by any measure, the world is a much less violent and cruel place than it was even 400 years ago. That is the result of culture, philosophy--and yes religious thought--and not biology. Indeed, 400 years is far to short for any such evolutionary explanation for this improvement in human values and behavior. See my post here for my views on how Christianity may be responsible for this improvement.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

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 Candidate School in February 1967, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Adjutant General's Corps. He served in Vietnam. Lieutenant General Maude was a soldier for more than 35 years, during which time he served in a variety of important command and staff positions, culminating in his assignment as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, United States Army. The Maude Foundation website describes Tim well: "Lieutenant General Maude understood the human spirit. He understood that the well being of the Army-soldiers, civilians, retirees, veterans and their families-is inextricably linked to our readiness as a force. The success of the "Army of One" campaign demonstrates his broad understanding of human nature and his creative instincts in delivering on that understanding. He understood that young men and women today are looking for something greater than self and are able to accept the notion of duty to country as the noblest of endeavors. . . . His love of soldiers and his devotion to the Army was deep and genuine. Simply put, Lieutenant General Maude loved soldiers; he loved the Army; he loved this wonderful country. His every action cheerfully reflected this commitment to duty." He indeed cared deeply about the welfare of soldiers.


Ernie Willcher was one of the career Army lawyers who worked with me when I was General Counsel of the Army. He was the go-to guy in our office on most personnel issues. Of the four, Ernie is the person I knew best. He dedicated a lifetime to serving the Army as a civilian lawyer. At the time of his death, he was a consultant and was meeting with Tim Maude on a project about improving the lives of the families of soldiers--ironically, a new website tool for the survivors of soldiers killed in action. Ernie was a very hard worker, a gentle soul, and the most dedicated father I have ever met. He also had many of the most challenging legal issue on his plate while I served as General Counsel, and Ernie never failed me.

Chief Warrant Officer Sharon Swartsworth was the chief warrant officer for the Army Judge Advocate Corps the entire time I served as General Counsel. She was killed in Iraq when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter she was on was shot down Nov. 7, 2003, in Tikrit, Iraq. Sharon was the JAG Corps' top warrant officer at the time of her death, and was in Iraq with the Army JAG leadership team on a brief visit to Iraq guiding and boosting the morale of the soldiers responsible for administering military justice. She was responsible for pulling the JAG administration into the computer age --which was critically important as Army JAG officers are now deployed all over the world. She was about to retire from the Army at the time of her death. She had sold her Fairfax County home and moved with her family to Hawaii, where her Navy officer husband had a new posting. She had an eight year old son.

Command Sergeant Major Cornell Gilmore was the senior non-commissioned officer for the Army Judge Advocate Corps. He was killed while flying in the same UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter as Sharon Swartsworth. Gilmore was in charge of about 3,000 paralegals, both active duty and reserve. He oversaw training and served as a support system for soldiers joining the JAG Corps. He was a veteran of the Gulf War. He loved soldiers and they loved him in return. Like Sharon, he was in Iraq in a brief morale boosting trip with the rest of the JAG leadership.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

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.

Professor Bacevich has written an essay in the Washington Post about his son's death. It is well worth a read. It is sad, angry and thoughtful. He is as tough on Democrats as he is on the Bush Administration. Here are some highlights:


What exactly is a father's duty when his son is sent into harm's way?

Among the many ways to answer that question, mine was this one: As my son was doing his utmost to be a good soldier, I strove to be a good citizen.

As a citizen, I have tried since Sept. 11, 2001, to promote a critical understanding of U.S. foreign policy. I know that even now, people of good will find much to admire in Bush's response to that awful day. They applaud his doctrine of preventive war. They endorse his crusade to spread democracy across the Muslim world and to eliminate tyranny from the face of the Earth. They insist not only that his decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was correct but that the war there can still be won. Some -- the members of the "the-surge-is-already-working" school of thought -- even profess to see victory just over the horizon.

I believe that such notions are dead wrong and doomed to fail. In books, articles and op-ed pieces, in talks to audiences large and small, I have said as much. "The long war is an unwinnable one," I wrote in this section of The Washington Post in August 2005. "The United States needs to liquidate its presence in Iraq, placing the onus on Iraqis to decide their fate and creating the space for other regional powers to assist in brokering a political settlement. We've done all that we can do."

Not for a second did I expect my own efforts to make a difference. But I did nurse the hope that my voice might combine with those of others -- teachers, writers, activists and ordinary folks -- to educate the public about the folly of the course on which the nation has embarked. I hoped that those efforts might produce a political climate conducive to change. I genuinely believed that if the people spoke, our leaders in Washington would listen and respond.

This, I can now see, was an illusion.



. . .



In joining the Army, my son was following in his father's footsteps: Before he was born, I had served in Vietnam. As military officers, we shared an ironic kinship of sorts, each of us demonstrating a peculiar knack for picking the wrong war at the wrong time. Yet he was the better soldier -- brave and steadfast and irrepressible.



I know that my son did his best to serve our country. Through my own opposition to a profoundly misguided war, I thought I was doing the same. In fact, while he was giving his all, I was doing nothing. In this way, I failed him


Read it all. And please keep the family members of all of the sons and daughters that have died in this War in your prayers this Memorial Day weekend.

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 Times column 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 political and religious establishment.

My own work has been influenced by all three of these traditions: by the Social Gospel, by Niebuhr’s powerful blending of theology and political realism, and by the black liberationist, feminist, multicultural and gay rights perspectives that have flowed out of liberation theology and postmodern criticism.

From the beginning of social ethics as a distinct field in the 1880s, social ethicists have debated whether their field needs to be defined by a specific method. Should they burnish their social scientific credentials, or head straight for the burning social issues? Niebuhr is the field’s leading exemplar of directly addressing the social issues of the day without apology. I am on his side of that argument, though I also spend a lot of time explaining that there are other approaches to social ethics.

Q. What insights of Niebuhr’s are most pertinent for the nation’s public life today?

A. His sense that elements of self-interest and pride lurk even in the best of human actions. His recognition that a special synergy of selfishness operates in collectivities like nations. His critique of Americans’ belief in their country’s innocence and exceptionalism — the idea that we are a redeemer nation going abroad never to conquer, only to liberate.

Q. You’ve written two critical books on political neoconservatism. Don’t many neoconservatives claim to be Niebuhrians?

A. In various phases of his public career, Niebuhr was a liberal pacifist, a neo-Marxist revolutionary, a Social Democratic realist, a cold war liberal and, at the end, an opponent of the war in Vietnam. He zigged and zagged enough that all sorts of political types claim to be his heirs. Even the neoconservatives can point to a few things.

But over all, they’re kidding themselves. Niebuhr’s passion for social justice was a constant through all his changes. Politically he identified with the Democratic left. We can only wish that the neocons had absorbed even half of his realism.

The disaster in Iraq is so colossal that people are saying neoconservatism is dead. That’s been said before. Neoconservatives still control a formidable constellation of think tanks, journals and media connections. In John McCain they have a presidential candidate, and they would be welcomed in the administrations of several other Republican candidates. Most importantly, neoconservatism is based on a deep current in American opinion: that the sad lessons of history don’t apply to the U.S. and that we are a nation superior in goodness and power.


Q. You have been speaking against the war in Iraq since before it was launched. But what should the U.S. be doing about terrorism, and what is our moral responsibility regarding Iraq?



A. We had a precious moment after 9/11. Not since the end of World War II was there such a possibility to move toward a community of nations. If the U.S. had sent NATO and American forces after Al Qaeda and rebuilt Afghanistan while creating new networks of collective security against terrorism, we could be in a very different world than we are in today. Instead, the U.S. took a course of action that caused an explosion of anti-American hostility throughout the world.



Now we are faced only with bad choices. The cross-fire of sectarian war in Iraq is so complex that it defies concise description. Continuing American occupation will fuel it rather than repress it. Jihadi terrorists are thriving in the chaos.



Whenever an occupier refuses to acknowledge the necessity of pulling out, the aftermath is worse. President Bush warns of chaos if we leave. Indeed, if we simply leave, there will be chaos. Leaving chaos behind is what happens when imperial powers refuse to acknowledge their defeat and the necessity of planning an exit that causes the least possible harm.



In 1947, after years of refusing to accept that imperial rule in India was over, the British cleared out in seven weeks: the country was partitioned, 12 million people were displaced and half a million killed. France and the United States blundered into similar bad endings in Algeria and Vietnam, having refused to face reality for years before rushing for the exit.



Today the U.S. should be planning how to get out of Iraq, how to minimize the bloodshed we’ve made inevitable, how to fund and organize international peacekeepers and humanitarian aid, instead of babbling nonsense about “prevailing” there.



Q. When you take a position like that, do you feel that you are being Niebuhrian or anti-Niebuhrian?



A. Neither. Asking what Niebuhr would think about this or that is a favorite indoor sport. I cannot flat-out call myself a Christian realist in Niebuhr’s sense. His realism makes it too hard to make a Christian claim at odds with the national interest. Yet for me Niebuhr’s thought is always in the mix. And today I believe he represents a road not taken: a prudent foreign policy chastened by a realistic and religiously grounded understanding of the limits of power.


Read it all. What I like best about this interview is that Professor Dorrien does a good job making the case that the neoconservative embrace of Niebuhr displays a profound misunderstanding of what Niebuhr was trying to say.


By the way--can you imagine any modern theologian making the cover of Time today?

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-and-trade market in sulfur dioxide permits which advocates of a GHG market hold up as a shining example. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is emitted by power producers when they burn coal that contains sulfur. Since SO2 is noxious to breathe and contributes to acid rain, Congress in 1990 enacted legislation requiring emissions from electric utilities to be reduced to 8.95 million tons by 2010 (emissions were 17.5 million tons in 1980). Each year, the Environmental Protection Agency issues permits that allow a smaller and smaller amount of SO2 emissions.

So far, those emissions are down to about 10.5 million tons annually. According to one estimate by the EPA, by 2010, the annual cost of the reductions to electric utility companies, their customers, and shareholders will be about $3 billion, while the annual benefits—including lower mortality and fewer hospital admissions from respiratory illnesses; improved visibility; cleaner soil, lakes, and streams; and reduced damage to buildings—will exceed $100 billion. Even if these figures are exaggerated, the SO2 cap-and-trade system appears to be a major success.

The American SO2 market served as the model for the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), established two years ago to meet the EU’s commitment to reduce GHG emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. Countries set a limit on how much carbon dioxide businesses and participating enterprises will emit and then allocate permits to them. The permits can be bought and sold on an open market. Manufacturers, for example, that can cheaply abate their emissions will have some permits left over. The cheap abaters can then sell their extra permits to other emitters that find it more expensive to reduce emission. In this way, a market in pollution permits finds the cheapest way to cut emissions. “Innovators can invest in technology to produce and sell excess credits,” said Jonathan Lash of the World Resources Institute (WRI). “Cap-and-trade creates a market that chooses the best options.”

From the point of view of environmental activists, the greatest strength of a carbon market is that it sets an overall specific limit on carbon emissions. As Craig Hanson, deputy director of the People and Ecosystems program at WRI, notes, “What the environment cares about is the amount of emissions and the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Setting limits on emissions is a policy that addresses that problem directly.” Matthias Duwe, the director of the Climate Action Network in Europe, explained his group’s support for carbon markets by saying, “Environmental effectiveness is what counts. What we want is absolute reductions in emissions. Sending signals to business is secondary.”

Despite this enthusiasm, after more than two years of operation, the EU’s carbon trading market is not working. The ETS covers the output of about 12,000 big emitters, whose CO2 amounts to roughly half of the European Union’s total emissions. While the EU’s 25 governments individually determine the number of permits they will issue, the ETS system directs the handing out of allowances, based on historical emissions, for each factory or other enterprise. Initially, allowances to emit CO2 traded for around 10 euros per ton. A year later, the price for allowances had risen to 30 euros per ton. At that price the market was being widely hailed a success, as higher prices would be an incentive for companies to work seriously at cutting their emissions. Then, in May 2006, an audit showed that several EU governments had issued permits for 66 million tons more CO2 than was actually being emitted. Everyone realized that the supply of permits was not scarce, so the price of carbon promptly collapsed to less than 9 euros per ton. By February 2007, an allowance to emit a ton of CO2 could be had for less than a euro.

. . .

The other option is to tax all kinds of carbon at the wholesale stage, as far upstream as possible. Utilities and refiners who take raw coal and oil as inputs would pay a tax on these fuels. The extra cost would get passed downstream to all subsequent consumers. Like prices for permits set in carbon markets, carbon taxes would encourage conservation and innovation. Since the tax is levied on how much carbon a fuel contains, it would make fuels like coal less attractive compared with low-carbon fuels like natural gas or even renewable energy like solar and wind power.


Carbon taxes also avoid the baseline quandary that bedevils carbon markets. For example, signatories to the Kyoto Protocol are supposed to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases by 7 percent below what they emitted in 1990. Why? That goal has no relationship to any specific environmental policy objective. In fact, achieving the cuts specified by the Kyoto Protocol goals would reduce projected average global temperatures by only about 0.07 degrees Celsius by 2050. And, as the stalled international negotiations about what to do after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 show, it is very difficult to set new baselines. Also, where should baselines be established for rapidly growing economies like China and India, whose energy use and emissions are expected to more than double by 2030? Under the Kyoto Protocol, the natural baseline is what emissions would be without any restraints. However, calculating or predicting what a country’s emissions will be 20 to 30 years in the future is impossible to do with accuracy.

Under a pollution tax scheme, says William Nordhaus, the Yale economist who has been the leading advocate of this approach, “The natural baseline is a zero-carbon-tax level of emissions, which is a straightforward calculation for old and new countries. Countries’ efforts are then judged relative to that baseline.”


Another advantage is that the tax could be phased in to poor countries once average incomes reach a certain threshold. For example, carbon taxes might start to kick in when national income reaches $5,000 per capita, slightly higher than China’s current level. More generally, having a defined tax rate makes it easy for firms in developed and developing economies alike to predict the future impact of climate policy on their bottom line—something that is considerably harder to do when the government is handing out permits every year.


A tax avoids the messy and contentious process of allocating allowances to countries internationally and among companies domestically. Nordhaus says that carbon markets are “much more susceptible to corruption” than are tax schemes. “An emissions-trading system creates valuable tradable assets in the form of tradable emissions permits and allocates these to different countries,” writes Nordhaus. “Limiting emissions creates a scarcity where none previously existed and in essence prints money for those in control of the permits.”


Read it all. This is a rich essay that deserves a careful read. the point he makes is an important one--the EU cap and trade is not working because it is so easy to manipulate. Sadly, the carbon tax is also politically difficult at best. One way to ameriorate the political difficulties from a carbon tax would be to use it to reduce the taxes we otherwise would pay.