If you’re trying to draw me offsides

[Part 1]

[Part 2]

… it just may work.

Here’s the deal, boys. I am not making assertions about the cause or potential implications of global warming one way or the other. The fact that my unwillingness to take a side is disturbing to people is, well, a little confounding to me. I’m not a Republican, a fan of corporations, or a Halliburton stock holder. I am for us doing whatever we can do to be better stewards of the earth as long as doing so doesn’t injure other humans (a post for another day).

I’m just a skeptic, kids. I’m not convinced people are this smart or this objective or this in command of the past, present, and future trends of our planet. If history and science prove one thing about our ability to know with any certainty what’s going on, it’s that we’re almost always wrong the first, second, and third time around, at least with regard to some significant part of our conclusions. There has been scientific consensus about warming before. And cooling. And warming. And cooling. And that’s just in the last hundred years or so.

The very fact that everyone sneers and scoffs at anyone who would suggest we don’t know for certain that warming is real, catastrophic, and clearly anthropogenic makes me even more suspicious. There are very few better reasons (for me) to question the certainty of something than having everyone smirk and say, "Everyone knows that…" I assume I don’t need to start listing the various "everyone knows" statements that time and new science have proven to be utterly laughable.

But wait, we’re talking about science. The vast majority of scientists agree that we’re all responsible for overheating the earth. Ah yes, science. What does science say about the existence of a creating, active deity? What do the overwhelming majority of scientists believe about my claim the Spirit of this all knowing, all powerful God lives inside me? About miracles? About immaculate conceptions? Physical resurrections?

Science is useful, but my trust in it is incomplete and conditional. I even believe we can and should see some re-merging of faith and science. Bring it on. Just please don’t shake your head at me pitifully when I don’t acquiesce to the majority of scientists or to popular consensus.

There’s something at work here that I have to mention, but which I do not intend as an accusation toward anyone in particular, certainly not anyone posting here. That something is this: the failure of the religious establishment to take good care of people or the planet does not obligate those of us who consider ourselves more progressive followers of Jesus to pledge ourselves to popular political, environmental, or charitable causes. In fact, we must not do so until and unless we have tested those agendas with discernment in the Spirit, asking whether they manifest the Kingdom and whether they make good sense (the first, frankly, being more important than the second). Determining that they do not does not make us heartless or indifferent to the real world. It makes us more able to actually follow Jesus as He brings love, justice, and healing to that real world, and less prone to accepting meager substitutes for that all-consuming invasion of redemption.

Once again, I am not shaking that stick at anyone accusingly, at least no more than I’m shaking at myself. I am concerned that we all (author included) are tempted to settle for what appears good, even if it’s not our actual calling. And, lest there be any doubt, I do not condone or encourage individual indifference or religious blindness on these issues. This cuts both ways.

As for the science and reality of warming, my intent is not to suggest that I believe those who promote or believe the consensus view are wrong; only that they are capable of being wrong. It’s a scandalous suggestion, I know, and it is both unpopular and, in the religion of popular opinion, heretical. If you believe they are correct, I have no problem with you. I simply encourage everyone to season their belief in either direction with a healthy portion of "this is our current best guess." And at the risk of offending, I wonder if being easily taken aback by those who question or oppose popular opinion might mean you haven’t done that; that you have, instead, made absolute and incontrovertible fact out of current consensus. I think it’s also fair to note that, in the finer print, most of the scientific theory supporting the consensus doesn’t even express that degree of certainty and instead uses words like "strong evidence" rather than "absolute proof" or "very likely" rather than "conclusively." Of course, no one is under any obligation to take my advice.

I post the following at the risk of starting precisely what I do not wish to start here, and I warn you that I will spam anyone who goes down the road of trying to "out-peer-review" someone else on my blog. My intent here is to make the very mild and factual point that it’s not just me, Dick Cheney, Homer Simpson, and a handful of crack addicts who don’t embrace the prevailing viewpoints without caveat or question.

Please note that home anywhere does not endorse any of these people or their opinions. We do not assert that they are correct; merely that they exist. Again, please do not occupy the space below trying to controvert any of these people. That is unnecessary as it is not my point to promote any particular agendas or scientific conclusions. These scientists and their ideas are subject to the same skepticism and ability to be wrong as the others. It just seems en vogue to pretend these folks either don’t exist or that they work for big oil. Everyone who exists deserves, at least, to be acknowledged as actually existing. So call me an activist for actual existence.

8 thoughts on “If you’re trying to draw me offsides

  1. ” I am for us doing whatever we can do to be better stewards of the earth as long as doing so doesn’t injure other humans (a post for another day).”
    as one of those not (i don’t believe) implicated in the drawing of thad off-sides (i just made a cola joke), i would be interested to know what suggestions thad has to accompany the above statement.
    what i mean is, whether the global warming science is good science or ever gains consensus or not — does it ever hurt for us to change our life-styles so as to be more environmentally responsible?
    If we know for a fact that recycling, driving less, consuming less, etc. is a positive step in a good direction, then can’t we do something like that and leave the outcome to God?
    after many conversations with Dr. Ian Nelson, i am realizing THIS is the issue. folk are more willing to believe spurious scientific claims so long as it doesn’t rock their world or impose on their current manner of life. so.
    i am LOVING these posts, thad. very intriguing. i’ve personally landed on this: however the science shakes out, i’m pretty sure that making better choices has more benefits than drawbacks. in fact, there has been a trickle-down effect which leads to better health, less money spent, less waste BUT MORE B.O. (as previously mentioned somewhere) since we’ve been making some changes.

  2. That damn Pepe stole my comment…
    Although it seems likely that my comment may have been the head fake that drew Thad offsides, I wholeheartedly agree with Thad about consumerism being the real problem. There are plenty of other very real environmental problems that merit a change of ways. In fact, it really just makes sense to do things in a more sustainable, earth friendly way. It connects us with creation, we are healthier, and probably more aligned with the kind of existence we were made for. We have recently tasted the first fruits (well, vegetables) of our first home garden and I was commenting on the absurdity of how absurd it is to us that we are eating food grown in our front yard. It’s like “FOOD GROWS IN THE GROUND?!?! AND YOU CAN EAT IT?? WHAT?” I mean, are we that far away from what sustains our lives?
    And I know Thad agrees, so I want to not get into a disagreement here about global warming, my comment previously was mostly a winking elbow to Thad’s ribs. I am curious about what Thad has in mind for being better stewards. I really think that is a much needed discussion, not only in our local church, but in the church at large (which seems to be happening in some circles).

  3. Good thoughts from Dr. Guzman and Dr. Drew. My short answer to the collective question is tightly wrapped in something else I wrote here. That is, I believe we can and should do what seems right when “…we have tested those agendas with discernment in the Spirit, asking whether they manifest the Kingdom and whether they make good sense (the first, frankly, being more important than the second).” I refer to agendas there, but I suggest the same for our lifestyle choices.
    In other words, seek wisdom in how you live in all the ways that folks like us affirm seeking wisdom – from the Spirit, from the community, and from common sense (when the first two don’t trump the last). This is not my attempt to avoid specifics – well, maybe a little. Mostly I’m trying to be brief, but I do think there’s a bit of danger in this (like anything else) that one or more of us become enlightened to how environmentally friendly folks live, then start imposing that stuff on others. Drive this. Don’t eat that. That can become religion awfully quickly. No thanks. I don’t believe anyone here is suggesting such things. Not at all. But I see this happening in some of these kinds of conversations from time to time, particularly among Christians who are suddenly energized about some new way of living. I’ve done it in other arenas, for sure. I just hope to avoid it as much as possible moving forward.
    I’m on the record as being in favor of a fairly imposing, involved level of community where we’re all up in each other’s business. I’m not suggesting our environmental stewardship is none of each other’s business. I hope that’s clear. I just want to avoid expectations and assumptions that become bondage and new religion.
    So drive less, yeah. Recycle, sure. In fact, if someone can do something to convince the city of College Station to make this less cumbersome to do, I’ll buy you a beer or six. And on and on. Simple living is good. We continue to take baby steps toward it as it seems right for us, and I don’t expect that to change. I encourage others to do the same.
    As I alluded to (in the quote Pepe borrowed), I do think there is also a back side to some of these things that should be discussed – how our choices impact other people. There are places where green values are actually bad for people – sometimes for people already much worse off than us. There’s a very worthwhile discussion to be had, for instance, about the surging popularity of organic products. It sounds great, and as one who’s highly skeptical of chemicals and scientific advancements (anyone picking up on a theme here?), it appeals to me in many ways. My kids drink organic milk. However, many familiar with global agriculture suggest an emerging conflict in values between the desire to be green in our production and eating and the subsequent effects (via the agricultural chain) on folks in less affluent lands. I’ve read a bit about this, and our friend Dr. Faulkner is also a good conversationalist on this topic. There is a debate about it, of course, but it’s another of many issues that are often more complex than they are presented by folks on one side or the other.
    What you got here (in my original post), was me being tired of the intolerance of the environmental in-crowd. I wasn’t responding to you, Drew – just to the overall vibe I’ve observed and experienced when the prevailing notion is treated as a notion rather than irrefutable, controlling fact. It’s just me, maybe, but I can only roll my eyes and ignore it for so long. Again, I assume the best about my friends, and I don’t wish to wrongly saddle anyone with all that junk. Sometimes the ideas just spin around enough that it seems time to expel what’s brewing within me.

  4. Also, the good Dr. Ian Nelson sent me some worthwhile thoughts by email. I beseech him to post that stuff here. You should do the same. It’s about jello. With fruit chunks.

  5. So, the jello and the fruit chunks? Well this will probably be ripped to shreds, but I likened the global warming science to a jello mold. We know a great many individual facts (ie, the earth is getting warmer, CO2 is at a higher concentration, etc) but their direct relation is not yet quantifiable. These facts (the fruit chunks) are suspended in this material with both solid and fluid properties. The relationship between some of these facts can change based on the environment or a little shake-up. And thats OK. That’s just were we are scientifically. Its important to correctly analyze problems before actively answering them. Anyone read about the artificial reef off the coast of Florida? Great idea back in the 70s. Use old tires to create increased growth in an ecosystem in decline. Bad idea now. The tires are starting to wash up along the coast, the ecosystem failed, and now they have over a million submerged tires to figure out what to do with. So my point is we should do nothing (joke).
    Pepe, Drew, Thad, I think your comments were great. I am all for a more active, grass-roots approach to life. Cycling, for instance, does have many positive side effects, other than just looking awesome.
    What I am currently thinking about lately, is how do I distinguish myself as a member of God’s kingdom, from the environmentalist movement. Our actions may very well be the same, but our reasons for doing so are fundamentally different. I do not ascribe to the philosophy, the ends justify the means. How anti-thetical is that to the teachings of Jesus? Thad, I think you are right. Some have turned these ways of living into a new set of laws. I have seen it in my own life. It is a new way for me to feel above others. I do think it is completely justifiable though, to hurl insults (and sometimes rocks Britt) at the people that drive the big trucks around town.
    Lastly, at best I am a wanna-be Dr.

  6. Thad, honest question: what are you beefs with the City of College Station Recycling Program? It is much better than Bryan’s virtually non-existent, somewhat ironic (I mean, how many committed recyclers want to go to Wal-mart to drop off their recycling?) program. Just curious.

  7. All peer-reviewed papers are subject to political agendas, philosophical disagreements, etc. Gore’s position is not summed up in one single peer-reviewed paper. He simply creates a narrative based on several (okay…maybe more than several) articles to craft the message of the film. In the politics of earth science, it is not cool to be on the other side…so opposing viewpoints are not noticed or not published. If everybody would simply buy 1%less goods from China (aka, Wal-Mart), we would do more to help than any big oil company does to hurt the environment (Dr. Jayhawk, in press).

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