That's not the rapture, it's the space people harvesting you for meat
December 8, 2004 9:32 PM   Subscribe

Republican environmental politics as usual? While the president's policies seem to be standard for his party, Bill Moyers thinks there's more than meets the eye. On receiving Harvard medical school's Global Environment Citizen Award, Moyers posits that destruction of the environment isn't just good for big business, it's a self fulfilling prophecy of the apocalypse. Not just any old apocalypse, it's The Rapture, complete with plagues for the non-believers and immmediate ascension to the right hand of God Himself for the righteous.

Two days after Moyer's speech, Science magazine looks at the scientific consensus on global warming. If you're having a hard time explaining all this to your kids, don't worry, your tax dollars are hard at work.
posted by jimray (51 comments total)

 
Scientists hate America. Move along, citizen.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:44 PM on December 8, 2004


People who believe in the Rapture believe they can't expediate the process. They believe it will happen when God wants it to happen, and not sooner. Therefore, they would not destroy the environment in order to make the Rapture come sooner.

But of couse since Bush is a Republican, he must be a radical christian. Oh, and his policies all must be the result of his crazy Christian beliefs.

Right.
posted by zelphi at 9:44 PM on December 8, 2004


But of couse since Bush is a Republican, he must be a radical christian.

No, he's a radical christian, so he must be a radical christian. It's really not that difficult.

Oh, and his policies all must be the result of his crazy Christian beliefs.

No, just some of them, like going to war because "god told him to".

Right.
posted by The God Complex at 10:04 PM on December 8, 2004


It's about the power and the politics, not the religion. He wants you to think it's about religion. Moyers is falling into his trap.
posted by zelphi at 10:05 PM on December 8, 2004


Awesome logical fallacy, there, zelphi.

I'm pretty sure the point Moyers, and I, were making is not that all Republicans are nutty Christians but that the nutty Christians currently running the world, and beholden to the "mandate" of a select but vocal group of nutty Christians, is a bit frightening. Or did you read the article?

And I'm also pretty sure that Moyers wasn't lying when he quoted Reagan's Secretary of the Interior as saying "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."

It's that mentality that I find truly disturbing, that there is a group of people, possibly including the president of the United States, who believe that the Earth will sustain forever (or until judgement day) because God will provide. That you don't need to worry about pesky things like global warming or the end of the oil supply because those are just harbingers of the End of Days. And, simply because they happened to be born in middle America in the mid 20th Century, they'll be taken care of while the rest of burn.

As much as you'd like to write this off as just partisan ranting, it's not so simple. If you can still find a real Republican in this country, not the tax cut and spend idealogues in charge, I'm sure that they'd agree.
posted by jimray at 10:06 PM on December 8, 2004


"after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."

Not if this guy has anything to say about it.
posted by homunculus at 10:23 PM on December 8, 2004


Scientists hate America. Move along, citizen.

No, they hate mice.
posted by gramcracker at 10:25 PM on December 8, 2004


Using scientific consensus to prove a fact is as scientific as proving McDonald's serves the best burgers because you can scientifically show the most burgers get sold there.

Try again!

Other things that had full scientific consensus:

- Items fall at different speeds depending on how heavy they are
- The sun revolves around the earth
- Humans were all born from 2 people
posted by shepd at 10:29 PM on December 8, 2004


Here's a previous thread about Glenn Sherer's article in Grist, which Moyers mentions.
posted by homunculus at 10:31 PM on December 8, 2004


Using scientific consensus to prove a fact is as scientific as proving McDonald's serves the best burgers because you can scientifically show the most burgers get sold there.

Nice analogy, if by nice I meant bad.
posted by The God Complex at 10:33 PM on December 8, 2004


Compromise, Hell!
posted by homunculus at 10:37 PM on December 8, 2004


People who believe in the Rapture believe they can't expediate the process. They believe it will happen when God wants it to happen, and not sooner. Therefore, they would not destroy the environment in order to make the Rapture come sooner.

These same people generally have bookcases groaning under the weight of tracts "explaining" Revelations that they got from countless "Understanding the Rapture" seminars they've attended after seeing them advertised on the 700 Club on the panel discussion about the coming Apocalypse (hosted by doomsayers Hal Lindsey and Jack Van Impe) during the "Rapture Week" fundraising marathon.

Not that they're obsessive or anything.
posted by RavinDave at 10:51 PM on December 8, 2004


Other things that had full scientific consensus:

- Items fall at different speeds depending on how heavy they are
- The sun revolves around the earth
- Humans were all born from 2 people


Is this sarcasm? I can't tell. Because if it's some kind of old-fangled indignation, it's rather poorly rendered.
posted by undule at 10:54 PM on December 8, 2004


Using scientific consensus to prove a fact is as scientific as proving McDonald's serves the best burgers because you can scientifically show the most burgers get sold there.

That was very, very stupid.

Why do you hate data?
posted by luckyclone at 10:56 PM on December 8, 2004


When Prophecy Fails
posted by telstar at 10:58 PM on December 8, 2004


"People who believe in the Rapture believe they can't expediate the process. They believe it will happen when God wants it to happen, and not sooner. Therefore, they would not destroy the environment in order to make the Rapture come sooner."

Some but not all who believe in the Rapture believe they can expediate the process. These people believe it will happen with them helping God, and possibly sooner. Therefore, some but not all of these people would destory the environment in order to make the Rapture come sooner.
posted by alteredcarbon at 11:03 PM on December 8, 2004


Much as I like Bill Moyers, his argument seems to be confusing the active with the passive.

If you're a crazy fundy politician, you'll believe that the state of Israel is a necessary precursor to the Second Coming; therefore you'll actively support the state of Israel in the belief that you're following God's will to make this precursor so.

But I don't see where the wholesale destruction of the environment is a necessary precursor to the Second Coming. We could still have famines and plagues without polluting the whole world. In that case, it's not that they're actively trying to destroy the environment, it's just that they passively don't care because the Rapture is coming and they won't need it anyway.

Hmmm. Maybe that doesn't make me feel any better after all.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:26 PM on December 8, 2004


See, I got worried about this when the Bush administration started to consult "eschatologists" and end-times specialists concerning their recent activities in the middle east to ensure that they were armageddon friendly.

I said it in another thread and i'll say it again here.

Reason works. Religion doesn't. Simple as that.
posted by Freen at 11:44 PM on December 8, 2004


- Items fall at different speeds depending on how heavy they are
- The sun revolves around the earth
- Humans were all born from 2 people


These are comparable to modern science only if you put very little stock in the scientific method, which never supported these claims. And if you don't put much stock in it, not a whole lot of conversation is possible.
posted by rustcellar at 12:14 AM on December 9, 2004


Freen: Reason works. Religion doesn't. Simple as that.

Would that be the same Reason that makes this fallacious.

Besides it's faith not works.

I'm, here all week folks. Try the veal.

PS: I understand the counterargument that a consensus among scientists is different than most and valid because scientists are all people who rigorously and vigilantly examine the opinions of their colleagues and don't suffer the same cognitive biases as the rest of us.
posted by Endymion at 12:23 AM on December 9, 2004


I recently encountered a orthodox xtian believer and he told me he was fasting. I asked if he had any problems with protein deprivation and he said "No. Christ provides what I need". It pretty much killed the conversation.
posted by srboisvert at 12:34 AM on December 9, 2004


I don't see why it is so hard to believe that certain fundamentalists may want to destroy the environment in order to speed along the Rapture. It makes perfect sense:

When Christians die, they go to heaven, right?

Well, then wouldn't it be true that when trees die, they go to heaven too? If they are Christian trees, that is (no hemp!)

So, let's cut down all the trees, so that they'll be waiting for us up in the sky.
Also, kill your pets. They'll be waiting for you.

And they'll be pissed.
posted by papakwanz at 12:52 AM on December 9, 2004


I wonder if JC is going to be pissed when he returns and finds all his stuff missing.
posted by Endymion at 1:01 AM on December 9, 2004


"There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, 'They will respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.' They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?"

They answered him, "He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times."


Yeah, Endymion, there's some indication he might be pissed.

The concept of wise stewardship is all over the gospels. I'm not sure how it gets missed.
posted by weston at 1:17 AM on December 9, 2004


Consenus? Haven't you read Lomborg???
posted by drscroogemcduck at 3:38 AM on December 9, 2004


Christianity And The Survival Of Creation.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:58 AM on December 9, 2004


drscroogemcduck: this is a thread where I'm not sure what's irony and what isn't. Anyway if it isn't irony: Lomborg is not a climatologist. His amateur efforts have been thoroughly debunked by real experts in their respective fields. Consensus, anyway, implies a clear majority in a given field and not unanimity. Scientific consensus has been surprisingly accurate since Newton's time. For every Wegener / tectonic plates controversy, there are thousands of unknown scientists who went contrary to the established consensus and were later proven wrong.
posted by talos at 5:34 AM on December 9, 2004


between scientific and religious consensus, I'll put my money on scientific consensus: but thats not to say that it also does not harbor possible misuse/inaccuracy: the underlying point seems to be a strong sense that consensus is whats important-- meaning that the voice of extremism should always be rejected. The destruction of our environment seems to fit the definition of extremism.
posted by buddhanarchist at 6:44 AM on December 9, 2004


this is why we many of us despise the republicons those who voted them into power. on the bright side - when it's all said and done one would guess there will most likely still be a hell of a lot of trees when creeps like bush, delay, inhofe, falwell, cheney and the rest of the creeps are either buried or strung up.
posted by specialk420 at 7:14 AM on December 9, 2004


Ya know what pisses me off about MeFi? It attracts the type of poster who fails to understand that *both* parties are home to the "crazy christian." Extreme christianity is above party politics and both of our major parties feed it. Vote dem if it agrees with your politics, but don't assume by voting dem your agreeing with your own religious views. Cultural moderates are few and fair between on both sides of the fence in this country, as shitty as that is.
posted by rulethirty at 7:59 AM on December 9, 2004


eustacescrubb: That was a great essay, thanks.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:12 AM on December 9, 2004


See this movie if you haven't already. Just came out on DVD. A little dated, but awesome nonetheless.
posted by fungible at 8:19 AM on December 9, 2004


bill moyers is fantastic. i'll miss that cheesy old guy. i hope he keeps writing.

on preview: i wasn't a big fan of the movie. not horrible, but not great.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:24 AM on December 9, 2004


'Armageddon Friendly'
Is there a ™ on that one yet?

Better register it before it before someone else claims it... Somehow, I suspect a windfall for the copy-writer.
posted by vhsiv at 8:25 AM on December 9, 2004


From something I'm writing these days:

"I am not suggesting the ludicrous idea that the few maverick scientists who reject ideas like global warming pose the 'lack of concensus' alleged by conservative political groups in the United States; rather, the reliance on scientific opinion itself is very much against the nature of scientific inquiry. We certainly do so, all the time, but it does not constitute an argument; rather, it is the distinct lack of an argument. It is a reliance on authority where our own knowledge or interest is insufficient to reach our own conclusions. This isn’t always a bad thing–it is very often necessary, since we can’t explore every topic in all its detail in a single lifetime–but we should acknowledge it for what it is."
posted by jefgodesky at 8:38 AM on December 9, 2004


To continue buddhanarchist's point, when some one points out that there are one or two scientists who disagree with the majority, can I ask them whether the religious leaders of the world have a similar consensus?
posted by allan at 8:40 AM on December 9, 2004


jefgodesky: you make a really interesting point. The most accurate, insightful and wise viewpoint should carry the greatest weight, not the side which can necessarily garner the most turnout ("the majority is always wrong"/Ibsen). So the question remains: who should decide what course of action to be taken? It seems as if its by consensus, majority, or by a select minority, each can be dangerous. Each can also prove to be the wisest way to go. Perhaps in each deabte/issue its different... it changes... is there any way to keep it from being completely subjective, utterly shifting in the wind? Or, perhaps that is the only way: a kind of emergent anarchy, that although imperfect, is at least liquid enough for adaptation?
posted by buddhanarchist at 8:53 AM on December 9, 2004


Actually, what I meant was that "scientific concensus" is an appeal to authority, which is something of a logical fallacy. Like all heuristics, it has to be right more often than not, but it's never 100% iron-clad. A scientific opinion is one you reach based on your own research--yet often, that research is, itself, based on an appeal to authority, with your conclusions based on the conclusions of others.

It's not scientific, but it's unavoidable. We can't test everything for ourselves first-hand. There comes a point at which you just have to take someone's word for it.

In the case of the environment, the scientific consensus is almost certainly correct. But citing that consensus is not in itself an argument at all; it is an appeal to authority. My opponents appeal to G-d, and I appeal to a scientific consensus. Both are appeals to authority; neither are reasoned arguments in their own right.
posted by jefgodesky at 9:33 AM on December 9, 2004


In the case of the environment, the scientific consensus is almost certainly correct. But citing that consensus is not in itself an argument at all; it is an appeal to authority. My opponents appeal to G-d, and I appeal to a scientific consensus. Both are appeals to authority; neither are reasoned arguments in their own right.

No, I can't see the equivalence here. On the one hand you're taking the word of a large group of people who base their conclusions on a lifetime (often) of empirical research on a particular subject, and on the other hand you're basing an argument on the existence of a supernatural entity.

On the one hand you have an indirect appeal to a logical argument (many of the scientists who defend a particular position, do so after having reviewed and published material on said position, material freely available and almost always summarizable for the lay person) and on the other, again, an ad hoc invocation of an unreachable super-entity.

What you're saying can be illustrated as follows:
While fishing in an area you've never fished before, you are told by the friendly local fishermen (who have empirical knowledge of the fishing area now - and going back centuries through the accumulated knowledge of their fathers and grandfathers) to fish in a particular spot (say spot A), which they know first-hand to virtually guarantee a good catch. On the other hand, a travelling preacher who has never stepped on a boat in his life, tells you to go fish in area B, because "God" told him its where you'll catch the most fish. Now, is accepting either of these suggestions equally an appeal to authority? Can a choice between them be made in a rational way?
I'd say that accepting the fishermen's suggestion over that of the preacher is both rationally and empirically sound.

Also: nothing in science is 100% iron-clad. But for all practical purposes 99.99% is good enough at least in a majority of practical cases. Thus, concerning global warming, the issue is whether being 90% certain that we're contributing to it should lead us to act to stop it. I think that it does.
posted by talos at 10:14 AM on December 9, 2004


To sum up the question of immanentizing the eschaton:

God helps those who help themselves.
posted by donfactor at 10:28 AM on December 9, 2004


Good Lord (pardon the pun) I forgot how truly scary James Watt was (and probably still is) - what's even more frightening is that someone like that could scale to such a height of power and responsibility - you'd think someone somewhere along the way would think that this guy is a nutjob.

BTW, and apropos of nothing really, I always thought it so ironic that the end result of environmental exploitation and degradation - logging, mining, pollution, etc - advocated by right-wing Christians has the tendency to look like a storybook image of most people's impression of hell.
posted by batboy at 11:16 AM on December 9, 2004


talos, you're arguing the reliability of the given authorities. Obviously, I find my authority more reliable. Others, equally obviously, do not. Regardless, both are citing authority, not making an argument themselves. The only question is the reliability of said authorities. In that sense, they are equivalent.
posted by jefgodesky at 11:29 AM on December 9, 2004


So there are no external reliability criteria? Since no scientific argument is self-sufficient, would that mean that all scientific arguments are from authority? Doesn't the fact that the scientific authorities back up their claims with measurable evidence (freely available) mean that when citing them you're not just using their conclusions, but rather adopting their arguments? Isn't it qualitatively different when one claims some cows are gray because X said so, rather than because X says so on the basis of prolonged and extended observation, evidence of which can be provided to whomever is interested (photos of gray cows, their locations etc)? When I claim the latter am I not using not X's authority but rather his arguments and data?
posted by talos at 12:42 PM on December 9, 2004


Ah, but you're talking about citing specific studies. That's a different thing than citing scientific consensus. Citing scientific consensus is, "I'm right 'cause all the smart guys agree with me." You're talking about, "I'm right, because of X, Y and Z, as previously established by A." That is an argument; "consensus" is a heuristic we use when we don't have the time/energy/inclination to do the work ourselves. Which is inevitable; there's too much to know for anyone to know everything about everything, much less to know it all first-hand without relying on the conclusions of others. But we need to acknowledge where we're relying on authority, and when on evidence. Invoking consensus is no different than invoking G-d; both are of the form, "I'm right because X agrees with me," regardless of the reliability of X (or lack thereof).
posted by jefgodesky at 12:57 PM on December 9, 2004


"scientific concensus" is an appeal to authority, which is something of a logical fallacy.

Or it could be that a meta-analysis of the existing data indicates that there actually is a scientific concensus.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:04 PM on December 9, 2004


I'm not contesting the existence of a concensus, I'm saying that if your argument is "X is true because Y says so," this is an appeal to authority, regardless of whether Y is "G-d" or "the scientific community."
posted by jefgodesky at 2:08 PM on December 9, 2004


I love NPR's This American Life. It's a fantastic show -- once a week, a solid hour of great first-person reporting along a particular theme. If you've never listened, you should.

In 1999, they had a wonderful episode, Apocalypse. It describes what fundamentalists believe will happen in the "end times," talks about why conservative Christians side so strongly with Jews and against Muslims because of this, and, most fascinatingly, describe the expensive, difficult work being done by genetic engineers to create the perfect red heifer that fundamentalists believe will bring about the end of the world.

Click on the link and listen (RealAudio). It's an hour well-spent. Very eye-opening.
posted by waldo at 3:46 PM on December 9, 2004


Scientific consensus or not, if we were all in a lifeboat and some goofball was drilling holes in the boat based on the belief that a spiritual cruise ship would somehow appear from - oh let's be trite and say the Aether - and save him and a select few others who help him drill holes... the unselected folks would stop him and throw them overboard. Or rather, should.
....some people are alive only because it's illegal to kill them...
posted by Smedleyman at 4:12 PM on December 9, 2004


I'm saying that if your argument is "X is true because Y says so," this is an appeal to authority, regardless of whether Y is "G-d" or "the scientific community."

Huh. I guess if you're a little iffy on what "appeal to authority" actually means, you could make that statement.

However, the "appeal to authority" fallacy is predicated on the so-called "authority" actually not being a recognized authority for the subject under discussion; or that there is so much disagreement between authorities that it's silly to claim any single one of them is correct.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:18 PM on December 9, 2004


If scientific consensus means anything it is due to the fact that it is based on a foundation of rigorous empirical observation. Scientists do not naturally agree with one another - they are political animals who make their careers by finding ways to tear holes in one another's work. What they respect more than anything else is when they cannot find a way to do that - it is that which elevates a scientist's reputation - and scientists live and die by their reputations as this is what gives them access to tenure, grant money, etc. When a bunch of scientists agree on something, it is becuase they cannot find a good way to tear a hole in it using the best most rigorous methods they have available. This is a whole lot different I think than religious consensus where a whole lot of people are motivated to think in the same track according to the same interpretation.

But then, the argument is not really about which type of consensus is better; It's more about whether any debate is possible: whether direct observation means anything at all. If you're literal about the bible, then all observation to the contrary is going to be heresy.
posted by sirvesa at 10:08 PM on December 9, 2004


Ah, but you're talking about citing specific studies. That's a different thing than citing scientific consensus.

Not really, consensus is based on a corpus of evidence, a series of studies and an explicit interpretation. By quoting the consensus you're adopting that evidence as your argument.
posted by talos at 4:33 AM on December 10, 2004


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