Articles Tagged "Jeff Mirus"
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Thursday, August 23rd 2012, 6:12 PM EDT
In my previous essays on the moral dimensions of climate change (see The Moral Downside of Climate Change and Climate Change and Moral Knowledge) I promised to write something about the actual scientific disagreements concerning climate change, for this is a case where moral judgment must depend on scientific evidence. In preparing to address these issues, I learned that a scientist who is also a friend, Thomas B. Fowler, had recently completed a significant study of this precise matter, in much the same way as he did a few years ago on questions surrounding human origins in his outstanding book The Evolution Controversy (see Evolution: The Missing Link). Fowler points out that, among scientists, disputes over climate change are far more widespread and extensive than disputes over evolution, and that climate change seems to have replaced evolution as the most culturally and politically divisive arena of scientific research in the contemporary world.
Fowler holds a doctorate in Physics and has worked in the field of systems analysis for most of his life. He is something of a Renaissance man, with an undergraduate degree in Philosophy. One of his side projects over the years has been to promote awareness of the work of the brilliant Spanish Catholic philosopher, Xavier Zubiri (see www.zubiri.org). His breadth of knowledge, attention to proper scientific method, and analytical powers never fail to impress. In the study of the climate change controversy, he has turned all these to good advantage in a major article which is currently pending publication (I will call attention to it when it becomes available). While I can only touch lightly on the various sticking points in this space, I owe most of what follows to Fowler’s far more extensive work.
Saturday, August 18th 2012, 6:30 AM EDT
Since writing yesterday’s On the Culture entry, The Moral Downside of Climate Change, I’ve received quite a bit of email, including some from Catholic climate scientists, contesting and, in some cases, misunderstanding the point I was trying to make. Let me say at the outset that, after doing some more research, I will write something about the specific disputes among scientists concerning climate change. Because I am not yet prepeared to do that here, many will be disappointed. But for now I wish to offer some clarifications relating to my original moral point.
I have argued that it is both wrong and dangerous to elevate climate change into a moral cause, and I would first like to explain more carefully what I do not mean by this statement. First, I do not at all mean that we should be unconcerned about those who may be adversely affected by climate change. Many Catholic bishops and even Pope Benedict himself have pointed out, quite rightly, that any problems which may be occasioned by climate change (or, indeed, by any damaging weather condition) will fall most heavily on the poor, for the strained resources of the poor do not permit them to protect themselves as easily against the repercussions of drought, flooding, rising sea levels, or anything else which might negatively impact their homes or their livelihood. Clearly, it is a central moral demand of Christianity to assist the poor in their distress.
Second, I do not mean that there are no compelling reasons to do some of the things advocated by those who have elevated stopping climate change itself to the status of a moral cause. For example, there are many good reasons to limit both our use of fossil fuels and the way in which we use them. It is good to reduce pollution, to conserve resources for future generations, to decrease our dependence for fuel on unstable regions of the world, and so on. There are both pragmatic and specifically moral reasons for taking these goods seriously.
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