Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Laudato Si — Truth Matters in Theology & Science — Part VI

July 19th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Truth Matters!  And, in all matters, TRUTH!

Unfortunately that statement doesn’t seem to apply to global warming or climate change, in politics, government, academia, social conversation or, now apparently, in Encyclicals. I do admit, having somewhat of a science background myself, it is a particularly irritating situation.  I’ve already posted  my position  on global warming on Cleansing Fire, so I won’t belabor it, except to add that if science does not pursue truth, then it isn’t science.  Therefore, I find it especially troubling to have the Pope setting forth, as truth, an alleged “consensus” of scientists and even giving his reason for settling for less than Truth.

Lack of Truth leads to bad judgment, and leaves little room to reverse judgment.  We need look no further than Christ’s standing before Pilate to see the abuse and error which open up when one ignores the abyss of lies and innuendo, especially to please an audience. The expectations of the audience become part of the pressure not to recant.  The famous passage is in the Gospel of John, 18:37-38, when Pilate speaks to Christ:  “Pilate said to Him, ‘So you are a king?’  Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears My voice.’  Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?  After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again, and told them, ‘I find no crime in Him.’”  Then, as we know, Pilate sent Jesus to the Cross.  It is one thing to know the Truth, it is another to witness to Truth (which cannot be compromised without alienating our relationship to HIM — the Person, Truth.)

Yes, Truth matters.  In the Gospel of John we have 21 verses using the word ‘truth’ – overwhelmingly referring to Jesus.  We also have 21 verses using the word ‘love’ and 16 verses using the word ‘light’ – all favorite words of the Evangelist.  (There are 5 verses using the word ‘poor.’)

Rio and a model for accepting half-truths

There is a section of Pope Francis’ Encyclical which I find especially disturbing regarding commitment to Truth. For all his avowal of a global warming reality, Pope Francis lets slip in paragraph #186 his compromise argument.  It is worth reading in its entirety:

The Rio Declaration of 1992 states that “where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a pretext for postponing cost-effective measures which prevent environmental degradation.  This precautionary principle makes it possible to protect those who are most vulnerable and whose ability to defend their interests and to assemble incontrovertible evidence is limited.  If objective information suggests that serious and irreversible damage may result, a project should be halted or modified, even in the absence of indisputable proof.  Here the burden of proof is effectively reversed, since in such cases objective and conclusive demonstrations will have to be brought forward to demonstrate that the proposed activity will not cause serious harm to the environment or to those who inhabit it.” (#186)  It is troubling that the words from a conference in Rio held 23 years ago should be a standard against which to justify a major macroeconomic project related to unproven global warming and climate control allegations, a project which, once undertaken, will be difficult to ever stop and will burden all sectors of society, including the poor.  But the issue isn’t about making judgments on less than full information, but rather avowing the “truth” of global warming and climate change, which lacks proof but anecdotally drives public opinion, which is not science.  To be clearer, it is one thing to evaluate an invasive project in the environment (dam building, fracking, harvesting nearly extinct species) and require it present the dangers and  safety issues with which it would be associated.  It is far different to make a world-wide pronouncement, invading rights of individuals and sovereign states, using up enormous financial resources, without proof of its necessity.

Of course it is quite reasonable that proponents of a project should have to justify the safety of a project before undertaking it.  This is not just a theoretical issue; closer to home, we have the issue of fracking, with sincere people on both sides of the issue.  Pope Francis states well the concerns of many regarding fracking, especially in the Finger Lakes Region, when he writes:  “…some questions must have higher priority…water is an indispensable and scarce resource, and a fundamental right which conditions the exercise of other human rights.  This indisputable fact overrides any other assessment of environmental impact on a region.” (#185)

I wish Pope Francis had done more to mitigate the risk that his aligning with global warmers will come back to bite the credibility of the Catholic Church.  Again, I think of the error of Pope Urban VIII’s pursuing geocentrism, obviously without sufficient evidence to have done so, and we’ve been hearing about it ever since.

Truth or consensus?

Truth does not depend on consensus, and it is a shame to see Pope Francis even using such a justification.  We remember the important words of Venerable Fulton J. Sheen: “The truth is the truth even if nobody believes it, and error is error even if everyone believes it.  But since Pope Francis hasn’t argued “private revelation” it seems fair to read the Encyclical at face value.  And part of the “face” that is shown is an introductory comment in paragraph #15:  “I will begin by briefly reviewing several aspects of the present ecological crisis, with the aim of drawing on the results of the best scientific research available today, letting them touch us deeply and provide a concrete foundation for the ethical and spiritual itinerary that follows.”  Pope Francis says it clearly:  “The best scientific research available today.”  Unfortunately, it may be the “best” but it is not nearly good enough!  A bad foundation is worse than no foundation; i.e. it is better to not know something, than to ‘know’ an untruth.

Here are further quotes from Laudato Si in support of the unproven hypotheses of global warming (now called climate changes, as some places were getting embarrassingly cool.)  It is still not clear if  “climate change” means it might change so prevent it, or it has already changed, so change it back.  It seems to me it often means “just do something!”  Perhaps it means whatever the speaker means it to mean?  (The reason for notation of  “no references” in this following section is because of the disputes associated with so many conclusions, one would expect at least one source of the conclusion to have been given.

“A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.” (#23)  No references.

“…this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon.” (#23)  No references.

“It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases… released mainly as a result of human activity.  (#23)  No references.

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications…. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.”  (#25)  “Probably?”  What kind of definitive conclusion is that, to launch global actions which are challenged by other experts?

“There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation.”  (#25)  No references.  (Should clarify volume of migrants vs. causes of migration; e.g.  What percentage is due to religious persecution?)

NOTE:  The prior post listed as Part VI –“Truth Matters in Theology and Science” was too long and has now been split into Parts VI and VII.  This Part VI still deals with consensus as undermining Truth. A new Part VII is the second half of the prior post, now entitled “Truth is not the Enemy,” and it deals with how an impaired approach to Truth can lead to hostility toward and abandonment of Truth itself.   The Part VI originally posted is now Parts VI and VII.  Other than minor typo corrections, the content is the same.  Thank you for your patience!


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