By Charlie Johnston
At a chatty informal evening long ago, Abraham Lincoln is reputed to have memorably asked his companions, “If you call a sheep’s tail a leg, how many legs does a sheep have?” Several gave no answer at all, others said five. After they had finished, with a wry smile, Lincoln answered his own question. “Four,” he said. “Calling a sheep’s tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”
So Ireland has formally declared that a romantic union between two homosexuals is a marriage. As much as they insist – and overwhelmingly so – it still looks like a sheep’s tail to me.
In their efforts to try to eradicate belief in God, the old Soviet Communists would not accept a marriage performed in a church or synagogue as valid. The only marriages the government recognized were those performed by government clerks. In overwhelmingly Catholic Poland, people adapted readily enough. They would go get their certificate from the city clerk’s office to satisfy government overlords, then go to a Church for the “real” marriage. I am told by some Polish ex-pats that when couples met, they would take some pains to note which Church they were married in, so that new people they met knew it was a real marriage and not just a government parody. In the end, the Soviets’ decree did not change the reality of what marriage is; it just helped to discredit the shrill functionaries who tried to enforce an artificial version of reality.
Interestingly, the American Republic largely did not intrude on regulating marriage at all until the middle of the 19th Century. It kept a record of what churches reported and authorized certain officials – magistrates and certain military officers – to perform secular marriages. But it gathered the information almost solely for settling estates and for census purposes. It was only with the rise of Mormon polygamy that there was an outcry for state governments to define and regulate marriage. Most of the outcry came from Christians, who had no clue what a Pandora’s Box they would ultimately open by shifting primary authority for regulating marriage from churches to a secular government. It seemed safe at the time: almost all officials were practicing Christians. But this is what happens when things are taken out of their proper sphere and transferred away from those who, properly, have prudential responsibility for them.
I am actually not going to go through the history of marriage and the need for giving it privileged status to protect family formation and the stability of a society in this piece. I am just noting that when people who think themselves masters of the universe undertake to redefine reality, they have already begun to undermine their credibility. It may take years, decades, even a century or better, but once an authority uses its coercive power to redefine reality, it has already begun the process that will bring it to ruin. The success of early and accelerating coercion only masks the rot that has already set in, making the ultimate fall sudden, stark and often violent.
Debate on issues is rarely based on facts, evidence and logic today. Instead, various prescribed ideological attitudes define whether you are part of the “in” crowd or not. Trouble is, a lot of those “in” positions defy reality – and reality is a stubborn thing.
Even the “consensus” position on evolution has become an utterly unscientific litmus test of whether you are part of the in crowd. People on the left call evolution “settled science,” while mocking anyone who says otherwise as a superstitious ninny, even as they say that Christians don’t have to give up their God to believe in that particular bit of “science.” To my embarrassment, I used to believe them, as I saw nothing in evolution to exclude it from being a way in which God could have made His creation. I say that to my embarrassment because I am a stickler for facts, evidence and logic. It was a paleontologist acquaintance who first tipped me off. He told me that the dirty secret in his profession was that everyone knew that Darwin’s theory could not be correct, but no one dared speak of it publicly because of the ostracization they would get. I asked how he knew. He replied that the fossil record did not match up at all with what Darwin said it would be.
So I read up on a little Darwin. He had predicted that the fossil record (then just being discovered) would show a stately, linear progression of species rising. That is not how it happened at all. Nothing much beyond single cell organisms happened before the Cambrian period. Then, almost all the complicated animals appeared at once, seemingly out of nowhere. It is, in fact, called the Cambrian Explosion. Imagine my surprise to find that the Biblical account is a much more accurate metaphorical description of how creation came to be than Darwinian evolution. I have since discovered that some microbiologists have quietly rejected Darwin’s theory as well. I have further discovered that this theory – that all right-thinking people accept as fact – oddly failed on each and every one of the predictions it made. Every single one.
Darwin’s description of adaptation within species is no longer a theory; it is a fact, proved by the evidence. We have the nice irony that, were Darwin alive today, I don’t believe he would be a “Darwinian” on evolution. Oh, I don’t think he would be a Christian. But he was an honest scientist who thought science was a dispassionate means of finding truth, not a fashion accessory to be worn as proof of your membership in the in crowd. He would go back to the drawing board for a theory that matched up more closely with the facts and evidence rather then coming up with forced explanations of the Cambrian Explosion. It turns out that evolutionists’ charge that many Christians reject evolution for fear it disproves God is exactly backward: evolutionists hold on to a failed theory because they so badly want it to disprove God.
Next time an evolutionist starts hectoring you, simply ask them what they make of the Cambrian Explosion. If they don’t know what you are talking about, they are an ignorant posturer not worthy of disputing with. Tell them to get to know the facts of their own belief before arguing with you about yours. Reality is a stubborn thing.
Unless it is engaging in one of the greatest head fakes in history, the Vatican is about to endorse a massive shift of power to centralized governmental elites to combat what is called “climate change.” The Pope’s top advisor recently responded to critics of the “science” with an insult instead of an actual argument. The Apostolic Nuncio to the United Nations last week spoke to the matter by making an assertion from authority rather than an argument from evidence.
Now, nature operates in cycles rather than static absolutes. The more primitive the peoples, the more panicked they get at the edges of a natural cycle. Even children know that when night comes, daylight will return soon enough. It is a short cycle, so no one gets into a lather about the “global darking” that happens every day. But we are barely a thousand years away from a time when primitive peoples engaged in human sacrifice out of fear that the normal winter end of the seasonal cycles would become permanent – and that was just a predictable, annual cycle. Like the tides, the mean temperature of the globe ebbs and wanes over decades and centuries in a continuing cycle. If the pattern we are in now is real, the first question has to be whether it falls out of the normal range of that cyclical activity. Simply put, it does not.
Satellite data shows that the earth has not warmed to any significant measurable degree in the last decade and a half. That, in fact, is why the phrase “climate change” replaced the earlier phrase of “global warming.” In the early 70’s we were nearing the end of an extended cooling period. That led some alarmists – in political policy seats and science, to claim that we were heading for an unstoppable new ice age. From the late 70’s until the late 90’s, we entered a period of steady warming. Since the late 90’s we have had a fairly stable global temperature. It won’t remain that way – and when it starts either to cool or to warm again, alarmists will be in full shriek – or at least fuller shriek than they are now, when things are stable.
When looking at the policy recommendations of those vested in controlling the climate, the first thing to examine is the track record of their existing predictions. The fact is, like Darwin on evolution, the “experts” have been wrong in every particular. The hockey stick never showed up for the party. The ice caps did not melt. They receded for a while near the North Pole while expanding near the South Pole – and have been expanding near the North Pole for a few years. The ice cap at the North Pole was supposed to be gone entirely a few years back, according to the “experts.”
An enviro-governmental complex has metastasized. Governments want massive, centralized power – and are willing to subsidize scientists who will confirm their fantasies with massive grants and endowments. This has perverted the transmission of accurate data – and in ways that are obvious to anyone who looks seriously. In the East Anglia scandal a few years back, scientists spoke in what they thought were private emails of “tricking” the data so as to produce the results government overseers wanted in order to justify their seizure of power. Sure enough, when satellite data stubbornly refused to support hypotheses of unnatural warming, rent-seeking scientists moved earthbound sensors to more urban locations (which are typically warmer than non-urban areas) to produce the results they wanted. Government power-mongers shouted hallelujah.
Usually, when trying to make initial assessments of who has the best of an argument, I look to see who is using reason and evidence and if either party is relying on coercion, deception and bullying. Those who bully to try to make their case almost always have the weaker of the argument. One prominent public “scientist” who has been consistently wrong in his predictions has taken to suing any who publicly criticize him. The courts do their best, but they are not the place to settle scientific disputes. Though their ruling may bind for a time, it does not change reality. Ask Galileo. Meantime, the progressive wing of the U.S. Congress recently demanded data on research scientists at universities working on climate science – and did not bother to hide the fact they wanted the information so they could strip any university of all federal funding and grants if it had a climate change skeptic on its roster. Robert Kennedy Jr. has publicly stated several times that he would like to see the law changed to charge anyone who is skeptical of climate change with treason and send them to prison. Imagine that: people who think actual treason is “serving with distinction” want to make disagreeing with them a treasonable offense.
Editors of scholarly peer-reviewed magazines decided a decade ago to refuse articles skeptical of climate change. That way, they could say that any skeptics, no matter how compelling and clear the data, had not been properly peer-reviewed. “Fix-is-in” science is not, actually, science. What you have here is governments, greedy for more power, paying vast sums to scientists who are more greedy for permanent endowments than scientific rigor. Now, the Vatican seems poised to jump into this hot mess and weigh in on the side of those greedy for centralized power. Why?
Perhaps it is just hubris. Perhaps it is merely the desire to meddle in what is not their province – an all-too-common human failing to avoid dealing with what is. Perhaps it is designed as a sop to progressive absolutists in hopes that they will treat the Church as an ally rather than as enemy number one. I have never been much for the strategy of feeding the beast that would destroy you in hopes it will turn its attention elsewhere. But, to mix metaphors, some people will not believe a glowing red stove is actually hot until they burn their hand. I pray that the final Encyclical will speak compellingly about stewardship and how to properly approach our duty to each other and our earthly home, but that hope is dimming with each information-free proclamation from high Vatican officials.
For the statists, the Church’s intervention would be welcome; as welcome as Germany’s acceptance of the Soviet Union as an ally in the early days of World War II. Church authorities recognize that the preferred methods of greedy governmentalists would impoverish millions. So the Church is saying it has a plan that would ameliorate that. The plan is, again, all assertion and no data – kind of like Barack Obama’s assurances that his stimulus would provide “shovel-ready” jobs. There are three foundational aspects to building temporal prosperity. You must have abundant, inexpensive food and energy. Then prosperity is limited by how convenient and efficient your means of transportation is. The Vatican seems poised to cooperate with statists to destroy easy access to energy, while maintaining it has found the means to ensure what has never before happened in human history: general prosperity without abundant, inexpensive energy. If the Vatican succeeds in rewarding the statists, it will not be seen as having saved the planet, but in having impoverished the world. Then, just as Germany did when it had used its alliance with the Soviet Union to vastly expand its might, the statists will resume their assault on the Church just as Germany abruptly invaded its ally.
But God is adamant that ALL things must be set to right. Right now we have government ministers who play at being Bishops by defining marriage; we have Bishops who play at being government ministers by defining what is the proper policy to adopt on temporal matters; we have scientists who dream of being influence-peddlers; and influence-peddlers who pretend to be scientists. This is part of the Storm. It is a sorrow, for many who think they are advancing their cause are, in the long term, discrediting it. If they do not get right, they will be remembered in infamous terms. We still need government ministers, but we must ultimately insist on ministers who see themselves as servants rather than masters. We need our Bishops to prepare us for the next world and how to live in this, despite any disastrous dalliances they have with playing ministers of state. We need scientists with rigor. They help enormously to reveal God’s plan of creation. We even need influence-peddlers, who often help develop concensus among competing entities and move solutions forward. But we need each to play their position.
With respect to Nuncio Tomasi, before declaring that we have the “technological grasp…and know-how” to mitigate “climate change,” wouldn’t it be prudent to wait for the experts to actually get a few of their predictions right? Right now, if they were baseball prospects, they would all wash out with a batting average of .050 and have to get real jobs.
I am just a little guy. My ramblings and rantings are not going to change any of the minds of those who think they can change reality by decree. But as they continue on their way, I remind them that reality is a stubborn thing. It has broken all before this generation who thought they could decree it out of existence.