Mike's blog

Can you Reason with the Religious Right?

Is there a way to create community with folks who rigidly adhere to their belief systems even when confronted with solid evidence that the application of their belief system in any given realm of physical existence is completely in error?

I am part of a "faith community" and I self-identify as an evangelical.  This is not a shuck and jive routine, I actually have college credits from Evangel College in Springfield, MO in my past.  My faith informs my life. But when hard science, ethical science, peer-reviewed, shows that some aspect of my faith understanding is allegorical or just dead wrong, I am ok with that. (the fault, dear ones, lies not in the stars, but in us) Our limited understanding does not limit God.  Truly, with God, all things are possible. The creative and loving aspect of the universe is not threatened or damaged by science. My/our understanding of the physicality of the truly astounding miracle of creation increases.  God is not threatened, I trust that there will always be mysteries that cannot be resolved and that God resides and speaks to us through mystery as comfortably as through our knowledge and appreciation of the creation miracle.

On the other hand, I am uneasy when man plays God by cloning animals or patenting life forms or engaging in genetic manipulation of seedstocks.  I don't think that a bad outcome related to those kind of unwise manipulations of the stuff of life itself is entirely allegorical.  The "wrath of God" is not entirely allegorical though I think that the creative and loving aspect of creation and the universe is essentially without wrath.  There's a significant difference between a reverent practice of animal husbandry or organic seed stock storage and genetic manipulation of seed stock or monoclonal genetic engineering of the stuff of life.

You know that graphic of the light bulb going on above the head?

Can we really have any impact on the global climate problems through what we do in our own lives? Isn't it just too big? Well, the light bulb going on above your head can really work for the planet if the bulb is a compact fluorescent, and especially if it replaces an incandescent bulb.Note to self:  Replace this thing with a CF Bulb!Why? Can that really matter? Yes, it can. The compact fluroescent (CF) bulb generally uses 13 watts to produce the same amount of light that an incandescent produces using 60 watts of power.

Think about the possibility of cutting the need for new power plants by simply pulling all the incandescent bulbs in the country and replacing them with compact fluorescents. Plus the CF bulbs last much longer than incandescent bulb so you get to save a little energy yourself and there is really is no question that CF bulbs are cheaper over the life of the bulb if you are just cheap and could care less about global warming.
So how much difference could this really make? Here are the numbers courtesy the Union of Concerned Scientists:

If every household in the United States replaced one regular light bulb with an energy-saving model, we could reduce global warming pollution by more than 90 billion pounds over the life of the bulbs; the same as taking 6.3 million cars off the road.

That's about the same amount of cars I was stuck behind at Milepost 95 one day last week.

Why would the US hesitate to pass legislation that phases out the production and importation of incandescent bulbs if industry is not willing to transition out of common sense, a survival instinct, and ethics?

Just in the from the Dedicated Scientists at The Perrier Institute.

The scientists (both of them, so that's a scientific consensus if there ever was one!) have astounded the scientific community with their recently published article (published in the respected industry magazine - Soft Drink Science Today) showing the correlation between the consumption of carbonated beverages by leftists around the globe and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the environment and the disruption of the planet's natural carbon cycle. 

Dr. Jonathon Enderusty Mouthpeace of the Perrier Institute has charged that the global soft drink industry has deliberately failed to fulfill its primary commercial function of carbon sequestration by installing a carbon release tab on the 16 ounce carbon sequestration cans and by installing a simple twist off carbon release cap on the larger plastic and glass carbon sequestration bottles.  This deliberate commercial exploitation of the critical carbon sequestration giants Croca-Cola and Plopsi-Cola has also apparently been fueled by using a syrupy, sweet fluid as the carbon sequestion medium and thereby causing not only the destruction of the environment, but also an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and acid reflux  around the world and sticky floor surfaces in taxis and movie theaters.  Dr. Mouthpeace states in the article that is up to the World Court to decide if this malfeasance rises to the level of criminal negligence.

Pictures of empty carbon sequestration containers are shown below, note the various languages that show the global nature of this heinous activity.
 Perrier Institute and Dr. Mouthpeace have developed model legislation that will force the large industrial carbon sequestration companies to remove the carbon release tab and the the carbon release twist off cap and include a warning label on every carbon sequestration bottle and can that indicates precisely how many molecules of carbon dioxide will be released by any accidental puncture of the carbon sequestration cans and bottles.  The legislation also includes a civil fine for the intentional puncture of the carbon sequestration cans and bottles. 

Blogging Ethics Revisited

Might be a good time to review the blogging ethics post that Sara provided back in September: 

Blogging Ethically

Rebecca Blood has a book out titled The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog.

The section I am most interested in, Weblog Ethics, is available online through her site. She proposes six rules for online publishers:
  1. Publish as fact only that which you believe to be true.
  2. If material exists online, link to it when you reference it.
  3. Publicly correct any misinformation.
  4. Write each entry as if it could not be changed; add to, but do not rewrite or delete, any entry.
  5. Disclose any conflict of interest.
  6. Note questionable and biased sources.
The whole article is well worth reading, Ms. Blood clarifies each of these rules.

Because I sometimes write about controversial subjects, especially concerning the world of white supremacists, I want to do so as cleanly and clearly as possible, even if I also apply some humor.

Ethics and humor. Right up my alley.

Saddam Hanged On My Birthday.

I never cared much about Saddam Hussein. He had the same world view as Henry Kissinger, Augusto Pinochet, George Bush, and Dick Cheney - might makes right. In that sense he was delusional.

And though I think it is a bad thing for the planet that Henry Kissinger and other listed above have not yet been brought to account for their war crimes, I just feel saddened by the hanging of Saddam. I think when justice is too random, maybe it's not justice? Maybe it's just politics played out with a court room backdrop?

I seldom think the death penalty is a good idea. If we are called to use it as an end in the justice system, I think I would be less uncomfortable if we administered IV morphine to suppress the breathing until death occurs. There seems to be little question that such a death is among the least painful ways to go. It might take hours and if we want the public viewing of an execution, we need to have it happen quickly - like a hanging, or electrocution, or lethal injection. But I think there is little talk about IV morphine executions for another reason: there is some sense that the suffering death is part of the sentence. Nobody talks about that because it is barbaric, but I am not convinced that a suffering death is not part of the bargain. And watch as the folks with a lot of gusto for death and mayhem jump and down saying - well did Saddam give his victims a humane death? And that's true of course, he did not, but the fact that this question will be brought forward in an almost reflexive reaction to the question of a humane means for applying the death penalty tells you that retribution - a suffering death for the prisoner - is part of this whole process.

It might be possible to find a little more of us standing on the middle ground with the death penalty if we would choose a humane death penalty means. I am not sure about that, I might still not feel ok about it, but the retribution aspect of a barbaric, painful, public death puts some me off.

I am still thinking about the Carbon Cycle and about this Watery Planet.

Here's a good website from Kansas State University about the carbon cycle. The website includes a basic analysis of how the carbon cycle can be manipulated to reduce the buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide. You can look at the supply side - burning fossil fuels, cutting down trees - or the storage side - into the ocean, or increased vegetation, or into soil storage.

The part of the carbon cycle I have been thinking about for the past few days is the ocean storage element.

As carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere in larger concentrations it also starts to build at greater levels in sea water. This is not so good.  The bipeds on the planet have used the waterways as dumpsters for thousands and thousands of years. Some of what we have dumped in the water has really not been a problem. Organic compounds that break down easily in amounts that the waterways can breakdown are essentially inconsequential. But as we bipeds have started creating more complex materials that are less easily broken down, we have started to create a bit of a mess in the waterways. One of the most striking examples of that sort of thing was the day in June 1969 when the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught on fire. The actual 1969 Cuyahoga River fire was somewhat apocryphal, but still it's a feature of a certain biped's impact on rivers that any river, anywhere, can actually support combustion. In a more natural state, I don't think you could get a river to burn with a blowtorch.


Despite the better jpegs available when a river catches on fire, I am thinking about the less news-worthy, but more catastrophic picture of oceans dying. And this slow ocean death is at least partly based on the build up of carbon in the oceans.

The Polar Bears Are In Trouble. Should We Care?

From the The New York Times, December 28, 2006:

Polar bears have declined in the Western Hudson Bay in Canada.

Many experts on the Arctic say that global warming is causing the ice to melt and that the warming is at least partly the result of the atmospheric buildup of heat-trapping gases from tailpipes and smokestacks. The plight of the polar bear has been held up by environmentalists as a symbol of global warming caused by humans.

But in a conference call with reporters, InteriorSecretary Dirk Kempthorne said that although his decision to seek protection for polar bears acknowledged the melting of the Arctic ice, his department was not taking a position on why the ice was melting or what to do about it.

Here's a quote from by past Sierra Club President Adam Werbach given 11 months before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita:

"Before 9/11, the idea of terrorists taking down both World Trade
Center buildings was considered "unthinkable" for most people. Here's
the "unthinkable" scenario for global warming:

"Global warming will continue to cause the ice on the earth's poles
to melt, triggering the Gulf Stream to migrate several thousand miles to
the south, lowering by five degrees the average temperature in Europe
and much of North America in 10 years or less."

"…Meanwhile, this abrupt climate change would unleash a series of
monster hurricanes and floods across Central America and the Caribbean,
making the 2,000 Haitians killed this September in a single storm seem
like a minor event."

Dr. Evil Saves the Planet?

Now this one is interesting in a scary, Dr. Strangelove kind of way:

This scientist has spent his lifetime developing weapons science. Despite his likely familiarity with nuclear winter as a definitive treatment for global warming, this guy, Dr. Lowell Wood has instead suggested that global warming could be fought by spraying burnt sulfur particulates into the atmosphere. The guy works at Livermore, so you have to think he’s a scientific heavyweight. He may be on the Dr. Mengele side of the spectrum with his weapons science history, but still a serious scientific thinker.

Now it seems to me that sulfur is part of the acid rain problem and that maybe spraying a lot of into the atmosphere could cause unforeseen problems, but hey, I am still trying to sort out atoms and molecules.

Read more?     Ok.

Global Cooling Dynamics? Open the refrigerator doors?

Some of us worry a lot, maybe too much about global warming.

So here's a picture of the Upsala Glacier in Argentina.

Top view is about 1928, bottom view is about yesterday.

Are glaciers good? Should we care about these views or should we see if there are any fish in that lake? Could there be coal under yonder mountains that we can dig up and set afire?

Well, as it turns out, glaciers are good if the planet is heading in a dangerous warming direction. They reflect more solar heat by reflecting it back into space instead of absorbing more of it like ground and water, so if you like a stable and somewhat predictable environment with fewer Class 5 hurricanes, droughts, and floods, then glaciers are good. Maybe that dynamic is part of the explanation of why the planet ever comes out of ice ages. If you cover enough of the planet with ice, the planet reflects a lot of solar radiation and oddly enough, starts warming up.

So what cools the planet back down if it starts to overheat?   Read more?

I woke up thinking about the carbon cycle this morning.

And I wasn't making my list of who should get lumps of coal in their stockings. I was thinking about the complex cycle of carbon on the small blue planet.

Mir Space Station over a small blue planetAll life on this planet, as I understand it, is carbon-based. The trees, phytoplankton, the great blue whale, and probably even Dick Cheney and Antonin Scalia.

So we are all animate lumps of coal. And we do our thing here on a small blue planet through an amazingly complex chemical exchange of carbon.

Read more?

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