Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chrism Eucharist and Countryman's "Living on the Border of the Holy"

I don't remember where I got this image of Marc Chagall's crucifixion, but it's a reminder to me of the need to learn from people whatever their belief.  During this Holy Week, when historically, Christians have incited the persecution of Jesus' people, the Jews, it is most apt.

 Yesterday I drove to Portland to St. Luke's Cathedral to renew my ordination vows, pick up some blessed oil for baptisms and anointing the sick and to have lunch with my colleagues. The service was wonderful as always, but it seemed more meaningful this year.  Lay people were specifically included through our renewal of our baptismal covenant.  Bishop Steve spoke of how strange it felt for him to renew his vows as a bishop [at the last meeting of the College of Bishops] with only bishops present because as Episcopalians we acknowledge four orders of ministry: lay, deacon, priest and bishop. At the altar were two deacons (both female), three priests (two men, one woman) and, of course, the bishop at the altar.  There was also the Verger, the Cross Bearer and Two Torch Bearers (lay).  All four orders were visibly present.

After we renewed our baptismal vows, the bishop addressed the deacons: "Deacons, do you reaffirm your promise to look for Christ in all others, being ready to help and serve those in need?"

Then he addressed us priests: "Priests, do you reaffirm your promise to minister the Word of God and the Sacraments of the New Covenant, that the reconciling love of Christ may be known and received?" 

And then all the people (lay and ordered) addressed the bishop: "Bishop, do you reaffirm your promise to share with your fellow bishops in the government of the whole church; will you sustain your fellow presbyters and take counsel with them; will you guide and strengthen the deacons and all others who minister in the Church, so that they may join in the evangelization of the world?" 

Then we ALL said together "May almighty God, the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and bestowed upon us the forgiveness of sins, give us the grace to uphold and perform our vows."

What this service brought to my mind was Bill Countryman's book "Living on the Border of the Holy: Renewing the Priesthood of All."  I spent about 15 minutes looking for it on my bookshelf, and when I found it discovered I had put a sticky note on page 186.  I'm not sure why I marked this page before, but what struck my eye this morning and that seems so appropriate for Holy Week is on the next page:
It is love that permits us to accept the services of others as our priests [Countryman is using the term "priest" here in its most general sense].  We can trust others as priests only if we are persuaded that they have a genuine reverence for us and care more for our well-being than for their own authority.  The priest who is mainly interested in a fee of some sort is not a true priest.  The fee in question may be material, or it may be emotional or spiritual.  The priest may want to get rich, for example, or to gain intimate power over the lives of others, to get and hold a reputation for being always right or to be praised as superhumanly supportive.  There is a multitude of such temptations in the path of the priest, and the priest who loves the fee rather than the neighbor has failed an essential test of priesthood.
Love demands its own integrity.
Countryman goes on to explain that it is what we do in love, for the good of the other that is important.  When we try to get a "fee" of any sort (money, respect, compliments or reputation) we end up trying to control the other person, attaching them to ourselves rather than to God.
Love implies reverence for one another.  In every person, ourselves included, we see one who God has created, chose, loved, forgiven, welcomed, and celebrated.   We therefore see each person as a complex and beautiful mystery, worthy of all this outpouring of God's gifts......The mystery is to be honored in both of us.  Love in the honoring of it.
The honoring of the four-fold orders of the church is the honoring of the love that comes from the Creator. Each of us have gifts and, in community, those gifts can help bring about  God's kingdom. The more we see the gifts in others (and ourselves) and recognize that we all each called to be priests to each other, the more we live into the life as a follower of the Christ, the great High Priest.  We all fall short of that ideal, but with God's grace we can make a difference in our broken and needy world.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Einstein Quote of the Day

One thing I have learned in a long life: All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike - and yet it is the most precious thing we have.

Einstein said this about science, but you could say this about all knowledge, yet I wonder if even knowledge is the most precious thing we have.  I would say that the most precious thing we have is love.  And the source of that love, in my humble opinion, is a God who gave us all there is, including knowledge.  I have no doubt, however, that our love, measured against the love that God has for us is truly primitive and childlike.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Einstein Quote of the Day

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I just love this cartoon that accompanies an article on the Climate Progress blog:  Joe Bastardi can't read a temperature anomaly map and so spins another conspiracy theory: Accuweather's "expert long-range forecaster" Joe Bastardi has now firmly established himself as the least informed, most anti-scientific meteorologist in the world.  Climate Progress suggests that the video from Accuweather is more suitable for The Onion or April 1st.

Bastardi misunderstands a map of temperature anomalies for a temperature map.
"Bastardi tells his viewers, “The picture you see here is the Goddard Institute for Space Studies temperatures for the winter and you can see it was a torrid winter according to this.”  He then spins a long conspiracy theory suggesting that these numbers can’t be true and must be due to a “magical readjustment” because sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic aren’t at record lows.
But the picture is NOT of temperatures.  It is not warmer in the Arctic than in the United States, as Bastardi seems to imply. The picture is of temperature anomaly — the local temperature compared to the 1951-1980 mean — as anybody looking at the original can tell."
Comment:  I don't use Accuweather,  I use for weather information, so I had no idea this character exists.  Apparently some people call it (in)Accuweather.  One of the comments on the post suggested: "Anyway, it seems Bastardi’s and/or AccuWeather’s M.O. is to trash all government weather/climate services to spread uncertainty and doubt and to build up AccuWeather’s business."  Someone else suggested that since Bastardi is paid he is a "professional idiot."  In some ways he reminds me of the "bimbos" who used to present the weather forecast on the evening news, except they were they to be pretty, not to pontificate on conspiracies or misuse science.  Presenting the weather versus forecasting the weather and climate research are quite different areas of endeavor

Maine's RC Bishop Agrees with Glen Beck???

This mornings Portland Press Herald has a long article about the Maine Roman Catholic Diocese withdrawing funding from a social justice program for the poor and homeless.  The group supported No. on 1 last year, supporting same sex marriage. The Preble Street's Homeless Voices for Justice group has lost $17,400 this year and will lose $33,000 next year.  The money not only comes from Maine, but also from a Washington-based Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

The group Catholics for Marriage Equality is starting to replace the funds by raising $17,400 for Homeless Voices for Justice. One of the group's co-founders, Anne Underwood, said Bishop Richard Malone is punishing the homeless because of politics.
"This is petty vindictiveness," she said. "After the election is over, suddenly the money is revoked from poor people because of a political opinion held by the bishop."
Underwood said that many Catholics in Maine will now think twice before donating money to the church to help fight poverty. "People who are homeless should not be used in political games," she said.
..... Preble Street decided to join the coalition that opposed Question 1 because issues of sexual orientation are the single greatest cause of homelessness among youths. 
Comment:  I just shook my head.  I think perhaps the good bishop is listening to Glen Beck.  He seems to be agreeing that the church shouldn't preach social justice.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Climate Crock Video: Flogging the Scientists

This video is a bit long (about 10 minutes), uses dry humor (I like that sort of thing), and it is fascinating.  Peter Sinclair makes it his business to "de-crock" the anti-science crowd.  In this video he uncovers the lies in The Daily Mail (not a newspaper I would go to for news anyway) and the outrageous people calling for violence against climate scientists.  In a March 2, 2010 article Climate Progress cites a Scientific American piece on cyber bullying subheaded:

Researchers must purge e-mail in-boxes daily of threatening correspondence, simply part of the job of being a climate scientist

This is part of the nastiness that is so rampant in the religious right too.  If you read the article from Scientific American you will see not only do scientists get volumes of e-mail, they are called things like frauds, deceitful, or criminal.   Sometimes they get threats.  All of this is fueled by media like Fox News and the Daily Mail.  Makes me so angry.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sermon on the Mount: à la Beck

Found this in the Washington Post. I like Tony Auth's style.   Beck's audience seems appreciative.  I wonder if Beck has ever read the Screwtape Letters?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Couldn't Resist Another Cartoon on Anti-Science Stupidity

Climate Change posted this Tony Auth political cartoon along with an article entitled "The Dark Ages return: Texas Board of Education rewrites the Enlightenment".  They agree with the magazine Nature that "science is in a street fight with anti-science."  And the Texas State Board of Education seems to be leading the anti-science charge.  The Board has removed Thomas Jefferson as one of the Enlightenment's leading thinkers on  political revolution and replaced him with Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin.  They've also removed the reference to Enlightenment ideas.

Comment:  I do hope this isn't what post-modernism is all about.  Science is, of course, built upon facts, logic, reason, testing hypotheses, and a lot of other ideas that come from the Enlightenment.  We've moved a long way since then and our understanding of our world has grown, but it's scary to think we could go back to where superstition and the loudest voices win the day.  We are called to love the Lord with all our hearts, minds and souls.  Leave out our minds and there's a great big hole left to be filled with nonsense.  One commenter asked if Jefferson wasn't being replaced by Calvin and Hobbes (instead of Aquinas).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Best Argument Against Climate Change

From Climate Progress.

Here is the best argument against global warming:
. . . .
Oh, right. There isn’t one.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Glen Beck and Sister Marie Claude

Joan Chittister's newest post on her blog is called "The Nun and Glen Beck: a Standoff,"  It's about a nun from Syria who is here to receive an award from our State Department as one of ten "International Women of Courage."  Her work for 50 years has been to help marginalized women reintegrate into society, by providing shelter for battered women no matter what race, religion or nationality.  Joan spoke with her and quoted Glen Beck's comment: "Yes but ..." I asked finally. "Should you be doing these things as a nun, as a religious? A commentator here advised his television audience last week against 'social justice programs in the church.' "
"I beg you," he said, "look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words (for socialism.) Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!"
I heard Marie Claude Naddaf, a Sister of the Good Shepherd, gasp on the other end of the phone. "Noooooooo," she squealed. "This is the work of God. The spiritual life gives us the energy we need to do justice. There is no contradiction! It's a circle!"
Then she said, "Invite this man to come and see me in Syria. I will show him." And one more thing. "Tell your government that it must do something to help the Iraqi refugees in Syria. They need resettlement programs and financial support for widows and children." Her meaning was clear: The United States started the war that put millions of people adrift "but Syria has borne the whole expense of it."
From where I stand, it's clear why the Glenn Becks of the world would not want to hear anything about 'social justice' from a church. Certainly not about women and war. Or about Sister Marie Claude either. Let's hope he takes the invitation.
Comment:  I can just imagine Glen Beck accepting her invitation (not).  Can you imagine him going to Syria and speaking with a nun, even though she's Christian and not Muslim?  I can, however, hear him scoffing at the idea that Syria is paying the expenses of displaced Iraqis.  I also hear him scoffing at the notion that Christians are called to care for the helpless, the poor and needy of the world.  Social and economic justice are what Jesus was about.  Our loving God, loves indiscriminately and abundantly.  God Bless Sister Marie Claude's work. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Anti-Science Disinformation and How it Works

If you have an hour and are really interested in how anti-science disinformation works, listen to this University of Rhode Island lecture by a gifted woman professor from UC San Diego (Naomi Oreskes)who speaks on "Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscure the Truth About Climate Change."  She has an upcoming book (late May) with that title.

Merchants of Doubt tells the story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. Remarkably, the same individuals surface repeatedly—some of the same figures who have claimed that the science of global warming is “not settled” denied the truth of studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. “Doubt is our product,” wrote one tobacco executive. These “experts” supplied it.

Comment:  Oreskes says we need a more realistic view of science and I agree.  Just because we say things are complicated or lack certainty, doesn't mean the data are not real and that we don't need to pay attention.  We work through the issues and if the data do not support our hypothesis, the hypothesis goes away and does not survive.  If the evidence is there, the science is accepted by consensus.  This does not mean that every scientist is on board, but it does mean that most are.

We have  released increasing amounts of carbon and other pollutants into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution began and have exceeded the capacity of our planet to cope.  We in the industrial world have benefited greatly from this development, but if we do nothing, our children and grandchildren are going to pay a terrible price.

It's All the Same: Climate Change and Health Care Reform

This was posted by Climate Progress and comes from Toles of the Washington Post, but it applies equally well to the Health Care debate.

Climate Progress refers to it as "Senators vs. the species homo sapiens sapiens."
Actually, we have most of the 60 now.  It’s probably 6 to 12 swing Senators that will determine whether we have a domestic climate bill and hence a global deal (see “The central question for 2010: Will anti-science ideologues be able to kill the bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs bill?
Just change science to heath and ask the question about the health care bill, which unfortunately is not in the least bipartisan.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Good Advice: How Not to Be "Swift-boated"

Climate Progress has summarized the advice of Juan Cole, a University of Michigan history professor to climate scientists on how to avoid being "swift-boated" by those who do not believe climate change is real. To share a platform with people who promote falsehoods is to give un-truth credibility.

Cole's advice includes:
1. Summarize your research in a blog, so the data are accessible to a wider audience.
2. Falsehoods in the media are not the fault of the scientists because:
a.  Very, very wealthy and powerful interests are lobbying the big media companies behind the scenes to push climate change skepticism... 
b.  Powerful politicians linked to those wealthy interests are shilling for them, and elected politicians clearly backed by economic elites are given respect in the US corporate media. Big Oil executives e.g. have an excellent rollodex..... 
c.  Media thrives on controversy, which produces ratings and advertising revenue 
d.  Journalists for the most part have to do as they are told..... 
e.  Journalists for the most part do not know how to find academic experts..... 
f.  Many journalists are generalists.....
3. "Going public also makes it likely that you will be personally smeared and horrible lies purveyed about you in public (they don’t play fair– they make up quotes and falsely attribute them to you; it isn’t a debate, it is a hatchet job) ..... But if an issue is important to you and the fate of your children and grandchildren, surely having an impact is well worth any price you pay."

Comment:  You will need to go to the article to see what the author said to complete each point.  I do know some journalists who are well-trained in science, but they seem to be fewer and fewer of them employed by the media; e. g., CNN got rid of Miles O'Brien, their journalist who specialized in space and technology.

I remember a particular "hatchet job" done by a scientist years ago to "prove" his point that reputable scientists in oceanography agreed with his position.  He took sentences from the start of a paragraph and the end of paragraphs from peer-reviewed journals to completely twist the meaning of the work to his own ends.  One of the scientists whose work was misused took him to task in a public forum.  In that case it worked, but it was done in a meeting of scientists and politicians.  It doesn't always work out that way.

We do have a responsibility to future generations.  In addition, we have the responsibility to be honest stewards of this earth that was given into our care.  

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Stop Calling it Global Warming

Today's NY Times has an article called "Darwin Foes Add Warming to Targets"on how the climate-change skeptics are pretty much the same people who don't believe in evolution.  They're trying to change laws about what is taught in schools (again).  They want children to be taught critical thinking.  Well so do I, but I doubt we mean the same thing.  The only critiques they seem to want are those that support their faulty reasoning. They don't seem to want to look at data, but only their own prejudices.  By linking other issues to evolution they think they can bypass the criticism that they are teaching religion.  One example from a well-written article.
In Kentucky, a bill recently introduced in the Legislature would encourage teachers to discuss “the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories,” including “evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning.”
I may add some more to this tonight, but I have a busy day ahead.  There's much more worth saying on this topic.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Communicating Climate Change and Accepting Ambiguity

Aptenodytes forsteri Emperor penguin Adults and chicks Dawson-Lambton Glacier, Antarctica. Source: Fritz Polking / WWF

Climate Progress' Blog and today's headline is about how a huge new iceberg calved in Antarctica bumped into and broke off the tongue of a glacier to form a second huge iceberg. It's summer there now and the impact of these icebergs on penguins and the local ocean circulation is potentially huge. Antarctica is, on the whole, contributing to rising ocean levels because is is loosing about 24 cubic miles of ice annually. So this gets me to a second article of interest to me there written by Clive Hamilton, an Australian ethicist and author. He calls it Manufacturing a scientific scandal" It's about the horrible accusations and pressure experienced by some of the scientists caught up in what the press calls "Climategate."
And the emails reveal the enormous external pressure they were under. They show they were constantly accused of being frauds and cheats; their work was twisted and misrepresented; and they were bombarded with vexatious freedom of information requests orchestrated by denialists. 
In short, they were caught up in a hot political debate that they did not really understand or want to be part of, yet they were the target of savvy, secretive and ruthless organisations ready to pounce on anything they said or wrote. 
This is the real story exposed of “Climategate”. Instead, the scientists in question have seen their professional reputations trashed in the world’s media for no cause, to the point where Phil Jones has been on the verge of suicide. It has been the most egregious and unfounded attack on the integrity of a profession we have ever seen.
Yet the science remains rock solid
Since the leaking of the CRU emails the worldwide press have reported a series of “mistakes” in the IPCC reports that have allowed the denial lobby to claim that the entire IPCC process and the body of climate science should be junked. It turns out that almost all of the mistakes are fabrications. How could this have happened?
The first and only significant error identified in the IPCC report is the claim that 80 per cent of Himalayan glaciers are very likely to disappear by 2035. This was a serious mistake for a scientific report that should not have got through the review process.  (It took two years for this deeply burried error to be corrected)
Other errors are discussed at Realclimate website. 
(Hamilton goes on to discuss what science has found out since "Climategate")  
Perception versus reality 
........let me make mention of a number of developments in climate science that have been published or reported in the five months since the leaking of the Climategate emails. It is evidence that warming is more alarming than previously thought yet which has been buried in the avalanche of confected stories claiming that climate scientists have exaggerated. We have just had the warmest decade on record.
  • A new study concludes that an average warming of 3-4°C (which means 7-8°C on land), previously thought to be associated with carbon dioxide concentrations of 500-600 ppmv, is now believed to be associated with concentrations of only 360-420 ppmv, a range that covers the current concentration of 385 ppmv, rising at 2 ppmv per annum. If confirmed by further research, the implications of this are terrifying. 
  • While news reports allege glacial melting has been exaggerated, the best evidence is that the rate of disappearance of glaciers is accelerating. The University of Zurich’s World Glacier Monitoring Service reports that “new data continues the global trend in strong ice loss over the past few decades”.The rate of flow into the sea of Greenland and Antarctic glaciers is accelerating, adding to sea-level rise. This augments the evidence that IPCC cautiousness led to significant underestimation of the likely extent of sea-level rise in the 21st century. 
I have tried to find some new studies that go the other way in the hope I can counterbalance this bleak story, but have not succeeded.
Over the last five months, a vast gulf has opened up between the media-stoked perception that the climate science has been exaggerated and the research-driven evidence that the true situation is worse than we thought.
Just when we should be urging immediate and deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions, the public is being lulled into disbelief, scepticism and apathy by a sustained and politically driven assault on the credibility of climate science. For this we will all pay dearly.
Comments:  Scientists are their own worst enemies when it comes to communication with the public.  Like all people in specific fields, we tend to use language that may use the same words, as the general public, but mean different things.  For greater detail see Susan Joy Hassol's article "Improving How Scientists Communicate About Climate Change."

When I was taking oral exams many years ago the Chair of my department asked me to explain my work in language a six-year old could understand.  I must have done a good job, because he complimented me on my ability to do so.  Of course I had young children at the time and maybe that helped.  I wonder though how well I really did, because when my daughter was in kindergarten she informed her class that her mother was a "radiator."  (Actually I was a health physicist—i.e., someone who worked the field of radiation protection)

One of the hazards, though of communicating with non-scientists, is that you can simplify too much and lose the nuances so important to getting at the truth of what you are talking about.  Our world seems to want "black and white" answers, whereas shades of grey are more likely to better describe the situation.  Climate change is complicated.  Lots of snow in New York City and none in coastal Maine does not mean climate change is not happening.  It just means that it's far more complicated than most people are willing to deal with.

Maybe why I like being an Anglican is that I can embrace the shades of grey and the ambiguity and live with unanswered questions.