Monday, June 22, 2015

A certain kind of response to Laudato Si

Obviously there are far more important things to be said about the Pope's long-anticipated climate change encyclical -- but here, I just want to touch on the sheer hilarity of a certain kind of response we are 100% definitely going to see.

One of my favorite genres of climate change denial is the thing where a critic will bring up a really remedial consideration -- usually a cooling dynamic of some sort -- as if it's some kind of explosive blockbuster game-changer rather than a long-understood and accounted for point of grade school trivia. A guy will discover cyclical temperature variation based on a Wikipedia article, and actually suspect that actual professional scientists working in this specific field are somehow unaware of cyclical temperature variation, and actually conclude that this unbelievably basic consideration has not been accounted for in climate change models, and then actually propose that the entire scientific enterprise of climate science has been fundamentally compromised.

And of course, the other field where this sort of criticism appears on a regular basis is religion. Some dude will get an email forward mentioning the verse where God gives humans "dominion" over the earth, making that ridiculous argument that God therefore endorses literally any insane thing we want to do to creation. Our scholar will then suspect that the actual Pope himself has not read this verse, and is somehow unfamiliar with its long held and loudly shouted right-wing interpretation. Suddenly a massive field of Catholic theology, developed over millennia by some of the most rigorous and learned minds our planet has ever seen, is brought down because what about Genesis 1:26?

A popular current of modern liberalism actually sees all of this as a good thing, the expression of vital skepticism and healthy debate. But at bottom, I see at work here an absolutely amazing megalomania: the critics think their effortless intuitions, armchair speculation and cursory Googling comparable to the enormous time and intellectual energy invested in professional scholarship. The implications of all of this are troubling, but the sheer hubris is so ridiculous that I can't help but crack up every time this happens.

UPDATE: Elizabeth Bruenig tweets out exactly what I'm talking about: