Pharyngula

Pope Ratzi: climate change denialist?

IRONY OVERLOAD! The pope opened his mouth again.

Pope Benedict XVI has launched a surprise attack on climate change prophets of doom, warning them that any solutions to global warming must be based on firm evidence and not on dubious ideology.

You’ve got to wonder — does the pope think this is a good general rule, that we should use evidence rather than ideology to guide our lives, or is he only going to apply it selectively? There’s also a subtle double-irony here, because global warming is an evidence-driven conclusion (there is no ideology that thinks major climate change is desirable), while it’s the denialists who are promoting ideology over evidence.

And it just gets better — look, some senior Catholic cardinals are using “religion” and “dogma” as dirty words!

In the spring, the Vatican hosted a conference on climate change that was welcomed by environmentalists.

But senior cardinals close to the Vatican have since expressed doubts about a movement which has been likened by critics to be just as dogmatic in its assumptions as any religion.

Of course, this is the Daily Mail saying all this, so who knows how much of it is coming from snarky, sloppy reporters rather than the pope himself. So I looked up the Pope’s remarks. They aren’t quite as blatantly ironic in the original longwinded popese, but swaddled in the endless god-talk is a very conservative, ideological message: families are important, families are based on the marriage of a man and a woman, our ideal faithful heterosexual couple needs a home, but don’t you draw hasty conclusions that maybe their home is threatened.

The family, the human community and the environment

7. The family needs a home, a fit environment in which to develop its proper
relationships. For the human family, this home is the earth, the
environment that God the Creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and
responsibility. We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to
men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the
good of all as a constant guiding criterion. Human beings, obviously, are of
supreme worth vis-à-vis creation as a whole. Respecting the environment does not
mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it
means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own
interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and
to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for
ourselves. Nor must we overlook the poor, who are excluded in many cases from
the goods of creation destined for all. Humanity today is rightly concerned
about the ecological balance of tomorrow. It is important for assessments in
this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of
wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above
all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development
capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental
balances.
If the protection of the environment involves costs, they should be
justly distributed, taking due account of the different levels of development of
various countries and the need for solidarity with future generations. Prudence
does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it
means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the
road to be taken, decisions aimed at strengthening that covenant between human
beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from
whom we come and towards whom we are journeying.

The irony is still there, but subtler. The pope is a perfect paragon of an entirely ideological source who lacks any evidence for any part of his message, so let us be uninhibited by ideological pressure and throw the words of that pretentious old man in the trash.

Comments

  1. #1 saurabh
    December 13, 2007

    I think the “Pope is a denialist” charge is false, as illustrated by this Deltoid post:
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/12/simon_caldwell_is_a_liar.php

  2. #2 MH
    December 13, 2007

    Funny, I thought that his assertion that “God the Creator” had given us the Earth was a hasty conclusion driven by his ideology?

  3. #3 inkadu
    December 13, 2007

    I think the problem with global warming is that a complete and total idiot can play God — driving his motor scooter to produce carbon monoxide to cause global warming.

    Now we know that religious people are only against “playing God” when smarty-pants scientists do it.

  4. #4 Christianjb
    December 13, 2007

    These Catholics set the evidence bar too high. We’ll never have as much evidence for global warming as the Catholics have for their story that a magic man died, then flew into the sky, then came back to Earth for an encore.

  5. #5 Hank Fox
    December 13, 2007

    “… a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances.

    “Development” always seems to come first in these constructions, with “environmental” a mere follow-up idea.

    My experience with the construction industry, and even with government, is that this phrase means “Environment? What are you talking about? People have to have houses! We’re not going to let children freeze in the dark just for the sake of some owl!”

    Or, shorter: “Fuck the environment. We’re not even interested. We were only saying that to distract you idiots from our real goal.”

  6. #6 Michael Kremer
    December 13, 2007

    Here we go again. As soon as I saw this story I knew it would show up here. PZ, haven’t you figured out yet not to trust media reports on what the Pope says? The first commenter is completely right. The Daily Mail is not the most reliable source — do you believe everything they report? They have spun the Pope’s comments in order to serve their own agenda. What the Pope actually says is much more reasonable. It can be found at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20071208_xli-world-day-peace_en.html
    See sections 7 and 8.

    He does say “It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances.” But the remarks about ideology and hasty decisions could cut either way.

    On the other hand he also says “Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken” and even remarks that “The problems looming on the horizon are complex and time is short.” And when it comes to actual policies, he mentions two challenges facing “technologically advanced countries” — “on the one hand, to reassess the high levels of consumption due to the present model of development, and on the other hand to invest sufficient resources in the search for alternative sources of energy and for greater energy efficiency.” Are these the words of a climate change denialist?

    Let’s be fair.

  7. #7 Michael Kremer
    December 13, 2007

    OK, I admit it, I didn’t read PZ’s entire post at first. I see that he’s read some of what the Pope actually said this time. Good on you. and my bad. I reacted to the way this is being spun by the blogosphere which is completely misrepresenting the Pope’s views. So you think nonetheless that the Daily Mail is basically right only things are more subtle. But I think this isn’t borne out by the next section of the document, section 8, from which I quoted above, and which seems not to fit your take on what the Pope has to mean.

  8. #8 Michael Kremer
    December 13, 2007

    Once again I apologize for the totally unjustified snark in my first comment. I really should learn to read carefully before hitting submit. Sorry guys.

    Nonetheless I think a fair reading of the Pope’s comments will show that he is not being near as ideological as PZ thinks.

  9. #9 PZ Myers
    December 13, 2007

    And I knew that Catholic suck-up Kremer would show up as soon as I posted it. Did you even read what I wrote? I pointed out that I didn’t trust the Daily Mail, I looked up the actual words, and I quoted the relevant segment, highlighting the part that had been distorted by the newspaper.

    Sure, I’ll be fair. The pope is an unqualified ass to be dictating anything about the family or the environment, I reject his authority, and only gullible twits defend him. Deal with that.

  10. #10 Sam Centipedro
    December 13, 2007

    Oh dear! The pope says something along the lines of “hey guys, it’s important to look after the world and it’s important to look after people too and wow! it’s a bit tricky to balance all of this” and you get narky because he doesn’t bow his knee to your pet icons.

    Your grumbles are simply ad hominem confections. You don’t like the pope (neither do I) so you want to sneer at his comments. His underlying points are (a) we have to care for the world, it’s the only one we’ve got, and (b) peace is better than war. I don’t care whether this morality comes from one god, several gods or no gods, I have no problem with it.

    Short of saying “I was wrong, god doesn’t exist and it’s all a sham”, was there anything that the pope could have said that wouldn’t have started you sneering?

    Well, one can’t expect much of Daily Mail readers!

  11. #11 Michael Kremer
    December 13, 2007

    Here, for what it’s worth, is the section of the Pope’s document following the one PZ quotes. Together they give you the whole of his statement about the environment.

    8. In this regard, it is essential to “sense” that the earth is “our common home” and, in our stewardship and service to all, to choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions. Further international agencies may need to be established in order to confront together the stewardship of this “home” of ours; more important, however, is the need for ever greater conviction about the need for responsible cooperation. The problems looming on the horizon are complex and time is short. In order to face this situation effectively, there is a need to act in harmony. One area where there is a particular need to intensify dialogue between nations is that of the stewardship of the earth’s energy resources. The technologically advanced countries are facing two pressing needs in this regard: on the one hand, to reassess the high levels of consumption due to the present model of development, and on the other hand to invest sufficient resources in the search for alternative sources of energy and for greater energy efficiency. The emerging counties are hungry for energy, but at times this hunger is met in a way harmful to poor countries which, due to their insufficient infrastructures, including their technological infrastructures, are forced to undersell the energy resources they do possess. At times, their very political freedom is compromised by forms of protectorate or, in any case, by forms of conditioning which appear clearly humiliating.

    I leave it to the readers to dissect this as they please. And now I will leave — I admit, in some embarassment. Apologies one more time.

  12. #12 Michael Kremer
    December 13, 2007

    PZ — I admitted to my not reading your post as soon as I foolishly hit submit after reading only the first few lines.

    I’ve apologized. Will you accept my apology?

  13. #13 Michael Kremer
    December 13, 2007

    PZ — I expect you didn’t read what I wrote carefully either — since you were justifiably pissed off at my for not reading what you wrote carefully.

    Let’s start over. I think you quoted only half of the Pope’s relevant comments and the part you didn’t quote includes the remarks that “time is short” and that we should be thinking about reducing energy consumption, increasing efficiency, and developing alternative energy sources.

    I promise not to post more on this. I would like to read your reply, however.

  14. #14 PZ Myers
    December 13, 2007

    No. Go to confession, mutter over your beads a few times, and get your imaginary god to forgive you — my opinion is irrelevant to deluded saps like you.

  15. #15 PZ Myers
    December 13, 2007

    I also read the next section, but you just don’t get it: the pope has absolutely no credibility in making any statements about scientific issues, and it doesn’t matter whether I agree with his conclusions or not. He reaches them by invalid methods: dogma, ideology, and superstitious presumptions about the desires of an invisible impalpable ghost.

  16. #16 Schmeer
    December 13, 2007

    I’m extremely amused that we have a few comments accusing PZ of being hasty and not reading the entire statement by the Pope. This conclusion could only be made by yourself being hasty and not reading all of PZ’s post.
    You have a little hypocrisy stuck in your teeth, the two front ones, or is that broccoli? No it’s hypocrisy. Need a mirror? It’s still there, try floss.

    At least Mr. Kremer finished reading the post after writing a comment or five.

  17. #17 CalGeorge
    December 13, 2007

    Pope: “To have children is a gift that brings life and welfare to society.”

    Paraphrasing Professor Barry Walters:

    Every newborn Catholic baby in the world represents a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions for an average of 80 years, not simply by breathing but by the profligate consumption of resources typical of our society.

    Tax Catholic excess baby production.

    That’s my solution to the global warming crisis.

  18. #18 Caucasian Jesus
    December 13, 2007

    Just remember: the cannibalistic pope has the exact same scientific qualifications as the Texas and Florida boards of education.

  19. #19 dogmeatib
    December 13, 2007

    The pope may or may not be making valid statements regarding how people/governments should respond to the circumstances that face us, that is open for individual readers to decide. What PZ has made quite clear is that the pope, just like the delusional ID advocates, uneducated school board members (Dover anyone), etc., doesn’t have the scientific evidence to support his position on any of these matters. His position is, again as PZ points out, is based on his faith, his belief in the supernatural, and not based on a scientific understanding of the problem. This is the same “reasoning” that led to women being burned as witches, jews being persecuted for “causing the plague,” and it taking 20 years to decide if Native Americans had souls (and therefore whether it was okay to kill them for sport).

    It is quite legitimate to dismiss the pope speaking as an “expert” on secular issues.

  20. #20 CalGeorge
    December 13, 2007

    Dear Ratzi:

    I was planning a trip to Lourdes to earn an indulgence so that I would not have to spend so much time in Purgatory [shiver] after I die [sniff], and I was kinda wondering: should I really be taking this trip, given the dire predictions I’m hearing about the world’s climate?

    Wouldn’t it be better to stay home?

    You adoring fan,

    Clueless in California

  21. #21 raven
    December 13, 2007

    Oh c’mon.

    Pope Ratzinger:

    For the human family, this home is the earth, the environment that God the Creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and responsibility. We need to care for the environment…:

    Looks like a pretty benign statement for a Pope. The earth is our life support system and it is not optional on a space vehicle.

    A lot of the fundie Death Cults say, drink beer, watch NASCAR, and fuck the earth. Typical fundie reasoning and not the least bit hyperbole.

    1. The rapture is coming any day now. We’ve been predicting it for 2,000 years and been wrong for 2,000 years but, armageddon is coming any day now.

    2. The Lord will provide. God always shows up in the nick of time and you know, does something for his children. The last time this happened was,….hmmmm, well when was the last time this happened? I know, when we elected George Bush.

  22. #22 Steve in MI
    December 13, 2007

    Re #10 (par. 3) –

    No.

  23. #23 raven
    December 13, 2007

    Tax Catholic excess baby production.

    The good news. The Catholic birth rate in the USA is about the same as the national average. Most Catholics are good at smiling and nodding at the priests and then doing what they think is responsible and right for themselves. What do a bunch of old celibate men know about raising families anyway?

    The Vatican leadership has been out of step with the members in the first world for decades.

  24. #24 Amanda
    December 13, 2007
  25. #25 me
    December 13, 2007

    Stupid rant.

    The pope may be the head of a batshit crazy cult, but he also speaks to ~2 billion people who are convinced his is the absolute word of god.

    If he’s now preaching environmental harmony, then I’d say the pragmatic trumps all, so leave well enough alone.

  26. #26 Foggg
    December 13, 2007

    The Pontifical Academy of Sciences harbors an elderly, cranky, egotistical denialist:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonino_Zichichi

  27. #27 SC
    December 13, 2007

    Ewww. Looks like I bumped into the danger zone. The fact that the pope has authority to issue any public verdict is absurd. Taking it seriously only buffers his ability to make future mistakes without criticism. His mutterings are accessible to the least developed gourd, that is why folks listen to his unctuous drivel.

  28. #28 Capser M.
    December 13, 2007

    The pope may be the head of a batshit crazy cult, but he also speaks to ~2 billion people who are convinced his is the absolute word of god.

    This isn’t really true. Whether Catholics are supposed to think the Pope speaks the Word of God, many of them don’t believe it. This is certainly the case in the U.S.

  29. #29 Michael Kremer
    December 13, 2007

    #27 (Foggg)

    On the other hand 9 current members (I think I counted right) of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (and several former members) signed this letter:

    http://dieoff.org/page8.htm

    And this helps to make the point that the Pope actually has scientists advising him on issues. He doesn’t just speak from his faith.

  30. #30 Logicel
    December 13, 2007

    Once the Pope is stripped of his political/psychological power, then one can enjoy the luxury of describing his pathetic mumblings as benign.

    This missive from the Pope may fool some as being benign, just because his other recent essays were so rabidly malignant. However, not a single opinion that the Pope utters is not malignant–the Catholic Church has its fetid, stinking fingers in world politics, enjoying plenty of political contacts which serve them well to push their dangerous agenda. Kudos for PZ for not falling for this murky, less clear malignancy and astutely revealing the Pope’s literary sleight of hand in all its confusing sneakiness.

    For the Catholic sucker up, make sure you put coarse ashes in your underwear also for penance.

  31. #31 Dan
    December 13, 2007

    If the Pope is qualified to speak on science in such a way as he has, then I am qualified to be Pope in such the way as I am.

  32. #32 poke
    December 13, 2007

    It’s difficult to figure out just what the Pope is saying in any of that. He reads like a verbose concern troll.

  33. #33 Alex
    December 13, 2007

    You’d think that after hundreds of years of making people miserable and being wrong about so many issues involving reality (and even some in their fantasy world, such as babies going to Limbo), the Catholic Church would learn that the world would be better if it just left everyone alone.

  34. #34 inkadu
    December 13, 2007

    The more I read of the Pope’s statement, the more it’s clear that he’s a clever politician.

    He gives something to everyone. “Harmony” means that environmentalists can’t tell business what to do. Harmony is akin to “bipartisanship” — something to make sure reality is never properly considered. His accusations of “ideaological motives” is something that can be thrown at environmental scientists — “hasty decisions” likewise.

    The purpose of this statement is not to help the environment — it is to help the pope. The pope is showing he is current on the issues, and it’s written in a way that everybody reading it — if they like the pope — will agree with the pope. The pope is right, everyone will agree. Except for cantankerous atheists like PZ who don’t like the pope on the grounds that his political authority is based on the Christian equivalent of tea-bagging Poseidon.

  35. #35 Myql
    December 13, 2007

    During WWII, the Pope’s brain was damaged by the concussion of the antiaircraft gun that he was manning while trying to shoot down allied airmen. In other words, the Pope’s brain was turned to Poop. His denial of the reality of global warming clearly shows this to be true.

  36. #36 Cat of many faces
    December 13, 2007

    I don’t care WHAT he says in later paragraphs, this:

    “It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions”

    has no other purpose but to imply that all the environmental scientists studying global warming are not “people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions”

    Now do you see why we’re pissed Kremer? this is a statement that basically says that all the study done so far is to be tossed out the window, and that only “Pope Approved Science” is allowed.

    Let me re-iterate this point. this is saying that all the climate science done so far is faulty and biased, and that it now can be considered only if done under the supervision of people who DON’T have any real science knowledge.

    That’s an annoying position.

    -A Warming Cat

  37. #37 Skwee
    December 13, 2007

    Just want to inject this into the discussion for some measure of comic relief:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eH9b2LGB_SM&feature=user

  38. #38 Todd
    December 13, 2007

    The pope may be the head of a batshit crazy cult, but he also speaks to ~2 billion people who are convinced his is the absolute word of god.
    If he’s now preaching environmental harmony, then I’d say the pragmatic trumps all, so leave well enough alone.

    Therein lies the problem; wouldn’t it be better for these 2 billion people come to this conclusion for themselves rather than being told what to think by one man?

  39. #39 JImC
    December 13, 2007

    No. Go to confession, mutter over your beads a few times, and get your imaginary god to forgive you — my opinion is irrelevant to deluded saps like you.

    That made me laugh out loud.

    2 billion people who are convinced his is the absolute word of god

    Folks repeat after me. There are not 2 billion catholics, they claim 1 billion but every survey of this number shows it is grossly overinflated. Perhaps by as much as 75%. They count everyone. Even atheists who have left the church.

    And on another note the majority of catholics don’t regard the pope’s word as the absolute word of God.

  40. #40 me
    December 13, 2007

    #38
    Of course it would be better if people could think for themselves.

    But he’s now setting about preaching a message–albeit cryptic and couched– of stewardship and responsibility–which is quite a bit better–to my ear– than the “this is simply a natural warming cycle” denialism that the baptist ministers/Faux News Network are preaching to their enraptured.

    As much as this pope bothers the hard core who enjoy PZ’s brand of take no prisoners atheism, Christianity isn’t going to disappear from the face of the earth any time soon. So when the leader of its largest sect steps, even tentatively, down the road of environmentalism–I guess my attitude is more along the lines of, “well, it’s about fucking time.”

    I mean, if you don’t believe in the devil, why worry about sleeping with the devil?

  41. #41 pough
    December 13, 2007

    The Pope…

    Who?

  42. #42 DLC
    December 13, 2007

    So the catholics’ Witch-Doctor in Chief has spoken.
    And he hath spake nonsense, and the lord did grin, and all was right with the world. Or at least with the 16% of the world who get on their knees and fiddle with their rosaries.

    Boil down what he’s saying and you get a weak acknowledgement that there may be a problem, and that we might need to do something about it.

    Sorry, but I’m not buying the Witch-Doctor’s statement.

  43. #43 Sceptical Chymist
    December 13, 2007

    This is just the latest case of the Pope calling the kettle black or yet another immaculate confabulation.

  44. #44 Zeno
    December 13, 2007

    They count everyone. Even atheists who have left the church.

    Hey, are those rascals still counting me?

    Possibly.

  45. #45 Greco
    December 13, 2007

    Tax Catholic excess baby production.

    I was surprised when I first learned that Catholics in the United States have (or had) more children than the average. I live in what some describe as “the most Catholic nation in the world” (as if that is something to brag about), and I know a lot of people in the “Charismatic renewal” movement – roughly, fundamentalist Catholics. Except for the over-50 demographic, they have at most three children, in a country where fertility rates hover around 2.0.

    Granted that’s anedoctal, but on a survey, 98% of Catholics said they disagreed with church doctrine on contraception (and smaller majorities or pluralities disagreed with nearly everything else).

  46. #46 Rey Fox
    December 13, 2007

    I think everybody’s excess baby production should be taxed, starting at baby #3.

  47. #47 Brownian, OM
    December 13, 2007

    Anytime I read anything by Pope Ratzinger I wonder how much better off the world would be if we’d elected Pope Ratzenberger.

    Then, all of his Papal Edicts would read like this:

    “Eh, speaking of climate change there Sammy, it’s a little known fact that the Almighty God was the first to change the climate by separating the Heavens and the Earth. Of course the universe was only a few days old, so technically God created weather, since climate is the total of all weather occuring in a given place over the course of many years. But then again, God can do whatever He wants–”

    At which Cardinal Tortelli would interrupt with “–except get you to shut up!”

    Man, religion would be cool if I invented it.

  48. #48 Alan Kellogg
    December 13, 2007

    #4,

    The sequence was; died, came back, flew off into the sky. That last based on the say-so of a lady unfortunately afflicted with a form of schizophrenia. All the stuff about disposing of the body left behind conveniently edited out later.

  49. #49 melior
    December 13, 2007

    Man, religion would be cool if I invented it.

    Channeling the ghost of Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, are we?

  50. #50 Bryson Brown
    December 13, 2007

    I particularly liked the phrase ‘an intransigent body of scientific opinion’ that holds that ‘waves of heat generated by the sun’ might be the cause of global warming. If that kind of crazy can find comfort in the Pope’s deliberately ambiguous remarks, then they’re useless at best and a distraction at worst. The main point, however, has already been made: This man has no authority to speak to the issue. What does he know about ideology and different positions on global warming? How would he judge when someone on either side was failing to be serious and objective? A religious leader whose ecumenicism is so generous that he claims that all other churches in Christianity are defective (if they are churches at all): somehow I think his game is all about protecting his purported monopoly on an apres-vie protection racket.

  51. #51 Monado
    December 13, 2007

    It’s particularly funny because there’s no solid, undisputed evidence for his religion. Or has someone else already pointed out the obvious?

  52. #52 JimC
    December 13, 2007

    98% of Catholics said they disagreed with church doctrine on contraception (and smaller majorities or pluralities disagreed with nearly everything else).

    Thats the truth I viewed a poll where American catholics disagreed 96% with birth control and 94% with the RCC stance on divorce. Most are cultural catholics I think.

    Hey, are those rascals still counting me?

    Possibly.

    If they haven’t booted you out, most certainly.

  53. #53 inkadu
    December 14, 2007

    Tentacles make such fine whips, don’t you agree, fellow sycophants?

  54. #54 dogmeatib
    December 14, 2007

    I’m pretty sure they’re still counting:

    Myself: recovering pseudo-Catholic, agnostic leaning towards atheism

    My wife: recovering pseudo-Catholic, agnostic leaning towards atheism

    Our daughter: unwilling pseudo-Catholic, baptized for a loving grandmother/great grandmother … I believe the oil sizzled a tad, snarling atheist who eats Christian babies for breakfast

  55. #55 James A
    December 18, 2007

    God bless our Holy Father Pope Benedict.

  56. #56 God
    December 18, 2007

    No.

  57. #57 woody, tokin librul
    April 22, 2008

    Pope: “To have children is a gift that brings life and welfare to society.”

    having children today is an act of extreme selfishness, egocentrism and hubris…

  58. #58 woody, tokin librul
    April 22, 2008

    Pope: “To have children is a gift that brings life and welfare to society.”

    having children today is an act of extreme selfishness, egocentrism and hubris…

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