January 18, 2007
Kudos for Explicit Political Advocacy
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | The Honest Broker
A number of prominent scientists -- including the well-known James Hansen, Judy Curry, Paul Epstein, and Rita Colwell -- have joined with the National Association of Evangelicals to advocate for political action on climate change. They released a statement (PDF) yesterday which stated:
We believe that the protection of life on Earth is a profound moral imperative. It addresses without discrimination the interests of all humanity as well as the value of the non-human world. It requires a new moral awakening to a compelling demand, clearly articulated in Scripture and supported by science, that we must steward the natural world in order to preserve for ourselves and future generations a beautiful, rich, and healthful environment. For many of us, this is a religious obligation, rooted in our sense of gratitude for Creation and reverence for its Creator.
Here at Prometheus we often call out scientists who hide their political agendas behind science, particularly on climate change. But in this case, there is none of that, to these scientists' credit. These scientists are explicit about their political values and their efforts to use a seemingly "strange bedfellows" association with a major religious group to influence the political process (PDF).
The role of science in policy and politics is much more straightforward when scientists clearly identify when they are advocating for values that they strongly hold, rather than suggesting that it is science that compels particular political outcomes.Posted on January 18, 2007 03:36 AM
Roger, thanks for your post, a minor clarification. Yes, we are clearly stating our values. We are advocating for consideration of this issue by the public and policy makers, without being policy prescriptive. The reason we are advocating this is because of a combination of science and values. We are not discounting science in any way here; much of the purpose of this alliance is reframing of global warming and other environmental issues for the education of the evangelical community (the "Gore frame" is not very effective for this community). Its time to clarify our collective values on this subject. Short term economic prosperity has been the dominant value in this discussion, and the controversy surrounding the Stern report is largely associated with how to value the economic situation for future generations. Creation care, a future for the poorest of the poor, etc are all things that should be weighed in national and international policy decisions on this issue.
Posted by: Judith Curry at January 18, 2007 05:26 AM
Moral imperatives based on values gained from the reading of a religious book are OK, but moral imperatives based on values gained from the understanding scientific findings are not.
Even though both are ways of knowing. Interesting. Is there an equivalency here similar to a Manhattan Project, where a scientist can oppose killing people on rligious grounds, but not on scientfic grounds?
Posted by: Dan at January 18, 2007 05:38 AM
"a beautiful, rich, and healthful environment" - sounds like we might want to enhance the base of the food chain, eh? Green things up? :-)
Posted by: Steve Hemphill at January 18, 2007 07:51 AM
Hi Judy- Thanks for your participation. I think that the notion of "policy prescriptive" is not particularly useful. There is not a line separating "not policy prescriptive" from "policy prescriptive."
If I come out saying that I am against the war in Iraq but I don't endorse a specific plan for doing so I don't think that is too important a distinction. One can always drill down to ever more specific levels of policy when engaging in political advocacy.
I'm glad you have laid your cards on the table -- discussing options, trade-offs, and costs/benefits for helping the "poorest of the poor" is exactly what we ought to be doing.
Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at January 18, 2007 07:55 AM
Dan- Thanks for your comment.
We have often written here that values do not come from scientific findings. This is a variation of the "is-ought problem." See Wikipedia for an intro:
Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at January 18, 2007 08:11 AM
I think there is indeed an "equivalency here similar to a Manhattan Project" but it is to increase our knowledge of what the myriad feedbacks will do, regionally.
Some take global results and use them as boundary conditions for regional models. That doesn't count - it's highly simplistic. The summation of regional models needs to be the global model. There is a big difference in magnitudes of complexity and computational power.
Posted by: Steve Hemphill at January 18, 2007 08:35 AM
Dear Mr. Pielke,
Beautiful use of irony and understatement on the state of some "science" today.
Congratulations on a comment worthy of Clemmons.
Posted by: Will J. Ricahrdson at January 18, 2007 11:16 AM
How come no one is shouing "THEOCRAT" or "CHRISTIANIST"?
I mean, they are using their religous beliefs to help determine their positions on important issues.
Numerous other sources have informed me that this is "wrong" and "products of the American Taliban"...
Posted by: Techie at January 19, 2007 11:22 AM
I'm deeply offended by these evangelicals trying to impose their extremist values on me.
Whatever happened to separation of church and state!
Posted by: Ryan R at January 19, 2007 12:20 PM
When will we see the NY Times reporter writing a book denouncing these fascist theocrats?
Posted by: Northerner at January 19, 2007 01:16 PM
I followed Dans invitation on RC, and came and had a look at this blog. I just wanted to see what substantive arguments were being cooked up up at this end of the 'debate'. I'm yet to find anything i'm particularly impressed with. On balance, I think RC just shades it ;-) Thanks for the link though Dan!
You guys in the US must be having a tough time at the mo. I guess if you can stop people looking out the window, or going outside, or voting, you might hang on to a good portion of your support. I tell you what guys, you stick with Crichton, and I'll stick with Hawking.
Posted by: mark at January 19, 2007 05:56 PM
Say Mark, point me to a single post here that suports 'State of Fear'. More importantly, if you measure the amount of discussion of Crichton here and over on RC, you'll see that RC "wins" hands down.
My experience has been that this blog sticks to the issues and does not get off-track and spend time and resources discussing popular movies, PowerPoint presentations, fictional novels, press releases, informal institutional reports, and other such sources that generally lack any content of actual true facts.
Posted by: Dan Hughes at January 20, 2007 08:08 AM
In some sense, I agree that it is good that these people identify some forms of religion and irrational confusion as the real driving force of their behavior.
Except that tomorrow, we will again hear that they are completely rational scientists whose conclusions result from careful research. And if we're unlucky, they will explicitly try to extend the "scientific consensus" to include creationism and God's anger, as indicated in their recent statement.
If the politically correct leftist journalists and other groups join with the equally irrational creationist supporters in this country, America has nothing to be optimistic about because the 16th century will have to be repeated.
Posted by: Lubos Motl at January 20, 2007 08:42 AM
Some readers might be interested to know that it is unclear whether the National Association of Evangelicals, representing the 30 million members of its 45,000 member churches, actually endorsed the launching of this coalition or the release of its "Urgent Call to Action." A media advisory the coalition released January 12 claimed it was "spearheaded by the" NAE and scientists at Harvard. On January 16 the NAE board chairman e-mailed me that the board had not officially acted on the matter. That is significant because in January 2006 the executive committee of the board had issued a letter saying that for lack of consensus among evangelicals the NAE would take no position on climate change policy and instructing its staff not to go beyond the position stated in the Association's "For the Health of a Nation: An Evangelical Call to Social Responsibility"--which never even mentioned global warming or climate change. At the press conference January 17, asked by Religion News reporter Adelle Banks whether NAE officially endorsed the proceedings, NAE VP for governmental affairs Rich Cizik replied that the board had "endorsed this dialogue." On January 19 the board chairman e-mailed me that another board member had informed him that "there was approval
Posted by: Calvin at January 20, 2007 11:20 AM
Thanks for these clarifications. We'd welcome further updates!
Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at January 20, 2007 11:29 AM
The poorest of the poor will learn, given the opportunity, at least some of the children anywhere, no matter how poor, are astonishingly bright and capable.
Scientists fortunate enough to study something that is beautiful -- beyond pure puzzle value, and that goes on being interesting and beautiful -- have learned something they can teach beyond what scientists whose subject, while fascinating and forthcoming of good research, isn't beautiful.
I recall the first time, while I was a grad student, that an instructor made a point while driving of trying to hit a starling. They were his area of research, but he also knew they were pushing out the native birds on the campus, having two clutches of eggs each year to the native birds' single chance to raise young. It wasn't the same as studying smallpox, maybe, but the same sort of feeling.
Some things scientists study touch the sense of beauty in a way that says preserve this. It's always interesting when they speak out and say what they find beautiful and worth protecting, eh?
Usually they are seeing something they can teach, given the will to learn it.
Posted by: Hank Roberts at January 20, 2007 07:43 PM
But the point of this statement is that the value in question is something like "we have an obligation to protect the earth" which is very widely shared including (at least ostensibly) by many opponents of Kyoto and similar policies. By contrast, as your post is written it suggests that the signatories of this letter have values that are very different from their opponents.
So far, it has been the scientific facts leading to the inference "therefore we must reduce CO2 emissions" that have been in dispute. The signatories are right on the facts and their opponents are wrong
Posted by: John Quiggin at January 20, 2007 08:37 PM
I remember that there was a few years ago a web page in UK, which made public a statement of a religious group about climate change; a very concerned statement. It was signed by, among others Sir John Houghton (who signed in his capacity of former IPCCC chair), Bon Watson and other brass of the IPCC guild. Thus, the disclosure of the encrouchment of religion into top climate science levels is nothing new. It would have been better if this group had been open about this fact earlier.
Posted by: Hans von Storch at January 21, 2007 03:13 PM
Lubos, why do you specifically refer to the 16th century? -
Posted by: Hans von Storch at January 21, 2007 03:38 PM