God’s Will Hunting

Kristin Devine

Kristin has humbly retired as Ordinary Times' friendly neighborhood political whipping girl to focus on culture and gender issues. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of https://atomicfeminist.com/

Related Post Roulette

25 Responses

  1. I’m a member of the choir you’re preaching to, so of course, I agree with most of this post. I also share your two starting agnosticisms.

    However, I do think you’ll get some pushback for bad reasons and good reasons. The bad reasons will have something to do with the culture conflict of which this issue is a part–and there’s not much anybody can do about that. Some people like what they call science and just want to slam down anyone who questions it.

    But there are “good reasons,” too. The “good” reasons will have to do with what I see as some overbroad generalizations in the OP. For example:

    Imagine my dismay the last few months when I read things written by people, good people, people I respect, claiming that the latest round of hurricanes were in fact basically divine judgement dispensed by Mother Earth only instead of punishing heathens and reprobates it was punishing rednecks because they voted Trump or didn’t drive Priuses and or had historically allowed the Exxon Corporation to set up shop in Texas and forcibly extract black gold from our planet’s sacred crust. Some folks – again, decent people, all – were out and out saying that Texans deserved a hurricane because they didn’t believe in global warming, because they’d made money from oil or were Republicans. Gross and wrong.

    I know exactly the type of attitude you’re referring to and even have some examples to demonstrate it. I do fear, though, that the bolded parts represent an overgeneralization. You do say “some” folks, and not all, but it still seems a bit too overgeneralized. I also find that when people use these tropes–saying or more often implying that the hurricanes are punishments for rednecks, etc.–they are doing so more to dig at those people than in an effort to demonstrate the reality of AGW. That’s your point, and it’s made even more clearly and strongly later on in your OP. But it seems to me that sometimes you’re conflating legitimate concerns with the concerns of the anti-redneck trolls when those concerns are in principle distinguishable.

    I see a potential, though less likely pushback here from another direction. While I admit there is a religious-like, jeremiad-like way of speaking about AGW (more than “admit”….it’s something I find preachy and grating, as you do), I think to discount concerns about AGW because it is like a religion is similar to discounting anything once it’s shown to be like a religion. I don’t think religion is that bad. That’s not what you’re doing in the OP. In fact, I’m seeing you as pointing out an inconsistency in those who are quick to criticize Christian-inspired jeremiads but who also engage in AGW-inspired jeremiads. But I do think it’s possible to extract an anti-religion-qua-religion argument from your critique, even if that’s not your intention.

    I’d like to reiterate I agree mostly with your OP. I’m coming from a very similar position to yours, with similar assumptions. And I certainly can sign on to your parting sentence: ” let’s have compassion and use our giant capable science-y brains to rise above our worst tendencies and never, ever say that a natural disaster is punishing anyone for their beliefs again.”Report

    • Thanks for the input, very helpful.

      I had citations and tweets – none of which were calm and rational scientific discussions – to support the point (which was, just as you say, that some people were using “climate change” as a brickbat). But upon reading I felt that they did not add, and indeed detracted from, the flow of the piece so I cut them. I figured that most people had probably read much the same things that I had and so let that go.

      Yes, exactly, I was attempting to point out that there is something ironic and terrifying about people who out of one side of their mouths point out every hypocrisy and shortcoming of Christians while indulging in the same behavior just under a different name. Not at all lambasting religion; if I went hard against religion it was because I felt that possibly illustrated the disconnect between people who purport to “hate Christians” even as they act like all the things they claim to hate about “Christians”.Report

      • Thanks for engaging my comment. For the record, I didn’t think you were lambasting religion. In fact, I was more riffing off something I do: I sometimes point out secular “theologies” (for lack of a better word) and say, at least to myself, “hey, they’re just like a religion they claim to be free of themselves.” (I also personally need to be a bit chary myself before accusing others of hypocrisy, since I’ve been one of the “we shouldn’t focus as much on hypocrisy” people when it comes to engaging Sam Wilkinson’s posts.)

        I agree with your decision not to include the examples of what you’re talking about from tweets, etc.

        Finally, I want to reiterate that I really liked the post and thank you for writing it. I like the perspective you bring here.Report

  2. Oscar Gordon says:

    I will never claim that Gaia is out to getchu, but I don’t always have a lot of sympathy for people who build stupid.Report

  3. Damon says:

    It’s a “people thing” alright. People are going to behave badly. People are racist, tribal, self absorbed, self centered, herd like, afraid of the unknown, the different, and rooted in behaviors that haven’t changed in millennia.

    The good side of religion is that it can mold that raw human clay so people can commit compelling acts of charity, goodness, and nobility. Sadly, it has also contributed to the evils of our nature in the various pogroms, slaughter, torture, and murder of so many–all for “the cause”. In that way, climate change is similar to religion-the “righteous”, assured of their holiness, brook no doubt.

    As a species, we’ve created wonders of art, architecture, etc. while managing to slaughter hundreds of millions of our own. If we survive as a species, perhaps we’ll grow out it, but frankly, I wonder if these traits will always be with us.Report

    • Kristin Devine in reply to Damon says:

      Exactly, Damon. Totally agree. I wish we could figure out “hmm maybe this is a pitfall we ALL suffer from” and thus be on the lookout to prevent it when it rises in ourselves.Report

      • Damon in reply to Kristin Devine says:

        I take a dim view that the majority of humanity has the ability to do that. 🙂 I’d expect that we’ve seen it already if that was the case.Report

      • Nevermoor in reply to Kristin Devine says:

        This is why nutpicking (i.e. characterizing either political party based upon a comment on the internet/tweet from some random citizen/college students/etc) is such a bad way to engage in political debate.

        There is no shortage of crazy in this world, and it infects people who vote for both parties. That’s why we should focus on the actual politicians/leadership to see what a party thinks.Report

  4. North says:

    Good post and, of course, the preaching isn’t actually science at all. Science can tell us something about why hurricane frequency and severity is up so much. Science can tell us something about how water moves in storms and how it drains after them. Science can’t tell us about what people deserve, what people earned through actions/inactions or what is just NOR does science claim to be able to! Science cannot identify a single atom of justice, or a molecule of mercy any waveform of desert because those things do not exist in the realm of science. They’re constructs of morality and the closest science can come is by going and sitting on the knee of its’ father philosophy (and even it’s a mighty dry conversation).

    That being said, I do think you may be applying the idiotic behavior of a handful of AGW trolls to the ASW believers in general with a potentially overbroad brush.Report

    • Nevermoor in reply to North says:

      This exactly.

      An individual hurricane isn’t caused because someone pissed off god. Nor is it caused because global warming crossed a specific threshhold. But more severe weather events are certainly an expected symptom of global warming.

      That’s a nuanced point, and I’m sure it is frequently butchered by those that don’t understand it/are over-zealous culture warriors/etc. It also certainly does not lead to the conclusion that Texas/Florida/PR are being “punished” by anyone for anything. But it does mean we should be thinking about this stuff as more than just “some years have hurricanes, some don’t, nothing ever changes”Report

      • Dark Matter in reply to Nevermoor says:

        If we’re interested in actually doing something about this sort of thing, then it’s easier, cheaper, and more effective to put in place sane zoning/insurance regulations than it is to lower the oceans and reduce the temperature.

        A century ago a nasty hurricane could plow inland without automatically hitting lots of things we care about. If people are going to insist on building where mother nature is going to zap us occasionally, then we should insist that it’s built to withstand it and that it’s appropriately insured.

        For example Puerto Rico really should have been upgrading (i.e. hardening) its infrastructure while the lights were on.Report

      • George Turner in reply to Nevermoor says:

        Global warming should cause less severe weather events because it lowers the temperature gradient from the tropics to the polar regions. The tropics stay about the same temperature but the heat is pumped further toward the poles, so there is less of a temperature difference per degree latitude. You have few cases of cold air masses slamming into warm, moist air masses.

        A recent geological study of Florida and the tropics found they were being pounded by frequent and severe hurricanes during the Younger Dryas about 12,000 years ago, an extremely cold period. They were also pounded during the Little Ice Age, with some of the deadliest and most severe hurricanes ever recorded occurring during the late 1700’s.

        As it turns out, the hurricane model we’ve been using isn’t correct. Under that model a significant number of hurricanes exceed the maximum theoretical efficiency of a heat engine. Russian scientists in St Petersburg developed a new theory in which a hurricane is in part an avalanche effect that dumps all the pre-existing atmospheric moisture in the hurricane’s path, getting fed by the latent heat of fusion of all that water vapor as it dumps that vapor as rain.

        Of course the idea that global warming produces less severe weather is in conflict with the idea that mankind’s sinful CO2 production must be punished with wrath and destruction, so the idea has trouble gaining a foothold among the climate science community that’s convinced they’re saving the planet.Report

  5. Kolohe says:

    I don’t think you’re arguing against a strawman, but I think people could think you’re arguing against a strawman because this piece doesn’t point to a specific person or group of persons making the argument you’re arguing against.

    I feel I’ve come across plenty of people making the ‘weather is not climate’ error these past few months, but not very many ‘this is karma for all your climate sins’ folks – other than from folks that are already “out there” in one form or another already. There was definitely at least two editorial cartoons that mocked the people getting hit by hurricanes, but that was from the point of view of “oh, *now* you want federal government and in any case government help, you rugged individualist you” (which of course was also wrong for many reasons).

    But I don’t think I’ve come across anyone as prominent as say, Joyce Carol Oates, pushing the Revenge of Gaia line of thinking.Report

    • agrippa95 in reply to Kolohe says:

      “Imagine my dismay the last few months when I read things written by people, good people, people I respect, claiming that the latest round of hurricanes were in fact basically divine judgement dispensed by Mother Earth only instead of punishing heathens and reprobates it was punishing rednecks because they voted Trump or didn’t drive Priuses and or had historically allowed the Exxon Corporation to set up shop in Texas and forcibly extract black gold from our planet’s sacred crust. ”

      Isn’t this the textbook definition of building a strawmanReport

    • agrippa95 in reply to Kolohe says:

      Arguing from hearsay?Report

      • I cut the references from the piece because they disrupted the flow.

        I don’t believe most people even read the links and references and since it was kind of a snappy piece (in my mind anyway) I felt like I was detracting from the writing to include some links that no one was going to click on anyway.

        I read these type of comments several places and I felt they were pretty widespread.

        No straw man intended.Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    There is a set of things that have truth values that exist independently of people.

    There is another, different, set of things that have truth values that exist because people do/don’t believe them.

    And while we’re pretty good (better than chance, anyway) at figuring out which set any given thing that might be true would belong in, we’re nowhere near 100%.

    Which sucks.Report

  7. Dark Matter says:

    The human brain is a pattern matching device.

    When you see patterns/objects/things in clouds, it says much about you and little about the clouds. The same works for natural disasters, it’s just the stakes are higher because “death” is on the table… and yes, this is easily twisted into “power” or “appeal to authority” arguments.. Somehow “god” is always in favor of whatever the speaker wants to do.

    If someone sees climate change behind every hurricane, then that’s mostly a description of where their head is at. Presumably they didn’t blame climate change for the lack of hurricanes the last decade or so.Report

  8. Kris says:

    Our fine friends up at Penn State have a lot to say about Global Warming. They’re not all climatologists, most of them are meteorologists.

    Yes, weather follows both climate and meteorological change. Have the same ten storms in the Northeast, just tweak the temperature up 2 degrees in wintertime (the latter being a climate change)? Holy Hell, you’ve got Snow!

    Which fills up the springs and ponds, which is why anyone doing agricultural science had better get the climatological stuff right.

    We’re not there yet, but we’re working on it.Report

  9. Kris says:

    And, here’s the thing about global warming.
    Every time we revise the models, predictions get more dire.

    So, um, NO, we don’t know what’s going to happen yet.

    But it’s gonna be bad.

    (Note: limited predictions are available. You can thank them for the evacuation plans for Miami).Report