William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

The Stream: Laudato Si on the Science of Global Warming

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Today’s post is at The Stream. Laudato Si on the Science of Global Warming: Loud and Clear and Mistaken.

In a recent meeting Pope Francis held with priests in Rome’s Papal Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Holy Father said that churchmen who have disputes with their superiors should confront their superiors “like men.”

“There are quarrels and arguments in the Church?” he said. “Well, it makes good news! This is so since the beginning. A church without quarrels is a dead church. Do you know where there aren’t any quarrels? In cemeteries!” The Pope welcomed arguments as a tool to bring out the truth.

Since we are not dead, we can argue about global warming. Go there and read the rest.

Now, just so you don’t think I’m arguing for the sake of arguing, but because I know I am right, let me point out an area of agreement between myself and the Holy Father. This area was best expressed by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith, “Has the Pope condemned the use of air conditioning?

Fr Lucie-Smith, like Yours Truly, lived most of his life without air conditioning, and while living in the hottest and humidest places on the planet. Places like San Antonio, Texas, and Okinawa, Japan. It can be done. And, as Father says in his article, living without can be better.

But the Pope still has a point. Many of our modern buildings in Britain are frightful, in that they have too much glass and windows that cannot open, which makes them like greenhouses in summer — this seems to be particularly true of hospitals. We need to build more ecologically, and we certainly need to rein in our consumption. There is no getting away from that. But the next time I am sweltering in some American hotel room, will I really stay my hand as I reach for the temperature dial on the air conditioning control? I doubt it. We love telling others to rein in their consumption, but in our own cases we tend to make generous exceptions to the rules!

What in the Lord’s Great Name are architects thinking? Even windows that used to be opendable are now screwed shut. Hideousness surrounds us. Award-winning buildings are the ugliest.

Almost every reader will know of the experience of walking into any modern office building from a, perhaps over-warm, day to a meat locker. Women don sweaters and shiver. Try to open the window to find relief and discover it is impossible. It’s almost as if people think sweating is some mild form of disease.

Even the Statler, where I am staying at Cornell, had the thermostat set to 68 degrees. The thermostat was right next to the “Sustainability” card telling how the hotel won’t change your sheets. Thank God, the windows still open, at least a crack, no more than a sliver. Somebody has screwed in stops so that a body cannot slip through.

The Pope said too many people lived packed into cities. Amen to that, too. I live in city, one of the biggest. I’d like to escape. But I haven’t discovered how.

21 Comments

  1. The problem with “too many people live in cities” is then those too many people move out to the country and destroy the country. Oil and gas get blamed for sage grouse habitation loss when in fact it’s the ranches being cut up and sold to people with horses that wipe out the habitat. No one ever wants to discuss that. Properly done, cities have far smaller environmental impacts than spreading people out. Most people seem to like living in close proximity and always have. (Readers of this blog may be exceptions—I am.)

    Not everyone can live without air conditioning. I pass out in heat above about 85F. That started shortly after college. Right now, I use an evaporative cooler if the humidity is not too high, A/C otherwise. I could move to someplace really cold and that is not a bad thing, of course, if we had to do without A/C. Please note I do not shiver in buildings–I’m the one trying to pry a window open. Not all women are cold-blooded!

  2. Move on down to the Charlotte, NC metro area! Wonderfully sunny days, friendly people, booming economy and maybe 2 snowfalls a year. Small towns surround a beautiful city center. The state recently *lowered* income tax rates on everyone. Driving is tolerable and commutes are OK aside from the I-77 north (they’ve contracted to build private toll lanes to widen the highway).

    While there are some silly buildings and art, the city, in general, is attractive. The small town suburbs (Huntersville, Davidson, Cornelius, Matthews, Fort Mill, Belmont, Concord) are even nicer, with wonderful old southern homes. Not to mention Lake Norman if you’re of an aquatic bent. 4 hr drive to the beach, and 3 to the mountains.

  3. Anytime you want to work in financial services doing cutting (blunt) edge statistics, in the sunny (cloudy) auspices of Columbus, OH, you let me know. We’re busy moving people out of NYC as fast as we can.

  4. I commend to your attention Christopher Ferrara’s piece: On the Pope’s Encyclical, ‘Laudato Si’: Talk to the Animals – After All, You’re One of ThemTalk to the Animals – After All, You’re One of Them

    Too many good lines to quote them all, but here’s a few:

    “Francis-meaning the committee who put together this gargantuan platypus of a document-”

    “In fact, at the beginning of Chapter Two of this book called an encyclical Francis poses this amazing question (not accurately stated in the official English translation): “Why insert [inserire] in this document, addressed to all men of good will, a chapter referring to the convictions of faith?” That a Pope would view the “convictions of faith” as an insertion (or inclusion) in a papal encyclical tells us all we need to know about the problem with ‘Laudato Si’.”

    “There is only so much of Francis’s 1970s Jesuit theology that one can process in a given day.”

    “I would love to turn off The Francis Show, but the problem is that The Francis Show cannot be turned off. If only it could. Quite the contrary, the world seems intent on renewing the series for as long as the star can go on, broadcasting it daily to every corner of the earth.”

  5. The guy denies evolution further down so as far as I’m concerned his credibility on matters scientific is zero.

  6. Nick, I don’t agree with the climate stuff in Pope Francis’s encyclical, but I’ve read it and I don’t see anything in it that denies evolution. Denial of evolution is not an official position of the Catholic Church. Indeed Pope Saint John Paul II noted in another letter that evolution is a fact, but there are many theories of evolution. And in this statement he showed more discernment than many scientists: evolution–the descent of species–is a fact, but there are many models/theories put forth to explain evolution, among them the Neo-Darwinian survival of the fittest/gene mutation model. Not all scientists (including non-theists) are satisfied with the Neo-Darwinian model.

  7. Interior air is not cooled, alone. The term “conditioning” is, for once, a modern term correctly developed for the effect accomplished. Humidity is condensed and flushed away. Soot, dust, pollen and particulates are filtered out. Fresh air is mixed with the air already so conditioned, and heat between the old and new air exchanged with minimal expense of heating or cooling the incoming air. In some hospitals, the air pressure is adjusted, such that a rupture in containment brings air IN to the germ infected area, rather than dispersing that air into the general environment.

    A human whim controlling the openings into the barrier between the conditioned air and the wild environment is likely going to result (As Mark Steyn says of a mix between chocolate ice cream and horse manure) in something as desirable as the latter than the former.

  8. Having one’s body regulate its own temperature is also good for weight maintenance. Or rather, the AC is making you fat: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2006/jul/31/healthandwellbeing.features11

  9. Bob,

    81. Human beings, even if we postulate a process of evolution, also possess a uniqueness which cannot be fully explained by the evolution of other open systems.

    There’s no middle ground with evolution – that’s basically Creationism. Everything about us either evolved through random mutation and natural selection or it didn’t.

  10. There’s other places where no quarrels exist. Totalitarian countries for instance. Those places tend to end the quarrels in the church by eliminating the church.

  11. Nick, with all due respect I think
    “There’s no middle ground with evolution – that’s basically Creationism. Everything about us either evolved through random mutation and natural selection or it didn’t.”
    is your opinion rather than verified mechanism. A number of scientists and philosophers, not all of them theists, would disagree with you (i.e. with the Neo-Darwinian MODEL [excuse me for typographically scheming, but I wanted to emphasize the model characteristics of Neo-Darwinism]). Read, for example, Thomas Nagel’s “Mind and Cosmos”, or Stuart Kaufmann’s “The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Evolution” (I think I have the title right, but it’s been a while since I read it).

  12. Nick Milner writes, “The guy denies evolution further down so as far as I’m concerned his credibility on matters scientific is zero.”

    Nick, Pope Francis has in fact endorsed both evolution and the Big Bang Theory:
    http://inhabitat.com/pope-francis-officially-endorses-evolution-and-the-big-bang-theory/

    He doesn’t deny evolution. In paragraph #18, he says that the “speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution.” I think this relates to biodiversity. In a rapidly changing world, can species (including humans) evolve fast enough to adapt?

  13. Nick: I’m still waiting for the evolutionists to explain how “random chance” lead to where we are now (random chance is not really an explanation any more than God is as far as I can see–neither is science). Lots of missing parts. Almost as many holes as climate change models. Also, someone explain metamorphosis using only evolution and please do so in detail. It’s been a question of mine for a very long time.

  14. Conceptually, “random chance” might account for the plethora of life forms now existing, given an adequate time frame. But it’s just that — concept — with inklings of mechanism (persistence of advantageous mutation, laws of physics, the peculiarities of molecules and chemical reactions, simplistic computer programs that “evolve”, etc.). Explaining the how is long, long way off.

    A “middle ground” between evolution and creationism is, of course, the theory of intelligent design.

    Briggs, I hope you get a chance to escape the Statler and stroll the gorges. Buttermilk and Taughannock must be pleasant this time of year.

  15. Sorry for derailing the thread, Matt. Sheri, there are plenty of good books that explain evolution. None of the reputable ones claim a “uniqueness” for humans.

  16. Okay, Nick. Don’t want to derail the thread.

  17. Nick, that humans are unique (on this planet) is an article of religious faith primarily (although we are unique in the animal kingdom, and this has not been proven to follow from the Darwinian model). The point of my comment on yours is that your assertion that the Darwinian model is the only explanation for evolution is not justified. And as far as good books on evolution (with a philosophical foundation) that are teleological, i.e. point to humans as a end (or intermediate?) point, read Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos.

  18. Sander van der Wal

    June 19, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    Intelligent design would have lots of problems if it was a scientific theory. In a scientific theory you do need to be very specific about the Designer, after all, all his relevant attributes must be falsifiable.

    Secondly, you need to say how the designer came to be. We know of no other creature than Man that would be capable of intelligently designing creatures, so saying that some Aliens did it is not even plausible, let alone scientific. There are just no Aliens around.

  19. Sander, I’m sympathetic to the notion of an Intelligent Designer (i.e. God), but it isn’t a scientific proposition–there’s no way of experimentally falsifying it.
    It’s not science.

  20. ‘Intelligent Opportunist’ might meet the requirements of both evolution and determination.

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