An Ecologist's Perspective on Pope Francis's Encyclical Letter

Guest Contributor: Dan Botkin

Throughout my career as an ecological scientist, I have been fascinated by the connections between the Judeo-Christian religious beliefs and modern environmental science, and have written about this in various scientific articles and several of my books.  So I have been specially intrigued that on June 18 the pope published his Encyclical Letter about climate change.  It a fascinating combination of many things, some completely contradictory, some I agree with, some I don’t, but with an overall important impact.

One of the intriguing things Pope Francis writes is

When we speak of the ‘environment’, what we really mean is a relationship existing between nature and the society which lives in it. Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live.  We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it.  (Encyclical, Paragraph 139).

That people are part of nature, not separate from it, is a point I have emphasized in my writing many times over the years, but has not been a common part of dominant ideas in Western Civilization, which has tended to view people as separate, in a negative way, from nature — a view promoted especially since the beginning of the scientific/industrial age.

The Pope’s Encyclical Letter may seem to many people to be new, novel and unique in the history of religion.  But in fact, as long as people have written in Western civilization, they have written about people and nature from a religious and philosophical perspective.

Pope Francis also writes in his new Encyclical Letter about the character of nature, stating, for example,

Frequently, when certain species are exploited commercially, little attention is paid to studying their reproductive patterns in order to prevent their depletion and the consequent imbalance of  the ecosystem. (Para. 35),


Despite the international agreements which prohibit chemical, bacteriological and biological warfare, the fact is that laboratory research continues to develop new offensive weapons capable of altering the balance of nature. (Para. 57).

These statements, too, are not unique nor new.  On the contrary, again as long as people have written about nature in Western civilization, they have written about a balance of nature. The ancient Greeks sought to understand how this world, full of wonderful, curious, and amazing creatures, could have come about.  They concluded that it had been made by the gods, who, being all perfect and all-powerful, could only have made a perfect world with a perfect nature.  And since it was perfect, any change to it could only make it less than perfect.

They called this perfect state of nature the balance of nature, which they believed had several characteristics: it was the best condition of nature in every way, with the greatest diversity of species, the greatest beauty, and the capacity for permanence.

Furthermore, if ever disturbed from that balance, nature always returned to it, except when disrupted by human action.  It was not only constant over time but also spatial — geometrically — symmetric.  Thus, the Greeks believed that the deepest point in the oceans had to be exactly the same depth below the ocean surface as the height of the tallest mountain was above sea level.  Nature’s balance also involved the great chain of being, a place for every creature, and every creature in its place. This meant that all of Earth’s creatures — every one — had to be a necessary part of the balance, part of that perfect state.

This left the ancient Greeks with the obvious question: why wasn’t nature as they found it perfect, if it had to be?  They came up with two answers, both pointing the finger at us.

Either the gods had put people here today to be the final cog in nature’s machinery and we weren’t doing our job. Or nature was only perfect without us — it was our actions that made nature less than perfect.  Sound familiar?  It should, as these are the same issues, same questions, and same conclusions that form the basics of the modern environmental movement.  And perhaps you have thought that these questions and the concern about environment were new, the invention of modern technological, scientific civilization since the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1960.

Judeo-Christian theologians and philosophers picked up the same arguments, but giving the credit, of course, to the one God, also all-powerful and all-knowing, who therefore also could only have made a perfect world.  That the observed world was not perfect was attributed to the same human causes, and became a particular problem with the discovery of the New World and all its strange creatures.  Why would God make a grizzly bear, a coyote or a condor?

Thomas Jefferson was taught this balance of nature, believed it, and wrote about it.  The route that he and Meriwether Lewis planned for the Lewis and Clark expedition from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean was based on the geographic balance-of-nature myth.

And it wasn’t the best route — assumed that the western half of the new continent had to be symmetrical with the eastern, and therefore the river that flowed from the western mountains had to be as navigable, as wide, and with the same kind of flow and meanderings, as the Missouri, and the western mountains had to be exactly the same width and height as the Appalachians, and as easily crossed in a day or two.  Thus Lewis and Clark were unprepared for the vastness of the Rocky Mountains and the great difficulty of crossing them and then finding their way without serious mishap down the Columbia River very different from the Missouri — all part of nature’s lack of symmetry.

Although modern environmental scientists rarely use the term “balance of nature,” scientific writings about environment are often heavily based on the idea, just phrased differently, with the term replaced by others that to these scientists meant the same thing:  stability, homeostasis, resistance, resilience, and so on.  Journalists and pundits without formal scientific training use these same replacement terms.  As a result, consistent with the belief in the balance of nature, we are warned of tipping points, of destabilizing climate, biodiversity, ecosystems, and populations.

For example, in 2008, James Gustave Speth, at the time Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, headed an 80th Birthday Symposium held at Yale University for Dr. George M. Woodwell.  Speth said Woodwell et al. had written that “the CO2 problem is one of the most important contemporary environmental problems . . . [that] threatens the stability of climates worldwide.”

Clearly these authors had to know that climate had changed in the past, and it had always been changing, but they wrote to the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government that the climate is “stable”and human actions threaten that stability.  As another example, in 2015, a paper published in the journal Science, often considered one of the two most important scientific publications, was titled “Anthropogenic environmental changes affect ecosystem stability via biodiversity.”  That paper stated,

Human-driven environmental changes may simultaneously affect the biodiversity, productivity, and stability of Earth’s ecosystem . . . changes in biodiversity caused by drivers of environmental change may be a major factor determining how global environmental changes affect ecosystem stability.

This paper leaves a reader with the idea that nature is stable, and that stability is an ordinary, natural, and important characteristic of ecosystems.  The balance of nature continues to form the basis for most environmental laws in the U.S. and in the European Union. For example, the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1973, still in effect in its original formulation, called for the maintaining an “optimum sustainable population,” a single, best, permanent population size, the notion of which comes directly from a formal mathematical statement of the balance of nature.

The balance of nature continues to find its way into the media, again as a repetition of the fundamental characteristic of nature. On November 20, 2014, Charles Krauthammer, writing about global warming in the Washington Post, said, “We don’t know nearly enough about the planet’s homeostatic mechanisms for dealing with it.”  Frequently, a belief in the balance of nature includes a belief that nature must therefore be fragile, because balances in the physical world, as with a spinning top, are often fragile.  And a fragile world must be handled carefully by us, since the imbalance is believed today, just as it was among the ancient Greek philosophers, to be our fault.

Pope Francis continues this part of the myth when he writes,

If we acknowledge the value and the fragility of nature and, at the same time, our God-given abilities, we can finally leave behind the modern myth of unlimited material progress. A fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing and limiting our power.  (Para. 78).

One of the things I have learned in my now 45 years studying nature and attempting to understand how it works, is that life is not fragile.  It has persisted for 3 ½ billions years.  That can’t be considered fragile.  But this shows the debt of the pope to the standard environmentalist (not scientist) rhetoric.

If nature is now in perfect balance, then every part of it is necessary, including every creature alive today, that great chain of being.  Pope Francis continues this part of the myth, writing, Our insistence that each human being is an image of God should not make us overlook the fact that each creature has its own purpose.  None is superfluous. (Para. 84).

Elsewhere, several times, the pope discusses our need to help the poor.  Helping the poor in reality requires protecting them from many of the diseases, but nowhere does the pope discuss the need to control or eliminate disease species.  That lack leaves him open to be interpreted as wanting the continuation of small pox, malaria, and Ebola.  This is one of the places where his rhetoric become self-contradictory and anti-ecological.

In some places in his Encyclical Letter, Pope Francis goes into considerable detail about environment. These details are repetitions of standard, mainline opinionsfrom some of the major, large international environmental organizations, so that the pope seems to be directly repeating their calls to action, and therefore opening him to the criticism that he had written a political, rather than a religious, doctrine.  For example, he wrote

Many specialists agree on the need to give priority to public transportation.  Yet some measures needed will not prove easily acceptable to society unless substantial improvements are made in the systems themselves, which in many cities force people to put up with undignified conditions due to crowding, inconvenience, infrequent service and lack of safety.  (Para. 153).

I happen to agree with what the pope says here about urban public transportation, and I am certainly no expert on religion nor of the history of previous Encyclical Letters.  I merely assumed they would be primarily focused on religious matters or, when discussing other topics that seemed part of and affected by religion, would remain philosophical and general.  For me, perhaps in my religious history naiveté, the pope’s jump into a specific technological issue seems somehow very strange and out of place for the person who is supposed to be one of the authorities on religion and religious philosophy.  It would be like me writing a major public statement about Catholicism, which I have no basis to do nor would ever do.

Be that as it may, the greatest importance of the pope’s document is that it makes clear once and for all that this issue is fundamentally a religious and an ideological one, not a scientific one. As I make clear in several of my books and many of my articles, the fundamental irony of environmental science is that it is premised on mythology, on the myth of the great balance of nature, which is not scientific and not scientifically correct.

About the Author:  Daniel Botkin is a scientist who studies life from a planetary perspective, a biologist who has helped solve major environmental issues, and a writer about nature. A frequent public speaker, Botkin brings an unusual perspective to his subject. Well-known for his scientific contributions in ecology and environment, he has also worked as a professional journalist and has degrees in physics, biology, and literature. His books and lectures show how our cultural legacy often dominates what we believe to be scientific solutions. He discusses the roles of scientists, businessmen, stakeholders, and government agencies in new approaches to environmental issues. He uses historical accounts by Lewis and Clark and Henry David Thoreau to discuss the character of nature and the relationship between people and nature.

Reprinted with permission, original article online at CONSERVE FEWELL‐ecologists‐perspective‐on‐pope‐franciss‐encyclical‐letter/


143 thoughts on “An Ecologist's Perspective on Pope Francis's Encyclical Letter

  1. Maybe it’s just my selective memory….but I don’t remember growing up and everything was doom and gloom
    …I remember these types of people encouraging others, celebrating accomplishments, and reminding all of us the great things we’ve done and what we could still do
    Personally, I’m sick and tired of it all, when you let some loud, screaming minority…dictate to the majority

    • The doom and gloom started after the U.S went off the gold standard and that allowed politicians to spend, promise more to get elected and then spend more. Gov’t debt started to increase in early 70’s and then started to become exponential in the 80’s. Since debt was no longer a problem, gov’t funding became a pot of gold. Competition for funding was severe – the winners generated the best fear-mongering tales of doom and gloom.

    • The religion of CAGW is all knowing, in THEIR universe. The very concept of CO2 as a toxic substance is now their mantra.
      I just bought and drank a bottle of soda, therefore, in their myopic view – i am supporting an evil enterprise, this is sheer madness.

    • Latitude, were you born before, after or during the Arms Race/Cold War, Ozone Death, Silent Spring, acidified lakes, looming ice age, population bomb/famine/end of resources…? These are a manifestation of a seemingly fixed proportion of the human race who represent a never-ending tax on human enterprise and progress.

      • The difference now is the proportion of people that are fooled by these eco-facsists has grown to a level that the message, although essentially unchanged, is now taken seriously. Sadly, I’m not sure there is much that can be done other than to let it play out. I have found the only thing that works is gentle questioning of people when they re-state the enviro-mantra of the day as fact. The subject usually doesn’t go any further. Mostly empty headed chanting backed up by no actual data or fact of any kind.

      • exactly Mike…there’s so little left to offend people….they have to resort to flags, cakes, and the weather

    • Pray, where is the dictation? A government telling you what to do may be a form of dictation but where does the Catholic Church force anything upon anybody else? If you want to buy contraceptives you can do so, if you want to have sex with a different person each night of the week you can do so, if you want to spend all of your money pampering to your own wants you can do. The Catholic Church may not approve of any of thee things but in no way can it dictate to you that you don’t do any of them.
      As to selective memory it seems that that might well be your problem. (I am assuming that you have read the entire Encyclical.) The Encyclical is about some of the problems facing the world like poverty, lack of clean water and homelessness. Now you may say that these problems don’t exist but most people would probably disagree with you. So a document which is concerned about problems is going to concentrate on ….problems. If you go to a garage with a problem concerning your car you don’t expect the garage to spend ages telling you all the things about your car which are working fine. Or do you?

      • Are you kidding? Anti-abortion laws, anti-gay laws etc. The Church support for these laws dictating behaviour shows you’re wrong. History shows churches’ dictating is limited by the lack of power the rest of us surround them with. In the 1950s the Pope threatened to excommunicate any Italians who voted Communist. It took over 1000 years, millions of innocents dying and even more suffering, to free Europe from being dictated to by the Church. Get real, the Catholic Church will do what it can get away with.

      • But Alba does it not strike you that this encyclical comes out just in time to ‘curry favour’ with believers and impressionable others before the Paris “climate conference”. Nobody can convince me it is just a coincidence and that the encyclical idea was entirely Vatican inspired. But the encyclical environmental cloaking device about fragility, the earth in balance, the poor etc. etc. probably was and is a clever way of making the embedded “climate change” issue item sound reasonable and convincing.

      • This encyclical is at least partly about climate. Climate “mitigation” is a matter of public policy. Public policy is dictated by governments. Governments do not give individuals the right to choose to obey them or not. You may decide for yourself whether to use a condom or not, you may not decide whether you will pay a carbon tax or not.

  2. No doubt that it is our cultural legacy (baggage) that shapes how we view our place in nature and our (mankinds) ability to fix things we think are broken.
    here my cultural dysanthropic view.
    The CAGW wolves plan to harvest the sheeple, control their lives and money, under the guise of climate control via a minor CO2 climate connection. The big asymetry to their plans has been nature’s unwillingness to cooperate long enough for them to get their teeth deep enough into the herd (the pause, the stable-growing polar ice sheets, etc). Throw in a loud voice of the skeptical with the warnings of this natural variability both in paleo records and now, and the CAGW wolves are frustrated. No longer able to fully control their propaganda message, Expect them to strike at the skeptics soon with powers of the state.

  3. Thanks, Dan Botkin.
    I found the encyclical confusing, self-contradictory, narrow-minded and very leftist. It diminished the Catholic church, in my view. Trying to encompass the church of global warming and giving it a leadership role in Catholicism is not the right thing to do.

  4. Hows about taxing the gross income of the Church to help finance all those good things Pope Francis wants government to accomplish?

    • And what is the gross income of the Church? And can you tell us how it is currently used?
      Well, just to get you started here are some figures from a 2102 investigation by the Economist, which offered a rough-and-ready estimate of $170 billion in annual spending, of which almost $150 billion is associated with church-affiliated hospitals and institutions of higher education.

  5. “They called this perfect state of nature the balance of nature,…”
    If that is true, then why has 99% of all the creatures that lived on this planet gone extinct, and most all of which was before human civilization? This balance and perfection seems to combine a concern for the ecology/biodiversity and a ‘feel good’ reaction – which is fine. The obvious solution to maintain this BS balance of nature is to limit/stop their habitat loss due to the ever expanding and encroachment by humans.
    Everyone knows this, even the most crazed environmental zealots, yet they push the CO2 Global Warming false flag to assure us they can control the climate. Probability says that I have a better chance of meeting a Unicorn.

  6. Jesus was reputed to have said “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” The pope should take that advice! I wonder how many people know the Jesuits are a very left wing religious organization within the Catholic Church!

  7. As for lower impact urban transportation, the Environmental Watermelons envy North Koreans’ bicycle usage. I suspect when a peasant-class NK riding that bicycle sees a modern automobile they have the opposite feelings.

    • we lived and traveled in SE Asia for 15 years and saw the rapid progression from bicycles to motor scooters to cars. a family of 4 riding on a bicycle or scooter, along with the weekly shopping, was at one time quite common. However, add heavy delivery trucks to the mix and you end up with lots of bicycles and scooters rolled under the wheels.
      What is overlooked in city planning is the huge volume of heavy delivery traffic that must take place every day to keep the city running.

  8. Realistically? We’re the only people even still thinking about this; to the rest of the world, it’s last month’s “news.” Joe Sixpack has a 15-minute attention span, and not much of it is expended on “thinking.” It’s obvious to me that 97% of the American population just believes whatever they’re told, up to a point, and really don’t give a spit about it enough to “do” anything either way. I also think the Left has pushed their agenda so far now that they’re going to see a gigantic backlash at the next election; it has nowhere else to swing at this point.
    Also: Today is July 4th, and the temperature in greater NYC right now is only about 68 F. By tonight it’s supposed to be down to 55. It’s so wet and muggy you could get moldy sitting still too long! Contrast that with the 1970’s, when the road-tar would regularly melt and stick to my bicycle tire, and an every-summer burnt-grass drought with the streams going dry was “normal!”
    By the time this new Solar Minimum really gets rolling, say around Halloween, these Apocalyptic acolytes are going to be made to look utterly ridiculous, and we’ll be on to the next thing; like banning the “Dukes of Hazzard!” 😉

  9. A handful of lefties, all involved in the creation of the Earth Charter from which aspects of Laudato Si’ could have been lifted, have written articles in praise of the encyclical. The Earth Charter is intended to be a new Magna Carta and a replacement for the Ten Commandments. It is evil disguised as good.
    One article, by Fritjof Capray, makes much ado about the language of science so readily used by Pope Francis. The intent, it seems, is to convey to readers that the pope really knows what he is talking about.
    The Earth Charter is being taught, and has been taught since UNESCO endorsed it in 2000, in many schools, even – or maybe especially – Catholic schools. When people talk about Environmentalism being a religion, they are spot on. The Earth Charter is the new religion of earth worship and volunteer submission to slavery to the global omniscient gods of governance whose technocratic priests are in the employ of the United Nations System.
    For more information, go to

  10. Nice essay, Dan.
    “That the observed world was not perfect was attributed to the same human causes, and became a particular problem with the discovery of the New World and all its strange creatures. Why would God make a grizzly bear, a coyote or a condor?”
    The paleontologist would tell them, if they would listen, that either there are an unending variety of ‘perfect’ natural worlds, of which the age of dinosaurs is one, or we have gone down wrong pathways and have had to have those ‘natures’ go extinct or that nature is one never-ending network of experiments never reaching an end condition. As an engineer and geologist, I think the latter has demonstrated itself unequivocally. That it has to be a continual web of experiments to keep life rolling on a planet that keeps changing is a wonderful and beautiful idea that the students of ecology seem to be blocked off from makes for a huge problem for this science. Oh they believe in Darwin but their mindset seems to be that is how we got here at the perfect world and now we have to enclose it in crime scene ribbon.
    Modern forms of bounded “petri dish ecology” reveal the ‘stasis’ (mental paralysis) mindset of mainstream ecology. Absolutely left out of the equation is the seemingly boundless ingenuity of humankind – another enormous factor not included in ecologist’s training to their detriment. We didn’t bury our growing cities with Malthusian (18th C) horse manure; we didn’t shut down the industrial revolution because of limited coal as anguished over by Jevons in the late 19th C; humanity not only didn’t succumb to massive starvation and dwindling resources by 2000 (Club of Rome, Ehrlich and his ugly followers, who unthinkingly parroted the dystopian ideas of the last couple of centuries, etc.), but in fact saw the disappearance of seemingly endless famine in Asia and a major improvement in reduced poverty levels despite the population doubling in that time.
    Regarding the shortages of earth resources as a scare, let me quote Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani, the Saudi Oil Minister (
    “THE Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil.”
    And now we are on the backslope of population growth standing at 75 to 80% of the ultimate population level. We’ve made it! But what I see for the next decades is an ever more shrill noise from the dystopian crowd because when that magic point is reached, let us call it the natural ‘balance’ of human population, these misanthropes will find all the wind gone from sails that has served them well since the 17th Century, and they will at last be relegated to “the end is nigh” sandwich boards of the 2050s.
    In my area of work, I see the idiocy of anti-mining lobbies and activists. Do they not know that OUR survival depends on it? Didn’t we name the major periods of human development after the earth materials we employ? Have they hear of the Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age? Do they not know that even hunters and gatherers needed tools and weapons to survive. Do they not know that our settling down, development of agriculture, industry, trade and civilization wouldn’t have been possible without it?
    Dan, you and our favorite ecologist Jim Steele should share the Nobel Prize for fresh air in your woe begone science.

    • Try a little research on the modern impact of a return Carrington event before extolling the virtues of modern technology and the current global population optimum.

      • You do understand that modern technology could prevent the damage done by a Carrington-like event.
        I will leave “current global population optimum” alone for the moment.

  11. A fragile world, entrusted by God to human care…

    That is a most myopic statement for a man of God to make! Just plain wrong…

    • Perhaps he should consider a third world child, entrusted by God to human care and remember Matthew 25:35-40:
      35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
      37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

  12. While I agree that the “balance of nature” concept is overly simplistic, I do not agree that because ecosystems have changed in the past means we can ignore the rapid changes that anthropogenic global warming will bring in the near future. If you take that concept to it’s logical conclusion you would not do anything to avoid the negative effects of humans on natural systems. It is the same argument as the smoker who says “People who don’t smoke get lung cancer too”. I applaud the pope for combining his position as the top moral authority for the members of his religion with the best scientific information to encourage his flock to change their ways and lead us to a better future.

    • What “rapid changes that anthropogenic global warming will bring in the near future” are you talking about? The ones that flawed climates models have been telling us for years will happen any day now? There are students getting ready to enter college that have never experienced global warming in their lifetime, according to satellite records. Even extreme-weather events are down from what they were last century. But even if it starts warming again, how do we know that a little warming won’t be net beneficial to the planet? The fact is, we don’t know. And the models, which were programmed by people who don’t know, don’t know either.

      • Luke, I feel a great disturbance in the farce; as if nothing terrible will happen, but a billion people will cry out in poverty!

    • Luke, the effect on a smoker can be measured. If you can prove empirically a valid measure of anthropogenic affectation to the present climate cycles playing out naturally, you will be a Nobel laureate, I’m sure, and this blog will sing a whole new song because we are looking for any true science, whether it supports our theories or not.
      As for rapid changes, a look at the present switching of the AMO to it’s cold signal and the end of this El Nino followed by an expected flip of the PDO, all synchronized with an exceptionally deep solar minimum might cause you to change your bet for rapid cooling, instead. Just sayin’ as a person who holds fact above belief or loyalty.

      • Dawtgtomis,
        Cycles cause temporary increases and declines with no trend- correct? If that is true, please tell me how cycles produce the monotonic increase in ocean heat content that has been measured over time.
        Also, how do cycles cause the overall increase in air temperatures (albeit with a few flat periods probably caused by the cycles you mentioned)? The graph below is from Berkeley Earth- an analysis conducted by a global warming skeptic (funded by the Koch Brothers) who after he had reanalyzed the data conceded that rapid warming has been occurring.
        I will take your bet any time.

        • Luke says “The graph below is from Berkeley Earth- an analysis conducted by a global warming skeptic”
          I do not consider Richard Muller to be a skeptic.
          “Let me be clear. My own reading of the literature and study of paleoclimate suggests strongly that carbon dioxide from burning of fossil fuels will prove to be the greatest pollutant of human history. It is likely to have severe and detrimental effects on global climate.” – Richard Muller, 2003
          How is it possible that a skeptic, libertarian or Republican can be found at Berkely?

          “Cycles cause temporary increases and declines with no trend- correct?”
          Incorrect. Cycles can easily ride on top of other cycles and trends. The problem as I see it is that since the beginning of thermometer recording we may well still be on a long cycle with possibly a trend. How you decide how much is long cycle and how much is linear trend depends mostly on whether you want global socialism.

      • markl,
        No, the temperature record I referred to is empirical data, not models as you suggested. And, yes, climate cycles such as NAO and POD may enhance or slow the rate of increase but you cannot deny that temperatures have been increasing steadily for the past 150 years with a couple of plateaus along the way.

      • Reality will show what cycles are in motion in a couple of decades, my friend. Meanwhile, why do you see the need to destroy the economies of the west and turn world leadership over to bureaucrats? It is apparent to us with our eyes wide open, that the theoretical greenhouse that exists to some extent or another in the earth’s atmosphere has not ‘directed the show’ as predicted and something else is in play also. It takes a lot of blind faith to burn your house believing it will exorcise a demon from it.

    • LUKE….last 4,000 years of human history shows that multiple cooling and warming periods have existed. None of those several warming periods caused catastrophe for humanity, regardless of the cause for warming. Conversely, prior cooling periods have been devastating for humanity. It is therefore illogical to consider CAGW as reality – add to that the failed Model predictions and the ever widening gap between their predictions vs satellite observations.

      • But the warming we are seeing now and in the near future is greater and more widespread than the periods you are referring to. Your statement “It is therefore illogical to consider CAGW as reality” does not follow from your previous statement. Recent studies attribute 100% of the warming to anthropogenic forcing.
        Here is one of many recent analyses:

        • Luke commented: “….But the warming we are seeing now and in the near future is greater and more widespread than the periods you are referring to…..”
          Sigh. More models. And this sentence doesn’t make any sense because there’s been lower than average temperature increase for the past 20 years despite a steady increase in CO2 ‘forcing’. None of the models, predictions, or scare mongering stories that were to have taken place by now have been realized, Even blatant attempts to rewrite history can’t make them happen. Yet AGW is still the bogeyman. Some people just don’t believe empirical evidence.

      • Luke says, “But the warming we are seeing now and in the near future is greater and more widespread than the periods you are referring to.”
        Luke, what warming is your crystal ball seeing “in the near future”? The IPCC crystal ball is very broken. There is no statistical difference between the warming from about 1912 to 1942, and the warming from 1979 to 2009, except it flat lined a little earlier in the modern period, per this global graphic…

    • “the rapid changes that anthropogenic global warming will bring in the near future”
      Doesn’t “CO2-Climate Change’s” perfect record of 100% Prediction Failure have any effect at all on your above Belief? In real science, that record amounts to Scientific Falsification of the “CO2 drives Climate [to an AGW catastrophe]” hypotheses! And the very fact of its 100% Prediction Failure then drives you and others to need to make a false, question begging analogy to tobacco’s problems – a cynical propaganda tactic which lately seems have reared its ugly head again – exactly because your Belief in CO2=CAGW has been so convincingly demonstrated to be scientifically not credible. See also, “It’s just like gravity.”
      Face it, you are being controlled by a neurotic Fantasy and its perpetrators, not by reason and real science. And if you want to do any real good in your life, you can’t simply parrot the memes of others. But if that’s all you can do, please either stay out of it or at least flip a coin.

      • for Luke, below- Gillett et,.al. make no predictions. They modify an ad hoc climate model “Projections of 21st century warming may be derived by using regression-based methods to scale a model’s projected warming up or down according to whether it under- or over-predicts the response to anthropogenic forcings over the historical period.” Simple curve fitting. Any model with parameters in it can be modified to produce any in range effect, Since it is a parameterized model, not an equation(s) from first principles it has no out of range validity. You can fit a combination of sinusoidal and linear equations to the temperature data an get near perfect fit but they necessarily are unlikely to work out side the fitting range.
        Their paper doesn’t even address the IPCC’s conclusion: “In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible. ” If the physics of the system were know we’d only need one model, not the 92 or more the IPCC uses in their “projections”. Projections, according to the IPCC, are based on the opinions of climate experts, a best guess so to speak, not on observations or the physics of the interacting systems.

      • Luke says, “Here’s some real science for you. Publish a paper that refutes this and then we can continue this discussion.”
        I don’t have to refute a paper which acknowledges an inability of the current Models [GCM’s] to correctly represent past Global Mean Temperatures [GMT’s] and is only trying to make suggestions which might make them do a better job. The paper concludes:
        “We suggest that a similar
        analysis be carried out using multiple models once the nec-essary simulations are available, which will allow the effects
        of model uncertainty to be better accounted for.”
        Thus your response to my arguments is not responsive in any way, and your Belief in “CO2-Climate Change” remains Scientifically Falsified. The Pope must have been very impressed by the totally untethered Faith you and many others have in your Belief, that is, when the hypotheses involved in the idea that CO2=CAGW are Scientifically Falsified by their perfect record of 100% Prediction Failure – so as to perhaps think to himself, “Now that’s what I call Faith!”

      • Luke, buddy – real science back at ‘ya:
        I know it’s basic stuff, but we in the scientific community should all review the rules as part of continuing ed..
        I have the posted on the wall of my “Gran’pa cave” just like they were posted in my office at SIU.
        You might also benefit from educating yourself on Lysenkoism and ask yourself if you see modern parallels

  13. People are more worried about possible AGW but I don’t hear many on the left worried and shrieking about obama letting the fanatics in Iran have nukes…Their constant refrain being, “death to America”. Isn’t that a bit more scary than a degree or so of warming in a hundred years when it could be many thousands of degrees over a city in the U.S. in a second.

  14. “…a fascinating combination of many things, some completely contradictory…”
    Yes, I was also struck by several contradictions in the parts of the encyclical that I read. For example, Pope Francis refers to the earth as “God’s loving gift,” and says that we should welcome and accept “the entire world as a gift from the Father.” Yet, he disdains the use of “highly polluting fossil fuels.” Don’t fossil fuels come from the earth? Aren’t they part of the earth’s resources and therefore part of God’s gift to us? Isn’t it entirely possible that God designed the earth to produce fossil fuels for our use and specifically to improve the lives of the poor?
    Even if God only intended for us to use fossil fuels as a transition to renewable energy sources, shouldn’t we be thankful for the gift instead of calling it a “pollution” and an “evil” that needs to be “replaced without delay”? I find the Pope entirely lacking in gratitude for a gift that made modern life and technology possible. And for him to say “nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down,” shows a lack of real concern for the poor. He has to know that a transition away from fossil fuels “without delay” would greatly increase the cost of energy and hurt the poor most. It would also make a lot more of them.

    • ‘God’s loving gift’ includes earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, droughts, floods, necrotizing fasciitis, malaria, ebola, venomous critters, man-eating animals and all manner of people-killing methods – not much ‘love’ in any of these events.
      Let the Pope explain why these parts of life are ‘God’s loving gift’, other than ‘God works in mysterious ways’ and perhaps I might take him seriously.

      • It’s simply Leibniz’s “best of all possible worlds.” – i.e. If you think things are bad on this world, take God out of it, and then see if things get better.

  15. As far as it goes this article heads in the right direction. It is a simple fact that a great deal of not only the “biological” sciences but the “physical” disciplines are hamstrung on the notion of balance. Heck even the notion of entropy is fundamentally premised on that idea. What if the truth is that matter and energy are being continuously created in the universe. It will never “run down”. Suppose the alternative is creation or annihilation rather than a big bang running down to a homeostatic soup at near absolute zero. It seems certain that as it evolves the universe creates structure that didn’t exist before and as it proceeds through time it is impossible to return to the previous state.

    • I can’t see what entropy has to do with balance of nature. Entropy is a measure of the imbalance in a system, the energy that cannot be recovered from thermodynamic interactions. It is also a measure of how a system “runs down” such as a pendulum. Eventually all it’s energy is converted into random molecular disorder. The only way entropy enters in to a balance of nature is to explain why the balance requires continuous inputs of energy to maintain itself.

      • Phil, don’t you get it? By your very last sentence you’ve acknowledged that the “balance” requires energy flows to offset the entropy of the system. What I’m getting at though is not so much that as the notion that there is in modern theory some kind of balance that is constantly returning the biosphere to a “Meta stable” steady state. In modern theory these are allowed to evolve into new meta stable conditions sort of the way ecologists think of “succession communities” evolving to “climax” communities. This notion of balance I think is wrong headed and allows a the magical “balance of Nature” to whistle through everybody’s head. The biosphere has never ever been balanced it has always been tipping forward to new more complex arrangements of increasing energy moving through the system.

  16. I wish everyone would stop propagating, even indirectly, the baseless idea that Jorge Bergoglio is a legitimate pontiff. The man subscribes to numerous defined heresies and manifests them in his preaching and speaking. He is on the record as stating that there is no Catholic God; that atheists, Jews, and pagans can attain eternal salvation without repenting their errors; that Hell does not exist and that souls who do not accept the truth of God are merely annihilated rather than punished eternally; that the Last Judgment is going to be a “party”; and that Muslims can reap “abundant spiritual fruit” through their observance of Ramadan, to take but a few examples. He has also kissed an heretical Waldensian Bible (just as un-saint Karol Wojtyla, erroneously referred to by most as Pope John Paul II, kissed a Koran), has publicly prayed in mosques and synagogues (like pseudo-traditionalist Joseph Ratzinger, AKA Benedict XVI), and has stood silently by as the US and Ireland legalized homosexual “marriages.”
    In short, Jorge Bergoglio is a public, manifest, and pertinacious heretic; a universalist, an ecumenist, and a modernist. Being outside the body of Christendom, he cannot hold legitimate authority over that body. He is thus a pretender and an antipope. Laudato Si is but the latest iteration of the irreligious Marxist agitprop that has emanated from the so-called Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council. It is no more Catholic than its author.
    That being said, I wish also to take issue with Mr. (Dr.?) Botkin’s reading of Greek philosophy. The ancient Greeks — the important ones, anyway — certainly did not believe that the world was made by the gods. Aristotle quite correctly concluded from his natural observations that the cosmos (which included any gods or higher powers who might happen to exist) was without temporal beginning, i.e. it always was and always will be. This result follows inevitably from the metaphysical necessity, also discerned by Aristotle, for an unmoved mover. When Saint Thomas Aquinas adopted the Aristotelian metaphysics for his explication of Christianity, he, despite of course believing in a temporal creation himself as explicitly contained in the deposit of faith, nevertheless defended his mentor even on this point. For the creation of the world, says St. Thomas, is not provable by natural philosophy and is known to us only through Revelation. Thus Aristotle, lacking the Christian Revelation, was correct as far as his own lights could guide him. It should be mentioned in this connection that St. Thomas has been declared the Common Doctor of the Faith by true and legitimate pontiffs. He has the singular distinction that the Catholic Church declares his philosophy to be identical to Her own. Therefore the REAL Catholic faith (not the communist pabulum peddled by Bergoglio and his ilk) regards the natural order as an essentially changeless act permeated by many accidental movements. The idea that man could literally destroy the balance of nature (whatever that means) is not to be found in either Christianity or its classical antecedents. Man succeeds in destroying only himself when he acts against the Natural Law. This is the beginning of all Christian and pre-Christian ethics.
    But the idea that man is something separate from nature is in fact true. It was present in an indistinct form in the classical philosophy. Aristotle maintained that the rational part of man’s soul (i.e. the active intellect), since it perceives eternal quiddities over and above the impressions made upon the senses by sensible objects, must itself be eternal. The Christian Revelation clarifies and crowns this observation by clearly stating that man was not created for this world, but for eternal fellowship with God. To simplify a complicated subject, one could do worse than by adopting a rule of thumb which states that man cannot destroy the Natural Law, but he achieves his end by following it not by breaking it.

    • People who speak of the balance of nature generally don’t understand Lotka−Volterra equations. Nature is never in balance. It is always swinging wildly between too many predators and to many prey.

    • All of which human mental puffery and shared-universe-fantasy fabrication is COMPLETELY beside the point of anything observable to do with Planet Earth. You want to know about climate, epochal time, what’s the preferred environment for plants, animals, and humans? Ask a GEOLOGIST, paleontologist, anthropologist, historian, or at least a freakin’ WEATHERMAN. I wouldn’t ask the Pope–by definition, “belief system” is actually at odds with empirical reality–which about covers the AGW crowd, too!

      • You do realize that Aristotle was a geologist, a paleontologist, an anthropologist, an historian, and a freakin’ weatherman, don’t you? Back in his day polymaths were called philosophers, and he was the best of them all.

  17. Near the end of his article Dan Botkin expresses his surprise that Pope Francis includes considerations about the quality of public transportation in a religious document. However, the living conditions of the poor have been a constant concern of the current Pope. When he was Jorge Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, he refused to live in the palatial mansion attached to his post, preferring a small town apartment behind his Cathedral church, and he also refused to be chauffeur-driven in his official car, preferring instead to move around in the city’s buses and underground trains to visit parishes, including the most derelict neighborhoods and shanty towns within his beat. He has direct experience of crowding in public transportation, especially those taken daily by the poor.

    • In his communion with the commoners, I wonder if he ever thought about using the resources of this earth to benefit the poor and bring them affluence and education? Or, how it would reverse the population explosion once accomplished and provide more chances for an inventor of the next level of energy production to keep everyone on the same technology level around the world without polluting? He appears to me to be as simple-minded as the masses he befriends.

  18. Dan Botkin writes of the geographic balance of the east and west USA regarding the Lewis and Clark expedition. Mention is made of the Appalachians but not the Ohio River. Rather, he inserts the Missouri, attributing to it navigable, wide, meanderings. Then he writes “finding their way without serious mishap down the Columbia River very different from the Missouri.”
    Replace the last word with “OHIO” and his balance of nature (geography) is more reasonable, insofar as it is the Ohio River that flows westward from the Appalachians.

    • Either side of the Rockies is better. In the day, one might convincingly speculate that rain and snow fall on the rockies, melt and flow equally down each side so that the rivers would be basically carrying the same amount of water. Your Ohio river case might add more strength to the guess.

    • “Thomas Jefferson was taught this balance of nature, believed it, and wrote about it. The route that he and Meriwether Lewis planned for the Lewis and Clark expedition from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean was based on the geographic balance-of-nature myth.
      And it wasn’t the best route — assumed that the western half of the new continent had to be symmetrical with the eastern, and therefore the river that flowed from the western mountains had to be as navigable, as wide, and with the same kind of flow and meanderings, as the Missouri, and the western mountains had to be exactly the same width and height as the Appalachians, and as easily crossed in a day or two. Thus Lewis and Clark were unprepared for the vastness of the Rocky Mountains and the great difficulty of crossing them and then finding their way without serious mishap down the Columbia River very different from the Missouri — all part of nature’s lack of symmetry.”
      Dan Botkin is referencing the writings and knowledge of Thomas Jefferson and Meriwether Lewis. The records of the Corps of Discovery of course showed that their assumptions were flawed. For Dan Botkin to substitute “Ohio River” over Jefferson”s and Lewis”s assumptions at the time regarding the Missouri would be inappropriate.
      I have not put an oar in any of the three rivers so I am not one to venture the virtues of any of them in regards to navigation.

    • I’m not entirely sure what your point is, Lewis and Clark started from St Louis, so the Ohio River was not part of the the trip. Also, that river (including the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers) is very different than the Columbia.
      Also, I imagine the comparison was more on water sheds – so given whatever similarities there are between rivers flowing east and west of the Applachians ought to apply to whatever rivers flowing east and west of something like the Applachians in the area between the Mississippi and Pacific. They had no knowledge of the Great Basin and the other challenging terrain they would encounter.

    • Lewis and Clark met near Louisville, Kentucky, in October 1803 at the Falls of the Ohio before departing later in the month via the Ohio River.

  19. Man in funny clothes who spends his time talking to his imaginary friend makes pronouncement on AGW…

  20. so what we really need is Climate Balance and now we just have to pick the exact moment to stop evil, man-made Climate Change

    • Reminds me of grade school when my buddies and I grabbed the merry-go-round and stopped it suddenly to watch inertia at work on the little kids. We were then treated to a lesson on the kinetic energy in a swung paddle.

  21. I was never particularly looked up to in elementary (or, what we called grade) school. But, just as someone’s last name can open doors for them such as the last name of Kennedy, or Bush, or Clinton has opened doors for their progeny regardless of how baboonish the progeny may be, my last name opened a door for me. It gave me my moment of glory in the eighth grade: I was one of the two captains of the two eighth grade teams.
    It was a Catholic school. In a moment of enlightenment (an extraordinarily difficult achievement for a Catholic school) it was decided that boys and girls would be equal. And thus, there would be a boy captain and a girl captain. Lest you have any doubt about my virile, Herculean malehood may I advise you I was the boy captain, and not the girl captain.
    Now, as I wrote, this was eighth grade. We had had our young minds warped by nuns for six hours a day for eight long years. This was the last year of the torture. It was time to get even. And, nonexistent pubic hair notwithstanding, we were on the cusp of adolescence. And, if there’s one thing Catholic schoolchildren are obsessed over it’s s•e•x. Rest assured, the nuns created that obsession.
    Put the two together and that’s how we got even. Each and every single day as the frigid nuns wrote the name of the school teams on the chalkboard a flicker of true, unadulterated joy would dance in our hearts. You see, the name of the girl’s team was … ‘Mary Beth and the Boobs.’ Now, the nuns naively thought that we were just being silly but we knew exactly what we were referring to and they didn’t, and every morning joy would enter our hearts as a nun, a nun, wrote the word, ‘boobs,’ on the chalkboard.
    Now, I know what your wondering. What was the name of Tom J’s team. You do realize that if I tell you I will forever be giving up my anonymity on this website. Aw, what the heck; my last name is Judd.
    And, the name of the boy’s team? ‘Judd’s Puds.’
    Now, let this all be a warning to Pope Francis. Just as a bunch of eighth grade adolescents pulled the wool over the nun’s eyes for a full year I have little doubt, each and every time Francis pulls out a chalk, pencil, or pen to write more of his Encyclical, that it is all really guided by an adolescent mind trying to make a fool out of him.

      • Happy 4th, Bubba Cow! Glad you could keep your handle. If you ever open a steakhouse that name would draw restaurant goers from far and wide! I’ll mix the cocktails for it. 🙂

    • I believe Tom J’s point is that a life of indoctrination and a life of living much differently than the society you find yourself can make you an unwitting tool.

      • Quite so, I bet there was a bit of snickering among the parents about the stretch of the vernacular envelope by the kids.

        • “a life of living much differently than the society you find yourself can make you an unwitting tool.”
          Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I have lived differently than many societies I have lived in. During the Navy I never smoked nor drank alcohol. Only three out of 50 persons where I worked did not smoke. It was awful. I was also invariably the designated driver and the person still sober enough to respond to emergencies. One of my friends told me that everyone in the barracks hated me because they were all vomiting in toilets, those that made it that far anyway, while I was unaffected by the wedding celebration and yes I went right back to work and was pretty much the only one there.
          Now I find myself honest and truthful in a society that is only rarely honest and truthful. My employer appreciates it but not so many others appreciate it and occasionally try to evict me from that society– not that I am in it or part of it already.
          If that makes me an “unwitting tool” then so be it; personally I think the smokers and the drunks are the tools, witting or otherwise, and depending on what exactly is meant by “tool”.

  22. Regards the illusion of “climate stability” , in 2010 Harvard and MIT’s premiere oceanographers lamented how marine science has been plagued by a similar illusion, writing:
    “After nearly 150 years of regarding the ocean as having an essentially fixed, time-independent circulation and properties, the discovery that everything was changing to a certain degree produced an intellectual turmoil not yet recognized by many investigators: Decadal records showing, e.g., trends in salinity or heat
    content are still published as though they are (a) astonishing and (b) necessarily representative of
    longer-term trends, neither of which is obviously true.”
    In Paleophysical Oceanography with an Emphasis on Transport Rates

  23. Religions are distinct cultural entities with evolutionary trajectories and characteristics that are driven by reasonably well known social mechanisms. Those characteristics include a socially enforced consensus, a defended core narrative featuring hope and fear and other content that pushes our psychological hot-buttons, attraction for new adherents, etc. These entities have been net useful in our evolutionary past and may have existed as long as homo-sapiens-sapiens, so we have evolved sensitivities to them, yet also checks against their absolute domination.
    There are secular entities that have emerged from the same social mechanisms, and CAGW has many of the expected characteristics.
    Cultural entities frequently form cross-coalitions, and for some time CAGW and Christianity have been playing “shall we shan’t we dance”. It seems the Catholic wing at least, is dancing. Probably a mistake for Catholicism; the uncertainty at the heart of most such entities will likely last indefinitely for religion, one can never prove or disprove the existence of God. But the uncertainty in climate change will one day be bounded and reduced to the point where the hope and fear is gone; *whatever* the real physical status of the climate system turns out to be.

    • Interesting post. Your ideas parallel a lot of mine. A light bulb went on for me a long time ago as I was reading the “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”, the memoir of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). Here is a quote, written in, I believe, the 1920s. Lawrence is talking here about the three great religions founded by Semitic peoples:
      “Their largest manufacture was of creeds: almost they were monopolists of revealed religions. Three of these efforts had endured among them: two of the three had also borne export (in modified forms) to non-Semitic peoples. Christianity, translated into the diverse spirits of Greek and Latin and Teutonic tongues, had conquered Europe and America. Islam in various transformations was subjecting Africa and parts of Asia. These were Semitic successes. Their failures they kept to themselves. The fringes of their deserts were strewn with broken faiths.
      It was significant that this wrack of fallen religions lay about the meeting of the desert and the town. It pointed to the generation of all these creeds. They were assertions, not arguments; so they required a prophet to set them forth. The Arabs said there had been forty thousand prophets: we had record of at least some hundreds. None of them had been of the wilderness; but their lives were after a pattern. Their birth set them in crowded places. An unintelligible passionate yearning drove them out into the desert. There they lived a greater or lesser time in meditation and physical abandonment; and thence they returned with their imagined message articulate, to preach it to their old, and now doubting, associates. The founders of the three great creeds fulfilled this cycle: their possible coincidence was proved a law by the parallel life-histories of the myriad others, the unfortunate who failed.”
      That picture is a graphic one of evolution in action, as applied to the advent of the religions themselves. Established religions schism, and then schism again. A branch becomes larger, and the weaker branches die off. Some become extinct entirely. Others grow and spread.
      That religions, and their associated moral ideologies, are the product of an evolutionary process is, I think, very significant. From where I sit, almost any major religion makes more sense than the secular moral ideologies now holding sway among our western elites.
      These doofusses celebrate transsexuals and gay marriage, fret that the world will end because of CO2 increases, and preen that they have no children and will thereby not “burden future generations”. Hardly a culture whose future you’d want to bet on. They lack about 50 IQ points of being smart enough to create a ideology from scratch that has an actual future.

      • The prophets of the three Semitic religions claimed their authority from the voice of God, that only they could hear.
        The modern day prophets of AGW claim the sacred, unquestionable authority of “science” which is consecrated by the authority of “peer review”. A college of pseudo-scientific Cardinals.
        Heretics and blasphemers are heckled and derided. They yearn for the authority to burn us at the stake.

    • “Why do the Greener-than-thous proselytize their devotion to unnatural unquestioning biodiversity?”
      Michael Ruse
      Curb your enthusiasm
      High priests, holy writ and excommunications – how did Humanism end up acting like a religion?
      E.O. Wilson Quotes
      “Science and religion are the two most powerful forces in the world. Having them at odds… is not productive.”
      “People need a sacred narrative. They must have a sense of larger purpose, in one form or another, however intellectualized. They will find a way to keep ancestral spirits alive”
      “The creation myth is a Darwinian device for survival.”
      ― Edward O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of Earth
      “If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”
      ― Edward O. Wilson
      “Possibly here in the Holocene, or just before 10 or 20 thousand years ago, life hit a peak of diversity. Then we appeared. We are the great meteorite.”
      ― Edward O. Wilson
      “I will argue that every scrap of biological diversity is priceless, to be learned and cherished, and never to be surrendered without a struggle.”
      ― Edward O. Wilson
      “The predisposition to religious belief is an ineradicable part of human behavior. Mankind has produced 100,000 religions. It is an illusion to think that scientific humanism and learning will dispel religious belief. Men would rather believe than know… A kind of Darwinistic survival of the fittest has occurred with religions… The ecological principle called Gause’s law holds that competition is maximal between species with identical needs… Even submission to secular religions such as Communism and guru cults involve willing subordination of the individual to the group. Religious practices confer biological advantage. The mechanisms of religion include (1) objectification (the reduction of reality to images and definitions that are easily understood and cannot be refuted), (2) commitment through faith (a kind of tribalism enacted through self-surrender), (3) and myth (the narratives that explain the tribe’s favored position on the earth, often incorporating supernatural forces struggling for control, apocalypse, and millennium).”

      • Wilson sounds like a materialist who doesn’t understand religion at all. Shame…

      • Crispin, I’m sure I would stand accused of being a materialist as well, but I agree that Wilson sounds a bit too contemptuous of the role that religion can play. For instance, consider the following rules strongly encouraged by most religions:
        – Theft and murder are wrong, and should be punished. (This suppression of parasitism/predation is obviously adaptive for a community)
        – Fornication is wrong (Illegitimate births are tightly correlated with social pathologies in pretty much every society in history.)
        – Observe the rituals dictated by the religion. (These shared practices enforce an adaptive sense of community among the congregants.)
        Typically, the rationale offered by religion for these “oughts” is that God wants us to behave this way, and that by being observant we are therefore doing God’s will, but from an evolutionary perspective the specific rationale doesn’t matter in the slightest. The only thing that matters evolutionarily is that the congregants actually behave according to socially useful rules. Sensible BEHAVIORS are necessary and sufficient for evolutionary success.

        • TYoke says “Sensible BEHAVIORS are necessary and sufficient for evolutionary success.”
          Precisely, and those rules must transcend any particular human being as otherwise when he dies so do the rules. Rosseau has somewhat to say on this topic. There must always be a “god” and in fact there will always be one; sometimes mortal (Pol pot. Josef Stalin, etc).

      • Brent asks “how did Humanism end up acting like a religion?”
        It started out as a religion, one without a magical, transcendent god; but still with evangelicals, dogma, and so forth — one preacher of which you quote at some length.
        “Men would rather believe than know”
        False dichotomy. A thing cannot be known if it is also not believed. A thing must first be believed before it can be known; for if you do not believe it, you also do not know it. They are two items on a scale of certainty, with “know” having more certainty than “belief” but they are the same kind of thing.
        “A kind of Darwinistic survival of the fittest has occurred with religions”
        Ya think?
        “The mechanisms of religion include (1) objectification, (2) commitment (3) and myth.”
        Strange that E.O. Wilson doesn’t include number 4: Truth. Religion wraps itself around one or more things known to be true or otherwise it would have no power to move billions of people.
        “If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago.”
        There has never been “equilibrium” and it would also re-create mankind. Duh!
        I suspect that Edward O. Wilson must be really smart to come up with leftist stuff like this. Yes, he has a PhD. Tunnel vision is common with that kind. Plain to see he has belief in things demonstrably not true (equilibrium!).
        His degree thesis was on ants. No wonder he is fascinated by socialism.
        “People need a sacred narrative. They must have a sense of larger purpose, in one form or another, however intellectualized.” And so it is with Mr. Wilson. His sacred narrative is “four legs good, two legs bad.”

  24. Mr Botkin starts off by saying, “So I have been specially intrigued that on June 18 the pope published his Encyclical Letter about climate change.” That’s rather like saying that the president’s State of the Union address this year was about higher education because that was mentioned in the address. Most of the Encyclical is about other things. But, hey, when it comes to the Catholic Church there’s no need to be accurate.

  25. I agree with Mr Botkin (and others) who question whether the Church should be commenting on purely scientific matters. Personally I would rather that the Pope had not made some of his misinformed comments about climate change. But there is also a danger in going too far in the other direction and saying that the Church should concentrate on ‘spiritual’ matters. This is to misunderstand the nature of Christianity. It is also a misunderstanding which anybody actually reading the Encyclical is likely to be disabused of. Yes, the Church has no expertise in nuclear technology but you don’t need a degree in nuclear physics to be able to discuss the morality of using nuclear weapons. The Church has no expertise in how cyanide works but you don’t need an understanding of the chemistry of cyanide to be able to discuss the morality of putting cyanide in your grandmother’s coffee. There is a danger (quite apparent in many comments about the Encyclical) of thinking that religion, or specifically Christianity, is about beliefs, rituals and private practices such as fasting. What the Pope’s Encyclical makes very clear is that Christianity is much more than that. But it suits the agenda of some people, like President Obama and Hilary Clinton, to think of religion as no more than worship so that they can say that they respect the freedom of religion as long as they do not interfere in how Christians worship.

  26. Very interesting article. I can’t help but note the similarity between Christianity/Judaism-Original Sin and Warmists-CO2. All children are born sinning by polluting the world with their out-breath, and now that it’s been shortened to evil Carbon, human beings’ very flesh is an affront to God!
    It’s a useful Religious control mechanism, a bit like sex; find something people can’t NOT do and tell them it’s evil.
    No wonder Europe and the US have been cesspits of eco-anti-science, still trapped in that old mentality, just dressed in new clothes. What happened to the Reformation?

    • Humane nature, the enlightened side and the dark side, are universal in every individual, and in EVERY group. When people forget this, they try on a new wardrobe, thinking somehow that the new ensemble will change human nature. Thus Europe, tired of the religious dress, adopted the garment of godless communism. The result was hundreds of millions dead due to demoncide. (death by government)
      The US was the “light on the hill”, proclaiming that no group should have such power, which rightly belonged to individual liberty, that government was a “necessary evil” with the primary role of protecting said liberty.
      The world has forgotten this lesson and, alas, the US has forgotten their roots.

  27. the UN trying to control the world’s climate is absurd, and as credible as their Millennium Development Goals:
    AUDIO 9 mins: BBC “More or Less”: Millennium Development Goals
    Fifteen years ago at the Millennium Summit the United Nations set eight goals for addressing extreme poverty. They became known as the Millennium Development Goals. A deadline of 2015 was set to achieve what the UN said were ‘quantified targets’ – so how did we do?
    ***We find that in many cases the targets are incredibly difficult to quantify and that progress in some areas might not be all it seems.
    (rough summary: claim is that poverty target was met 5 years ahead of time, but there’s no way to know, apparently, because the data is not based on observation but on models. starting date was also changed.
    2012 claim about increased number of people with access to safe water had caveats, which the MSM don’t report, and the public didn’t read, and water was not tested. there has been an “effort” though. UN admits robust data remains scarce in many countries. nonetheless, new goals are being discussed & planned – Sustainable Development Goals – and efforts are being made to make these goals more measurable.)

    • If people of all organizations would spend less time on self assessment, they could more easily accomplish their goals.

  28. Il Papa Dada is a committed marxist and as such we should never expect anything honest to tumble out of his mouth. He is very much like his islamic brethren in that regard.

  29. also worth remembering:
    27 June: NoTricksZone: Schellnhuber Boasts Of Having Skeptics Excluded From Participating In Drafting “Laudato Si” Encyclical
    Alexander Wendt at, a policy-critical site run by leading German publicists, wrote how Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber recently boasted before journalists of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) how he got Pope Francis to swing over to climate alarmism in His most recent encyclical “Laudato Si”. It wasn’t through open debate…READ ON

  30. Really interesting article. I particularly appreciated Gary Pearce’s comments on the stone/iron/bronze/etc ages. Their language betrays them. Tipping points, destablisation etc….helps me make much more sense of the eco-babble.

  31. Possible formatting error. I don’t think “If nature is now in perfect balance, then every part of it is necessary, including every creature alive today, that great chain of being. Pope Francis continues this part of the myth, writing,” should be part of the second-to-the-last blockquote.

  32. Since the Encyclical came from the organization that burnt, at the stake, those who pointed out that the Earth was not the center of the Universe, is an inquisition in the offing? And, are we next? After all, the Pope used the settled science of the time, then why not now?

  33. “the person who is supposed to be one of the authorities on religion and religious philosophy.”
    The pope is merely (!) the head of the government of the Catholic Church. He really has no more authority to declare the word of God than you or I since “pope” is not “prophet”.
    As such he is sort of an authority on Catholicism, but it’s a good bet that others within Catholicism are much better authorities on religion and religious philosophy; Jesuits come to mind.
    Most churches, possibly all of them, exist as mini-governments and bureaucracies. Within those governments *might* be operating a parallel, spiritual or ecclesiastical function that is “religious” but not governmental (doesn’t tell people what to do; merely declares the word of God). As most Christian churches believe no further word of God is forthcoming, no prophets and so on, such churches are only bureaucracies and mini-governments.
    Islam takes it one step further and declares there cannot be a prophet after Mohammed.
    I’m of the opinion that prophets could be very numerous. The problem for you and me is knowing who is and who is not a prophet, and since no obvious means exist to make this determination it might not be all that important. I believe that if God wants to talk to you, he will; otherwise not and don’t worry about it overly much. You can be your own prophet.

    • It is obvious the Church’s bureaucracy doesnt want another prophet… the new prophet might decide to raze the Vatican to the ground and give away the Trillions of dollars that the church has amassed, it might decide to give away to the dispossessed all of the buildings that the church’s own…. and in doing so expose the Churche’s for what they are: the longest running con job EVER…. Even the Gaian/Green/Eco Fascist religion will probably be destroyed by a new Prophet…. The End Is Near!!!

  34. While we’re greatly blessed to have the valuable theological guidance regarding what we should think, in order to become, and to remain in good standing with the Great Bearded Sky Fairy, we should perhaps ponder that Galileo was interested in observations revealing God’s Gospel Truth, and not the Pope’s or some prophet or scribe’s proscribing of acceptable Godly belief.
    Perhaps the current Pope should be gently invited to ponder his predecessors trenchant arrogance and grossly misguided perceptions and prescriptions, and how he, and all those of the flock before him, were lead astray by adamant false beliefs. And then prostrate himself and humbly repent, and ask the Great Bearded Sky Fairy to bestow grace and forgiveness for STILL being out of sync with observations … after all this frocken time!
    Otherwise, Pope-ism will have failed to learn anything, in all of these centuries of human struggle to leave the middle ages, about the fundamental validity of observations, and of being aware of what observations show, if one was ever so foolish as to yap way too much about stuff which one knows not nearly enough about to have an opinion.
    Let alone yet more ad-hoc declarations of holy belief for everyone to inwardly genuflect to.
    Because the observed pattern so far, from all these centuries, is one of incorrigible inveterate supercilious brazen conceitedness, that is still ostentatiously feigning the sufferance of observed facts, when actually you’re still strenuously avoiding the observations for your own self-selecting reasons, which have no relationship at all with the infallible substance of those observation.
    Consequently, you’re hereby excommunicated from the scientific process.
    Aye … it’s a double-edged sword.

  35. The Pope is a public figure and a spiritual lider for many Christians…. and not only. His words are being followed by a huge number of persons and I think that many of the climate issues (and not only) will easily be heard by people if they are underlined by him despite by scientist. I’m sying that although I believe in science and in scientific facts…. On the other hand,I would prefer that people (scientists and ordinary people) to take a look at the oceans, to analyse their impact on the climate, which, as outlined here – – is bigger that the CO2 impact.

  36. The article makes the claim that the balance of nature means the same to scientists as stability, homeostasis, resistance, resilience, and so on. Really?
    I think you are missing important subtleties here. If ‘balance’ means in a state of equilibrium then it does not include a Lorenzian attractor, which is in stable dis-equilibrium, as is the atmosphere in Lovelock’s Gaia. Homeostasis is not a balance but a result of systemic negitative feedbacks. I think the important questions are around variability, predictability, stability and control. What I find interesting is the contrast between scientists talking about avoiding disturbing the balance of nature and those who talk about controlling it. The latter prevailed in the 1950s while the former prevailed more in the 1970s. In AGW it generally is that climate is predicable and controllable, which is something of a return to the 50s against Lorenz and lovelock.

  37. Nature can never be “perfect” because nature does not “know” what that word means. Life has been present on this planet for a very long time while global temperature has been much warmer than now and CO2 has been much higher than now for most of that time.
    Therefore the idea that the slightly cooler temperature of ~1980 was somehow the “best” NO LESS ARROGANT than the idea that nature created humans to dig FF out of the ground and burn it in order to put more CO2 back into the atmosphere where it came from, ( and add a little Styrofoam as well..) .

  38. So, if termites add CO2 to the atmosphere, they are restoring the balance of nature, but if humans add CO2 to the atmosphere they are destroying the balance of nature.
    So, if parasites kill human beings, they are restoring the balance of nature, while if humans kill parasites , they are destroying the balance of nature.
    So, if God creates a disease that kills millions of people, God is restoring the balance of nature, while if humans invent a cure that kills trillions of disease organisms, they are destroying the balance of nature, and opposing the will of God. Surely antibiotics are a sin, as is birth control pills, as they oppose the will of God.

    • Whenever it comes to “balance” on any subject you will always find a socialist’s thumb on the scale tipping things their way.

    • Termites add more CH4 to the atmosphere, which quickly “oxidises” to CO2, than all humans and farming. It’s silly to believe humans, and emissions of CO2, can CAUSE the climate to change!

    • Steve says “Martin Luther was right you know.”
      While a great many others were left.

  39. ‘Papal Teaching on Ecology Set for Thursday Release, June 17, 2015
    Has list of those who will comment on the Encyclical and who are also involved in environment, ecology, spirituality.
    Also mentions representative from Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Montreal, that has membership in the CIDSE, Brussels.
    The CIDSE U.S. member is Center of Concern, Washington, D.C.
    The CIDSE, with its 17 members, was represented at the July 2-3, 2015 Vatican meeting along with, Canadian, Naomi Klein. IPCC was also represented at this conference.
    Development and Peace is affiliated with the RC Church, Canada.

  40. I dont find a problem, …. “and God created man in his image”, ergo nature is there to serve me and anything I do to Gaia is for her betterment and ultimately my own…. Selfish? yes, but then again I am Man and I was made in God’s image God is perfect, therefore I am a demiGod that can do no wrong!!
    I dont think the Vatican will allow this kind of talk………..

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