Re: [asa] Ottawa Citizen: The Skeptics Are Vindicated

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Thu Nov 26 2009 - 12:46:23 EST

I'm a lot more interested in what the Bible says than what the Westminster Catechism says. I don't find anything about "misconstructing intentions" in the version of the ninth commandment that's in my Bible. And if there were, Jesus and Paul would both be guilty of violating that commandment, since they often burst out in vituperation against the alleged intentions of the people (Pharisees and so on) that they are addressing or speaking about, with much less empirical evidence for insincerity in most cases than we appear to have at the moment for a degree of coverup in the matter of AGW.

Nor do I find that Christianity, as such, cares very much one way or the other about the wounded *amour propre* of people whose motives are questioned, when there are good *prima facie* grounds for questioning them. If you don't want your motives questioned, act honestly. Don't demonize your opposition as "deniers", don't trivialize their Ph.D.s or their intellectual abilities, and don't belittle, mock, shout down, bully, exaggerate your degree of certainty to the media, etc. Act like modest, fallible, dignified scientists, and treat your scientific critics as valued peers and a loyal opposition, rather than as incompetents or sell-outs to the oil companies. Then no one will question your motives when your e-mails make dozens of references to hiding data, massaging data, controlling peer-reviewed journals, etc. Calling in Christian principles to prevent the appropriate scrutiny of dubious professional behaviour is not only irrelevant, but trivializes the Christian message.

The argument made by Keith Miller I can respect. There is an ethical point to be made about publishing stolen e-mails on the internet. But this argument I cannot respect at all. It's based on a sappy, touchy-feely, modern interpretation of Christianity which I completely disown. It's more worried about slighting people's feelings than it is about determining truth and apportioning justice accordingly. The AGW scientists have earned a great amount of public distrust, even apart from the discovery of the e-mails, by their unbecoming arrogance and tones of finality (what happened to the vaunted tentativeness of science?), and their savage squashing of professional resistance. If they hadn't behaved in the way that they had in the past ten years, no one would have hacked into their computers in the first place, because everyone would have trusted them.

If you live by the sword, you die by the sword. These scientists have played by the rules of ruthless secular careerism, not Christianity, and they aren't entitled to "Christian" protection. They made their bed years ago, and now they have to lie in it. ASA Christians should have better things to do than try to rescue these guys. Aren't there poor to be fed and clothed and employed, especially at this time of year? Aren't there Christian astronomers being fired from jobs for suggesting that the universe is fine-tuned, who could use the ASA's help? Isn't Christian time better spend helping the truly wounded, than the wounded pride of vain and overly-sensitive-to-criticism (and very well paid) climate-change scientists?

If "questioning motives" were intrinsically wrong, we could not have effective police forces, intelligence agencies, prosecuting attorneys, investigative journalists, or even insightful novelists and poets. Many significant human activities require alertness about the possibility of bad motives. To say otherwise, out of some misguided notion of what Christianity requires, is Polyannism. We must be not only as gentle as doves but as wise as serpents. I'm sorry, but I find this argument to be bad theology and even worse political and moral philosophy.

I grant that the AGW scientists deserve their day in court, to explain themselves -- I never said that I would "stop my ears against a just defense", nor did Schwarzwald -- but they haven't earned the right not to be *suspected* of wrongdoing -- not under the circumstances. If you're found at the scene of what appears to be a crime, you are going to be taken in for questioning. Nothing un-Christian about that. Nothing at all.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Rich Blinne
  To: Schwarzwald ; Murray Hogg ; Iain Strachan
  Cc: asa
  Sent: Thursday, November 26, 2009 11:04 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Ottawa Citizen: The Skeptics Are Vindicated

  On Nov 25, 2009, at 5:52 PM, Schwarzwald wrote:

    Sure peer-review is often inadequate, sure consensus science is questionable, sure scientists get it wrong (more often than they get it right, in fact) - but do you really think that scientists themselves are ignorant of this? You say we should regard them with skepticism, question their motives, and disagree with their findings - but what, pray tell, do you think scientists spend most of their time doing to one another?

  Westminster Larger Catechism

  Question 145: What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?

  Answer: The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors ... misconstructing intentions [orig. lang. imputing motives] .. raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense

  Iain, you were being very patient to see if there was anything was innocent about the e-mails. Thank you. Questioning motives is just plain wrong. I live in both the scientific and Christian communities and it is a sad commentary that secular scientists far more rarely question other people's motives than Christians do. I do acknowledge that secular scientists do question Christians' motives but it's largely because of guilt by association by assuming that all Christians in the sciences act like the people who are drawing outrageous conclusions from the stolen e-mails. This is the reason why we are called "liars for Jesus".

  There are far too many ASA members who are both good Christians and scientists who are unnecessarily getting tarred by this kind of crap. The felicity all around of questioning motives is one of the reasons Christians in the sciences won't admit they're Christians in a scientific setting and (the more common) admit they're mainstream scientists in a church setting. There is literally no sanctuary.

  Rich Blinne
  Member ASA

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Received on Thu Nov 26 12:47:13 2009

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