One of Those Walk-the-Children-Around-the-Pole-Ponies

I haven’t done any skylarking about global warming in a while, so let me have a bit of fun in my opening paragraph. Then, after that, I will sober up a bit, and move on to my more serious point, which I do, in fact, have. In 2007, serious scientists were predicting that the Arctic icecap would be GONE by the year 2013, which, you may have noticed, is almost in our rear view mirror. What is the actual state of the icecap in this, the year of our Lord, 2013? I am glad you asked, because since last August, the icecap has grown by 920,000 square miles. That’s a lot of global warming recoil.

The great idol of modernity is the state. When people engage in political debates, therefore, a lot less time should be spent in looking at what people are offering up, and much more time spent on recognizing what they are offering it to.

Whenever we are talking about climate change, they want me to look at the offering they have brought in their hands. What ever could be wrong with funny looking light bulbs? But the whole point of everything was to grow the power of the state, and the state is an idol. If it weren’t offered up on that altar, I wouldn’t care how your light bulbs looked. When the state is the idol, absolutely every course of action winds up being placed on that altar. Global warming means we must “pull together.” Global cooling means we must “coordinate our efforts,” and either way we go, it will always mean statist coercion.

A persistent aluminum siding salesman uses absolutely anything as an argument for you buying his product now. If it is Wednesday, that’s a good reason. If it is not Wednesday, even better. It turns out that issues related to Wednesday may not be his chief interest.

This is why I have little interest in pursuing the deep thoughts of philosophers, theologians, and other smart guys, who cannot see this glaringly obvious fact. I have often called Heidegger a Nazi, and that’s because he was one. That’s what you might call getting thrown at the rodeo, in the disqualification round, by one of those walk-the-children-around-a-pole-ponies. But the socialist Karl Barth also raises my suspicions — quite apart from the alarming fact of his towering genius — by refusing to condemn the Soviet invasion of Hungary in the fifties. If you can’t see the idolatry in the 90-foot statue of Nebuchadnezzar, I am not going to trust you when you find it in the fact that I am quoting Bible verses, like a crazed fundamentalist bibliolater . . . or like Jesus in the wilderness. Whatever.

When the music goes, the guys who bow down to that statue might be able to produce a lot of scintillating repartee at the cafe afterwards, explaining how the infinite meets the finite on the tip of the statue’s nose, most of which sails right over my head — but they still bowed down. But I want to be with the guys who didn’t. I want to hear what they have to say.

Theology That Bites Back



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  • Mike Bull

    A friend pointed out that if you zoom out on the Arctic ice level graph, there is a definite downward trend, despite the annual ups and downs. For those who think this answers the question, zoom out some more – about a thousand years – and see Vikings sailing an Arctic Sea free of ice. The graph is a fractal. And Vikings are always right.

  • Gervase Markham

    “Statists use global warming as an excuse to increase the size of the state” => “global warming is not happening” is a logical fallacy. If, as you say, they will use any excuse to increase the size of the state, you can’t use the fact they are using GW as evidence for or against the truth of it. They are just as happy to leverage truth to argue for more statism as falsehood. In fact, it makes it easier.

    Also, the fact that the icecap has grown 920,000 sq km since last year is as useful in proving the non-existence of GW as the fact that it shrank 900,000 sq km from 2009-2012 is in proving GW’s existence. You can’t say a short-term rise is evidence against GW unless you accept that a short-term fall is evidence for GW.

    In fact, neither short-term rises nor short-term falls are much evidence of anything. The weather is complicated. One would need to look at longer term trends. Of course, you could instead doubt the impartiality of the data providers. But you can’t both do that and argue that their data proves your point. If I were as literate and imaginative as you, I’d probably come up with a fancy analogy at this point. Something to do with thin ice…

  • Charlie Long


    You are correct about your assessment of the logic. But whether you’re right or not is equivalent to whether or not your house actually needs siding. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t — but because the deciding factor has nothing whatsoever to do with Wednesday, the guy who *says* it’s all about Wednesday should be automatically disqualified from any further input, because it is manifestly true that his interests and the truth only coincide by convenience. He may have a piece of truth in his hand, but he’s using it as a tool for some other end having nothing at all to do with the truth; therefore, whether we continue to discuss the need for siding or not, either way Mr. Wednesday is kindly invited to leave immediately and not return. He will of course object as he leaves, and his objections will be all about the logic of the thing; and none of those objections will be germane in the slightest.

    • Douglas Wilson

      Gervase, think of it this way. The boy who cried wolf does not leave us with a problem in deductive logic, but rather an opportunity for inductive reasoning, which is strong or weak, not valid or invalid. They have filled up my adult lifetime with false alarms, and I just don’t believe them anymore.

  • Darby

    Thanks, Mr. Wilson, for your posts, always chew-worthy!

  • Tony from Pandora

    But Mr. Wilson… in the story, the wolf DOES come…

  • Eric the Red

    Doug, I have this nagging suspicion that even if you believed that global warming is true and that the funny looking lightbulbs were the only things standing between us and global destruction, you’d still be against them just because it’s the government that’s asking you to do it. Am I right?

  • Douglas Wilson

    Eric, asking me to do it?

  • Bryan Hangartner

    Uh . . . the coming of the wolf was not actually induced by the false alarms of the little boy; he was still a liar and the wolf’s arrival was a mere coincidence.

  • Matthew Petersen

    The answer is Regression toward the Mean.

  • Eric the Red

    Doug, nice way to dodge the question. Whether or not “ask” was the right choice of verb, would you still oppose them, even if you thought they were necessary to save the planet, just because it’s coming from the secular state?

  • katecho

    Eric the Red Herring continues to dodge the issue. Is the secular State growing its powers by asking, or by taking? The difference between freedom and oppression is just a choice of verb.

    If Eric the Red thought that belief in the Triune God was necessary to save the planet, would he then adopt belief? Or would he still oppose belief just because the Gospel invitation is coming from Christ and His Church? Would Eric finally take one for the planet, and bow the knee? Or would he retreat to his principles? /gasp/

  • Louise

    For those that may be interested in another perspective on the arctic ice measurements, this article might be helpful. I have never commented here before. I am an evangelical Christian and a retired physical therapist.

  • holmegm

    Gervase, it’s the warmists who came to us, and told us that “we have to do something!” – said something being to give their idol more power – because the arctic ice was disappearing.

    Given that history, to say “um, your own data shows the ice is *not* disappearing” is in fact a very valid thing to do.

  • Doane

    Katecho just laid a smack down! Dang.

  • Eric the Red

    Katecho, if I believed that the triune God existed, I would be more than happy to adjust my entire belief system accordingly, and your repeated efforts to make everything about me stopped being amusing some time ago. But whether the secular state is growing by asking or by taking or by some other means, my question remains: Is Doug’s hostility to efforts at conservation based on who it is that’s initiating it? If so, he may be cutting off his nose to spite his face. And I say that as someone who is agnostic on the question of whether climate change is caused by humans or whether humans can do anything about it.

  • DCHammer

    My thoughts:
    1) You don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. You don’t need to be a climate scientist to know which way the thermometer is going. Take a walk outside. Look at a map of glaciers. Do a bit of basic study re: greenhouse gases. Come visit Colorado. We’ve been globally swarmed.
    2) Encouraging Christians to mock stewardship is not a wise use of a leadership position. Honoring God by honoring what God has made seems pretty fundamental. Seems like a first tablet of the Law thing. Acting in a way that opposes stewardship also strikes me as stealing from those around me and those who come after me. A second tablet thing.
    3) Conservatives should conserve.
    4) When in doubt about which direction to take, one should err on the side of that which does the least harm.
    5) Only fools foul their own nest.
    6) Moving as quickly as we can to a non-oil based economy seems fundamental to our national security. Why should we give our wealth to our enemies?
    7) Nukes are probably the least environmentally damaging way to go.
    8) Being leaders in providing the technology for the non-oil based economy would make us incredibly rich.

  • Matthias

    There’s a difference between distrusting a government for the government and distrusting the government because it’s untrustworthy. This is what Pastor Wilson intimated (and by that I mean outright stated) in his first comment above.

  • Gervase Markham

    Charlie Long: I think there’s still some circularity in here. If everyone who tells you that GW is happening is a statist (perhaps in disguise), and therefore untrustworthy because of it, you’ve made your assertion that “there is no GW” irrefutable, regardless of evidence – because anyone who might try and provide some is an untrustworthy statist and their evidence can be disregarded.

    Put it another way: who would you believe if they told you that GW is happening? Climate scientists who are also Christians? How about Sir John Houghton, former chair of the IPCC, creationist and evangelical Christian?

    Doug: at what point in your career had they not filled up your life with false alarms, and so you were inclined to believe them? Just like Wednesday isn’t the point, I get the impression that the false alarms are not the point.

    Bottom line: regardless of whether GW is happening or not, it pains me to see someone who is usually so incisive a thinker use such bad logic in a blog post. (Regularly, and always on the same topic.) There may be good reasons to say GW isn’t happening, but the genetic fallacy isn’t one of them, nor is the “no true Scotsman” fallacy.

  • Gervase Markham

    Doug: any chance of asking your tech team to enable the <p> tag, so we can make points which take more than one paragraph to elaborate?

    At the moment, people seem to be abusing empty <blockquote> tags to achieve the same effect.

  • Andrew W

    The evidence is clear that the global climate has warmed, both on the micro level (since the mid 20th century) and the macro level (since the 1500s). The questions are:


    (1) Is the consequence of this warming something that we should be concerned about?
    (2) Can we do anything about it anyway?


    Now, from 1980 to 2000 there was clearly a correlation between increases in certain man-made gases and increases in temperature. But was this a connection or coincidence? It’s easy to point to two trend-lines and say “they are moving in the same direction”; the data becomes interesting when one trend-line changes – does the other change, and how long does it take to do so.


    In this case, the hypothesised dependent variable – temperature – has plateaued for a period of time. In order to explain this, either the variable actually isn’t dependent, or another factor has been introduced which countered the effect of the former variable. In this case, I tentatively give the benefit of doubt to the null hypothesis (that these changes are caused by other external factors).


    However, there’s a difference between doubting the anthropomorphic part of global warming and observing that warming is nonetheless happening and considering what precautions we might want to take. Even if we allow that GW is not AGW, it’s entirely possible that temperatures could rise again after this plateaux. What would that mean for agriculture or for coastal regions?


    Conversely, perhaps it’s right to be concerned about air pollution anyway. It doesn’t need to be the global crisis to end all crises to make it a good idea to clean up after ourselves.


    However, I can understand scepticism towards demands for global action. Bandwagons have this nasty tendency to roll down the hill and end up broken in ditches. Remember the great over-population crisis of last century? And how we successfully reduced population growth to the point that demographers are now worried about population sustainability? Why isn’t there a global movement in the west towards sustainable families? Or is it only a crisis if it fits within our current prejudices?


    Disclaimer: I don’t think under-population is a crisis, at least not currently. But it seems to me global warming is in the same boat. There’s a difference between “hey, we should work to get this pollution issue under control” and “cut carbon emissions or we all DIE!”.

  • Dan Glover

    I heartily agree that we should not jump on a particular band wagon just because the state tells us to, nor should we throw others under it who don’t conform to the pronouncements of the conformacrats. In British Columbia, the government tried to ban all non-swirly light bulbs a while ago in order to save the world. Thankfully there are enough citizens in this province (whose southwest population is often only slightly right of Sweden) who still have a backbone that they were unable to do it. Farmers reacted by pointing out that those little swirly bulbs don’t put off any heat so chicks would freeze to death (incandescent bulbs are often used for heat sources in small volume animal shelters – chicks, ducks, pigs, dog houses, etc.). Global warming wasn’t coming fast enough to prevent the baby critters from freezing to death without their good old fashioned yellow light bulbs. Also, in the Great White North, if you put the swirly bulbs in outdoor fixtures, if it is about -20C it takes about 45 minutes for the bulb to light up. If it is anywhere around -40C, it takes about 6 weeks. Plus, have you ever walked toward your house full of mini florescents after 2 hours of shoveling your driveway and tossing the snow over 7′ high snowbanks? The light shining through your windows looks more like that coming from a hospital operating room than from a warm and cozy house where a fire and a hot mug-o-sumpin is waiting for you.
    All that said, as Christians we should live as stewards of the earth, care-takers, not exploiters and pillagers. This means being conscientious and responsible in how we develop and use the earth’s resources because they don’t really belong to us. God made them and owns them and he has placed us in authority over them, but we still answer to him. If we are doing things that harm the earth, we should stop doing them not because the government tells us to but out of faithfulness to God and in honour of his creation.