From distinguished antiquity to anthropological nonsense

by Doughlas Remy

(This is a continuation of my previous post, just below, in which I am responding to Gil Bailie’s untitled post of 6/28/13 on The Cornerstone Forum Facebook page. [TCF])

Gil Bailie writes:

Pope Red PradaA few critics seem to think that opinions expressed on this FB Page are so alien to common decency as to be intrinsically odious. These critics are unlikely to be convinced otherwise when shown that these opinions and perspectives are shared, not only by the Church to which I belong and to which I intend to remain loyal, but also by the greatest theological and philosophical minds of recent memory, including Hans Urs von Balthasar, Joseph Ratzinger, Joseph Pieper, Henri de Lubac, John XXIII, Paul IV, John Paul II and Pope Francis, to name but a few. These points of view and principles are rooted, however, in anthropological reality and moral reason, the persuasiveness of which depends on no particular religious belief.

Those who consider the distinguished antiquity of these principles as proof of their contemporary uselessness, and who therefore regard those who adhere to them as mean-spirited Neanderthals and moral dullards, often use the comments section of the Cornerstone Forum FB Page to let fly entirely predictable salvos of contempt. When reminded that our purpose here is not to argue with those who do not share our perspective but to be of use to those who do, howls of protest arise. And when, in exasperation, we refuse to allow this Page to become a bulletin-board for anthropological nonsense, moral muddle, and anti-Catholic discourses, their authors enjoy the satisfaction of believing themselves to be martyrs in the cause of free expression.

They are as welcome to believe that as they are to believe all the rest of what they believe. I bear them no ill-will, but they will have to find other venues for propagating ideas that, though wildly popular among Lady Gaga Liberals, evince rather than seriously address the civilizational crisis that is upon us.

Mr. Bailie says his purpose here is “not to argue,” and yet he presents several arguments to refute criticisms of TCF’s principles and assumptions. He might more accurately have written that his purpose here is “not to tolerate counter-arguments.”

The first of his arguments—the appeal to authority—is in fact Mr. Bailie’s first line of defense, and its logic goes something like this: “Our opinions are highly respectable because they are shared by our church and by certain theologians and philosophers that we happen to hold in very high esteem.” Mr. Bailie apparently sees no need for further discussion of any of these opinions, since their definitive and authoritative expression has already been offered up in distinguished texts that should be considered the modern-day equivalents of sacred scripture. And yet, TCF offers a comments field after each dollop of wisdom from these august sources, apparently in the hope of gathering up offerings of assent and admiration for them.

Mr. Bailie’s second argument is an attempt to shore up the first: “These points of view and principles are rooted, however, in anthropological reality and moral reason, the persuasiveness of which depends on no particular religious belief.”

This is of course circular, since the “anthropological reality and moral reason” of which he speaks have been garnered from the eight theologians and philosophers he cites, all of whom, significantly, are Catholics, and five of whom are popes! And then he adds, as if not having noticed any of this, that “the persuasiveness [of these views and principles] depends on no particular religious belief.” Really?

Mr. Bailie’s third argument is the appeal to the “distinguished antiquity” of these principles. The older the better, right? To this I would say, if you want antiquity, go to ancient Greece, Egypt, India, or China. Antiquity is a guarantee of nothing, least of all truth, justice, and the American way.

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

And when all else fails, one can always resort to name-calling. No one has called Mr. Bailie a “Neanderthal” or a “moral dullard,” but he has no scruples about calling his critics “Lady Gaga Liberals” who use TCF as a “bulletin-board for anthropological nonsense, moral muddle, and anti-Catholic discourses.”

One would like to know WHY he has reached these conclusions about his interlocutors. But we are not likely to find out, because in Mr. Bailie’s world there is no intermediate stage between expressing an opinion and attacking those who disagree with it. There is no desire to enter into conversation, no respect for divergent opinions, and no tolerance of vigorous debate. This is the Old Catholicism of centuries gone by, a Catholicism that held sway through ignorance, fear, and deference for authority. It is a far cry from our contemporary lay Catholicism that has sought openness, dialog, and reform.

TCF’s own comment thread for Mr. Bailie’s post follows:

Rick Boone:

I need to look more closely at the comments you receive. It would not be surprising, though it would be sad, to learn that more people disagree with you than otherwise. But what is astonishing is that anyone could find your comments, especially given their thoughtful, non-provocative nature, indecent or odious. But perhaps I shouldn’t [be surprised]; I doubt my response to such intellectual barbarians would be quite so measured as is yours. But let’s face it, people prefer drama and conflict to sweet reason and gracious disagreement.

Timothy Brock:

Rick, you cannot examine more closely the controversial comments that Mr. Bailie has received for the simple reason that he has deleted them. If you want to see them intact, you have to go to TCFS. Don’t worry. I guarantee that you will not be shocked. They are, for the most part, exceedingly well-reasoned and fair; hardly the work of “intellectual barbarians.”

Maybe one of the reasons you do not find any of Mr. Bailie’s posts offensive or provocative is that you have not yet been their target.

Jim Daly:

Gil, I think you’re being oversensitive and reading far to much into the fact that some people disagree with you. I’ve read these comments. No one has called you a Neanderthal or a dullard. The criticisms of your views that I’ve read have been, by and large, courteous and thoughtful, and even if I don’t always find them persuasive, I would hardly describe them as “salvos of contempt.” However, when you label people who respectfully disagree with you as “Lady Gaga Liberals,” I’m not sure there is any phrase better than “salvo of contempt” to describe what you’re doing.

My impression is that most of the people who respond to your posts are, like me, students of your book and your recorded talks who respect you as someone who has shed considerable light on aspects of the gospel but just happen to disagree with you on particular issues. When you dismiss their arguments as nothing more than “anthropological nonsense, moral muddle, and anti-Catholic discourses,” instead of showing them the respect of pointing out where you think their reasoning has gone wrong, you are being grossly unfair and uncharitable.

Moreover, you’re failing in your stated purpose to be “useful” to those who share your perspective. As someone who fits that description to a great extent, I would find it very “useful” to hear a respectful exchange of views on topics of importance to us all. And even if you don’t care to respond, how does it undermine the usefulness of this forum to allow courteously expressed dissenting views to be heard? That’s a serious question, by the way. Are people like me somehow in danger of being of harmed by being exposed to a disagreement among reasonable interlocutors. You should have a better opinion than that of your friends and admirers.

You mention your “exasperation.” Your post does indeed evince a great deal of exasperation, not to mention anger. But emotions like those can easily get in the way of doing justice to others. From your characterization of those who disagree with you, it’s apparent that they have touched a nerve, which has elicited from you a lot of overwrought and even abusive language. What’s worse, you complain that others regard you as “mean-spirited” and a “moral dullard,” but then you turn around and accuse them of firing “salvos of contempt” and willfully propagating a “moral muddle.” Any student of your writings or those of Rene Girard would have no trouble recognizing in this “doubling” the symptoms of mimetic rivalry. Rather than mirroring the hostility that you imagine your interlocutors must feel for you, perhaps you should try treating them with kindness, hospitality, and respect. Let go of your anger and be a purveyor of “good mimesis.”

You’re a good man, Gil, and a brilliant teacher. Now is a great time to start teaching by example.

Raph Martin:

Gil, You’re providing a great service to all of us with solid reflections on the human condition. Where else on Facebook will you hear of DeLubac, Congar, von Balthasar, Rahner, and Girard! If readers would take time to think and dialog -internally or with others, they may come to appreciate the vision offered them by these stellar thinkers and saints. Sometimes there’s more meat on the plate here than milk!

I believe it was Schopenhauer and then Gandhi who spoke of truth as passing through 3 stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

It is my hope that Mr. Bailie, who, in my estimation, is one of today’s masterful apologists as well as a great scriptural scholar and teacher, will hold fast to the faith tradition in which he stands, and not lose heart in his dialog with those who see things differently. His Cornerstone Forum addresses issues of the day that challenge people to reconsider the values that have ingrained themselves into their thinking. The truth of things may not be immediately self-evident; it seems that time is the gift we have to discover what is “apparently hidden.” I’m standing with Gil as he engages us—rationally and painstakingly, to rethink a new vision of reality for ourselves while we can.

The Cornerstone Forum:

The respect is mutual, Raph. You’re in my prayers and have been; I hope I’m in yours.

Scott Talkington:

Stephen DenBeste stopped blogging not because the criticisms of his articles weren’t true, but because they were piddling and irrelevant to his arguments. That sort of thing can get very irritating when you don’t have an army of people to look up dates, proper spelling of seldom used terms, etc.. Gil rarely makes those kinds of errors though. And I get the same kinds of responses as Gil, perhaps even a little more so, but have developed a very thick skin.

We now find ourselves in the position that a person can be deemed to have malicious intent simply for defending traditional sanctified marriage. So it’s OK to infer intentions that don’t exist, but it’s not OK to infer consequences that will exist. And this has happened because of a trend that has barely begun. I’m a little worried, sometimes.

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36 comments so far

  1. Ben Boyce on

    Doughlas,
    Surely there is a more flattering photo of Lady Gaga than this one. If I’m going to be called a “Lady Gaga liberal”, I’d like to have something more attractive to signify it. 😉
    Thank you for your careful curation of the material banned from TCF. It is instructive to see what views place us beyond the pale to the TCF folks.
    Your fellow member of the ‘lumpen intelligentsia’ !
    Ben Boyce

  2. thinker1 on

    Guys, I am as baffled as the rest as to what happened to change one who wrote one of the great books about Girardian thought and its connection to our continuing conversion into a raving right wing shill. I suspect I know a bit of the why, but arguing with a fence post merely increases our fascination. You are all articulate and faithful people. I do not have your ability to express myself, but I recognize that your energies, your faith, and certainly your skill at describing Girard’s revolutionary ideas might be used more effectively outside the tiny destructive circle of the cornerstone foundation. I suspect many of you have legal and philosophical training and are immensely frustrated with one so unable to argue outside a small and vindictive mindset. As for me..God bless him, but it seems we must dust off our sandals and go to the next town. Gil’s mind and heart have been changed and I must assume loss and pain are being met with barely suppressed fury. I know I have been guilty of that in the past and mimetic theory has enabled recognition of my own sins of resentment. I am sure I will find my own sins staring me in the face often enough. My discomfort is with the idea that Girard’s ideas are being prostituted to support the scapegoating of women, progressive thinkers, environmentalists, the President (Gil’s gone off the rails there), gay and lesbian people, Muslims, etc. The particular post you shared has a frantic quality that is filled with fear. To ignore every fearful post takes away his forum. Those few who support these posts need our posts in order to react. Ignore him. How do we take these great ideas that illuminate the Gospel and use them. A great and good friend told me there are only two paths and one is bitterness and resentment while the other is utter transformation into the heart of God. It is pretty damn hard to leave even remnants of bitterness behind. In reading this site, I am amazed at the level of thought that each of you displays. I used to read Doughlas on the old Cornerstone site. I believe I was the first thrown off, and it was probably 8 years ago. I merely asked a simple question and was never able to log in again. I am sure it was a snarky question, but damn…it was received with sort of typical thin skin Gil reaction. By the way, I am not very technologically savvy so this answer may be ending up in a place I did not intend. Oh, well.
    Betsy Hansbrough. aka thinker1

  3. thebentangle on

    Hi Betsy, it’s nice to meet up with you again, and I know the others here appreciate your thoughts as much as I do.

    I occasionally ask myself why I track TCF, but I believe I’ve resolved that issue satisfactorily for myself. It’s not actually my “day job,” so to speak. I have other obsessions just to keep a healthy balance.. 🙂 TCF Samizdat is only one of my blogging projects; I also have a blog site called “The Bent Angle,” which is mostly about LGBT issues and religion (www.thebentangle.wordpress.com), and I regularly join in discussions at conservative Catholic sites like Catholic Exchange, Crisis Magazine, and Mercator.net’s Conjugality page. My principal interest is marriage equality, and I enjoy polemic and argumentation. I find enough anti-gay bigotry at those sites, including Gil’s, to keep me well occupied.

    I am interested in Gil because of the Girard connection. I read nearly everything Girard wrote until about eight years ago, and I was fascinated with Gil’s book when it first appeared. When I learned of Girard’s “conversion” and witnessed Gil’s sharp turn to the Right, I wanted to understand what had happened. I think that Gil’s anxious musings about modernism are a good gateway into understanding the crisis of Catholicism. He’s not an outlier with respect to the rest of hard-line conservative Catholicism. On the contrary, he reflects it fairly well, probably because he’s such an avid reader. As I was just saying to Gordon Savage, Gil is an outstanding aggregator of news and opinion from the Catholic right. He doesn’t seem to pay much attention to anything else, in fact, which probably accounts for his slow drift into ideological goofiness. Through him, I have gotten to know a lot of writers like Robert P. George and Hadley Arkes. I rarely agree with any of them about much of anything, but I am fascinated by their worldviews precisely because they are so diametrically unlike my own. I dream of finding that sweet spot where a bridge could be built, but, failing that, I’m satisfied to use my talents to challenge them on the issues about which we disagree, particularly LGBT rights. Maybe that’s a kind of bridge.

    Anyway, I love drama, and Gil’s unfolding intellectual and spiritual development is an engaging spectacle. I’ve been tuning in to the “Gil Bailie Show” for about 15 years now, and it never fails to hold my attention.

  4. thebentangle on

    BTW, Betsy, be sure to watch for the imminent launching of Ben Boyce’s Facebook page, “The Cornerstone Forum Unveiled.” I’ll have news of it here.

  5. Ben Boyce on

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Betsy. Your take is very similar to mine. I got acquainted with Gil Bailie’s work through my parish in Sonoma, St. Leo’s, where Gil had been a parishioner years ago. I discovered a cache of his cassette tapes (that dates me!) in the library at St. Leo’s and I listened to several hundred hours of the material, and attended a few of his public lectures He was a primary source for helping cultivate my understanding of Catholicism and culture. I enjoyed his witty, urbane, and highly literate lectures. He has had a profound influence on my thinking, and I will always appreciate his introducing me to Girard’s mimetic theory, which has served as a tool in my spiritual development.

    So it came as a real shock to me when I signed up for his Facebook page after not having heard some of his most recent material to find that he had taken a weird right turn that seemed to betray many of the qualities that had drawn me to him. It’s not just that he is a conservative, which was no surprise, but that he had become an ardent partisan enlisted into the agenda of the Religious Right. Even more puzzling was that he was not just expressing conservative ideas, but that he was using some of the most discredited sources from the right-wing media universe, and that he seemed to have abandoned his finely tuned critical faculties in being able to discriminate that he had gone off the rails. His antipathy to Obama, who is ideologically a moderate technocratic centrist, seemed to reach almost pathological proportions. There seems to no slander too low for Gil to find credible. I really am appalled, and admittedly fascinated by this strange turn of events.

    The turning point for me in deciding to try to challenge the ultra-conservative Catholic doctrine that Gil is promulgating on TCF was the response of the American Bishops to the statement made by Bishop Jenky in the lead-up to the 2012 election, in which he described Obama as like “Hitler and Stalin” !? I was absolutely positive that at least one other Bishop would step forward to protect the reputation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops by urging Brother to Jenky to take his meds. Dead silence. That’s when I knew that the logic of orthodoxy and a very un-American hyperpartisanship had seized the reins in my own church, and that it was up to lay Catholics to step forward and issue a corrective. God knows we’ve had a lot to defend over the last few years, but this was the last straw for me. Posting on TCF was my avenue for challenging that madness and now even that has been taken from me. That’s why I decided to set-up a Facebook page where that critique can get aired. Watch this space for further announcements.

  6. thinker1 on

    Ok, I get it. I have taught a course in a high school for many years that brought film, music, popular culture scripture and mimetic theory together. I think it was (I am retired as of May) the only high school course teaching Girard in the country. The question of whatever has happened to Gil is the question that we must ask of every conflict. How did he get to this place? And how do we fall into such an abyss? I have wondered about dementia to be honest,but I can tell you that even my weakest students would recognize the descent into mimetic chaos that we have watched. Is it a giant Andy Kaufman theatrical ploy? Really, I too listened to those tapes, read the book, allowed it to sink as I also heard the Gospel and watched the Gospel come alive with the Girardian lens. I guess- like all of you- I not only want to know why but somehow think a former mentor can regain what seemed to be great wisdom many years ago.

  7. Gordon on

    Ben, Doughlas, Thinker1,

    I was reading your comments wondering whether you’d even listened to Gil’s lectures from the 90’s, because I frankly don’t see the change; the only positions that have become more “conservative” are his views about the use of the historical-critical method in Biblical scholarship (which has precisely nothing to do with the use of the word “conservative” in politics and culture). The Q&A sessions at the ends of his tapes sound just like the comboxes of recent years. But from his comment it’s clear Ben did listen, because he says it’s “no surprise” that Gil is a conservative, rather that he has become an “ardent partisan” of the Religious Right. And I still don’t know what he means by that. But if he is a shill, as Thinker1 says, who Gil is “shilling” for exactly?

    Somebody give me an example of something Gil said in his book or early lectures that is inconsistent with the positions he takes now.

    • thebentangle on

      This is from Dean Hansen:

      He hasn’t changed. That’s the whole point. He’s merely removed the mask he was wearing and revealed that lurking beneath the genial public demeanor was an irretrievably odious form of rigid Catholicism discarded by the majority of the laity and which he labored to disguise or avoid altogether in his public discussions until the last 6 or 7 years. He’s a shill to orthodoxy. But he wanted to get as many people into the tent first before closing the flap. This only sounds cruel if you were lead to believe he was offering something more robust and liberating than a snarky and endless homophobic rant or a redundant and offensive exposé of the evils of birth control. Couple that with his tendentious choice of far right writers, and he very quickly loses whatever credibility he had.

      • thinker1 on

        I listened to those tapes years ago and realize that there was a firm conservative Catholic bent for the most part in those tapes. However, the pure nastiness and fury I have seen over the last few years is new. The name calling is new. The anti-science stuff is much more pronounced. There is little thought and much reaction that seems almost visceral. I really do not wish to listen to them again to confirm that things have always been the same. Just don’t want to be fascinated with it anymore. I know so many who have used his early work in a positive fashion. And I a familiar with many Girard followers who are baffled. Iam just a bit sad.

        • Gordon on

          Quote the nastiness you’re referring to. And by “anti-science” you’re not referring to his skepticism about the anthropogenic role in Climate Change?

          • thebentangle on

            Gordon, I can mark the moment when Gil stopped ranting about anthropogenic global warming (AGW). It was when I informed him that his position was inconsistent with that of Pope Benedict. After that, he was silent on the subject.

            Gil admired and promoted both Lord Monckton and Melanie Phillips, who were in the forefront of British AGW denialism. They have now been completely discredited and their following has almost disappeared.

            This says a lot about Gil. Just tell him that Ratzinger disagrees with him, and he quickly changes his position. He is in thrall to Papal authority and thus has no intellectual integrity.

            http://thebentangle.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/melanie-phillips-the-world-turned-upside-down/

            • Gordon on

              Doughlas,

              With all respect, you still don’t understand the nature of the Pope’s authority for Catholics — it’s matters of faith and practice, not science. Gil’s position hasn’t changed. The New York Times, on the other hand, was maintaining that global warming was going gangbusters when you and I were arguing the point in 2009, and now they publish articles about how funny it is that warming of the earth has stalled for the last 15 years (though I can only find the parallel article around the same time by the Economist: http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2013/06/climate-change )

              • Dean Hansen on

                Gordon,
                Comparing Gil’s unchanging dogma with systematic investigation of objective data using empiricism is a false equivalency. Data is not driven by creedal assertions but by observable facts. We should, in spite of minor quibbles to the contrary, act as though global warming is a real threat. The reason? We don’t have another planet on which to run the experiment. Scientists have not changed their position on global warming, but they are always willing to modify their data in order to build better models. Is climate change on hiatus? No. And neither, sadly, is the debate, save that the argument is over and the scientists have won. But if no one listens, it will make little difference. Brad Plumer warns against complacency when interpreting the latest data on global temperature: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/06/14/global-warming-appears-to-have-slowed-lately-thats-no-reason-to-celebrate/?wprss=rss_ezra-klein




                overview&list=UUCNPGGLOjdJuudzYK1f7D_w

              • thebentangle on

                Gordon, the last I heard, NASA, NOAA, and the U.S. Military all thought climate change was real. So did the world’s largest insurer, Munich Re. I think you’ll find that temperature anomalies have been increasing, even during the last 15 years. Check out the NASA site for a graph:
                http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus
                Also read about the melting of glaciers all over the world, and the rising sea levels.

                • Gordon on

                  Everybody thinks climate change is real. The question is how much man generated CO2 drives it. After all, climate changed during the Roman Warming and the Medieval Warming, just like the warming we’ve been in since the 18th century.

                  • Dean Hansen on

                    Gordon,
                    One of the most often cited arguments of those skeptical of global warming is that the Medieval Warm Period (800-1400 AD) was as warm as or warmer than today. Using this as proof to say that we cannot be causing current warming is a faulty notion based upon rhetoric rather than science. So what are the holes in this line of thinking?
                    Firstly, evidence suggests that the Medieval Warm Period may have been warmer than today in many parts of the globe such as in the North Atlantic. This warming thereby allowed Vikings to travel further north than had been previously possible because of reductions in sea ice and land ice in the Arctic. However, evidence also suggests that some places were very much cooler than today including the tropical pacific. All in all, when the warm places are averaged out with the cool places, it becomes clear that the overall warmth was likely similar to early to mid 20th century warming.
                    Since that early century warming, temperatures have risen well-beyond those achieved during the Medieval Warm Period across most of the globe.  The National Academy of Sciences Report on Climate Reconstructions in 2006 found it plausible that current temperatures are hotter than during the Medieval Warm Period.  Further evidence obtained since 2006 suggests that even in the Northern Hemisphere where the Medieval Warm Period was the most visible, temperatures are now beyond those experienced during Medieval times  (Figure 1).  This was also confirmed by a major paper from 78 scientists representing 60 scientific institutions around the world in 2013.
                    Secondly, the Medieval Warm Period has known causes which explain both the scale of the warmth and the pattern. It has now become clear to scientists that the Medieval Warm Period occurred during a time which had higher than average solar radiation and less volcanic activity (both resulting in warming). New evidence is also suggesting that changes in ocean circulation patterns played a very important role in bringing warmer seawater into the North Atlantic. This explains much of the extraordinary warmth in that region. These causes of warming contrast significantly with today’s warming, which we know cannot be caused by the same mechanisms.
                    Overall, our conclusions are:
                    a) Globally temperatures are warmer than they have been during the last 2,000 years, and
                    b) the causes of Medieval warming are not the same as those causing late 20th century warming.
                    
Figure 1: Northern Hemisphere Temperature Reconstruction by Moberg et al. (2005) shown in blue, Instrumental Temperatures from NASA shown in Red.

                    In climatology, as in any other science, establishing causation is more complicated than merely establishing an effect. However, there are a number of lines of evidence that have helped to convince climate scientists that the current global warming can be attributed to human greenhouse gas emissions (in particular CO2). Here are just some of them:

                    10 Indicators of a Human Fingerprint on Climate Change

                    The first four pieces of evidence show that humans are raising CO2 levels:

                    Humans are currently emitting around 30 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.
                    Oxygen levels are falling as if carbon is being burned to create carbon dioxide.
                    Fossil carbon is building up in the atmosphere. (We know this because the two types of carbon have different chemical properties.)
                    Corals show that fossil carbon has recently risen sharply.

                    Another two observations show that CO2 is trapping more heat:

                    Satellites measure less heat escaping to space at the precise wavelengths which CO2 absorbs.
                    Surface measurements find this heat is returning to Earth to warm the surface.

                    The last four indicators show that the observed pattern of warming is consistent with what is predicted to occur during greenhouse warming:

                    An increased greenhouse effect would make nights warm faster than days, and this is what has been observed.
                    If the warming is due to solar activity, then the upper atmosphere (the stratosphere) should warm along with the rest of the atmosphere. But if the warming is due to the greenhouse effect, the stratosphere should cool because of the heat being trapped in the lower atmosphere (the troposphere). Satellite measurements show that the stratosphere is cooling.
                    This combination of a warming troposphere and cooling stratosphere should cause the tropopause, which separates them, to rise. This has also been observed.
                    It was predicted that the ionosphere would shrink, and it is indeed shrinking.

                    • Gordon on

                      Doughlas, Did I say anything about the Medieval Period being warmer? No (though there most certainly have been warmer periods, and 65 million years ago it was ten times the current CO2 concentration). All I said was warming happens, so don’t pin that canard on skeptics.

                      Let’s be honest, temps have been moving up since the 1830’s, and CO2 concentrations started spiking when we just had a handful of coal burning plants. Nobody wants more science to figure out what’s happening than I do, but when I watch scientists hacking away at each other in all those science geek comboxes I still see the alarmists falling back on Ad Hominem, Dicto Simpliciter, Straw Man, a whole lot of confusing correlation with causation, etc. I’m not a scientist, but I understand how arguments work, and when one side continually slides into fallacious strategies and diversions my skepticism remains intact.

                      The bottom line is temps haven’t followed the old Global Warming models very well, therefore we need better models before we shut down the economy and starve millions of poor people. I just saw a paper about the massive and unexpected reforestation that’s happened in the last ten years, and it seems that might explain the lack of temp growth. CO2, i.e. “plant food,” seems to have generated it’s own sink. Another theory is that fluorocarbons were an unexpectedly large driver of higher temps and that their removal (per the 1987 bill Reagan signed) slowed down the warming.

                      The stuff you site is very interesting. I hope we get a handle on what’s happening, and then make sober judgments that don’t kill half the world.

                  • Dean Hansen on

                    Gordon,

                    Apparently the evidence of your own senses is not sufficient to dissuade you. Since you seem more interested in disputing facts than embracing them, what can I say that wont antagonize you into further resistance? By the way, this is Dean, not Doughlas. When scientists are alarmed about something, I pay more attention then usual because my default position is not to assume that they’re either wrong, or that they’re lying to me, or that they’re attempting to conduct an international hoax on the basis of some unnamed ulterior motive in order to gamble their reputations on a fraud. In spite of the recent attempt by skeptics to undermine the credibility of climate science, they have failed. Personally, I’m not a big fan of international conspiracies or the notion of purposeful deceit from people who are trained in observational science to tell the truth about what they’re measuring. These are serious, dedicated, well-trained, hard working people. They collaborate with one another. They share findings, both good and bad. They argue with one another. They fight among themselves. But one thing stands out sharply: They are in a broad consensus on global warming since the 1970’s and nothing has reversed that trend. Whatever disagreements they have with one another are incidental and irrelevant compared to their alarm about what we are doing as a species to the planet. If you can’t shake off your skepticism enough to be moved by the increase in weather anomalies ranging from hurricanes, floods, draughts, heat waves, melting ice caps, displaced species and dying oceans to be convinced, what is the purpose of this conversation? You said “everybody knows that climate change is real”. Do you? And yet you claim to be skeptical that the causes are anthropogenic. What if we enact restrictions on carbon output, and the climate returns to homeostasis? What will you say then? As I said before, we are in the test tube. We are conducting the experiment, and we will experience its results. What other planet will you evacuate the earth’s population to if the experiment fails? We have one chance to get it right. Erring on the side of caution is far less prohibitive in terms of cost than losing everything.

                    Statements like “let’s be honest with each other” don’t inspire much confidence in me that you’re even listening when you’re not being dismissive or suggesting that anyone who disagrees with you is lying or deceitful. I am being honest with you. You say that “You’re not a scientist” but somehow, you know when scientists are pulling the wool over your eyes?

                    Current technology is sufficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to avoid dangerous climate change, which can be accomplished without significant impact on the economy. In order to avoid dangerous global warming, we need to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by about 50% by the year 2050. Skeptics often make the argument that we simply don’t have the technology necessary to reduce emissions this much, this quickly.

                    Pacala and Socolow (2004) http://www.princeton.edu/mae/people/faculty/socolow/Science-2004-SW-1100103-PAPER-AND-SOM.pdf investigated this claim by examining the various technologies available to reduce GHG emissions. Every technology they examined “has passed beyond the laboratory bench and demonstration project; many are already implemented somewhere at full industrial scale.” The study used the concept of a “stabilization wedge”, in which “a wedge represents an activity that reduces emissions to the atmosphere by a certain amount.The study identifies 15 current options which could be scaled up to produce at least one wedge:

                    Improved fuel economy

                    Reduced reliance on cars

                    More efficient buildings

                    Improved power plant efficiency

                    Substituting natural gas for coal

                    Storage of carbon captured in power plants

                    Storage of carbon captured in hydrogen plants

                    Storage of carbon captured in synthetic fuels plants

                    Nuclear power

                    Wind power

                    Solar photovoltaic power

                    Renewable hydrogen

                    Biofuels

                    Forest management

                    Agricultural soils management

                    This is not an exhaustive list, and there are other possible wedges, such as other renewable energy technologies they did not consider. The study notes that “Every one of these options is already implemented at an industrial scale and could be scaled up further over 50 years to provide at least one wedge.” Implementing somewhere between 7 and 14 wedges would be necessary to avoid dangerous climate change.

                    • Gordon on

                      Sorry, Dean, I thought it was Doughlas picking up an old argument we had back in 2009. I’m really not interested in carrying this conversation right now. I’ve been following the science about this for about 12 years, starting on the side of climate alarm, and it’s clear that the anthropogenic element — so far at least — is coming in at the low end of every predictive model, making the imposition of CO2 restrictions primarily a tax on the poor by rich Westerners in search of new ways to assuage their free-floating guilt. And, no, as long as the poor suffer inordinately I will not consider this some neutral attempt to avoid a possible negative outcome. Bjorn Lomborg, who is far more alarmed by CO2 than I am, makes an argument that no one’s successfully contradicted: Kyoto style CO2 restrictions will re-impoverish the billion or so people barely crawling out of misery, and millions will die. Maybe tens of millions. The worst case according to the IPCC reports is 50 to 140 thousand. On top of that, the wealth creation allowed by fossil fuels allows us to massively fund science. As long as we keep doing that, 50 to 100 years from now we’ll almost certainly have the ability to shift to lower CO2 power sources without killing the weak and poor, and I’ll be on board 100% — from the grave.

                      That the effect of carbon restrictions on the poor isn’t taken seriously by most players in the Environmental Movement is a reflection of their common belief that man is a disease, that fewer human beings is a good result.

                      “What if we enact restrictions on carbon output, and the climate returns to homeostasis? What will you say then?”

                      What on earth does homeostasis mean in terms of earth science? There is no normal. Most of human history of took place during glacial expansions, so is a new ice age our normal? During most of the earth’s history temps were much higher CO2 much more abundant: are you talking the average in earth history?

                      That said, unless you have something new to offer, save this for somebody else. I’ve got three projects on my desk and they don’t involve CO2.

                    • thebentangle on

                      Gordon, thanks for participating in the discussion for as long as you choose to do so. As I have stated many times before, I’m not interested in trying to change my interlocutor’s mind, and I realize how slim are the chances that I could change yours. My goal is to provide a forum for these conversations if you want to have them. Their real value, in my view, is that they are there for others to read and ponder.

                    • Ben Boyce on

                      OMG, how did this site devolve into debating a catastrophic climate change denial discussion!? We are deep into the tin-foil hat territory. As for me, this is a pretty simple question to resolve. In a matter of scientific predictions, I’m going with the 99+% of the internationally recognized climate scientists and their professional societies. QED.
                      Ben

                    • thebentangle on

                      Ben, this subject came up because, several years ago, Gil was channeling Lord Monckton and Melanie Phillips on climate change. Now, almost no one listens to them, and Lord Monckton was recently escorted out of a science conference on AGW because he is not a scientist and had no business there. (He is a purveyor of opinions, but not facts.) Gil has dropped the subject, as far as I have observed, and he initially did so after I pointed out to him that Pope Benedict had installed solar panels at the Vatican and was supporting the carbon-reduction programs of several Western countries. As you may know, there are now 14 “deadly sins,” and one of them is environmental degradation. This didn’t exactly fit with the right-wing AGW denialism that Gil was involved in. Gordon Savage is still in the do-nothing camp.

                  • thebentangle on

                    Gordon, human activity is dumping about 80 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every day, and the atmosphere is only a thin shell around the earth—so thin, in fact, that a runner could cover the distance in about an hour.

                    The effects of CO2 are extremely easy to replicate in a lab. You could even do it at home. Take two large jars, place thermometers in them, screw the lids on, and punch a hole in only one of the lids. Insert a tube into that jar and inject some CO2. Then place a heat lamp over the jars. You will see from the thermometer that the temperature in the jar with the added CO2 is higher than that of the other jar.

                    CO2 traps heat.

                    This is why global warming is anthropogenic. And Dean is right. We cannot afford to continue pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Safe levels are below 300 ppm. We are now at about 380 ppm.

                    Here’s an experiment similar to the one I described:

                    • Gordon on

                      I can get you Dick Lindzen’s address at M.I.T. — I’m sure he’d love to have you explain CO2 to him as well.

                      Seriously, Doughlas and Dean, I’ve read dozens of books on both sides of the subject over more than a decade. I check in on every new study I hear about. I’m not interested in trying to change your mind, nor do I want the basics of a complex subject explained to me again. Let’s just move on to other subjects.

                    • Dean Hansen on

                      Gordon,

                      I don’t feel the slightest bit of guilt about human stupidity. Neither do I begrudge those who feel charged not only with stewardship over the lives of the impoverished but also have a broader vision for the health of the planet as a whole. But I must confess to feeling genuinely dumbfounded at how political and religious ideology can be substituted for data about pressing issues when delays have predictable and outrageous consequences far more burdensome than the ones you’re outlining. Does your concern that the poor are suffering inordinately translate into allowing vastly greater numbers to join them by sustaining them with the very technologies that are compromising all of our lives? If sequestration of carbon were instituted as quickly as sequestration of congress, we’d be well on our way to a solution by now and the transition would be even less painful along with the added benefit of shutting up James Inhofe and his flat earth comrades in the Senate. The fossil fuel industry is much more inclined to fund lobbyist protection in Congress than science projects that would transfer wealth away from them.

                      What they’re all saying in effect is that we are passengers on the 27th car of the train whose wreck we’re witnessing, and that there are more urgent and pressing problems to concern ourselves with than the fact the the bridge is washed out ahead. The problem with the analogy is that we can’t bail. If the train goes into the gorge, we all go with it.

                      At this moment, it is estimated that between 650 and 760 people have died in Britain as a result of temperature related problems from a sustained heat wave. And yet the temperatures in Britain have been rather balmy compared to various areas in the United States. When you convert from Celsius, the highs have usually ranged only in the upper 80’s. Hardly alarming, by our standards, yes? But when you factor in that less than one half of one percent of the population has air conditioning, compared to 87 percent in the United States, you begin to see the problem. Air Conditioning is not good for the environment, and yet people die without it. Factor into the death toll the fact that people are not used to the hotter sustained temperatures in Britain caused by a warming planet, and you begin to realize that the bind they are in will not be solved by creating more carbon based energy grids whose turbines run on fuel oil and petroleum. It is the impoverished nations that are the real canary in the coal mine, and they will take the brunt of global warming ahead of the rest of us, and without the added technological advantages the rest of us have, they will die more quickly, but we will most assuredly follow them if we exacerbate the problem with more false solutions, detours and bandaids.

                      Sorry, but we don’t have a hundred years to make this transformation. All these conferences in Copenhagen, Bonn, Warsaw and elsewhere are essentially worthless. Twenty years ago scientists were arguing about potential dangers with estimates that are far beneath what has actually happened. Scientists are by nature conservative. This has re-written the book for them. Every expectation through the years has been shattered. And the climate is growing progressively more unstable and damaging year by year, with untold billions in property damage and lost life. The Co2 we are pumping into the atmosphere today will still be in the atmosphere one hundred years from now. So even if we take action now, we will bequeath a very ugly world to our grandchildren which they would certainly not wish on theirs. But we are also approaching a tipping point where millions of cubic tons of methane, which is 24 time more potent than Co2, will fill the air as the increasing temperatures melts the vast stores of permafrost around the world in which it is locked. Following on the heels of that disaster, and most likely triggered by it, comes the disruption of the thermohaline cycle. And that’s extremely bad news.

                      Homeostasis means a stable equilibrium for human life. From my perspective, that means living within a range of livable temperatures that don’t kill the elderly, melt the icecaps, destroy land based ecosystems, raise the sea level and acidify the oceans, inundate coastal cities, destroy marine life and coral reefs, dry up water supplies and aquifers, all of which ultimately lead to global starvation and war on a mass scale. That’s what I mean by homeostasis: A condition of living that doesn’t impose those burdens on people and that allow us to collectively thrive.

                      In WWII, we feared that Hitler would get the bomb. What did we do? We panicked. We developed the Manhattan Project and turned a sleepy desert village in New Mexico into a large city. We developed sites around the nation to develop centrifuges, nuclear materials, storage facilities, chemical laboratories, industrial magnets, lensing materials and cyclotrons, electrical generating plants, and housing for several thousand people. Hundreds of companies participated. One of the costliest projects ever undertaken by human ingenuity in the history of mankind. In a short 2 1/2 years we had the bomb. We worked very hard, concentrated our energy our effort and our collective know how, and found a better, faster, easier way to kill large numbers of people simultaneously. Perhaps someday, we’ll find out if Einstein was prescient when he announced, after witnessing films of the first explosion, that “all men are now brothers”. At this point, it still seems too early to tell.

                      How about a Manhattan Project aimed at saving the planet? In today’s dollars, we’re talking about 30 billion spent over two and a half years, as opposed to Kyoto which ranges upwards to 150 billion and promises little results for major expenditures. We won’t be fighting Germany this time, or Nazism, we’ll be fighting darker and more invisible dangers: insouciance, apathy, cluelessness, political and international paralysis and skepticism, but the prize is a big one: We save our collective necks and develop or improve technologies which we can use forever. We research Graphene, carbon nano-tube electrical storage, hydrogen storage, methane sequestration, thermal technology, desalination technology, high efficiency solar panels, and a hundred other things in a concerted effort to ward off the inevitable.

                      It’s also important to remember that the United States was extremely isolationist during most of the war. While we wasted precious time wondering about the cost of our entrance into the conflict, millions of Jews died at the hands of the Nazi’s because we found convenient excuses for not wanting to get involved. Then came Pearl Harbor.

                      What will our Pearl Harbor be, Gordon? And how many of them will we need? Another Katrina or Sandy? A continuation of the Texas drought that has forced ranchers to sell off large herds of cattle rather than watching them die in the sun next to dried-up water reservoirs? Or maybe more mega floods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan? Malaria and insect borne diseases which kill a million people a year and become more prevalent as temperatures rise? How about another major heatwave in Russia that killed 10,000 in 2010, or the 50,000 killed in France and Italy in 2003? Or crop failures in Russia, Queensland or Germany? What’s your pleasure?

                      Climate-change disasters kill around 300,000 people a year and cause about $125 billion in economic losses, mainly from agriculture, a think-tank led by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan reported recently. That’s one Kyoto a year, minus the necessary voting. That’s quite a steep price to pay on letting the poor, much less anyone else, suffer inordinately.

                      Sorry I couldn’t avoid the temptation of answering your latest post. First, I’ve spent most of the day working on a response. Unlike you, I’m a sad and lonely man with no other projects on my desk, save possibly, for learning how to catch flies in mid-air with my tongue. The best way to stop me, of course, is not to answer this one. Otherwise, I’ll assume the conversation is ongoing. If it’s not, silence is your best answer.
                      Dean

  8. Gordon on

    Dean, What mask? I don’t see anything different about his ideas in the 90’s. He sees gay marriage as part of what he called then “the crisis of undifferentiation.” Agree or not, it’s there. True “rigid orthodox” catholics would find your characterization of Gil ludicrous, since they consider his embracing of von Balthasar’s view that the hope for universal salvation is essential to the faith itself heretical.

    • thebentangle on

      Gay marriage is a part of the “crisis of indifferentiation?” How so? Gay marriage gives us MORE differentiation, not less. The word “marriage” now has an added descriptor: “same-sex.” If it’s wrong to tamper with the word “marriage,” then the Catholic Church has been an egregious offender. After all, the Church is the “bride” of Christ, and nuns are “married” to Jesus.

      One of the problems with the “old regime” of traditional marriage coupled with exclusion of gays and lesbians was that things got “all mixed up,” so to speak. Homosexuals couldn’t marry each other, so they married persons of the opposite sex, creating unstable and divorce-prone marriages. Now, post-DOMA, we have a solution: Gays marry gays. This is differentiation at its finest and best. Fewer divorces, more happiness, less stress, less conflict and misunderstanding. What’s not to like about that?

      • Gordon on

        Doughlas,

        Adding categories is not the same thing as maintaining social difference. And, in any case, social difference is not necessarily aided by more complex differentiation. For example, those traditional societies that are pointed to as possessing names and social roles for the transgendered and gay are also divided by class and caste (India, for example). And while they have “special” social roles, those roles don’t include things like being a teacher or a banker. They don’t involve being respected as equal.

        The secularization that the Judeo-Christian tradition set in motion rips apart the arbitrary differences that archaic religion used for order. As they should, since most are unjust. That’s where it conflicts with rigid traditionalism. But it respects and seeks out social contours built on natural difference. Marriage becomes a simpler institution, no longer about keeping rival families from fighting, more and more about the nurture of new life and two people of different sex respecting each other as equals. And its also one from which you and I both emerged, being one of the central social institutions. Friendship is another. The integrity of one’s body and the right to property other. They should be few, but certain — albeit open to continual refinement.

        But the fewer the social differences, the more essential their integrity. Take away the right to property and some very ugly things begin to happen, quickly. My reading of Gil is that something ugly is already happening to generations of kids raised out of wedlock (how many prisoners had a loving father, or any father?). His alarm is over the continued breakdown of marriage and family as it affects children. I agree with him about that.

        My own view is that we should be constructing the social institution of gay partnership as a genus of friendship — that’s after all the classic Greek argument for the superiority of gay partnering, in the classic Platonic scheme, friendship being higher than biological coupling. This would have no effect on heterosexual marriage and have it’s own space to develop its own distinct rules. You’d have had a vast majority of both conservatives and Catholics on board from the start, instead of this ridiculous conflict that is really over the family, not homosexuality.

        • thebentangle on

          Gordon,

          Sorry for the delayed response. I was busy getting married.

          I would certainly agree that the breakdown of the family is a very serious matter. Until recently, there were few opportunities for gays and lesbians to form families, and now we are finally doing so. It is a cause for celebration. As one who was once NOT part of a vibrant family but now is, I can attest to the remarkable health and social benefits that come with being connected in loving and secure family relationships. Last week, after living together for 13 years as “partners,” my husband and I exchanged our vows before about one hundred of our friends and family members in a Unitarian service. It was a powerful experience of community that no one should be denied the opportunity to have.

          This week, we have been repeatedly asked, “Do you ‘feel’ married now?” And the answer is emphatically “yes.” We are no longer strangers at the gates. We have been invited in to sit at the table.

          It’s about social cohesion. Marriage is indeed, as you say, one of the central social institutions, and we value it very highly because we know what it’s like to be denied it. My husband’s family are now my “in-laws,” and all of us, on both sides, are stronger for the connections that we made last week. A week later (yesterday), my husband’s brother was married, and again, two large families came together.

          What my husband and I share is much more than friendship. We both have many friends, but between him and me there is now a solemn commitment to love, honor and protect each other through good times and bad. The sexual bond strengthens and deepens the bond of friendship.

          I am baffled that anyone ever thought this was a bad idea.

          • Gordon on

            Doughlas,

            Congratulations to you and your partner. I wish you both the best.

            And I don’t consider it, to quote you, a “bad idea;” what I do consider a bad idea is changing the definition of heterosexual marriage at a time when it’s already in crisis, rather than creating a new space to develop a set of norms for gay union. 

I understand the need to be seen as equal. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in the South in a largely gay subculture: among show people who Wintered in Florida. They were older gays who joined the shows in the 30‘s and 40’s when that was one of the few places they were welcome. I saw the ridicule and intimidation, and for me growing up it was a civil rights issue just like race.

            I have been close to gay men and women my whole life, so my contention that gay sexual desire (I’m not talking about love) is not identical with the straight version is not something I got out of a book. Nor is it something I consider negative: it’s altogether likely that the dramatically greater tendency toward serial relationships will make gay marriage more difficult, hence more self-sacrificial. And I believe that will lead to great gifts to the world.

But I think you have to start with the fact that your clearly faithful and monogamous relationship is extraordinary. Not because gay men are inherently more promiscuous but simply because gay desire is more restless than hetero. Why? Well, sort that out and we’ll take the next step.

            • thebentangle on

              Gordon,

              The definition of heterosexual marriage hasn’t actually been changed. Heterosexual marriage is intact and separate from (but equal to) homosexual marriage.

              I would heartily agree that gay sexual desire is not identical with the straight version. Vive la différence! No one can know for sure how many gay married couples are monogamous, but the same is true of straight married couples. And when we talk of “gay married couples,” let’s not forget that roughly half of them are lesbian ones.

              I’m not sure how extraordinary my own relationship is. I have no way of knowing for sure. My married gay friends—male and female—are monogamous as far as I know. But that’s really their business, and, again, I think it is both futile and intrusive to “require” as a condition of marriage that the partners be absolutely faithful to each other, though that is, in my own opinion, a desirable standard.

              If, as you claim, gay desire is more “restless” than hetero desire, then surely vows of monogamy will have a calming effect.

      • Gordon on

        I say this as a straight man, so take it for what it’s worth, but I find it supremely ironic that the Catholic Church’s position, that homosexuals should be protected from persecution, accepted insofar as their “condition” is not a moral failure, but encouraged to live celibate lives, might be best fulfilled by embracing monogamous commitment. That statement is entirely reliant on the insistence of many of my gay friends that serial sexual encounters are inherent to same-sex attraction and that gay marriages are for the most part celibate when the initial attraction wears off. I suspect that there is truth to that, but it’s not the whole truth. But that gets to my point, this should be a discussion about creating a loving and moral structure for these particular relationships, not a redefinition of marriage that dilutes the already crumbling institution of marriage (when I hear activists suggesting that gay marriage will help straights learn how to stay together while having multiple partners I want to pull my hair out. That plays into Gil’s worst case scenario).

        • thebentangle on

          Gordon, I am aware that some gay men enjoy serial sexual encounters, but the same is true of some straight men. Lesbians and straight women, on the other hand, tend to prefer monogamy. The important thing is that we not exclude entire classes of people from marriage just because “some” of their members occasionally seek sex on the side. This has been going on since time began.

          I’m not aware of any evidence to support the notion that gay marriages between men “are for the most part celibate when the initial attraction wears off,” although the author of the recent Atlantic Monthly article about gay marriage coined the term “lesbian bed death” to describe what she had observed among lesbian couples. I don’t think it’s true of gay men, at least not beyond the usual pattern of heterosexual relations, where the first few months are marked by heightened sexual excitement, easing gradually toward a less consuming passion in the months and years that follow.

          I don’t know quite what to make of your concern about the integrity of remaining social differences. Which social differences are you talking about? Do you mean between “married” and “unmarried?” Or between “straight” and “gay,” “straight marriage and gay marriage?” I didn’t understand your point.

          Gay men and lesbians have been an underclass for the better part of the last two millennia. Do you think it is important that they remain so?

  9. Dean Hansen on

    Gordon,
    It is precisely the ease with which some Catholics stipulate unconstrained salvation as heretical that defines them as rigid and fuels the cognitive dissonance between Gil’s seemingly generous hope for universal salvation and his contrary willingness to spurn and censure people whom he still manages to believe God will bestow it upon. How he walks the tightrope between a “grace unearned” and “people spurned” is beyond me. I don’t consider the concept of universal salvation as heretical, but as a beautiful hope beyond human failing or expectation.

    The mask, which you claim not to see, is an expression of his public persona being in obvious conflict with his private self, and the private self, for the time being, seems to have won. I think many of Gil’s views have been couched in Girardian language as a means of obscuring some ugly biases which he has only recently fully revealed. Or if you prefer, unveiled. He’s maintained the semantic taxonomy but turned his back on the spirit of the ideas. We all wear ideological blinders, Gordon. I’m not different than anyone else in that sense, and I certainly don’t enjoy beating up on someone I used to like. But whatever interest I had in Girardian anthropology has been largely undermined by Gil commandeering it for his own purposes and then extorting principles from it by inference as a means of distancing himself from whatever societal pressures make him feel resentful or insecure. This is rather interesting coming from someone who has declared that resentment is “the constituent dynamic of our age.” Nothing he has said or done lately has made the gospel more believable, or brought it into better focus as a result of using Girard as a hermeneutical lens. He’s generally too busy recoiling in horror at the world as it is to recognize that the clemency he embraces undermines his condemnations and shaming of those for whom it was granted. Regarding Girard, I speak only for myself, and am not trying to dissuade anyone else who may finds those teachings useful or important. It took me many years to develop this view. I simply don’t need a discursive philosophical argument about sin to know what sin is. Nor do I feel comfortable when people who have hidden themselves within the euphemistic protection of overly large words suddenly unwrap their true feelings, and then use the same words as a cover for their continuing prejudices.

    Waving the Girardian wand is not the equivalent of casting a binding potion. No one likes having their lives summarily dismissed or catalogued by every ideologue who imagines he’s discovered the perfect formula for exposing the purposes and meanings of sexual identity, rivalry, human depravity, or this or that founding principle of language or anthropology. Invoking terms like “meta-desire”, the “crisis of undifferentiation” and “mimetic triangulation” doesn’t help vast numbers of believers to understand why Christ died for them, why we suffer, or why we die, much less how we get on with our lives. The more Gil talks about scapegoating, the more fuel he willfully creates to further its use. I expect the teacher to know the lessons better than the student. In this case, according to the Eastern proverb, the student was ready, but the teacher didn’t arrive, or decided to be AWOL during roll call. Girard’s theory carries within it the seeds of its own abuse when it’s used in this way by those who claim to be its disciples.

  10. Gordon on

    Dean: Invoking terms like “meta-desire”, the “crisis of undifferentiation” and “mimetic triangulation” doesn’t help vast numbers of believers to understand why Christ died for them, why we suffer, or why we die, much less how we get on with our lives.

    Me: By all means help them understand these things. Go through the doors Girard and Gil opened then let your conscience lead you to particular gifts you have to share with the world. The most important move I ever made was to forgive my parents for being human. Forgiveness is liberating.

  11. thebentangle on

    To all: If a “reply” button doesn’t appear after a comment, it is because the maximum number of nested comments is 10, and WordPress will not allow me to set it higher. So if you wish to reply to a level-10 comment, just leave a new level-1 comment and identify the comment that prompted it.

    Also, the spam filter places any comment with two or more links on hold for moderation. I’ll change that to three.


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