Sunday, June 28, 2015

El Rushbo Blows It On Atheism, Pantheism & the Pope's Science Advisor

"El Rushbo" fulminates in the midst of a brain fart.

transcript of a recent Rush Limbaugh show obtained by one writer was entitled “The Pope’s ‘Science Advisor’ Is an Atheist Who Worships the Earth,” which began:
My friends, not one to let things go, I have dug deep, and I have found out practically everything there is to know about the science advisor to Pope Francis on this encyclical. And the main thing you need to know, the guy’s an atheist.”
Of course we know, especially from one University of Minnesota (2006) survey by Penny Edgell that atheists are living slime, the next thing to Islamic terrorists and hence evil, and therefore their judgment can’t be trusted. One could as well trust a radical Muslim.  Given Limbaugh's limited intellect, exposed when he tried to go against Sandra Fluke, this is what we know about this overstuffed hog.

Limbaugh then attempts to deliver a mini-lecture on different religious beliefs and blows it with one brain fart. He blabs:

 “the word for it in the story that I found, one of the most credible stories, is a pantheist, which is a variation of atheist.”

Actually, no, you dope. Pantheism holds that nature and deity are bound up as one entity – most often either as a single oneness, or in terms of the regularities of natural laws. Thus, when one worships nature one worships God, or when one appreciates natural regularities – evinced in natural laws- one is indirectly worshipping God.

In terms of crude or unrefined pantheism, the totality of the universe, its energy and all relevant fields are equated to a “divinity”. This is, when one thinks about it, merely a mammoth expansion and extrapolation of Sun worship. Instead of worshipping one immediate celestial body, one is worshipping all of them as a collective.

A much more subtle form is natural law Pantheism which received much attention after Einstein referred to it as “Spinoza’s God”. When pressed to explain himself, Einstein went on to aver he didn’t believe in a personal God, but rather “Spinoza’s God, the order and harmony of all that exists.” In other words, the principle of regularity of natural law at work in the cosmos elevated to a kind of impersonal deity. However, it’s wise not to read too much into this, and it clearly doesn’t come across as anything to be worshipped!

By contrast, the implicit atheist withholds belief in a deity pending adequate evidence being forthcoming. He isn't trying to "dodge" anything, and certainly wouldn't be asking for evidence if he regarded a divine entity as linked to "impossibility of knowledge". The explicit atheist by contrast, rejects outright all deity claims.

Limbaugh also errs by asserting that a “pantheist is somebody that believes the earth is a living organism that has the equivalent of a brain and reacts to horrible things done to it by humans,” and that in this view “the earth becomes the deity and there is no God.

But this is in conflict with the previous definition and also confuses pantheists with those who believe in Gaia. (The concept of a self-regulating Earth)  Gaia theory is a hypothesis formulated by the chemist James Lovelock and co-developed by the microbiologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970s, that proposed that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a self-regulating, complex system that contributes to maintaining the conditions for life on the planet. The philosopher Michael Ruse notes in 2013 that “as science, Gaia never really made it, but it has provoked important scientific work nonetheless. The world as a whole, its homeostasis or lack of it, is interesting, important, and worthy of investigation,” More to the point, even if Gaia theory hasn’t been accepted by most scientists, say like Continental Drift theory, the generic discipline of Earth Systems Science flourishes.

Limbaugh’s minor mental excavations actually raise more questions than answers. Does the Pope’s science advisor, Hans Schellnhuber, really believe that the Earth is a living organism like you or me — or God? And if he does, does it matter? Do only atheists believe in anthropogenic global warming? If so, how does El Rushbo explain someone like Katharine Hayhoe, an Evangelical Christian who “believes her religious faith obligates her to spread the word about climate change”?  Limbaugh should really worry more about her because she has the power to change Christian minds. Christians certainly aren’t going to be swayed by an evil atheist pantheist.

However, given Limbaugh can't even distinguish between atheists and pantheists it more than makes sense that he'd  make no effort to understand how an Evangelical Christian could believe that “among climate scientists, people who spend their lives researching our world, there’s no debate regarding the reality of climate change and the fact that humans are the primary cause.”  Given the magnitude of cognitive dissonance it would sow in El Rushbo's sclerotic brain,  it's little wonder the porker doesn’t even mention the fact that she’s a Christian. It turns out that just mentioning her on his show was enough to discredit her, though; Gingrich subsequently cut her chapter out of his (climate change) book completely.

For a sane and rational person - which clearly El Rushbo is not - a  charitable reading of Schellnhuber would lead him to conclude that the papal advisor is not shilling for a new religion. He’s using Gaia as a metaphor to help him understand the issue. Schellnhuber also says that this “hotly debated ‘geophysiological’ approach to Earth-system analysis argues that the biosphere contributes in an almost cognizant way to self-regulating feedback mechanisms that have kept the Earth’s surface environment stable and habitable for life.” Perhaps Rushbo didn't notice that Schellnhuber uses scare quotes to describe Lovelock’s idea of studying the Earth’s “body.” He also utilizes metaphorical language again when he says that the Earth acts in an almost cognizant manner. That is, almost but not really.

Can El Rushbo make the distinction? Why would he if he can't even tell a pantheist from an atheist? The man's drug-addled brain is so bereft of its moorings and rational bearings it would be like trying to train an ape to grasp differential calculus applied to Moon rockets.

Never mind El Rushbo's mental deficiencies, it’s clear that the Earth system science that people like Schellnhuber and others invoke makes generous use of metaphors both to understand the issue of global climate change and to communicate this understanding to the rest of us. Whether it’s called “Gaia” or “God’s creation,” it’s a poetic metaphor that has the power to motivate us to make the necessary changes because it shows how much we’re actually invested in it.

Alas, right wing trolls like Limbaugh will never make such investment because it's not in their interest to do so. Apart from the fact they lack the mental wherewithal to be able to do so to any substantive level.

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