Monday, December 04, 2017

Hmm …

… Science vs. Religion: Travels in the Great American Divide | Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Pete and his family are practicing Mennonites, a Christian denomination that runs from highly conservative—Old Order Mennonites share many practices with the Amish—to more modern. Traditionally, the more conservative Mennonites reject climate change, but Pete is part of a nascent Mennonite progressive movement embracing conservation and sustainability.
Maybe the conversation could proceed better if we all started by getting our terms straight. Take this phrase: "… the more conservative Mennonites reject climate change." Do they really deny that climate changes? Do they really believe that it is static? Does anyone? The current debate seems to center on the direction climate change is taking. But the debate gets muddied by references to Earth's climate. Earth, of course, has several climates. You will recall those terms arctic, tropical, and temperate. I feel pretty certain that human activity is a factor to be considered, and serves to explain why the Holocene epoch we are living in has lasted longer than other, similar epochs that punctuated the 2 million years of the Pleistocene. But I suspect that geologic and astronomical factors (the Sun, the Sun!) will prove more decisive in the long run. 
As for the science vs. religion debate, I think there is much to be said for Stephen Jay Gould's notion of non-overlapping magisteria. But then I think that poetry is a way of knowing every bit as valid as science — and wider ranging, too.


  1. I agree that 'climate change' is used incorrectly far too often. However, it's becoming commonly adopted to mean 'manmade climate change', and we'll just have to see if the shorthand sticks. Most of us do actually realise what is meant. And language, like climate, changes.

  2. A change from an exact meaning (the sort one woukd want when it comes to science) to one so imprecise as to border on deception is not the sort of change one can regard as beneficial to language

  3. Exact meaning is exactly what the majority of users accept it to be -- consensus. 'Beneficial to language' makes no sense.

  4. Perhaps I should clarify this: 'Beneficial to language' makes no sense.

    An exact use of language can benefit communication, understanding and analysis, etc. but not language per se.

  5. I’m with Eliot on this:
    Since our concern was speech, and speech impelled us
    To purify the dialect of the tribe
    And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight …