Wednesday, June 24, 2015
The Pope and the Pantheist
I was surprised to learn that Hans Schellnhuber is a scientific adviser to the Vatican.
He is a self professed atheist. Although he does not believe in God, he does believe in Mother Earth--or "Gaia," an evolved version of pantheism.
In the Gaia principle, Mother Earth is alive, and even some think aware in some ill-defined, mystical way of what is happening, or alleged to be happening in the environment.
Mother Earth, the Gaians believe, is aware of man and his activities, and frankly, not to happy with him.
Is the Pope aware that Schellnhuber is advising the Vatican? And is he aware of the beliefs Schellnhuber holds and advocates?
St. Francis of Assisi's hymn, "Laudato Si" (The Care For Our Common Home), spoke of "Brothers", Sun and Fire and "Sisters" Moon and Water, using these colorful phrases figuratively, as a way of praising God's Creation.
These words apparently touched Pope Francis in such a way that he named his recent encyclical after this hymn.
Most Catholics do not believe Pope Francis nor St. Francis took the words literally, nor do they think that either believe that fire was or is alive and can be reasoned with, or worse yet, worshiped.
It is strange, however, that an atheist who advocates Gaia and scientific pantheism would be advising the Vatican.
The Gaia principle was first advanced by chemist James Lovelock, who later back peddled a bit on the concept, and Lynn Margulis in the 1970s. They began by claiming that all life interacts with the Earth, and the Earth with all life, to form a giant self-regulating, living system, thus removing a need for the concept of a Creator God.
It is an evolved form of pantheism---God is in everything, therefore everything is God, simply stated.
I was close to this so-called "breakthrough" in the 1970s because I was a youth pastor in North Hollywood, CA and was holding regular Bible studies at a number of college and university campuses including UCLA, Cal State Northridge and others.
These guys were circulating through campuses across the country. And kids were buying in.
In 1999, Schellnhuber wrote in the "Nature" paper 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."
The Earth is living and has cognitive skills. It interacts with people, they say.
This belief includes the idea that rather than Earth's plate-tectonic processes creating earthquakes that effect human life, it's the other way around---life as we live it effects earthquakes.
The National Catholic Register is expressing concern regarding this kind of influence on the Vatican, particularly following the Pope's recent statements regarding climate change and the environment.
Again in 2004, Schellnhuber, writing in "Nature," said "mankind perturbs"...the global "metabolism" of the planet.
Again in 2009 he co-authored an article for the National Academy of Sciences with the theme of "global tipping points in climate change."
Among Schellnhuber's tipping points was a prediction that massive amounts of Greenland's ice would melt by 2015. The ice did not melt as predicted.
Tipping points to these folks are supposed moments when some doom which might have been avoided if some action was taken, is no longer possible to avoid because the action was not taken.
Usually a follow-up opportunity to take action is given when the tipping point does not actually occur as predicted.
Tipping points in global warming, a.k.a. climate change have come and gone for decades.
Political leaders, tyrants and religious cult leaders often use the same format to create the action they desire.
President Obama, at a San Francisco fundraiser the other night, followed the pattern to perfection.
He told the group gathered in a private home that within our children's lifetime, the oceans will rise "maybe two, maybe three, maybe four feet."
By 2300, he said the oceans could rise "10 to 16 feet."
Here's the closer: "The magnitude of the changes that could be taking place if we don't get a handle on this are irreversible."
Shellnhuber is perhaps most famous for once predicting that the "carrying capacity" of the earth was "below" 1 billion people. That's how I first became aware of him.
His gospel of doom through overpopulation had more credibility in crowed Los Angles than say North Dakota, and students I knew were being drawn in, discussing possible legislation that would limit each family to only one child, etc.
When later confronted with this, he simply called the people who were confronting him "liars," claiming he didn't actually say that.
In his interviews, articles and speeches, he has often included population control as the only viable means of saving the earth, however, he was very subtle and nuanced in the way it was presented.
Population control, he advocated, could best be achieved through sex education. His words strongly suggest he is advocating for birth control.
Birth control is something Pope Francis is strongly repudiating in his encyclical.
"The Stream" says this is confirmation bias.
They say, "Confirmation bias happens when a scientist manipulates an experiment so that he gets the outcome he hoped he would get. When Schellnhuber invites only believers in tipping-points-of-doom to characterize their guesses of this doom, his view is that the doom is real will be confirmed. And when he publishes a paper that says ' Scientists say world is doomed' the public and politicians believe it. Scientists skeptical of the doom are dismissed because they are skeptics."
" This isn't good science. It's really bad religion, and a pagan one at that," they say.
They conclude, "Given this, how likely is it that the Holy Father was fully aware of the views of the chief scientist who advised him?"
Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Vigilant.