mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Monday, January 31, 2005

If you are for a rational environmental policy, you must be a crazy Christian..

Cliff May on NRO's The Corner is wondering how to respond to Bill Moyer's rant (reg required, BugMeNot for the paranoid). Moyers claims that the environment is in deep trouble because there are lots of Christians, and Christians don't care about the environment because they believe that the decline of the environment means the second coming of Christ, AKA the Rapture, is here.

Bill uses some specious reasoning here. He says "several million" Christians believe in the Rapture, and there are a bunch of Repubs who get high ratings from Christian groups, implying that all Repubs who get props from Christian groups must be pro-Rapture and thus against the environment.

Now, I'm not the person to debate far-Right Christianity - I'm a Catholic, and not a very devout one. The Rapture isn't something that, as far as I know, we believe in, and you can find lots of pro-environment Catholics.

But the misdirection that Bill uses - a few million Christians equals the whole Republican party - happens in other places in the article. The one that hit me is this quote:

I read the news just this week and learned how the Environmental Protection Agency had planned to spend $9 million -- $2 million of it from the administration's friends at the American Chemistry Council -- to pay poor families to continue to use pesticides in their homes. These pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children, but instead of ordering an end to their use, the government and the industry were going to offer the families $970 each, as well as a camcorder and children's clothing, to serve as guinea pigs for the study.

I knew the whole EPA thing was blown out of proportion. Snopes has the facts on it. When the story first broke, it gave the impression that the EPA was paying $970 to poor families to expose them to chemicals, not to study people who are already exposed. By rehashing this, Bill brings back that false impression. But if you look at what he's really saying, it doesn't make much sense. He's complaining that the EPA is studying the effect of a chemical instead of banning it, and that those evil chemical companies are behind it all. Of course, what Bill wants is to ban the pesticide without studying it, which isn't very scientific. And if the chemical industry is backing the study, they must feel that there is a good chance that it isn't as dangerous as thought, or it wouldn't be banned. And even if a ban would save lives, it would have negative effects - on growers, on people who buy the produce made with the pesticides, and on those who work in the industry.

In college, I took Environmental Economics, taught by a priest who is pretty well cited in the field. Oddly enough, he never mentioned the Rapture. He did, however, talk a lot about cost-benefit analysis, and the fact that human existence will always put some pressure on the environment, and that actions will in some way cost lives. The point of environmental economics is to decide what improvements can save the most lives and still allow for profitable human activity.

What Moyers does reminds me of people who blame economic problems on some evil Jewish banking cartel - using people's dislike of a certain religion, ie Christian Fundamentalists, and using it to squelch debate on a subject, the environment, that should be addressed with rational debate. It's the worst kind of debate - playing to stereotypes rather than addressing very real issues, ascribing to blind faith views that for most people are based in rational thought.


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