Monday, April 2, 2007

Man Made Global Warming And Human Sacrifice

When I wrote a few days ago that the notion of man made global warming was hardly new, a thought occurred to me. Odd though it may may sound, I thought of ancient human sacrifice. Strange, I know, but I think you will have to agree that the purpose of sacrifice (affect global weather) led to the conduct (human sacrifice).

Consider the following passage hastily grabbed off of the net:

The Aztecs worshipped a war god called Huitzilopochtli, who took on the likeness of the sun over time. It was thought that in order to insure the sun's arrival each day, a steady supply of human hearts had to be offered in holy sacrifice (Hogg:43). They believed that the sun and earth had already been destroyed four times, and in their time of the 5th sun, final destruction would soon be upon them. In order to delay this dreadful fate, the practice of human sacrifice became a major element in Aztec society and livelihood (Meyer & Sherman:67).


Hogg, Garry. Cannibalism and Human Sacrifice. The Citadel Press, New York 1966.

Meyer, Michael C. and William L. Sherman. The Course of Mexican History. Oxford University Press, 5th ed. 1995.

What we see in this example is a people who are aware that without the sun their crops would fail and their people would die. Without the sun the temperature of the planet would rapidly drop, effectively killing all living things on this planet. Without the sun Earth would be a large, lifeless, frozen rock, hurtling through space.

The sun is important - very, very important - in determining the weather and temperature of this planet. Despite their limited understanding of their relationship to the sun, early man did understand how important the sun was to their survival.

So how does this fit with the concept of human sacrifice? In the Aztec culture, the wisest, most distinguished and respected members of their society - their tribal priests - warned the people of an impending doom. Their gods were angry with them. Their actions were upsetting "the gods" and if man did not do something to appease their gods, the sun would fail to rise, and the end of mankind would result. So, the religious leaders determined that human sacrifice would be necessary to appease the gods.

Perhaps an oversimplification, but I think this model fits with the reasoning behind human sacrifice in many different cultures. Early cultures might offer sacrifice - not necessarily human sacrifice - to water gods, in order to obtain a good harvest, in thanks of good fortune, to prevent a volcanic eruption, etc. "Primitive" cultures were willing to make enormous sacrifices in order to *hopefully* be able to affect their environment for the better and prevent catastrophe.

What we see in our history is mankind making sacrifices to affect what we now attribute to global temperature and global weather patterns. The reasoning behind the sacrifices, human and otherwise, was either to attempt to please "the gods," if they believed they could win the favor of the gods by doing so, or to appease the gods, if they believed their conduct could pacify "the gods."

What does this have to do with Global Warming? Maybe everything.

In many ways, science attempts to replace religion. While "the gods" were often used to explain why things are the way they are, as science evolved, there has been less of a need for "the gods" to be used as an explanation. In many ways, science has become very much like religion. When a theory, like global warming, cannot be scientifically tested and proven, it becomes a matter of faith. You must have faith that the scientific reasoning is sound. You must also have faith in the scientific method as a means of proving things.

If science were a religion, our scientists would be like priests, our top scientists would be like bishops, and our false god would be scientific ideas.

When you look at early cultures, nearly all of them share stories of catastrophic events (great floods, fire falling from the sky, plagues, droughts, and very long winters - think ice age).

When cultures that were land locked and separated by thousands of miles tell stories of the same events, we see these events as being credible, or likely to have occurred, because it is the most likely explanation for how cultures with no contact with one another would have the same event in their historical accounts.

When we see traits exhibited by multiple cultures spanning the globe we attribute these traits to being 'human' in nature. For instance, every culture that I am aware of has had some sort of religion. One could infer from this that it is natural for man to feel the need to worship something. Atheists are every bit as religious as the most devout Christians/Muslims/Jews, except that instead of worshiping God, then put Man above all other things. Atheists tend to be narcissists - since they have no belief in an afterlife, they tend to take an "if it feels good do it" approach to life.

Atheists tend to put an enormous amount of faith in science (and not all "science" is particularly scientific, meaning that it holds up to scrutiny and testing over time). Atheists also have a tendency to believe that man has god like powers: some believe that man is capable of destroying the earth and that man is leaving a mark on the planet that can never be erased. The reality is that this planet is more resilient and powerful than man could ever hope to be. One need only take a look at before and after tsunami pictures to see how powerful nature is compared to man.

That point aside, I believe I was writing about global warming.

It seems natural, part of human nature, to believe "the end is near." Every society in human history has had those in its rank who believed that a catastrophic event was just around the corner. A major tenet of Christianity is Revelations (also knows as the Apocalypse).

In my lifetime alone, it has been postulated that AIDS, avian bird flu, black holes, bacteria resistant to treatment, viruses for which there is no vaccine, nuclear war, Y2K, super volcanoes, meteors, supernovas, machines that somehow become self aware, the next ice age/nuclear winter, and now global warming could bring about the end of mankind... and these are the scientific based predictions. When you look to religion, there have been many, many more predictions that the end is near.

Looking back through time we find apocalyptic beliefs have a large place in human history. PBS has a somewhat relevant timeline here; these tend to be exclusively religious examples. Here are some other interesting failed predictions, though most do not have catastrophic implications.

Once upon a time I was writing about how global warming and human sacrifice were related... I tend to ramble.

We see in man a historical tendency to believe "the end is near." Believing in a coming Apocalypse seems to be part of human nature (perhaps a manifestation of fear of our own mortality). These predictions of Apocalypse are generally religious or scientific in nature, and the line between religion and science is finer than most people tend to believe. Early man believed that man, through his actions (sacrifice) could affect the environment (the temperature and global weather). Modern Man believes that man, though his actions (industry and technology) can affect his environment (the temperature and global weather). Early man would sacrifice humans and sometimes livestock to appease "the gods" and prevent catastrophe. Modern man seeks to sacrifice industry and our way of life in order to prevent global catastrophe. Early man had faith that his actions would ensure the best and prevent the worst. Modern man is contemplating making enormous sacrifices in order to prevent some future catastrophe (global warming). To both early man and modern man, that their actions will have any impact whatsoever is purely a matter of faith.

How can I say that global warming is based on "faith" and not "science"?

Show me a scientific test which proves the hypothesis of global warming and you might change my mind. Before you start your search, I can give you some useful advice. There are no scientific studies which prove global warming is the result of man-made atmospheric c02 levels. There are some studies which "support" that notion, but none that prove it. To the contrary there are many studies which seem to disprove the notion of man-made global warming.

In sum, there is no proof of man-made global warming, there is very compelling scientific evidence to disprove global warming, and without proof and in the face of contrary evidence, the only way one could support the notion of man-made global warming is through faith.

Early man had faith that if he threw the virgin into the volcano, or cut the heart out of a human sacrifice, that disaster could be avoided. Global warming supporters believe that if we sacrifice our way of life, disaster will be avoided.

One need not look too far to see that already the steps taken to "fix" global warming are having severe consequences. Ethanol, widely regarded as a step in the right direction, is driving up the cost of corn, which is fed to our animals, which eventually we eat. As the cost of our food increases, some will have to go without food. While trying to fix the global temperature, we may force some to go hungry. I believe the appropriate expression for this sort of activity is jumping out of the kettle and into the fire. We are seeking to avoid one bad situation and in doing so creating a worse situation for ourselves.

Lets assume that mankind is capable of cooling off the planet. Why is this a good thing? A colder planet means shorter growing seasons, harsher winters, less food in general. Is that the solution we are looking for? And why is it that a warming planet will experience extreme weather? During the middle ages, before the mini ice age, when Greenland was still green and global temperatures were much warmer than they are today, there is no record of catastrophic weather or mass flooding or less desalinated water. The warmer time was a time of great wealth, growth, and prosperity.

But I digress...

I do not believe in man made global warming. I know that mankind thinks rather highly of ourselves, but in reality we are more like ants in a sandbox than Gods capable of destroying the earth. There is no real science to justify the global warming predictions of catastrophe, so before we start making sacrifices that will result in the deaths of millions of people, we ought to think long and hard about what we choose to sacrifice in order to appease our "gods."

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