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Creek Running North

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November 04, 2004

Bush policy explained

OK, sure, he's a registered Lootertarian. But any moderately qualified accountant would tell him that he'll extract more money, even over the medium term, if he doesn't eat the seed corn. That timber company of his, for instance, would be a lot more profitable cutting five trees per acre for a hundred years than it would be clearcutting all 500 per acre this year, and nothing for the next century.

And sure, he's a Christian. But nothing in Christianity requires despoiling the environment. There is the concept, for instance, of stewardship, of stepping up to the challenge of caretaking Creation with humility, of not assuming one knows the mind of the Creator. Think of Annie Dillard, of John Muir, of Julia Butterfly. Being Christian doesn't necessarily make you sit in trees, but neither does it necessitate cutting them down.

And sure, he's an idiot. But so are enough of my fellow environmentalists. No inherent conflict there either.

I was walking along the creek the other day when it came to me: it's Creationism. Bush is a Creationist. He doesn't believe in an old Earth. Doesn't believe the fossil record, doesn't believe in the evolution of new species from old by natural selection and refinement of advantageous traits accidentally created through the chance rearrangement and mutation of genes over millions of years.

But he's also not a smart man, and he's not quite up to the challenge of explaining away all the evidence for evolution that the scientists come up with.

He can't argue against the evidence, soooooo.... he's trying to get rid of the evidence. You say you've got fossilized tree fern forests make up thick coal seams? Hurry: dig it all up and burn it. Deposits of millions-years-old marine algae that has fermented into petroleum? Pump it up and set it on fire. Hundreds of thousands of species in a diverse ecosystem fine-tuned through eons? Call out the bulldozers and get Richard Pombo to make the critters illegal. Pesky pathogens keep evolving resistance to antibiotics? Introduce a prescription drug plan that assures no one will ever be able to afford antibiotics again.

The idea explains a whole lot, but there's one thing. As we add more CO2 to the atmosphere, the partial pressure of oxygen goes down. I'd assumed this was just the result of burning all those embarrassing fossil fuels. But it turns out the oxygen that we breathe is the result of a sudden spurt of evolution among single-celled organisms, purple bacteria first among them, a couple billion years ago. You don't suppose... is it getting stuffy around here?

Posted by Chris Clarke at November 4, 2004 10:22 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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I was walking along the creek the other day when it came to me: it's Creationism. Bush is a Creationist. He doesn't believe in an old Earth. Doesn't believe the fossil record, doesn't believe in the evolution of new species from old by natural selection and refinement of advantageous traits accidentally created through the chance rearrangement and mutation of genes over millions of years.

Do you mind if I borrow your metaphor here for a moment? I'll put it back good as new.

It is Creationism. It's Creationism and it's good buddy, the lamest argument ever---We can't KNOW that evolution happened, because we can't go back and check for ourselves. It is thinking so bad that it's positively shiny with badness, and the bad thinker is smug at its shininess.

And I hear it over and over and over again from the products of an education system that has failed so comprehensively that I get adults---bona fide, growed up, employed, procreated adults---who do not know how to think. Adults who believe that their own experience captures the whole of reality and truth.

They either swallow received knowledge whole if it jibes with their experience (Fur-clad welfare moms! Baby-microwaving hippies! Who doesn't know at least one of those or know someone who does?) or they insist it to be false, unverifiable, or nonexistent when it doesn't.

They'll never know if there's a China, an Everest, or, as it now seems, 3-million-year-old stardust at the bottom of the ocean that might've shaken our tree just that much, because how can they check?

Posted by: Christine Malcom-Dept. at November 5, 2004 12:08 AM
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Interesting creekfed line of thought ... It's odd, though, how twisted we thinking folk can get trying to explain GWB. For a moment, you actually had me going on the idea of "GWB, closet empiricist."

I'm coming around to the view that the whole lingo of motives -- which imply human agency after all -- just doesn't apply to GWB. Science would say that we shouldn't adopt a complex explanation, like motives, if there's a simpler one, like pure inorganic causation. GWB's reactions are so simple that they can be mapped and studied like those of a volcano. There may be a human being in there, but I haven't found a reason to posit one.

At least he's made of matter. Our govenor, I've finally concluded, is a hologram.

Posted by: Jarrett at November 5, 2004 12:27 AM
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Remember James Watt? (Reagan's Secretary of the Interior, not the guy who invented the steam engine.) He was quoted as saying "God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back." (

I wonder if Bush, as well as trying to touch off Armegeddon by turning the Middle East into even more of a powder keg than it was before, isn't trying to use everything up to bring on the Second Coming?

Posted by: Paul Tomblin at November 5, 2004 03:16 AM
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Careful, Chris. We progressives have been laughing ourselves into oblivion about how stupid Bush is. These guys are not stupid, they're smart, so smart they're able to conceal how smart (they've spent millions of dollars figuring this out) they are and making "being smart" something akin to "being a leper." We need to figure out ways to expose this. The folks who voted for Bush have been duped. Once they see this, and God I hope it doesn't come at the cost of too many more lives or too many species but that seems like a pipe dream, things can change.

James Watt... hmmm. That sounds about right. But Paul, I'm not sure I see any evidence that the religious right prefers Armageddon over just getting a lot more rich? They'll do that, worry about Armageddon later.

Posted by: Pica at November 5, 2004 07:14 AM
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He also likely believes in Heaven. If there is a Heaven for true believers, it doesn't matter if we destroy the Earth or use up all its resources. God knows how much we need, and He put us here to use it up. By the time the Earth is worn out, God will call up the faithful in the Rapture.


If true, then very very scary. We would have a President who isn't ignoring the environment out of simple greed. He might be ignoring it because there is no reason to save our resources. It's here to be used up, then the faithful go to Heaven. How simple is that? Spare the Arctic Refuge? Why? For what? We're goin' to Heaven people. We don't need it!


Posted by: Caitlin at November 5, 2004 07:29 AM
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I agree that Bush's fundamentalist religious views infuse his policy decisions, but I think even that gives him too much credit. He reacts based on his gut. Put differently, he's not a critical thinker. To my observation, that's the controlling principle here.

Admittedly, no less scary.

Posted by: Trey at November 5, 2004 08:11 AM
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This made me laugh. A bitter, rueful laugh, but a laugh nonetheless.

Posted by: Rana at November 5, 2004 01:14 PM
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