The Instigator
Pro (for)
7 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
14 Points

The Ecology Movement Has Become a Religion

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/3/2008 Category: Religion
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,613 times Debate No: 6126
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (26)
Votes (3)




(Definitions) It is good to want clean water and clean air. Most religions contain beneficial beliefs like "love thy neighbor" that are reasonable and practical guidelines for living. What distinguishes religion from ordinary social beliefs is an irrational component based upon faith. There are distinctive religious practices that only serve to please the gods of the religion or to increase the social binding of the group. For example, religious believers are called upon to perform certain ceremonies as a way of demonstrating their faith. This may or may not be harmful to society as a whole, but in any case faith-based belief characterizes religion. Note that traditional religions like Jainism and Buddhism do not require belief in a god or gods, so that not a defining factor.

For the purposes of this debate, a religion is a systematic collection of faith-based beliefs without rational foundation used by believers to guide their lives. This is close to the definition commonly used by academic theologians. For this debate, "ecology movement" is defined as the widespread belief system in the Western world that derives articles of faith from environmental considerations. It is not a narrow definition related to scientific study of the natural world. I use the word "ecology" simply for lack of a better word to describe the present movement. Just as one might define "Presbyterian" in terms of what Presbyterians believe, I will define the ecology movement by what its believers take on faith.

Here is partial list of the irrational beliefs that define the ecology movement. followers of the movement believe:

1. That smoking has substantial monetary health-care costs. Four independent studies have shown that smokers die young, saving as much in later health care costs as their acute illness from smoking costs. Yet, legislation has been enacted to recover non-existent costs.

2. That there can be no standard for the cleanliness of air by which it can be said to be safe for non-smokers to breathe, even voluntarily.

3. That there is an absolute virtue in saving water, even when there is no water shortage. We must always have toilets that don't flush and showers that dribble, because doing so is "good for the environment."

4. That anyone who does not believe in human-caused global warming is not just wrong, but is by denial a sinner and ought to be treated as a sinner. For example, MIT's Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology Richard Lindzen, an expert on convection models in the atmosphere, need not be taken seriously because he has reached the wrong conclusions. The science is subordinate to honoring eco-faith.

5. That development of coal-to-oil conversion, drilling offshore and in ANWR, and of oil shale resources in the United states must be prohibited because bringing forth domestic carbon is sinful, whereas importing carbon is less sinful and should be permitted.

6. That morality demands that each person sort their garbage. For example, glass bottles must be carefully sorted at significant time and expense, even though they are ultimately buried. It is done as a symbolic act in deference to eco-gods.

7. That it is improper and immoral to mention that if a 100 megawatts of solar or wind power is brought on line, and equal amount of conventional power must be built at the same time, because the sun shines less than half the time and the wind blows about a third of the time. Counting the extra expense is even more immoral than talking about it.

8. That mass transit should be implemented even if it uses more energy and costs more money than automobiles.

9. That lights should always be shut off in unused rooms, even in winter when the heat from the lighting is exactly compensated by the room heater running less, so there is no energy savings. Mentioning this obvious fact is deemed sinful.

10. That it should be illegal to build flood gates to save the city of New Orleans, because when for the brief period the gates are closed, it would interfere with the breeding habits of a small fish.

This short list should suffice for the current debate, although there are many more irrationalities that could be cited, such as wildly irrational fears of nuclear power and irradiated food. Of course, not all followers believe every tenet of the religion, just as not every Catholic is opposed to abortion. The pattern is nonetheless clear.

If a traditional religion attempted to impose its irrational religious beliefs upon the public, it would be rejected as an outrage. Suppose some branch of Christianity declared that we should have toilets that don't flush or that glass bottles should be sorted for separate burial for the pleasure of God. The public would rebel at the imposition. However, the ecology movement is embraced so thoroughly that mandates having no purpose other than pleasing the eco-gods are accepted as ordinary.

The ecology movement should be recognized for what it is, a religion. Recognizing Christianity as a religion does nothing to diminish the value of "love thy neighbor." What recognizing a religion does is help us to distinguish symbolic acts of faith from rational acts that should govern public policy. We should defend the right of individuals to take cold showers and bury their glass bottles separately, just as we ought to defend the individual acts of faith of other religions. However, we should not have a government enforced state religion.

[Only accept the challenge if you want to debate the issue; no ridiculous semantic arguments.]


I would like to thank my opponent for posting this challenge. Combining religion and the environment to create the platform for a debate is certainly a controversial and novel idea and I have a presentiment that the discussion will prove to be an interesting one.

Firstly, my opponent offered the following definition for the purposes of this debate: "a religion is a systematic collection of faith-based beliefs without rational foundation used by believers to guide their lives" – a definition which, for the purposes of this debate, I accept.

What I do not accept, however, is that a distinct, unified " ecology movement" exists and that people who are concerned with environmental issues are following articles of faith. There are three main tenants to my assertion.

A) While environmental organisations exist, they do not necessarily agree with each other on environmental issues. For example, wind farms are supported by some environmental groups and opposed by others.

B) People who are concerned about manmade climate change do not have to be members of any formal organisation in order to do their bit for the environment.

C) Accepting the consensus of opinion on the man's impact on the environment is not a matter of irrational belief; rather it is a matter of rationally evaluating the scientific evidence.

Now, to address each of my opponent's examples in turn:

1,2) Smoking tobacco has a limited impact on the environment and ant-smoking groups are largely concerned with public health issues, not climate change.

3) To avoid spreading diseases such as cholera, water needs to be treated, which consumes valuable energy, which in turn causes CO2 to be released into the atmosphere.

4) People who choose to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence that manmade pollution is contributing towards global warming are not sinners but they are in a state of denial. Some scientists, including Prof. Richard S. Lindzen, do produce "evidence" that global warming is not taking place, but they are in the minority and their "research" is often funded by oil companies.

Similarly, some historians, such as David Irving, deny that a holocaust took place in Nazi Germany.

I have been to Auschwitz and seen for myself the gas chambers, the crematoria and even the very building where my grandfather-in-law was imprisoned, but what do I know? Irving is highly-qualified and an expert and I'm not so that must mean that all the documentaries I watched, all the books I've read and all the stories I've been told by my wife and grandmother-in-law must all be Zionist propaganda?

5) Global warming, as the term suggests, affects the whole planet, not just the US. Since America shares the same atmosphere with the rest of the world and reducing carbon emissions is in the interests the entire world population, or at least their future decedents' interests, it is vital that we all avoid burning fossil fuels, wherever we live.

6) Recycling really isn't just a ruse to aggravate householders, it is genuinely beneficial to the environment. If a company is charged with recycling household waste but, instead, buries it, tips it into a river, or scatters it over a wildlife reserve or disposes it in any other method than the one they were contacted to do, they are acting illegally and, therefore, risk prosecution.

7) The premise is flawed. True, solar panels don't produce electricity at night and wind farms do not make a contribution in calm weather, but that does not negate the case for renewables, which should be viewed as a suite of resources also including hydro-electric, wave, tidal and nuclear-generated power.

8) I can't think of mass transit system that is less efficient and more costly than people driving cars but perhaps my opponent knows of some rocket-powered subway trains or can point to some buses that have supercharged V16 engines that run on Macallan single malt whisky instead of straight-sixes that run on diesel?

9) Light bulbs, especially modern energy-saving ones, convert most of the electricity into light, not heat, so the fact that the heating would need to be turned up fractionally to compensate for a light being switched off is neither here nor there.

10) Again, my opponent is clutching at straws. No serious environmentalist would rather see thousands of people drown than briefly inconvenience some little fishies!

The bottom line is, most people that don't care about the environment, don't care because not caring is both easier and cheaper than caring, and feel that, since it won't be our generation that suffers as a result our poor stewardship of the planet, why should they care anyway?

Thank you.
Debate Round No. 1


I appreciate your taking up the challenge of this debate. I think it will be an interesting one.

A) It is unnecessary for a there to be a single unified ecology movement for it to have taken on the character of religious movement. By comparison, The Religious Right is composed of diverse groups that disagree in the extreme over issues of doctrine. About a third of the Religious Right are Democrats. Nonetheless, a pattern of religious belief is easily identified and properly characterized as religious. The characterization is based upon applying articles of faith to issues of public policy. Similarly, environmentalist fundamentalists have in common a form of pantheism by which the interests of nature, however they construe them, are placed above the interests of mankind. That is the contention of this debate.

B) It is not necessary to be a member of any formal organization to be Christian nor is it generally required to join an organization to be religious. The definition of religion does not include a membership requirement. What is required is adherence to a pattern of non-rational beliefs that guide a person's actions. The pattern is evident.

C) "Accepting the consensus of opinion on the man's impact on the environment is not a matter of irrational belief; rather it is a matter of rationally evaluating the scientific evidence." I agree, but that it not the point at issue. The issue is whether those who do not agree are treated respectfully as dissenting scientists, or whether they are treated as religious heretics. By comparison, the scientific consensus in the 1960s favored the Steady State Theory of the universe. However, those who favored the Big Bang Theory were not labeled as "denialists" and subjected to wild accusations. Science simply continued the debate, new evidence supporting the Big Bang emerged, and Big Bang Theory won. The best data I can find is that current consensus on CO2 Theory is about a 60/40 split in the scientific community in favor of the theory. I am confident that science, left alone, will ultimately come to a resolution. The current IPCC report projects a rise in ocean levels of nine inches in the next hundred years, versus seven inches from the last hundred. Interestingly, the environmental movement rejects that consensus as heresy; any result that does not predict New York and London engulfed is unacceptable.

The books "The Deniers" and, more recently, "Red Hot Lies" document the abuses to which dissenters are subject by Believers.

1,2. I never asserted that the ecology movement was only concerned with climate change. That would be like supposing that Christian fundamentalism is only concerned with abortion. I made that clear by citing not only smoking but flood gate banning, fear of nuclear power, fear of irradiated food, and other issues embodied as tenets of the religion. In Silicon Valley, cigar bar owners equipped their facilities with clear room technology that kept the air two feet from a cigar smoker far cleaner than the air outdoors. However, the state legislature passed a law that outlawed smoking establishments, no matter if the air for non-smokers was perfectly clean. This can only be explained by a religious belief, not a rational belief.

3) The energy to dump chlorine in water is negligible, and in any case water-use rules are enforced regardless of whether the energy is produced from renewable resources or not. The concept is of "water footprint" is that if water is conserved in the Amazon Basin (or anywhere else) it will make more water available for people in the desert. It is completely nuts, but the belief is readily explained in terms of religious belief. The pop science magazine "Discovery" presented the water footprint concept to its readers as if it were good science.

4.1) You are incorrect that Lindzen or other scientists often argue or present evidence that no global warming is taking place. The author of the book "The Deniers" said that he did not find a single scientist who denied that global warming exists. There are such people, no doubt, but that is largely irrelevant to the scientific issue. Lindzen doesn't even deny that CO2 may be an important factor in climate change. He only argues, from the viewpoint of the leading authority on convection models of the atmosphere, the most difficult part of climate modeling, that the models presented so far are inadequate and unreliable. The unreliability of the models is amply demonstrated by the continued downward revision of the "crisis" numbers deemed consensus by the IPCC.

4.2) The accusation that "denier" research is mostly funded by oil companies is false. In one year, Exxon spent $1.5 million on climate research, out of their $11 billion in profits. If any funding by private sources taints research, then the fact that private organizations spend more that 20 times as much promoting CO2 theory would imply that CO2 is hopelessly biased. Private groups are ideologically based, the Marshall Fund being one of note. Supposing that ideologues are impartial whereas profit-making companies are biased is not logical. that is akin to supposing that if a church supports something, it is less likely to be biased that if a company supports.

Con's argument is that the peer review process in science does not function. Papers providing counter-evidence are reviewed and approved for publication by panels of scientists, and we presume that 60% of those approving panels will be pro-CO2 theory. Raising the argument that funding source trumps peer review is in itself a religious-based argument. It assumes that "evil" stems from the source. Many, in fact most, papers simply present data. There are over a hundred papers devoted to reconstructing climate history. They make it clear that past climate variation was not dominated by CO2, but the papers by themselves are not reaching broad conclusions.

I have spent a great deal of time refuting holocaust denial. (More, I suspect, than Con can imagine.) The correct way to do it is point-by-point based upon the facts, not to attempt to categorize all those who advocate it as untouchables.

5. Con misunderstands the point. The point does not relate to how much fossil fuel is burned, but rather where it comes from. There is no projection of alternative technology that comes close to establishing the energy independence of the United States in the next 30 years. The US is going to be importing fuel for a long time, no matter what. So what is the point of blocking domestic production that would offset fuel imports? Why is buying oil from dictators, sending hundreds of billions overseas, better than keeping the money locally? That is clear policy. It cannot be explained rationally. It is easily explained by a religious concept that involves keeping sin offshore.

6) With respect to recycling bottles, Con again misses the point. Bottles are not recycled, they are pointless sorted and then buried. It is a ritual that makes no logical sense.

7) Con presented no counter argument. Why is the cost of the backup system, which is clearly necessary, never counted as a cost of wind or solar? Not for any logical reason.

8) Mass transit is cheaper only when the cars are kept packed, as in New York or Tokyo. San Jose's mass transit system was running at a cost of $52 per passenger. However, one is not allowed to argue about costs. Mass transit is blessed as always superior.

9) 100% of the energy from a light bulb ultimately ends up as heat. In any air condition space, that makes lights twice as costly, in a heated space they have no energy cost. But one is not allowed to say it.

10) I was citing the actual circumstances for New Orleans. A Federal law says that any project can be stopped if an endangered species is as much as inconvenienced. Environmentalists successfully sued to block flood gate construction. It only makes sense in a religious context.


I would like to thank my opponent for continuing this fascinating debate and should like to respond to his comments as follows:

A) Someone who is religious would conform to a religious mantra. For example, a devout Catholic may stone a woman who had an abortion to death whilst a less pious Catholic may content himself with merely verbally abusing her. Similarly, an Iranian girl who moves to Tel Aviv and gets a job as a stripper in a pub called the Pig and Whistle may have a fatwa served upon her by the Ayatollah back in the Islamic Republic but might face less severe condemnation from moderate Muslims living in the West. However, all Muslims would agree that her conduct was contrary to the teachings of the Koran.

There is no such doctrine that applies to environmentalism. I am an environmentalist – have been since I was a lad – but I strongly disagree with other environmentalists over certain issues. One topical (at least for me) example is the almost complete lack of inland waterways in Britain where one can enjoy one's speedboat at full throttle. On Sunday, I was stopped by the river police and charged with speeding, which I immediately admitted. However, I pointed out that I opened her up only in stretches of water where the banks were protected from the wake by a thick margin of reeds and since birds do not nest there during the winter, no damage could be caused. I further made it clear that I slowed down to walking pace every time I passed a group of swans but they still fined me �1000 ($1500). Apparently I had flashed passed some nature lovers on birdwatching the riverbank and they had called the police and told them that they had the legal right to enjoy the countryside in peace and tranquillity and that the police should come and get me for disturbing them. Fair enough, perhaps, but don't I also have the right to enjoy the countryside at the helm of a classic mahogany and chrome-trimmed, V8-powered Boesch ski-boat doing 40 on the plane? Why should their "rights" be superior to mine?

Sorry, but I just had to get that off my chest, but the point is, environmentalists have fundamental disagreements with each other, whereas followers of any given religion do not, generally speaking, disagree on the basic tenants of their faiths.

B) A person who self-identifies themselves as religious would confirm that they were either Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan or whatever, even if they were not regular visitors to the respective places of worship. Personally speaking, as an environmentalist, I support the action being taken to prevent deforestation in the tropics yet also support the quest to exploit offshore oil reserves (electric boats may be environmentally-friendly but they are also are very slow and extremely boring!) On the other hand, how many Buddhist bullfighters are there, and how many Christians do you know that have sacrificed a virgin in the belief that she would one day become this wife in Valhalla?

C) It is true that science advances and theories are modified or rejected as time moves on. However, there are some theories that are so obviously correct, such as the earth not being flat, that man wasn't created by some sort of spirit in the sky 6,000 years ago and that releasing CO2 into the atmosphere contributes to climate change. Therefore, dissenters to these theories deserve to be held up to wholesale public criticism.

Okay, now let's revisit the points my opponent raised once more.

1, 2) This just further proves my point. There is a gang of fascist boot-boys that drink in a country pub I sometimes go to whose favourite hobby is attacking hunt saboteurs with iron bars and baseball bats, who, nonetheless, as none-smokers, welcomed the recent ban on smoking in public places. Remember, Hitler didn't smoke but it doesn't follow that Friends of the Earth should print posters saying "Hitler had the right idea - send all smokers to the gas chambers now". People that are anti-smoking come from all political backgrounds, they are not necessarily environmentalists.

3) I've heard of carbon footprints but not water footprints. This must be on the fringes of of environmentalism if it applied to people who are not in a drought zone. I mean, the water is drawn from reservoirs or rivers and comes, ultimately, from rainfall. If we didn't treat it, consume it, then treat it again before discharging it, it would just flow straight into the sea. The fact is though, that pumping the water from its source, into treatment plants and water towers and then through to sewerage farms is highly energy intensive.

4.1) My point was that Lindzen reaches the conclusions that the people that sponsor his research want him to reach. In other words, the oil companies have said "find away to prove scientifically that environmentalists are wrong about global warming and we'll pay you handsomely. If not, we'll find another scientist who is willing to sacrifice his principles on the altar of the mighty dollar".

4.2) By funding "research" that rubbishes the consensus of mainstream scientific opinion, the oil companies have something to gain. Oil reserves are finite and drilling for new reserves needs public and political support. Unless that is forthcoming, the fat cats at Exxon, Mobil, Texaco and BP will be swapping their Lear jets for bicycles.

5) It doesn't matter if the fuel is imported or produced domestically from the point of view of the environment, although I can see that, from an economic point of view, it would be better to obtain the oil from within the US.

6) Some bottles do find their way to landfill sites but in certain European countries over 90% are recycled into everything from window panes to road aggregate. All it takes is the political will and a little effort on the part of the consumer.

7) Just to make it clear, there is no need for any back up systems if the electricity is fed into a national grid. So while a solar array in California will not be producing electricity at night, a wind farm in Illinois will be and a nuclear power plant in Arizona will be and so on. The point is that you build sufficient generators to ensure that if one source is not online, another source will take up the slack. And anyway, nobody said building wind turbines or nuclear power stations was cheaper than oil, gas or coal-fired stations. They aren't, but they are greener, which is the whole point.

8) San Jose should introduce a congestion charge (such as exists in London) for motorists that drive on inner-city roads in order to encourage them to use public transport instead.

9) True, according to the Newton's laws of physics, energy cannot be created or destroyed, just converted. However, I have never heard of anyone using a light (other than a halogen lamp) to heat a space. In the winter you might have to turn the heating up slightly to compensate for the lost heat but in the summer the aircon will have to work harder to cool the room while a light is left on. In the final analysis, the energy we are talking about is tiny if measured in isolation, but when extrapolated over hundreds of millions of homes worldwide the saving is significant.

10) If you have described the circumstances of the "potential disruption to little fishies' private lives versus saving the lives of thousands of humans" case accurately then I agree, as a committed environmentalist, that this represents madness. True, religion is a bit mad, but it doesn't follow that everything a bit must be religious!

Thank you.
Debate Round No. 2


A) Con argues "Someone who is religious would conform to a religious mantra. ... There is no such doctrine that applies to environmentalism." Con supports his argument by claiming that all Catholics oppose abortion, what differs is the measures they would espouse to oppose it. It is simply not true that all Catholics oppose abortion -- as with any religion, a person may consider himself a part of the religion so long as he agrees with he considers to be the most important matters of doctrine.

The common thread in environmental activism is a type of pantheism that presumes that nature has interests that conflict with and supersede those of mankind. "Pantheism ... is the view that everything is of an all-encompassing immanent abstract God; or that the Universe, or nature, and God are equivalent." Environmental activists do not usually acknowledge their believes as religious because religion is now out of favor, in their circles, as proper motivation for action. However, they frequently reference the clearly pantheistic Gaia concept as relevant and compelling. The Gaia hypothesis, that biological systems interact in the environment, is mainly sound. The religious aspect enters when believers move to irrational acts performed to please Gaia, when in fact there is no significant cause-and-effect relationship.

�1000 for actions symbolic of scaring swans, without actually scaring them? This is clearly irrational. Yet it fits perfectly with the pattern of environmentalism as religion, with efforts to please Gaia in the abstract. I am in favor of rational measures that improve the environment, so in that sense I'm an environmentalist. I agree with Catholics on many issues too, though I'm an atheist. This debate deals with identifying a pattern of irrational beliefs that holds nature-worship in common.

B) Con argues that if environmental activists were basing actions on religion, they would self-identify as being religiously motivated. The error in that argument is that the definition of religion does not include any requirement for self-identification as being religious. It only requires that there be a pattern of actions based upon faith relative to a concern with "ultimate power." That test is clearly met, even though the participants do not acknowledge their religious faith. I am sure they do not believe it to be a matter of faith, but think it completely logical to ban flood gates and treat dissenters as heretics. Nonetheless, the pattern of wildly irrational behavior and the common theme is unmistakable.

C) Con claims "there are some theories that are so obviously correct, ... Therefore, dissenters to these theories deserve to be held up to wholesale public criticism."

C.1 CO2 Theory is clearly not in the category of being "obviously correct." A recent poll of scientists "Eighty-four percent say they personally believe human-induced warming is occurring, and 74% agree that "currently available scientific evidence" substantiates its occurrence. Only 5% believe that that human activity does not contribute to greenhouse warming; the rest are unsure." But, be careful, "A slight majority (54%) believe the warming measured over the last 100 years is not 'within the range of natural temperature fluctuation.' " Even skeptics like Lindzen grant that CO2 may be having some effect, but the split on whether it is scientifically verified is only 75/25. When the question is posed if observed temperature various are beyond what might be expected from natural fluctuations, it is 54/46. Compare that to the level of consensus on the Theory of Evolution, where agreement is 99.86%. CO2 theory is favored, but by no means "obviously correct." Con presents no evidence whatsoever in support of that contention.

C.2 If CO2 were "obviously correct," good science demands that skeptics not be treated as heretics. The peer review process should be allowed to function normally. When Einstein published his Theory of Relativity, he was a minority of one in believing that Newtonian Mechanics was incorrect. Nonetheless, he was allowed to publish, evidence accumulated, and his new theory prevailed. The theory of "the ether" propagating light was accepted nearly universally at one point, but dissent was allowed and the contrary data prevailed. Suppressing scientific dissent is simply wrong on any level.

Turning to the individual issues presented as examples, I believe that we have agreed that (1) banning establishments that provide clean air for non-smokers, (2) claiming non-existent health costs as real, (3) demanding water conservation when there is no water shortage, (See, (5) prohibiting local carbon in favor of foreign carbon, and (10) banning flood gates to avoid inconvenience to endangered fish are all examples of irrational environmental extremism. The question remains as to whether these are just occasional random excesses of fringe fanatics, or whether they are derivative from a religious belief in the supremacy of nature over mankind.

All of the agreed-upon gross irrationalities where adopted by legislatures as matters of public policy. They were debated with arguments and logical counter-arguments, yet irrationality prevailed. Moreover, these were major issues, not insignificant things that fanatics slipped by without notice. One might compare it to adopting Prohibition or putting religious slogans on coins. Adopting irrational measures as public policy requires not just a tiny minority of fanatics, it requires broad consensus. It is accurately described as religious fervor.

On other specific issues:

4) Con claimed that Lindzen altered his research because he was paid to do so. You provided no evidence to support that belief. I showed (1) oil company support is negligible, (2) the scientific review process effectively prevents falsified research, and (3) pro-CO2 theory receives mush greater financial support from ideological believers of that cause. Con had no rebuttal. Lindzen is a tenured professor whose salary in no way varies with what he publishes. Con should show evidence or abandon the contention.

6) Of course some bottles are recycled, but because it is mandated, not because there are rational economic reasons. To recycle, the bottle must be sorted out from other trash, sorted by color, cleaned of labels and metal caps, and then processed. Sand is, um, dirt cheap and requires none of that expensive processing. Recycling of bottles makes no economic sense, it is done because it is "a good thing," i.e., in conformance with belief in pantheism.

7) Let's suppose the national electrical system is at capacity and needs to be expanded, so 100 megawatts of solar power are added. If no extra conventional capacity is added, then at night the system will be short by 100 megawatts and there will be power outages. This could be avoided if the grid extended 12,000 miles around the earth to always have sun, but (a) it doesn't and (b) it is not practical, due to transmission losses, to send power more than five hundred miles. The situation is worse for wind power that is even less reliable. Therefore, failure to count the costs is irrational.

8) Yes, and if we put a large tax on non-Kosher food, then Kosher food would become cheaper. Same thing with transit systems. It is nonetheless irrational. In highly congested areas, mass transit makes sense. But it is promoted as "good" where it makes no sense.

9) Since light is 100% converted to heat, there is absolutely no energy-related reason not to use lights for heat. Light is an advantage in winter when the days are short. Yet people are irrationally taught to shut off lights in winter to be "good."

There is a clear pattern to all this nonsense, and it is not just a few fanatics. It is to please


Dear voters, my worthy opponent wrote something in his final round that encapsulated his whole argument:

"Con argues that if environmental activists were basing actions on religion, they would self-identify as being religiously motivated. The error in that argument is that the definition of religion does not include any requirement for self-identification as being religious. It only requires that there be a pattern of actions based upon faith relative to a concern with "ultimate power." That test is clearly met, even though the participants do not acknowledge their religious faith."

Since any rational person will agree that, in geological terms, man has only existed for a tiny fraction of the Earth's history and one day all traces of human civilisation will be erased through fluctuating sea levels, erosion and ultimately, plate tectonics, regardless of our efforts to control climate change, or otherwise protect the environment, the human race on Earth is doomed to extinction. All that environmentally-aware people are trying to do is delay the inevitable.

Please note that I mentioned "rational" people. There are, as we know, some irrational people like Christian fundamentalist, hunting enthusiast, advocate of environmental destruction: Sarah Palin; that would argue that God created the world a few thousand years ago and that a woman's need for oil-based cosmetics is more important than anything so insignificant as the long-term survival of the human race. I say that she is irrational because her personal and political views contradict her own faith, for example, the Bible states:

"God promises a long life to those who will watch over wild birds. If we rape the land or the creatures in it, what will sustain us in the future?" Deuteronomy 22:6-7

But perhaps Ms. Palin reads a different version of the Bible to most other Christians?

...The Book of Genesis according to St. Dubya of Dallas Fort Worth...

"And the Lord God called unto Eve and said unto her, why are there many slaughtered beasts to be found in the Garden of Eden? Didst thou kill them for meat, Eve?

And she said, no God, just for fun.

And the Lord said, I see. Also, I have noticed a great number of dead fish floating on the surface of yonder pond and the polar bears of that region are covered in black sludge, what hast thou to say about that, Eve?

And she did reply, yes that was me as well, I've been drilling for oil.

And the Lord did say, listen Eve, I created the Earth and all creatures great and small and it took me six whole days to do so. Do you know how valuable my time is, Eve? It's just not good enough. Look, at this rate the whole planet will be uninhabitable within a few thousand years, what dost thou think about that?

And she did reply, I don't give two tosses of a monkey's tail, my Lord, I'll be long dead by then.

And the Lord did reply, verily, fair enough, Eve. Sorry, I came over all woolly liberal there, but please do stay away from my prize apple tree, okay?"

The point I am trying to make is this: every rational person is an environmentalist to some extent. My opponent is less concerned with the future of the human race than others, accepting some and disputing other aspects of the scientific evidence that points to man having a detrimental affect on the environment. Other people: like the Louisiana fish-huggers that my opponent referred to; take matters from the sublime to the ridiculous. Most of us, however, accept the general scientific consensus and try and do our little bit for the environment whenever we can.

But that does being aware of manmade climate change make us all unwitting followers of a quasi-religion as Pro suggests? If so, my opponent was wrong to self-identify himself as an atheist because he is not. He is, indeed, a follower of the Green Religion - not a pious one, by any means, but one of the faithful, nonetheless.

Thank you.
Debate Round No. 3
26 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by RoyLatham 9 years ago
We are now going to replay the New Orleans scenario. the city of Sacramento, the capitol of California, is in great danger of flooding. The danger is from flooding if a warm spring rain melts the winter snows in the mountains, floods the valley, and overwhelms the aging levees around the city. It is considered one of the most endangered cities in the U.S. the danger could be eliminated by building the Auburn Dam, which would contain the flood waters, store water for the dry summers, and provide hydroelectric power. California has chronic water and power shortages. Authorization for the dam was recently killed by environmentalists, who cited potential danger to the hardhead minnow, even though the minnow now gets by despite other dams. Environmentalists were supported by hikers and some recreational fisherman.

This is so absolutely crazy it defies any explanation short of a form of nature worship. They think that people should die so that the nature gods will be pleased.
Posted by RoyLatham 9 years ago
Hemp, Not only do I believe in global warming, I don't know of any scientist who does not. The earth has clearly been warming since 1800, well before the Industrial Revolution. What is at issues are whether CO2 is the dominant cause, and what, if anything, should be done about it.

Yes, too cold is much worse than too warm. A climate engineering solution can cure either problem, depending whether sunlight is reflected towards or away from earth, and no matter if the causes are natural or man made.

The alternative energy structure must serve the entire world, not just the US. Moreover, there is no existing technology that stores the energy from wind or solar, so capital costs immediately double just to provide the backup for calm days and nights.

You agree with my point that efficiency is not a concern, only economics. Economics include capital costs, not just fuel costs. Electric heat is popular in relatively warm climates because the capital costs in the home are less, and that predominates. In a gas heated home, the money saved by shutting of lights is negligible, and the benefit of light is substantial. You are arguing strictly from the viewpoint of a religion, not practical costs.

Carbon sequestration is totally unproven and there is no reason to believe it will ever pan out. Since it currently cannot be done, oil shale is limited to a few experiments. How about adding the requirement for carbon sequestration to all imported oil? That would be fair, and would would put us back in the Stone Age in a couple of weeks. The requirement grossly favors imports over domestic supplies, and that is nuts.
Posted by HempforVictory 9 years ago
"To offset global warming, it would be necessary to block about 1% or 2% of the solar flux. "
I thought you didn't believe in global warming?

"It might cost a trillion dollars to build a reflector, but even so it would be cheaper and far less painful than pushing mankind back to the Stone Age as environmentalists desire."
Hmm, so what if we're wrong about the cause of global warming, that it really is based mostly on fluctuations in solar activity, are we screwed royally because now the planet is too cold? Besides that, for less than a trillion dollars we could develop enough alternative energy infrastructure to power the country - probably the world if making a return on the investment wasn't an issue. Not only does this strategy decrease our impact on the climate, but it reduces our dependence of fossil fuels and therefore increases our national security. I mean, if we spend a trillion dollars lining the atmoshpere with aluminum, we'd still be dependent on Saudi oil.
Posted by HempforVictory 9 years ago
True, you don't need credentials to debate. However, I have a very hard time believing that an engineer would make the claim that a light bulb is an efficient means of heating a house.

"There is no reason to worry about efficiency of electric power generation at for home heating. "
Yes there is, to conserve valuable resources. If you use electricity to heat your home, more fossil fuels will be burned than if you were to use them directly in your furnace.

"Wind power is grossly inefficient, because most of the wind energy escapes....Solar cells are only about 15% efficient."
Ok, but we don't need to conserve the wind or the's "free" energy. Inefficiency in gathering wind or solar power is only important in terms of economics, it's not costing us any limited resources - except the material they use to build the infrastructure.

"Burning gas in a home furnace is not 100% efficient because in needs air to burn, which implies bring in cold air from outside."
Ok, but the inefficiency due to that cold air does not compare to the energy lost in making electricity and than sending it across the grid.

"I think I forgot to mention that oil shale recovery is made non-economic by a law that forbids it to be used without carbon sequestration."
Considering that in 2006, H.R. 683 proposed giving an income tax credit to oil shale developers, I find that highly unlikely. There is also proposed a tax credit for those who engage in carbon sequestration. Since oil shale development leaves a reservoir ideal for carbon sequestration, developers may feel that it's only economic if they sequester the co2 and get the carbon credit for it. Apparently, carbon credits are traded in the U.S. without federal mandates.
Posted by RoyLatham 9 years ago
I am an engineer. My degrees are in Aeronautics and Astronautics, and in Electric Engineering, both from M.I.T. It is not be necessary to have credentials to debate, what you have to have is correct arguments, and no more.

Climate engineering has been studied for many years. To offset global warming, it would be necessary to block about 1% or 2% of the solar flux. Aluminum is not transparent, so even a very thin film effectively reflects the sun. It might cost a trillion dollars to build a reflector, but even so it would be cheaper and far less painful than pushing mankind back to the Stone Age as environmentalists desire. If environmentalists cared about people, there would be demanding that research be done to determine the problems with such a solution. They always place people below nature, so the idea is rejected instantly.

I noted at the outset that not every environmentalist believes all the environmentalist dogma. There are lots of people who go along just assuming that what they hear is true. That fits the model of religious believe perfectly. I also noted that there are many good things about environmentalism to which we should all subscribe, just as there many good things about conventional religion.

There is no reason to worry about efficiency of electric power generation at for home heating. Wind power is grossly inefficient, because most of the wind energy escapes. Burning gas in a home furnace is not 100% efficient because in needs air to burn, which implies bring in cold air from outside. For nuclear power, the cost of fuel is 20% of the cost of generation. Solar cells are only about 15% efficient. So what users should worry about is what it costs, not the string of inefficiencies that leads to the cost.

I think I forgot to mention that oil shale recovery is made non-economic by a law that forbids it to be used without carbon sequestration.
Posted by HempforVictory 9 years ago
Look, I consider myself to be an evironmentalist, but I have not "ruled out all but CO2 as dominating climate," so you are wrong about your generalization of environmentalists. Also, you are clearly not an engineer, yet you believe that it would be beneficial to the environment if a thin layer of aluminum foil were used to block sunlight and cool the earth? That my friend is an irrational belief.

"For heating buildings, you are confusing efficiency with cost. "

Umm, no. Perhaps you are. When electricity is produced from a fossil fuel using a conventional steam turbine, the maximum efficiency set by Carnot is about 40%. Transferring the generated electricity to the building where it's being used results in further energy losses. However, burning a fossil fuel on site for the sole purpose of heat generation has an energy utilization efficiency of 100%.
Posted by RoyLatham 9 years ago
Environmental engineering works whether global warming is natural or man made. Block about 1% of sunlight with microscopically thin aluminum foil. It does not require turning mankind back to the stone age. Environmentalists Should be all for it, but they are bitterly opposed. Opposition fits the pattern of worshiping nature. Ditto, solar satellites.

Offshore and ANWR drilling have negligible environmental effects. Specifics are rarely cited and never debated. My challenge to debate offshore drilling expired, and my current challenge on ANWR has gotten no response. One glance at the obvious facts is all it takes. It is about nature worship and self-flagellation.

For heating buildings, you are confusing efficiency with cost. Electric heat prevails in warmer climates because the capital cost to the homeowner are cheaper, outweighing the fuel costs. You are absolutely correct to be concerned with costs rather than quantity of energy. That is what environmentalists deny when they tell people to turn off lights in the winter. The energy difference is zero and the cost difference is negligible, but that does not enter into environmentalist thinking. te want religiously-correct behavior always.

You can read up on mass transit costs and the facts about glass recycling. An extremely common thread among environmental activists (I don't mean you) is that they see no point whatsoever in reading the works of heretics. It is like suggesting to a Jehovah's Witness that there is really a lot of good stuff to be gleaned from Daoism. Except that Jehovah's Witnesses are more open-minded than environmentalists.
Posted by RoyLatham 9 years ago
I agree there are places with lots of reliable sun that could be used for summer peaking; Las Vegas and Phoenix come to mind. Also, wind power might be used to pump water uphill into an existing hydroelectric dam; it isn't economic to build a new dam. One might get a few percent of total electric power requirements through such strategies. That is not what environmentalists believe or advocate. For example, Germany is trying to get 30% of their electricity from wind power; they don't even think about the need to have a corresponding backup capacity. They will have the backup, of course, but never acknowledge the cost. In the US, huge subsidies are poured into wind power with every bit of it requiring backup.

Environmentalist want public policy to made based upon the predictions of climate models. The only way to verify that the models correctly reflect the role of CO2 is to see if their predictions are correct. So, for example, CO2 has been increasing steadily, but the earth cooled from 1930 to 1970. Did the sun do that, or atmospheric particulates, or something else? Note also the now-infamous Mann analysis that wiped out all previous climate variations including the Little Ice Age. It was the centerpiece of two of the IPCC reports "proving" that CO2 dominated all. The analysis has a math error, and when it was corrected the Little Ice Age reappeared. Currently, environmentalists have ruled out all but CO2 as dominating climate, but there have been no temperature increases for the past decade. Belief trumps all reason.

I persist in thinking that the models will eventually be perfected. I think it has better chances than weather forecasting, because short term random effects are not at issue.

Scientists do not determine public policy, politicians do. If credentialed engineers ran things, we would have ample nuclear power. Politicians are bowing to the popular religious fervor that has been built up around bogus environmental arguments.
Posted by HempforVictory 9 years ago
"So climate models are not meant to accurate future? If so, then we should not spend huge sums of money under the assumption they do."
Climate models are meant to show what would happen if all other factors stayed the same, and CO2 increased, what would happen? They are meant to show that co2 can have a significant impact on climate, but nobody denies the occurrence of natural fluctuations in global climate, and scientists recognize that their models do not take into account these natural fluctuations. However, that does not invalidate the models, only the severity of the predictions.

"I am confident that climate models will eventually provide accurate predictions and that a genuine 99% consensus will eventually be reached."
I think you underestimate the complexity of global climate. Perhaps one day accurate predictions will be possible, but that's a long time from now.

Solar satellite power is rejected by environmentalists?? Nuclear power is rejected by some and accepted by others...however, I would not say that the concern over spent nuclear waste is irrational.

"Scientists are not pushing for mass transit where it doesn't make sense. Environmental activists are. It is irrational."
Do you have an example? I would agree that it's irrational, but I don't know of any environmental organizations pushing for mass transit in my area.
Posted by HempforVictory 9 years ago
"You incorrectly assume that the baseload power system has extra capacity available to use as the backup for solar and wind. "

And you fail to take into account the fact that peak electricity usage generally occurs during the day, making the time of solar power generation optimal for supplying energy during the peak hours.

Electric heating is 100% efficient if you discount the energy lost in making the electricity. However, electricity produced from natural gas and than used to heat a building is several times inefficient compared to using natural gas directly for heating. Also, electric heaters are normally located on the ground, not the ceiling. If you need to install a fan to push the heat created by your ceiling lights, you're losing energy and further decreasing the efficiency of heating. Efficient electric heaters also recirculate heated air, heating the room more quickly even if the actual amount of heat energy transferred to the room is the same.

Restriction of oil drilling in ANWR and offshore is not motivated by CO2 emissions, but by concern for these environmentally sensitive areas. You said, "Development is prohibited unless it can be done with zero carbon emissions, which makes it completely uneconomic." Development of oil shale is prohibited? We rejected Kyoto and CO2 is not currently listed as a pollutant by the EPA, so I don't what you're talking about.

Perhaps I misspoke about the glass, but I can't find anything about what you're talking about. If time was spent to separate the glass, it makes no sense that it wouldn't be recycled.
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