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Climategate and the Limits of Science

It’s the 131th "gate" scandal since Watergate [!], so said one writer who listed them; don’t ever say pundits can’t drive a fad into the ground. But Climategate is the first to take the tone of an actual gate – a prescribed sort of thinking – much like Jesus' counsel at Matt 7:13 to go in through the narrow gate.

Didn't this fellow sum it up well, who offered advice to the Economist?  (12/5/09)

Now that we know from leaked emails that some of the raw data behind the most widely used graph of global temperatures have been lost or discarded; now that we know that the peer-review process in climate science has been hopelessly incestuous; now that we know that some skeptics' concerns about corrections for urban heat islands were privately shared by those who dismissed them in public now that we know that proxy graphs were truncated specifically to "hide the decline" and avoid giving fodder to the sceptics - you are free to start covering the science of climate change again. Matt Ridley, Newcastle

He's not saying the global warming theory is wrong, necessarily. (well….likely he is saying that, but let him develop the point, not me.) For me, the striking revelation is that global warming science is run like any top-down organization. Those at the top disparage whoever’s not falling into line, suppress their contributions, and doctor their own data to gloss over whatever doesn't prove their point. And to think I was lectured by someone – was it Plonka? - “prove a scientist wrong, and he will thank you for it!"... so pure is their desire to reach unadulterated truth! Sigh....not here. No, here it's “try to prove a scientist wrong and he will run you off the road.” Maybe not when the stakes are low, if the research is about shoe horns or something.  But when the stakes are high, as they certainly are with climate change, people invest in their position emotionally, be they scientists or not. They become advocates, cheerleaders. And if they imagine themselves immune to emotional sway, as scientists are wont to do, they can become downright insufferable. They don’t suffer fools gladly, and a fool is anyone who disagrees with them.

News coverage of Climategate varied dramatically from source to source, depending upon pre-existing attitudes. Here in the U.S, conservative Fox Network beat the subject into the ground, opining (gloating?) it would mark the death of a theory they despise. The other three networks, on the other hand, the liberal ones, didn't even mention the story for two weeks, apparently thinking (hoping?) it would blow over. (they did run 37 juicy Tiger Woods stories in that time!) When it didn't blow over, CBS’s Kimberly Dozier (Dec 6) reported that “the e-mails show some of the world's top experts decided to exclude or manipulate some research that didn't help prove global warming exists…..1998 was the hottest year since record-keeping began...but the temperature went down the next year, and it's only spiked a couple times since….An e-mail exchange in 1999 shows scientists worked hard to demonstrate an upward trend. They talk of using a "trick" to "hide the decline" in global temperatures.”

Among the intercepted emails, there were some suggesting collusion to keep dissenters from getting published. "I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC [U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!" wrote the head of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of Anglia. When the journal "Climate Research" did publish a non-bandwagon article, another leading scientist wrote "This was the danger of always criticizing the skeptics for not publishing in the 'peer-reviewed literature'. Obviously, they found a solution to that—take over a journal!" And "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal." These guys play hardball.

Now, mind you, I don't necessarily disagree with this tactic. If manmade global warming is an imminent crisis, and if you wait till all the grousers and foot draggers come on board, the sea will rise and put out the Statue of Liberty torch before everyone agrees. My point is that science does not operate as the emotionless meritocracy that some would have us believe. No. It's those at the top bullying everyone else to hold the party line. If is the operative word, of course, and humans probably don't have the wisdom to determine if the if is so. Certainly they don't have the wisdom to persuade those of the opposite view. An extinguished torch would persuade them (maybe), but then it would be too late. So they twist arms instead, just like any other human organization.


Look, the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses is not a democracy, either. Nor was the first century congregation, as shown throughout the book of Acts, most notably chapter 15. There are those who take the lead in governing the congregations, both then and now.  (Lots of churches used to be that way, but no longer. Parishioners tired of it.) My point is that, as a purely practical matter, science isn't that different. Now, because I hang around the Bible a lot, I’m confident in the way Jehovah’s Witnesses explain it and the leadership they give. They're on to things that others miss or deliberately ignore. But when it comes to global warming, I end up acquiescing to those who know, though it's by no means clear that they do know. People end up going along because of the dire warnings issued, not necessarily the evidence presented, which is conflicting.

At least if you can't stand the governing arrangement of Jehovah's Witnesses, you can always leave; it's a big world and there is life outside. But there's no escaping the clutches of the global warming people, who aim to design policies that will affect us all. Ah, well. It's humans trying to rule the earth, for which they are ill-equipped. It does, though, make one long for government from the One who understands climate and can even control it. "Who really is this, they said about Jesus, for he commands even the wind and the sea, and they obey him." (Mark 4:35-41) That's the government we advocate, God's Kingdom. We have no part in bringing it about, you understand, but we announce its coming.

thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  (matt 6:9-10)


By the way, here are the 1400 intercepted Climategate emails. Why don't you take the next three years of your life going through them?

And if it is ever established that human activity is not responsible for global warming, it will hardly be any credit to us. It's not as though we're such caring stewards of the planet as to never let such a thing happen. It's just that the sum total effect of our environmental meddling isn't significant enough. If it turns out we're not ruining the earth in that way, well....there's a dozen other ways in which we are ruining it. Perhaps that's why climate change believers play for keeps? Man's record of caring for both the planet and those inhabiting it is not a noble one.


 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

The Divine Name and the New Testament

 

 

When you are preparing your English translation of the Bible, it's perfectly acceptable to use God's name Jehovah in the Old Testament. Nobody who knows anything will you any grief about this. You can do it nearly 7000 times. That's how often the four consonant tetragrammaton appears in the original Hebrew.
 
Using God's name in the New Testament is a different matter. It is a bolder move, not without controversy. At first glance, it would seem that you ought to be able to do it without fuss. At second glance, it begins to seem that you have no right to do it at all. At third glance - you get the green light once again, and using God's name is okay. It's solid.

The New World Translation, the Bible most frequently used by Jehovah's Witnesses, uses the Name in both Old and New testaments. Many translations use the name in the OT, but as far as I know, only the NWT, among English translations, use it in the NT. (there are foreign language translations that do so) Believe me, Witnesses take heat for it. Critics constantly grouse that they've "written their own Bible," inserting favorite words without justification, simply because it fits their doctrine.
 
At first glance, why would you not use the name Jehovah in the New Testament? As any Bible reader knows, the New Testament is packed with direct quotes from the Old Testament. So, if the Name appears without controversy in an Old Testament verse, why should it not also appear when that verse is lifted and inserted into the New Testament?
 
But at second glance, it's not quite so simple as that. Ancient manuscripts of the Old Testament [Hebrew] contain the divine name, but ancient manuscripts of the New Testament [Greek] do not. Maybe you think they should, but they don't. That's strange - why would a direct quote pick up every word except the divine name? Nonetheless, as a translator, you have to translate what is, not what you think ought to be.
 
But at third glance, the picture changes again. Those NT writers didn't take their quotes directly from the Hebrew Scriptures. Starting around the 3rd century BC, Greek became the dominant language in that part of the world. Therefore, the Hebrew Old Testament was rendered into Greek in a translation that came to be known as the Septuagint, since it was produced by seventy scholars (actually 72). For the most part, New Testament writers took their OT quotes from this translation, not directly from the Hebrew writings.

Now, the Septuagint doesn't contain the divine name, either - that is, the Septuagint as we have it today. Instead, where you might expect to find God's name, you find kyrios, a Greek word that means lord. However, numerous early fragments have been found that do contain the divine name. Thus, it appears that the same sentiment (that the Name is too sacred to pronounce) which caused it to disappear in latter Hebrew manuscript copies also caused it to disappear in latter Septuagint manuscript copies!

Quite obviously, New Testament authors did not consult latter Septuagint versions - ones produced centuries after their deaths. They used the early versions, and these versions include the Name. The New World Translation (Large Print Version, with References) contain numerous examples, in an appendix, of early Septuagint inclusions of the name. So the translation is on firm ground to use it in the NT, even though few Bibles do.
 
George Howard of the University of Georgia writes this in Journal of Biblical Literature (Vol. 96, 1977, p. 63): "Recent discoveries in Egypt and the Judean Desert allow us to see first hand the use of God's name in pre-Christian times. These discoveries are significant for New Testament studies in that they form a literary analogy with the earliest Christian documents and may explain how NT authors used the divine name. In the following pages we will set forth a theory that the divine name, YHWH [alas, Howard uses the Hebrew characters, but I don't know how to do that on the keyboard!] (and possibly abbreviations of it), was originally written in the NT quotations of and allusions to the Old Testament and that in the course of time it was replaced mainly with the surrogate abbreviation for Kyrios, "Lord" [Again, he uses the Greek characters]. This removal of the Tetragram[maton], in our view, created a confusion in the minds of early Gentile Christians about the relationship between the 'Lord God' and the 'Lord Christ' which is reflected in the MS tradition of the NT text itself." [bolded print mine]
 
Not only did the removal of the Tetragrammaton create that confusion, but isn't its proper restoration, now that it is clearly found in the earliest Septuagint manuscripts, resisted by Trintitarians so as to continue that confusion?
 
Hmmmm....well...(I hear it all the time)...isn't it awfully suspicious that it's the Jehovah Witness Bible that uses Jehovah in the New Testament? Doesn't that mean they're writing their own doctrines into the Bible? No, it doesn't. What it means is that Witnesses love the divine name and so they highlight facts that are not highlighted (if not actually buried) by those who don't love the name. Since the name appears some 7000 times in the entire Bible, it's hard to argue that God doesn't want it known. Especially in view of .....
 
...that men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth. Ps 83:18 (Old Testament)
 
or
 
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Matt 6:9-10 (New Testament)
 
In fact, should not Christians be identified with that name?
 
[Peter] hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. Acts 15:14    [all verses taken from the King James Version]
 
In spite of this, most churches today are moving in the opposite direction! Check this out in the Boston Globe:
 
The Vatican, saying the name of God deserves more reverence, earlier this summer instructed that Catholics stop using the word Yahweh in worship, a step that is expected to affect a number of hymns, according to the Catholic News Service. And now comes Christianity Today, the evangelical magazine, talking with Protestants about the issue. One of several perspectives reported in the article: "Protestants should be following their lead, said Carol Bechtel, professor of Old Testament at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. 'It's always left me baffled and perplexed and embarrassed that we sprinkle our hymns with that name,' she said. 'Whether or not there are Jewish brothers and sisters in earshot, the most obvious reason to avoid using the proper and more personal name of God in the Old Testament is simply respect for God."
 
That's fine with us. Let the Name be associated with those who strive to keep His worship uncontaminated with non-Christian teachings - teachings like Trinity, hellfire, and so forth.

Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. (Isa 26:2)

Perhaps its well that those who so misrepresent God don't even attempt to use his name. In fact, no one knows it's exact pronunciation....all we know are the consonants, the vowels are educated conjecture. I've even heard it suggested that perhaps Jehovah maneuvered matters that way precisely to assuage the concern Jews would later voice....that the name is too sacred to be pronounced by imperfect lips. That doesn't entirely make sense to me, since the name was pronounced accurately at one time. But....people go from bad to worse, and maybe God saw fit to take the proper pronunciation off the table for a time. I'm not sure if I buy that, but it could be.
 
[Edit: 4/25/10; see also here and here.]

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Watchtower, the Church, and the Nazis

Wowwheee! Did this guy ever get pilloried!
 
....................................
 
Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose mother survived the death camp at Auschwitz, said yesterday that only Jews persecuted during the Nazi reign should be honored at a Holocaust memorial in Brooklyn.
 
Hikind said even though 5 million people from other groups -- including gays, the disabled and Jehovah's Witnesses -- were killed along with 6 million Jewish people during the Holocaust, the memorial in Sheepshead Bay should be for Jews only.
 
He said he is not against a memorial to honor the other groups -- as long as it is somewhere else.
 
"These people are not in the same category as Jewish people with regards to the Holocaust. It is so vastly different. You cannot compare political prisoners with Jewish victims."    New York Post, June 2009
 
.......................................
 
This blogger, for example, went so far as to bestow upon the Assemblyman his "Idiot of the Day" award! (I didn't check to see who the year's other 364 idiots were.)

 
This one called him a "jerk" and a "hypocrite."

 
This one called him (ahem) "a real dick."

 
I suppose I should join in the chorus, but somehow I can't get my heart into it. I know where this fellow is coming from. Should he not be given a free pass on account of his mother alone? Oh, I suppose if this memorial is publicly funded, like the Holocaust Museum, you should include all groups. But, if you identify with one of the groups, as Hikind does, I see his point. You can't compare political prisoners with Jewish victims.
 
As it turns out, I also identify with one of the groups, in fact, I identify with two of them. Everybody knows that I've worked closely with the developmentally disabled. I've written posts about them here, here, and here. They are my people. Life hasn't dealt them a very good hand, and perhaps if I had been dealt the same hand, I would not have played it as well. So if they (or their advocates) were to put up a memorial for their disabled holocaust victims, it wouldn't bother me for a moment that Gypsies weren't included, or gays, or Jews, or Jehovah's Witnesses, or political prisoners. You really can't compare them with these other groups. True, as one blogger pointed out, they were all murdered, but - from the Bible's point of view- all who have ever died have been "murdered," by Adam at least, if not also by some more immediate villain. Why not put up a memorial for all dead people and be done with it?
 
Of course, the other group with whom I identify is Jehovah's Witnesses. Here again, to extend the Assemblyman's reasoning, you cannot compare Jehovah's Witnesses with Jews or Gysies, or Poles, or gays, or the disabled, or anyone else. Unique among all holocaust victims, Jehovah's Witnesses were able to write their ticket out at any time. All they had to do was sign a statement renouncing their faith and pledging support to the Nazi regime. Only a handful obliged - a fact that seventy years later I still find staggering.
 
In the face of those who would deny the Holocaust, Jews are ever vigilant to keep the record clear and unambiguous. See Prime Minister Netanyahu's address before the U.N. 64th General Assembly, for example. Wow! Did he ever pin their ears back! (Unfortunately, did anyone listen?) Even watering down the Holocaust record makes them bristle. I've no problem with that. I understand it. We do the same.
 
There are any number of serial gripers on the internet who are alarmed at any favorable mention of Jehovah's Witnesses, and who immediately attempt to negate such praise. Some of these characters strive with all their might to denigrate Jehovah's Witnesses' stand during the Holocaust. Of course, this is not easy to do, because the stand is among the most courageous actions of the past century. But they try. Generally, they feign applause for the astounding courage and faith of individual Witnesses, but then take shots at their organization, as if it was entirely separate. Yes, those Witnesses were amazing, they say. Too bad they were sold out by an oppressive, self-serving, uncaring Watchtower central machine.

Man, that steams me!! Any Witness will tell you, it's because, not in spite of, the support and direction of their organization, that they withstood Hitler. Nazi troops overran Watchtower branch offices in lands they controlled; their occupants were arrested and imprisoned alike with the rank and file. Meanwhile, the mainline churches refrained from criticizing the Nazis, lest there be reprisals. "Why should we quarrel?" Hitler (correctly) boasted. "The parsons....will betray their God to us. They will betray anything for the sake of their miserable little jobs and incomes." [The Voice of Destruction, Hermann Rauschning, 1940, pp. 50, 53.] The major churches received large state subsidies throughout the war.
 
Not so with Jehovah's Witnesses. After the war, Genevieve de Gaulle, niece of latter French President General Charles de Gaule wrote: "I have true admiration for them. They ....have endured very great sufferings for their beliefs. . . . All of them showed very great courage and their attitude commanded eventually even the respect of the S.S. They could have been immediately freed if they had renounced their faith. But, on the contrary, they did not cease resistance, even succeeding in introducing books and tracts into the camp.”
 
Would that Catholics and Lutherans, who comprised 95% of the German population, were similarly "sold out" by their respective churches. The Hitler movement would have collapsed!
 
After the war, Catholic scholar and educator Gordon Zahn examined the records and, diligent though he was, could find just one among 32 million German Catholics who conscientiously refused to serve in Hitler's armies. He found another 6 in Austria. Why so few? He reports that his extensive interviews with people who knew these men produced the “flat assurance voiced by almost every informant that any Catholic who decided to refuse military service would have received no support whatsoever from his spiritual leaders."
 
Instead, Pope Pius XII, in 1939, directed chaplains on both sides of the war to have confidence in their respective military bishops, viewing the war as "a manifestation of the will of a heavenly Father who always turns evil into good," and “as fighters under the flags of their country to fight also for the Church.”*
 
*quoted from the December 8, 1939 pastoral letter, Asperis Commoti Anxietatibus, and published in Seelsorge und kirchliche Verwaltung im Krieg, Konrad Hoffmann, editor, 1940, p. 144.
 
One might imagine that, chastened by their shameful WWI record, the clergy would have resolved to do better come the next crisis. Didn't happen. See the article Pope Pius XII and the Nazis—A Fresh Viewpoint, from the Feb 22 1974, Awake magazine (from which most of this post's detailed quotes are taken). No, it was not Jehovah's Witnesses who were sold out by their organization.
 
Now, seventy years later, along comes Ragoth- good old analytical Ragoth, who can always be depended upon for substantial comments - Ragoth, meaning no harm whatsoever, who "would also point out the Confessing Church during World War II, a la Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Granted, most of them were put to death, Bonhoeffer for spying for England and being involved with the plot to assassinate Hitler, but they stood their ground in opposition to the Nazi take-over of the German church. Now, also granted, they didn't take a pacifist stance. Bonhoeffer and Barth originally started that way, but Bonhoeffer became convinced that as evil a thing as it would be, he would have to suffer the consequences in the afterlife to help the Brits, and, eventually, to become involved in the assassination plot.....they were a relatively small group, but, I just wanted to throw in there were some other religious groups openly and constantly opposed to Hitler and the Nazi party, even in the face of death threats and directly against the rest of the churches out of which they came from."
 
Ragoth has a point. Not everyone in the German churches supported Hitler. Perhaps 10% of German Protestants took a stand against the Nazis. Doubtless Catholics as well. The point is, though, that they had to defy their church to do it. They were an embarrassment to their respective churches, from whom they received "no support whatsoever." So some of them banded together into schisms of their own - such as the Confessing Church. Others acted independently as renegades. These were the "political prisoners" mentioned before, no doubt. I have nothing but admiration for these persons. Ragoth is absolutely right to recognize and honor them. They were extraordinary people.
 
But not everyone is extraordinary. Most people are quite ordinary. It's true with Jehovah's Witnesses. Some are extraordinary, but most are just regular folk. Jehovah's Witnesses did not have to stand against their own religious organization or form a new one because theirs had betrayed its values. We stood against Hitler largely because of our religious organization. Those others stood against Hitler in spite of theirs.
 
People benefit from organization, even though "organization" has become practically a dirty word today. Even the minimal organization of family is too much for many these days. You should hear how often the terms "brain-washing" and "mind control" are applied to us. But without leadership from a genuine principled organization, only 10% of Germans were able to resist the greatest atrocity of all time. With leadership from a principled organization, virtually all were able to resist. If there really is a God, why would he not be able to provide some sort of organization so that believers are not tossed about like seaweed on the surf?
 
No, I don't want to hear bellyaching about the manipulative Watchtower. It's nonsense. It comes only from those who despise all of Jehovah's Witnesses. After the fall of France in 1940, the Vatican’s Cardinal Eugène Tisserant wrote to a friend that “Fascist ideology and Hitlerism have transformed the consciences of the young, and those under thirty-five are willing to commit any crime for any purpose ordered by their leader.” It's an extreme case, but it illustrates how people are. They run in herds, overwhelmed by national, economic, social or class concerns of the day. The then-current generation ever imagines they are the first to break the trend. When the dust settles, though, they're seen to be subject to the same laws of human nature as everyone else. It takes a loyal God-centered organization to cut through the murk, and keep moral principles ever before its people, as happened in WWII and as happens today.
 
......................................
 

This excerpt comes from the United States Holocaust Museum Memorial, regarding Jehovah's Witnesses.

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Tom Irregardless and Me        No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)