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Keep Climate Change out of Easter

Several years ago the activist group Christian Climate Change organised a “Fossil-free Advent service”. 

Here they are.

even the hymns and carols were re-written to bring in Climate Change and the horrors of deadly fossil fuels.

Silent Night, Holy Night

When will you see the light?

Arctic melting as temperatures rise

Carbon burning and filling the skies

Churches – think of God’s way

For Christ’s sake please hear what we say

I never know what is the best response to things like that, whether to snigger and ridicule  or try to answer the issues they raise. Over the years I have found the last option an impossible task as groups like this take the most extreme and dismal reading of Climate Change and the IPCC reports. By selection and cherry-picking they present the argument that we are all about to fall over a cliff of climate disaster. If you don’t agree with them you are a climate denier and want to destroy the planet. 

We have moved on from the Fossil-free Advent and now  there are attempts to squeeze Climate Change into the services for every sunday, even when the Biblical passages for that sunday cannot be twisted, sorry interpreted, to say anything about Climate Change or Petrol. A search on the web will turn up ways of bring Climate Change into any biblical passage. Often the interpretations are somewhat forced and bizarre and are trying to get oil out of a stone!! (That is done by drilling.)

There is little in the Bible on the environment as it was simply not an issue two to three thousand years ago. There is much on Creation in both testaments but very, very little on how we should care for it.  We can bring out general principles for creation care from the Bible, but nothing in detail.

This is my short and simple summary of how a Christian should care for creation, but I have only given principles and not examples of need; https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/01/03/gods-creation-and-the-environment/

Sometimes attempts to find Creation Care in the Bible gets rather weak. Thus a leading Christian environmentalist argued that the classic verse John 3 vs16 means we should care for creation, because God loved the world and then so should we.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…….

Really!  That is an OK reading by a 12 year old in Sunday School but not an expert! The word “world” often occurs in John’s Gospel and is translated from the Greek word “kosmos”. In Greek kosmos can mean the whole of Creation as it does in Romans chap1 vs 20. However it is used some 70 times in John’s gospel and can mean  the creation, humankind, humans a opposed to God etc. In fact John 3 vs17 uses it to mean (hostile) humanity and not the whole of the natural world. Or take John 18 vs20 when Jesus replied to the high priest. He neither meant the antipodes or anywhere but locally around Jerusalem and Judaea. The use of kosmos in John  18 vs 33 – 38 and John 17 completely undermines this misunderstanding of kosmos.  Even a superficial reading of John and considering the use of kosmos completely undermines the claim that John 3 vs16 is a call for environmental action! That is one thing this verse is not calling for. I have not identified the author but they are a leading Christian environmentalist. But not the same as the Anglican expert on Climate Change who recommends taking garlic to avoid getting covid!!

It is very bad interpretation of the bible to try to squeeze things out of passages which simply are not there. Much of the time if we take a section of some verse, a chapter or even a whole book, they deal with only one or two topics and the other 999 are simply unmentioned. 

In recent weeks in the run up to Holy Week I have seen requests on social media for guidance on how to bring in Climate Change into the appointed bible reading during the Easter period. Considering all the readings which could be used over this period, none bring in Climate Change, even implicitly, and all have another purpose as they are to bring out the meaning of those events from Palm Sunday to Easter Day. If we need to ask, “what do these passages say about care of creation?” The answer has to be zilch and we need to look elsewhere

Yet more and more churches are putting “Climate Justice ” at the centre and thus wish to be able to bring it in to everything in the life of the church. thus Climate Change becomes the controlling narrative and not the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In other words the Gospel is subtly changed in its basis. Initially, one could see, it is Christianity PLUS creation Care with an apparent lack of shift. Gradually certain kinds of Creation Care become dominant, and that becomes the controlling principle squeezing out the core of the faith, though often retaining the words.

 I can hear many say, “Surely protecting the planet is vital?” To which I happily answer YES!! those who know me will know that I do try to protect and care for the planet, whether in economy of use, growing trees to give away, my use of a bicycle, and trying to hold local councils to account by attempting to stop the destruction of flower rich verges.

But though my creation care is integral to my life and faith it is not the guiding principle. That is because faith in Christ includes Creation Care, rather than Creation Care being at the centre, or faith in Christ AND Creation Care. 

Today, Maundy Thursday 2022, we see Green Christian forcing their views on Just Stop Oil on to the remembrance of the Last Supper and the washing of feet. This is misguided, tendentious and judgmental of those who disagree.

May be an image of 9 people, outdoors and text that says "GC Green Christian heenChrleta 18m Just Stop Oil. Christians were involved in the recent Just Stop Oil protests around the country recently. #JustStopOil http:/grencristior.ukjustop.ol On Maundy Thursday, when we celebrate Jesus' washing of the disciples feet, let's commit ourselves once more to sacrificially serving others and God's earth. HDYER Like Comment 1 share Share"

If all is Climate Change and stopping oil then nothing is and everything goes and the claims of both the Christian Faith and the need for Creation Care go out of the window.

The danger of this conflating of issues with major Christian Festivals is that the whole purpose of those festivals is lost. Christians have those in the Christian Year, with high points at Christmas and Easter, to bring home certain central features of the faith. Whether we take a minimalist or maximist view, Christians focus on that aspect, and that aspect alone on the particular day. By doing so reinforces a pedagogic purpose of strengthening Christians on one point and then the other points will dealt at another time. To  photo-bomb these with climate change or stop oil immediately diminishes the purpose of the day and confuses the issue with something else. On this in recent years, many churches have introduced a season of creation in September to fill a hole in the church’s year. 

Thus for the next few days all the focus is on the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and Resurrection. That is more than enough! Throwing in green issues will only diminish the emphasis on these centralities and ultimately may take over from them.

 On this I am reminded of the events of 1933 and 1934 in Germany when the churches were split down the middle by the Nazi movement. Some Christians went the whole swastika and formed the German Christians. A minority opposed this and produced the Barmen Declaration of May 31st 1934. The essence of that wass for a Christian there was only one way and that is Jesus Christ  – John 14 vs6 was their key text – and nothing should be added to that.

Later Karl Barth wrote on that in Church Dogmatics vol II .pt1 pp172ff, which is very pertinent to this question. Going beyond the horrors of the Nazis, Barth pointed out that the German Christians were only a continuation of what had been going on for decades. Little bits, and in Germany that was German nationalism, had been added on to the Christian Faith so that more and more Christianity was becoming Christianity and German Nationalism. It is now seen with the Russian Orthodox Church and the blatant nationalism of the patriarch and is not very pretty as the Ukrainians have found out.

But saw the events of 1933 as the fulfillment of 19th century Christian thought, which added an “also” to the faith, this soon became “and” and as with the German Christians “only”. He said similar things were happening in Britain, USA, and other European countries. (He could have given earlier examples from the Middle Ages.) 

Thus the German Christians were move from Christianity also National socialism, to Christianity and National socialism and, finally, ONLY National socialism – which was Hitler’s ultimate aim. 

This is a perennial risk for the Christian Church and a rooting of church history will give many examples, but few as bad as the German Christians.

The dangerous trap some environmental Christians are falling into is that they are raising their particular environmental concerns (which often align with the most extreme of environmentalists like Extinction Rebellion) in such a way that the centralities of the Christian Faith are downplayed, and, more worrying, that those Christians who don’t accept them are regarded as rather deficient in the faith, both in Christ and Creation care.

That is not on.

Hence my tirade!

This weekend as Christian we focus entirely of the death and resurrection of our Lord and then, and only then, see how it works out in every aspect of our lives both in love of neighbour and love of creation.

Easter - It's Meaning, History & Holiday Symbols Explained

An Indian delegate at the First Council of Nicaea

Anyone who has gone to an Anglican or Roman Catholic service would have recited the Nicene Creed.

The first version was produced at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 near Constantinople. This was called by Emperor Constantine (who became emperor at York) to get the churches in order. What we say is the revised creed o AD381.

The Council of Nicaea: Resolving the crisis in early Christianity | Sky  HISTORY TV Channel

It is usually assumed that the delegates came from the roman empire but this blog says one came from India. He may not have come for India as it could be Iran. Even so , a long way from the empire. Here it in verse 2

What else he did we don’t know, but it is interesting how scatted the delegates were. I am intrigued whether or not he spoke greek

Something else to undermine Dan Brown’s absurdities in Da Vinci Code.

Source: An Indian delegate at the First Council of Nicaea

Darwin’s Wasps and Good Friday

I recently bought the WILDguide to Britain’s Insects. It is a magnificent bulky guide and too big to carry into the field. With its photographs and descriptions it was better than my older guides. It also made me realise how little I knew my insects

The unofficial book club review no 2 | Through 360 Degrees - A blog by Mark  Cocker

At 600 pages it is vast and comprehensive and deals with all the families from the beautiful dragon and maiden flies to the less-enchanting bed-bugs. Much has been known about insects for years and Victorian clergy sometimes spent more time looking for beetles than writing their sermons.

One section took me by surprise. The last section of one hundred pages was on the Hymenoptera – ants, wasps, bees and relatives. Flipping through this I found five pages 472-476 on

Darwin’s Wasps

That was new to me, but these are the delightful parasitic wasps, whose females inject their eggs into some poor caterpillar and the larvae eat the caterpillar from the inside until they pupate, fly off and leave the poor very hungry caterpillar to curl up and die, which caused Darwin so much angst.

Here’s a female in action implanting its eggs into a caterpillar

Coined in Basel: The “Darwin wasps” | by Maridel Fredericksen | sci five |  University of Basel | Medium

Rather than expound these lovely critters here is wikipedia on them https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichneumonidae

I am not a great wiki fan, but it gives enough basic stuff on Darwin’s favourites. They have only been called Darwin’s wasps in the last few years and many articles are behind a paywall.

I cannot see Mrs Alexander including these wasps in her hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful – or this suggestion, which as serious as it is funny.

allthingorrible

Suffering is a problem as we will all encounter at sometime and Darwin felt it so strongly  as over the loss of his daughter Annie and used the Ichneumon fly to highlight his concern. suffering is the greatest challenge to the Christian Faith.

Now to nature red in tooth and claw.

To the cynical, natural history films are a mixture of sex and violence with either animals bonking in exotic ways or tearing each other to bits. Usually it is often a large cat tearing down a buck and then scoffing the gory remains. Yet most will find the ichneumon wasps too much for even the least squeamish. The female lays her eggs in a caterpillar and the larvae eat up the caterpillar from the inside but keeping the poor thing alive until they have metamorphosed into their imagos i.e. flying wasps. Those who have been to the tropics will know jiggers. The first thing you realise that your toe by a nail is very itchy. When you look it is red and the temptation is to scratch. After several days of infuriating discomfort you notice that the centre of the red area is a tiny black circle. Soon after that you can squeeze hard and out plops the larva, and the redness subsides. The ichneumon do it on a bigger scale!

Here is a picture of a caterpillar with the larvae exiting their host. Not a picture for the squeamish!!

ichneumon

Just imagine the larvae chomping away at the caterpillar which is just alive. Very grisly!

But this clip of a parasitic wasp is even more graphic and  takes the violence to an extreme.

Enjoy it!!

http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/body-invaders-caterpillar-edition

This video of maggots eating a caterpillar alive from the inside and then sending it mad is the stuff of horror films and would make most people squirm. It’s bad enough describing how to get rid of jiggers to even the least squeamish, but this!! Yuk, double yuk! Now Charles Darwin was squeamish and that is why he gave up medicine when he witnessed an operation on a child. To Darwin the ichneumon fly casts doubt on the benevolence of God as he wrote to the Christian botanist Asa Gray on 22nd May 1860 on issues raised by The Origin of Species. He wrote;

I cannot persuade myself that a benificient &omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intent of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that cats should play with mice.

Here Darwin lays bare the whole problem of theodicy; how we understand the existence of pain, suffering and death with a loving God. Little did he think when he casually wrote that letter to Asa Gray raising issues of belief in God, that his comments would be read and considered by so many and come to epitomise the question of a loving God, and that these wasps would be named after him. This letter and the reference to the ichneumon is a reminder that Darwin’s doubts about Christianity were less intellectual and more on morality and suffering.

Darwin was a sensitive person and in 1827 gave up studying medicine in Edinburgh because he could not accept the suffering involved in operations, having witnessed one on a child. His sqeamishness turned to a questioning of a benificient God and the death of his ten year old daughter Annie in 1851 is often seen as the last straw for his Christian faith. However Jim Moore argued somewhat too neatly that this extinguished what little Christian faith he had. He had found hard to accept the death of his father in 1848, who as an unbeliever had no place in Redemption. During this period Darwin studied several works of theology which had moved beyond the edges of orthodoxy notably F.W.Newman’s Phases of Faith (1850). As Moore points out “there was no resting place en route from Anglicanism through Unitarianism to a purely theistic belief….Darwin gave up Christianity”(1 ). He did not give up belief in God, but could not reconcile a loving God with such unneccessary death and suffering. This questioning stayed with Darwin for the rest of his life. His religious musings in his Autobiography also show that his problems with Christianity were not so much intellectual as moral, and thus Darwin may be regarded as a typical Victorian moral critic of Christianity (2 ). Nowhere does this come out more poignantly than in his letter to Gray of 22nd May 1860, as the essence of his letter is the question,’How can a loving God allow suffering?’

Darwin had sent Gray a complimentary copy of the Origin in November 1859 and Gray, who had known of Darwin’s natural selection theory for several years, soon made his basic acceptance clear to Darwin. In the first part of 1860 Gray was both arranging the publication of the Origin in the U.S.A. and writing a favourable review for the Atlantic Monthly. Frequent letters passed between them mostly on these preceeding matters, but also openly discussing more religious matters. In a letter dated 22nd May Darwin aired his problems over suffering. Unfortunately the letter from Gray dated 7th May has not been found. Darwin’s letter dealt first with matters of the American edition and then of recent reviews, refering to negative ones by Sedgwick, Clarke, Duns and Owen. The second part of the letter deals with ‘the theological view of the question’ and Darwin dealt with theological rather than scientific problems, stating ‘I cannot see, as plainly as others do,…. evidence of design and beneficence.’ He could not see how a good God could have created an Ichneumon fly or allowed cats to play with mice. Ichneumonidae lay their eggs in live caterpillars which remain alive until the larvae pupate, and gave the basis for the SF film Alien! It is difficult not to feel the force of Darwin’s argument as he required a benificient theodicy, and could not reconcile ‘Nature Red in tooth and claw’ with a loving God. To Darwin a loving and wise God not only had to be an Intelligent Designer, He also had to be a Loving Designer.

Many of Darwin’s scientific predecessors, however, did not feel the problem of suffering so keenly as is evidenced by those who wrote the Bridgewater Treatises a generation earlier. The Bridgewaters represent the height of design and evidential theology in the 1830s. All the authors were Christian, mostly clergy. At least two discussed suffering. Buckland, the Oxford Geologist, who in the 1820s was the foremost proponent of Diluvialism, wrote On Geology and Mineralogy in 1836 which, according to Jon Topham, was the biggest seller of the eight and found in many mechanics’ institutes (3 ). This treatise presented the geological and palaeontological understanding of the mid-1830s through the eyes of one of geology’s foremost Anglican exponents. By 1835 Buckland had rejected his diluvialism and in 1838 became convinced of the Ice Ages proposed by Agassiz, following a visit to the Jura. Theologically Buckland was close to moderate Evangelicalism as was his friend Edward Copleston of Oriel College, whom Simeon considered to share all his essential beliefs. In the 1820s Buckland was encouraged by the Evangelical theologians J.B.Sumner (Archbishop of Canterbury 1848-62) and G.S.Faber, and by the ultra-conservative Bishop Shute Barrington of Durham (4 ). To Buckland and many contemporary Evangelicals predation did not contradict the beneficience of God, as is shown by Chap XIII of his Bridgewater Treatise; ‘Aggregate of Animal Enjoyment increased, and that of Pain diminished, by the existence of Carnivorous Races’. Neither did they accept that passages such as  Genesis 3 or Romans 8 raised problems for the concept of predation (5 ) Buckland is echoing Paley’s view of suffering in Natural Theology where he says without predation we would ‘see the world filled with drooping, superannuated, half-starved, helpless and unhelped animals’ (29 ).

And put satirically by the Oxford professor of chemistry, Charles Daubeny;

It is true  Paradise was delicious and nice,

Yet, if those born on earth had ne’er died,

‘Twould have been such a cram, like the berries in jam,

Pic-a-back men and women must ride.

William Kirby’s On the History, Habits and instincts of Animals (1835 ) was unique among the Bridgwater Treatises for adopting a young earth position to the consternation of other writers. The introductory chapter claimed that all strata were laid down in the Flood. Kirby was the leading early 19th century entomologist and his work was widely used by Darwin. This is borne out by his correspondence with the Rev John Rodwell in late 1860, describing cats and blind rats and how these supported the ideas in the Origin. On discovering that Kirby was Rodwell’s uncle he wrote, ‘whom I for as long as I can remember have venerated’. In 1818 Kirby and Spence had written a four volume Introduction to Entymology of which Darwin had a heavily annotated copy. As his was the first edition he probably used it for his beetlemania at Cambridge. In the second volume of his Bridgwater Treatise Kirby described the Ichneumon and how they destroy pests ‘by the goodness of Providence'(6 ). The chapter on insects speaks of them demonstrating the beneficence of God in their beauty, design and behaviour, especially the maternal care of the female wasp which found a suitable caterpillar for the larvae to feed on , slowly eating the poor beastie from the inside as in the video clip, something Darwin could not accept. However in his letter to Gray on 22nd May 1860 it is far more likely that Darwin was thinking of Kirkby’s account in his Entymology rather than his Bridgewater, as the former was one of Darwin’s most used texts. Kirkby described how, ‘The active Ichneumon braves every danger, and does not desist until her courage and address have insured subsistence for one of her future progeny'(7). Kirkby focussed on maternal care of the wasp and Darwin on the poor caterpillar.

There is not only suffering caused by predation , disease and other aspects of pain for living beings, but that caused by the earth itself, especially volcanoes and earthquakes. 2015 saw the ghastly earthquake in Nepal caused by a small shift in the Indian plate sliding under the Eurasian plate. It was nearly as powerful as the Nepal earthquake of 80 years ago and the Assam earthquake of 1950 (which shook our bungalow to bits). April was also the 200th anniversary of the eruption of Tambora in Indonesia, which killed thousands near the volcano and disrupted the climate and thus harvests for several years , causing even more deaths. No wonder the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which killed some 10,000 to 100,000 people in the city alone made many question a loving God. The repercussion were also theological and philosophical and the common argument that it showed God’s judgement lacked plausibility, especially as Lisbon’s Red Light district got off lightly! Among others Voltaire and Kant wrote on the questions raised, particularly of a totally benevolent creation.

With a growing understanding of geology and the structure of the earth, it was increasingly impossible not to see that these “natural evils” have been there from all time and WRITTEN into the structure of the earth, and not introduced by God after Adam and Eve went scrumping! There was no way anyone could accept the view of theodicy immortalised by Milton in Paradise Lost;

Of man’s first disobedience ,and the fruit

Of the forbidden tree, whose mortal taste

Brought death into the world, and all our woe.

With loss of Eden…….

Without me giving a well-thought out understanding of death and suffering in relation to a belief in a loving God, we have to say that any  philosophical or religious view which does not accept that earthquakes, suffering and death are part of the inherent fabric of this planet is utterly false.

But there are those, who do not say this as Young Earth Creationists will echo the theodicy of John Milton and say there was no suffering or death, and even earthquakes before the Fall. It is the lynchpin of creationist thought and can be persuasive. A good example is Ken Ham’s musings on the Nepal earthquake;

https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2015/04/30/nepal-suffering-after-major-earthquake/

You see, God’s original creation did not contain earthquakes or any other natural disasters. When God saw all that He had made over Creation Week, He called it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). The original creation was free from any death or suffering. It wasn’t until Adam and Eve rebelled against God that death and suffering became a part of our world (Genesis 2:173:1–24). The death and suffering caused by this earthquake is a reminder of sin and the severe consequences that rebellion against our Creator brings.

I cannot buy into that and at this point I am somewhat theologically challenged by suffering, or bewildered  as was Darwin. Thus Darwin wrote ‘With respect to the theological view of the question …. I am bewildered’ as ‘There seems to be too much misery in the world’. A few lines further he wrote, ’On the other hand I cannot ….. conclude that everything is a result of brute force’ (21 May 1860). Perhaps like William Blake, Darwin could accept that God ‘designed’ the lamb, but did not frame the ‘fearful symmetry’ of the tyger (8 ). As Blake’s biographer wrote “Few poems have been scrutinised so closely”, and one reading is that a benevolent God made the lamb but not the tyger. Among critics, there is little agreement to its meaning. However his Book of Urizen seems to accept two creators one benevolent and Urizen the other, thus providing a mythological dualism to explain the negative in creation (9 ).

Suffering was an insuperable problem for belief to Darwin, and in the face of it he was left bewildered as to whether a beneficient God could have designed a world with so much animal pain. Darwin’s theodicy was a baffled reverent agnosticism; Buckland and Kirkby regarded animal suffering as God’s intention for the natural order, but this became less acceptable in a post-Chloroform society.

I originally gave much of this material at a Christians in Science conference in 1996 (when I was introduced to Intelligent Design in the form of Behe’s book). At the conference where this paper was presented the most perceptive and awkward question was on how I, as a minister, tried to minister to people in the midst of suffering. Two days after the conference I was due to bury a little baby of five months, so the questioner touched a nerve. To give a brief outline how I personally grapple with suffering, I start with God as Creator, echoing God speaking to Job out of the whirlwind (Job. 38 -42) and considering the Love of God reflected in the beauty of Creation. I then move to the death of Christ, the Son of God and the Crucified God who not only forgave sins but also entered into all human suffering. I often focus on the cry of dereliction “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ( Mark.15.34.) Pastorally, I look for the appropriate way of considering Christ’s death as entering into suffering and seek what is the right and sensitive approach to the people concerned. I find I have to say things with diffidence rather than a boldness, which would be insensitive. I have found Darwin’s concerns over suffering most helpful and challenging to my own pastoral work. Desmond’s treatment of the poignant correspondence between Huxley and Kingsley over the death of Huxley’s little son Noel has also been spiritually formative for me and gave me the kernel for a sermon at the annual Memorial Service in my Church. (Desmond op cit. p286-9) Darwin and Huxley both raised acute problems over the goodnesss of God in their pain over the loss of young children. No help will be found from an Intelligent Designer or a Cosmic Fine Tuner. Like Job they were angry with God for “taking away” their children, see Job chaps 2 and 3. The beginnings of an answer come in Job chap 38 where God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind and asks Job where he was at Creation. For succour one must go to the Suffering Servant who “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” ( Isaiah 53.4.) Christians need to listen to both Darwin and Huxley over suffering as they raise the deepest of personal issues as well as the less important intellectual ones.

Ultimately, I do not get much further than echoing Jesus’s cry of dereliction;

My God , my god , why have you forsaken me.

Perhaps as we come to good Friday we can think of the bizarre suffering caused by Darwin’s wasps and then think of our suffering. We then need to think of Jesus’s death on the cross and think quietly and deeply on that and not just parrot “Jesus died for our sins.

The passion narratives of the gospels are most poignant in their accounts of Jesus’s death and make us think of the human condition of suffering  and evil, both petty  and on the industrial scale.

I suggest the slow reading of the account of his death in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Here is Mark on the death of Jesus

The Crucifixion of Jesus
21They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
25It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 2829Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
The Death of Jesus
33When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”35When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
I began with a parody of all things bright and beautiful. Here is her hymn on the meaning of Jesus’s death
There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified
Who died to save us all.

We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains he had to bear,
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.

He died that we might be forgiven,
He died to make us good;
That we might go at last to heaven,
Saved by his precious Blood.

There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven, and let us in.

O dearly, dearly has he loved,
And we must love him too,
And trust in his redeeming Blood,
And try his works to do.

But don’t forget, unlike Jesus Christ Superstar, we don’t stop at the death of Christ and move on to the resurrection which makes all things new.

Crucifixion, Failure, and the Revolution of Submission - Catholic Stand

1.) Desmond, A. and Moore, J.Darwin, London: Michael Joseph, (1991), chap 25 ‘Our Bitter & Cruel Loss’ especially p299.

2.) On the “moral criticism” of Christianity see Altholz, J. ‘The Warfare of Conscience with Theology.’, (1976) in Parsons, G. Religion in Victorian Britain. Vol IV. , Manchester: Manchester University Press (1988), p150-169. (Useful, despite howlers on the history of science!)

3) Topham, J. ‘Science and popular education in the 1830s’, British Journal for the History of Science (1992) 25, 397-430.

4.) Rupke ,The Great Chain of History p14.

5.) Buckland. W, Geology and Mineralogy considered in reference to Natural Theology., 2 vols, London, 1836 etc.

Buckland, W. An inquiry whether the sentence of death… London 1839.

See S.J.Gould’s discussion of the same theme in ‘Nonmoral Nature’ in Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes, London, Penguin, 1984, p32-45.

6.) Paley, W. op cit, p312.

7.) Kirkby, W. On the power, wisdom, and goodness of God. as manifested in the Creation of Animals London, various editions, from 1853 edit vol ii, p243.

Kirkby, W and Spence, W., An Introduction to Entomology, London, 1856 (6th Edition), p194.

8.) William Blake, Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright; and Little lamb, who made thee?

9.) Ackroyd, P, BlakeLondon, (1995), pp399, p 143f & p175.

Are trans people ‘on a sacred journey’? | Psephizo

Over the last few years there has been a great increase of people, especially young people, wanting to change sex i.e. to be transgender, or as the ghastly terms put it to be “trans” rather than”cis”.

In fact you can only surgically modify our bodies to be sorta like the other sex, but every cell remains male or female i.e. XX or XY. There is no way XX can be changed to XY.

Without denying some of the problems some face, Dr Ian Paul deals both sensitively and incisively with the whole transgender issue and points out where Archbishop Rowan Williams and Steve Chalke have got things very wrong despite their concerns

He focuses on the bizarre and scary statement from there letter

To be trans is to enter a sacred journey of becoming whole: precious, honoured and loved, by yourself, by others and by God.

Is that actually true? Or in accord with the love and teaching of Jesus

We could soon move onto issues like gender vs sex and whether or not we are binary etc. But not now!

Transgender - Wikipedia

Now read Ian Paul’s excellent article and stop and think.

Source: Are trans people ‘on a sacred journey’? | Psephizo

William Buckland – Ice Man

Buckland was one of the great 19th century geologists who taught at Oxford. Here is a sketch of him teaching. His students included Charles Lyell, Samual Wilberforce and one  saint, Saint John Henry Newman.

230px-Cyclomedusa_cropped

In June 1842 Charles Darwin undertook his last geological field trip. He was at his father’s house, The Mount  in Shrewsbury, that month and after a winter of sickness, he felt somewhat better. Thus, he went in his gig to Snowdonia to assess whether Buckland was correct in identifying proof of a former Ice Age. In October 1841 William Buckland travelled to Wales with Thomas Sopwith (his grandson designed the Sopwith Camel, a WW1 fighter plane) to see whether Agassiz could be right about a former Ice Age. In a few days of horrendous Welsh weather Buckland identified all the main glacial troughs.

Buckland was one of the leading geologists of the early 19th century but there is no decent biography of him apart from Rupke’s study  The Great  Chain of Being (1983). His eccentricities were numerous, but are mentioned more than his geological work.

He was the first to find a Mesozoic mammal, worked with Mary Anning on Dorset fossils, wrote a Bridgewater treatise on geology and, my interest here, introduced the concept of Ice Ages to Britain in 1940.

Before then what we now see as glacial deposits and glacial geomorphology was explained by an effect of the Deluge. In the 1830s Charpentier, a mine own in the Rhone valley, and Louis Agassiz, of Neuchatel and then Harvard, recognised that glaciers were far more extensive and explained erratics like the Pierre au Bot above Neuchatel. Darwin was originally totally unconvinced and preferred floating icebergs to explain erratics and had explained the Parallel roads of Glen roy as fluctuations of sea level, only to be trounced by Agassiz in 1840.

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When he visited Switzerland in October 1838 and met Agassiz, Buckland was convinced of an Ice Age – note the singular, as then no one envisaged a whole series over 2 million years. Two years later in 1840 Buckland, Agassiz and Lyell travelled north on a glacier hunt.

Just south of Lancaster they found signs of glaciation as it is the southern limit of a drumlin swarm. I live 10 miles south of Lancaster and see them whenever I go north. In the Lake District they noticed the glacial cwms on the east side of Hellvelyn. Going further north they checked out Darwin’s work at Glen Roy and found what he admitted was a “great blunder” . It was not a lowering of sea level but a lake dammed by a glacier as Agassiz had found by the Aletsch glacier.

No. 857: Tyndall on Parallel Roads

And so in October 1841 Buckland headed for Snowdonia with his friend Thomas Sopwith.

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Buckland dressed for Welsh Glaciers by Thomas Sopwith, note the writing. This shows Sopwith’s sense of humour, but some humourless sciency types thought it was getting at Buckland for believing a young earth. That didn’t stop a recent biographer of Buckland saying it was on the way to Scotland!!

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View from top of Y Garn 3104ft showing the Llugwy trough leading to Capel Curig, Llyn Idwal, a morainic lake. Buckland visited the vlley behind Tryfan in the middle distance and note glacial features

To the left is Nant Francon, viewed below – with embellishments.

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In 1831 de la Beche painted this watercolour to show that little rivers could not produce big valleys. He was right, but ideas of glaciation were a few years ahead.

This map shows the routes of both Buckland and Darwin in 1841-2 with some further details. I have retraced both routes.

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The lake Llyn y Gader is WSW of Snowdon summit. The glacial troughs were sorted by Buckland in an amazing bit of work.

for detail please read my paper in Proc Geol Assoc BucklandDarwinWalesIce

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Snowdon from the old coaching inn Plas y Brenin taken early morning. Buckalnd identified the glacier coming down here from Snowdon, but it also went down Nant Gwynant.

Buckland and Sopwith started at the glacial lakes at Ellesmere before heading for Snowdonia. despite filthy weath they sorted out the essential glacial features in a few days

One place he stopped was by Rhyd Ddu (the start of the quietest path up Snowdon, which I climbed last year on the 60th anniversary of my first ascent of Snowdon in 1961. It was about my 50th ascent.) . There he found a roche moutonnee by Llyn y Gader

which Tom Sopwith sketched

He also did a water colour of Buckland inspecting the roche moutonee which some think is Mary Anning. Compare the scenery with the pen and ink sketch and photo.

May be an image of 1 person and standing

It even appears on book covers!!

May be an image of text that says "MARY ANNING 1799-1847 A LIFE ON THE ROCKS Nigel NigelJClarke J Clarke"

This is an interesting sketch in Llanberis  made in the 1820s. The unannoted copy is to be found in the Oxford Museum but this with the word “Glacier” added is found in the Agassiz collection at Neuchatel. Thanks to Hugh Torrens telling me to go and find it while in Neuchatel.

No photo description available.

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On the left is one of the many erratics blocks in Llanberis Pass. Snowdon is up to the right.

For more read my paper which deals with Darwin as well.

Darwin spent a few days in Capel Curig and then several around Cwm Idwal before moving on to Moel Tryfan and then Llanberis and Snowdon.

For further reading

Darwin, Buckland and the Welsh Ice Age, 1837 – 1842, Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 123 (2012) 649–662

the original paper

BucklandDarwinWalesIce

Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help

A challenging blog on how Charities can fail in their aims.

I would add some charities become more activist than actually helping. Here some of the green ones do the least effective good as they are wedded to certain activist obsessions. I wonder which I mean!

Grace + Truth

The scale and profile of church-based social action projects has grown significantly over the last 20 years.

There has been a particular rise in projects which distribute practical resources, with food banks being the most high profile example.

Critical reflection

The growth of such activity raises questions which need to be reflected on. Is this work having the desired impact? Is it empowering authentic change?

Robert Lupton has 4 decades of experiences in urban community activism. He thinks there is nowhere near enough critical thinking about the end results of such social action:

‘The compassion industry is almost universally accepted as a virtuous and constructive enterprise. But what is surprising is that the outcomes are almost entirely unexamined.’

Blunt message

Toxic Charity is a short book with a blunt message. Although published in America ten years ago, it is very relevant to the UK context today. We need to engage…

View original post 737 more words

Antifracking goes upmarket!

In the heady days of the protests outside the fracking site at Preston New Road one got used to the scruffy temporary buildings, the Nanas smoking fags, occasional visits from the elite from the Green Party – and, of course, Geza Frackman /Tarjani who made friends with everyone and has yet to be vaccinated. along with that was the barrage of disinformation from the various frackfree groups, who got upset when dissected.

Friends of the Earth had a go too, and got their knuckles rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority

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We were told how massive quakes would bring down houses, many would get cancer (sometimes said just after having a fag), water courses would be polluted, fracking fluid contain dangerous chemicals, wildlife would be destroyed, and the traffic would be excessive. all these claims were neutered by reputable bodies, but they were repeated ad nauseam.

Below is a poster on Preston New Road, and a meme based on a dodgy comment from an activist scientist, wrongly ascribed to Sir Mark Walport by the Graudain

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Of course, anyone who supported fracking was a climate denier, capitalist pig, a Tory lacky, a shill for big oil and so on. The churches fell for it and repeated the same stories in their publicity.

Fracking came to a sudden stop in 2018 after a Mag 3 tremor, which wouldn’t even get a mention in San Francisco, where they occur almost weekly. In 2019 a moratorium was imposed by the government, which still allowed geothermal energy which results in larger “quakes”.

Now it seems that the antifracking horror stories have been taken on by such august groups as the Conservative Environment Network (of which more in another blog and the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit https://eciu.net/  ECIU

It has an impressive board “The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s Advisory Board reflects the breadth of interest within Britain in energy and climate change issues. Members of the board advise ECIU on matters of science, economics, policy, community interest and communication. ECIU is deeply appreciative of their advice, support and involvement.” It includes Michael Howard, Andrea Leadsom, Lord Puttnam and Lord Krebs among others. Their purpose is summed up:

   We support journalists, parliamentarians and other communicators with accurate and accessible briefings on key issues, and work with individuals and organisations that have interesting stories to tell, helping them connect to the national conversation.

Sadly this tweet does not live up to that ideal and is sweeping, biased and inaccurate. The Nanas would have been proud of it.

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The four negative arguments against fracking are simplistic and could come out of the Friends of the Earth play book.

1 Geology Of course the geology is different, as it is in various parts of the USA! The strata in Pennsylvania are much more folded and faulted than those in New Mexico! In UK oil and gas has been safely extracted near Studland, the Weald, Leicestershire, Yorkshire  and in Lancashire, Formby and Elswick, close to the cuadrilla sites. Many of these involved fracking e.g Elswick

2. Industry can’t do sums That needs explanation and is irresponsible with substantiation.

3. Little impact on prices The price to the customer is only part of the issue. British produced gas may not be cheaper but it has two advantages. First, tax revenues would be very valuable. Secondly, importing gas involves increase of emissions due to transport  and loss of gas in transit. Meanwhile we simply import gas from all over the world and haven’t even checked whether there is gas under the north of England.

4 Unpopular For ten years green groups had a sustained campaign of misinformation and scaremongering. A good example is Friends of the Earth who were hauled over the coals by the Advertising Standards Authority. Living 10 miles from the Lancashire site, I came across many examples of locals being given false information. No wonder it is unpopular.

The unpopularity was proclaimed after 25,000 letters of objection were sent to Lancashire County Council in 2015. As I wrote in my blog back in 2015 ”  Out of all the objections , over 18000 were template letters templates & 11500 from outside Lancashire.”  The template letter was full of misrepresentation too.

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/25000-letters-of-objection-to-fracking-in-lancashire/

Really ECIU should be more politically savvy. 

The Diagram.

The diagram presents fracking as a very dirty and dodgy method, and if it were true I would oppose fracking everywhere! But;

Consider each snippet of text.

  1. Yes, it uses loads of water as does every other source of energy e.g. nuclear and coal. Often the water can be re-used.
  2. Oh yeah! Some of the chemicals are hazardous to health. This harks back to the list of over 600 dangerous chemicals in a list made in the USA nearly 10 years ago. Most are no longer used in the USA and almost all banned inn the UK. In the UK, the main chemical  – 98% – is that lethal substance water. Along with that some surfacants are used  (same as in kitchen products.) In 2015 a Friends of the Earth leaflet claimed carcinogens were used. It was slated after complaints from cuadrilla and two OAPs by the Advertising Standards Agency. Under pressure  on BBC Northwest  Dr Tony Bosworth of Friends of the Earth identified the carcinogen  – SAND!!!!! In fact Governor Hickenlooper  of Colorado actually drank some!
  3. Methane can leak or be vented. Yes, a little is. This can either be by accident or necessary during exploration.  As firms want to sell the gas, they don’t want leaks as that means loss of profit
  4. Spills and leaks of fracking fluid. That is always possible, whenever fluids are involved – eg agricultural run-off, sewage or industrial pollutants polluting land and waterways. None should happen. Great care is taken on fracking sites – evident to all who visited them. The site at Preston New Road was carefully protected as I saw on several occasions. There were no spills or leaks with Cuadrilla. Some happened in the USA but were mostly due to badly constructed wells.
  5. The casings are considerable and effective. 
  6. Oh dear, the picture of ponds is so American. Yes the ponds for contaminated waste water. However these ponds are not allowed in the UK and the water has to be taken off site to be treated.
  7. Horizontal  drilling! Yes, but they should have made it clear that the actual fracking is done about 6000ft below surface so there is no chance of cracks making it to surface. The maximum extent of cracks has been found to be 1000ft, so still a mile belwo surface.

It is surprising, or not, that the ECIU used a hostile American diagram, which was produced not to inform ABOUT fracking, but to persuade against fracking. The diagram is UNTRUE for fracking in the USA and doubly untrue for fracking in the UK.

This is very careless slovenly reflecting badly on the ECIU. It seems that inexperienced and ill-informed employees are allowed to make public statements on social media.

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finally the diagram is typical of “popular” diagrams produced to “explain” fracking. Most contain serious errors, but none give are fair picture of just how deep down fracking will take place. Form diagrams one would conclude a few hundred feet, whereas it is 6000 to 8000ft, i.e double the height of most British mountains. Imagine having to climb a mountain twice as high as Snowdon or Scafell!!

Before that here’s another dodgy diagram

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Now a undodgy diagram:

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Who caused the present energy crisis?

Here is an interesting letter to The Times  (5/2/22) on the energy crisis of today. Not all will agree with it but I think it is spot on.

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As a Christian I always get narked at those like Richard Dawkins who say that us believers go for faith without evidence and thus what we believe is unprovable and untrue. I could write on this, but suffice it to say that there is evidence for the existence of Jesus and details in the New Testament. But I won’t be a God-botherer today.

For many years I have got increasingly fed up with appeals for “renewables” as if they will solve every energy crisis. A times it comes out as a mantra or an item of credal faith. Most green groups from FoE, Greenpeace to wildlife Trusts  and the National Trust sing from the same hymn/herrsheet. It is now political orthodoxy in all parties; Greens, Labour, LibDem and tories as they are swept along with the renewable tide, as if they can replace fossil fuels NOW..

I suggest they never look at the figures for energy sources for electricity production. When it is windy like today (and far too windy to cycle 6th Feb 22) renewables, largely wind, make a good showing but as soon as the wind drops gas is ramped up and coal comes into play.

One of the best accounts of why renewables are no panacea is to found in Prof dieter Helm’s recent book Net Zero, how we stop causing climate change.  Helm is no climate denier or sceptic but is fully aware of problems, both technical and political. The section on pp34-6 should be read by all. In the last y30 years renewables have made virtually no contribution to energy demand. Period.

December 2021 was a time of no wind and little sun and renewables flopped – ein dunkelflaute as the Germans would say. More gas was used and also coal.

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This figures for one day show that renewables are very far off from making a real impact, yet for a decade it has almost been an item of faith that renewables will provide. At times some will just say the word “renewables” as if that will provide the power. No kid, I’ve heard it too many times. Within the churches, the Ecocongregation project is almost entirely in favour of renewables.

What so many fail to see is that the transition away from fossil fuels cannot happen overnight, whether for electricity or transport. On average renewables may produce nearly 50% of electricity (but not heating and transport, which is often ignored), but on a cold windless winter’s night, with a ridge of high pressure, renewables will produce nearly zero.

The usual green narrative is completely blind to this and think fossil fuels can soon be phased out. Oh that they could be! The transition has two major hurdles, the first is the capability of renewables which is a long way off, The second is less obvious and is the immense amount of additional metals needed for the transition, eg Cu, Co, Ni, Li and the rare earths. To give an indication; just to provide 100% replaced by electric cars the consumption of Copper needs to double from now on from the present usage of 100,000 tons. That requires some very large copper mines. One of the largest in Southern Africa is Tsumeb in Namibia which produced about 1.7 million tons of copper in the century it was open.  That is 20 years supply for the UK. Now multiply that for every country to go electric! Many do not acknowledge this major hurdle.

Those most qualified to judge have made this clear many times, but amateurs from green groups continue with the mantra of renewables.

Just consider two with much understanding

Helm Preface

not be in the money anytime soon  ix

david Mackay

Letter to the Times, 5th Feb 2022

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Kelly makes some very strong statements here, which are very sound.

He says that bowing to climate alarmists and renewable energy lobbyists, coal and nuclear plants were decommissioned before replacements were in situ. Totally right. The clamour from Greeenpeace, Friends of the Earth, echoed by many green groups, almost drowned out other voices, which were easily dismissed as Climate Deniers. I was told that if I supported fracking I was a climate denier. Once was by a fellow vicar who thought Acetic and Citric Acids were pollutants used in fracking!!!!!  I could also add most Green groups and all political parties as the CEN Conservative Environmental Network are all opposed to nuclear and coal, especially the latter.

Kelly points out that decommissioning of plants  was done before replacements were in place. Thus with coal power stations gone, there was no generating capacity to make up for the shortfall from renewables, which could not produce in the absence of wind and sun. This is simply folly and the collapse of power generation or the problems of the turn of 2021-2022 was made inevitable. No one , or only a few, wanted to retain coal, but until cheapish and reliable energy comes on line the risk is too great, especially for the poor, who have to use a higher portion of their income on fuel and electricity.

On paper the replacement capacity of renewables seems good and comparable to fossil fuels. But there is a very big BUT. However big the capacity is, no electricity can be generated without wind and sun. When it is windy greens crow about the fact that 50% of electricity is being generated by renewables but silent the next day when the wind drops and little power is produced. Then gas kicks in and, what is worse, COAL.

Kelly also points out there is no way to store more than small amounts of energy on  a large scale, as without that any excess electricity produced simply goes to waste. Yet many simply believe without evidence that these are in place. He could have pointed out that wishful thinking will not produce energy and you cannot use technology which has not been invented or is not yet on line. None of this can be magicked into existence by ditching fossil fuels and nuclear. Taking a long view in the early 70s GranadaNW had a series on a house powered by renewables. It was great to watched and filled myself and others with hope, but that hope has not been fulfilled despite all the R & D.

And so his finale on fracking. Despite much hostility fracking has been successful in the USA, with relatively few problems. Most of these were caused by individual bad practice or “litigious individuals”. As in the UK opponents were often rather economical with the truth. The UK story of fracking is a sad one as greens of all kinds made a crusade against and were also economical with the truth. It foundered on minor tremors which almost certainly caused no damage, despite the likes of Geza Tarjani claiming that the 2021 “earthquake” (Mag 2.1) damaged his house and became one of the most tire**** protestors against fracking. He has recently been charged in connection with Sajid Jarvid’s home https://www.lancs.live/news/lancashire-news/leyland-man-geza-tarjanyi-denies-22945802

Freinds of the Earth were censored by the Advertising Standards Authority for an inaccurate leaflet some years back. https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2017/01/04/friends-of-the-earth-fck-it-up/

It is concerning that leading green groups do this and that government continues to listen to them.

Kelly is totally clear that our present energy crisis is self-inflicted and the result of listening to green scare stories.

The result has to raise the cost of energy and everything else and also drive more people into fuel poverty.

When you get your extra high fuel bills, this will direct your thoughts on who is to blame.

Wild (sea) horses wouldn’t make me believe this

Many wildlife programmes are all about sex and violence, but the former is almost entirely hetereosexual and rather rough. We may watch and say “We are not like that”, but some look to animal sex and say “We are like that”.

After all, we are only animals!! And so we look for animal behaviour to justify our own behaviour. Gone are the days when we say “Nature red in tooth and claw” (Incidentally pre-Darwinian) and prefer cuddly images like bambi. Maybe we prefer Kropotkin to what we think Darwin said. But this is about the seaside instead.

Seahorses Inspire New Armor Designs | Smart News | Smithsonian Magazine

The latest comes from tweets and a magazine article of Sussex Wildlife Trust. Now wildlife trusts do a great job and are doing wonders restoring lowland peat bogs in Lancashire and Cheshire. But Sussex Wildlife Trust with their Kelp Restoration Project  are concerned about seahorses in the coastal seas, which are unusual as the male carries the young. They could be said to get pregnant.

The article; From a natural spectrum springs a rainbow is a romp though non- heterosexual activity among animals, especially bonobos

 This wild notion of a male-less matriarchy led me on to some primate research looking at Bonobo chimps, closely related to humans they too have sex for fun, recreation not procreation. Bonobos not only form matriarchal societies but are also fully bisexual and the females tend to have more sex with other females. Research suggests that the evolution of same-sex sexual behaviour may have led to pathways promoting high levels of cooperation, basically queer peace-keeping. This promoted a new personal moto of mine, “Be more Bonobo” and this knowledge gave me a new found space for my own sexuality in the context of evolutionary theory.

This seem to be a spin on bonobos, but no worries.

Can one seriously say “Be more bonobo”? The mind boggles at the thought of any carrying that out in a small or large groups. Imagine being more bonobo at a wildlife trust meeting. Not even wild seahorses would make me do that?

And she concludes with her local favourite  – the sea horse – where the male gets pregnant. However I cannot see what that has to do with sex-life, but she ends;

And finally the incredible seahorse species that in my opinion can claim the throne of the animal drag-kingdom in having the only true reversed pregnancy.

You can read the article in full in Sussex Wildlife Jan 2022

https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/news/from-a-natural-spectrum-springs-a-rainbow

Here’s some more;

Now, with my work for the Sussex Kelp Restoration Project much of my favourite flagship “queer” marine species are linked directly to our conservation work here on the Sussex Coast. For example bottlenose dolphins who are known to engage in homosexual behaviour and sex for fun, again thought to increase social bonding and cooperation. The black seabream which are all born female and change to male at maturity (known as protogynous hermaphrodites). And finally the incredible seahorse species that in my opinion can claim the throne of the animal drag-kingdom in having the only true reversed pregnancy.

I’m sure Darwin would agree that rather than it all being about nature versus nurture we should focus more on nurturing our true nature, that part of us that is wild and free and far from binary. Wouldn’t it be dull if everything were so very black and white… life and love is in fact gloriously technicolour thanks to evolution’s rainbow.

All this was picked up by Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist who has little time for god-botherers like me. I confess that I like him on evolution and he usually goes in with all guns blazing, especially on us Christians!! But I like much of what he writes. Here, as a leading biologist who really knows his stuff, he points out the serious flaws in the article;

Now people can find solace where they will, but I think it’s misguided to look to nature to validate a behavior in humans. For every mammalian species that shows homosexual behavior, there are a dozen who don’t.  (Do those show that homosexuality is “unnatural, ergo wrong?” Of course not!) And homosexuality in humans, which often involves attraction solely to members of your own sex, is not at all the same thing as homosexual behavior in dolphins. For when a the male wants offspring, he knows where to go. Should a rapist find validation by studying ducks?

Once when cycling down the Lancaster I stopped to be a voyeur on several drakes copulating with one female in what seemed to be most viciously. If we drew a human parallel it would be gang rape. Inicidentally it is sometimes fatal for the female.

Three male mallards forcibly copulating with a female. Mating among the  species is often non-consensual. : r/natureismetal

and so Coyne concludes

Nature, as varied as it is, can be used to “validate” any human behavior, therefore it can validate NO human behaviors.

https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2022/01/21/do-seahorses-validate-queerness-the-naturalistic-fallacy-committed-by-the-sussex-wildlife-trust/

I was both amazed and appalled by the article, which is very shoddy science. It should not have been published as it reflects badly on Wildlife Trusts. I am a member of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and respect their work on peat bogs and re-introduction of plants.

Coyne makes it very clear that we cannot draw such simple validations of human behaviour from animal behaviour and shows this is an example of the “naturalistic fallacy”.

To put it baldly, should we follow chimps or bonobos?

These attempts to refer to nature as a way of validating human behavior, morality, or ideology is, of course, an example of the “naturalistic fallacy,” usually described as the fallacy of saying “what’s seen in nature is good in humans.” And it’s a dumb fallacy, because a lot of animals behave in nature in ways that we would consider immoral in our own species. (Chimps, for example, attack other bands of chimps and rip individuals apart while they’re still alive. Some spider females kill and eat males after mating.) We can’t look to nature for morality, because, at bottom, nature is amoral, for animals don’t have the capacity to argue and make considered judgments about how to behave. Often “considerate” behavior towards others is the evolutionary product of reciprocal altruism or kin selection.

So when the Sussex Wildlife Trust tries to use the pregnancy of male seahorses as a justification for “queerness”, as they do below, they’re committing the naturalistic fallacy. The reason we shouldn’t discriminate against non-cis people is because discrimination is wrong and hurtful, not because male seahorses (and, by the way, male pipefish and sea dragons, contra the tweet below) get pregnant. Mallard drakes sometimes kill females during forced copulation, which in humans is the equivalent of rape. Does that make rape okay? You get my point.

Coyne could not be clearer.

What is natural is to some animals may be highly immoral for us supposedly moral humans. Coyne gave some grim examples. Here’s another, when a lion takes over a pride of lionesses, he kills all the cubs so that females are then receptive to him. I doun’t think anyone would say that behaviour is right for humans, though, sadly, something as nasty does happen at times.

If you scream against these examples, then you don’t like getting your morals from the animal kingdom as we get in this article.

Which would you prefer? Being a chimp and beating up any you don’t like, or “Be more bonobo” and have sex with everyone we meet whatever gender?

Rather be more human and work out what our morality, sexual and otherwise, ought to be

I  am sure that Coyne, as an atheist, and I, as a Christian, would diverge on many aspects of behaviour, or perhaps not, but neither of us get our morality from seahorses, however wild they are. I suggest that we strongly diverge on what we base our morality, but that would make another discussion! I think I am far closer to Coyne on ethics than to Sally Ashby.

This was summed up by Rev Charles Kingsley, author of The Water Babies in a letter to F. D. Maurice in 1856;

I have long ago found out how little I can discover about God’s absolute love, or absolute righteousness, from a universe in which everything is eternally eating everything else ….. The study of nature can teach no moral theology. It can unteach it, if the roots of moral theology be not already healthy and deep in the mind.

Seahorses are lovely creatures but give no guidelines for our morality or sexual expression.

Ruthless Conquistadores And No Less Ruthless Indigenous People

An interesting blog reviewing a recent book on the Spanish Conquistadores and their equally nasty locals!

The savage was not so noble and thus not the indigenous either. The civilised were scarcely civilised.

The review and the book remind us we should neither glorify the indigenous nor demonise the coloniser, but rather consider the horrors of the human condition.

So much of history is simply violence and oppression from all sides.

I must read the book

Source: Ruthless Conquistadores And No Less Ruthless Indigenous People