CO2: Elixir of Life

Elixir of Life?

Yes, ‘Elixir of Life.” Elixir of Life is the label two scientists apply to carbon dioxide. Despite the fact that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has declared it a dangerous air pollutant, the son and father team of Dr. Craig D. Idso and Dr. Sherwood B. Idso, in their book, The Many Benefits of Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment, unabashedly say just the opposite:

“Atmospheric carbon dioxide is the elixir of life. It is the primary raw material out of which plants construct their tissues, which in turn are the materials out of which animals construct theirs. This knowledge is so well established, in fact, that we humans – and all the rest of the biosphere – are described in the most basic of terms as carbon-based lifeforms.”

Indeed. “Not only are increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 not dangerous to human, animal, or plant health,” writes Jay Lehr, science director of The Heartland Institute, in his review of the book, “they actually benefit earth’s many life forms, counteracting the deleterious effects of real air pollutants.”

The two scientists bring impressive credentials to bear on their admittedly non-conformist declaration.

Dr. Craig D. Idso is the founder and former President of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change and currently serves as Chairman of the Center’s board of directors. He earned his B.S. in Geography from Arizona State University, his M.S. in Agronomy from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, and his Ph.D. in Geography from Arizona State University.

Dr. Sherwood B. Idso earned his Bachelor of Physics, Master of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the University of Minnesota. From 1967 – 2001, he served as a Research Physicist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service at the U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory in Phoenix, Arizona, and as an Adjunct Professor at Arizona State University in the Departments of Geology, Geography, Botany and Microbiology. He is the author or co-author of over 500 scientific publications.

Unless you’re an avid environmental scientist, though, you may find The Many Benefits of Atmospheric Co2 Enrichment rather boring reading. It’s filled with charts, graphs, and summarized results of scientific studies. But the executive summary version is fascinating.

In sum, the two scientists document 55 ways in which elevated atmospheric CO2 levels benefit the earth’s biosphere. For the reasonably scientific-minded not given to dicyphering science journals for everyday reading, Jay Lehr handily summarized ten of them:

Air Pollution Stress on Plants—As the CO2 content of the air rises, most plants reduce their stomatal apertures, or openings through which they consume carbon dioxide, and thereby reduce the intake of harmful pollutants that might damage their tissue.

Diseases of Plants—Plant diseases are commonly reduced as a result of improved immune systems that result from increased CO2 in the surrounding environment. This has been proven by hundreds of plant studies.

Flowers—Most plants produce more and larger flowers at higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Health Promotion—CO2 enrichment increases the quantity and potency of the many beneficial substances found in the tissue of our food crops which therefore make it onto our dinner tables with more vitamin C and other antioxidants.

Medical Plants—Atmospheric CO2 increases the production of many health-promoting substances in medicinal plants, which have been shown to fight a wide variety of human maladies.

Nitrogen Fixation—Increasing CO2 concentration improves nitrogen fixation by soil bacteria, which leads to increased nitrogen availability in the soil for plants that normally need additional nitrogen provisions.

Photosynthesis—Additional atmospheric CO2 typically increases the photosynthesis rates of nearly all plants.

Soil Erosion—Increased CO2 enables all plants to extract more moisture from their surroundings; as a result, plants expand their root systems and significantly stabilize soil, thus protecting it from erosion.

Transpiration—Plants take in CO2 from open pores, called stomata, through which moisture also exits the plant. With increased CO2 in the air, plants do not need to keep these pores open very long to capture the needed CO2, and thus less water is lost through evaporation, a process called transpiration.

Water Stress—When plants are growing under less-than-optimal soil water availability, higher atmospheric CO2 dramatically improves the plants’ chances for survival and healthy growth.

Cool, huh?

Spring is unfolding into summer. As a carbon-based lifeform, I invite you to join me in enjoying the richness of biological life and spreading the word about this wrongly maligned elixir of life.

The Greater Hoax

"You Can Save the Earth?"

Are you enjoying Creation this Earth Week? The first nationwide Earth Day was held on April 22nd, 1970, on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin, the founding father of the Soviet Union. Some say the date is only coincidental. Some say it’s isn’t.

I don’t know. But I do know this: Behind the ‘Save the Earth’ movement runs a forceful undercurrent of hostility to God that is consistent with his state atheism. Take a look at these snippets of media coverage on James Inhofe’s new book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future:

That last one, from Rachel Maddow’s personal blog on the MSNBC website, is especially telling, considering Maddow interviewed Inhofe and said she read the whole book. Presumably she invited him onto her show to discuss it, but she appeared wholly uninterested in the substance of it or the science supporting it. In fact she looked rather peeved when he went into it, but that could be because he blew her out of the water when it came to discussing the science. Click here to see the interview.

Clearly, what to her is all about going along with ‘consensus,’ is, to him, all about the science. That and serving the American people. And he knows what he’s talking about. The Senator, who serves on the Senate Committees on Environment and Public Works writes:

“I began my own investigation into the science in 2003, because I found out how much the ‘solution’ would cost and I said that if the United States was even going to consider such expensive, drastic measures that would fundamentally change our economy, the science driving that decision had better be solid. After my rigorous research, I found that it was not – and over the course of six years, more and more flaws continued to surface.”

This was in keeping with his principles for responsible public service:

“Because the Environment and Public Works Committee has primary jurisdiction over the issue of global warming, I realized that as Chairman, I had a profound responsibility, as any ‘solution’ to global warming would have far-reaching impacts for our nation. That’s why from the moment I took up the gavel, I established three key principles for our work on the committee: (1) it should rely on the most objective science, (2) it should consider the costs on businesses and consumers, and (3) the bureaucracy should serve, not rule, the people.”

The Greatest Hoax chronicles Inhofe’s decade-long service on behalf of the America people, explaining in plain language the scientific research and the legislative processes whereby it has been politicized, if not bastardized, in the name of saving the planet. In The Greatest Hoax he chronicles his efforts over nearly 300 pages and documents his facts with over 400 footnotes.

But Maddow mentions none of this, either in the interview or in her blog post titled, “Inhofe refutes climate science with scripture.” So where does that title come from? Inhofe is an unapologetic Christian. He quotes scripture;

“As long as the earth remains there will be springtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night.” (Genesis 8:22)

Professing evangelicals differ on environmental politics, and Inhofe’s opponents, both in the media and Congress, use that to try and bring him in line. It is in that context that the Senator references this verse from Genesis. “God is still up there,” Inhofe reminds the evangelical alarmists, “and he promised to maintain the seasons and that cold and heat would never cease as long as the earth remains.”

So, to Rachel Maddow, Inhofe is an ‘opponent of climate science.’ Not ‘an opponent of a political agenda,’ not ‘an opponent of a scientific theory,’ but ‘an opponent of climate science’ due to ‘the far-right senator’s interpretation of Scripture.’ It’s as if the interview never happened and the Scripture quotation was the only sentence she read from the book. ThinkProgress and Right Wing Watch practice similar journalistic malfeasance. Meanwhile, the good Senator does his job, unswayed by sneers and mockery.

I don’t know enough to predict the future of the planet. But I do know that when the truth comes out, two things will be clear: (1) There is a God up there who has the earth and its climate firmly in hand, and (2) Senator Inhofe’s objection to green politics is not based on his interpretation of Scripture.

This week, marvel away at the beauty of the earth. And do what you can to preserve and protect the life that lives on it. But marvel even more at its maker, who created it out of nothing and daily holds and sustains it in the palm of his hand.

To believe otherwise is to buy into an even greater hoax.

Related articles:

Let’s Rally for Reason

“Don’t be surprised to find out that there are atheists and agnostics in your midst,” Ted said to me, after railing against the evils of organized religion. I got the impression he expected some kind of visible reaction from me.

But I wasn’t surprised. He’d already said he was a humanist. The two kind of go together. Besides, I’m not horrified over atheists. I took the bait. You wanna discuss atheism, Ted? Let’s discuss atheism. “So, I get that you have problems with organized religion, Ted. But human organizations aside, do you believe there is a God? Or do you believe there is not a God?”

Ted didn’t give me a straightforward answer, though. Instead he referred me to Sam Harris, one of his “favorite authors and Freethinkers,” who takes issue with some Catholic teachings and other Christian ideas about God. That was fine for Sam Harris, but Ted didn’t answer for himself. So I repeated the question.

This time he answered. “I don’t believe there is a God,” he said, and followed up with a caricature of Christianity. “I don’t believe there is a supreme being that created the universe; and sits in heaven and watches every movement and monitors the thoughts of every human. I see very clearly the problems of organized religion…the hypocrisies, the greed, the sadistic, bullying behavior.”

Now I had something to work with. In the language of basic logic of reasoning from premises (P) to conclusions (C), I reflected his own reasoning back to him. “Ok, Ted, correct me if I’m wrong. From what I’m hearing, your reasoning goes something like this:

P: People associated with organized religion have engaged in objectionable behavior.
C: Therefore, there is no God.”

Since he’d quoted Sam Harris, I did the same for Harris’s reasoning. “And Sam Harris’s reasoning goes something like this:

P: The character traits of God as presented by some organized religions are objectionable to me.
C: Therefore, there is no God.”

At this, Ted clarified himself a bit. He was a “science guy,” and God, if he exists, is either “impotent…or evil.” And then he was ready to be done with it. “But, enough about what I think,” he said, and he shifted the subject to something else.

This exchange illustrates something about non-theists, whether they call themselves humanists, agnostics, atheists, freethinkers, or whatever label they prefer. At root, the atheist’s position is intellectually unsound.

Here’s another example:

Ivan: “I’m definitely an atheist. I am an atheist because I cannot believe in fantasy. There is no God. There is no Heaven. There is no Hell. That stuff was created by man to help man feel better about himself. When I look at the scientific facts, I cannot believe in that. So yes, I am an atheist. Absolutely.”

Terrell: “Which scientific facts?”

Ivan read off statistics about the size of the universe, emphasizing its vastness. “To think that there’s some type of supreme being, call it God or Jesus, that is bigger than that? That is concerned about us on earth? About our welfare? About our future? It’s absolutely preposterous,”

Ivan’s reasoning went like this:

P: The universe is really huge.
C: Therefore, there is no God.

Like Ted, Ivan considers himself a “science guy.”

Well, I like science, too. And, sure, the size of the universe is a marvel. But it says nothing about the existence or non-existence of God. Nothing, whatsoever. Soon, Ivan was ready to call it quits too. “I believe that at some point, people end up with firm convictions,” he wrote to me in an e-mail. “Their viewpoints should be respected and further attempts to convert them should be avoided because not everybody wants to be converted.”

Ahh, now we have arrived at the heart of the matter: Not everybody wants to be converted. These two exchanges expose the heretofore hidden reality that Ted and Ivan have made a personal, philosophical faith choice to disbelieve. Believers need to remember this and press those vocal non-theists to make their case. The prevailing posture among atheism says the atheistic worldview is more intellectually sound and evolutionarily advanced—that atheism is the belief anyone would come to if he merely examined the scientific facts, all other belief systems being vestiges of Stone Age superstition on a par with moon worship and child sacrifice. But it’s not. Get the facts out in the open and it becomes pretty obvious. Theism stands. Atheism falls. Because there really is a God who created the universe.

The smart atheists seem to know this. Tom Gilson invited David Silverman, president of American Atheists, to co-sponsor an open, reasoned debate at the Reason Rally which will take place this weekend. He declined. William Lane Craig invited Richard Dawkins to debate. He declined.

Nevertheless, unreason notwithstanding, the Reason Rally will go on this weekend. Take it as an invitation to reason together with the non-theists in our midst. Theism is up to the challenge. Atheism isn’t.

Related Readings

Should Robots Have Rights?

By 2056, robots may be given the same rights as humans, a government-funded report claimed in 2006.

The report was conducted by the British Government’s chief scientist, Sir David King, and was written in conjunction with Outsights, a management consultancy group, and Ipos Mori, an opinion research organization.

If the report is correct, then in less than half a century from now, robots may even be able to vote, pay taxes and be called upon for compulsory military service.

An article in the Mail about the report quoted Henrik Christensen, director of the Centre of Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who said: “If we make conscious robots they would want to have rights and they probably should.”

The report continues:

Robots and machines are now classed as inanimate objects without rights or duties but if artificial intelligence becomes ubiquitous, the report argues there may be calls for human rights to be extended to them.
It is also logical that such rights, are meted out with citizens’ duties, including voting, paying tax and compulsory military service.
Mr Christensen said: “Would it be acceptable to kick a robotic dog even though we shouldn’t kick a normal one? There will be people who can’t distinguish that so we need to have ethical rules to make sure we as humans interact with robots in an ethical manner.”

I am pleased to be able to say that there were some dissenting voices. Writing in the Daily Mail, A.N. Wilson asked, “If robots were given the vote, would they be tempted to vote for other robots to enter Parliament?” He continued:

The Government paper is no joke. They are seriously considering the possibility of the rights of machines…. How can it be that such an absolutely insane set of propositions could have escaped the pages of science fiction, and been given serious consideration by the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser?…

As for robots or other machines, it is foolish to suppose that they can ‘think’ in the way that human beings think. They can no more think in the human sense than a clock knows how to tell the time.

The clock helps us to tell the time. Just as a robot or machine, however complicated or capable of developing apparently independent mental processes, will only ever be the sum of its mechanical parts.

That debate happened back in 2006. Thankfully, I have not heard that it has not been taken up since then. But it did raise an interesting question: if, theoretically, robots could be developed to the point where they had consciousness and could be programed with all the properties of humans, how could we justify not giving them rights? According to some of the “nothing but” approaches to describing human nature that Denyse O’Leary wrote about in Salvo 1, the answer is simple: even now there is not a whole lot of difference in principle being a human and a machine, or between a human and an animal. The difference is merely one of complexity. Indeed, what A.N. Wilson said about the machine, namely that it “will only ever be the sum of its mechanical parts”, is unfortunately what many people now think about humans.

Further Reading

 

Francis Schaeffer expert offers the facts on Michele Bachman, Francis Schaeffer, and “Dominionism.”

At Patheos (August 26, 2011), religion scholar Douglas Groothuis writes, in “Michele Bachmann and Dominionism Paranoia: Once again the popular media demonstrate how woefully poor is their understanding of American evangelicals”:

In the August 15 issue of The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza asserts that Bachmann has been ideologically shaped by "exotic" thinkers of the dominionist stripe who pose a threat to our secular political institutions. The piece—and much of the subsequent media reaction—is a calamity of confusion, conflation, and obfuscation.

We noticed. Say on.

Among other things, Rousas Rushdoony, the founder of the Reconstructionists (later called “Dominionists”) was not a theocrat. He aimed at convincing the public to replace current legal structure with Biblical law. Odd, yes. Violent, no. Groothuis estimates that Rushdoony fans are an “infinitesimal fraction” of Christian conservatives, which sounds about right to journalists who wrote for the Christian media in the 1990s, when the idea first surfaced.

More scandalously, Lizza claimed in his hit piece that apologist Francis Schaeffer, – a genuine influence on Bachman, along with philosopher Nancy Pearcey – argued for the violent overthrow of the government if Roe vs. Wade isn't reversed," in A Christian Manifesto (1981)." Actually, Schaeffer, like Rushdoony, never advocated violence.

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