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Jail Global-Warming Deniers: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

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  • Wallace Henley Portrait
    (By CP Cartoonist Rod Anderson)
    Wallace Henley is an exclusive CP columnist.
By Wallace Henley, Special to CP
March 26, 2014|9:02 am

Professor Lawrence Torcello of Rochester Institute of Technology says it's time "for modern societies to interpret and update their legal systems" to charge global warming deniers with "criminal and moral negligence."

If Torcello, assistant professor of philosophy at the Institute, has his way, climate change deniers could go to jail. Writing in The Conversation, he cites as precedent the incarceration of six Italian scientists and a local magistrate for failing to communicate earthquake risks to the populace of L'Aquila, Italy. A 2009 quake killed 300 and left some 66,000 homeless.

Torcello suggests that global warming and climate change deniers in the scientific community are suppressing the truth that something awful is coming earth's way. Therefore, like the truth-quashing researchers in Italy, they should be locked up.

I am happy to hear this. For one thing, locking away critics of the Soviet state under communism certainly brought them to sanity. Most everyone in mainline academia knows the Gulag was a great healer. Torcello's suggestion gleams with the same kind of hope that the deniers cannot endanger us anymore. This is truly an idea whose time is come.

My pleasure is over Torcello's line of reasoning, which has expansive application, embedded in his thesis, to wit:

"The importance of clearly communicating science to the public should not be underestimated. Accurately understanding our natural environment and sharing that information can be a matter of life and death… With such high stakes, an organised (sic.) campaign funding misinformation ought to be criminally negligent."

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Being a philosopher, Torcello understands that his position "raises an understandable, if misguided, concern regarding free speech." But again, because he is a philosopher, Torcello picks up on nuance and recognizes when concerns are "misguided." Protecting the right to fund programs to refute global-warming/climate-change theories "stretches the definition of free speech to a degree that undermines the very concept."

This gentleman needs to be named White House Science Advisor.

The reason for my appreciation for Professor Torcello's idea is that we can start now really to get at the root of our problems. As dangerous as the planet's off-on bake-chill craziness is, I suggest that sin does far more harm.

Therefore, I propose we jail all who deny the reality of sin.

"Thou shalt not murder," is one category of sin, according to the Bible. The US murder rate for 2013 was "higher than in virtually all other developed countries," said a report in the French paper, Agence France-Presse. That despite the fact that there are probably more "experts" who agree that murder is evil than there are in agreement over global warming. And if "evil" is not sin, then what is it?

Jail the sin-deniers, I say.

And what about those behaviors called adultery and fornication, noted in the Bible as sin? The cultural whitewash just won't stick, and it's clear that something about those practices is wrong. Divorce shatters well over half of all marriages in much of the West. The sufferers are the kids, as is the case with live-in relationships without marriage. Research by Penn State professors Wendy Manning and Daniel Richter found that 2.2 million children live in "unstable and broken relationships" that "traumatize" them "for life." Further studies show that it's usually the male who breaks the "unstable" relationship, leaving mothers to raise their children alone – often on welfare.

Abortion is another outcome of our adulterous and fornicating culture. Almost 60 million children have been killed in America's abortion clinics since 1973.

If all this rising from anarchic sexuality is not sin, then I am surely fooled. And if it is sin, and somebody's not telling us, they ought to be slammed away for life, in accord with Professor Torcello's thesis.

How about addictions? Are they sinful or merely morally neutral lifestyle choices? In terms of impact, it's hard to make a case addictive behavior is morally neutral. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence "alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crimes today." NCADD reports that alcohol is a factor in

• 37% of rapes and sexual assaults
• 15% of robberies
• 27% of aggravated assaults, and
• 25% of simple assaults

The Bible categorizes drunkenness as sin. If it's not that, what is it? And if it is sin, and the people who know it aren't telling us, then Professor Torcello's logic is right. It's criminal negligence, and the perpetrators ought to go to prison.

Torcello and I are on to something here. He has suggested a precedent on which, as I have sought to demonstrate, we can enlarge. In fact, my way will be simpler. Just lock up all the sin-deniers and that will eliminate the greed that many believe – including maybe Professor Torcello – causes global-warming and climate-change.

Actually, I can't really line up with Torcello. I prefer Jesus, who calls sin what it is, encourages you and me to acknowledge what it is through confession and repentance, and rather than putting us in jail as we try to squirm away from the truth, sets us free.

Wallace Henley is Senior Associate Pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. He writes and speaks extensively on the confluence of culture and theology. His early career was in journalism and government. Henley's latest book, Spillover: War in Heaven, is a study of Revelation 12, and the way spiritual dynamics impact our lives and institutions.
 

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