I am convinced we are seeing the hand of the Divine hand in hurricanes like Harvey and Irma. Not the cartoonish, fire and brimstone retribution that some evangelicals are pronouncing. Rather, the Divine is being realized through natural laws that were put in place during creation. Science predicted stronger hurricanes if carbon levels continued to rise. Carbon levels are higher, and we are seeing stronger hurricanes. If you are unsure of the Divinity, I suspect that you believe in the laws of nature. As practitioners of Mussar, we are faced with the question of what soul traits are in play for us, and how we should act. Read on to learn the answers.
The False Choice Between Spirituality and Science.
I get asked all the time how a scientist like myself can get caught up in spirituality. People who ask that question either don’t understand science, don’t understand spirituality, or don’t understand either. In my experience 90% of people, even the so called experts in science and spirituality, fall into the third category. It is one thing to be a technician of science, or a technician of spiritual teachings. It is quite another to understand the why. Both science and spirituality delve into mystery, to understand how things work, and how seemingly different things are connected. The science fiction writer Arthur Clark once said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The same holds for quantum entanglement. Science doesn’t need to explain everything in order for us to believe in it, and spiritual faith is big enough to allow two things to be equally true that may on the surface seem contradictory. The Mussar Classic Strive For Truth gets its name from the quest to understand the Truth of the world, which is taught to us by Torah. And the Truth here is that we are seeing the hand of the Divine in climate change.
Physical Laws Were Created by the Divine
In the book Worldmask, Rabbi Akiva Tatz wrote : “The world is exquisitely ordered: the very fact that it can be studied mathematically and scientifically results from this order. If the world parallels its spiritual root, and we wish to understand that root, we must study the order inherent in the world.” We can see this spiritual root in the story of creation in the book of Genesis. First there was darkness over the waters. Then there was light. Then there was a separation between air and water. Next dry land, followed by animal and plant life. And then Man. The Torah teaches that God created each of these in turn, and in so doing created the laws of nature. If you are not sure of the Divinity, you can look at the story metaphorically and come to the same answer: Today we have laws of nature. They are inflexible.
In science, what we do is we look at data, and then create models to explain what we are seeing. The model makes predictions about what will happen. This is exactly what we are seeing with climate change. For example, In 1987, Kerry Emanuel published a paper called The dependence of hurricane intensity on climate in the journal Nature, which is the top science journal in the world. It predicted that more CO2 in the atmosphere will lead to more destructive hurricanes.
Prediction: More CO2 leads to more destructive storms.
Look at the graph to the right. CO2 levels have gone up since 1987.
Reality: We have more CO2 in the air, and Irma set records for wind speed.
The data is supporting the model of climate change.
When Will These Idiots Learn That Global Warming is Real?
A friend of mine asked that question on their Facebook wall today with a link to an article about the hurricanes. I answered in a harsh way. I said, “They will learn when we start treating them with the respect they are due as human beings, and stop shaming and judging them.” Sociologist Brene Brown teaches that if you shame people by calling them names, they will just get defensive and dig their heels in. Mussar teaches the same thing. If you insult someone, it activates the Evil Inclination, which we know lives in the amygdala. People who are angry or upset literally cannot thing logically. So your chance of convincing someone to change their mind when you upset them is literally zero. You might bully them into changing their behavior. But changing their heart, changing their mind? No way.
In the 2000s I was talking with a stranger on a plane about Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” She didn’t believe in climate change. I told her I was a scientist and why I thought it was true. She then rather sheepishly admitted that she didn’t believe it was true because she didn’t like Al Gore’s politics. The was pre-mussar, but I had the sense to ask her to look past the messenger. She shook her head. Most people can’t look past the messenger. Going back to our point above, what kind of messenger are you?
Mussar has guidance for us.
Mussar’s Path To Healing
The solution to climate change is not in the air, it is in the heart. At long as we treat each other as animals, we are destined for destruction. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are literally undoing the work of creation. Water, air, and land are no longer separate. Where there was human, animal, and plant life, we see death. Where we assisted in the act of creation, the Divine hand brings discussion.
To heal the planet, we first need to heal our relationship with the people who disagree with us. A first step is to moderate our speech, which is governed by the soul trait of Silence. As it says in the Bible, The words of the wise are heard [when spoken] softly (Ecclesiastes 9:17). See this post for ideas on how to promote healing on the internet. Don’t shame or insult people because they support politicians who claim to not believe in climate change. Talk to them about the data. Ask them what they feel. Be curious. Listen to their perspective. Ask questions. Maintain your Equanimity.
While we are waiting for everyone’s heart to open, each of us can work to reduce our personal carbon footprint. Ask yourself this: If you believe in climate change, what have you done to fight it? Mussar suggests that we start with leading by example. In our home, we have solar power, and lease an electric car.
If you’d like to take action, click here for 25 suggestions on how to reduce your carbon footprint.