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I have written elsewhere about the climate change debate:

 

With so many people currently suffering around the world from malnutrition, disease, and other effects of immiserating poverty, and with so many important issues on the table in the developed nations, readers might question why climate change is such a concern for the UN and member governments.

Robert Nelson (Environmental Policy, University of Maryland) proposed to answer this question with one of his own. Suppose today’s policymakers were offered two scenarios in which under each the earth’s temperature path and expected damages were identical. One scenario is a result of natural causes; the other a result of human activity. Would the debate be any different? The answer requires an understanding of the religious forces at work in the world today.

Almost all people have an overarching lens through which they understand the world. Environmentalists maintain that anything that is “natural” is good while anything that is “unnatural” is bad. This faith certainly does not derive from a respect for Old Testament writings, as theologian Calvin Beisner (Knox Theological Seminary) pointed out. In Genesis, God directed Adam and Eve to, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it ….” Expression of the environmental faith often overwhelms scientific conclusions through a different biblical message of fear. Despite demonstrated scientific safety, the EPA zealously cleans up many Superfund sites at huge taxpayer expense. Similarly, the prevention of nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain reminds us that writer H.L. Mencken was more than a satirist when he wrote that, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed – and hence clamorous to be led to safety – by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

 

Which leads me quite “naturally” to the Mitchell Report. But what exactly is “natural” as it pertains to athletic performance? Something strikes us as not quite right about taking a drug which will enable an athlete to be faster or stronger or better able to endure stress. But what about other things athletes might do to achieve the same goals? When I played football I restricted my diet to be heavy in proteins, I lifted weights to an excessive degree, I did plyometrics and took vitamin-B supplements. I ran quite a bit and mentally prepared myself for every practice and game in a variety of ways. How much of that activity is natural? Surely plyometrics is not something early humans practiced. Surely taking vitamin B supplements is not something that we do when we exit the womb. So where do we draw the line and who is to be doing the drawing? Is our revulsion to drugs simply a function of their illegality (stop and ask WHY they are illegal)? Is it because they are deemed to be too easy a way to achieve fitness goals? If so, then we ought to ban Lipitor – that’s an unnatural way of keeping our cholesterol lower. If so, then we ought to ban dietary supplements – those are an unnatural way to lose weight. And how do we feel about surgery? Surely it is not natural to be cutting each other open to take out the bad things that naturally grew in there.

 

The fervor over “performance-enhancing drugs” has allowed passions to get the better part of reason. I’ve yet to see a consistent and principled discussion of what exactly the problem is, and I sure would like to persuade people to think harder about what it is about steroids, HGH and the like that is so disturbing to them. Yes they are dangerous, but the athletes know that and when Roger Clemens takes steroids, he is not making YOU unhealthy. And if the contention is that these athletes are getting rich because they are taking drugs and others are not (and others do not because the risks to them outweigh the benefits), then why don’t we ban extreme skiing? Or surfing? Or NASCAR? After all, people get rich pursuing these dangerous activities too, don’t they? Stock cars are unsafe. Stock cars use lots of gas. Stock cars actually injure spectators on occassion. And stock car teams try to gain every advantage they can. Where is the Mitchell report on NASCAR?

One Response to “Theology and the Mitchell Report”

  1. Darren says:

    Dr. Rizzo,
    Love the blog. And great contribution to the debate going on over at Cafe Hayek!

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