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Prayer, Reason, and Drought in Texas
in the news: Rick Perry, governor of Texas, and the heat/drought in the USA South are in the news this weekend. The former enters the race to be the Republican nominee for President, the latter continues. How are these two things connected? An article, "Parched Earth" by Bryan Walsh, in the August 22 2011 issue of Time magazine makes this connection, noting Perry's suggestion that Texans pray for rain. In fact, the governor's official proclamation designated "the three-day period from Friday, April 22, 2011, to Sunday, April 24, 2011, as Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas" and said the "people of Texas should join together in prayer to humbly seek an end to this devastating drought and these dangerous wildfires." While political analysts pondered Perry's chances, and climate watchers considered blaming the drought on human caused global climate change, an August 13, 2011 article in The Guardian, "Rick Perry to Delight Climate Skeptics by Running for President," connected the two. It began by noting Perry calls global warming "all one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight" and later pointing out that in 1988 (when he was 37 years old) the now 61 year old Texas governor served as that state's manager of Al Gore's presidential campaign.
commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, founder and manager, project Worldview, www.projectworldview.org):
I suspect those who seriously believe that God might answer their prayers and make it rain possess both extraordinary religious faith and a childlike innocence that seeks simple solutions. In his book The Assault on Reason, Al Gore wrote, "Simplicity is always more appealing than complexity, and faith is always more comforting than doubt. Both religious faith and uncomplicated explanations of the world are even more highly valued at times of great fear...any leader who combines simplistic policies with claims of divine guidance is more likely to escape difficult questions based on glaring logical flaws in his arguments."
Is Rick Perry such a leader? Consider the prayer he delivered on August 6th in a Houston stadium full of 30,000 Christians: "Father, our heart breaks for America...We have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us, and for that, we cry out for your forgiveness."
Before turning to political realities, let's accept that Rick Perry and millions of others really believe in the power of prayer and consider the worldviews of such people as might typically reside in America's "Bible Belt". A list of worldview themes important to them would undoubtedly include many--perhaps all--of those in the left hand column of the table below.
The worldview behind the themes in the left hand column can be much simpler one than a worldview built on those in the right hand column. This religious based worldview might be that of a child who values what he or she learns from devout Christian parents and at Sunday school. Inclusion of the "Magic" worldview theme is inspired by the "wishing makes it so" hope behind prayer, something critics deplore as a simplistic, fairy tale, magical, childhood fantasy way of dealing with problems.
Inclusion of "Humbly Unsure" will be challenged by many of the religious faithful, especially by preachers who claim I Know What's Best For You (worldview theme #2B). Certainly it presents problems for politicians. Neither like the doubt that it values. Politicians need to sell themselves and their ideas to voters so that when that latter enter the polling place all doubt has been removed. To distinguish themselves from their rivals and win votes many politicians distance themselves from humility to such an extent that they embrace its opposite: arrogance. Perhaps Rick Perry's statements regarding global warming and his put down of the man he once worked to elect fall into this category? Perry's campaign faces an obvious problem: many voters recognize the complex nature of the problems America faces and will press him for adult leadership and something other than simplistic solutions.
With respect to practical problem solving, where those with worldviews based on themes in the left hand column look for solutions and where those with worldviews based on themes in the right hand column look, are fundamentally different. A worldview provides an outlook or expectation for the world as it exists or is perceived to exist. Ideally it is something that continually evolves based on feedback one gets from years of testing and refining. To some extent, its success can be measured by whether predictions made based on it come true, and by the problems one can solve based on the understanding, resources and tools it provides. With respect to the problem of drought in Texas, the approach offered by Rick Perry and what Al Gore would prescribe provide an interesting contrast.
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