In the recently highly anticipated encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis alludes to a conjectured ecological crisis involving global warming.
Pope Francis is not the only Pope to have addressed this controversial theme. Legend has it that for a very brief period during the Dark Ages, the Roman Catholic Church was headed by a certain Pope Calefacio. His predecessor, Pope (emeritus) Gelatio had retired for reasons of health. Calefacio, a chemist by training, is reputed to have believed in a certain theory of bovoprogenic global warming –a kind of hell on earth produced by the flatulent emissions of livestock.
His belief was reinforced when, on the day of his inauguration, a period of climate instability ensued which some theologians attributed to diabolical influence. Indeed, during the entire reign of Gelatio, the temperature had stood at a constant 16°T. During a period of particularly inclement (no pun intended) weather, Calefacio took temperature readings of 36°T and 0°T and averaged the two readings to obtain an average of 18°T. Ignoring the warnings of statisticians, Calefacio declared a warming of 2°T. Risking charges of climate denial heresy, Gelatio criticised Calefacio for using a temperature scale (degrees T) based on tree rings. He suggested that the excellent ice beer made by his own order of monks was a superior thermometric substance and that all computations be carried out in the corresponding scale (°G). Proxy measurements indicated that the two scales were related by the square root function which, at least had the thermodynamically desirable property of being order preserving. From the fact that 16°T = 4°G and that the average of the two converted temperature measurements: 6°G and 0°G was only 3°G Gelatio concluded that, in reality, the data corresponded to cooling of 1°G. The wise Gelatio had accidentally discovered the fact the mean of an ordinal random variable such as temperature is not preserved under a non-linear transformation.
There are no records as to how this thermodynamic schism was resolved or if denialism was ever declared to be a heresy. Indeed various writers have noted the implausibly long gap between the lifetimes of Califacio and Gelatio and their first appearance in texts. Their existence is now widely accepted to be a myth by all serious scholars. However, theories of bovoprogenic warming are still in vogue and, notwithstanding the warning of Russian Philosopher Soloviev that the Antichrist is ecologist, ecumenist and pacifist, Jesuit theologians are, alarmingly, reviving ancient warnings about climate phenomena.
by Philip Pennance