just want to correct something from the NYT article -
"as Americans watched scientists struggle to plug the undersea well over the past month"

THIS IS AN ENGINEERING PROBLEM, not a problem for "scientists." Science is not the one failing to plug the well. Industry, and industry's engineers are failing.

This line from the article is getting quoted everywhere. And it is wrong wrong wrong to say this is a failure of science. It is not. This is a failure of industry's engineers. And of industry. Technology is used by both science and engineering, but those two disciplines are not the same thing! This distinction is important, especially as scientists are getting a bum wrap these days.
Did you compare American slavery to an Oil Spill? I just get this feeling that you write out a sentence and then directly after, forget what you wrote and try and make sense of it.
@1 Yeah and especially from Mudede who like food critics can't cook, can't do science, or even understand it.
This event will have no impact on religious beliefs. You are making the mistaken assumption that dogmatic "faith-based" religion involves thought about evidence or logic... it doesn't.
New information that does not fit with established belief is to be ignored, and if it cannot be ignored then it is obviously just a test God is allowing the devil inflict on them and the only answer is prayer. Any further thought on the matter is a "crisis of faith" to be stamped out. (spoken as a formerly religious person who let logic get the better of me)
While the oil spilling into the Gulf is natural, the thing that caused it to happen is technological. That oil is spilling from a man-made well, not a fissure in the bedrock. Therefore, this is not a struggle of technology against nature, but a struggle of technology against itself, or more simply, a failure of technology brought about by cutting corners and generally being unprepared.

As always Charles, you go too far in your predictions. This spill doesn't change the fact that we need oil to sustain our population, and there is no viable alternative yet. Like other industrial disasters in the past, the gulf oil spill will produce tighter regulations and nothing more.
Aw, shit, I'm too drunk to read that. Maybe later. But it's perfectly obvious to me that the solution to the problem is for everyone to own more guns.
This "great belief in technology" is not secular but closely linked with a great belief in American awesomeness.

This is silly. I, like many people I know, have a "great belief in technology," while rejecting utterly a belief in "American awesomeness." Like #1 said, this isn't about science. And as much as it's about engineering, this is about a failure of ethics and morality. It's about assholes in industry with more power than they deserved and assholes in government who gave it to them. If the individuals involved who were working in the industry and the government weren't assholes, this wouldn't have happened.

And I'll add that if you make your living using the internet, you, too, have a "great belief in technology."
@1 you have an excellent point

@2 are you high?

@6 i love you

@ mudede: not sure if i see the end of either the oil industry or christianity. you must realize we are living in a democracy and the failure of government only leads to stronger government. the logic is, if the plan fails we must try again harder and with more vigor. therefore, the oil industry and christianity only grow with their failures.
This oil is an affront -- the the Crypto-Malthusians who have been trying to rule the planet since the 1970s.

Here it is, right in the face of Global Warmers and Peak Oilers -- Mother Nature spitting right in your faces, saying, Oil? You want Oil? I got Oil? Plenty of it!

You louses have been putting Mother Nature down in IPCC reports, White House position papers and "the science".

Guess what...your Science is Sicko. Gushing pure organic oil is bursting at the seams. Energy rich hydrocarbons are being created at a rate that your cars can't even consume fast enough!
Wonderful post, Mr. Mudede. Dare I say, I've never read a finer post from you.

There's a strange thing about this dual American faith in technology and, as you so aptly put it, "American awesomeness." We've come to believe that we owe our fossil fuel-intensive way of life primarily to technology. But really, we owe it to, well, fossil fuels.

And so there is this blithe belief among Americans, who know nothing of the technology or science involved (and many of whom have a certain disdain for science), that technology will come to the rescue as fossil fuels wane. Prime case in point is this belief that, as oil becomes more and more scarce, we will be able to preserve our automobile-dependent way of life, as is, simply by transitioning to electric automobiles.

Listen, I have no doubt that electric cars are the future. But there's this question of scale and cost. Oil is this free inheritance that took hundreds of millions of years to place in the ground, and yet we mistake this gift of nature for our own human gifts.

And listen, I have no doubt that as we go along civilization will rely more and more on technology for our energy needs. But more and more we will realize the limits of technology.
Interesting. I agree with Nomadonthego @4 that this won't be the end of christianity; however, I think Charles is saying this will be the end of "American" christianity (although even the definition of that is somewhat vague): The idea that the christian god has endowed his *favorite* people - Americans - with incredible technology and awesomeness, with which they can, and should, dominate the Earth. I suppose there are many who truly do believe and follow that, but even those "many" are still a minority (although an often loud one). The loss of that minority would still leave large groups of loud and obnoxious American christians who will forever believe the U.S. of A. is the Greatest Thing Ever, no matter what.

I like this post Charles, but I agree with some of the other commenters that your predictions seem a bit stretched.
Oh, Charles. The greatest ecological disaster ever? It's not even the greatest ecological disaster happening in the name of oil today. Are you familiar with a place called Nigeria?…

Imagine a Gulf oil crisis that continues for forty years: "more oil is spilled from the [Niger] delta's network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico.

You also forget that the two things Americans are better at than any others are forgetting and ignoring. The destruction of the Gulf Coast will be forgotten by August, just as Katrina is mostly forgotten and the hurricanes that destroyed New Orleans in 1928 and 1965, and the Ixtoc oil spill of 1979-80, the world's worst, have been completely forgotten before them. And a hundred thousand other things.

Or maybe not. Maybe this will go down as this century's Johnstown Flood, the moral of which, like everything else, is more stupid faith in a stupid god.
I hope this turns out to be more than the pipe dream it seems. And @1 made me laugh out loud.
I think 5280 nails it @6.
I think I've found the poster boy for our modern American faith in technology. He is Nathan Myhrvold, onetime Microsoft CTO and, according to this interview, "a founder of Intellectual Ventures, a scientific think tank working on solutions to the world’s thorniest problems—including global warming."

What's disturbing is Myhrvold's belief that there is a technological answer for every energy and environmental problem and his contempt for anyone who suggests that we may need other answers. Consider his statement "that much of the environmental movement is anti-technology."

Just because you think technology is not the only answer doesn't mean you think technology is not an answer. And having concerns about the limitations and unintended consequences of technology doesn't make you "anti-technology." But Myhrvold seems to be anti all other answers. "A lot of environmentalists feel that if everyone believes there’s a simple fix, they’ll demand that. And then they’re never going to get rid of their SUVs and they’re never going to tax carbon."

Never mind that things like a carbon tax or moving away from an SUV culture may actually help spur technological innovation. I see economics isn't the field Myhrvold got his Ph.D. in.

Like all too many people with extremely high IQs (and I have to admit I'm one of them), Nathan Myhrvold is not immune to being a fool.
I don't know. If religion, and the Catholic church, can survive priests buggering and abusing tens/hundreds of thousands of children, kill millions, burn women, and hold inquisitions, I just don't see oil completely wiping out all life in the Gulf as making a dent in it either. I wish it would, but the sheep will keep following. In fact, I predict, the Vatican becomes richer out of this.
Seconding Urgutha Forka @11. I still think this is a terrific post even though I agree with the commenters who say Mudede's pronouncements are (as usual?) overblown.

And I think Fnarf @12 nailed it with: You also forget that the two things Americans are better at than any others are forgetting and ignoring. The destruction of the Gulf Coast will be forgotten by August, just as Katrina is mostly forgotten...

It's my view that Americans will learn nothing from this oil spill that might make a dent in the cultural beliefs that are the foundation of our oil addiction. We Americans want to have our cake and eat it too. We want our oil to be as cheap as can be, no matter how much we're forced to externalize the real costs; at the same time we don't want any drilling in our backyards. Our blindness to this glaring hypocrisy is something of a survival mechanism.
Ah, here's the link to the interview I mention @15:…
Like a 5 year old: If I say it over and over and over again, I will make is so with my will.

Good luck on that Charles.
I have had time to think about this more. Ultimately there are two results that need to be looked at. One is that the oil spill fucked a lot of natural shit up, the other is that people use it everyday. As far as people are concerned the oil in their car is as disconnected from that spill as possible. People can easily blame BP and not themselves for continuing to fill up their navigators and SUVs with premium unfiltered.
Charles. First of all, tl;dr for the most part.

2nd. Christians have been counting on the seas tot turn to blood. This reinforces that.

For the record, I read (and recommend) Lesley Hazelton's "After the Prophet". It's a fair examination of what happened in the wake Mohammed's death. It is quite an eye opening for those unfamiliar early Islamic history. Ms. Hazelton is British and resides in the Puget Sound area.

Regarding your insights. Indeed, there is calamity in the Gulf of Mexico. I am greatly pessimistic about an immediate solution to the problem of capping the well. Technology has it's limits. What fazes me is the lack of contingencies regarding off-shore drilling. I'm fairly sure you'll disagree but Krauthammer has a point:…

The technology was around to drill 5000' underwater. It should be around to stop this catastrophe. But, I admit this disaster is testing my "faith" in technology. Whether Christianity will decline as a result of American "exceptionalism's" decline remains to be seen. It's not a stretch to say that this could be Pres. Obama's Katrina.
I realize now how this can be such a great post and yet the other commenters' critiques can be so spot on. Charles is right about the reality of the situation. And the commenters are right about Americans' continued failure to perceive this reality.

It's like this. I have no doubt that history will eventually prove the foolishness of technological deus ex machinists like Nathan Myhrvold. But if Dr. Myhrvold goes to his grave never having been proved a fool, was he really a fool?

I'm reminded of that great quote by that great economist Keynes, "In the long run we're all dead."

The Roman Empire eventually declined and fell. The British Empire eventually declined and fell. But if you were around just for the salad days, why should a little thing like the future spoil your party?
"And if God is limited, then He is not a He but only a he, a man, a mere human being (technology)."

Please don't forget that it's not OUR oil addiction, it's everyone's oil addiction. The global demand for oil is going to double over the next ten or fifteen years, and virtually none of that increase is going to come from the US. The global demand for cars is going to QUADRUPLE by 2035. That's not coming from the US. It doesn't matter how many Priuses you buy.
Fnarf is correct, up there at #12.

I'm not at all convinced that this disaster will have a significant impact on Americans' religious faith. For every superstitious person who thinks "Why would God let this happen?" and maybe gets his/her faith shaken a little bit, there's another one who will think "God must be trying to punish us / send us a signal!!" and that person's faith will be reinforced.

Also: American awesomeness cannot fail, it can only be failed.
you know Mudede, I think this may be the first article of your I really enjoyed. Nice work!
Since no-one in the mainstream press is saying the truth about this spill, I doubt anyone will learn anything from it, let alone change anything about American Christianity. The Christian Right is completely insulated from the facts of the policies leading to this disaster. I guess I lack faith in rationality of mankind.

@9 You're joking right? If not, Rush Limbaugh called. He wants his crazy pills back. I might be reading you wrong as your post isn't very clearly written.

I've got an idea. Why don't you go inject yourself with some %100 organic cobra venom to prove your point that all natural things are good for us. Crude oil is toxic. Global warming is irrefutable scientific fact, and there is a finite ammount of oil on this finite planet. There is so much death as a result of this spill. The gulf will be recovering for decades if not centuries.

We should have listenned to Jimmy Carter. We wouldn't be in this mess.
@28, do not attempt to engage John Bailo in conversation. He's a kook.
@29 Noted. Sometimes I am so dumbfounded by the level of ignorance displayed by Right Wingers, I can't help myself
@30, Bailo's not even really a right-winger, he's out on his own wing, without a tether.
@28 - I am totally stealing your cobra venom comparison. It is perfection.
@32 I would be honored.
Religious people will say that this "happened for a reason." God is obviously "sending a message." Or some such bullshit. Christianity is a keeper, unfortunately.
This isn't even really an engineering problem. The problem is that they've been trying to plug the hole in such a way that they can get back in there later on and restore the well. If they just went in and blew the fucking thing to kingdom come or capped it with concrete, we'd be done by now.

And I think, Charles, that American awesomeness is alive and well, in that a lot of America's awesomeness is based on our resources-to-population ratio. The United States is one of a very few countries on the earth that has a massive food surplus. We have mineral resources that Europeans would kill for, and our capacity to farm timber, if we wanted to, exceeds pretty much any country on earth. The United States could, if we could get our shit together, still be the most awesome country on the planet because the Americas are still, in spite of everything, comparatively unexploited pools of resources. That model is somewhat complicated by the fact that we've mortgaged a lot of those resources to China over the last 20 years, but that debt could be erased with the flip of a currency switch. We're not willing to do it for the same reason we're not willing to blow the oil well in the Gulf -- interested parties don't consider it a good economic move. But we *could*.

Roosevelt's speech almost 80 years ago is still basically true -- the United States has nothing to fear but fear itself. With the kind of unified effort displayed during World War II -- with those kinds of price controls and infrastructure spending -- the United States could be right back on top in 10 years.

It's not a lack of power. It's a lack of will. And that's a whole other kind of problem.
I've been thinking about that article all day. Especially these numbers:

"In the beginning of May, a few weeks after the rig explosion, the Pew Research Center asked 994 Americans about the oil spill: 55 percent saw it as a major environmental disaster, and 37 percent as a serious problem."

Almost 2/3 of americans did not believe that a massive oil spill is a serious problem. Almost half believed it wasn't a major environmental disaster. On the news all I hear people talking about are lost fishing revenues. What do people care about if not this? We are so insulated from reality.

On the news they focus on the beaches. Oh, the beaches are getting oily. What about the rest of the ocean? Where are the people wailing in grief? If this were happening here, I would be out at the ocean screaming and attacking BP employees. I would be throwing all of my clothes into the ocean to try to sop up the oil. I would mourn. I would grieve. I would cut my hair.
Top Kill:Oil Leak::SIFF:Will in Seattle
Are we ready to question that oil is dinosaur meat and plants yet? And this organic matter is poison? The truth is that oil is a by-product of the Earth's core and it is near limitless. And if we don't stem it's use it will choke Christians and atheists alike...

It will be used, if not by us then by all the countries of the planet until the standard of living of all rises to our level, and if the same environmentalists who pushed drilling this far out into the deep water try to limit the poor from it, we will not be able to conceive of the brutality of the coming wars...

Breaking news from Kent:

Assault: 9:45 a.m., 10601 N.E. 132nd Street. A 17-year-old Bothell female assaulted a 16-year-old Lake Forest Park girl by punching her about the head and face causing injury. The assault occurred on account that the 16 year old was sending the other girl's boyfriend flirtatious texts.…

Oh goody, someone even crazier than Bailo.
Judah, I'm seeing a lot of people throwing around suggestions like yours, but it's always coming from commenters who, presumably, have no experience with oil rigs or the drilling process.

As it happens, I do know someone with this experience, and his opinion is that neither of those options are really viable. I'm well aware that the Russians reportedly used nuclear weapons to stop their own oil leaks, but can we just for a second imagine that perhaps the situation in the Gulf is not comparable to those leaks?
You seriously underestimate religious fanatics. They have a convoluted way of turning everything into an answer to their prayers. When logic and reason have no meaning, nothing proves them wrong.
While I don't doubt that the uniquely American Fundamentalist version of Christianity is dying, I don't think this is what you think it is.

For this to be the final, or even a major, straw, it would have had to be seen as a religious issue in the first place, one that God didn't handle well enough.

It will be effortless for those who need to do so to cast this as a secular failing of Big Business who didn't care enough, and that the Democrats (godless) didn't fix.
We can accomplish amazing things, yet if our undereducated twits who implement what the engineers do, we get an impending disaster. Seriously ... we blame the engineers AFTER the workers, the policy makers, and execs failed to implement what they designed. It's our fault for creating ... well a general culture of corruption and border line ethical practices, and profit accordingly. We make our living marketing half truths, and exaggerations. We don't like data and are more than willing to shoot the messenger because it's difficult and inconvenient.

Make no mistake about it, we need oil, still. We need it for our materials, food supplies, as well as energy. It's not going to away for decades. It's depressing and it sucks, but our hydrocarbon needs, will not be met as of yet for 6 billion plus and growing population through sustainable means (yet) BUT there are things we can do make a step in the right direction ... like the smart people do their job, listen to what they say, and implement the safety devices they designed!
You seriously underestimate anti-religious fanatics. They have a convoluted way of turning everything into an attack on religion. When logic and reason have no meaning, nothing proves them wrong.
I'm not convinced that this tragedy will change American oil culture without more tragedies like this happening within the next two years.

I do agree, however, that there is a perfect storm of events -- the financial meltdown, unwinnable wars and now this -- that is leading to a breakdown of American Christianism, although not Christianity. The blind trust that God will always protect America because America is God's land cannot be held in the midst of all of these failures of American institutions. This won't happen quickly, by any stretch of the imagination, but the prosperity-gospel megachurches are going to be replaced by something less arrogant and less theocratic.
Yes, I am aware that ‘evil’ is a religious term.

Dear Lesley Hazelton,

"Evil" is not a religious term. It is a moral term. "Evil" is (therefore) a religious term only to the extent that moral judgments are the exclusive domain of religion. That is, not at all.

As a "proud agnostic", you should consider that such rhetorical tics do not make you seem reasonable or balanced, but instead concede the whole argument to the religious folks you are implicitly addressing. Yes, they say to themselves reading your post, there is no morality without religion. She can't even TALK about morality ("evil") without discussing religion.

It's a question of framing.

What is the gibbering African on about this time? his father worked for the Zimbabwe government; that's how Charles's family made their money, through the rampant corruption of Mugabe and failed socialist policies of the ZANU-PF.

Why would anyone listen to Mudede's opinion on economics or race?

I guess in the all white world of the STranger and its readership this is what passes for a token black: a jibbering fool who's family helped loot Rhodesia.
No, now science and technology are bad, and God is good (and probably punishing us).

God always wins. 9/11? God wins. Prosperity again? God wins. Military victory? GOD WINS.
For the 80th time, this isn't a spill. It didn't "happen", it's happening every minute, it's continuing to gush. What the situation was yesterday or the day before is not what the situation is today or will be tomorrow.

This won't affect Christianity's view of the natural world or humans or its particular God. Christianity doesn't focus on the world; it focuses on being saved from what humans choose to do so they can enter the next world shorn of sin. Environmental disasters don't figure into that, except for being one more sin to expect Jesus to expiate.
dear rhodie, we are manikas. if you knew the politics of the country, you would know it is deeply tribal. mugabe and manikas are hardly friendly. just look at morgan and robert and you get some of the picture. my father worked for the zim gov until 1988. what is curious about that year? zim become a one-party state. my father is capitalist; im the socialist. my father moved to botswana in 1988 to work for the pro-democracy and capitalist botswana government. my father studied economics at american university. he is actually a highly trained economist.
". my father worked for the zim gov until 1988"

Take the money and run.
Charles, I think I disagree with you, but I don't know, because your predictions as stated are fairly vacuous. Christianity is already trending slightly downward in the U.S. (and in the world, in terms of percentage of the world's population); and of course America's oil industry will *eventually* be replaced by something else. The only interesting questions are when and by how much.

To link the BP incident in some meaningful and causal way, you would need to put a little more meat on your prediction bones. What kind of timeframe and quantity of change would tend to confirm your prediction? Will less than 50% of Americans claim to be Christian by 2030? Will less than 50% of American energy come from oil in 2025? Will a majority of historians recognize the oil leak's role, or will this link be detectable only by socialist columnists for local arts weeklies?

Observations about the future seem fairly feckless if there's no way anyone could ever assess whether they were correct or not; so I'd be interested to see your thoughts on this translated into something more substantial, which could eventually be confirmed or disconfirmed.
@35, @42 The problem, as I understand it from Bill Nye ("the Science Guy") is that the wellhead pressure is something like 6800 psi at the sea floor, over and above the approximately 2500 psi pressure of all the water sitting over it. This is not something you can just dump stuff on top of to snuff out. It's going to keep squirting through. Unless you can mechanically stop the flow long enough for cement to set, it's a toughy to cap.

Even if they managed to fit a shutoff valve over the broken section of pipe, are there even valves that will close with 6800 psi pressure behind them? That's a lot of pressure, much more than industry has to deal with usually, and up in the range where most normal materials will fail. A gate valve would be more likely to deform and jam than to close. Even if they cap it, it might be high enough pressure to break off the end of the well casing and cough out everything on top of it.

This thing is a monster. These folks caught a dragon by the tail and they don't know what to do next.

It's interesting to me that Charles only responds to racist trolls. I noticed that in the conversation about his daughter's hair, as well.
I don't know as much as Brooklyn Reader but I have an old house with springs under it and until I installed a sump pump, there was no way to stop the water from pushing through the cement basement. That sump pump has broken down several times and until it's restarted, the water just comes up through the hole the pump sits in and floods the basement. Which the oil will continue doing until the oil deposit is at a lower level than the well, which will be a long time.
this is my favorite thing Charles Mudede has ever written :)
Unfortunately, religious fanatics looking to place blame for god's wrath will probably blame "teh gays" and "teh liberruls" and not American materialism and wastefulness.
@59: Religious fanatics are expert rationalizers. Whenever what they predict doesn't happen they just chalk it up to "minions of Satan" or "God works in mysterious ways".
I assume by American Christianity you are speaking of Fundamentalist and Conservative Christians. Because the rest of us see our faith as a call to social change, respect for the natural world and progress toward peace. Also, I'm not sure that I'm understanding the reverence for Almighty technology connected to reverence for an Almighty God? Actually, I find those who do not have a spiritual faith, put their faith in technology and scientific innovation. I'm by no means against scientific innovation but lets not forget that it has brought us the oil drill, the atom bomb and the complete reliance on fossil fuels. Religion is always the scapegoat but the reality is its truly about money and capitalism. Profit rules this country and until it costs corporations more money to harm the environment than to protect it, nothing will change. Not even this disaster will change it.

I haven't forgotten Katrina. Neither have the families and friends of the 1,836 people who perished, or the 705 people still officially missing after the storm and the flood. Neither have the countless thousands of misplaced citizens from those areas still struggling with that relocation today. Nor has any of the current population of the 7 US States affected by the hurricane, the flood, or the government's failure to react.

In fact, I'm pretty sure the only people who've forgotten Katrina are the folks who never truly gave a shit in the first place. Which might be the bigger problem, with this disaster as well.

And since I don't have the bullshit swab of religion with which to paint myself a rosier future, I'm going to hang onto Charles Mudede's fantasy of a golden world in which Christianity, rendered useless, simply expires and we move on to a better way of life.
" fantasy of a golden world in which Christianity, rendered useless, simply expires and we move on to a better way of life."


Are you suggesting that Americans are going to drift away from the powerful brain shield of Christianity...and slip into Islam? Are those our only options? I don't think so. Large numbers of Europeans just dropped religion.

Hey, maybe that was a joke, but unregistered comments always read as foolish empty hate. Sarcasm doesn't come out in anonymous single-word comments. There's always someone real who's as stupid as you.
My is naked.

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