God and Global Warming: The Religionization of Science or the Scientification of Religion?

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As reporter I have regularly heard frustrated advocates of catastrophic global warming muse among themselves about how they could "get the evangelicals on board." I have also been present at conferences where environmentalists and evangelicals have been "dialoguing" about global warming. Now the activists have gotten their wish–evangelicals have been drawn into the climate change debate.

This past January, a group called the Evangelical Climate Initiative issued a statement, Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action, which recognizes "that human-induced climate change is a serious Christian issue requiring action now." The Call to Action is particularly concerned that man-made global warming will harm the world's poor the most. The initial statement was signed by 85 evangelical leaders.

This week another group of evangelicals, called the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, has issued a statement, A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming as a challenge to the conclusions of the Evangelical Climate Initiative. For example, the Call to Truth statement argues that "the destructive impact on the poor of enormous mandatory reductions in fossil fuel use far exceeds the impact on them-negative or positive-of the moderate global warming that is most likely to occur."

The authors of the ISA statement include theologian E. Calvin Beisner and the respected University of Alabama Huntsville climate scientist Roy Spencer who is also an evangelical Christian. Other authors listed are long-time catastrophic global warming skeptics such as free-market activist Paul Driessen and statistician Ross McKitrick. ISA's Call to Truth is signed by over 130 scholars, theologians, scientists, economists, and other leaders.

However the global warming debate among evangelicals turns out, it is a sign of progress when theologians appeal to science rather than revelation to justify their positions.

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  1. The problem is that as soon as one side feels it’s losing on the science, one of its major proponents will get a revelation. I’m thinking a 900 foot cow will say that methane is good, or something.

  2. Now that religious people are calling for action against global warming, does that mean that Kyoto violates the separation of church and state?

  3. for some reason, I just pictured Akira Mackenzie running out of his dad’s basement screaming.

  4. somehow i think this does have something to do with revelation..end times..2012, and what not. fucking morons.

  5. This supposed alliance has been a hot topic among many reporters but I’m highly skeptical that as many evangelicals are on board with the fight against global warming as the groups Ron cites claim.

    Granted some genuine evangelicals probably are also environmentalists and they’ve gotten others to talk about the issue. So? There are millions of evangelicals out there and they talk about all manner of things. This doesn’t necessarily signal any kind of shift. In fact, this controversey strikes me more as clever p.r. on the part of environmentalists than anything else.

    Note, for example, this contrarian Washington Post story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/01/AR2006020102132.html

  6. Now if only we noticed that there are Christians on both sides of most other issues…

  7. Now if only we noticed that there are Christians on both sides of most other issues…

    Scientists who go to church even…

  8. What would Jesus drive?

  9. God and Global Warming: The Religionization of Science or the Scientification of Religion?

    The two will never mix.

    On another note, God damn it’s hot as hell out here today.

  10. “What would Jesus drive?”

    I thought he’d have one of those amphibian cars so he could drive on water.

  11. We wouldn’t be in this mess if one of the Ten Commandments had been: “Thou shalt not burn fossil fuels.”

  12. We wouldn’t be in this mess if one of the Ten Commandments had been: “Thou shalt not burn fossil fuels.”

  13. At first this seems pretty bizarre, considering that many evangelicals I know are convinced that we are living in the end times. If Jesus is coming back within the next 100 years, there’s no need to worry about global warming.

    Well, unless of course they’re worried about Palestine winding up underwater before then…the Bible doesn’t say anything about submarine warfare at Armageddon.

  14. We wouldn’t be in this mess if one of the Ten Commandments had been: “Thou shalt not burn fossil fuels.”

    I don’t know about that, people seem perfectly comfortable with ignoring the existing commandments, such as “Thou Shalt Not Kill”

  15. crimethink:

    “If Jesus is coming back within the next 100 years, there’s no need to worry about global warming.”

    Precisely. They should regard global warming as a positive. I’ll have to catch Jack Van Impe Presents this weekend to get his take. Generally, the messages other televangelists deliver with a dour grimace or hell-and-brimstone fury, Jack delivers with a great big grin on his face. Hallelujah! These will be terrible times, but the good news is that Jesus is coming!

  16. Somehow, I think morality issues will continue to capture the bulk of evangelical attention.

  17. Are you from the People’s Front of Judea or the Judean People’s Front?

  18. (This is my forth and final attempt to post on this thread throughout the day today.)

    “If Jesus is coming back within the next 100 years, there’s no need to worry about global warming.”

    Well, there is stuff in the Bible about good stewardship and the like. Maybe the evangelicals who think the Second Coming is imminent are afraid that when Jesus comes back, He’ll see that servants haven’t been taking good care of the place, and get pissed.
    ———————————

    Evangelicals, or anybody else, can hold valid scientific knowledge in addition to whatever religious beliefs they hold, as long as they are not directly in conflict.

    But frankly, the fact that people on either side of the environmental debates would seek to court the support of evangelicals as evangelicals — that is, by appealing specifically to their religious beliefs — strikes me as a desparate appeal to numbers. That works as political activism but doesn’t help the state of the underlying science. Science is a truth-finding machine; democratic votes are only a preference-finding machine. Before we submit decisions to a vote, we need good facts.

    This can only cloud the issues. IMO, “environmentalism” is to “evangelicals” as “leaking lifeboat” is to “anvil.”

    (Now I hit “post” and hope the Hit & Run posting failure rate is currently running only at 75% and not 100%.)

  19. for some reason, I just pictured Akira Mackenzie running out of his dad’s basement screaming.

    I’m not so much a running and screaming (and no, I have the top floor of the family home to myself) as I’m concerned when someone tries to mix science and religion. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that at least one group of evangelicals is getting involved in the issue. (crimethink is right about the fundie tendency to either ignore environmental issues as either unimportant in the face of the impending Second Coming or as a Communist/Atheist/Satanist plot.)

    However, if I’ve said once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Science and religion are too different animals entirely. They work on entirely different methodologies, they have different approaches toward reality, and while science can tell you “why” something is happening it doesn’t presume any sort of morality to the findings, unlike religion. When religionists start playing in the realm of science at best we get hacks like Michael “Intelligent Design” Behe and at worst we end up with real scientists like Galileo being locked up for pointing out the heresy that the Earth orbits the sun.

    Still, as long as no one is claiming that GW is their god’s punishment for abortion, gay tolerance, legal pornography, and women’s rights, then I suppose this is a good thing.

  20. I would like to observe that Akira’s post is not only well-reasoned, but calm and even-tempered. Even in response to a potentially provocative comment. Fucking A.

  21. I had a long day, Stevo. I’m not really in the mood for a flame war. However that Tom Perkins quote mentioned later today really got my ire up a little.

  22. However the global warming debate among evangelicals turns out, it is a sign of progress when theologians appeal to science rather than revelation to justify their positions.

    So is God the product of evolution?

  23. So is God the product of evolution?

    Hmmmm… That is an interesting question, and I’m sure that there are a few evolutionary psychologists who have something to say on that topic. For some reason I want to think that Dawkins once wrote something on that very topic, though don’t quote me on that.

  24. Science and religion are odds for the fundamentalists of the latter camp. But many religious liberals see the Bible as offering moral and spiritual insights, not a set of historical truths or truths about the nature of reality. For religious liberals, it is not a problem to take into account the findings of science.

  25. Science and religion are too different animals entirely.

    No they’re not. They’re both businesses looking for as many custmers as they can get.

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