What would it take for you to change your mind?

Put on the table one of your most cherished theological ideas — say creationism, the historicity of Jonah surviving in a big fish, Calvinism or Arminianism, penal substitution, the gospel as social justice, progressive ideas on the gay/lesbian debates… just put your major idea on the table and ask yourself one question:

What would it take to change your mind?

Here’s George Monbiot asking that about an article in The Spectator about climate change:

If people are committed to an unscientific position, no evidence or argument will shake them out of it. Whether they subscribe to AIDS denial, excessive fear of radiation, vaccine scaremongering, homeopathy or creationism, they tend to demand impossible standards of proof from their opponents but to accept any old rubbish that supports their beliefs.

So if you are among those who reject the vast weight of scientific evidence for manmade climate change, I don’t expect this article to persuade you. Ask yourself what it would take to change your mind. If tens of thousands of peer-reviewed papers, against a tiny handful supporting your position; basic physics, demonstrable in a lab; instrumental temperature records spanning 150 years and much else on these lines can’t sway you, what could?

Conversely, which claims will you not accept? Do you believe that volcanoes produce more carbon dioxide than human beings? That the hockey-stick graph of global temperatures is a fake? That global warming is a conspiracy cooked up between governments and scientists? If none of the science persuades you, but you accept these groundless claims, your belief is likely to be a religious one, by which I mean unamenable to refutation.

So demonstrating in the pages of The Spectator that last week’s cover story was complete hogwash may be a waste of time for those whose minds are already made up. But I’ll do it anyway.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If someone maintains that he has overturned the entire canon of knowledge about global sea levels, derived from a massive database of readings from tidal gauges and satellites, he’d better have some powerful evidence for it, and he’d better publish it in the peer-reviewed scientific journals, where claims are assessed by people who know what they’re looking at.

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  • I guess I was raised a modernist and imbued with modernist apologetics, so I believe that evidence precedes or supports commitment. I absorbed the message from Francis Schaeffer and others that our faith is reason-based and not a “leap of faith.” The corollary, it seems, is that all beliefs must be open to re-interpretation on the basis of the evidence, including new evidence. So, to answer your question, I tend to operate this way and have altered my views on various topics including global warming and creation on the basis of evidence. The danger of course is the always-present problem that I’m not competent to understand and weigh the evidence, so why should I trust reason?

    True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society http://amzn.to/rGKfSp by Farhad Manjoo does a good job of exploring the psychological and social factors, especially the media and Internet, for the rise in fact-free beliefs.

  • Percival

    I reserve the right to not make up my mind about many things. I also reserve the right to be wrong about many things – it’s the only human right that is guaranteed. Feeling like so much is uncertain is not always comfortable, but it can be very liberating to say I don’t know.


  • Percival

    By the way, Scot, my opinion on 5 of those 6 theological ideas you listed have changed substantially over the years, but it’s impossible to see myself going back completely to where I was. However, I can imagine modifying my ideas further on all of them.

  • Susan N.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all people were willing and able to change their minds, when knowledge is acquired that renders the former position obsolete?

    On issues such as global warming, if one believes it to be true, then wouldn’t one feel convicted to take action to mitigate the problem? Wouldn’t one feel sorry and be inclined to admit that he/she had been wrong? Denial has its benefits.

    Would I be a proper heretic if I said that theology should not be a fixed set of knowledge/beliefs?

    Being open to new information, by listening and discussing, without fear of condemnation or contempt, and a commitment to be mutually respectful, helps a great deal to further the conversation on any topic.

    If religion or theology drives people away from God, or leaves the most vulnerable to suffer the consequences of the indifference or hatred of the powerful (those who have the ability to affect some positive change–who may or may not also be the religious), then that situation or issue is one on which I am ready to change MY mind. That’s what it takes for me.

  • If we are simply unwilling to change our minds in the face of facts, then aren’t we by definition a fundamentalist?

  • Susan N.

    profanefaith (#5) – yes, I think that rigid thinking is a trait of fundamentalism. But, I think there are others outside of fundamentalist religion who are wrapped up in denying global warming; “political/economic extremists” if you will? Or, simply those who are a-theist and/or a-political, who don’t want to be bothered to make any sacrifices in the (relative) short term. Global warming evidence and warnings call us to make active, tangible changes that many don’t want to make.

  • Rick

    “What would it take to change your mind?”

    I would have to check my motivations for denying it (who is providing the data or idea? Is it just an inconvenience for me? etc…)

    It would have to come from trusted sources, which then brings up the question of who is considered (by me) a “trusted source”.

  • Joe Canner

    I agree with Rick (#7) that having the data presented by a trusted source is important.

    As recently as 20 years ago I was a convinced young earth creationist. I don’t remember exactly what got me started down this path, but reading what Christians like Ken Miller (and, later, Darrell Falk and Frances Collins) had to say about evolution convinced me that I needed to rethink things.

    I have also changed my views on homosexuality, women’s role in the church, inerrancy, and hell over the last few decades, and am in the process of re-evaluating other views. In all cases, it was either a personal encounter with someone I trusted or reading something by someone I trusted that moved me from one view to another.

  • One reason people come to certain conclusions is because they have adopted certain premises. So, we might well ask, What would it take for you to change your presuppositions and philosophical assumptions? We should probably have to take even that another step back and ask, What would it take for you to become aware of your presuppositions and philosophical assumptions? Because, sadly, so many seem to be unaware of their basic presuppositions and think that a “fact” is a “fact” quite apart from any interpretive framework of philosophical assumptions. So, sometimes it may be one’s conclusions that need to be challenged, other times it may be one’s premises that need to be challenged. Then, of course, there is the question of how well one moves from premises to conclusions.

  • Rick

    Joe #8-

    “…but reading what Christians like Ken Miller (and, later, Darrell Falk and Frances Collins) had to say…”

    This brings up another aspect of this in regards to trust and non-negotiables.

    Do we have non-negotiables/things we will not change our mind about? (for example, God exists).

    How do we determine those non-negotiables? Do we come to them 1st, perhaps through reason and experience, and then we determine who we trust with the negotiables?

  • Great blog and comments, all!

    I remember when I was a young Warrant Officer Candidate in Army flight school (1970) my flight instructor said something to me that remains with me to this very day: “Michael, if you ever get to the point where you think you have learned all there is to know about flying, I want you to attach you wings to a nice piece of walnut and hang them on your wall…and never fly again. If you don’t, you’ll surely die.” And this pearl of wisdom from a man who had 25,000 hours of flight time!

    Certainly his words helped shape my worldview. What was — and is! — true in aviation is also true in the Christian Faith. There is so much we cannot be 100 percent certain about.

    About 5 years ago, as I was driving through Texas, I heard a pastor on the radio state: “Of course we KNOW that Jesus DID NOT turn water into [alcoholic] wine!” In that moment, I was reminded, once again, how culture plays an important part in shaping our beliefs…and it begs the question, “What do I believe that is not true?”

    In my mind, the only way to begin to address the issue is by keeping my focus on Jesus Christ; not all the areas of lessor importance that only serve to derail us. In so doing, we realize that since we are not yet made complete…we still sin…we can be certain that each of us believes some things that are not right. Staying focused on Christ helps us to be moldable and more likely to change.

    As C.S. Lewis said (Mere Christianity): “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth, only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”

  • Joe Canner

    Rick #10: Good question. For better or for worse, my experience is that when embarking on examinations of long-held beliefs even the “non-negotiables” come under scrutiny. Reason and experience certainly play a part in determining what beliefs survive the scrutiny, but I have to admit that social constraints also play a role. There are some beliefs that I am willing to go against friends/family on and others for which I am not willing to rock the boat.

  • Sherman Nobles

    Over the years I’ve undergone a couple radical changes in belief and many lesser changes in belief, and these were effected by the weight of evidence against my former beliefs and for my adopted beliefs. The radical changes were the most difficult and were for me liken to a Copernicun Revolution. Like a 9.0 earthquake, these were scary. Everything that could be shaken, was shaken. Many things fell to the ground, and others were raised higher. This happened in my life when I came to believe in and experienced the baptism in the Spirit (Pentecostal experience) back some 25 years ago, and more recently, about 2 years ago, when I came to believe that Jesus is really the savior of all (Christian Universalism).

    In both cases for my beliefs to change it took months of study, prayer, contemplation, and discussing such with others, and ultimately took an encounter with God. I was very resistant to allowing my beliefs to change, but as I studied and prayed there ultimately came a tipping point when my beliefs were changed.

  • Dan Arnold

    Last Spring RJS reviewed Joel Green’s book Body, Soul and Being Human . I think several points from that book are highly relevant to the current discussion. First, there is, in essence, no such thing as pure reason. Reason and emotion are intertwined (p 86). And as Wittgenstien showed, reason is also bound up with the social constructs of language. Hence, as Joe Canner notes, there is an aspect of in-group/out-group costs intimately tied to reason.

    But most important was the study that Green cited (p 118-19) where fMRI’s of highly partisan test subjects showed that the part of the brain that handles conscious reasoning is not activated when presented with facts that contradicted the subject’s biases. With this being the case, we are biologically unable to change our beliefs and they become calcified until something quite literally reprograms our neural circuits.

    Therefore, for us to change our minds, something has to shake us to our core. And even then, we must wrestle with the social and emotional ramifications of that change.

  • JohnM

    Some have mentioned the value of trusted sources. Of course, the opposite side of that is the difficulty of overcoming distrust of sources one suspects of having an axe to grind or something to gain. That distrust is especially hard to overcome when there is an imperative involved – ‘because A is true we all MUST do B’. The more you expect me to make objectionable changes not just in my opinions, but in my life, the more you are obligated to justify the changes to me. Now, if you believe the changes are not objectionable your task may have gotten easier or it may have gotten harder. 🙂

    It helps if the claim is something I can see, something that fits my experience. Of course not all claims equally lend themselves to that. Over reliance on ‘experts say’ is not helpful. I haven’t heard of a degree in expertology. 😉 Can we be a little more specific?

    Humility, caution, and measured tone, are helpful. Stridency and alarmism are not. Of course calling names is unhelpful, not because it hurts my feelings, but because it makes you sound arrogant, close minded, and unthinking yourself.

    Most of us hold multiple ‘cherished ideas’ and likley ones that are in conflict with each other. Realization of that conflict is one thing that has led to changes of mind on my part.

  • DRT

    The biggest thing I have changed my mind on in the past several years is gay marriage. I can say that up until about 30 I has homophobic then I got to know some gay folks. Then in the next decade I got to the point they did not bother me (got rid of the homophobia), but I still thought it was something best left in private. It was not until my oldest son started really challenging me, forcing me, to examine my stance that I started to change and realized that love outweighs all else in this.

    The biggest reservation I had against gay marriage (being public) was because I could not imagine the kids thinking that they need to decide if they like members of the opposite sex or the same sex (or both). I remember, when I was very young, and I heard men talking about which women were pretty and which were not. I remember not being able to tell the pretty ones from the non-pretty ones since they all looked like women to me. With this vivid memory in my mind I could not imagine adding to the confusion with my children having to decide, not only which women/men they prefer, but whether it was men or women.

    What I have come to realize is that it is actually an easier conversation than I ever imagined. All we tell the kids is what we should be telling them anyway. You don’t develop attractions like that until your teenage years and it will come naturally then, just like growing taller. No need to worry about it.

    In short, the decision to allow gay marriage involved me rethinking a surprising amount of me view of the world. And I am sure that it is equally daunting for many who start to examine any of the big issues Scot suggests.

    And to top it off, I am someone who is naturally inclined to new and different experiences, actually a seeker of such. I could imagine it is even more difficult for someone who’s natural bias is for consistency, and authority and in-group preservation on top of that.

  • RJS


    That was an interesting study. The take home message for me was not an inability to change but the need to cultivate a willingness to look at the evidence. It is a “muscle” (figuratively of course) that must be used and exercised.

    We can cultivate an open approach … most don’t bother on any level.

  • Rick

    DRT #16

    “You don’t develop attractions like that until your teenage years and it will come naturally then, just like growing taller. No need to worry about it… I could imagine it is even more difficult for someone who’s natural bias is for consistency, and authority…”

    Not to get into the homosexuality debate, rather I am interesting how be go about determining what is trusted.

    You do seem to put a trust in a certain consistent “authority”, that being “nature”. Would that be your non-negotiable, or is there something beyond that which determines the reliability of “nature”?

  • Dan Arnold


    This study really changed the way I understand people and how I interact with them, especially in regards to religious matters (and face it, politics is our true national religion). If we wish to influence people’s beliefs, how do we get by their biological predisposition to not change their minds? And how do I get by my own predispositions?

    I like your analogy with exercise but the problem is that a lot of people don’t like to exercise. Do you think Christianity facilates a culture that cultivates an open approach? How might that look?

  • MattR

    My philosophy prof would talk about ‘existential crisis.’

    We all have a narrative, a story we tell ourselves about who we are and what the world is like. Sometimes we respond to changing info by changes pieces of that narrative. But more often than not, there are deeper things happening… relating to family background, culture, etc. That means most of our basic ideas and values are shaped before we ever evaluate new bits of info.

    So what does it take to change?… ‘existential crisis.’ There has to be an event or experience that helps us see a crack in our basic narrative. In other words, facts and info alone does not change people, experience plays a huge role.

  • Rick

    Engaging these subjects is important. We may not change our minds about them, but it will help us relate better to the truths and people that are involved in them.
    I am still not convinced of global warming. To my mind it doesn’t matter because I am convinced of the importance of taking care of the planet that God has given us. So…I drive cars that get good gas mileage and am always interested in alternative fuel sources. I look forward to and embrace a future where we our a society that takes care of the planet.
    Homosexuality is another area that I am not convinced that the church is fundamentally wrong. I believe we have definitely been wrong in how we treated those who are homosexual. A comment earlier was “once you get to know them…” This comment I think is very true. You realize that they are fallen sinners just like the guy I see in the mirror every day. There sin is no better or worse than mine.
    To me, the real needed paradigm shift is to see the truth that is eternal in these areas even if we are not entirely sure of the whole issue.

  • Fish

    God changed my mind about a lot of things. Prior to His kicking down my door and coming into my life whether I wanted it or not, I was a pretty hard core libertarian who organized his life around making the maximum amount of money and saw poverty as a character defect. Boy, did that change completely when I was born again.

    More broadly, I have come to the conclusion that people’s minds are really not going to change absent some miracle from God, so if I want to be around people who think the same as I, I have to move to another state or country. Being liberal in this red state is akin to be being gay. The average person doesn’t like you and is pretty sure you can’t be a Christian. It’s better for me to leave than to inflict them with my square peg in their cultural round hole.

  • DRT

    Rick#18, I don’t think this will go afield…

    I consider nature to be extant, just like parents, caregivers, society and god. It is something that happens, naturally. Everyone will have a nature, what differs is the kind.

    I don’t consider nature an authority, unless you dilute that term to mean a default position that holds sway until another default position takes its place. De gustibus non disputandum est, tastes are not disputable. Of course, your question is not about tastes but authority.

    So moral view of the world is that authority is a terrible reason to do anything. As soon as authority is invoked in any way, then one must look at the reason for doing so.

    I do believe god is an absolute authority, but it is quite difficult to determine what god says about any specific situation once we get beyond killing children. God certainly has not given a clear command about being gay, and he has certainly given a clear command about loving others. I put weight on the clarity.

    So, to someone who naturally respects authority, as many do, it makes sense to ask the question you did of me. But my nature is to distrust all authority, and anytime authority is claimed, to challenge it. It is my nature.

  • DRT

    ..I meant to say “my moral view of the world…”

  • DRT

    Fish#22, I live the same life, a liberal in a red part of a red state. Eric Cantor is my representative (ugh!).

    Dad still can’t believe I have made it here so long, he thinks I just must be a glutton for punishment. Everyone he knows who has tried has gotten frustrated with the natives and left.

    I am sure most folks here would not believe that as a 20 year old I was a staunch republican who hated gays, felt the environment was there for motorcycles to run over, loved Reagan, supported trickle down and wanted to be one of the ones trickling. Wow, a lot has changed.

  • Matt Edwards

    One of the most important leadership lessons I have learned is that people will only follow you as far as they trust you. If you want to win someone’s mind, you have to win their heart first. If the scientific community is finding that America isn’t following them, it’s because they don’t trust them.

  • Rodney

    Jesus told stories to change people’s minds about God. Perhaps we might move away from a reliance on “sound” arguments and weave a tale or two.

  • Matt Edwards

    Rodney #27–

    It’s not the hockey stick graph that will get you, it’s the polar bear on the tiny iceberg.

  • RJS

    Both stories and trust are essential … trust allows people to listen and stories challenge thinking in a much less aggressive fashion. The stories don’t have the same knee-jerk negative reaction. Of course it takes a lot of thinking to come up with good stories.

    And speaking of trust – Patheos has lost my trust with the new pop-up/pop-under ads. I had uninstalled ad-blocker when we moved from beliefnet to patheos, but it looks like I will have to reinstall it.

  • RJS


    Trust and credibility are so important. If there is anything I’ve learned from the interaction on this blog, it is the need to be careful to respond and say things in a way the hopefully gives trust, or at least doesn’t unnecessarily undermine trust.

    Much of the literature is good (scientifically) – but written with rhetoric and “code-words” that quite frankly eliminate any real hope that a significant percentage of the intended audience will even be willing to listen to the argument. We are, at times, our own worst enemy.

  • Norman

    Part of the equation for folks changing their mind is demonstrating to them how they can go about giving up their warm blanket of friends and worldviews that they are presently living in. How do you give up a church (or exist in one) where the people you hang with all know the key jargon speak such as creationism and hating Obama and all Democrats? Can you really wean them off of Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, Fox news and church Channel TV and set them down into a new world of people that they will be comfortable with. I dare say they will be like a lost sheep wandering about aimlessly, and most people aren’t emotionally wired to exist like that. First they will need some new friends that can lead them into the Promised Land. 😉 Some however will simply die in the wilderness, always looking back toward Egypt, Sodom or Gomorrah as history continually reminds us.

    It will be a process at best to embark on the so called “slippery slope”.

  • Rick

    RJS #30-

    Although I don’t agree with you 100% of the time, I have come to trust your opinion and therefore give your posts careful thought.

    Norman #31-

    I don’t think you mean it, but your comment comes across as condenscending.

    We need to be careful in thinking about this post that we are including a look in the mirror, and not simply consider how certain groups can come to think like we do (whatever that looks like).

    Just because some are conservative, it does not mean they are not open to new ideas. It may mean that looking at various ideas/theories, some came to the conclusion that conservatism was the wisest option.

  • AHH

    Seems like there is significant difference between possible mind-changing on matters of scientific investigation (like climate change or the age of the Earth or bogus medical claims) and most matters of theology (like Calvinism/Arminianism) which are inherently more subjective. One can collect more evidence on the scientific claims, and look at the evidence until it becomes overwhelming, but you don’t really have the same process, certainly not to the same degree, in theological debates.

    With that said, I agree with the danger of confirmation bias in both areas, and with the need to check ourselves to be sure we are listening to the evidence.
    A couple of commenters had a good point about how it helps if the potential mind-changing information comes from a trusted source. For example, if a theistic evolution position is just the province of theological “liberals”, it won’t be listened to by most Evangelicals no matter how strong the evidence. But when one sees it from clearly Evangelical sources like Francis Collins or Tim Keller or Alister McGrath, then it gets more traction.

  • Norman


    It was intended to spark a more spirited discussion. 🙂

  • Rick

    AHH #33-

    “But when one sees it from clearly Evangelical sources like Francis Collins or Tim Keller or Alister McGrath, then it gets more traction.”

    Yes, but it is not just that they are Evangelical. They are also trusted because of their intellect, and because of their expertise. They know science, especially Collins and McGrath; and they know theology, especially Keller and McGrath.

  • For me, the question is not necessarily what data people present to me, but whether I have to accept their interpretation of the data. Let’s take the issue of homosexuality.

    Let’s say scientists objectively determine that all homosexuality is caused by a genetic “fluke” or change in the average genetic makeup. Let’s say the evidence becomes irrefutable. Are we then forced to conclude that the homosexual lifestyle is now justifiable and should be accepted within Christianity? That is one interpretation, but it is not necessarily the only one.

    What if it is proven a person has a genetic preponderance to not tell the truth? Does that mean they are not responsible to tell the truth? Once again, it is not as easy as just dealing with data: One must also know how to define the data.

    In the case of biblical Christianity, I am not as interested in the data of the Bible, but the biblical interpretations of what the data means.

    I can easily change my mind about data…just show me. But it is very difficult for me to change my interpretation, especially if the interpretation goes against what I perceive is a clear understanding through study of the Scriptures.

  • Hmm, I’ll make an example.

    In my current state of mind, I believe a water molecule to be constituted of a certain arrangement of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. What would it take to change my mind about that? A lot! I can’t, in fact, imagine a case in which I could be convinced otherwise. Does that make me a rigid fundamentalist? I don’t think so. Full availability of the relevant facts allows me the latitude, I believe, to feel assured of my conclusion. But it is a conclusion, not a conviction.

    Now, someone may demonstrate to me one day that dark energy is also a necessary condition of water being water, and without it (assuming anything in a conceivable universe can be apart from dark energy) the usual arrangement of hydrogen and oxygen atoms does not make water without it. If that happens, I will have a more complete understanding of my conclusion about what water is, but it would not overturn completely my former understanding.

    So I believe it is possible to have a firm grasp on certain kinds of knowledge and yet be open to further understanding.

  • Mark E. Smith

    Some of us believe in science; we just don’t trust the scientists.

  • Michael Fox

    Ironically, the original post and many of the responses exhibit the very qualities the writer decries in those of us who do indeed question the legitimacy of global warming claims. Qualities, indeed, of, gulp, fundamentalism. Asking, “What would it take to change your mind?” while demonstrating a closed mind to those who disagree. Asking the question with a subtle implication of ignorance on the part of those who disagree. Sometimes the “progressive” vs. the “conservative”–how I hate those labels–share the same mindset: the only ones they despise are those who disagree with them.

  • DRT

    Mark E. Smith, that’s why there is peer reviewed processes. Do you not believe in that?

  • Michael Fox

    I apologize, but one more thing to add to comment #39. . .I would encourage those who tend to think more toward the liberal side not to assume that conservative represents unsophistication and that a person matures into a more liberal mindset. There are those who study the evidence on issues just as carefully as others, but deliberately choose an educated, conservative position.

  • Matt Edwards

    RJS #30,

    I think another problem is that the scientific community is trying to gain the public’s trust by emphasizing how smart they are. That’s not going to work.

    The reason that people are hesitant to give up deeply held religious beliefs for cogently argued scientific ones is because it’s the pastor who visits them in the hospital.

  • DRT

    Michael Fox, thank you for your, obviously, sober approach on this. I would like to confess a bit, and then ask your advice.

    The confession – No doubt we all think we are right about what we believe or else we would believe something different. What varies is the strength of the belief.

    I, honestly, cross my heart, cannot see how someone would study the evidence of global warming and not come to the conclusion that it is not happening to some degree. There is room to debate the long term effects, those who are impacted most, and the degree of impact, but I honestly cannot see how someone can look at the evidence that is out there right now and not come to the conclusion that something is happening that people are causing.

    Now, I make my living by competing with objectively brilliant people and I have at least some level of education that attests that I can think objectively (an engineering degree and an MBA). I cannot vouch for all such people, but folks with that education get respect because the vast majority can think objectively.

    Let me give what I consider to be the most easy to digest piece of evidence


    If someone were to read that and read the links, or at least a bunch of them, it would be quite clear that the consensus opinion of scientists support they hypothesis that man made global warming is real.

    Request for Advice – What am I not seeing that others who claim to have researched this well see? I agree with what someone else said, that any scientist in particular could be wrong, even 10 or 20 percent. But when the opinion is this lopsided, why would not normally conservative people, who seem to want to maintain the world as we have it, not fall in with climate change? It makes absolutely no sense to me. I am not saying that to be mean or condescending, I just really feel that way.

  • Todd Moore

    I appreciated the comments of Michael Fox (#39, #41). I thought the same thing as I was reading.

  • DRT

    Now, as I sat here an re-read the wiki article with the powerful language, two images kept going through my head.

    1. Colin Powell and other (including Bush) swearing up and down that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Is that one of the reasons that conservatives can’t believe the evidence? How does that play in?

    2. Preachers standing in front of their congregations telling them things like evolution and an old earth are not true. Is this a major contributing factor? If conservative zealots came out and said evolution and an old earth are true, would that change the view on global warming?

    I do appreciate that there is a considerable cultural dynamic at play and it takes a long time to change folks. But this should be a done deal.

  • DRT

    …and, the brilliant folks here are as smart as I have met. I am proud you all don’t kick me out!

  • J. Christy Wareham

    Michael E. Smith, do you not trust the scientists because you believe them incompetent or because you consider them dishonest? Or something else.

  • RJS

    Michael Fox (#39,41),

    I agree that there is an arrogance that presumes unsophistication to describe a conservative position (and, on occasion a liberal position). On many issues there are those who study and choose an educated conservative position. It would be nice if the discussions could focus on the issues and not use such rhetorical tricks.

    The question of global warming, however, isn’t a liberal or a conservative question. It is a scientific question and prediction. If it is an accurate assessment and prediction both the liberal and the conservative will be in equal pain and distress. I am not saying this to push a particular viewpoint, but to put the question on the right footing. The only appropriate basis for any position on global warming is from an evaluation of the scientific evidence.

  • Kenny Johnson

    Couldn’t this same logic be applied to the Conservative views of the Bible. If the majority of expert opinion is to be the trusted source, then it would seem that I should believe that Paul didn’t write half of the epistles attributed to him and that Peter and John wrote none of the ones attributed to them. That NT was written decades after the dates conservatives hold to and the Jesus likely did and said very little of what’s written about Him in the Gospels.

    It also seems — that if I trust dissenting minority opinions that it automatically irrational.

    As for climate change. I don’t consider myself a “skeptic” of global warming or even man-made global warming as much as I consider myself a skeptic of the alarmist claims of impending doom. I take the position that we should treat global warming as if its real, but we should be cautious in the way we change our behavior — because it’s possible that the changes we make to stop or reverse global warming could be more detrimental to humanity than global warming itself.

  • DRT

    Kenny Johnson, I will agree in part with what you said. We should treat global warming as real and we should be cautious about our approach.

    But, I disagree with your Bible analogy. Given the vast preponderance of scientific evidence to be true, we should pursue rectification of global warming. But given the diversity of opinion of the bible and the subjectivity of the…subject, then we need to consider all views.

    The scientific consensus of the existence of global warming does not make it true, it just points us to the most wise path to take in our policy. Whether it is true or not may never be known. I will go out on the limb of example, and equate it to the Obama stimulus. The stimulus was put into effect to help stem the loss of jobs. Guess what, the job situation did not recover and the right wing claims that it had no effect. Well, the effect could be that it would have gone more negative had it not gone into effect.

    If we take action now, and in 30 years, with aggressive societal change, we don’t see a worsening of the climate, then I fear that the right will just say it was never a problem. Thereby making the next problem even a bigger issue. But if we do nothing and there is a problem, or not a problem, then the chips will come home to roost (to mix a metaphor whimsically).

    I don’t understand why the conservative position is not to do what Kenny Johnson says and change, just in case we are screwing everything up!

  • Kenny Johnson

    For the record, I agree or tend to agree with the Conservative point of view — I’m just saying that according to the logic of the original post, maybe I shouldn’t.

  • “8. I agree with Rick (#7) that having the data presented by a trusted source is important.”

    In other words, many will look for a trusted ‘authority’, e.g. in the case of this thread, Geo. Monbiot [a newspaper columnist] who has written a lot about global warming, becomes the ‘authority.’ And yet a world-class climate scientist from MIT [who happens to be Jewish] will be mocked as a holocaust “denier” by those [including Christians] who don’t really want to take time to understand the science and the empirical evidence.

    In the Christian arena, this often boils down to trusting a current pop author’s opinion rather than sitting down with the Bible, commentaries and reference works.

  • Paul W

    “What would it take to change your mind?”

    I’m really not sure what is at work when my mind changes on an issue. In a lot of ways it is a mystery.

    I don’t think, for example, that foundational religious belief is a simple choice. In my experience there seems to be an aspect to it which is much more passive than that. I can choose what I have for dinner but I don’t decide what tastes good to me.

    I believe God exists. I do, however, recognize that I may be mistaken. I think part of why I came to belief was because of how my family raised me. I suspect that part of the reason why I continue to believe is because of the interpretive force that it.

    As to a change of mind about God, I think I’m open to the possibility. Nonetheless, I’ve got no idea what would accomplish that.

    I know I believe in God but it certainly doesn’t seem like a simple choice. It’s much more deeply rooted and seems to belong to an aspect of life I do not have direct access to. In that sense, it seems to be more akin to “what tastes good to me” than to “what I decide to eat.”

  • Rick

    Michael Snow #52-

    “In the Christian arena, this often boils down to trusting a current pop author’s opinion rather than sitting down with the Bible, commentaries and reference works.”

    You are right, which means we need to ask ourselves why we trust them, and in what areas do we trust them. It needs to go beyond “just because they believe all the same things I do”.

  • TSG

    From the article’s author: “your belief is likely to be a religious one, by which I mean, unamenable to refutation”.

    He used the exact same definition in an article on rising sea levels on 12/11/11 in The Smarter Earth Institute. His article in The Spectator on 12/13/11, uses the same phrases as on 12/11. And not one commenter calls him on the definition. And I give you other points of view by George Monbiot:
    The Pope Spreads AIDS- October 7, 1999.
    Is The Pope Gay?- July 13, 2000.
    America is Religion- July 29, 2003.
    Better Off Without Him- October 11, 2005.
    Pro-Death (religious conservatives are responsible for high abortion rates)- February 26, 2008.
    A Life With No Purpose (Darwin tells us we are no more than assembages of complex molecules. We should celebrate this).

  • DRT

    TSG, what is your point? Are you trying to undermine his credibility so conservatives can feel justified in ignoring him?

    This is exactly the type of thinking that we are talking about in most of the comments.

    Life is not a team sport! It is not about siding with those on your team and being against those who are not.

  • It seems like there are some here who read the opening thread as a matter of “How can I change your mind.” Particularly, “How can I change the mind of the [conservative, creationist, global warming skeptic — whoever disagrees with my enlightened view]?” Rather one-sided, I think. DRT tells us life is not a team sport about and siding with one team against another. But that is often how it seems to me at Jesus Creed, most recently, in this thread. I’m expecting that the Jesus Creed should be about something much better than that.

    Scot asks us to consider what George Monbiot has said. I think it is fair enough for to TSG to consider what else Monbiot has said along similar lines — to see how the question Monbiot asks plays out for him elsewhere.

  • RJS


    A good discussion always challenges one’s thinking and in some respect causes a change in mind. The change may be simply a refinement of reasons for holding a given view – or it may be a more substantial changes. Your comments, for example, have changed the way I approach some problems. They haven’t changed my position on the age of the earth – but they have changed other things.

    I hope that the Jesus Creed blog is never a place we go to simply read what we already knew and agreed with. Stagnation is never good.

  • Percival

    Some recent psychological studies show that persuasion is most certainly a team sport. Why should we suppose otherwise?


    Freakanomics Radio, “The Truth is Out There.. Isn’t it?”

  • Percival
  • DRT

    Percival, thanks for the article, I will listen to it.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with the premise that once you agree with climate change that the perspective on what to do runs the full gamut. I believe the subject of this post is simply believing it exists. Without that acknowledgement we can never get to the point of discussing what we should do about it.

    I have always been a believer in climate change. But it has not been but for the past 10 years that I started to think we should do something about it. I am feeling much more anxious since I believe it will impact poor people disproportionately and would love to have the conversation at JC about what our moral obligation should be to the poor in this regard. I used to think it would actually kind of be cool to see the world warm up a few degrees, it would certainly be living in exciting times. Left to our own devices we tend to pursue evil if don’t have a unifying target for our wealth. Adapting to the new world temperature would be a fun time. But, it turns out that it is devastating to the poor, therefore we need to do something about it.

  • TSG

    My position here is that a belief that is a religious one being unamenable to refutation is patently, unambiguously false.
    It has nothing to do with climate change. Mark Lynas in “The God Species” acknowledges that scientists are divided over the approach to limit carbon dioxide levels to 350 parts per million. To do this we will need to limit cumulative carbon dioxide emissions to less than one trillion tonnes of carbon in total throughout the whole Anthropocene. If the USA had passed “cap and trade” in 2009, we would have reduced less than 20 billion. The fact that it passed 219-212 in the House, doomed it, because at that time the House was overwhelmingly Democrats. Waiting a few years for reduction in carbon in total is not the worst approach. Just a few reasons why- (1) International agreement can be a part- Canada leaving the Kyoto agreements is a part of the pressure for a more balanced agreement. (2) Alternatives will increasingly become factors in the solution (3) It is possible that nuclear energy, as the clean approach it is, could overcome the fears it currently engenders. Just one more comment- Mark Lynas’ book caused much angst in his green allies, because he revealed that the prescriptions of the current environmental movement are likely to hinder as much as help effort ecologically. I believe that George Monbiot’s continued injection of science vs. religion into the global warming debate hinders in the same regard.