Global warming and evangelicals

Normally, I don’t buy the sentiment expressed by Voltaire, that “as long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities.” Someone with accurate views about the nature of the universe can still be a complete and utter bastard; some of the most gentle, most pacifist people in the world link their behavior with supernatural beliefs as dubious as anything connected to Inquisitions.

Nevertheless, I have to admit that occasionally I’m tempted to think otherwise. After all, faith-based weirdness too often spills over into some really dangerous craziness. One example is the tendency among US evangelical Christians to deny anthropogenic global warming. Lately, actually, there had been some positive developments: some evangelicals had come out starting to say that they had to help deal with global warming and other environmental crises. This task, actually, was part of their stewardship responsibility and so forth. But the Big Guns I often listen to on Christian radio (yes, I have weird hobbies) were inclined to think climate change was a conspiracy by godless liberals, and they’re now starting to bring their influence to bear. It’s one think to have your little intellectual perversions; another to harm everyone else outside your own community due to your faith-based way of thinking.

Now, environmental lunacy is hardly a excluively monotheist preserve. The Enlightenment tradition, which I identify with, has plenty to answer for here as well. It’s not hard to come across very secular forms of environmentally ignorant thinking. Visit just about any economics department, especially one that harbors people infected with that very Enlightenment-based perverted optimism, that no matter what, human ingenuity will always eventually save the day. Still, there’s something more to evangelical Christianity in the US—especially due to its alliance with free-market fundamentalism and a particularly brainless variety of populist nationalism. There’s a very strong anti-science streak in American popular religion, masked by an equally common worship of technology.

So creationists, for example, tend to be global warming “skeptics” as well. After all, they know that mainstream science is thoroughly corrupt. Why trust a bunch of godless commie scientists, who are deep down concerned only to erect an idol of Mother Nature in place of the One True God? Some push evolution, some prattle about climate change, it’s all the same. I’m not surprised to see some intelligent design web sites also preoccupied with denying mainstream scientific positions about global warming—for example, Uncommon Descent.

Beh. All things come to an end; so be it and all that. But I’ll be pissed if we end up destroying civilization and one of the major contributors is lunatic religious beliefs that encourage environmental pillage, nuclear war, or some similar suicidal impulse.

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About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • scripto

    You got to wonder what’s next – the Germ Theory of Disease?

  • Jim Lippard

    Note that the NAE chose to ignore the letter from Dobson, Bauer, Perkins, et al (none of whom are members of the NAE).

    I think this is actually a *promising* sign–the largest organization of evangelicals is saying that Christians need to be concerned about issues like poverty and global warming, and telling the Bush-associated conservatives who say that they should place higher priority on abstinence and opposing gay marriage that they disagree.

    It seems to me there’s an anti-Bush backlash in progress, and that Dobson, Bauer, and the other evangelicals who have been Bush loyalists are going to feel some pain from that backlash.

  • Mark Plus

    I wonder how many people who deny that our technological activities cause global warming also think that we’ll develop into some kind of science-fictional global civilization that can technologically control the climate.

  • Destrya121

    I have an idea how we can enlist the evangelicals. All we need to do is send a few “informers” to “spread the word” that “GOD created this Earth for you to live in and you will burn in HELL if you do not immediately stop poisoning the gifts he has so graciously given.” That should solve it.

  • Donn

    Evidently, we Evangelicals are in good company!

  • ts

    “some of the most gentle, most pacifist people in the world link their behavior with supernatural beliefs as dubious as anything connected to Inquisitions”

    Um, Voltaire did not say that each and every person who believes in absurdities will commit atrocities; “people” is a group noun.