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


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