The heresy of religious opposition to global warming

by Richard on March 20, 2012

ABC Religion is a constant source of worthwhile reading, and this is no exception: Michael Stafford provides an insightful piece on the opposition to the science of climate change

Do not be deceived. The opposition to the scientific evidence supporting anthropogenic global warming (AGW) among some conservatives may, at times, hide behind a pseudo-scientific veneer. However, much of it is often really rooted in an anti-intellectual strain of religious fundamentalism.

It is this element - a barren theology that leaves no room for our God-given gifts of reason and discovery - that gives the opposition its implacable character.

The people he quotes come from the US Republican party, a political movement now so driven by ideology they make the Socialist Workers Party look wishy-washy. But the danger he identifies is just as real on this side of the Atlantic. The ’seeds of falsehood, doubt, and delay’ being sown by the so-called skeptics could yield a bitter harvest for us all.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }


Kim 03.20.12 at 3:23 pm

Stafford is being really kind to refer to global warming denial as a heresy. Heresies are “near-misses” (Rowan Williams). Theologically, these guys couldn’t hit the broad side of Crystal Cathedral with a laser-guided missile.


Richard 03.20.12 at 4:04 pm


Mark Byron 03.23.12 at 12:48 am

A laser-guided missile might have a hard time hitting a glass structure, since it’s hard to reflect a focused beam of light off of glass, especially if it’s been cleaned properly. Yes, the CC has had far better days; pray that the LA Catholics put it to good use.

Back to the main post. There is a serious dose of anti-intellectualism on the theocon right going back to a century ago when the big college intellectuals were leading the liberal camp that lead to the Fundamentals being written and giving us the name for such conservatives. Add that to the modern leftward list of academe in the last half-century and there is an unhealthy distrust of stuff coming out of elite colleges in many quarters of the right.

That being said, a healthy level of skepticism is still called for, even as we have a historic heat-wave here in Michigan that makes Richard and his AGW allies looking like prophets… for a few days, at least;-).


Kim 03.23.12 at 9:16 am

That being said, a healthy level of skepticism is still called for, even as we have a historic heat-wave here in Michigan that makes Richard and his AGW allies looking like prophets… for a few days, at least;-).

Of course Mark knows that the Michigan heat-wave has to do with the weather, not climate as such; knows that if it were now snowing heavily in the Apple Blossom State, that would not be evidence that global warming were a socialist, statist hoax. I mention this only because others may not know it, or refuse to acknowledge it.

As for “scepticism”: the entire scientific enterprise could be described as based on scepticism — but rational scepticism. When the empirical evidence becomes overwhelming, and a hypothesis accrues compelling explanatory power, such that it is accepted by almost the entire scientific community, then “scepticism” becomes irrational, particularly when it’s obvious that there is an agenda behind it. That is, then we can be pretty sure that “scepticism” has become a pretentious euphemism for ideological bullshit. And that is precisely what we have with the US conservatives to whom Stafford refers.


Mark Byron 03.23.12 at 1:15 pm

I agree with Kim on that point; I was merely telling a lame joke.

The heat wave is merely an outlier that can happen regardless of a slight change in average temperature. If we go up 1 degree and have a 10 degree standard deviation, your 95% range goes from +20 to -20 to +21 to -19. You can still have cold snaps and have the overall average go up and still have heat waves and NOT have the overall average be spiking as a cause.

He’s also right on calling BS on some of the folks on the right who won’t even fess up to the warming that has occurred in the 20th century. They are deniers rather than skeptics, just as we wouldn’t call Ahmadinejad a Holocaust skeptic.

We’ll still part company on how many folks deserve to get called BS on, however.

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