04 February 2006

Who cares what Jesus would drive?

The big news last week from the most dangerous of America's religious windbags is that they can't agree on what to do about climate change. To that, I say, "And a good thing, too."

The knee-jerk reaction among those who have been trying to haul Christians aboard the environmental movement -- desperately, and usually futilely, looking for ways to reinterpret the Biblical directive to "have dominion over the earth" and that sort of thing -- is one of lament. According to the Washington Post, the leadership of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals "will not take a stand on the issue, disappointing environmentalists who had hoped that evangelical Christians would prod the Bush administration to soften its position on global warming."

Bless their hearts, but those environmentalists are wasting their time. Even worse, they're undermining honest efforts to keep religion out of the development of public policy based on sound science. We've got enough troubles with a president that can't keep faith out of his Supreme Court nomination criteria, thank you very much.

That puts me in the somewhat awkward position of agreeing with the 20-odd signers of a letter to the NAE membership urging them not to adopt an official position on climate change. Among those questionable allies are Watergate criminal Charles W. Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; ultra-disciplinarian James C. Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family; the Rev. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries; the Rev. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention; Richard Roberts, president of Oral Roberts University; Donald E. Wildmon, chairman of the American Family Association; and the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition.

The bottom line for those who care about the separation of church and state should be keeping religion in its place. Now, I recognize that telling a preacher not to stray into matters of science and public policy is a tall order. Limiting Sunday sermons to purely spiritual concerns would probably turn what can be dozy affairs into intellectual anesthesia. But there's a good reason why the IRS isn't supposed to let ministers tell parishoners how to vote. The same logic applies to questions of science.

Far too many people already turn to the pulpit for answers to questions that have nothing to do with matters of faith. If you want some guidance on choosing between the new hybrid Camry and low-emissions diesel Jetta, there are plenty of accurate and honest resources out there assembled by sincere automotive engineers. If you're having problems figuring out whether the U.S. will benefit or suffer from an eight-degree increase in average temperatures over the next century, ask a climatologist. James Dobson is not an expert in global carbon cycles, and there's no reason to expect him to become one any time soon. He's too busy telling you how often to spank your kid.

This is a serious problem, and it's not just evangelicals who are muddying the playing field these days. The theme for next week's Darwin Days celebration at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is "Science and Religion, and why these subjects are not mutually exclusive." Among the alleged highlights is a talk by an "evolutionary theologian" (whatever that is) who will explain "Why Jesus Loves Darwin and You Could Too."

From the flyer announcing the Feb. 7 lecture:
Evolutionary theologian Michael Dowd explores how an understanding of recent discoveries in the sciences can broaden and strengthen our experiences of Ultimate Reality (in a way that theists and atheists can both celebrate!) and open the future to hope. Using simple, easy-to-understand analogies and illustrations, Rev. Dowd shares a deeply inspiring perspective on the coming of age for both religion and science.
Sorry to break it to the faculty at UT, but all the available evidence suggests that science and religion are far from compatible at many levels. I'm not arguing that you can't be both a scientist and a person of religious conviction. First, it's easier on the brain if you try not to believe six impossible things before breakfast. More important are the fundamental differences between the two that defy reconciliation. For one, religion relies on revealed wisdom in the form of scriptures of some sort. Science prefers verifiable facts.

Unless my studies of the great monotheistic texts were sorely lacking, I think it safe to say there's nothing in the Bible or the Koran that tangentially or even metaphorically addresses the possibility of the failure of thermohaline ciruclation, methanogenic positive feedback loops or the Kyoto Protocol. Neither is there any suggestion in the New Testament as to Jesus' inclinations regarding natural selection and other mechanisms of the modern evolutionary synthesis. And even if there were, I'd be very suspicious

Getting back to the evangelicals, here's what the climate-change abstainers had to say in justification of their argument against climbing off the fence: "Bible-believing evangelicals ... disagree about the cause, severity and solutions to the global warming issue." In best rhetorical tradition, that sounds like a reasonable position. It's almost what you'd expect the average climatologist might say.

Almost, but not quite. There is indeed considerable disagreement in scientific circles when it comes to details like severity and solutions. There is, however, little if any disagreement on the cause, with the general consensus being that humans are responsible for at least half the recent global warming trend.

Poor evangelicals. Can't even get it right when they're explaining why they're not qualified to offer advice.

If preachers would stick to religion, we'd all be better off. In the case of climate change, I'd be happy if the NAE issued an official position in favor of the formulation of a federal science policy consistent with the prevailing scientific consensus and leave it at that.

Come to think of it, if they did that, I'd be ecstatic.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Fleck says -

James - I've really been enjoying your blog, and usually find myself agreeing with you. But I think you've gotten this one dead wrong.

Your suggestion that religion should be left out of policymaking ignores the fact that all policy and political decisions are ultimately based on value choices. Good science can provide the necessary foundation of information on which to base one's decision - whether the thermohaline circulation is going to shut down, and what the resulting effect might be. But the decision regarding what to do about it is a value choice. Do we, for example, have moral obligations to future generations that require us to make some modest sacrifices now? Do the benefits of climate change mitigation offset the costs of greenhouse gas reductions? Science can't answer those questions. Those are value questions. And for many people, religion lies at the root of values. It's not, therefore, a question of allowing religion into the debate or not. It's going to be there whether we like it or not, in exactly the same way as my non-religious value system is going to guide my answers to these questions.

9:54 PM  
Blogger James Hrynyshyn said...

John's point of view makes a fair bit of sense. But I would argue that the past week's events surrouding the protests over the Mohammed cartoons serve as an excellent case in point as to exactly why religion should be kept out of public policy. Latest stories have four dead in Afghanistan.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Fleck says -

But religiously-based value systems are not the only ones that on occasion lead to the indiscrimant killing of people. How 'bout we try to keep all of those value systems out of public policy that lead to people indiscriminantly killing one another?

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...





2:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

看房子,買房子,建商自售,自售,台北新成屋,台北豪宅,新成屋,豪宅,美髮儀器,美髮,儀器,髮型,EMBA,MBA,學位,EMBA,專業認證,認證課程,博士學位,DBA,PHD,在職進修,碩士學位,推廣教育,DBA,進修課程,碩士學位,網路廣告,關鍵字廣告,關鍵字,課程介紹,學分班,文憑,牛樟芝,段木,牛樟菇,日式料理, 台北居酒屋,日本料理,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,台北結婚,場地,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,造型系列,學位,SEO,婚宴,捷運,學區,美髮,儀器,髮型,看房子,買房子,建商自售,自售,房子,捷運,學區,台北新成屋,台北豪宅,新成屋,豪宅,學位,碩士學位,進修,在職進修, 課程,教育,學位,證照,mba,文憑,學分班,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,場地,結婚,場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,婚宴場地,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,場地,居酒屋,燒烤,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,小套房,小套房,進修,在職進修,留學,證照,MBA,EMBA,留學,MBA,EMBA,留學,進修,在職進修,牛樟芝,段木,牛樟菇,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,PMP,在職專班,研究所在職專班,碩士在職專班,PMP,證照,在職專班,研究所在職專班,碩士在職專班,SEO,廣告,關鍵字,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,網頁設計,網站設計,網站排名,搜尋引擎,網路廣告,SEO,廣告,關鍵字,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,網頁設計,網站設計,網站排名,搜尋引擎,網路廣告,SEO,廣告,關鍵字,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,網頁設計,網站設計,網站排名,搜尋引擎,網路廣告,SEO,廣告,關鍵字,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,網頁設計,網站設計,網站排名,搜尋引擎,網路廣告,EMBA,MBA,PMP,在職進修,專案管理,出國留學,EMBA,MBA,PMP,在職進修,專案管理,出國留學,EMBA,MBA,PMP,在職進修,專案管理,出國留學,婚宴,婚宴,婚宴,婚宴,漢高資訊,漢高資訊,比利時,比利時聯合商學院,宜蘭民宿,台東民宿,澎湖民宿,墾丁民宿,花蓮民宿,SEO,找工作,汽車旅館,阿里山,日月潭,阿里山民宿,東森購物,momo購物台,pc home購物,購物,手機,手機王,數位像機,衛星導行,GPS,小筆電,機油漢高資訊,漢高資訊,在職進修,漢高資訊,在職進修,住宿,住宿,整形,造型,室內設計,室內設計,漢高資訊,在職進修,漢高資訊,在職進修,住宿,美容,室內設計,在職進修,羅志祥,周杰倫,五月天,住宿,住宿,整形,整形,室內設計,室內設計,比利時聯合商學院,在職進修,比利時聯合商學院,在職進修,漢高資訊,找工作,找工作,找工作,找工作,找工作,蔡依林,林志玲

3:57 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home