Global warming debate is not about religion
As I was listening to my new Sirius Satellite radio while driving to my kids’ school last week, I caught a few minutes of the Glenn Beck TV show on Fox News (the audio portion, that is.)
During those few minutes, I heard some of the most ridiculous tripe about global warming ever, unfortunately coming from people who are nominally on my side of the issue, namely skeptical that “climate change” is an impending catastrophe.
I’ve often said in the past that the cult of man-made global warming is much like a religion. Its supporters, like Algore, want you to change your behavior to suit their demands, to take claims on faith, to consider apostates any “skeptics", and most importantly of course to buy indulgences (which coincidentally are sold by companies they invest in.)
Glenn Beck, who himself is turning from libertarian rabble-rouser (and I say that with admiration) to Mormon revivalist survivalist preacher, had a guest on (whose name I didn’t catch) who tried to make the debate explicitly about religion.
In particular, he said (and I’m paraphrasing since I don’t have the exact quote) that those who think that climate change does not represent impending doom for the planet have that confidence because they are religious people who believe that the planet and its contents must be essentially durable, having been created by god. On the other hand, the guy argued, global warming alarmists are atheists who believe that the planet happened by chance and therefore is just as easily subject to chance destruction.
This was truly one of the most ridiculous, least intelligent, logically baseless arguments I’ve ever heard proposed as serious thought – about this subject or any other. Unfortunately, it fits all too well with Beck’s recent lurch toward “faith” – a lurch which I find rather disturbing in a man whose primary subject is politics. It’s one thing to say that “separation of church and state” does not require or even suggest eliminating all religion from public life – a statement I’d agree with even as an atheist. It’s another thing to urge people to try to integrate faith and god into their political thinking. While faith does not need to be eliminated from every public place, it does the nation no favors to encourage religion to take center stage in political discussions.
But that’s where Beck is these days and his guest was right there with him, though even less coherently than Beck is when he gets on these rants.
First of all, even if one believes that everything in heaven and earth was created by god, I don’t see how that implies that all those things must be durable. After all, even creationists recognize that species from dinosaurs to dodo birds, and probably millions of species of plants, have become extinct for reasons large and small over the millennia.
More importantly, there is nothing in the view of non-creationists, nothing inherent in the idea that we don’t really know what created the earth, and certainly nothing in evolutionary theory to imply that what’s here now is inherently fragile.
If anything, evolutionary theory in particular should lead to hardier, more adapted and perhaps more adaptable species than preceded us.
But even separate from evolution, just what would a religious person point to in a non-religious person’s view of the source of life which would seem inherently more fragile than the believer’s view? Why should we assume that god would create a non-fragile ecosystem any more than a balanced but fragile one? Why should we assume that a planet created “by chance", as Beck’s guest would characterize the non-religious view, would tend toward fragility rather than durability?
If anything, I might assume just the opposite. God could create a fragile ecosystem and it could work, at least for some time. Whereas a system created “by chance” is rather less likely to survive even a short time if it’s substantially fragile.
Separate from this philosophical/religious discussion, however, which is not my main point, is the issue of trying to make the climat change debate overtly about religion, trying to argue that climate skeptics must be religious and climate alarmists must be atheists.
I’d bet there are plenty of religious (at least by their own view) alarmists and plenty of non-religious skeptics (like me.)
It’s not just that Beck’s guest’s implication is wrong and stupid (which it is), but it’s also unhelpful. The last thing we “skeptics” need to do is to antagonize non-religious people who are undecided on the issue.
If you think about the American mainstream, the large and growing number of people unaffiliated with either political party who are relatively more likely to actually think about an issue rather than just vote with their team, many or perhaps most of them are not religious. And many or most of them were certainly turned off by the Republican injection of religion into the political sphere in the past decade such as the focus on gay marriage or persistence in the failed “war on drugs". (This is NOT to say that the public broadly supports gay marriage, but rather that moderates certainly don’t want the federal government involved; they – and I – resent attempts to create federal involvement as something akin to a violation of the separation of church and state.)
Therefore, to the extent that a “skeptical” view of global warming is potrayed by Beck and friends as being a religious view, it will alienate many people whose support we need if we’re to prevent the eco-fascism inherent in the green movement.
Some on the right might argue – and I might agree – that fear of some sort of Republican-led theocracy is paranoid leftist fantasy and propaganda. But when you’re trying to get something done, what possible benefit is there of playing into such a fear or critique even if you believe that fear to be false? It’s worse than pointless. It’s counter-productive.
All in all, those two minutes of Glenn Beck’s show (I couldn’t tolerate any more) represented some of the most muddle-headed and divisive rhetoric regarding climate change I’ve ever heard. The fact that Beck seemed to agree with the guy was just one more nail in the coffin of my respect for Beck, no matter how many people he can get out to a rally. I wish the guy would focus on federalism, the Constitution, and First Principles, with a sprinkling of rooting out corrupt politicans and bureaucrats. When he does that, he’s extremely effective (and interesting). When he drifts off into bizarre sectarianism, I trust that he loses the interest of many more people than just me.
More importantly, he harms the very goals he claims to cherish. Allowing his platform to be used for claims that climate alarmists must be atheists just diminishes Beck’s stature as a serious commentator (something I realize many people already have serious doubts about) and turns him into a bible-thumping clown.
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