Religious spokespersons speak out against either-or approach on religion and acceptance of science on human-caused climate change.
If you’re going into a pitched public policy battle over issues related to climate change, it appears there is no ally to have on your side more valuable than God or “sound science.”
But the problem, in the mind and mouth of nationally broadcast radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, is that you can’t have both. You must choose one or the other.
Not one known to couch his rhetoric in modest or qualified ways, the bombastic Limbaugh on his August 12 program told his listeners the matter is pretty clear-cut.
“See, in my humble opinion, folks, if you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in manmade global warming,” Limbaugh said. “You must be either agnostic or atheistic to believe that man controls something that he can’t create.”
“We can’t even stop a rain shower, but we can destroy the climate,” Limbaugh continued. “And how? With barbecue pits and automobiles, particularly SUVs. It’s absurd.”
Limbaugh’s broadcast came just weeks after some 200 scientists identifying themselves as evangelicals released an open letter to leaders and members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives cautioning that “climate change is real and action is urgently needed.” Under leadership including Texas Tech evangelical climatologist Katharine Hayhoe, the scientists argued that “All of God’s creation — humans and our environment — is groaning under the weight of our uncontrolled use of fossil fuels.” They argued that the most serious consequences “will fall disproportionately on those whom Jesus called ‘the least of these’: the poor, vulnerable, and oppressed.”
Not shying-away from public policy advocacy, the self-identified evangelical scientists urged “meaningful legislation during this Congress to reduce carbon emissions and protect our environment.” It’s a request few can imagine actually being fulfilled given well-entrenched and partisan divides on the issue on Capitol Hill.
In a mid-July call with media representatives conducted under the auspices of a Washington, D.C. organization named Sojourner, the scientists acknowledged that they could not put a firm number on how many “evangelical scientists” there actually are in the U.S., and they acknowledged too that their 200 signees included many scientists in disciplines far removed from climatology or related climate fields. In response to questions, they pointed out that scientists and other individuals do not simply categorize themselves as “evangelical,” and they said they felt it was more important to get scores of scientists agreeing with their position than to focus narrowly on evangelical climate scientists. They also were unable to specify particular public health outbreaks that the Sojourner press materials had indicated were linked directly to the unusually warm 2012 summer across much of North America.
‘False Claim, Sleight of Hand’ Alleged
But the scientists are not the only evangelicals recently taking a strong position in defense of climate science and in support of action to control carbon dioxide emissions.
In an open letter responding specifically to Limbaugh, the Reverend Mitchell S. Hescox used the Evangelical Environmental Network’s ‘Creation Care Blog‘ to dismiss the radio broadcaster’s comments as a “false claim as part of a rhetorical sleight of hand wherein you posited a straw-man position.”
“From the beginning we were created to be God’s stewards or caretakers of His creation,” Hescox wrote. “Today, human-induced climate change works against our call to love others and care for God’s creation.” Hescox quoted scripture in arguing that “Being Christian is loving as Christ loves,” and said that Limbaugh’s “recent claim doesn’t reveal love, and therein is the problem.”
…and ‘Moral Turpitude’
While not specifically addressing Limbaugh’s remarks, a leading Mormon scholar, George Handley of Brigham Young University, also recently penned an in-depth piece expressing deep concerns over climate change.
“Deniers relish their minority position; it is, in their minds, a badge of honor,” Handley wrote at the site of LDS Earth Stewardship. “A stubborn minority position can be virtuous, of course, but this is only true if the mainstream is wrong. Otherwise, it is simply moral turpitude.”
Handley pointed to numerous professional science societies’ agreement on key points of climate science: “There are no scientific bodies that purport evidence of any kind on behalf of denialism. None. Zip.”
“Doubts, spin jobs, and anecdotes about unreliability are not scientific evidence,” he wrote (emphasis in original). “We have extraordinary corroboration across a plethora of scientific disciplines” supporting climate scientists, he insisted.
Supporting a more prudent and conservative life style, with less emphasis on materialism, Handley wrote, “What I am suggesting is really quite simple: what will help the climate is already clearly outlined in gospel principles.”