Saturday, September 24, 2011

Objections to global warming: how can we know anything?

Some of what people worry about when they look at the science of global warming all comes down to a matter of being a virtuous knower. Kant said 'dare to know for yourself', but with over 600 scientists involved in the IPCC assessment report, to say nothing of the endless blogs online, who do we trust? How can we individually challenge the science?

Christians are dedicated to the truth. Jesus claimed to be the truth and only path to the Father (Jn 14:6), the truth that sets free (Jn 8:32). In all affairs we are not to give false witness (Ex 20:16). You'd think Christians would be keen on following any inconvenient truth where ever it led.

Yet some might claim that the minds of scientists are darkened, most of the IPCC not being Christian. Paul notes that people suppress the truth about God (Rm 1:21). Yet Paul also acknowledges his own knowledge of God is limited and provisional (1 Cor 13:12), so it is kind of ironic that some Christians are most dogmatic in their denial of science they don't understanding. This is not to say that every aspect of climate science is understood 100%. Science is provisional in its understanding, but understanding can and does convergence about the 'truth'.

When we accuse non-Christians of bad motives in their science - consider how many of your doctors, nurses, mechanics, tradies, etc we all rely upon are also not Christians. Do they not possess wisdom and knowledge in their areas of expertise? Why do we deny the same to climate scientists, both Christian and non-Christian? Note the close parallel between Egyptian and some Hebrew wisdom literature (some of the Psalms and Proverbs) and it becomes harder to maintain that those who do not share our faith do not have real understanding of the world.

In assuming they bring non-science to their science, are we not doing the same? Dare we follow scientific 'truth' to its inconvenient implications?


  1. What I hear a lot is that the science isn't settled. And it doesn't matter how many times you explain that the majority of scientists think man-made climate change is happening, at long as there is one scientist that doesn't, they have a reason not to believe. In writing that though, I thought there are probably many areas of science that we consider settled, where there is at least one scientist who disagrees. The difference is that we don't know those differing opinions are out there. Whereas with climate change, they have a large number of people listening to what they have to say - and taking it as Gospel truth. Christians are quite capable of believing in scientists when it suits their own interests.

    However, I do have a lot of sympathy for climate change deniers. Partly, that's because so many of them are my friends. But another reason relates to doctors. I don't trust doctors, I'm afraid. And I don't think science (or at least medicine) always has it right. And so I can understand people who are unwilling to trust science. The problem is that, when I don't trust science, it's generally only my body that might suffer. (And I'm far more willing to do what the doctors say when it comes to my children because I don't want to take any chances.) Whereas if people keep denying climate change, it will be the whole world that suffers.


  2. Between Mick and Liz I believe you have summed it up in a nutshell and yet there are some that will not be convinced. Enjoying the discussion though. Liz' last statement lines up exactly with what my oldest son said just a week ago.

  3. to love the denier without loving the denial . . . that is the challenge.