Reflections on the Man-made Climate Change Discussion
I do not frequently write about the perceived climate crisis.
There are numerous reasons for that. I am not a science buff, much less a scientist.
Moreover, I don’t have time to write all the things I really want to write. There are books in biblical studies and novels residing in my head, along with numerous shorter pieces, and they await me impatiently: I frankly have little time to write at this stage of my life.
Aside from that, the climate issue is a polarizing debate, and it’s not necessarily the discussion I want to serve as the cause of alienation.
Nonetheless, I am writing now in spite of it all. I am not presenting myself as an expert in climate science, nor am I primarily interested in putting forward expert expositions of others defending competing scientific viewpoints. My curation would surely be inadequate for such a task.
My aim here is to approach things from another angle. (Although I do want to come back — and who would not? — to the wonderfully scientific subject of cow farts, attributed with being responsible for more greenhouse gas [!] emissions than “cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.”) The reason I am willing to risk such a polarizing discussion is that biblical reflection is at the heart of my calling, and the crisis of the times virtually demands at least a bit of such reflection. So here it is, very briefly.
A Brief History of Experts: A Firsthand Nutshell Account
The full decade within which my childhood occurred was the 1970s. When I was child, I distinctly remember two things which the experts were telling us.
The medical science experts were telling us how bad breastfeeding was, and that concocted formulas were healthier for babies than their own mothers’ milk.
And throughout the decade, climate experts were warning us of an impending ice age. (You may have seen the Photoshopped covers of Time magazine; but make no mistake, the stories were real, as is witnessed by this Time archive as an example.
For much of my lifetime, the medical community almost universally assumed that consumption of saturated fat led to obesity and heart disease.
In the 1980s, health experts were warning us that AIDS was going to kill huge swaths of the (heterosexual) population.
By 1990, the climate scientists had taken the pendulum ride: in place of an impending ice age was the momentous threat of impending global warming.
Throughout that same decade, tech experts warned us of the catastrophic effects the turn of the millennium would bring with it, because so much core civil infrastructure was based on computing that had failed to prepare for the year 2000. Yes, the “Y2K” debacle.
I have learned two things over the course of my life. (Okay, perhaps more than two, but these two are particularly pertinent in the context of our current discussion.)
One, the experts are frequently wrong — catastrophically and uncategorically so. (For a sampling of failed ecological predictions, for example, see this page.)
And second, the world seems to instinctively lean toward a secularized apocalypticism—a notion of a world-shattering event coming up fast on the event horizon. And more often than not, that apocalyptic vision is tied to attempts to meet the challenge by governments wresting absolute power, thus saving the day. Every apocalyptic vision, it seems, needs a savior.
But This Time Is Different (?)
Despite the failures of the previous apocalyptic visions, there is a desperate push to act against man-made climate change “before it’s too late.” Yet despite the fact that worldwide efforts to mitigate the disaster have been only a fraction of what the experts said was required, early prognostications have by and large proven false. (Just one example: In 2004, experts predicted that major European cities would be underwater by 2020. Time is running out.…)
But like the dispensationalist preachers predicting the rapture, failed predictions have proven no disincentive; there are always more dire predictions to be made.
I am no expert in climate science, but I can’t help feel that somebody is at least exaggerating.
It is also not lost on me that the tech experts of the 1990s knew infinitely more regarding their subject than the most brilliant climate scientists know of theirs.
That’s not a denigration of climate scientists, but a reminder that computer infrastructure is wholly man-made and therefore actually intrinsically knowable by tech experts. And yet, the fact was that “Y2K” ended up being an utter fiasco for many of them.
In comparison to technological experts, natural scientists know a miniscule fraction of their subject, because creation has its source in the infinite mind and inscrutable wisdom of God and not the minds of men, and we have barely begun to probe its mysteries. Is it so strange to think that natural scientists not only do not account for all the data they have available to them now, they almost certainly do not have all the data they would actually need in order to understand and predict long-term climate patterns? These are legitimate questions, even were the track record not so … spotty, shall we say.
The Earth is the Lord’s
The bigger perspective is that the earth is Yahweh’s. Now there are many sides to that, and one corollary is indeed that we should treat it with respect and care. Yahweh’s earth is the gift of home, and as I wrote in Metanarrative (p 8),
All that God has already created is given to this man and this woman. The biblical terminology is indeed dominion, which of course gets a pretty bad rap, because it’s popularly taken to mean selfish pillaging.
But that’s the wrong picture. When God presented the man and the woman with the world he had created, he was giving them the keys to their home.
When you think home, do pillage and plunder come to mind? Surely not. You likely want to make the most of it, yes, but you do so by looking after it, by making it everything it can be. That’s how you treat your home.
In view of this, we should indeed care about the earth. We should indeed minimize pollution. As those who look forward to a new heavens and new earth, in which righteousness dwells, the appropriate way to lean into that promised future is to live as stewards of the earth that is now. It certainly is possible to harm our environment, and we can see countless instances of that. The faithful Christian response is to minimize that harm.
At the same time, we must resist the temptation toward primitivistic utopianism. The goal of God’s story is not a return to an unpopulated Eden, but the unveiling of a New Jerusalem teeming with people, and adorned with the various ways in which they have glorified the creation for the glory of its maker.
Human stewardship of the earth is delegated by God and forward-looking, but in this age human stewardship always involves tradeoffs. I suspect that on this side of glory, we are probably quite unable to come up with an absolutely unmitigated good.
Consider, for example, the explosion of food production that the earth has seen since the Industrial Revolution. More people have been raised out of starvation in the past two hundred years than ever before.
And yet some of those same advances have brought problems: after thousands of years eating bread, suddenly we are developing “gluten intolerances” (more likely: reactions to how wheat is now processed). We are discovering all sorts of accompanying issues with our advances.
Whether or not that is the most apt example, the point is that human development is always flawed and always has downsides.
The development of industrial means of travel has enabled unprecedented access to health care, communities and more. It has also has been the occasion of countless accidents causing death and injury, as well as serious property damage.
As Adam was told after his rebellion, he still retained his calling to till the ground, but now it would resist his efforts and he was going to sweat until he died in order to fulfill that calling.
But the calling remains a gift, and the gift is a mandate, both to exercise faithful dominion over the earth, and to act on behalf of its wellbeing.
Above and beyond this delegated human calling is the sovereign creator and sustainer. In his covenant with Noah, he promised that seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night would not cease (Gen 8:22). It is he who establishes the boundaries of the earth and makes summer and winter (Ps 74:17). He has fixed the patterns of heaven and earth, rain and harvest (Jer 5:24; 33:25).
In the face of every competing apocalyptic vision, the believer confesses: “I fear not, for I belong to the Lord of the heavens and the earth.” The shrill threat of climate change is answered by the Living One’s enduring promise of climate continuity, of the fundamental stability of creation until he himself renews everything as he has purposed.
Utopian visions and apocalyptic visions both are poor substitutes for the gospel’s affirmation of the creation, its adoration of the world’s creator and sustainer, its exaltation of the Lordship of Jesus the Messiah, its real world implementation of the kingdom, and its anticipation of a graciously given new heavens and new earth.
So what about those cow farts?
It seems clear to me that the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills is not destroying his creation by virtue of that very ownership. It is much more likely that cow farts are a feature of his wise governance rather than a demonstration of divine destruction.
We confess that the earth is the Lord’s. He set his colorful bow in the sky as a promise to all of us that the world will never again be destroyed by a flood. I think it no leap to take that to mean that, not only will he not destroy the world with rain that he himself sends, but he will not allow us to destroy it by causing the tides to rise.
In the final analysis, the earth is sustained, not by us, but by the living God who created it.
It has been quite popular for some time now for people to engage in moral/ethical argument on the basis of what year it is (“It’s 2017.…”) or its sister argument (“the flow of history/right side of history”).
I haven’t decided whether such people really don’t realize how stupid the form of argument is, or whether they actually do, but are so cynical they use it anyway. It doesn’t seem nice to impute that level of obtuseness, but on the other hand, it’s not exactly complementary to impute that level of cynicism either.
If you want to see how frivolous the form of argument is, simply use it with reference to mindsets and attitudes in the past which we now denigrate. For example, the early twentieth century had an extraordinarily high regard for race-based eugenics, not only in Germany, but (sad to say) in much of the West, including the “free democracies,” especially among the intelligentsia. (Of course, this is now largely swept under the carpet.) (more…)
I’m excited to announce that today I launched a news digest site called News Mutt. The idea was a long time coming; in fact, I had registered a different domain several years ago.
The concept of News Mutt grew from a combination of inspiration from and frustration with other news sites. Unlike Drudge Report, I wanted something more balanced and offering actual story summaries rather than just links. Most other non-mainstream sites are too sensationalistic, and of course the mainstream news media reflects a very heavy leftward bias.
Consequently, I developed a vision to build a site that would appeal to people with limited time, but whose interests included looking at things from a historically Christian faith perspective and the love of liberty.
Due to the extreme ongoing time commitment of this project, the site will be monetized by ads, but I’m trying to maintain a good balance so that they are not overly intrusive.
It should be noted that at this point the publisher name in News Mutt’s footer is Anderson Alexander. I chose a pseudonym (basically, a “pen name”), not because I want to remain anonymous (I’m advertising here that it’s me, after all), but because I also write biblical studies/theology as well as fiction. Using another name helps me separate the “brands”: my main stuff is published under Tim Gallant, fiction under T. A. Gallant, and now the journalistic stuff under Anderson Alexander. I’m not entirely sure if I’ll stick with that, but we’ll see how it goes.
For what it’s worth, I chose Anderson Alexander because Anderson was my Dad’s biological father’s last name; Alexander was my Mom’s maiden name.
Friend, you call me an unenlightened and therefore unreasonable bigot because I ostensibly oppose “women’s rights.” But it is not reason that hinders you from seeing what is intrinsically obvious—that this unborn child is indeed a human being.
It is not reason that insists, “This is my body” or “A woman should be able to choose what she does with her body.” It is not reason that affirms that a situation involving two sets of DNA (or indeed, just three weeks after conception, two hearts and two brains) is a situation involving one body. Very clearly, your rhetoric notwithstanding, we are speaking not of one body but two.
It is not reason that insists that personhood depends on moving a few inches down a birth canal, as if location were determinative of who and what you are.
It is not reason that insists that personhood depends on being able to be independent. That is at best a definition of adulthood, not of personhood.
It is not reason that insists that some purported right to forgo the inconvenience of childbearing should be considered more fundamental than the basic right to life itself. It is rather a special form of bigotry that places the former supposed “right” above the latter.
In all of these ways, you show that it is your position that is unreasonable and untenable; that is is you who are a bigot, ready to slaughter for your cause.
Yet I do not say you are stupid, but rather something much worse: your hardness of heart has made you blind. Stupidity perhaps could provide you some sort of excuse—but you are and will remain culpable for the horrors which you do and which you approve.
Men love darkness rather than light, Jesus said, and in the darkness is blindness. Come to Jesus, and find the hope of the world.
In cases such as the bakery in Oregon (Sweetcakes by Melissa), we have heard repeatedly that the problem is “discimination.” This is then to be compared with the barring of “niggers” from eating establishments and other businesses back before the victories of the Civil Rights movement.
Trouble is, the analogy breaks down at the most fundamental level. (more…)
Here is a stark reminder that “the news” as represented by the professional media is not “objective.” The media’s selection of things to include and push, and correspondingly, items to ignore and downplay, has a huge cultural effect, and that is the intent.
The Gosnell case brings to light things that are unpleasant. But more than that, it pushes forward uncomfortable questions. How can these killings be gruesome only because they were successful once the baby was outside the womb? If the killing on the table of an aborted baby is gruesome and murderous, how is that different from the killing of that same baby that same day if it happens to be successfully carried out while inside the womb?
These are the sorts of questions that the anti-life media want to avoid at all costs, even if the Gosnells among their heroes are clearly carrying out illegal activities. And in a sense, their instinct is fully in accord with the people they serve. This is not the news that the anti-life masses want to see, either. It is too uncomfortable and too damning, just as it was too uncomfortable and damning for the multitude of agencies who could have had Gosnell shut down years earlier. (On the latter, see the heading “The Failure to Stop It” on this page.) Rather reap the whirlwind than have sowing the wind come under the slightest question.
There are no safe abortuaries. Gosnell’s clinic killed later-term preborns than some other clinics, and in a sufficiently unsanitary fashion that some of the women died, as well. But all abortuaries are killing fields by design. The horror of Gosnell’s practices should be seen for what they are: an extension of the horror of all abortion. The baby in the womb is not less human than the baby on the table.
Non-Christians (and increasingly, those who self-identify as “Christians”) frequently dismiss biblical ethical norms with a quick “Oh, but the Bible condones slavery and polygamy!”
With, of course, the obvious implication that the Bible’s morals are awfully unreliable. Because it “condoned” things that we find offensive, and that even Christians seem embarrassed about. (We Christians, after all, seem agreed by now that both polygamy and slavery are bad.)
And then, having cast aside the Bible as a reliable guide, we enlightened moderns can take on that role of deciding for ourselves what is right and wrong.
Now, there are several answers to that line of argument, one of which is that the Bible does not simply condone either slavery or polygamy; it regulates them, which is not the same thing.
Moreover, the slavery the Bible countenanced was never based on kidnapping, an offense which in fact carried with it the death penalty under the Mosaic law (Exodus 21:16). “Slavery” among fellow Israelites was a form of indentured servitude, and “perpetual slavery” was only countenanced in connection with prisoners of war. Even in their case, the Mosaic law did regulate things to avoid their mistreatment. If a slave ran away, other Israelites were forbidden from assisting in his return (Deuteronomy 23:15); and if a slave’s master seriously harmed him, the slave was automatically authorized to go free (Exodus 21:26). Even a slave wife (concubine) was to be granted freedom if her husband ever diminished her marital rights (Exodus 21:10-11).
But there is much more involved in understanding the Bible’s position regarding both slavery and polygamy than scouring the Mosaic law and ensuring a balanced and proper interpretation of these situations through its case laws—as important an exercise as that indeed is.
It is frequently suggested that the clash between religious people and homosexual culture is Pharisaic in nature. The Pharisees were always judging others, after all.
There is indeed truth in the notion that this is about Pharisaism, but not in the way usually thought. While it is true that far too many Christians have acted self-righteously and mercilessly toward homosexuals (which is deplorable and casts a black shadow upon the name of Christ), at the center of the public debate is the Pharisaic nature of homosexual advocates themselves.