Thou shalt not deny science
With all the talk and controversy over vaccinating children, it’s made me think about our declining trust in science. You see the same dismissal of man-made global climate change by many Americans. The new Republican Senate recently voted that climate change was real but wouldn’t admit what most scientists assert: our role in it.
When it’s politicians denying climate change, I get it completely. Many of these politicians are in the pocket of industries that benefit by denying the science. Coal mine owners and other polluters don’t want to pay the cost of having a clean earth so they pay their Washington marionettes to deny the science. You’ll hear people you thought had a brain say something stupid like, “Well, I’m not a scientist…”
But aside from those who know the truth who are playing dumb, there are those who mistrust science. Climate change is seen as a hoax perpetrated by Al Gore and companies trying to profit off the “green revolution.” But to believe that one would have to believe in a massive global conspiracy by the scientists of every advanced nation. And if you believe in a conspiracy on that magnitude then you’re not a rational person anyway.
Many simply deny the reality of manmade climate change because for them it’s a conservative political issue. The Republican Party or Sean Hannity says it’s a hoax so they merely regurgitate what they hear party leaders say. They’re sticking to their opinion, facts be damned.
But just to show these attitudes aren’t solely the purview of conservatives, in a new study by Pew Research 88 percent of scientists say genetically modified foods are safe to eat while only 37 percent of Americans agree. In this you have mostly liberals rejecting the consensus.
But there’s something else that I think not only affects some people’s views of climate change but world events in general. And that mysterious factor is religion, specifically, Christianity as it’s practiced in America.
Many fundamentalist Christians who believe in the Tribulation, the Rapture and other Revelations end-of-the-world prophecy don’t believe there’s anything to worry about when it comes to cataclysmic disasters because God has everything under control and everything will proceed according to His plan.
When I was a kid growing up in the Church of Christ I didn’t worry about nuclear weapons or a cataclysmic asteroid or a killer virus that dooms mankind. Why be worried about those possibilities when that wasn’t part of what I was taught in the church? I know there are those who have strong literal beliefs about the bible, once again, the facts be damned.
For instance, in 2012 Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), now the chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, refuted manmade climate change saying, “My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”
Inhofe, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), and former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum have all used biblical scriptures to refute manmade climate change. And Inhofe reiterated his biblical position just last month.
I’m not trying to belittle anyone’s beliefs. I’m a believer and I have a lot of respect for the contributions of religious faith in our society. Faith helped fuel the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King Jr. as they led the civil rights movement. Something like seven of the ten largest charities in America are religious or were started from someone with a religious background.
At the same time, if we as a nation give up our leadership role in science, it’s to our detriment. While our leaders are as free as anyone to believe the religious faith of their choice (or disbelieve) I have a problem with government leaders substituting reasoned, researched, and widespread scientific facts with conjecture and their personal religious beliefs. It’s not only wrong, it’s dangerous.
Fortunately, there are many religious denominations and people who believe that man is supposed to be a good steward of the earth and their faith actually impels them to protect the environment and planet.
Our leaders should be listening to the most learned individuals, think tanks and studies when it comes to policy-making. What our leaders don’t get to do is gamble future generations on their personal religious beliefs.