Evangelicalism’s Anti-Darwinism Warps Our Environmental Concern

It still is incredible to me that many evangelicals are not warm to the the issue of Global Warming.

Even though the head of the National Association of Evangelicals and about 100 other evangelical leaders issued a statement declaring that global warming is real and the result of mankind's actions, even though the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has produced four volumes (1000 pages each) of evidence, even though the Co-Chair of the IPCC is Sir John Houghton, an evangelical Christian, even though the research involved thousands of scientists world wide, even though they concluded that "most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities," and even though Houghton tells us that "No assessments on any other scientific topic have been so thoroughly researched and reviewed," many American Christians are still skeptical. In fact, Focus on the Family (the loudest voice in American evangelicalism’s “Radio Orthodoxy”) calls all this evidence “liberal junk science.” (see article at Agape Press).


In a commentary in the current issue of Christianity Today ("Environmental Wager"), Andy Crouch writes,
The…battle between evolutionism and Christian faith has had countless unfortunate consequences…But perhaps no result of the creation-evolution stalemate is as potentially disastrous as the way it has stymied courageous action on climate change."

This makes a lot of sense. We Americans have lived through the Scopes Trial and we are in the midst of battles in certain states over whether or not our schools’ science curriculums should exclusively teach Darwinism.

It makes sense that the ugly history of the battle for origins between science and the Christian faith is now costing us in the battle for our future.

In a lecture at Cambridge in 2002, Houghton said,
[Global Warming] is a problem that is well downstream; many of us will not be much affected ourselves but it is going to affect our children and our grandchildren. We are bound to ask, therefore, questions about the sort of relationship we should have to the earth that is our home and to the rest of Creation with whom we share the earth. Let me suggest that a helpful picture of this relationship can be found in the early chapters of the Judaeo-Christian scriptures. Humans were placed in a garden to care for it. We are encouraged to see ourselves as gardeners of the earth…Christians and other religious people believe that we've been put on the earth to look after it. Creation is not just important to us, we believe also it is important to God and that the rest of creation has an importance of its own: for these reasons we should be good gardeners. But in many ways we are not being good gardeners."

This is not just good environmentalism, it is good theology.


D R said...

I have one concern about Crouch's article. He says we have much to lose by not dealing with global warming if it is a scientific fact. No problem with that. But he also says we have nothing to lose if we take action to address global warming and it turns out to be unfounded. Unfortunately he is extremely wrong on this point. We have a huge amount to lose.

The loudest voices screaming for eliminating global warming offer some of the most radical and costly propositions ever foisted on humankind-- both in terms of dollars and social costs. The dollar costs should be obvious, but the social costs are even higher. Consider, for example, the implicit requirement that to eliminate global warming we have to eliminate (through attrition?) a certain percentage of human inhabitants. That may sound far fetched but it is present in every radical approach to eliminating global warming. Or imagine the ramifications of a global government and the associated bureaucracy that would be required to enforce compliance. Eliminating national sovereignty through establishment of a global government has huge implications on personal freedom for millions and would be the only way to really enforce laws that address global warming. Soon, ‘family planning' wouldn't be a choice, it would be a requirement.

Additionally, the funds required eliminate global warming (if it really exists) could be used for so many other issues such as dealing with world hunger or disease. The 'opportunity cost' of billions of dollars is difficult to comprehend.

Either way, the wrong decision on global warming could have disastrous consequences, but in my mind the jury is still out. There are plenty of dissenting voices that claim global warming is a fabrication—a non-issue. History should teach us that things aren't always what they seem and that sometimes we need to read between the lines to see what's really being said.

cuthbert1776 said...

You said "It makes sense that the ugly history of the battle for origins between science and the Christian faith is now costing us in the battle for our future."

I think you are missing the point. The battle on Global Warming is not between Christianity and science, but among scientists themselves.

Many of the methods of recording mean temperature have been shown to be flawed. This raises the question of whether climactic warming has even been demonstrated empirically.

Secondly, the computer models are just that, models. They are uber-simplified (relative to the complexity of the numerous interactive systems on and about our planet) and fail to take into account a nearly infinite number of complex variables that have a potential to impact weather and climate.

Additionally, even if we assume that warming is occuring, the arguments for human action being the cause of that warming are weak at best. A more likely candidate as a cause of such warming is solar activity, which has been shown to have a very high correlation to average temperatures for years now, but has been largely ignored by those touting human-caused warming. Why? It violates an article of FAITH.

kidpositive said...

hi bob,

i'll definitely agree with you on this. in my opinion, Christianity's stubbornnes to accept humanity's observations of our ourselves, our planet and our origins (via the tool of scientific observation) has lead us to a very dangerous place concerning how we view our stewardship of this planet. after all, if we believe that God just plopped us down here and will soon be scooping us back into heaven, why should we care about this "temporary" home? unfortunately, this has had not only negative effects for our own theology, but also has further shaped the way the rest of the world views Christians and their concern for the God-created earth. in effect, it has lead us to be bad stewards.

also, i'm not sure that i really agree with d.r.'s comment that a global government would be the *only* way to enforce environmental regulations (i would take a guess here that you're not a big fan of the U.N.). treaties (like the Kyoto treaty, which Bush backed out of) are just one way of going about the process of getting governments on this planet to agree to higher energy standards.

and as for cuthbert's comment about computer models being "uber-simplified", this obviously comes from an ignorance for the state of computer modelling in all of science and technology. most of all model simulations that are used in science and technology today are extremely complicated pieces of code that usually take days, even weeks to run and get an output. the reason? because the models have embedded within them nearly all of the knowledge of a certain system that humans have thus far learned. and since we continue to learn more about our world day after day, the models we have of the world are only growing in complexity. sure, we don't know every variable, but that certainly hasn't stopped us from building computers that process billions of instructions per second, biomedical devices that allow deaf people to hear, and vehicles that can travel faster than the speed of sound. all of these human inventions (and nearly all the rest of human invention) rely on our ability to model our physical environment.

the fact is that there now exist a growing multitude of methods humans can use to decrease the amount of natural resources we are burning up, thereby decreasing both our unreplinishable energy intake as well as our toxic substance output. biodiesel, solar panels, wind energy, hydrogen power are just a few of these emerging technologies. despite christianity's general lack of concern for the environment, the rest of the world has fortunately decided to move on without us. the only question for us remains whether or not we'll suck it up and decide to start caring for God's creation.

Bob Robinson said...

d r,

I think you're right if, indeed, this were some "maybe" issue. But if you'd take the time to read Houghton's lecture (link above), you'd see that it really is not just a wild "maybe" theory.

You're right in saying, "History should teach us that things aren't always what they seem and that sometimes we need to read between the lines to see what's really being said." There is a lot of money to be lost by corporations that depend on fossil fuels for their profits if we got serious about global warming.


Your arguments are exactly the kinds of things that I am writing about in this post. In spite of the overwhelming scientific evidence, you skeptically dismiss it all with things that are already dealt with in the very detailed report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. What are you afraid of? Why are these scientists a threat?

Bob Robinson said...


Good to hear from you again.

Thanks for pointing out the complexities of the issues surrounding our decreasing our unreplinishable energy intake and our toxic substance output.

With gas prices heading over $3.00 a gallon, maybe Americans will finally demand better energy policy!

kidpositive said...

dr. james, a buddy of mine in our church, is starting to make biodiesel fuel. i'm thinking about selling one of our cars and getting into a diesel engine. there's a lot of ways to start to save energy (and money!), although the initial investment can be pretty high. WIRED ran an article back in May that described a lot of different folks in different places who were starting to convert their homes and businesses to run off green energy. some of these people are able to produce enough electricity that they actually end up selling it back to the power company. the initial investment for this stuff can be a little steep (although state and federal governments are starting to offer subsidies for converting), but i think it ends up paying off in the end, both in money and in the personal satisfaction that you aren't consuming unreplenishable energy.

Bob Robinson said...

For those who want information on global warming from than from Christians who fear "liberal scientists," see Union of Concerned Scientists.

cuthbert1776 said...


"Overwhelming scientific evidence" has yet to be presented.

Has Earth warmed recently (geographically speaking)? Yes. Is human causation proven? No. Is it possible? Yes. The jury is still out.

Just published is this study in which the scientists believe the role of the sun in such warming has been underestimated by 10% to 30%. This is just one of many such reports that lend credence to a healthy skepticism of the foregone conclusion of human causation of global warming.

What am I afraid of? Draconian regulation fueled by bad and/or incomplete science.

Earth has warmed and cooled to temperature means both above and below where we are currently, in times well before human activity could have possibly been a factor. I simply think the scientific community needs to do a better job in researching the possible impact of vulcanism, solar activity, and other natural phenomena with potential to impact climate.

I hope you are not relying on the single report on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. There are numerous other studies and reports out there and they are diverse in their conclusions; I would encourage you to search and read them if you have not done so already.

My arguments are for better and more thorough science (from numerous sources). The signers of this petition would concur. They have, so far, been underwhelmed.

The global scientific community is far from unanimous on this issue.

cuthbert1776 said...

Ahem...I meant geologically speaking, of course.

Bob Robinson said...

Thanks, cuthbert.

I'll give you the last word on this.

I hope we all will study the data that has been presented from both sides on this post!