Evolution & Climate Change: Trojan Horse or Straw Man? 6

(You can tell this will be an academic-type post because I used a colon in my title.)

In the past few weeks we have had several different events, two conferences and one speaker, on campus relating to climate change. Conservative Christians, I was told, refuse to accept climate change because they feel that it is a trojan horse, admitting to anthropogenic climate change would require that they also admit that evolution is true, thus (I was told) conservative Christians reject the premise. I don’t deny that many conservative Christians may well board that train of thought, but I haven’t met them or talked with them (and I have chatted with many about these issues).

blake_creationWhile I never would have connected these two topics in this way the bringing together of them both made me realize that I approach them both with a common “hermeneutical principle” (if you will). As I have already suggested in discussing Gen. 1 evolution is and should be a non-issue for Jews and Christians. Why? Because the Bible does not speak to the mechanics of creation, instead it speaks simply to the fact that everything was created by God. So long as people do not assert based upon evolution that God does not exist (a non sequitur) then evolution is no threat. And in fact evolution is the best explanation that scientists have to date that allows them to do science.

I am finding that a similar approach to climate change. I am not a scientist so I cannot say definitively who is correct in these debates. But I do understand that we are called to care for this creation, it is one of our primary duties as those created in the image of God. So it shouldn’t really matter whether or not Al Gore is right that NYC will be underwater in 2057. What we ought to be asking our selves is whether or not we are being good stewards of the creation that God has given us. I would say that we are not. That is not to say that we were wrong to develop the car, for example, or nuclear reactors. But now we know that the gasses coming out of our tailpipes isn’t exactly healthy for us or the rest of the planet. We are being negligent if we do not use those same creative abilities to come up with alternatives.

So what is my hermeneutical principle that I see running through these two scenarios? (1) That we begin with the biblical testimony. (2) When it is not in conflict with science then (3) the claims of science should be given an open and honest hearing. And we should not throw out good advice, just because it may come from those who don’t believe in God. We should not care for this creation for the sake of the creation, but for the sake of the Creator who charged us to “till and keep” the Garden.


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6 thoughts on “Evolution & Climate Change: Trojan Horse or Straw Man?

  • Paul Pavao

    Great post. Short and to the point.

    I, too, have never met any Christians that believe climate change is a trojan horse for evolution, and I have a lot of Christians mad at me for openly believing in evolution. So I wouldn’t agree with the people who told you this.

    Loved the post, though, especially the part about caring for creation! I ask everyone who gets mad at Al Gore whether they’re pro-pollution. They all say they’re not, in which case Al Gore inaccurate, doomsday predictions are irrelevant.

  • Jim Getz

    I have run across many who group evolution and climate change. While such a perspective has no necessary biblical justification (as you point out), many such folks place both issues under the umbrella of their general mistrust of science.

    If your reading of scripture places you at odds with mainstream science on one issue, you’re going to be leery of other mainstream scientific claims as well.

  • Josh

    If your reading of scripture places you at odds with mainstream science on one issue, you’re going to be leery of other mainstream scientific claims as well.

    I think that is a perceptive comment. Though I think “going to be leery” is a very kind and generous description of what those folks do with mainstream science. I might say, “remain hostile towards mainstream science.”

    • Chris Brady Post author

      I may be a bit naive (or hopeful) but I still think that most Christians wouldn’t have a reading “at odds with mainstream science” if so many people did not try and assert that science disproves the Bible.

      If we want to place blame for this anti-scientific attitude I really believe it has to go back to those who first asserted that it is science that can provide all the answers, even to the metaphysical questions.

  • Steve

    Chris, I have been bouncing with the idea of commenting here, or blogging myself, but I don’t want too much time to grow before I post a comment, so “here” it is.

    I realize the purpose of your post was to somehow demonstrate that Christians can marry a respect for the environment with their Christian world view (and I agree with that) but I think you perhaps over-simplify the argument.

    You and I had previously discussed this, and while I see the rhetorical power of the reference to bad things coming from the exhaust pipe, I am once again brought to the point of reminding us that it isn’t as simple an argument as that.

    The argument seems to be that we need to stop these forms of pollution (typically at large capital cost) because of the damage it is causing (and your argument in our phone call was an appeal to health.)

    As I said then, the argument really is one that is seeking a balance. What are the benefits we receive from these technologies, and what are the costs? But beyond that we also should be looking at the current “costs” (to health, the environment, and so forth) and balancing that with the cost of removing, rather than mitigating, the negative impacts.

    For instance, we know that simply driving cars has dangers associated with it. We also know that every time we get behind the wheel we run the risk of being involved in a major accident risking limb, and perhaps life, and not only for ourselves, but for all the we put in the car with us. We do what we can to eliminate some risks (training, signal lights, anti-lock brakes and so forth), but most of the actions we take are focused on mitigating the impact of… well the impact. Air bags, seatbelts, stronger roof supports, crumple zones in bumpers–they are all there to limit the damage with the tacit understanding that accidents will occur. The costs of eliminating accidents (essentially removing drivers/choice from the equation, and limiting personal mobility) is too high a price to pay.

    The same is true for the environment. What is the cost of eliminating “point source” emissions of noxious fumes? Do we ban automobiles completely? (and what would be the alternative to that?) Do we insist that electric cars are the way to go? (and what forms of electricity generation will we consider “acceptable” since often we are simply consolidating the generation of the exhaust into a single massive polluter.)

    To not “over simplify” the argument myself, the discussion isn’t about doing, or not doing, something. It’s about understanding the tradeoffs, the benefits and the costs, associated with each decision.

    And that moves us from the realm of theology and rhetoric, and into the realm of decision analysis and quantitative management.