“Do we have the same angry, demanding gods and goddesses, who are never satisfied? Do we just call them by different names?” – Rob Bell, The gods Aren’t Angry
Like all the best religions, fear of climate change satisfies our need for guilt, and self-disgust, and that eternal human sense that technological progress must be punished by the gods. And the fear of climate change is like a religion in this vital sense, that it is veiled in mystery, and you can never tell whether your acts of propitiation or atonement have been in any way successful.” – Boris Johnson
And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” – I Kings 18:27
How should Christians react when the gods of the world receive mortal wounds? This is a question I’ve discussed recently with my wife and a number of friends – with a gamut of responses. In particular, I’m interested in the ‘god’ of warmism (part of the pantheon of secular environmentalism). Having sifted through many of the 4000 documents (emails, computer code, raw data) released in the ‘ClimateGate’ scandal, I think it is safe to say that “warmism” – as a religion – has been dealt a serious, if not fatal, blow.
I’m not going to regurgitate everything that has been written about this enlightening scandal in great detail, since many others (from across the political spectrum) have done a bang-up job. Rather, I’m first going to go far enough into it to highlight “warmism” and its key levers, briefly explore the religious angle of warmism, then move into the historical spectrum of responses we might view in Judaism and Christianity toward false religions, and finally, calculate what might be an appropriate response.
ClimateGate and the Fall of Warmism
Steven D. Levitt, in Superfreakonomics, makes a fairly convincing case that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is more of a faith than a science:
It is understandable, therefore, that the movement to stop global warming has taken on the feel of a religion. The core belief is that man inherited a pristine Eden, has sinned greatly by polluting it, and must now suffer lest we all perish in a fiery apocalypse. James Lovelock, who might be considered a high priest of this religion, writes in a confessional language that would feel at home in any liturgy: “[W]e misused energy and overpopulated the Earth . . . [I]t is much too late for sustainable development; what we need is a sustainable retreat”.
It is this same mentality among the “true believers” that fueled the Population Bomb scaremongering of the 60’s and the Global Cooling panic of the 70’s. Which touches upon the key ‘need’ of this – and other – religions:
Levitt, in Freakonomics, and Douglas Rushkoff in his best-seller Coercion, both note that the most dominantly exploitable human emotion is that of fear. And, as such, it is the key emotion (as Rob Bell noted in The gods Aren’t Angry) that has driven religion since the dawn of man.
It is no different with the pagan religion of warmism. Warmist theology requires the following to be true:
- The world must be warming in a way that has a high probability of altering the current geographic climate (because man innately fears change/disruption) if it continues on, indefinitely.
- The change must, uniquely, be caused by man (which requires it to be a recent, rather than an ancient/natual phenomenon) – specifically man’s industrialization technology.
- Man’s only hope of averting the disaster caused by the “sin” of industrialization must require a price of equal and opposite value to man’s sin.
As for #1, what ClimateGate does not reveal is that Global Warming is non-existent. Most scientists – both AGW skeptics and alarmists – agree that the world has undergone a warming trend from the mid-1800’s to now. So, #1 holds true.
Where ClimateGate figures in, is with #2. While the emails released by the hackers/whistle-blowers/Russians (the identity of the culprits/heroes of the scandal are still evolving) do reveal a pattern of anti-science behavior (previously observed by Levitt, Greg Boyd and numerous other apolitical figures), the raw data and the computer code are damning.
In order to meet requirement #2, above, past warming/cooling cycles cannot dwarf the current one. The Medieval Warming Period (MWP) and the Little Ice Age (LIA), which both fell within the past 1000-1300 years or so, demonstrate that the current warming trend is part of a naturally-occurring climate pattern experienced by the earth. Both the MPW and the LIA are inconvenient truths that warmists need to eliminate, in order to prove #2, above. The data files and computer code from ClimateGate prove that the scientists who are the high priests of warming climate “science” have been suffering from confirmation bias (as best) or fraud (at worst) in trying to make the MPW and the LIA disappear, and to accentuate temperature readings from the past 50 years to give an appearance of unprecedented global warming.
To get very specific for a moment – the tree ring data (which is used to approximate temperatures hundreds and thousands of years ago, prior to human measurement of temperature) is unreliable. If tree ring data were a reliable measure of global temperatures, then the data from the past 50 years should almost exactly match/mirror the recorded global temperature. It does not, though, and in fact, the tree ring computer models “predict” a period of rapid cooling over the past 50 years that did not, in reality, occur. This means that either a) tree ring data is unreliable, or b) the computer models are utter rubbish. Either way, it means that the primary method of “hiding the decline” is false.
As for #3, warmists need a culprit emission from human activity that can be leveraged to curtail and regulate human activity. Because combustion (which provides most non-nuclear energy) has only two primary gaseous products (CO2 and H2O), the choices are pretty limited. And, because water vapor (which is magnitudes more effective than CO2 as a greenhouse gas) is far more prevalent in nature than CO2, the only choice of emission with which to assert control over human activity is CO2.
Sadly (for warmists – not the rest of us), human activity can only account for about 2% of CO2 creation. So the importance of the “settledness” of requirement #2 is paramount for #3 to work. And that is why ClimateGate has begun the destruction of AGW as a religion. Science may still confirm AGW as fact – but the available evidence seems to indicate otherwise. Even so, with sunlight as a disinfectant (since, to this point, all major climate scientists have been able to get away with refusals to publish their raw data, computer code and climate models – an anti-science luxury that is likely to be the first major casualty of this scandal), it is unlikely that warmism can regain the public backing it once enjoyed.
The True Believers
Within the realm of warmism, there are a good number of “true believers”, for whom no amount of science would dissuade them from their thesis that the earth must be protected from man, and returned to its pre-human, ‘pristine’ condition, rather than to be subdued and stewarded by man (Gen 1:28). Like some Young Earth Creationists, they are willing to weigh science vs. their religious beliefs and declare that, somehow, the scientific method must be wrong. Man must find a way to atone for his sin.
The Catholic church of the middle ages had its indulgences – a system by which individuals could pay the church a fee in exchange for the forgiveness of his or her sins. Warmism has its indulgences, as well, in the form of “cap and trade”, by which individuals can pay for their “carbon footprint” sins, and thus be relieved of the burden of guilt.
Both the historic church and warmism have their priesthood, who determine what rites are acceptable to their respective gods, and to serve as a conduit between mankind and their deity. In the case of warmism, only solutions which require enough economic pain (particularly in regard to production/consumption) and social control are deemed acceptable by the priesthood. (Example: See the current call for a global “one child policy” like that of China. Instead of regulatory control, though, if these folks wanted the global birth rate to decline to below 2/family they would support the only proven, humane method of population control – an increased standard of living.)
The historic church has had its liturgy. The green church has the poetry of Al Gore. (OK – just kidding…)
Seriously, though, the difference between the Christian church and other religions is that for Christians, our sins have already been atoned for, and there is no need for continuous flagellation to appease our God. We have no need of continued sacrifice, hoping that what we give will be enough to cover our sins. We have no need of fear.
Like many SIVVs (Single-Issue Values Voters) have become to the political right, those who have succumb to the religion of “green” have become the useful idiots of the left.
For politicians, the religious fervor is to their advantage – particularly if they can pay a bare minimum of lip-service without upsetting other constituencies. Very few of the political class are true believers. Otherwise, the first and only issue they would speak about and push – until it was finally “fixed” – is their narrow ‘religious’ interest. In the case of US politics, we wouldn’t have even touched health care until the AGW “problem” was addressed – no matter the cost. Fortunately, in the case of “green” legislation, there are enough hypocrites in US politics who value their political futures over the religious convictions of a small, but vocal, minority of their constituents.
It is in this circle that we can expect ClimateGate to reverberate the most. Politically we’ve already been witnessing the stage of denial and the next stage, of anger. Once we’ve made it through the throes of the grief cycle, we can expect that calls for scientific transparency and unfettered peer review will pick up, and the “settledness” of the science will dissipate enough that the political fig leaves of “saving the planet” (at some in the near, but uncalculated future) may no longer be enough to cover a politician’s back-side.
Additionally, in the US at least, politicians need both the industrial output and the birth-rate to increase, lest their Ponzi-scheme of New Deal goodies fall apart once the working class can no longer support it. Don’t expect them to commit mass suicide in the name of “green” any time in the future. Especially now that the climate alarmists have had to circle the wagons and cry “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”
Responding to False Gods
So, how should we respond to such religious fervor in the face of false gods?
We could follow Elijah’s example in I Kings 18, and mock these gods. Or, we could follow the example of Paul in Athens, on Mars Hill, by using such gods as foils for introducing the One True God. Or, we could follow Paul’s example in Ephesus, by simply declaring the truth of God and allowing His truth to bring to question the lies perpetrated by their false gods. Or, we could approach this as Paul did with gnosticism – by speaking forcefully and logically against it, rooting it out of the church, so as to not poison it.
Each method has its plusses and minuses:
- Elijah’s mockery fit in an Eastern culture – where (very much like our postmodernist society) derision impacts the narrative in a much more impactful way than abstract deconstruction. After all, Jon Stewart and Glenn Beck are far more influential with their mockery than George Will or E. J. Dionne are with their political analyses. Mild but steady derision of false gods robs them of their power, and makes them far less attractive – but also risks alienating those who leave them. For best results, mocking (which is a branch of comedy – motivation by engaging the intellect) works in situations where prevailing emotions are not running high.
- Using those gods as foils for speaking of the True God also has merit, but care must be taken to avoid syncretism, which has become all too common a modus operandi for parts of the Christian church. In a modernist setting, this may be effective, but – like street corner preaching – it is a method which is highly limited in its uses and usefulness.
- Speaking the truth of God, and allowing the lies of the false gods to become naturally exposed is a valid approach, as well. It allows natural friendships to pick up the pieces of the dead gods and point to the True One, while holding the individual’s needs in consideration. At the same time, it lacks the agility of more opportunistic techniques to either a) kill the false god when it is struck down; or b) to influence large audiences.
- Attacking a false god/teaching head-on with tightly-reasoned logic can also be effective, particularly when the false gods are most vulnerable to public/personal opinion. However, such an abstract approach relies on the audience being persuadable by modernist/systematic logic. It also requires a direct and opposite attack against Christians or Christianity, since the aggressors often look worse in a postmodern view.
Keeping all of these in mind, it seems to me that each can be used in its own way, in concert and to effect. Even so, because a piece of truth is contained in the overall lie, we must be careful. We are both to subdue the earth – use it for mankind’s benefit – and to steward it for future generations. This requires a mind for conservation, but a rejection of “good-hearted” but awful-headed policies (like the outlawing of DDT, which has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands in the third world).
Mocking the false gods is probably the best mass approach, and in the current environment requires very little set-up or dot-connecting. For example, the video below requires no comment to mock the gods of “green”. Like Gore’s poetry, it is stand-alone comedy gold:
Mockery, in today’s culture, is probably the most effective way to slam the door on a movement’s ability to gather up new adherents. Thus, it acts as a prophylactic in preventing more folks from wandering into the fold of a false god.
One-to-one, though, the third approach – like Paul with the Ephesians – is probably the best when dealing with ‘true believers’. While syncretism is a valid concern, in the case of warmism, just recognizing it as a religion (ADD Moment: Hmmm… state sponsored religion in the schools?) may be enough.
Public policy-wise, though, the fourth way is probably best – forceful reason (with a dependence on science, with open data sets, computers and climate models) combined with solutions not based in fear or guilt. In this particular case, geoengineered solutions make the most sense, with arguments about moral hazard (allowing the “sins” of material production and emitting CO2 to continue) as the quasi-religious arguments to be squashed.