So the joke goes that there’s a guy stranded on the roof of his house. Flood waters are rising and he’s praying to God for help. A couple of kids come by in a canoe and say, “Hey Mister! Jump in!” Preoccupied with prayer, he ignores them and they paddle away. Soon the water level is higher and the local sheriff comes by in a dinghy, “Get in, pal! It’s gonna get worse!” The man says, “Please, officer, not now, I must focus on the Lord!” Before long the waterline breaks over the roof of the house and a helicopter comes by, dangling a rope ladder. “Climb up!,” the pilot shouts above the roar of his engine. With the water raging and chopper wind blowing fiercely around him, the man screams, “Leave me! The Lord will save me!” Finally, the flood overcomes the man. As he’s being swept to his doom he looks to sky and asks, “Oh Lord, why have you left me to die?!” “Left you to die?!,” booms the Almighty, “I sent you a canoe, a dinghy and a helicopter, you idiot!”
I couldn’t help but think of this joke when I heard the infamous and honorable Representative from Illinois, John Shimkus (who is currently seeking the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce panel in the next Congress), tell us that we don’t have to worry about global warming. Only God, says Shimkus, can destroy this earth, not man, and after all, He made a deal with Noah not to flood us out any more. I feel like shaking this guy and saying, “your Guy’s sending you data and science and smart people, you moron! He’s speaking to you and he’s saying: ‘Save thyself!'”
The War on Science is on and some people are telling us that He/She/It doesn’t believe in global warming and neither should you. By way of background, here’s a right-on quote from a blogger on About.com: “One of the principle driving forces behind all this [science] denial is a desire to get around the conclusions of science when they conflict with some preferred ideology – political, economic, religious, whatever.”
The political and economic issues behind climate change denial seem clear. As my father used to say, it’s always about two things: money and dollars. Corporate polluters have a record of funding efforts to portray good science as bad, promoting the notion of “science impotence” (portraying science as a failure based on the fact that certain phenomena remain “unexplained”), and of course funding the campaigns of science deniers (take a guess where BP put its money this last election cycle). But what’s with the religious attacks? I mean, if you’re looking for something apocalyptic, global warming experts are offering up some crash and burn on a silver platter.
Of course there’s a thesis to be written here and we can go back to Descartes gumming up Church works with his thinking therefore am-ing, and then, of course, there’s our man Darwin who really queered the deal. But while portraying evolution as a theory as opposed to fact might be harmless enough (if ignorance can ever be harmless), denying changes in the weather puts people at risk. I don’t want to question Rep. Shimkus’ sincerity of motives; let’s not presume that his beliefs are really a front for corporate-backed efforts to derail climate change legislation. But his (and other policymakers‘) anti-science stance is dangerous and is based on antiquated thinking that precludes the coexistence of science and biblical creationism, something our greatest theologians would find ignorant, at best.
The truth is, there’s plenty of room for theology to exist alongside science and even support its conclusions as perhaps information coming straight from God’s workshop – tools “delivered” to us so that we might better love and protect ourselves and our neighbors. Whether or not one believes in creationism as the genesis of life, analysis of facts on the ground is just that – and a method to help preserve that life, wherever it comes from. Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, alternative energy technology is a gift from, well, just ask the folks at the Evangelical Climate Initiative.
You know, whatever one believes (or doesn’t believe), it’s important to have enough sense to come in out of the rain. You might even consider such a logical maneuver as taking refuge in God’s house. In any case, most of us can agree to this: finding a port in a storm beats going down with the ship.
Image: radiant guy