Skip to content

Genesis and Climate Change

December 14, 2010

I’ve seen this video on a few sites that last couple of weeks. It is from the March 25, 2009 hearing of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. In it, John Shimkus, shares his conviction that global warming is false based on a ‘sermon’ from Genesis and Matthew.

Just last month Shimkus reaffirmed his position regarding global warming:

Rep. John Shimkus is standing by a controversial comment that global warming isn’t something to worry about because God said he wouldn’t destroy the Earth after Noah’s flood…

“I do believe in the Bible as the final word of God,” Shimkus said. “And I do believe that God said the Earth would not be destroyed by a flood.

“Now, do I believe in climate change? In my trip to Greenland, the answer is yes. The climate is changing,” he added. “The question is more about the costs and benefits and trying to spend taxpayer dollars on something that you cannot stop versus the changes that have been occurring forever. That’s the real debate.”

There are two important observations from the above theological and philosophical mess to be made.

First, the end-game of global warming is not a global flood. There is simply not enough moisture in the current system to cover the earth in water; this doesn’t mean though that a few feet rise in sea levels would not be catastrophic. Even the term ‘global warming’ is sort of a misnomer. The ‘end-game’ of climate change is more like climate destabilization. The theory is that this will lead to harsher weather patterns such as severe storms and droughts. While this is not an apocalyptic end of the world, the hypothesis is that it will be severe enough to affect millions of people, possibly costing many their lives.

Therefore, Shimkus’s one-to-one-correlation of global warming = global flooding end of the world is false. Furthermore, if we are to read the Bible and Genesis in an ultra-literalistic manner, following Shimkus’s and others’ lead then perhaps we should pay close attention to what the words say and what they do not say.

Genesis 8 “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.”

Genesis 9 “I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.”

It seems to me that there is a lot of wiggle room in the above “promises.” First, God says he won’t curse the ground because of humankind, but makes no such declaration regarding the sea or the sky. Second, God says he won’t destroy every living creature (although technically if he destroyed every living creature that would include those on the Ark. Just sayin’), or that there will be a flood to destroy the earth.

What does God not say? He does not say that man cannot curse the ground. He does not say that he will stop man from harming the ground. He does not say there could be a natural drought (the rest of Genesis anyone?). He does not say that most flesh could be cut off. He does not say that there could be some flooding (Ezekiel 13 anyone?).

I mean seriously think about it if you are a literalist: how much leeway is there in the statement, “OK, OK. I won’t destroy all flesh.”

So, I would suggest, don’t be worried about global warming leading to a world wide flood not because God promised he wouldn’t flood the whole earth but simply because that can’t happen and that is not the end-game of global warming. However, climate change is a much different issue that should be concerning if the facts and the proposed end-game do turn out to be true. The possible effects of climate change are not ‘apocalyptic’ but they are catastrophic.

Second, for climate skeptics: skepticism is good as long as it is preceded and followed by an examination of facts. To use an illustration I have employed before: I have encountered many persons who declare with certainty upon reading an apologist such as Ray Comfort, “There is absolutely no evidence for evolution!” Of course, when pressed about which books on biology, geology, physics, astrophysics, and peer-reviewed scientific journals they have read the answer is usually quite close to zero…

But skepticism is good; however, “Genuine skepticism means considering the full body of evidence before coming to a conclusion.”

Therefore, for those that may be skeptical concerning climate change John Cook and some climate scientists have put together a helpful resource:

The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism looks at both the evidence that human activity is causing global warming and the ways that climate ‘skeptic’ arguments can mislead by presenting only small pieces of the puzzle rather than the full picture.

The Guide explains the science in brief, plain language without getting too technical. For those who wish to dig deeper into the science, more detailed treatments can be found at the following pages (often presented with varying levels of complexity from Basic to Advanced):

Thanks to Byron from Nothing New Under the Sun for the heads up on the above resource.

About these ads
9 Comments leave one →
  1. WenatcheeTheHatchet permalink
    December 14, 2010 11:44 am

    A point I have attempted to make without any success with some fellow evangelicals is that if we look at the prophetic literature we see a few passages (such as in Jeremiah or in Deutoronomy) to the effect of the land vomiting up people whose wickedness corrupts it. These passages are suddenly the point at which the Bible is not taken seriously. Usually this is, I suspect, because those Christians dont’ think they could possibly be guilty of any of the sins that would cause such a thing to happen (i.e. they’re not guilty of outright idolatry of sexual perversion so they’re in the clear). In any case they find the idea that enough sin would let God to let the land vomit THEM up.

    I suppose it might be useful to point out here that climate-change skepticism by itself doesn’t account for the conviction many have had that since destruction by fire is referenced in 2 Peter that many “literalists” for decades assumed that referred to nuclear war of some kind. Maybe those folks were watching Terminator or reading Watchmen or something but that is a very figurative “literal” reading.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy permalink
      December 15, 2010 12:06 pm

      I suspect, because those Christians dont’ think they could possibly be guilty of any of the sins that would cause such a thing to happen (i.e. they’re not guilty of outright idolatry of sexual perversion so they’re in the clear).

      i.e. “I’m not one of those Fags whom God hates.”

      (Scotteriology, remember the sermon video that actually went “I’m fat, but you’re queer, and God Hates Homosexuality Worse than Gluttony”?)

      In any case they find the idea that enough sin would let God to let the land vomit THEM up.

      “Touch Not Mine Anointed…”

      I suppose it might be useful to point out here that climate-change skepticism by itself doesn’t account for the conviction many have had that since destruction by fire is referenced in 2 Peter that many “literalists” for decades assumed that referred to nuclear war of some kind.

      No, that dates back to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the rise of Hal Lindsay’s Late Great Planet Earth as the 67th book of the Bible. I witnessed the “Christians For Nuclear War” attitude in full swing in the Seventies, always built on a foundation of Hal Lindsay. (“It’s Prophesied, It’s Prophesied…”)

      • WenatcheeTheHatchet permalink
        December 16, 2010 9:01 pm

        The missile crisis was before my time. I knew that by the time I was in my teens that a lot of Christians made the equation of nuclear war to fire in the Bible but I was less clear where the idea came from. By the time I was old enough to have any idea what an amillenial partial preterist was (about 18-19) I had shifted to that view. In one of those strange ironies of life I learned about amillenialism and partial preterism from an Assemblies of God youth pastor. :D

  2. December 14, 2010 12:32 pm

    Which is more frightening: Apocalyptic global climate change or the fact that Shmikus is a member of the House of Representatives?

  3. Boz permalink
    December 14, 2010 3:29 pm

    agathos, I think the word you might be looking for is “Denialism”

    Climate Change Skeptics have seen the evidence, and accept that AGW is real, or have not seen the evidence and withhold judgement.

    Climate Change deniers dogmatically deny reality.

    http://darryl-cunningham.blogspot.com/2010/12/climate-change.html

    http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

  4. Jake permalink
    December 14, 2010 9:38 pm

    I think we should be less concerned with whether or not human behaviour is causing climate change on a global scale and far more concerned with the fact that our behaviour and consumption is completely unsustainable on a global scale. If the info you’ve given is in fact correct, and climate change is a naturally occurring phenomenon, then we’ll either have the adaptive prowess as a species to overcome that, or we won’t. We can only be reactive to Vis Major. The Earth may not be able to flood itself, but I certainly think we have the capacity to consume it entirely. And that’s the real issue for me. Not who or what is to blame for “Global Warming” (brilliantly personified by frost in The Day After Tomorrow), but rather do you really need that second car, or third TV or fourth microwave. That’s the issue that no one really wants to talk about (in this part of the world anyways).

  5. Paul permalink
    December 18, 2010 2:17 pm

    Thanks for the links and analysis! Shimkus, who represents a coal state, may have professional reasons to avoid engaging in the kind of genuinie skepticism described above.

  6. adamsnavel permalink
    August 18, 2011 8:43 pm

    Hi Scott, Just happened across your blog. I am planning a conference paper on the relationship between Creationism and climate change denial, so your post is fascinating and welcome reading. Blessings, Sally.

Trackbacks

  1. The Biblical Studies Carnival LVIII « כל־האדם

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 102 other followers

%d bloggers like this: