Genesis and Climate Change
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):
- Human CO2 emissions is tiny compared to natural emissions
- Global warming stopped in 1998
- It’s cooling
- Climate sensitivity is low
- Climate has changed in the past
- CO2 lags temperature
- CO2 doesn’t cause much warming
- The warming trend is due to microsite influences
- The temperature record is unreliable
- The hockey stick is broken
- Global warming is a good thing
- Climategate shows there’s a conspiracy among climate scientists
- There’s no scientific consensus
Thanks to Byron from Nothing New Under the Sun for the heads up on the above resource.