Things Are Warming Up in the Global Warming Debate

Posted on March 16, 2014 by

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We have all been hearing and reading about man-made global warming the past five years, and in some cases we have been beaten over the head with it by those who insist not only that the earth has been warming, but that the cause is environmental degradation.  The solution, they assert, is radical environmental regulation, especially for the worst offender in their eyes—the United States.  Some go so far as to speak in apocalyptic tones and suggest, not so subtly, that humans themselves are the problem.  You can follow the logic from there. 

Now, more recently, the global warming advocates have been challenged by scientists who argue, both by analyzing global warming advocates’ data and methods and through their own research, that, even if global warming exists to some extent, it might not be caused by humans.  It might be natural and run in cycles.  

The global warming zealots have returned fire by engaging in ad hominem attacks.  Of late an American philosopher writing in a British publication said global warming critics should be arrested and jailed.  Yes, that is your run-of-the-mill tolerant liberal. 

Just very briefly, I would like to respond to the zealots, but, unlike some of them, without personal animosity.  My argument is very simple.  They begin by taking man-made global warming as “settled science.”  But what does that mean?  If global warming is the current prevailing paradigm, why can’t others challenge the paradigm, as has been happening for centuries and has actually advanced the cause of truth in science?  Paradigms are just that, existing theories, which will continue until others begin to ask questions and then suggest weaknesses and finally conduct their own research.  Often, the old paradigm will be slowly but surely weakened, eroded, until at some point, it is discarded for a new one.  And let’s not fool ourselves.  Often also, many paradigms are the product not of cold, calculating data and “science” but arise from biases based on presuppositions.  They are in some sense “religiously” motivated.  And therefore they are difficult to dislodge. 

The current zealots are having holes poked in their paradigm bubble, and naturally they don’t like it.  But the way to respond is not to engage in personal attacks, but to do more and better research.  And if their research doesn’t give them what they wanted to find, then they ought to be willing to change, even to abandon their paradigm—if they really want truth.

I can’t say that Christian thought has a great deal to contribute to the substantive issues in this debate.  But it does have, by way of analogy, a great deal to say about the methodologies in terms of knowledge, and the question of deliberate suppression of truth.  Christians believe that “all truth is God’s truth” IF it is really truth.  But we can only get at the truth in the scientific realm if we subject all of our hypotheses, interpretations and conclusions to the boundary conditions of Scripture.  That doesn’t mean that all scientific knowledge comes directly from the Bible—little does.  But what one thinks passes for that kind of knowledge must be judged by Scripture in that Scripture draws the limits of what one can say about the phenomena.  The phenomena are never “raw” or “uninterpreted” at any rate.  Someone actually gives meaning to all the data collected.  Christians argue that only God, through His Word, establishes the conditions that determine when a researcher says, “that is as far as I go in my interpretations and conclusions.” 

When it comes to global warming, we can agree that there seems to be a warming trend from time to time, but how do we interpret that cyclical trend?  While the determining boundary conditions might not be Scripture in this case, there are in fact conditions which responsible scientists should take into account.  It is time to stop demonizing other conclusions just because they disagree with the global warming zealots.  It is time to begin to go back to using our gifts of reasoning as God intended.

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