Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Superstorm Sandy

For many days we have been forewarned of a weather disaster of historic proportions. Hurricane Sandy, as usual, formed in warm tropical waters and merged with a rare confluence of meteorological factors to produce one of the great weather events of our time. It has affected millions of people in our hemisphere. My recollections of past weather disasters combined with knowledge I’ve gained from study and review of weather and climate issues during our recent series of posts make the present discussion relevant and timely.

All affected citizens will join together in coming months to cope with the long term effects of this superstorm. Some will exploit this disaster to make their points about its cause and effect within the current politically over-warmed topic of climate change. I must resist the temptation to board the agenda bandwagon to reinforce the points we have been making in these blog posts for the past months. Instead, we benefit from the instruction of scripture, personal past memories, and meteorological history to help put this catastrophe in an instructive perspective.

In the summer of 1955 I was preparing to enter Rutgers University in a few weeks. My father was marketing a crop of sweet corn in northern New Jersey as he had done for several years and would continue to do for more than 30 additional years. I recall more than once harvesting the sweet corn after monumental rainstorms. Such harvests were work-laden ventures even in ideal conditions. The rainstorms transformed the cornfields into a sea of mud, not to mention the inconvenience of picking the ears from fallen stalks. These are dimly recaptured memories of several hurricanes which swept up the eastern coastline from 1954 to 1960.

Several years later my father offered the softball field he had constructed on his farm as a venue for the outdoor tent campaigns of the Morris County Evangelical Ministers Association, a gospel outreach popular in that era. One afternoon my father was forced to call a number of his dear friends to help him shore up the large tent which had been erected and was in imminent danger of being blown away during one of the hurricanes. The call for assistance was successfully answered by a cadre of neighbors.

Far more tragic than these events was the August 18, 1955 loss of forty-six campers at Camp David near Stroudsburg, PA during the passage of Hurricane Diane. The camp was adjacent to Pine Brook Bible Conference. Several of the surviving campers were saved by hiking over to the nearby conference pavilion for a service early in the storm. The remaining souls perished and were swept away as rapidly rising flood waters engulfed the cabin where they took refuge. I recall a dear friend telling me years later that she personally knew some of those campers and their families.

At the height of Hurricane Sandy’s fury I watched a national news broadcaster interview Joe Bastardi, a weather expert. He spoke of a well-known fact among those who research historic weather events. Between 1954 and 1960, ten major hurricanes ran up the eastern seaboard, six of them in 1954 and 1955, including the Pocono camp tragedy. Weatherman Bastardi points out that during the 1930s there were also several significant hurricanes. In the next few years we are entering perilous times again, his predictions warn. The Atlantic Ocean is now in a warm stage, while the Pacific is cold. It’s the 1950s and 1960s all over again, and we had best get used to it. Then we will return to more peaceful conditions.

Does our present global warming account for prevailing bad weather? On the other hand, may it account for our earth-sustaining good weather? According to many commentators who may or may not be weather and climate experts, some comment on issues of weather primarily when it suits them, enabling them to advance their agenda. But according to the record, most would acknowledge that CO2 has been on a slow but steady rise since the Industrial Revolution but still comprises only 1/2500 of our atmospheric concentration. It is in the area of assignment of cause and effect where concerned citizens disagree. Global warming is not responsible for Sandy.

To some members of our population, the first part of James 3:5 may be of more significance than the last phrase with respect to the truth of this verse: “Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindles.” Those who focus on the “little fire” may have difficulty crediting the Hurricane Sandy superstorm to a very small increase in CO2 in the face of natural oscillations of ocean temperatures and dozens of other natural factors which vary over decades, centuries, and millennia. The concentration of CO2 is increasing, but there is little rise in earth temperatures. Many other factors combine to produce periodic bad weather events.

We pray for the families of those fatally injured or suffering loss from Sandy’s horrific wrath. We must not be unaware of the hundreds of historic episodes of very good and very bad weather over the millennia before and since man arrived on this planet. Through all of these events, the Creator has provided bountifully for man’s benefit, even faced with contrasting tragedies and triumphs of earth’s climate and life systems described in the majestic Book of Job. Notwithstanding each of these events we are called upon to remain thankful: “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thes. 5:18 NLT)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cause and Effect

Our understanding of reality includes, among many other abstract topics, the frequently used scientific inquiry of cause and effect. In terms of origins discussions, for example, we might ask if the molecules to man origins theory of man’s existence is explainable by a naturalistic evolutionary process, or do we explain man’s existence as the product of a front-loaded supernatural miracle at a given point in relatively recent human history? The modern day sibling of evolution is anthropogenic global warming theory. It has a somewhat similar pivot point of cause and effect. Is the warming of our planet caused by man’s increased production of CO2 from burning fossil fuels, or is observed and projected earth warming caused by multiple combinations of factors affecting natural climate oscillations in past ages and still occurring today? The applied scientific term is causal adequacy.

In the evolution and climate change inquiry, errant conclusions are devastating. Assigning the reality of man’s existence to a naturalistic evolutionary process when man really originates with a supernatural transcendent miracle is a theological error of considerable magnitude. We are called upon to assess the scientific credibility of proposals of causal adequacy, comparing both scenarios. The Christian must judge the strength of evidence for front-loaded intelligent design of human genetic existence against the strength of evidence that changes in our genetic inheritance have been achieved gradually and naturalistically. It is our stance that man’s origin in a transcendent miraculous event is supported by plentiful evidence which may be considered scientific, not merely theological. An example (one of many), is the origin of DNA--the coded genetic information bank which could only be the product of an intelligent mind.

Given that our climate has been warming somewhat since 1850, what case do we make for the theory of devastating anthropogenic global warming which still rules media reporting each time a weather disaster occurs? If global warming does not result in significant overall damage to our planet we must turn off the alarm button while searching for more convincing evidence. Whenever climate conditions change there are winners and losers among living things. There are some losers on a seasonal basis if a harsh winter devastates the next season’s pheasant hunting or if a summer heat wave wilts some of our garden crops. Longer term winners may include increased northern range of mockingbirds and cardinals and increased growth rates of foundation species such as birches and aspens at higher latitudes. Admittedly these are somewhat trivial examples but may serve to illustrate our larger point. Winning and losing species have been coming and going in diverse geographical regions for thousand of years as our earth climate and regional ecology have naturally oscillated within the purview of God’s omniscient master plan for planet Earth.

Let’s return to the issue of cause and effect. Life scientists enjoy describing effects they observe among the plentiful variety of living things. Their catalogs of living things fill thousands of biology volumes. Evolutionary biologists notice both similarities and differences among the creatures they study. To explain similarities among creatures, they posit that the creatures are related by common ancestry. They credit common ancestry as the primary cause. This connection among living things is thought to be a majestic naturalistic conclusion to help explain origins. For evolutionary biologists the conclusion produces satisfaction that they have identified an important relationship between cause and effect in living things. With respect to the differences among living things, they propose different causes and effects. Certain changes occurred to produce differences between species. They claim those changes were driven and produced by a theoretical blend of mutation and natural selection, a process repeated millions of times to generate our millions of functioning species.

Climate scientists also search for causes and effects. They enjoy describing what is happening and what is going to happen to our weather in great detail. Related questions arise: Why did we have pleasant or unpleasant weather? What cause may we assign to what effect? The most successful meteorologists receive high grades for answering these questions skillfully. Climatologists proceed with their work at a different level of inquiry. As the trend of weather events over time blends into questions of long term climate change, the same questions of cause and effect arise. Why does the weather seem to be warming over time frames of many decades? Our winters do not seem to be as cold and snowy. Is there an answer? Notwithstanding major historic climate oscillations on a scale of thousands of years, they ask, “What is the cause of the current climate oscillation?”

Since the last quarter of the 20th century, our culture has been immersed in the digitally driven information age. We desire more answers than ever before. If answers are not readily available, many competing computer models are generated to help promote various agendas. Discovery of past, present, and future information gives scientists a feeling of enhanced knowledge and power. I do not wish to denigrate the acquisition of knowledge. As we search for causes and effects of recent changes in our climate, we discover the slight warming of our climate in the past 160 years may not warrant more alarm than it would have had our information age arrived many centuries ago.

Evolution and anthropogenic climate warming are topics which generate disagreement within the Christian community. We must approach the conversation without abrading the integrity of others. Above all, all parties to the discussion must realize that the discovery of truth is more important than the elevation of any personal agenda or philosophy. We must seek truth and wisdom with great diligence. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12 NIV)

Monday, October 22, 2012

True Rapturous Amazement

We learn much from the pronouncements of secular scientists. Those who work within the venue of nature’s wonders are uniquely positioned to see the beauty and harmony of natural law. The wonder they experience observing and working within this harmony sometimes reads like a true religious experience. In one sense, their experience is religious, but it is not the religion of Christianity, nor is it born of a Christian worldview. Secular religious feeling must not be disparaged, but the religious feeling of scientists triggered by a Christian worldview is superior, by far.

Albert Einstein was an agnostic who did not believe in a personal God. He uttered many laudable sentiments even Christians could embrace but his experience fell far short of the biblical Christian experience. Likewise, appreciation for the aesthetic beauty of our environment, not to mention the awe such a scientist experiences as he observes the precision, complexity, and behavior of matter surrounding us, should exceed the enjoyment of the secular, naturalistic scientist exponentially. The Christian worldview sees God as Creator. Agnostic scientists have a different view of metaphysical reality, a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of reality. Ultimately the Christian worldview sees our cosmos as the product of a supernatural act of ex nihilo creation.

Einstein’s statement follows: “Religious feeling (for the scientist) takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.” Other Einstein statements clarified his religious views and distinguished his beliefs from a genuinely Christian worldview: “If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”

Many quotations from Einstein relate to the nature of his religious beliefs. Many people are eager to be identified with the beliefs and statements of famous people insofar as their own beliefs are affirmed. Those interested in science and its relationship with faith may cite the declarations of famous scientists which help establish their concepts of the science/faith connection. For example, in the “rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law,” we recognize the exuberance a Christian feels for the natural world created by God. Such enthusiasm is justified, but its confirmation is not established in the statements of people who reject biblical notions of the God of Creation.

Albert Einstein experienced many stages of belief on his rapturous journey but in the end his rapture did not lead him to belief in the one true God. He proclaimed he believed in “Spinoza’s God.” Spinoza articulated the belief later to be labelled pantheism, the belief that the natural universe is identical with divinity. He did not see the body and spirit as separate entities, but believed in the essential unity of God and matter. Einstein’s religious beliefs have been dissected by many researchers, but it is doubtful he ever embraced a belief of reality matching that set forth in the Judeo-Christian Bible.

Science professionals who work within the Christian worldview are uniquely privileged to experience a special quality of rapturous amazement, particularly if they recognize the reality of a God who has authored transcendent, transformational, and sustaining miracles along the historic timeline of our cosmos.

Friday, October 19, 2012

God's Global Control

Our 10/13/12 post on “Global Warming and Evolution Conjoined” (particularly anthropogenic global warming) details a recent movement to link two controversial scientific theories.  We characterize our reference to global warming theory as an alarmist view of significant temperature rise, unprecedented weather disasters, disastrous sea level rise, and fatal consequences for many of earth’s life forms. Both theories generate significant disagreement among professional scientists. The disagreement spills over to the public who are forced to take sides.

Non-scientists are often confused by the disagreement. Adherents of both theories sometimes accuse deniers and skeptics of disrespect for science itself. In reality, the disagreement among scientists is a symptom of science working in a healthy manner. Among both the science profession and the public, this accusation amounts to intimidation. If we oppose evolution or anthropogenic global warming theories, do we betray or oppose science? Most emphatically, we do not. There are many areas of investigation in science about which the answers to questions posed are not clearly evident. Evolution and climate science are unmistakably in this category for many different reasons.

Cause and effect relationships are difficult to pin down. In the case of evolution the genetic relationship between living things is obvious, but the reality of the genetic similarity does not necessarily signal common ancestry driven by a dubious naturalistic process. The biological community has been programmed to accept a naturalistic scenario and to reject the likely possibility that living creatures, including man, were front-loaded miraculously by an incredible infusion of coded genetic information. Elaborate evolutionary theory is highly saturated with the current science philosophy that science deals only with natural causations. Embrace of this philosophy leaves no room for any view but one: “Evolution is good science. In fact, evolution is the only science to explain origins.”

Climate science, with its prominent appendage of global warming theory, is driven by a somewhat different philosophy. The community of climate scientists is motivated strongly by environmental concerns. Of course, concern for the earth’s environment is a noble thing. Research demonstrates that many climatologists tend to ignore or understate alternate hypotheses of the dozens of complex factors impacting our climate, including the exceedingly well-known climate oscillations during and prior to human history. Carbon dioxide has been labeled a pollutant and receives the lion’s share of blame for projected damage to our earth, a fragile proposal in the view of many brilliant climate scholars opposed to global warming theory.

This blog has focused on the connection between science and faith. We trust our science conclusions are driven by the best historic traditions of science and motivated by knowledge that scientific method has its roots in principles of scripture. In like manner, we are confident our theology is sound and orthodox. In this spirit we have proposed that the theory of evolution as proposed both by naturalistic and theistic evolutionists fails to conform with the traditional rendering of sudden sequential creation events  over time according to the Hebrew term bara--something created, but not existing before. In particular, the term relates to the creation of humans.

Earth’s climate system and weather phenomena are a source of human blessing and awe. It is man’s responsibility to care for and subdue (bring under control) the earth, including making use of its many fossil resources to benefit humanity. Abuse of earth’s resources is not sanctioned. The Cornwall Alliance has issued a vibrant statement of belief about our God-created planet: “We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence—are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory.” Enlightened knowledge of our earth system powerfully affirms this truth.

The campaign to aggressively promote the theory of evolution, together with the theory of anthropogenic global warming, is of questionable value for the Christian. Our campaign should be to aggressively discover the truth about human origins and climate science. Truth is significantly more difficult to discover than promotion of an agenda-driven, naturalistic philosophy. When genuine discoveries are made to augment our knowledge of the truth, we must humbly accept them as God-ordained. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Global Warming and Evolution Conjoined

In 2007 the logo for NCSE (National Center for Science Education) was redesigned. It featured an original sketch by Charles Darwin depicting his concept of the tree of life. NCSE is unabashedly oriented toward promoting evolution in our educational system. Their efforts in this area may be characterized as militant and extensive. Their science education dimension, described by NCSE as “The Nature of Science,” assumes a distant back seat in their classroom. The primary mission of NCSE is to promote evolution and another issue currently acquiring equal importance for them. Under their logo is this statement: Defending the Teaching of Evolution and Climate Science. The conjoining of these two topics produces an interesting marriage.

Evolution has been promoted by secondary science educators for over a half-century. Around 1960, the National Science Foundation supported the development of the BSCS (Biological Sciences Curriculum Study), partly to reclaim the perception of lost ground in US public science education following the crisis produced by Russian science and technology advances. During the 1950s, my sophomore high school biology instruction stressed anatomy and scientific classification of living things along with basic physiology. While many biologists believed in evolution, the teaching of evolutionary theory was practically non-existent. It took a back seat in our classrooms.

Classroom biological topics could be considered to have their foundation in more traditional scientific method prior to the pivotal discoveries of the 1960s. Hypotheses were advanced to explain observed common phenomena, but grand and creative theories were not in evidence. Not many topics in secondary school biology content were controversial, but nevertheless, change was underway.

Beginning in 1960 evolutionary theory began to be ascendant. The theory of “molecules to man” evolution developed as a conceptual framework of life origins and began to be advertised as consistent with all known data. Much of the data originated in our newly discovered genetic knowledge of DNA and RNA. The genetic code was cracked in the 1960s and seemed to unify biology educators’ concepts of the secrets of life. Observations of the diversity of living forms together with the progression of the fossil record joined the newly discovered genetic discoveries and seemed to support Darwin’s 100-year-old revolutionary and evolutionary idea. Most life science educators were only too happy to endorse evolution on this basis.

Turning to climate science, we note that no single discovery in climate science could match the impetus evolution had been accorded in our educational system. It had long been known that earth began to warm somewhat beginning about 1850. Much more data gradually became available about slow changes in our climate during the past 160 years. More scientists began to note the warming phase we seemed to be entering. A few researchers raised questions about the warming climate and a few raised the possibility that warming was anthropogenic. Global warming, however, was low on the educational radar screen.

Evolutionary theory began to be popular in our secondary classrooms following the era of the Russian Sputniks. That theory was presented as the “sum total of established thought which was consistent with all data.” The latter quote is a popular definition of a scientific theory.  Earlier emphasis on anatomy, physiology, and classification (taxonomy) did not lend itself to development of the grand theory “molecules to man evolution” was turning out to be.

Lately there is a new kid on the block in secondary science education. It is called climate science and is powerfully energized by the concept of anthropogenic global warming. Some school districts already struggle with their desire to teach students the scientific controversy concerning global warming. The national Common Core Standards Initiative is working to formulate national science standards for the first time in fifteen years. Some science education groups are working diligently to incorporate broad climate change topics into the curricula. The disagreements are reminiscent of school district disputes over evolution beginning several decades ago and continuing to this day.

Recently the influential NCSE, whose executive director is Eugenie Scott, published this statement: “In 2012, in response to teachers that they were coming under fire for teaching global warming and other climate change concepts, NCSE decided to support the teaching of climate change in addition to evolution. Both evolution and climate change are well-accepted by scientists as being based on sound research, but the percentages of members of the public accepting these sciences is sharply lower. There are organizations dedicated to decreasing the acceptance and teaching of evolution and/or climate change: another parallel. NCSE has decades of experience helping teachers cope with political and other pressures against the teaching of evolution; we believe this experience is transferable to the problems involved in the teaching of climate change.”

Research into these topics would be overwhelming for most Christian laypersons who desire simple answers to complex problems. The first complex problem we mention is that since the breaking of the genetic code in the 1960s, our knowledge of life, its wonder, and its complexities has proliferated geometrically. Questions on evolutionary theory are not settled by “the sum total of established thought consistent with all data.” Even scientists who believe in evolution acknowledge that science does not operate this cleanly. Discoveries in biological science have raised significant questions about the strength of evolutionary theory, much to the dismay of evolutionists who steadfastly hold to their naturalistic worldview.

Climate scientists who claim majority support for anthropogenic global warming from the population of climate scientists they cite may recognize the controversies about global warming conclusions are, indeed, worthy of their attention. The frequent citation of consensus on this issue is a subject of unease, given the acknowledged agenda-driven quality of the subject. Analysis drives us to a renewed analysis of errors of reasoning and how those errors impact our conclusions. Scripture deals with questions of origins. It also addresses questions of significant weather phenomena, including storms in the Holy Land and Middle East. We must not discount inerrant scripture as it comments on both questions.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Weather Disasters and Global Warming

Older people enjoy telling the most memorable weather events from their early childhood. My personal favorite is the 1947 snowstorm in central New York which closed school in that Snow Belt for a solid week and drifted our country road shut with drifts well over the height of the plow blades. I personally recall my older uncles telling of the horrific dust bowl days of the 1930s where drought scorched the land, top soil blew away, and where summer heat for several years reached triple digits on multiple days. For this post’s introduction, we will point out that nothing in the 80 intervening years has matched such extended drought and heat, including the drought and heat wave of 2012.

Memorable weather events are embedded within long period conditions of temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind, and precipitation over extensive climate regions. These are sometimes known as weather regimes. Humorously, we may compare weather to climate by contrasting individual crops growing in a large garden with the entire garden itself. Each crop in the garden contributes to the totality of the entire garden much like individual blizzards, drought events, or hurricanes contribute to the totality of regional climate over long time frames.

Modern journalists reporting on unusual or severe weather incidents sometimes conflate weather events with climate change. In particular, many contemporary writers having global warming agendas cannot resist blaming unusual weather events on purported man-induced global warming. Weather events deemed unusual, violent, or destructive, need a cause for their effects. This is especially true if the reporter is motivated by a popular “cause.” Writers of museum display texts sometimes fall prey to this tendency, but we do not demean the wonderful value of quality museum instruction.

Scientists are vulnerable to errors in reasoning as are professionals in every field of knowledge. Many errors of reasoning abound. In the currently popular subject of climate change, we may identify common reasoning fallacies. If A precedes B, then B must have been caused by A: If fossil fuel use increases before global warming occurs, global warming effects result from increased carbon dioxide generated by fossil fuel burning, according to the claim. Another commonly used fallacy is termed “oversimplified cause.” The complexity of weather events is blamed on one cause when multiple causes are needed to explain the phenomenon. The “domino fallacy” asserts a chain of devastating effects flow from one cause without providing supporting evidence.

The welfare of our home on Planet Earth is a cause of monumental importance and enormous human interest. Perceptions of damage to our global abode understandably generate vigorous discussion of effects and causes. The force of public argument generated is understandable. Epic topics like global warming share their level of importance with the fervor of supporting argument. The most effective arguments are needed to support the case, but extravagant potential for faulty reasoning exists.

Judith Curry is an American climatologist and chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology. She has stated, “Climatologists should be more transparent with the public and should engage with those skeptical of the scientific consensus on climate change.” Curry details her journey toward a reasoned, well-researched stance casting doubt on the strident positions of advocates of human-caused warming. Here is a statement she provided to a Yale360 Forum on the topic of the links between extreme weather events and global warming:

The substantial interest in attributing extreme weather events to global warming is the perceived need for some sort of disaster to drive public opinion and the political process in the direction of taking action on climate change. However, attempts to attribute individual extreme weather events, or collections of extreme weather events, may be fundamentally ill-posed in the context of the complex climate system, which is characterized by spatiotemporal chaos. There are substantial difficulties and problems associated with attributing changes in the average climate to natural variability versus anthropogenic forcing, which I have argued are oversimplified by the IPCC assessments. Attribution of extreme weather events is further complicated by their dependence on weather regimes and internal multi-decadal oscillations that are poorly simulated by climate models.

I (Curry) am unconvinced by any of the arguments that I have seen that attributes a single extreme weather event, a cluster of extreme weather events, or statistics of extreme weather events to anthropogenic forcing. Improved analysis of extreme weather events requires a substantially improved and longer database of events.

Research on extreme historic weather events provides startling revelations which could refute the modern enthusiasm for the connection between weather disasters and purported anthropogenic global warming. Local newspapers frequently offer lengthy lists of severe local weather events going back decades whenever the news of the most recent disaster is reported. Readers usually cannot recall the events even if they have lived in the area a long time.

With the disclaimer that the following list does not prove anything, the following historic weather events are cited as food for thought. (1) Acts 27 recounts a horrific 14-day storm at sea suffered by the Apostle Paul on one of his missionary journeys. The storm, termed “Euroclydon” in the KJV, caused the destruction of Paul’s ship. It may have rivaled violent hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean. (2) Centuries later the “Great Hurricane of 1780 claimed 25000 lives and was one of three exceptionally strong hurricanes during that decade. (3) The mile-wide tri-state tornado of 1925 claimed 695 lives and ravaged Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana for 3½ hours over a distance of 219 miles, the longest single tornado track on record worldwide. (4) The Mississippi River flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in United States history. Each of the events occurred long before climatologists of the last decade began to spread the gospel of anthropogenic weather disasters.

Climate change is generally considered a topic church leaders entrust to the knowledge of science specialists. Some Christian organizations have taken remedial action based on controversial findings. Many other topics of Christian concern are linked to science and to the expertise provided by scientists. Such topics include earth history, evolution (origins), and health to name a few. It is vital that church leaders and laypeople alike be well served by secular science experts. But we must be certain their science interpretations are trustworthy. If climate scientists disagree, laypersons and theologians alike must devote themselves to the discovery of truth. We must wisely care for the marvelous planet God has entrusted to man. Our environmental stewardship is an important part of the outworking of our Christian worldview.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Climate of Disagreement

Evolution continues as a lively “red meat” discussion topic both within and outside the church. The long running controversy over the extent of evolution of earth’s life forms, however, may be taking a back seat to the newest, modern scientific controversy. The National Center for Science Education and other secular education groups are arming themselves to fight for public school acceptance of global warming within the curriculum as part of the current national science core standards initiative.  Climate change, sometimes also perceived under the heading “global warming,” has recently displaced evolution as the controversy du jour. Advocates for anthropogenic global warming and activist anthropogenic solutions for it have been mobilizing their forces at various levels.

Under cover of the claim that the climate change issue has been scientifically settled by the consensus of the scientific community, there is powerful pressure being brought to bear on our population to accept the reality and the remedies. Such a conclusion is not merely a minor quarrel. The issue has wide ranging significance for our society in terms of our perceptions of and attitudes toward Planet Earth and the care of its delicate and beautiful systems. In this sense, these matters should be elevated in importance for people of all persuasions, particularly those communities who take pride in their Christian worldview.

There is considerable danger securing ourselves within a shelter of apathy. The more depth with which we study the issue, the more apparent is the cause for alarm. Among the high stakes is the public perception of science itself. The drumbeat from those who claim this powerful issue is settled rolls with high volume. They claim the scientific consensus driving the global warming issue is obvious and our collective action plan, therefore, is apparent. Deniers and skeptics are often cast as errant and agenda driven. Serious errors lurk behind these oft-repeated claims, including the errors and agendas of global warming enthusiasts.

Science does not work so cleanly. In particular, science does not work when the web of interrelated questions and possible models of reality are so complex and difficult. In the early days of the scientific revolution questions about the manifestations of gravity and formulas to describe it were accessible through the majesty and predictability of mathematics. There is an irony when we consider that physics is sometimes called a “simple science.” The understanding of physics depends on scientists’ ability to reduce everyday phenomena to “simple” mathematics. Many people may joke about their high school physics courses not being very “simple.”

In reality, as we study climate science it becomes obvious that we are not dealing with “simple science.” (The physical sciences are known as simple sciences; behavioral sciences such as psychology or sociology, meanwhile, are termed complex sciences.) Climate science may not fit neatly on such a spectrum. The factors affecting our climate are intricate almost beyond comprehension. Climate, climate change, and weather events are embedded within a system of unimaginable complexity.

What message do we receive about the certainty of climate conclusions from a substantial cadre of professional climatologists? Likewise, what message do we receive from the majority of our educators, a bevy of science journalists, and numerous politicians of every stripe? For starters, we quote a statement, one of hundreds of news releases flooding our culture at every turn: “In reality, the science of climate change is largely settled. The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, considered the world’s leading scientific body on the issue, has confirmed in several reports that man-made climate change is occurring and poses a threat to the health of the planet.” The public has now been informed, we are told, and the final verdict is in. We need only to accept the simple message: The global warming issue is settled. Man is causing dangerous warming. And we must act now.

As an undergraduate student I took two related electives. The subject matter fascinated me, even though I had not yet committed to a career in science education. The courses were titled Meteorology and Climatology. At the time global warming was not on the radar screen of public awareness. Only in the past two decades has a substantial segment of the climate science community committed itself to pronouncements of harmful anthropogenic global warming. That community has jumped aboard the bandwagon recommending heroic solutions for global climate problems. Such problems have not yet manifested themselves except as part of their data-selected climate models. Climate scientists and their publicists resist admitting to legitimate scientific disagreements among scientists on these issues. But contrary to their incessant public message, the issue is NOT settled.

Kevin Birdwell is a meteorologist and climate researcher at the University of Tennessee. In a recent submission to a Reasons to Believe publication, he observes, “The climate variations throughout Earth’s history have been both significantly warmer and colder than the climate of the present. These temperature changes may be reliant on a well-balanced system of land masses, oceans, human life, and more. By observing each of these factors in the past, what can scientists predict about temperature changes in the future?”

Birdwell expresses an insightful vision of the Biblical worldview of our
wonderful planet Earth, a system created by God. The Christian worldview accounts for the Father’s care for planet Earth, including fossil fuels providently supplied for our modern society long ages ago in earth history. Our post does not absolve modern man of responsible care for our planet including the monitoring of potentially significant harmful effects of human habitation. High on our priority for understanding our planetary climate system is Birdwell’s quotation of Proverbs 8:

I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overlap his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. (Proverbs 8:27-31 NIV)