Friday, April 26, 2019

Attitudes toward Science

A recent family discussion revolved around a basic issue occasionally dealt with by your science/faith blogger. Often my verbal exchanges with new friends uncovers the truth that my avocation is “blogger on the relationship of science and faith” for ATRI—the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute. In a broader sense, sometimes I consider the blog a personal ministry, not only to others but also to myself, especially when it results in an expansion of personal knowledge resulting from reading and research.

Herein lies a possible misunderstanding in the impressions conjured up when the term ‘science’ is used as a conversation opener with nonscientist laypeople. Science is frequently mentioned in discussions on a wide variety of everyday topics. Generally the term is used in a positive, approving sense. On occasion discussion reveals that negative attitudes sometimes persist. Scientific vocabulary and science process may prove to be challenging topics for some. 

Our 8-1-2010 post was entitled “Liking and Disliking Science.” Use the post as a primer for the discussion to follow.

Sometimes new acquaintances remark that the connection of science and faith is an unusual and unseemly combination. Perhaps they echo Stephen Jay Gould who achieved notoriety by articulating the NOMA Principle in a 1997 essay. Gould believed science and religion were separate domains of belief; one domain should not affirm the other he claimed. Perhaps he believed that evidence supports the findings of science but does not act to strengthen faith in God since, according to secularists, science is a completely naturalistic endeavor. Most secular scientists do not believe that science affirms any supernatural or divine reality. In contrast, our blog has posited that the evidential findings of science support belief that the God of the Bible is the Divine Designer and Provider of sustaining powers which cause the matter of our universe to hold together. Paul, the author of Colossians 1:16-17, may have had a spiritual insight in the pre-scientific period two millennia in the past.

The most appropriate one-word definition of science is knowledge. Understanding the full meaning of knowledge is not a simple undertaking. The theory of knowledge is called epistemology—its methods, scope, and how it distinguishes belief in what is actually true from mere opinion. A humorous cliché originating with Alexander Pope in the 18th century reads, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” This saying is an encouragement to expand our knowledge to every degree possible, not being content with a small measure of knowledge because inadequate knowledge may even be worse than no knowledge at all!  

When we delve further, we discover a wealth of commentary relating to how scientific knowledge is acquired. Methods of discovery must be systematized, methodically acquired and supported by research uncovering facts about the physical world on a broad array of topics. Science is a discipline supported by observation and experiment. The findings should result in predictive power and testable conclusions. Finally, we are able to formulate general laws governing the operation of our physical world. Naturalistic law explains many operational wonders of our physical world, but not in terms of the role played by a supernatural Creator.

In a Reasons to Believe ministry newsletter, the leaders state, “We’re enthusiastic about science because it provides endless new insights to nature’s realm, and to the One who created and shaped it so that we can recognize him and his care for us.” Our personal view affirms that science points to the creative work of the One True God, who God is, his divine nature, and what he does to sustain the orderliness of the physical universe. When we use the methods of science to research physical evidence of the wonders of chemistry, physics, and biology with its intricate molecular genetics, not to mention the yet unexplained mysteries of consciousness in living things, we understand that science and faith are inextricable partners helping us discover the deepest mysteries of God and his works in Creation.

We close with one caveat. The discoveries of science, magnificent as they are, enable us to adhere more easily to belief in a divine Creator as the ultimate Cause of the visible creation and of our existence. But science discovery is not proof of God in an ultimate sense. Humans still have the choice to believe or disbelieve the evidence. The power of evidence, however, makes the personal choice to believe in God considerably more likely.   


Monday, April 22, 2019

Presidential Message on Earth Day, 2019

April 22 has been established as the date when Earth Day is celebrated around the world. The initial Earth Day occurred in 1970. I personally recall that one reason for the event in the school where I taught was inspired by concern for environmental pollution. Following is an excerpt from my previous post of 9/14/18:

Earth Day clean-up events at my school are still etched in my memory. (We remember)… that government policies on air and water pollution were seriously deficient. It is difficult to recall that there were inadequate regulations on clean air, clean water, and endangered species. Soon there were government regulations on air, water, and endangered species. Studies in ecology and activism in environmental issues have sometimes morphed into weighty political issues. It has been difficult to find an appropriate balance between prudent environmental concern and the natural tendency of many citizens to actively propel their favorite movements or causes, often driven by personal politics.

Fast forward to April 22, 2019: Concern for environmental pollution is still a worthy cause for anxiety and remediation. However, the very title “Earth Day” gives us an opportunity to glorify God who created Planet Earth in all its glory and beauty. Sadly, this message is subsumed under pessimism and alarmism about our environment and warnings about impending planetary catastrophe in the near term. Juxtaposed with the heavy politics surrounding the ever-present media intonations of ‘climate change,’ we may have reason for mood depression. 

Donald Trump’s “Presidential Message on Earth Day. 2019” is worthy of a hearty “shout-out.” He mentions “God’s wondrous creation,” and “God-given treasures” and finally, “glorious blessings and awe inspiring majesty of our planet.” The president has taken a number of hits from the media for ignoring climate change in today’s written Earth Day address. A Bloomberg headline stated ‘Trump ignores Climate Change in Earth Day Statement.’ The Daily Caller lamented, “Activists Melt Down After Trump Leaves Climate Change Out Of His Earth Day Message.”

We close with several quotes of President Trump’s Earth Day Statement:

“Earth Day is a celebration of the abundant beauty and life-sustaining bounty of our natural environment. On this day, we reaffirm our responsibility to protect God’s wondrous creation for future generations.”

We are “…blessed with some of the most beautiful scenery on Earth. As Americans, we all share an immense pride in these God-given treasures and a tremendous appreciation for our abundance of natural resources.” With respect to our nation’s strong market economy which the president characterized…”is essential to protecting our critical natural resources and fostering a legacy of conservation,” our chief executive “is committed to being (an effective administrative steward) of our environment while encouraging opportunities for American workers and their families.” Finally, our president expressed hope that “…all Americans will reflect with gratitude on the glorious blessings and awe-inspiring majesty of our planet.” The citation of glorious blessings brings to mind the agent of the blessings. In our view, the blessings are gifted to humanity by the Creator of All Things.


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Politically and Scientifically Correct

Our unusual post title needs some explanation. The endless pronouncements of politicians of both parties are fraught with (what else?) political opinion. Many modern US and world residents long to be on the ‘correct’ side of politics. Their desire is to be recognized as ‘politically correct.’ Many modern US national and world residents also long to be ‘scientifically correct,’ owing to their profound respect for science. If people are both politically and scientifically correct in their beliefs, so much the better! Often there is inadequate definition of what we mean by ‘politically’ correct. In addition, many do not know exactly what is meant by ‘scientifically’ correct.

Political correctness has become more popular and recognized as a social reality in the past several decades. Initially actions or statements deemed offensive to minorities or other disadvantaged segments of society were avoided. In more recent times the tendency has expanded to endorse wider movements such as activism on social issues, including environmental activism. Action to remediate climate change has become one such movement.

Truth about our climate and how humans interact with it is, or should be, a topic of immense concern to Christians who believe God created our planet with wondrous complexity—thousands of interacting functional climate features working together for the benefit of all living creatures. This includes humanity, creatures He created “in His image.” The Creator’s mandate to subdue the Earth (Gen. 1:28) demands definition and careful analysis. Humanity should lovingly care for Earth as the venue for our physical existence. Sadly, human caretakers of Earth have not always wisely cared for its welfare. Inherent in this fact is the truth that human welfare has suffered.

The responsibility to care for our planet has become more challenging as global population has increased from one billion to 7.5 billion since 1800. At present the paramount environmental issue is undoubtedly climate change. The issue has become inexorably connected with the slight planetary warming related to society’s release of CO2 from the consumption of fossil fuels during the last century.

For some environmental activists CO2 has become the ‘naughty child’ in the family of compounds because it contains carbon. For this reason it has acquired a bad name among the elements in some environmental circles. Significant attention is devoted to ‘curbing carbon pollution.’ In the last two decades terms such as emissions assessments, carbon accounting, and ecological/carbon footprint have become popular. Players such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have become politically correct but in some cases scientifically uncertain or even incorrect. They gained support from a surprising 2007 US Supreme Court decision that permitted the EPA to declare CO2 a pollutant. No doubt the five judges who approved that decision believed they were scientifically correct. The next president rigorously imposed regulations on ‘carbon pollution.’ Many scientists have since refuted the opinion that CO2 is a pollutant.

Life on Earth is carbon-based life. It comprises nearly half of all biomass. The human body is over 18% carbon. It is the fourth most abundant element in the universe, behind hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. While recognizing that CO2 is a greenhouse gas contributing to slight warming of our atmosphere in recent times, we have been researching the effects of increased CO2 and the results of atmospheric warming resulting from it. In general, we decry the fear engendered by the idea that CO2 is a pollutant. Concepts such as ‘carbon footprints’ still dominate the journalistic landscape. The footprints are difficult to define, explain, and regulate.

We are thankful to our Creator for the element carbon. Ten million carbon compounds are known to man. Carbon, therefore, is known as the ‘King of the elements.’ Without CO2 in our atmosphere life on Earth would not exist. We advocate studying the wondrous role of carbon without a preconceived negative view of this element. We trust this post inspires readers to further investigate a fascinating issue which remains open and unsettled. Sound thinking is superior to political or scientific correctness.

Our readers may enjoy our previous post from 3/19/12. It does not speak about the political correctness of modern society’s responses to carbon. Instead, it addresses the science of carbon as a critically vital element for sustaining all living things. We link the post below:





Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Climate Change Catastrophism

Buzz phrases come and go in our language. The Green New Deal is a notable example. The youngest member of the US Congress burst upon the national scene in November, 2018 commanding unprecedented attention with a proposal of Green New Deal legislation. It suggests sweeping changes in our social, economic, and financial fabric. Senate leader Mitch McConnell presented a “motion to proceed to consider” proposal on the Green New Deal. Not one senator voted yes; instead 57 senators voted “No” and 43 senators voted “present” in an effort to avoid a political trap.

The Green New Deal would ban consumption of virtually all fossil fuels in an effort to combat climate change. Otherwise, the world will come to an end within 12 years we are warned. We are counseled that worry concerning the Green New Deal’s cost— trillions of dollars—pales to insignificance in the face of the imminent demise of humanity.

Climate change’s supporting backbone consists of a devout fear of CO2. The modest amount of atmospheric warming since 1900 is due in large part to the effects of this trace atmospheric gas. An all night gathering of thirty Democratic Senators in their legislative chamber in 2014 was termed a climate talkathon. Their many utterances were apocalyptic. Currently a parallel exists in the 2018-2019 warnings that the Earth will end in 12 years. We link our previous post on “Climate Confusion.” It stresses a number of climate issues pertinent to the points raised in our current post: 

Our science/faith blog has never proposed that climate change issues are not important, especially in view of numerous weather and climate related manifestations which suffuse our existence. Quite the opposite: for human residents of Earth, frequent change in weather is a given as are ubiquitous changes in climate. As we survey eons of human history it is evident that Earth is a dynamic planet owing to captivating geological and atmospheric phenomena which sustain human flourishing in both short and long term. We have exulted in Earth’s dynamism, especially in relation to climate. Indeed, this characteristic has enabled a flourishing human existence.

We have uncovered numerous past posts where we used the term ‘dynamic’ to describe our home planet. In terms of the definition of dynamic (changing, active, powerful, energetic, vital) we have always used the term in a positive, approving sense. Even seldom experienced destructive weather events may often be described as dynamically positive in a long term climate perspective.

Our concern is the frequent use of the term ‘climate change’ used pejoratively. We need to ask ourselves how often ‘climate change’ is used by journalists in any other sense. Virtually all unwanted and undesirable weather and climate events are attributed to climate change. Yet historically, climate change has worked for both the benefit and detriment of the human race. In a future post we will deal with some beneficial effects of climate change as well as some of its detrimental effects. We question whether aggressive mitigation of warming might be more harmful than non-mitigation.

Stephen Jackson, writing for openDemocracy, presented an insightful thesis with the title “Catastrophism is as much an obstacle to addressing climate change as denial.” Three quotes from his article follow. He reports the fears of climate change alarmists who wonder, “Would a sufficient level of dread, spread widely enough, cause people to agree on a course of action?” Jackson continues to report that alarmists ask, “Shouldn’t we all muster the courage to face the terrifying calamity that lurks on the horizon?” Finally, in his tirade against spreading fear he repeats his thesis title, “Catastrophism is as much an obstacle to addressing climate change as denial.”

Over thirty US senators expressed an inordinate amount of dread in their 2014 climate talkathon. Recently the dread has been exacerbated by several current US senators who are running for president of the United States of America! Their Green New Deal legislation would set out “a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society at a scale not seen since World War 2 to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic prosperity for all.” 

The prediction of terrifying climate catastrophe lurking on our nearby horizon should be accompanied by the diligent prayers of Christians that divine wisdom will prevail in the minds and actions of our political leaders and climate scientists.

Dozens of dire predictions have been proposed and later forgotten with respect to the healthy survival of humanity. Some predictions result from errant science, others from errant theology, and still others from general ignorance. Earth’s climate system has multiple causes and multiple effects. We quote one of several ‘denials’ of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation: “We deny that an infinitely wise Designer, infinitely powerful Creator, and perfectly faithful Sustainer of the Earth would have made it susceptible to catastrophic degradation from proportionately small causes, and consequently we deny that wise environmental stewardship readily embraces claims of catastrophe stemming from such causes.”