I have just learned, via Jerry Coyne’s blog, that Republican senator Jim Inhofe (Okla.) is promoting a new book about how global warming is a hoax, and he quotes Genesis 8:22 as one of the reasons why he knows this. He explains the quote during a recent interview for a christian radio program:
Well actually the Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that ‘as long as the earth remains there will be seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night,’ my point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.
“God’s still up there.” In other words, God put us on the Earth for a reason, and he isn’t going to let our species eradicate itself. So there’s no need to worry about climate change.
You know, I used to believe this exact same thing. I have always been an environmentally conscious person, concerned with recycling and eliminating waste. But these matters always seemed, to me, to be about keeping the planet clean and beautiful. Global warming, on the other hand, was about keeping the planet livable. And while I always accepted that humans could make the planet worse, when it came to the proposition that humans could destroy the planet or make it unlivable entirely, my belief in god diminished what would have been a completely reasonable concern. After all, God wouldn’t let us destroy ourselves!
This was in the time just before global warming became a popular concern, and before An Inconvenient Truth was released, so – in my defense – I did not yet know all the facts. I like to think that I would not have been dumb enough to deny the dangers of climate change even in the face of the facts, but religious belief does often function in an incredibly reality-denying way. Senator Inhofe must, at this point, know the facts, and no doubt has done his best to ignore them. I’m sure his party affiliation, and the Republicans’ general anti-science stance, has something to do with it. It would also be interesting to see which lobbyists have been putting money in his pocket recently. But regardless of these other competing interests, a point must be made: it is not possible to be truly concerned about climate change, and the possibility of ruining the inhabitable Earth, if you also believe that God has your back and will not let this happen to you.
This is one of the problems with religion – it entails believing things that are untrue, and such beliefs always have effects on the real world.