Field of Science

Does God believe in carbon control?

Climate change is one of the big issues of our time, with a major ethical dimension. It's times like these that we could really do with some clarity from God on what He wants from his worshippers and - why not - maybe some advice on the science as well..

The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant group in the USA, is trying to help. On March 10, they released a statement with the news that God wanted us all to reduce our carbon emissions. Science, they said, cannot be dismissed simply because you don't think God will like it:
Though the claims of science are neither infallible nor unanimous, they are substantial and cannot be dismissed out of hand on either scientific or theological grounds. Therefore, in the face of intense concern and guided by the biblical principle of creation stewardship, we resolve to engage this issue without any further lingering over the basic reality of the problem or our responsibility to address it. Humans must be proactive and take responsibility for our contributions to climate change--however great or small.
However, The Weekly Standard reports that other prominent Southern Baptists have taken umbrage at this declaration, pointing out that their 2007 resolution cast doubt on the science behind climate change, said that climate mitigation would hurt low income nations, and what's more we should stop funding scientific research into the whole issue (presumably on the grounds that it would likely produce more results offensive to God). The Southern Baptist President, Frank Page, was forced into an apology:

"Seldom have I seen such a reaction," he complained. "I have been called names that I have not been called in my entire life." He apologized for creating an impression that the declaration officially represented the church.
Then the moral majority struck back, with a letter to US Senators opposing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions:
Joining with other conservative groups such as the Family Research Council, the Southern Baptist-backed letter complained that the bill's "underlying assumption" about human-induced climate change is "highly questionable."
So there you have it. God is officially against climate change mitigation. Or maybe not. Strangely enough, in the UK God seems to be strongly in favour of mitigation.

What's the bottom line here? Simply this: in turns out that God is in favour of whatever the general consensus is in the community. Religion, as a tool to help with modern ethical dilemmas, is useless. We are seeing something similar with embryo research.

The Weekly Standard concludes with an intriguing paragraph. The churches' position on climate change, it says, is nothing to do with ethics - and all to do with PR and proselytization!
Overly conscious of stereotypes about their "fundamentalist" controlled church, Page and many of the other Southern Baptist signers of the Global Warming declaration seem more determined to disprove that they are "uncaring" than substantively address climate change. Following groups like the National Association of Evangelicals, they seem to believe that favorable media attention will enhance their prestige and their evangelistic outreach. But most Southern Baptists probably think differently, intuiting that churches thrive more when they are culturally contrarian than when they succumb to convention.


  1. An observation...the leadership of the SBC are divinity types...not they have a weakness at heart. If I were disturbed about the strength of the SBC and the political nature over the past twenty years...then I'd want to take the organization down and cut the membership. By getting the leadership into discussions and confusing them...I would have chance to dismantle the organization.

    Allow me to show you the SBC and its membership in four years:

    1. As the pastor tells the congregation of upper, middle and lower-class members that SUVs are hurting the environment...someone will look into the parking lot and find that 30 percent of the vehicles there...are SUVs. In Sunday school the next week...the topic will come up with wives and their husbands. Peer pressure won’t make them dump their vehicle but it will make their quit their church.

    2. As the more wealthy members quit the church...the chief guy of each church managing the plate collections will report to the deacons that revenue is every single church.

    3. Deacons will ask why are collections are down, and discover that five percent of their church membership doesn’t attend anymore...the wealthy group and SUV owners. The Deacons will go to their house to “talk” them into returning...which the topic of environmentalism will come up. They won’t return.

    4. Some members will then announce that using AC units is evil...using too much they want the windows of the churches July heat...and make everyone boil. This will take out another five percent of the membership who think this is stupid.

    5. The topic of pledges will come up in Bible school...part of the handout program from the SBC. The middle-class folks will take some of this the wrong way...and trigger a 10-percent exodus from the church.

    6. Several smart guys sitting out in a congregation....will quiz the minister...who is a divinity guy only...not a true scientist...over “facts”...making membership uneasy over questioning God’s word. Those smart guys...have got to go.

    7. The folks who do the 14-day missionary runs to make themselves feel good and burn tons of carbon...are going to be yanked around and told its evil to burn carbon like no more church missionary trips to Peru or El Salvador or such. More membership to quit.

    8. Finally...some folks will begin to take this all true to heart and question the yearly SBC ritual of a mass meeting where tons of carbon is burned to get them folks to some point. The SBC will decide to have only eight guys to meet somewhere....probably New Orleans...and just make decisions for everyone.

    The true impact of this game...was devised a year or two the far left. They realized the impact on the Republican party by the SBC. This is a guaranteed vote column of at least thirty percent. Once they realized the near-idiot competency of the top ten divinity guys in charge of the SBC...they went after them. None of the leadership for the SBC has any knowledge of science, period. They weren’t taught science in divinity school and certainly know less than the average guy in their church.

    Thats the tactic of this game....bring the SBC membership to half of what it is today. Make the Republicans lose a huge segment of their support. Course, in the other direction today...the democrats are finding this Obama election is triggering an exodus of unhappy black maybe this is all even in the end. Truly a mess...but an American-produced mess.

  2. I was with you up until the last bit. Discord and disagreements will tend to break up groups. Some evolutionary psychologists have proposed that a key function of religion is to hold together groups who need to co-operate for common goals (e.g. tribal groups). But in the modern world, a religious group becomes a group of people who have nothing in common and no common goal other than furtherance of their religion. So disputes about other issues are inevitable. As soon as the religion becomes optional there will be schism.

    But I don't see how this will affect voting behaviour. One of the key reasons why the poor in the US vote for fiscal conservatives is because of their religious moral values (see Huber 2007 Why do the poor support right-wing parties?)

    But I doubt that simply changing religious affiliation would change that. Unless the infighting makes them so cynical about the whole with the whole religion thing that it ceases to affect their voting choice. I suppose it could also happen if they swap to a less conservative church.


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