Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Religion vs. Science the Vast Gulf Part Five: Weather and Climate

I just uploaded a YouTube video about Darwin visiting the Petrified Forest in Arizona. The petrified wood comes only from ancient conifers, none from modern trees, proving that it could not have been produced by a big Flood. See other videos here.

This is the fifth in a series of entries about the vast difference between the modern scientific view of the world and the view that people had of the world at the time the Bible was written.

To the Biblical worldview, the climate of the Earth is directly controlled by God. And there are many, many religious people who believe this today. Their proof? Genesis 8:22, in which God makes a promise: while the Earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. I have several students each semester who quote this verse in their supposedly scientific papers on the subject of what I now try to call global climate disruption. In this, they are imitating their great Christian hero, Senator James Inhofe, who quotes Genesis 8:22 whenever the subject of climate comes up in the Senate.

Modern science has demonstrated that Earth’s climate is controlled by many complex factors. In any given year, it is affected by changes in the angle of the sunlight, by the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, by the amount of energy coming from the sun, by ENSO patterns, rain shadows, etc. Long-term changes are caused by periodic oscillations in Earth’s orbit, movements of the continents, etc. A religious person could claim that God works through these natural laws; but we are not talking about that kind of religious person. We are talking about people who believe God is forbidden to use figures of speech. Forbidden, I presume, by them.

That is, we know what causes the seasons. The Earth moves, and is tilted, and as a result a lower angle of sunlight creates winter, and a greater angle of sunlight creates summer. Psalm 93:1 clearly states that the Earth does not move, and it was this verse that got Galileo in trouble with the Catholic Church. Creationists no longer claim that the Earth does not move, but they do so mainly by arbitrarily assigning a figurative meaning to the psalm.

We also know what causes wind and rain. Air blows from high to low pressure areas, and rain results from the condensation of water vapor. In contrast, the Bible says that rains caused Noah’s flood because the windows of heaven were opened. Job referred to the storehouses of the wind. These are perfectly good figures of speech, and are apparently accepted as such even by creationists. But they have to violate their own assumptions by doing so.

There is a dark side to creationist beliefs that God has made sure that global warming has not occurred. At the moment, creationists are denying that global warming is happening (step one), or if so, that humans are causing it (step two). They deny that we should be doing anything right now to reduce carbon emissions. God put all that coal in the ground during the Flood (thoughtfully picking out just the conifers and keeping out the flowering plants) so that we could burn it right now. Not slowly, over centuries, but right now. This is because many of them think Armageddon is right around the corner, so why wait?

But at some point even creationists will have to admit that global warming is a reality. However, when they do so, they will go directly from steps one and two to step three: It is too late and there is nothing we can do about it. They circumvent the entire process of trying to bring our carbon emissions under control. And they will give their own religious twist to step three: they will say that global warming, which in upcoming decades will be greater than most of us have even been able to imagine, is God’s punishment upon the world. Punishment for what? Probably for homosexuality. After all, God said that while the Earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. Creationist stage three belief concerning global climate disruption is that it will in fact occur while God is carrying out His end-time Apocalypse.

By the way, why did God make the Genesis 8:22 promise? One might think there is a lofty reason, based upon Jesus’ version of God. But according to verse 21, the reason is that Noah offered a sacrifice of clean meat on an altar, and when God “smelled the pleasing odor,” he made the promise. So if you ever want anything from God, invite Him to a barbecue. Yeehaw!

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