What’s With Them Rednecks ?
It is occasionally noted during discussions of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) that Creationists are a stronghold of AGW Denialism. For example, The Guardian (UK) ran an article in April 2009 entitled “Just What Is It With Evangelical Christians And Global Warming” citing a survey from the Pew Forum On Religion and Public Life which showed only 34% of US White Evangelical Christians accept the AGW hypothesis.
Here is an extract from the Pew survey of 1,502 Americans, which has a sampling error of plus/minus 3%
Percentage of Americans who believe in AGW:
Total Sample: Yes 47% No 45% Don’t Know 8%
Non-Religious: Yes 58% No 35% Don’t Know 7%
White Mainline Protestants: Yes 48% No 44% Don’t Know 8%
White Evangelicals: Yes 34% No 55% Don’t Know 11%
What Is The Correlative Factor ?
Given that Pew found that the rate of acceptance of AGW amongst the Evangelicals was significantly lower than that of the general population and in view of the fact that Creationists would be more strongly respresented in this group than the others, it is fair to assume that the correlation between Creationism and anti-AGW exists. This being the case, what is the correlative factor ? What is it about US Creationists that predisposes them to reject AGW ?
The Wall Street Journal of Sept. 28, 2007 ran an interesting article, “Split Over Global Warming Widens Among Evangelicals”. In this article the views of pro- and anti-AGW Evangelicals are canvassed and the following anti-AGW viewpoints/rationales given:
– Senior US Evangelicals believe that AGW distracts clergy/believers from their core responsibility to elucidate Jesus’ message. A similar argument has been advanced by Cardinal Pell of the Catholic Church in Australia.
– Theological reasons advanced against AGE by certain Evangelicals.
– White Evangelicals are overwhelmingly Republicans hence toe party line.
– Conservative inertia. Southern Baptist Convention cites Climate Change not settled among scientists. 50 years ago refused to acknowledge Racism as an issue.
In my opinion the correlative factor between Creationists and anti-AGW is that of political allegiance to the Republican Party, the third factor cited in the Wall St. Journal article.
Creationist and Republican
The Religious Right is a constituency of the Republican Party. In the 2008 US General Election 73% of Evangelicals voted Republican according to the Pew Research Centre in this article, Voting Religiously
Republicans, Republican Pastors and AGW
The Republican Party is haven and wellspring for anti-AGW ideology.
Environment Magazine in Sept/Oct 2008 carried an article entitled “A Widening Gap: Democratic and Republican Views On Climate Change”. In data, data sourced from Gallup Polls showed that only 40% of Republicans subscribed to AGW compared to 72% of Democrats.
In a similar vein, Pew Research Centre in Oct. 2009 found that belief amongst AGW is very low amongst Republicans. In April 2008, Pew found only 27% of Republicans subscribe to AGW, dropping to 18% in Oct. 2009. The comparitive figures for Democrats were 58% and 50%.
Despite the disparity between the Gallup and Pew figures, both polls make clear that Republicans are far less likely to subscribe to AGW than Democrats.
To summarize the Pew Data:
27% of Republicans believed in AGW as of April 2008
18% of Republicans believed in AGW as of October 2009
34% of Evangelicals (mostly Creationists) believed in AGW as of April 2009.
73% of Evangelicals vote Republican.
In general terms then: Creationist correlates to Republican correlates to anti-AGW.
Some hard data which supports the above correlative chain comes from Lifeway Research, an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. They polled 1,002 pastors and found that the more conservative their political beliefs, the more likely they were to reject AGW. The research appears in their article LifeWay Research studies global warming beliefs among Protestant pastors
When the pastors’ personal beliefs are factored in, the differences grow even more pronounced. Among pastors who consider their political ideology liberal or very liberal, 93 percent agree that global warming is real and man-made, and 79 percent of self-perceived moderates agree. Among those who identify themselves as conservative or very conservative politically, however, agreement is only 37 percent and 16 percent respectively
Disseminating Republican AGW Denialism To Creationists
The Religious Right (RR) has a very effective network of radio and television stations through which it can disseminate its opinions to members and sympathizers. These TV and Radio networks are controlled by the older members of the RR who are more conservative and more pro-Republican than the younger members.
AGW represents a massive challenge to the economies of the West, addicted as they are to chronic over-consumption. For the Republican Party, with its array of prominent financiers and backers from Big Oil, AGW represents a second and even more immediately serious challenge which is how to maintain the legitimacy of unlimited Oil Production and Consumption. AGW represents a threat to the power, money, authority and thus the very survival of the Republican Party. These challenges can only be met by de-legitimizing AGW.
Fissures In The Religious Right Over AGW
From the Pew figures it can be seen that Evangelicals, and hence Creationists, are less likely to reject AGW than the average Republican. (34% vs. 22% approx.)
During the 2008 US Federal Election campaign, fissures in the Religious Right began to appear as younger members began to assert their agreement with the AGW hypothesis and pressure Evangelical organisations to adopt AGW platforms and practices.
The younger Creationists turned to the Biblical concept of ‘stewardship’, a centuries old cross-denominational position on mankind’s relationship to the environment to support their notion of ‘Creation Care’ and argue for an AGW-friendly agenda in the RR media and secretariat.
For Senior Evangelics acceptance of AGW represented a second-order heresy of ‘turning Democrat’ the party not only of Al Gore, whose entire political career was predicated around the environment and Climate Change, but also associated in their minds with Gay Rights and Abortion.
Those that control the RR, with their established links to Republican politicians and centres of influence use theri position and control of RR resources to broadcast their anti-AGW opinions at the expense of pro-AGW opinions to the Evangelical rank-and-file.
The Contempt Of The Left For The Bible And Christianity
It is sometimes posited by left-leaning journalists and bloggers that the Creationists are anti-AGW for theological reasons: that Creationists believe the Bible teaches anti-AGW, or that Creationists are simply anti- or non-scientific because the Bible, itself putatively an anti-scientific document is the arbiter of truth for them.
Such leftists group Creationism and anti-AGW as equally non-scientific beliefs. Creationists are held to be innocently or defiantly ignorant of good science. A contempt for Creationists is apparent among many leftists, prominent in this contempt being the general refusal of Creationists to accept the Theory Of Evolution as incontrovertible fact. This contemptuous tone is very evident in the Guardian article cited above.
The contempt of leftists for Creationists leads them to attempt to locate the reasons for Creationist anti-AGW sentiment in the Bible, a document leftists love to mock as being non-scientific, not least because it is the source for the Creationist position.
The desire of leftists to mock and ridicule the Bible thus causes them to overlook the most obvious reason for US Creationists being anti-AGW. They are Republicans.
Theological ‘Proofs’ For Anti-AGW
To be fair to leftists, it is absolutely true that theological ‘proofs’ are used by certain prominent Creationists to argue against AGW.
But the quality of these ‘proofs’ is very poor, suggesting that theological argument is being coerced from the Scripture by certain Creationsists in order to to buttress a political (anti-AGW) position, rather than being derived inductively from Scripture. These Creationists are trying to force the Bible to say something that it really doesn’t say.
In short, anti-AGW interperetations are being retro-fitted onto Scripture by those with motive to coerce such interperetations from the Bible.
A theological ‘proof’ for anti-AGW is very palatable to the senior RR movers and shakers as it allows them to reconcile their Political and Theological ideologies into a coherent whole and stave off leadership and/or policy challenges from younger members.
Consequently, senior RR members allow such ‘proofs’ airtime or print space and leftists gleefully pounce on these theologically impoverished proofs to support their own bias, that the Bible is anti-Scientific and to give them further excuse to ridicule Scripture and Christians (not that they generally need much encouagement).
But again, to be fair, most leftists do not have sufficient Biblical literacy to properly evaluate theological argument.
Theology and Anti-AGW
The concept of Dominion as expressed by certain Creationists to theologically disprove AGW relies on a highly innovative understanding of Dominion. It is in fact so ‘innovative’ that I suspect that it has been invented expressly to cover the proponents real objections to AGW which I would say is that it challenges the rapacious corporate-government ‘free market’ paradigm beloved of the Republican Party.
The US Evangelical organisation Cornwall Alliance, a faith-based ant-AGW advocacy group, strongly infer that the Dominion of Humankind over Earth means that Humans can only ever be an agent for improvement in the natural environment and never an agent of destruction.
Cornwall, quoted in the Guardian article say:
Many people mistakenly view humans as principally consumers and polluters rather than producers and stewards. Consequently, they ignore our potential, as bearers of God’s image, to add to the earth’s abundance… Our position, informed by revelation and confirmed by reason and experience, views human stewardship that unlocks the potential in creation for all the earth’s inhabitants as good. Humanity alone of all the created order is capable of developing other resources and can thus enrich creation, so it can properly be said that the human person is the most valuable resource on earth… While some environmental concerns are well founded and serious, others are without foundation or greatly exaggerated… Some unfounded or undue concerns include fears of destructive manmade global warming, overpopulation, and rampant species loss.
The concept that humans can only ever exercise a positive effect on the natural environment is not taught in scripture. What is taught is that it is God’s mandate and gift to humanity that we, of all creatures, have the primary responsibility for the care of the planet and the most capacity to enjoy its beauty and wonder, as it was prepared very much for mankind’s enjoyment, but not solely for that purpose, as other scriipture goes on to tell us.
Other creationists teach, as did for example John Shimkus, a Republican House Of Representatives member testifying before the US House SubCommitte On Energy And The Environment in March 2009, that since God is sovereign, only He can destroy the planet, not humanity, thus AGW cannot be real.
Shimkus also ingeniously posited that AGW cannot be real because it would cause a second Noah’s Flood, which God said He would not do. This ignores the fact that God is not causing AGW (note that ‘A’).
Theologically Agnostic To Climate
Finally on climate and theology, it has been sometimes posited that Evangelicals are anti-mitigationist because they believe in The Rapture (thus it doesn’t matter what happens to the climate) or because they are looking forward to the destruction of the planet beause that’s when Jesus will return.
It is plain that the first belief should not be correlated to anti-AGW as it renders the entire debate moot, while the second could easily lead to a pro-AGW position because it makes Jesus’ return more likely to be sooner.
Creationism correlates to an anti-AGW belief because Creationists are Republicans.
Creationists are less likely than most Republicans to be anti-AGW because traditional Christian concepts of stewardship undermine the Republican position that humans are not responsible for Climate Change.
Theological arguments in support of anti-AGW exist but are theologically impoverished. Their role is to reconcile the political beliefs of Republicans with the Bible, but do not successfully do so.
The Author Speaks
I contacted the author of the Guardian article, Leo Hickman, and said I felt he had left out the obvious fact that Evangelicals are Republicans. He was kind enough to reply and said:
Not sure why I didn’t make that direct reference at the time but I think perhaps I felt many would make that link instinctively.
In other words, its obvious.
In which case the opening sentence of Mr. Hickman’s article just looks more like he’s enjoying putting the boots into Christians due to standard leftist antipathy. That sentence:
Just what is it with evangelical Christians and global warming? I
doubt we’re ever going to get a satisfying answer to this long-running
So Why Do Creationists Vote Republican ?
Evangelicals have identified with the Republican Party since the 1960’s. Prior to that time they were politically disengaged, but several issues coincided in the 60’s, to make Evangelicals identify with the Republican Party as the party of traditional Christian morality.
These isues were the advent of a the Catholic presendential candidate, John F. Kennedy, fielded by the Democrats, the rise of the 1960’s counter-culture with its ‘progressive’ social views and libertarian sexual morality and Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion and banning prayer in schools.
This identification solidified during Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign and presidency such that by 1984 the formation of the Evangelicals as a Republican Party constituency was completed in the form we know today.
While, the Evangelical vote is overwhelmingly Republican, it is not monolithic. African American Evangelicals (15% of all Evangelicals) vote Democrat because they place jobs and the economy of higher electoral importance than Abortion and issues of traditional morality.
As noted above, in recent times the younger Evangelical vote has fissured from the more conservative older generation. The younger generation of evangelicals did not favour the Iraq War and are AGW-friendly. Only 45% of younger Evangelicals were in favour of the Bush administration during 2008.
In general, however, Evangelicals vote Republican because they see the Republican Party as caring more for issues of concern to them. A survey commissioned by the Barna Group in January 2008 and reported at World Net Daily found:
Evangelicals’ top concern – by a wide margin – was abortion (94 percent). This was followed by the personal debt of Americans (81 percent), the content of television and movies (79 percent), homosexual activists (75 percent), and gay and lesbian lifestyles (75 percent,)”
So, Why Are Evangelicals Sceptical About Global Warming ?
From, Evangelicals Go “Green” with Caution, Barna Group, Sept. 2008
In particular, evangelicals express the greatest caution regarding their perception that media has hyped the story (65%), their belief that cyclical climate change is not primarily caused by human activity (62%), and their concern that proposed solutions would hurt the poor, especially in other countries (60%).
While Evangelicals enunciate specific objections to the AGW or mitigationist view , the overall picture given by history and data is that the Evangelicals associate the AGW hypothesis with the Democratic Party and its legions of godless liberals.
AGW is perceived as a Democrat cause along with Gay Rights, Abortion, and the banning of prayer. On the other hand, the party that Evangelicals identify with and trust, the Republican Party is anti-AGW. The specific reasons given by Evangelicals to oppose AGW are Republican Party propaganda points.
Sure, Evangelicals do not say ‘I oppose AGW because the Republican Party say so’, but that is in effect the case.
The Basic Issue Is Trust
…and Evangelicals do not trust the Democratic Party.
An evangelical couple from Texas, Katharine Heyhoe and Andrew Fairley who are respectively a climate change scientist and a pastor have specifically identified lack of trust as central in Evangelical resistance to the AGW hypothesis.
They have wrotten a book aimed at answering questions commonly put to them by the Evangelical community.
When it comes to conservative Christians, I think the real question is who can we trust on this issue?” Farley said. “The scientist who has opposed us in the past, perhaps on issues such as evolution versus creation? Can we trust the local radio talk-show host on conservative radio who seems to be vehemently opposed to the idea that climate change is happening and speaks out quite passionately? Should I trust my local pastor who has a B-minus in high school biology?”
Many of the questions put by Evangelicals are recycled from the arguments of conservative celebrities who act wittingly or not as Republican Party functionaries
“Glenn Beck is saying this, Laura Ingraham is saying that, Rush Limbaugh is saying this, and these people are well-respected in conservative communities, so where are these talk-show hosts wrong and how can you show that they’re wrong with data, not slick talk?” [Fairley] said.
Older Evangelicals will not abandon the Republican Party while it is their personal Hezbollah (Party Of God), nor will they abandon their mistrust of the godless Democratic Party.
While these factors are salient and the Republican Party opposes AGW, so will older Evangelicals.
But the younger generation is moving on and this is fuelled in part by the Bible because its natural reading on the environment supports an ecology-friendly approach to living. The tortured, coerced and debased Dominion Theology used by Republican Party loyalists in the Evangelical movement falls to pieces in the face of the genuine article.