Wednesday, April 4, 2007
I Am Not a Scientist
My morning perusal of Slacktivist brought up this little gem. The National Association of Evangelicals recently came out with statements against the perpetuation of global warming and torture. Various other folk in right-wing Christianity, including James Dobson of Focus on the Family, condemned the NAE. My particular attention was drawn to this section of the letter: “More importantly, we have observed that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children. In their place has come a preoccupation with climate concerns that extend beyond the NAE’s mandate and its own statement of purpose.” Now, anyone who knows a thing or two about my general views on religion knows that I’m not prone to side with the NAE. On this one I do, although the forces arrayed against the NAE in this case are people I like even less, so that doesn’t say much. The reason I paid particular attention to the quoted section of the letter, however, is the statement of what the “great moral issues of our time” are. My question is twofold. First, who determines what the “great moral issues” are and second, what exactly are those issues to the people who made the statement? Historically speaking, the great moral and political issues of any time are rarely decided by edict from the ruling bodies. The reason for this is simple: great issues push people out of power. Those in power traditionally want to stay in power and the easiest way to do so is to keep people focused on the issues where the person in question is strongest. Such things also tend to lag behind the moral issues simply because the powerful backers of those in power are usually a little behind the times themselves. Meanwhile, the hoi polloi generally decide what they care about based on their own personal feelings. Global warming is an issue precisely because a lot of people are worried about it. It’s not Al Gore’s fault, he just tried to use his influence to spread one viewpoint with which he happened to agree. That’s the way the great movements of the 20th Century in America worked. The Civil Rights Movement was a grassroots movement. Women’s Suffrage was a grassroots movement. Both were moral movements and both were political movements. Both got very little support from the established political powers until they’d reached critical mass. So what about Dobson et al.’s “great moral issues?” They’re all the standard weasel concepts of the Christian right. I’m not going to get in to abstinence education or gay marriage right now, but I do find the first issue interesting. What, precisely, does “the sanctity of human life” mean? Is not the National Association of Evangelicals working to protect the “sanctity of human life?” Assume, for a moment, that global warming is something that is happening and that humans have some ability to affect or control what is going to happen. The effects will not be pretty. Most predictions seem to revolve around drought, famine, breakdown of the ecosystems, etc. This would be bad for, among other things, human life. It will be the people who did the least to create the problem that will bear the brunt of the fallout (read: Africa). So isn’t standing up to stop global warming an attempt to preserve the sanctity of human life? For that matter, shouldn’t those who want to preserve the “sanctity of human life” be applauding the NAE’s anti-torture stance? People shouldn’t be tortured, after all, whether they're journalists kidnapped by terrorists in Iraq or Gitmo detainees. Either way, shouldn’t Dobson and friends be lining up behind the NAE on this one, what with a mutual attempt to protect the “sanctity of human life?” Oh, wait, that’s right. Preserving the “sanctity of human life” = making abortion illegal. Apparently everyone deserves to be protected right up until the moment they’re born. After that, screw ‘em. They put one of the all-time great weasel statements at the end of the letter: “We, the undersigned, want to state our position again. We believe the NAE lacks the expertise to take a position on global warming.” Did they not just take a position on global warming themselves? Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure that James Dobson is a Young Earth Creationist. Tony Perkins, another of the undersigned, leads a group called the Family Research Council, a Young Earth Creationist group. They wouldn’t listen to scientists anyway. They've made their bones by not listening to scientists. And since when has the level of expertise actually mattered in a position like this? For that matter, if the National Association of Evangelicals has no business weighing in on this, what business do Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council have, either? The other night I happened to stumble across Jerry Falwell speaking on this very subject. He decided to refute global warming. The very first thing he said was, “I am not a scientist,” which then popped up on his little on-screen PowerPoint thing. It was the only honest thing I heard him say and the only statement with which I could agree. The rest of it was a political message about how the "liberals" had deceived the poor members of the NAE and others who now believe that global warming could be a problem. Finally, a voice of reason. We know now global warming is nothing but a big plot by the liberals and the secular humanists. If they have to get out on the polar ice caps on their hands and knees with hair dryers and melt all the ice just to prove their point, I'm sure they will. Fortunately, we'll have Jerry Falwell and James Dobson to protect us when the time comes.