Evolution, Creationism, and Global Warming

HOW many times have you seen the Dems smugly congratulating themselves about being intellectually superior to all those primitive, knuckle-dragging Republicans? After all (the Dems tell each other) those awful Republicans are a bunch of creationists, and — gasp! — they even deny global warming! How dumb can they get? (They say this, while cheering Obama’s economic policies.)

That’s their position. But if you bear with us, you’ll see that that when you dig down a bit, there’s not much consistency to it. Before we’re done with this post we’ll explain why — at least in our opinion — there’s no rational relationship between evolution and global-warming (GW). Evolution is good science, and GW may be good science also, but … well, as we said, stay with us here.

There are people who deny both evolution and GW. You’ll find them in both parties, probably — alas! — more among Republicans; but those two positions are politically in conflict. The mentality that denies both evolution and GW, as if doing so were some kind of clever intellectual package, is so messed up — both scientifically and politically — as to be beyond hope.

We’ve been waiting for some pro-evolution commentator to clear the situation up, but it never seems to happen. So your Curmudgeon will step in to fill the void.

Our readers already know that evolution is good science, and we’ve never hesitated to express our opinions about creationism (see: Ignorant, Stupid, Insane, or Wicked). But we may seem to be superficially on the “wrong” side of the GW issue. We freely admit that we lack sufficient knowledge of climatology, so we’re almost always silent about our GW opinions. Our scientifically un-informed attitude is to be exceedingly skeptical of GW. This isn’t because of our scientific knowledge, but because of the political company that GW keeps. That’s not scientific and we know it, which is why we stay out of the debate.

We summarized our position on GW once before, here, but we’ll repeat it to have it all in this one post: If you want to skip the next few indented paragraphs, that’s okay.

For at least a century there has always been a political faction in the US that seeks to increase governmental control of the economy, to the detriment of property rights and ultimately to the detriment of individual freedom. The justification for such movements varies with the times, like the width of neckties. In rough historical sequence the justification for government growth (aside from war) has morphed from the Marxist forces of history to workers’ rights, the necessities of the Great Depression, worker safety, product safety, consumer protection, environmental pollution, the War on Poverty, racial equality, women’s rights, unemployment, for the children (that’s obscure, but it had its day), social justice, income disparity, et cetera, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

No matter what the justification, or the “crisis” of the day, the solution is always the same — more taxes, more regulations, more controls, and less freedom. With each passing phase in this long process, the adherents to the justification of the day have been fanatically convinced of the righteousness of their cause, unaware that they were mindless pawns in a much larger game.

We may have it wrong this time. Perhaps the world really is gradually warming, and maybe we really are to blame. But in the absence of a solid understanding of the science, we see the global climate “crisis” in the historical context of a long series of dubious justifications for increasing government power at the expense of individual rights. We can’t help but notice how the same old activists who previously took up the cause of earlier “crises” seem to fit so comfortably into ranks of global warming alarmists and “save the planet” activists.

Anyway, if there really is a problem, we don’t like the proffered solutions. We’ve seen them many times before, and they’ve never yet solved any problems. Free markets will deal with the situation far better than governmental bureaucracies. That’s our view of things. But we freely acknowledge that it’s not a scientific opinion.

Addendum: We said much of this in the “comments” section, but we like it well enough to tweak it a bit and add it here:

There’s an analogy (a weak one) between today’s global warming gang and the former nuclear disarmament gang — and also the former nuclear winter gang. Both of those older movements had some science going for them. They were hot stuff during the Cold War. Yes, bombs are bad, yes, radiation sickness is nasty stuff, yes, we wouldn’t want to be nearby when a bomb exploded, and yes, a lot of bombs might cause a new ice age, however … we can’t disarm in a dangerous world. Interesting science, but the science was being used to generate fear, which was then exploited for a partisan political purpose. As we said, this kind of argument is an ongoing technique.

So we favor evolution because it’s good science; and we’re dubious of GW because we don’t trust Al Gore and his friends. And yet we think we’re being consistent. Stay with us a bit longer and all will be clarified. Well, here’s a hint: Teaching evolution doesn’t interfere with anyone’s freedom — no more than does teaching astronomy — but the GW advocates have a political agenda.

It’s true, of course, that the creationists are indeed anti-science, and they too have a political agenda. They have an array of views about private behavior that they want to impose on others (see: Creationism and In-Your-Underwear Politics), and this is a great embarrassment to traditional Republicans. We’ve addressed this before, here: Open Letter to the Republican Party.

But the Dems are also anti-science. There’s no way to deny their anti-scientific objections to nuclear power, oil-drilling, or anything else that conflicts with their environmentalism. And they’re always asking why we spend money on the space program and weapons research — or national defense in general. After all, they argue, who needs science, engineering, or a strong military, when that money could be better spent on food stamps?

So neither party has a clear, pro-science attitude, and they’re both politically confused. How then, do we make sense out of this mess? It’s simple.

The key issue that cuts through everything is freedom. An advocate of freedom should oppose both the theocracy of the creationists and the socialism of the GW gang. We’ll keep an open mind on the science of GW — it may be real. But even if there is an actual climate problem, we’re not open-minded about the proposed governmental “solution.” If free enterprise can’t solve the situation, then it can’t be solved — and we’re toast. So be it.

That’s our position, which — although politically consistent — pretty much leaves us on our own. That’s okay. We’re don’t mind.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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33 responses to “Evolution, Creationism, and Global Warming

  1. When LGF ran a string of evolution articles last year it was common to find in the comments a slew of AGW-denying claims mixed in with the ID arguments.

    This made sense, as *any* scientific endeavor is an affront to those who prefer to look at the world through more subjective (and religious) eyes.

    IMO you are being too equivocal about AGW. There is no doubt that man is affecting the environment around him. While the attribution of the degree of cause and effect *among* many factors (e.g., changes in the atmosphere vs changes in land use) is actively researched, the fact that humans are perturbing the climate is not doubted by any scientific body, based on my search of statements by the professional organizations.

    As for political agenda, may I suggest that the anti-AGW campaigners (which generally exist *outside* of science) are highly ideological and are much more destructive to the idea of modernity than your demons (e.g. Al Gore) of the “GW gang.”

  2. Freetoken says:

    As for political agenda, may I suggest that the anti-AGW campaigners (which generally exist *outside* of science) are highly ideological and are much more destructive to the idea of modernity than your demons (e.g. Al Gore) of the “GW gang.”

    The hard-core anti AGW gang, the kind who get their views from places like WorldNetDaily, are just as goofy as evolution deniers, and as you suggest, are often the same people. I hope it’s clear that I’m not a “denier.” But I worry that the thing is being hyped by those who want to exploit the situation to expand government even more than it’s being expanded now.

    It’s pretty obvious that nuclear energy is a major part of any answer. A huge part of our oil & gas consumption is for generating power. But that’s one thing they definitely won’t permit. So I just tune them out.

  3. I don’t know about whom you are referring when you say “that’s one thing they definitely won’t permit. ”

    Certainly NIMBYism wrt nuclear is very strong, and as well some environmental groups have been consistently anti-nuke. However, others have not been.

    Also, the leading voice on AGW, James Hansen, is very much a proponent of nuclear energy. So is Sec. Chu, and even Dr. Holdren agrees it is necessary.

    The hard part with nuclear energy is the NIMBYism.

  4. comradebillyboy

    you write:
    ‘If free enterprise can’t solve the situation, then it can’t be solved — and we’re toast. ‘

    While the wealth generating properties of free enterprise capitalism are undeniable it would take a good deal of (almost religious) faith to believe that it is the optimal solution for all problems.

  5. You do know that you have people like Glen Beck representing you, right?

    ; )

  6. LRA, even a Curmudgeon has feelings.

  7. Aw! I wasn’t trying to be ugly! :)

  8. retiredsciguy

    What concerns me is that most of the proposals being advanced to reduce CO2 emissions will certainly reduce US industrial production, possibly to the point of triggering a catastrophic global depression.
    For instance, the steel industry will be especially hard-hit by cap & trade, because converting iron ore to steel necessarily releases huge amounts of CO2, not only from the coal and coke, but also from the calcium carbonate, or limestone, used in the process. If cap & trade is adopted and no concessions are made for steel, US steel will not be able to compete with steel made overseas, thus making all products using steel less competitive. I doubt if China, India, Russia, Korea, Brazil and Japan will all impose cap & trade.
    That’s the rub — we have a world problem, and one nation committing economic suicide is not going to solve it. And make no mistake — cap & trade is economic suicide. It also will be political suicide for the Democrats when the unintended consequences become apparent.
    As James Carville kept reminding Bill Clinton during the 1992 presidential campaign, “It’s the economy, Stupid!” During the 2012 campaign, all that will matter is how the economy is doing. No one’s going to care too much about saving the earth if they are out of work.

  9. I, for one, lament the incredible scientific illiteracy of the American public. I wish I knew where the blame lies, but I don’t.

    It’s easy for us to overlay our individual political prejudices on this issue, but that doesn’t seem to be productive.

    We are a nation of idiots, and we live in a culture that increasingly lionizes idiocy, woo, and superstition. Americans flock to “psychics”, palm readers, astrologers, and preachers of the “gospel.”

    We are doomed. I can’t see any way out as long as we have presidential candidates flouting their ignorance as a virtue.

  10. Hi Curmudgeon,
    I’m a geologist, and so have fairly little time for creationists/ID’ers, and, like many geo’s, quite the AGW skeptic. I think it’s mainly because geologists have a considerably different view of time and change. And, we realize that climate isn’t a static thing and changes naturally.

    Of course, like any good scientist, I have to admit I could be wrong, but, I don’t think I am…

  11. Micro Evolution – YES (actually it’s obvious)
    Macro Evolution – NO (no evidence at all and absolutely STUPID)

    Creationism PLUS Micro Evolution = Reality

  12. waldteufel

    Robert – Dolt

  13. robert=not a scientist…

  14. “Robert” won’t be posting any more comments. (He’ll tell his buddies that he got banned because I was afraid of the truth.)

  15. “If free enterprise can’t solve the situation, then it can’t be solved ”

    but doesn’t this pretty much makes ALL government intervention void?

    The courts are set up to arbitrate contracts, but they are not themselves free enterprise – so is your stance that the courts and their rulings should not be imposed?

    Legislation, police, defense, the courts etc are all things that are not free enterprise, so what is your stance on them?

    If your opinion is not that everything must be free enterprise, then why should it be OK to for instance regulate the free market by punishing breach of contract through the courts, but not to effect production by legislating emission guidelines?

  16. Soren says: “but doesn’t this pretty much makes ALL government intervention void?”

    No. I was writing about industrial activity that Gore wants to shut down because it’s too ickie for him. Industry and our electric utilities can function just fine with nuclear power. No need for Gore to be a dictator. All he needs to do is get out of the way.

    I am not an anarchist. I’m a big fan of the Constitution. I’m fine with courts, police, etc. That’s quite enough government. If a pack of crazed enviro-freaks seize control of the economy (to make everything “nice”), then I’m outta here.

  17. Over at PT (as many of you know) the consensus is Dr. Dembiski rejects science because science rejects him. He reminds me of Grampa Simpson: “Grampa says the dog is dead, therefore the dog must be alive!”

    I leave you with a quote from the Dr. on GW:

    “I draw your attention to the last clause: there was “a slight downward trend of temperatures from the 1940s to the early 1970s.” One would think that this would constitute “scientific evidence” for global cooling. ….. But the Principle of Methodological Counterintuitiveness tells us that this just means that the earth is getting warmer.”

  18. dNorrisM, thanks a bunch for the mention of Dembski. I trust that you and everyone else here realizes that Dembski’s thinking and mine are entirely unrelated. (I just knew that post would create problems.)

  19. When you figure out how to separate the Gores from the facts, let me know.

    GW is real. AGW is probably real – the extent is open to debate and refinement. What to do, if anything, about is all politics, and by definition, irrational.

    PAH – bad way to start a Friday.

  20. The Gadfly says: “When you figure out how to separate the Gores from the facts, let me know.”

    Simple. Just assume that there is no connection at all. It’s a reliable guide.

  21. I thought your 3rd paragraph fit the Dr. Dr to a tee- so I gave him as an example. (Also the comments at PT are great.)

    Of course people have various reasons for rejection reason.

    Many on the right reject it because it hits their religion, pocketbook, or political ideology. (“Junk Science”)

    Many on the left reject it because of political ideology or it is (apparently) kewler to believe in new age woo like astrology.

  22. Richard, nobody denies that climate changes over time, sometimes drastically. What is of concern is why the climate is changing now. Assuming the cause has to be one of the previous causes is unrealistic.

    Since none of the known previous causes are currently much of an influence, (although there is some indication CO2 has lead warming in the past) it must be something unknown, possibly totally new. What has to be considered are potential causes that fit within known physical laws. CO2 fits. It also fits within the evidence that has been uncovered.

    SC, I really would like to see some effort from the US government in exploring some of the newer generation of nuclear power plants. They do that and my government will follow.

    Last year I listened to an interview with an anti-nuke and was surprised at the tactics used. The only difference between him and your standard creationist was the use of ‘nuclear’ in place of ‘evolution’.

  23. For years I have been unable to find the words to express my opinion of GW. Thanks for the above article, which does it nicely, e.g with:

    “Our scientifically un-informed attitude is to be exceedingly skeptical of GW. This isn’t because of our scientific knowledge, but because of the political company that GW keeps. That’s not scientific and we know it, which is why we stay out of the debate.”

    As you knowm, the scientist in me forces me to disagree with something, so I’d change GW to AGW to emphasize the “anthropogenic” part. AIUI, GW itself is as undeniable as gravity.

  24. “We’ll keep an open mind on the science of GW — it may be real. But even if there is an actual climate problem, we’re not open-minded about the proposed governmental “solution.” If free enterprise can’t solve the situation, then it can’t be solved — and we’re toast. So be it.”

    The problem with letting the market solve the problem is that first “the market” i.e. people have to accept that GW is happening and that it’s at least in part man-made (and that we should do something against it). Only then will people want to buy products and demand energy sources with a low “CO2 cost” and only then will it be advantageous for companies to reduce their CO2 emissions.

    But if half the public doesn’t accept the science behind GW then the free market can’t do its job and political means as proposed by Democrats become necessary.
    So, ironically, the Republicans, by promoting climate change denial, are actively blocking the very same reaction of the free market that they say would solve the problem just as well as governmental action.
    Sad, really.

  25. Frank J says:

    I’d change GW to AGW to emphasize the “anthropogenic” part. AIUI, GW itself is as undeniable as gravity.

    Maybe so, and I don’t deny it. But to duck taking a position even there I just labeled it all “GW.” However, while reading your comment a thought flashed — which may be worthless, but here goes.

    I see an analogy (a weak one) between the global warming gang and the nuclear disarmament gang. They were hot stuff during the Cold War.

    Yes, bombs are bad, yes, radiation sickness is nasty stuff, yes, we wouldn’t want to be nearby when a bomb exploded, but … we can’t disarm in a dangerous world. Nice science, but it’s being used to generate fear, which is then exploited for an unwelcome political purpose.

    Afterthought: I like this well enough that I embellished it a bit (tossing in the almost forgotten “nuclear winter” movement too), and then I inserted it into the main post as an addendum.

  26. JLT says:

    The problem with letting the market solve the problem is that first “the market” i.e. people have to accept that GW is happening and that it’s at least in part man-made …

    That’s probably true for people to buy goods they otherwise wouldn’t choose, but it’s not at all true generally. For example, using nuclear energy to generate electric power would solve a huge part of our oil and gas problem. I’ve read that there are about 100 nuclear power plants currently operating in the US. I doubt that most of the customers of those utilities know or care about global warming. They just flip the light switch and go about their business. So as oil becomes increasingly expensive, or as oil-exporting nations become increasingly hostile, nuclear power becomes an attractive market choice. No Al Gore brainwashing required.

  27. “So as oil becomes increasingly expensive, or as oil-exporting nations become increasingly hostile, nuclear power becomes an attractive market choice. No Al Gore brainwashing required.”

    Agreed – and if Republicans argued that nuclear power plants are necessary to counter global warming maybe more people would accept it. And it would have the additional benefit of being actually true (or at least scientifically sound).

  28. retiredsciguy

    Curmy,
    This is such a good post and comment string that there should be some way to keep it at the front page of your site, rather buried in the “Older entries”.

  29. retiredsciguy, thanks. I could make it a “sticky” so it would stay on top, but I’ve never done that. I think visitors would assume that there wasn’t anything new since then. Instead, I’m going to add it to that box in the margin titled: “Curmudgeon’s Best.” Those always get hits.

  30. So, after reading all the above – and I agree with Curmudgeon’s attitude, I still don’t know what to make of Al Gore – he does seem somewhat cataclysmic and therefore not evolution oriented.. Is he a creationist -

    A little ole’ lady of 81 still trying to figure things out

  31. Beilla Gans says: “A little ole’ lady of 81 still trying to figure things out”

    Lemme know when you succeed. I’d like to figure things out too.

  32. “A huge part of our oil & gas consumption is for generating power.”

    Very little oil is used to generate electricity.

    Though you are correct about natural gas.

    My source is the eia.doe.gov which used to have good pie charts but now they’re scaled to illegibility (I blame Obama of course ;-) and one of the interesting things is that President George W. Bush (all by himself of course!) cut the percentage of power generated from oil *in half* from 3% to 1.5%.

  33. D R Lindberg

    You seem to be confusing the question whether AGW is happening with the question of what we should do about it. Not being an American I don’t pay much attention to Gore and co., but I keep hearing evidence from all directions of the seriousness of the problem. Just because you may not like one or another group’s proposed solutions is no reason to ignore the evidence of the problem.

    If anyone has the patience, I found this lecture illuminating with respect to the politics:

    Cheers!