During a Chautauqua short course on climate change I looked for critiques of the recent (March 2013) assessment by the chief admiral of the Pacific fleet who said that the biggest military threats would be a result of climate change. I "struck gold" when I came across a carefully-worded statement on the Heritage Foundation's website that was part of a long chain of harsh comments against the admiral. Although a majority of the comments on that website attacked the "liberal" viewpoint of the admiral because of his statement, despite the fact that he did not say what was the cause for the current climate change, this carefully-worded comment enacapsulated at least six of the most common denials of global warming in one succint paragraph. In that paragraph is one sentence that particularly struck me as a scientist who is also an active practicioner of the Christian faith. The sentence that is simply wrong theologically is "only Nature knows when the next warming will be." My reply to that is, "Using our Nature-given reasoning we have developed ways to figure out many of the rules that Nature used to make this wonderful world such a nice place to live." Let me explain what I mean by this using the central statements in the Bible.
First of all, let's be clear that by "Nature" with a capital "N", the person was using the word as code for "God", a word that has unfortunately become politically-charged in our overly-sensitive society. My use of "Nature" in my reply simply echoes the original statement but you and I both know that I mean God. Because I value honesty, I am not going to use code words---honesty is viewed as a virtue in science as well as in religion. Also, because I come out of the faith tradition that is the predominant one in the United States, I will use the scriptures of the Bible in what follows.
Our ability to reason, to rationally think things through logically, is a gift. This gift of reason is part of the way that we were made in the image of God, that we can properly take charge of (have dominion over) "the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and everything crawling on the ground." (Genesis 1:27-28) In the second creation story of the Bible, we see that God put humanity in the garden to farm it and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15) Using our God-given reasoning, we study our world carefully so that we CAN take care of it. This is the motivation for many religiously-minded people who study nature carefully (those who are called scientists).
The Ten Commandments in the first part of the Bible form the basis of much of our legal system and they so well-known that even those who are not part of a faith community know some of them or have heard of them. The Ten Commandments are so important that they are found in two places in the Bible: in Exodus and in Deuteronomy, so I will reference both places. As a way of honoring God and following the first two of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-4 and Deuteronomy 5:7-8), we strive to understand the rules and processes God created to make this planet work the way it does. We also strive to understand the rules and processes God created so that we do not accidentally cause the death of other people (Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17) or steal from others (Exodus 20:14 and Deuteronomy 5: 19) by ruining their food, water, and other resources they need to live or take more than our fair share of this God-given world (Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronoy 5:21).
Finally, this all can be summarized by saying that God-minded scientists (no, that is not an oxymoron) study the world God created in order to follow the two greatest commandments given by Jesus the Christ in Mark 12:28-31 and restated in Matthew 22:37-39 and Luke 10:25-28: love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. We strive to understand the world God said was good as a way to worship the world's creator: to love God and to love all those who God loves. When we pollute the Earth or mess up the natural balances God created for all to have clean, abundant water and food through our ignorance or greed, we violate all of these commandments. In order to figure out how we can live responsibly within this creation, we have developed ways to figure out many of the rules of nature, created by God, that make this wonderful world such a nice place to live for us and those generations that follow us.
last updated: May 27, 2013