What Do Darwinism and ‘Climate Change’ Have in Common?
"Leslie Kaufman in the New York Times reports on budding initiatives in state legislatures and boards of education to encourage or require balance in classroom discussions of global warming. The point of the piece, though, is to connect the teaching of evolution to the climate change debate:
Critics of the teaching of evolution in the nation’s classrooms are gaining ground in some states by linking the issue to global warming, arguing that dissenting views on both scientific subjects should be taught in public schools.
Now when I read anything on the environment in the New York Times, I try to keep a couple of deconstructionist qualifiers running in the back of my head: “This is what the New York Times wants me to believe about the issue” and “What are they trying to accomplish with this piece?” I know it’s cynical, but when it comes to environmental stories, I just don’t trust New York Times reporters to keep it straight.
Some things they want to accomplish with this piece:
(1) Divide and conquer skeptics of global warming orthodoxy and Darwinism, by painting the latter as ignorant religious zealots, in hopes of starting a fight among conservatives. No doubt they’re hoping that, say, Richard Lindzen will have to explain why he agrees with those nefarious creationists on the global warming issue, and that he’ll have to spend his time issuing statements of agreement with evolution.
(2) Make it harder for official bodies to encourage critical thinking on global warming, since attempts to do the same with regard to evolution have, in recent years, met with fierce resistance and only modest success.
This becomes clear by reading the story in its entirety. Kaufman is careful to describe the whole thing as a plot by evangelicals and fundamentalists that, in the words of Lawrence Krauss, is designed to cast “doubt on the veracity of science—to say it is just one view of the world, just another story, no better or more valid than fundamentalism.”
Then, to prevent alienating all religious readers, Kaufman explains: “Not all evangelical Christians reject the notion of climate change, of course.” So we get the usual quote from an evangelical who thinks the Bible agrees with the New York Times. Enter Rev. Jim Ball of the Evangelical Environmental Network as an example of how to be a good evangelical.
There’s so much to say about this piece, but let’s me pursue just one question: Is the debate over “evolution” the same as the debate over “climate change”?
Well, I think they’re both alike and different. First, the similarities, which I think are mostly sociological:
*Both issues suffer from “semantic creep,” which tends to prevent rational discussion.
So a vague word like “evolution” can range in meaning from the trivial and tautological—change over time and survival of the fittest—to the uncontroversial—certain organisms share common ancestors and natural selection explains some things—to the questionable and ideological—everything is the result of a purely impersonal process, we don’t exist for a purpose, we’re just carriers for selfish genes, natural selection and random genetic mutations explain everything interesting, and so forth. If you doubt the latter, you get lumped in with doubting the former.Similarly, instead of debating specifics about global warming—Are humans the main cause of the recent warming trend in global temperatures? Would the Kyoto Protocol" (more...)