Climate change: Part 7. Science and faith

I WAS IN STARBUCKS IN LUBBOCK, CLOSE TO TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY. Waiting for a woman I had never met. I told her I was tall and with a gray beard. After sipping a decaf mocha frappe, she tapped me on the shoulder and I stood and shook hands.

She was young (at least compared to me) with brown hair, attractive, and her face held a perpetual smile. Her voice and movements were filled with enthusiasm. She had just flown in from Wisconsin, where she had given a talk about the intersection of faith and climate change.

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Dr Hayhoe speaking on the conflict model.

She opened her laptop and showed me a picture of Science in one circle and Faith in a second circle. The two circles were not touching. She said a lot of people believe that Science and Faith are incompatible (she called it the conflict model). I nodded because the new atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne, say this all the time.

Then she showed another picture in which the two circles overlap a bit. This, she said, means science and faith are complementary ways of knowing. She talked about this for a while, then added from her Wisconsin talk a few slides which included climate change.

I was fascinated by her knowledge of climate change and how she integrated this with her faith. Dr Katharine Hayhoe is a climate scientist at Texas Tech in the department of Political Science. She was raised as a “missionary kid” to use her own words, originally from Canada, but who grew up in Columbia in South America. As a Christian, her Bible-based spiritual beliefs are deep.

She departed, and I wished the time hadn’t gone so fast. I was hungry for more. Two weeks later, she addressed students and faculty of Oral Roberts University (ORU) in Tulsa. Her topic was Climate change: Facts, fiction, and faith.

I was invited by the convenor of Dr Hayhoe’s presentation, Dr John Korstad, who had previously invited me to speak on Fracking and Global Warming to his Sustainability classes at ORU (click HERE for a link to that.) 

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Dr Hayhoe speaking at Oral Roberts University in April 2019.

• If we believe that God created the Bible and science than these two shouldn’t be incompatible.
• The industrial revolution starting in the mid-1850s has boosted our quality of life (200 years ago life expectancy was only 40 years). And burning of fossil fuels allowed this to happen. Fossil fuels replaced slavery in the form of coal-miners polluted by coal-dust, women taking an entire day to work in the home (e.g. washing clothes by hand), and child slavery in the fields.
• But fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) have negatives. E.g. air pollution kills about 9 million people each year.
• Fossil fuels are the main cause of global warming. But we can’t just pull the fossil fuel plug because renewable energy cannot carry the load. The transition will take decades.
• Climate is different from weather. Weather is all about local variations on a daily basis. Climate is weather averaged over the long-term (many years).
• There are over 26,000 indicators that our planet is warming. Climate change exacerbates many climate risks: wildfires have doubled in recent history especially in California in 2018 (see my report HERE), floods have doubled and they are now caused by super-storms (see my report HERE). 

• Elaine Ecklund, a sociologist, took a poll of US scientists and found that half of them held spiritual beliefs and the majority of those were Christian beliefs. Dr Hayhoe took her own poll at the University of Oklahoma in Norman and found that 70% identified as Christians.
• God has given Christians responsibility for people, animals and plants (see Genesis 1 quoted at bottom of this blog). This includes caring for fellow man – the great commandment: “Love God; and love your neighbor as yourself.” Our neighbor includes the poor and the vulnerable (see my reports HERE and HERE on what it means to be a Good Samaritan.) 
• The movie called Wilberforce shows that Wilberforce, a Christian in the English parliament, was instrumental in banning slavery.
• Food waste – one third of our food is thrown out in the USA – is the third-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas that causes global warming).
• The poorest people in third-world countries will be most affected by climate change in the form of heat waves and floods (recall a hurricane flood about a month ago in Namibia in Africa). See HERE my report on Hurricane Irma which wiped out Puerto Rico. 

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Dr Hayhoe talking about our responsibilities to care for the planet and all living things.

I’m thankful for my interactions with Dr Hayhoe. I found her enthusiasm for both science and God to be inspiring.

Dr Hayhoe’s website can be found HERE

Dr Hayhoe also recommended two other websites: Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (you have to be under thirty), and Project Drawdown that discusses solutions to global warming.

PS: I write blogs about three topics: Health and Hiking, and Inspiration and Hope, and Science and Energy.
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The Gray Nomad ….. Read and stay informed.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
[Genesis, chapter 1, NIV].

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Don Compton
Don Compton
5 years ago

Thank you for this info on climate change from Dr Hayhoe. As a Christian, I know that we are to be good stewards of planet earth. But as an individual the question arises: what can I do to make a difference?

I can recycle trash and keep auto emissions down. But I can’t stop the burning of forests in South America, or China’s vast burning of coal, etc.

What do you suggest an average individual do about climate change?

Julian Pfitzner
Julian Pfitzner
5 years ago

Well done, Ian. Your continuing blogs about climate change are valuable and thoughtful. The Australian Conservation Foundation has ranked the three main parties in our Federal election on 18 May on their policies to effectively address climate change. One gets 4 out of 100, one gets 56 out of 100 and the third gets 96 out of 100. I shall be voting for the third party! I feel that it is my Christian duty.

David Burnett
5 years ago

Good story Ian. Keep it up!
Dave Burnett

John Korstad
John Korstad
5 years ago

Thank you for sharing all of this Ian. It was wonderful seeing you at Dr. Hayhoe’s talk. I appreciate you! Blessings, John

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