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Friday, January 20, 2012

Creationism, Climate Change, and the NCSE

A recent article from ScienceInsider asks, "Is climate change education the new evolution, threatened in U.S. school districts and state education standards by well-organized interest groups?" The National Center for Science Education believes so and has taken upon themselves the task of making sure that science teachers are sufficiently informed to teach "good climate science". Director Eugenie Scott, who is best known for promoting the teaching of evolution and fighting to quash legislative maneuvers that allow 'creationist' ideas in public schools, justified the new focus by highlighting similarities between skeptics of both evolution and climate change. She also notes that groups challenging current models of climate change are "more numerous and much better funded" than those battling evolution, and she anticipates tougher resistance to the new move.

Dr. Scott is not the first to draw a parallel between these two controversies, and her sentiments are unfortunately true. I noted in a previous post, for example, that although most skeptics of climate change are not creationists, 'climate-change skepticism' is a logical consequence for those who believe that scientists have grossly misinterpreted Earth history. A quick search on any young-Earth ministry site will demonstrate how tight the bond is, despite the fact that none of these organizations employ qualified climatologists (Michael Oard may be a close exception, but his analysis of the Greenland Ice Core belies his comprehension of paleoclimatology).

So how effective will NCSE's campaign be? Individuals and organizations that deal strictly with creationism have one advantage in that creationists are relatively uniform in their ideological premise. It is far more difficult to generalize about what causes people to doubt the scale of anthropogenic climate forcing than to understand why evangelicals struggle with human evolution. I am anxious, therefore, to see how NCSE decides to tackle the issue, and I hope they will be able to avoid divise and pejorative rhetoric like 'denialism'. Long ago, I stopped using NCSE as a resource on science/faith issues, not for any incompetence on their part but rather for their lack of compassion/empathy with creationists (perhaps they have improved since then?). When it comes to controversies such as evolution and climate change, it doesn't take long to clear out the pews so that preaching to the choir is your only option.


  1. One thing I've noticed about YEC ministries and their writings is that although they make much of the PhD qualified people on their staff, very few of these folk write from within their area of expertise; medical doctors write about climate change, civil engineers write about evolutionary genetics.
    And, viewed from my side of the Pond, it seems that an American audience prefers it that way.
    Some of the Republican candidates for the Presidency are speaking against 'elitism' and 'intellectualism'. It's almost as if some Americans would believe a scientist only if they were not claiming expert knowledge.
    I know there are exceptions but it does seem an odd phenomenon.

  2. Wonderfully said, thanks for your input. And I believe you're right. In America, there is a shift in credence toward educated skeptics, as though it's an advantage not to have any expertise in the field of which you are critical. I suspect this 'odd phenomenon' is not limited to our country, but the fact that presidential candidates are comfortable expressing the sentiment is proof enough that our culture is now accustomed to it.

  3. I think the guy who headed up the RATE team from ICR has a degree in Atmospheric science. So he might have something to say on it. Though I seem to recall that during a Q and A with Lisle, Hugh Ross, and Fuz Rana, he seemed generally open on AGW and conceded that while he felt climate was too complex to model adequately to make any dogmatic assertions, and he obviously would dispute the parts of the model with Old Earth "assumptions", he thought it probably that human activity could significantly impact global climate. In any case he didnt come across as entirely antagonistic toward the theory of AGW, but that was back in 05 I think and I dont know what ICR hs to say about it officially.