I don’t know the statistics on this, but it seems to me that, at least in the United States, there are quite a few people who, on religious grounds, don’t accept the theory of evolution, and are pretty doubtful that the Earth is billions of years old. I’m guessing that these same folks would be likely to think that the idea of humans causing the climate to change (anthropogenic global warming, or AGW) is untrue, or not important. Because of this, I feel I should say a few words about the supposed conflict between the Bible and science on Earth Day.
I have heard it said that if you deny the literal interpretation of Genesis, six day creation and all, that you take apart the foundation of the faith, that you will end up with a completely liberalized, and therefore meaningless, religion. I don’t see it.
I am not out to change anyone’s religious faith. I have enough trouble with my own, thank you. What you believe is what you believe, based on whatever is meaningful to you. But if you base your religious beliefs on a quasi-scientific literal reading of the Bible, you are on shaky ground. You are going to have to decide exactly which passages are to be taken literally, and which are poetic or allegorical, for one thing. No matter how theologians try to parse it, the Genesis creation account strikes me as a quaint, poetic story.
In my opinion, if you want a safe, secure faith (unlike my own), you should base it on spiritual things rather than trying to wage a battle with scientific studies. Otherwise, you have those pesky facts messing up your nice dogma. The thing is, science is always changing, based on new discoveries. We find out Newton’s theory of gravity doesn’t explain a new observation? No problem, we can modify the theory to better explain the facts. Nobody goes to hell as a result, we just understand the world a little better.
Faith operates in a different sphere. You don’t have to change your religious faith because you find out that light travels at a constant velocity, or you find dinosaur fossils, or you discover measurements that indicate a changing climate. Your faith should only change because of spiritual influences in your life that make you grow, or shake your complacency.
When I get on my soapbox about AGW, I’m not implying any religious consequences. I will let others worry about eternity and all that. I’m only talking about our Earth, and only for the next several hundred years. And I only talk about it because I’m concerned about our children, and their children.
There are moral implications of what we do, of how we react to scientific discoveries. Will God come to us in the person of Jesus and hold us accountable for the state of the Garden he entrusted to us? I don’t know. I do know that our grandchildren will hold us accountable for the damaged environment they inherit from us. I care about that.