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Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, seen here discussing Bible citations in his new book on the "hoax" of climate change science:
Inhofe: Well actually the Genesis 8:22 that I use [in the book] is that ‘as long as the earth remains there will be seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night,’ my point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous. [...]

I would say that the other Scripture that I use quite frequently on this subject is Romans 1:25, ‘They give up the truth about God for a lie and they worship God’s creation instead of God, who will be praised forever.’ In other words, they are trying to say we should worship the creation. We were reminded back in Romans that this was going to happen and sure enough it’s happening.

Of all of the arguments made against the science of climate change, I find the ones based on Biblical assertion to be the most ... malevolent. There are people who believe that all of climate change science is one vast conspiracy, a theory constructed around the premise that scientists or politicians have somehow plotted out a secret financial stake in making people believe the planet is getting warmer. There are those that acknowledge it is getting warmer, but refuse to agree that human activity could possibly be playing a role. Then there are those that simply state that God would not allow any of it to happen, so there. Inhofe himself I believe falls into all three camps. I have no idea if he honestly believes these things or just has decided, cart before horse, that his politics demand he believe them. It is the Bible-thumping that bothers me the most, though. The shallowness, the dismissive assertion of knowing God's will, the misuse of passages to mean things very far afield indeed from the actual text.

Getting into an argument with such people is a futile effort. It is their ultimate trump card for any situation; you are wrong because God says so. Or, to put it more precisely, you are wrong because I say God says so. There's no competing with that. If someone has a direct line from their brain to God, no matter how obviously questionable the contents of the rest of that addled mind of theirs might seemingly render their God-interpreting skills, then you might as well give up the argument, right? That is, after all, their intention. If they cannot convince you based on science, or logic, or a doorstop's worth of common sense, then maybe ascribing all their own dismal little opinions to God Himself will get you to shut up already. It is, as I said, malevolent. It is also virulent: what James Inhofe has created as God in his own dismal brain is meaningless, but when he sends it out to preach to others, the goal is to convert others to the same level of mean-spiritedness, and pettiness, and shallow thinking.

In this mindset, believing that certain chemical reactions can take place in the atmosphere is anti-Christian. Measuring global temperatures and coming to conclusions is ignoring the Word of God. Rejectors of climate science have been called many things, but that particular version of it is Flat Eartherism, period, full stop. It is the mindset that got Galileo in trouble a very, very long time ago for the great sin of Knowing Things. It is anti-science, and anti-knowledge, by definition. It is also anti-pretty-much-anything-else you can think of. If you can reject a scientific conclusion simply by asserting that God says otherwise, where does it end? Does the earth truly revolve around the sun? Does the moon actually exist, or is it merely a spirit-light? What is James Inhofe's religious opinion on the Second Law of Thermodynamics? What about relativity theory? Dinosaurs: fact, or trick of the devil? There is no damn end to it. I despise it. I despise it very, very deeply, and it gives me a pain between the eyes to even contemplate it. I despise it for the pettiness. I despise it for the transparent selectivity as to which science is "acceptable" and which is "evil." I despise it for making my own faith an embarrassing thing by mere association.

(Continue reading below the fold)

If you are going to do rhetorical battle with a God-botherer (here defined as someone who has created a nice little God in their own image, for apparent exclusive use as cudgel for their perceived enemies), you can only hope to do so on their terms. Even that will not get very far, but considering that atheists and agnostics are dismissed before they ever open their mouths, accepting their own words at face value is the only starting point that will get you anywhere at all. (I am for some reason reminded yet again here of the time that I, as a child, professed to a rotund, ostentatiously religious lady that I owned a pet snake. Doesn't it bother me, she asked in alarm, because the Devil appeared to Eve as a snake? Um, no. No, I can't say that the thought ever came up. There are many issues involved with owning a pet snake, but I cannot say that being wary of possible devil possession ever made it onto the pet care checklist. Yes, these people do exist. They believe that two(*) of every species on the planet went onto the ark, and that Noah sacrificed more than a few of the kosher ones when he reached dry land but the remaining widowed animals reproduced just fine, thank you very much, and they believe that Noah brought snakes aboard as well but that he maybe shouldn't have because they can't be trusted not to trick you into eating Apples of Inappropriate Knowledge, and I am just going to curl up and weep softly to myself now, thank you very much.)

(*Edit: A reader correctly reminds me that Noah brought more than two of each 'clean' animal aboard, thus allowing for the proper post-flood BBQ. Hey, he was 600 years old, but Noah wasn't completely senile.)

Where was I? Ah yes, the Bible. The Old Testament, specifically, which is where every good Christian goes for their Godly advice without having it filtered through that pesky Christ. The Genesis passage that gives climate theologians blanket assurance that never again will God attempt to snuff out every last living thing on the planet because he was peeved at mankind, and so we can pump whatever we damn well like out of our fine Christian smokestacks and nothing we do will make a damn bit of difference. Here is how Inhofe put it, again:

"[T]he Genesis 8:22 that I use [...] is that ‘as long as the earth remains there will be seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night,’ my point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous."
The verse in question is God's promise to a 600-year-old Noah (because it was the olden days, when 600 years counted as being middle-aged) that he would never again send a flood or otherwise kill off humanity, because after the flood had receded Noah made a bonfire of some of the remaining animals and God liked the smell. I'm being serious, look it up. (It also represents the first day on earth to feature light refraction, which raises an entire other set of questions. Or it is an origin fable not to be taken 100 percent literally—you know, whichever seems more likely.)

What strikes me here is that I am not sure how the denial that humans can change the fabric of the earth works out in any other context. It was a given, during the Cold War, that humans could absolutely change the face of the planet. We could turn it into a radioactive hellscape, and it would not even take all that great an effort. Satellite images clearly demonstrate the exact rate at which human beings can and do level entire ecosystems. Could humans, say, burn a city entirely to the ground? Of course. Could humanity working together burn every city last in the world to the ground, if they put their minds to it? Of course.

Inhofe uses the ancient canard of condemning mankind for presuming to be able to do things; it is wonderfully perverse, and can be used for anything. How dare mankind believe he can circumnavigate the entire vast globe! How dare he try to understand basic biology—or, later on, invent medicines that thwart God's decision that a great number of people ought to suffer horrible, meaningless deaths from polio! How dare mankind think they can travel to the moon, or send crude contraptions beyond the bounds of the very solar system! How dare mankind think he can destroy the entire world, either via nuclear arsenal or, perhaps even worse, through collective accident.

This promise to Noah is the cornerstone of climate theology, but even on the theologian's own terms it does not say what the God-botherers claim it to. God promised Noah He would never destroy all life on earth. He never said He'd keep us from doing it. Inhofe's logic is akin to firing a gun at someone and presuming God will stop the bullet.

Warnings of pollution's role in climate change, however, do not even base themselves on a presumption that every living thing would be killed by the results. That is unlikely in the extreme. The far more likely scenario, the one actual scientists are talking about, but which James Inhofe cannot wrap his extraordinarily hollow head around, is that the effects of climate change may very well be not to our liking. A more acidic ocean that can support substantially less life; higher sea levels that result in more severe coastal flooding, rainbows or no rainbows; climate shifts that render our farmlands less productive, and current rainfall less predictable, and cascading effects that happen more speedily than plants or animals of any given area can possibly adapt to. A wreck, in other words. Humans will still be here, but our crops may not grow as well, or at least not in as many places. The rest of creation might be subject to extinctions, near-extinctions, or vastly miserable times, but nature will go on with a lot more resilience than the people of James Inhofe's Oklahoma might be able to muster. Imagine a dust bowl that lasts for a few centuries, and contemplate what James Inhofe's grandson will find himself the senator of.

As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest will come. Doesn't say we'll like the results. Cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. Yes, the earth will continue to spin on its axis. Nobody is disputing that. There will still be temperatures, and seasons, and by golly, even night.

This is what I find so maddening about the climate theologists' argument. Even as self-contained logic, it makes no sense. Even their most cherished passages don't say what they claim them to. Bible literalists are the rottenest people I have ever met at actually taking text literally (much like the people who most often profess to love the Constitution are commonly people who know the least about what it contains.) Watching "literalists" torture Bible verses to death in order to extract their supposed meanings does not even make for good sport. It is just depressing. And while James Inhofe condemns others for the audacity to think humans can change the planet, even while we quite obviously change it every single day, I find his notion that we can do whatever the hell we like to God's creation because God will come bail us all out at the end of the day to be pronouncedly more audacious.

That is the second major tenet of climate theology. Inhofe does us the favor of mentioning it in the very same interview, even though he has to go to the considerably less cited New Testament to do it. Don't worry, though, there's still very little Jesus involved:

I would say that the other Scripture that I use quite frequently on this subject is Romans 1:25, ‘They give up the truth about God for a lie and they worship God’s creation instead of God, who will be praised forever.’ In other words, they are trying to say we should worship the creation. We were reminded back in Romans that this was going to happen and sure enough it’s happening.
If you are a Bible reader or, let us suppose, merely the slightest bit literate, you might recognize this passage as a rather run of the mill condemnation of paganism. This would be supported by reading the surrounding text, which is about the same thing. And the title "Romans", implying that perhaps the subject at hand is Paul preaching to the sinful slutty Romans of the time, and maybe also the bit just before that verse about exchanging "the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles." No matter: to a Biblical scholar like the Reverend Senator James Inhofe, this passage is about the damn environmentalists. By having objections to paving over nature wholesale, dumping nasty gases into the atmosphere that we just happen to breathe ourselves, and in general killing anything we come across if we can make a buck doing it, you see, environmentalists are worshiping the environment, and that's just wrong.

The broader theology involved goes like this: God gave mankind dominion over the world. Therefore, it's ours, and we can wreck the place. Not just can, but should, because God didn't like all that nature stuff anyhow.

Astute readers will recognize this logic as being the logic of a small child having a rotten, raving tantrum:

"I know you're angry, dear, but be careful with that toy, if you keep banging it on things you're going to break it."


"Listen here you little pipsqueak, I freaking KNOW you care if it breaks, because up until thirty seconds ago that was your favorite toy on the planet, and if you break it in half over the edge of our dining room table, you and I both know full well that you're be screaming to me to buy you another one thirty seconds after that and making both our lives miserable until I agree to either do it or stuff you in a closet until your sixteenth birthday. So don't break your @#$@^% toy already."

Or something like that. As a parent, I plead the Fifth.

Again, this is a theology I simply do not understand. God says you don't need clean air or God says he doesn't give a crap whether elephants exist is not really a frame of logic I can follow even within a strictly religious context. That does not sound like the sort of thing God would say to me (probably because my connection to God is considerably more spotty than that of James Inhofe, whose every legislative and corporate whim God seems to support wholeheartedly, at least if Inhofe is relaying the information correctly.)

Is it worshiping nature to not want mercury in the water supply? Is it worshiping nature to point out that the crash of certain fisheries is probably a very, very bad thing, considering the number of people who rely on those fisheries for food? I would think God would want people to be well fed and not poisoned—Inhofe would invariably disagree. I would think that God would want us to have a little respect for the planet He turned us loose on—apparently that is blasphemy, or maybe paganism, or at the very least tree-hugging. I can make no sense of it. Either James Inhofe is misusing a random passage of scripture to condemn those who want humanity to have a slightly nicer experience than James Inhofe has planned for us, or ... hmm. I am finding other possibilities difficult to parse out. I think there was something in that Bible somehow where Jesus pointed out that God even loves birds, though he loves people more. I didn't really consider it as advocating a bird-person battle to the death.

Yes, mea culpa; you may find this whole discussion spurious. I mostly do as well, but I still cannot quite get it out of my head.

There is something about the notion of climate theology that I find vastly more objectionable than mere anti-science denialism or conspiracy theories. It seeks to pitch religion against science, yet again, for yet another damn century of human existence, refuting entire realms of human progress on the simple assertion that God says so, and merely because the science suggests things that one generation or another has no interest in hearing about. Watching James Inhofe play the role of Inquisitor is a sight considerably more sickening than seeing him simply pander to greed or corruption. Seeing God used as a cudgel against knowledge—now that is infuriating. We should have been rid of dimwits like Inhofe a thousand years ago, but they still persist, and fester, and preach their little self-serving sermons. It is infuriating.

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