Creationism and climate – birth of a new pseudoscience

The usual creationist nonsense is just tedious. But creationist “climate science” is toxic, disastrous in its implications for policy, and frighteningly well-connected politically

Major eventDate (using Ussher)1
Creation4004 BC
Curse4004 BC (Day 10 after creation)
Global Flood2348 BC
Tower Babel2242 BC
Egypt beganAfter 2242 BC but prior to Abraham going to Egypt (Genesis 12)
Call of Abraham1922 BC
Ice Age peak1848 BC (500 years after the Flood)
Time of the Judges (Moses was first)1491 BC (God appearing to Moses in the burning bush)
Time of the Kings (Saul was the first)1095 BC
Split kingdom975 BC
Christ was born~4 BC
Timeline of major events, according to Answers in Genesis

We are all too familiar with creationist life science (theory of kinds) and creationist Earth science (Flood geology). As I explain in an article at 3 Quarks Daily, recent decades have seen the emergence of a creationist climate science, which is a direct attack on the “secular” climate science of climate change. Creationist climate science rejects, as it must, the palaeoclimatology that helped establish the existence of positive climate feedbacks, and from this draws the inference that our present concern about human effects on climate is unbiblical, unscientific, and exaggerated. This fits in directly with the agendas of the organisations opposing fossil fuel restraint, and even involves some of the same people. We need to pay attention.

Creationists cannot avoid accepting a single Ice Age, which they have to regard as more recent than Noah’s Flood. So with great imagination they have devised theories that make the Ice Age an actual consequence of the Flood, and in the process they come to believe that their own theories are biblical. They can then call into play the entire creationist rhetorical apparatus, invoking arguments about biblical versus secular, God’s word versus man’s word, and a conspiracy of secular scientists deliberately hoodwinking the public by ignoring the biblical evidence.

But it is this secular science that lies behind our models of the climatic effects of human activity. In particular, the ability of the Milankovitch cycles to cause such large changes in Ice Age climate shows the existence of positive feedbacks, as further confirmed by detailed ice core studies. The creationists, whom we must not to dismiss as ignorant or ill informed, are well aware of this, and draw the implication that the appeal to positive feedbacks is an artefact of the secularist viewpoint, and should be rejected. They argue from this that current concerns about where the climate is going are misplaced. As I show in my 3QD article, all this is explicitly spelt out in the creationist literature, which links directly to the Cornwall Alliance’s climate change denial literature. This is no accident. The director of the Cornwall Alliance is an active contributor to Answers in Genesis, and the right wing political philosopher Jay W. Richards, who over at the Discovery Institute pours scorn on evolution science and global warming concerns alike, is a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and a former adviser to Cornwall.

For all these reasons, I regard creationist climate science as a much more pressing threat than the usual annoying creationist nonsense. How should we respond?

Milankovitch cycles and climate
420,000 years of ice core data from Vostok, Antarctica, research station. Current period is at left. From bottom to top: insolation at 65°N due to Milankovitch cycles (connected to 18O); 18O isotope of oxygen; levels of methane (CH4); relative temperature; levels of carbon dioxide (CO2). From Wikimedia Commons, public domain

This post first appeared at PandasThumb. Fuller version at 3 Quarks Daily

About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on October 13, 2022, in Climate, Creationism, Global warming, Politics, Religion and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. If it is any comfort, there is a strong move among evangelical Christians to endorse “creation care”. They argue for environmentally responsible policies (including addressing climate change) from biblical principles. see e.g. https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2022/08/30/evangelicals-climate-change-bible/ They may have a better shot at reaching the creationist base than anything secular outlets could do.
    And as an evangelical insider, I can say the under age 40 crowd takes a generally dim view of creationism, and even dimmer view of climate change denial.
    That said, if you very explicitly but diplomatically take some creationist article that is wrong on the facts, and show what the truth is, you never know who might wander through and look at your article and have their mind cracked open a bit wider to truth. As with our attempts to correct young earth and anti-evolution teachings, it is hard to know how much gets through to the folks who most need to hear it.
    I think our credibility is enhanced by trying to give a balanced presentation that acknowledges the concerns of the other side, to the extent they have any validity. For instance, prematurely shutting down fossil fuel production before the alternatives are in place may be a bad idea, and may backfire to discredit the whole green agenda.

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    • Of course, “prematurely shutting down fossil fuel production” is not a good idea. Note, however, that this is question-begging language. What is premature, what is overdue, what level of discomfort should we tolerate, and what alternatives are acceptable? But I absolutely agree with you that with climate change, much as with evolution, it is vital to find and link arms with evangelical Christian allies.

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