Selective Skepticism

Glenn Loury inspired this post.

Have you noticed that skepticism about climate change is unacceptable?

Skepticism of man-made global warming is high among pastors, especially younger ones, according to a 2013 poll from LifeWay Research. Just 19 percent of pastors ages 18 to 44 agree with the statement, “I believe global warming is real and man made.”

The Christian right has been actively promoting climate change skepticism, especially on Christian radio and television, said Robin Globus Veldman, a religious studies professor at Iowa State University who is working on a book on evangelicals and climate change.

“Environmentalists were caught in the crossfire because they were positioned on the other side of the aisle and tend to be less religious,” Veldman said. “They started to be described as allied with the people who were trying to push Christianity out of the public square.”

But skepticism about the U.S. criminal justice system is acceptable:

Long after the facts of the case have been parsed and forgotten, long after Mike Brown t-shirts are faded and Darren Wilson rides off into a sunset that still hides George Zimmerman, there will be a record.

And if written correctly, it will tell the story of a people who refused to let America run from her promise of justice and equal protection under the law; citizens who used every awful tragedy, every imperfect victim, every messy media firestorm, every conflicting account, every questionable death, every chance it got to scream a truth that it knows deep in its bones: the police state is dangerous and unequal.

So, dear lions. Those of you black, brown, female, gay, poor, and oppressed; those feared and hunted by a system that won’t recognize its flaws, commit now to being historians. Tell and claim the parts of the Ferguson story that didn’t make it into the President’s remarks or McCulloch’s recap or the 24 hour news coverage.

If we do this, history will undoubtedly show what the state never has: that black lives – and all lives – matter.

Is the difference the result of Americans’ greater esteem for scientists compared to their regard for the professionals who comprise the criminal justice system (attorneys, police officials, judges, legislators, governors, POTUS)? Do Americans distrust people involved with law more than those who do science? Like so many answers, this one is complicated. Americans and scientists often do not see eye-to-eye on a number of matters of public debate:

A majority of the general public (57%) says that genetically modified (GM) foods are generally unsafe to eat, while 37% says such foods are safe; by contrast, 88% of AAAS scientists say GM foods are generally safe. The gap between citizens and scientists in seeing GM foods as safe is 51 percentage points. This is the largest opinion difference between the public and scientists.

Citizens are closely divided over animal research: 47% favor and 50% oppose the use of animals in scientific research.1 By contrast, an overwhelming majority of scientists (89%) favor animal research. The difference in the share favoring such research is 42 percentage points.

In some areas, like energy, the differences between the groups do not follow a single direction — they can vary depending on the specific issue. For example, 52% of citizens favor allowing more offshore drilling, while fewer AAAS scientists (32%), by comparison, favor increased drilling. The gap in support of offshore drilling is 20 percentage points. But when it comes to nuclear power, the gap runs in the opposite direction. Forty-five percent of citizens favor building more nuclear power plants, while 65% of AAAS scientists favor this idea.

The only one of 13 issues compared where the differences between the two groups are especially modest is the space station. Fully 64% of the public and 68% of AAAS scientists say that the space station has been a good investment for the country; a difference of four percentage points.

So if Americans and scientists are divided on lots of questions, why feature evangelicals’ skepticism about climate change? I wouldn’t have anything to do with the mantra that 81% voted for Donald Trump.

Some of This and More of That

Rabbi Bret explains why short of theonomy, even transformationalists like the Baylys are guilty of two-kingdom thinking:

. . . the Bayly’s are victims of compartmentalized thinking. They seem to think that one can have a Constitutional objection or financial objection that isn’t at the same time a theological connection. Would someone mind introducing me to an objection, that at its root, isn’t theological?

Let’s take the Constitutional objection. The Baylys admit that they may have a Constitutional objection that is somehow cordoned off from a theological objection. Now, presuming that the Baylys are here suggesting that they object to paying social security tax because they believe that the Constitution doesn’t make provision for it how is that not at the same time a theological objection? Theologically we are to give taxes to whom taxes are due (Romans 13:7) but if the King is asking for taxes that is not his due (i.e. – social security tax) given the law of the land as expressed in the Constitution then suddenly I immediately also have a theological reason to not pay social security taxation. My Constitutional reason not to pay the social security tax flows out of my theological reason not to pay the social security tax. When Government demands taxes (governments never “ask” for taxes) that are not its due then the Government is engaged in theft, which is a violation of the 8th commandment. What began as a Constitutional issue, when traced back to its origin, has found its theological source.

Apparently evangelical arguments against porn are now retreading arguments against alcohol – both alter brain cells. I wonder if there is a cure for testosterone. I know of one – aging.

John Fea thinks the Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey is a reason for breaking with evangelicalism. I can think of other reasons but many thanks for additional ammunition.

This review of David VanDrunen’s new book on bio-ethics may be instructive for those who think that two-kingdom theology and natural law are just so much pie-in-the-sky rationalizations of the status quo. Rated BBW (for Baylys Be Warned, with love, of course). Bill Edgar, the reviewer, writes:

In the opening chapter VanDrunen compares several possible Christian attitudes toward participation in public healthcare. He concludes that, although the world’s agendas are often different, even at loggerheads with the biblical approach, Christians need to be active in healthcare, if only because we are called to defend God’s justice in a hostile environment. More positively, as VanDrunen articulately demonstrates, cultural activities are still enjoined, alongside the duty to proclaim the gospel.

And for those old enough to remember “2001: A Space Odyssey,” this graphic on the creation of the Space Station may bring back bad memories, not to mention Chicken Little-like fears about what happens when this mass of gadgets falls out of its orbit.