Climate Science, Ethics and Religion

Thanks to an insightful post at Climate Scepticism (here), we have a recent quote from former US President Obama:

“You have to believe in facts. Without facts there’s no basis for cooperation. If I say this is a podium and you say this is an elephant, it’s going to be hard for us to cooperate…I can’t find common ground if somebody says climate change is just not happening, when almost all of the world’s scientists tell us it is.”

This statement is the starting point for that poster to explore ways that even the most accomplished scientists have in the past shared beliefs that were valid only as fashionable at the time.  In this post, I want to consider first why a lawyer like Obama gets science wrong, and secondly to consider the moral and religious confusion regarding our climate.

Science is Trial And Error, not Case Law

In the legal world, cases are judged and rulings become precedent for later cases that arise.  Thus principles become established, settled facts for jurists to follow.  Scientists operate in a different world, one where experiments provide evidence that an assumption successfully predicts how things work in nature.  But that premise can be overturned by subsequent experiments, so scientific laws are always tentative.

A previous post Degrees of Climate Truth was based upon work by Andy May in discussing how climate assertions can be seen in various stages of development toward scientific truth.


In Table 1 we can see that the comparison of man-made climate change and the possibility of a man-made climate catastrophe are not really comparable to the theories of gravity and evolution. Man-made climate change is more than an idea, it is based on some observations and reasonable models of the process have been developed and can be tested. But, none of the models have successfully predicted any climatic events. Thus, they are still a work-in-progress and not admissible as evidence supporting a scientific theory.

Ethical and Religious Dimensions

Climate assertions come from people based on moral and religious frameworks.

This post is background to exploring the ethical and religious dimensions of the climate change movement. It is also important to recognize the human journey regarding morality.

Moral Models

The ethic of Good vs. Evil is a teleological paradigm, going all the way back to Plato, but still a reference for some today. This model asserts that values can be determined as eternal truths, applicable in all times and places.

Most people have moved to an ethic of Right vs. Wrong, a legal paradigm. Here morality is relative to a society that determines what is morally acceptable or not. And of course, there are variations both among different places, and within a single society over time.

Modern ethics has taken an additional step to an ethic of Responsibility vs. Irresponsibility, a contextual paradigm. Now moral behavior seeks the largest possible context: “the greatest good for the greatest number.” This can lead to some strange choices, such as suicide bombers or pro-life advocates who justify murdering abortion clinic doctors.  The perversion arises when an actor excludes some living things, or whole classes of creatures from the context of responsibility.

Summary: Climate Morality

Some climate activists/alarmists are operating with a good vs. evil model, in which their understanding of good separates people into sheep and goats.  Describing others as “deniers” shows this clearly.  And in the recent US senate supreme court nomination hearings we have an additional stark reminder that members of even advanced societies can seek to disqualify others as human beings, not simply block them from positions of responsibility.

Obama is clearly operating in the right vs. wrong model, as expected given his legalistic education.  Since laws and legal principles are relative to a social framework and heritage, social proof is all that is required for him to accept climate assertions as true.  At the same time, that mentality requires dismissing and demeaning the viewpoints contrary to the consensus.

It should be clear that when climate alarmists appeal to saving the planet for future generations, they are applying contextual ethics. Less obvious is the ancient religious notion that by making sacrifices, we humans can assure more favorable weather. These days, fossil fuels have become the sacrificial lamb required by Mother Nature to play nice with human beings.  In the past, people made images and worshiped them, thinking that they could control nature in that way.  These days, we make computer models whose projections are sure to scare the bejesus out of us.

via Science Matters

October 6, 2018 at 10:02AM

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