Science and Belief

I had a good, long conversation with Ron in London, OH about the science of climate change. I said that I am not a climate scientist but that I believe in the scientific method and the process of scientific discovery. A recent study from the Consensus Project found that 97% of climate science papers agree with the notion of human-induced global warming. To me that is sufficient evidence to take action on climate change.

Ron said he is not convinced. He said most scientists also agree with the notion of evolution even though there are fundamental flaws with the theory of evolution. I won’t get into all of the details of our discussion of evolution, but at some point, Ron made an observation that may provide some common ground. He said that science should be seen as a process of discovering God’s creation. I think it is possible to find some agreement about scientific discovery even though we may have differing views about the origins of the underlying nature of things.

I think we can agree that various ecosystems are affected by our actions. For example, pouring toxic chemicals into rivers and streams can pollute those ecosystems to the point where fish can no longer survive and where our drinking water can become unsafe. How that river ecosystem came to be is irrelevant to the argument that our actions can harm that ecosystem. At first we didn’t know that our actions were affecting the ecosystem. But through a process of scientific discovery we found the source of the problem and we modified our practices to reduce the harm to the ecosystem (this is, of course, paraphrasing from many specific situations). In this case our scientific discovery helped us learn more about that ecosystem – or God’s creation – and how our actions affect it.

Why not consider the climate as something similar to a river ecosystem? In this case, a process of scientific discovery has found that our actions – mostly the burning of fossil fuels – is increasing the amounts of certain gases in the atmosphere – mostly C02 and methane – to the point where it is warming the earth. That warming of the earth can have many harmful affects on us and on future generations. Doesn’t that suggest we should change our actions to avoid those harmful affects just as we did to avoid harmful affects to a river ecosystem?

I would love to hear your comments on this. Particularly those of you coming from a more theist belief system than myself. Let’s this conversation going.

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