climate denialism

Us and Them: On Understanding Climate Denialism

So we’re in the midst of another round of climate-change related mud slinging. The latest issue of National Geographic, “The War on Science”, was seen to sneer at the 130 million American who don’t believe in human induced climate change. The Washington Times Stephen Moore fired back with an emotional op-ed titled “The Myth of Settled Science,” and to go by the pundits and the comment threads, people on both sides are tearing their hair out, utterly sick of what they see as their opponents’ brainwashed, dangerous nonsense.

I get it. I feel it. But there are quieter moments when I just want to understand what’s really going on. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking all of those 130 million people who question the evidence must, at this point in the game, be either willfully uninformed or just stupid, but I know the real stupidity is in thinking that can be the case. So instead of presuming fault or failure, how does this debate look if we assume they are logical, have integrity, and are smart?

Here are two explanations for climate denialism that seem to me to hold water.

1. Levels of reality

One thing that has been particularly confusing is how the political right managed to convince conservative Christians to reject so much evidence about the wholesale disrespect for, and destruction of, God’s glorious creation.  It seems to me that at least some of the answer for this lies in confusion, on both sides, between the idea of science as a method, and what the theologian Huston Smith calls “scientism.”

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