Letters to the Editor

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ENVIRONMENT: Beliefs based on science, not faith

Letter by Andrew B. Carey, Ashford on April 19, 2012 at 10:04 am with 79 Comments »
April 19, 2012 12:36 pm

I was dumbfounded when I read Robert H. Nelson’s article (TNT, 4-19) claiming environmentalism is a religion. Such twisted reasoning from one who purports to be an academic.

The Oxford English Dictionary (the authority on English) defines religion as “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods …” But Nelson says belief in the supernatural is not necessary. Just belief – beliefs like rivers catching fire, wholesale contamination of our environment with pesticides to the point of eradicating birds, and air pollution causing respiratory disease are not desirable.

These beliefs led to the first Earth Day and environmentalism – caring about the surroundings one lives in.

Nelson believes that the science documenting facts about human-environment interaction should not be taught in school unless Judaism and Protestantism (but not Catholicism or Buddhism?) may be taught as equally valid thought systems.

The tenets of environmentalism, as taught in real universities, are based in scientific and technical studies and are subject to examination, debate, testing and rejection. The same can be said of religions when taught as cultural developments in academic settings in which they are also subject to free inquiry also. But where does that take place in the United States?

The conflation of cultural movements based on science and secular humanism (a system of basing policy decisions on rational thought, free inquiry and open discussion) with religion is just a subterfuge for promoting the introduction of favored religions into public schools and places (anti-constitutional establishment of religion).

Leave a comment Comments → 79
  1. averageJoseph says:

    You didn’t get the Phil Jones memo?

  2. Two comments: First, words are interesting things. What does it mean to practice something “religiously?” To have religious zeal for something? It certainly does not have to include a belief in a supernatural power.

    That said, however, and this is my second point, many “environmentalists” practice “environmentalism” as if they believe in a spirtual presence in things in nature: trees, river, rocks — a version of animism if you will. And that’s fine by me, though I personally worship the creator as opposed to the created.

    My point of course is that there is frequently a spiritual component atthe heart of an environmentalists devotion, and yes, they are “devout” which is yet another word that is normally attached to established religions, but does not have to be.

    Educators often approach “Earth Day” with the same reverence that Christians approach Easter or Jews approach Passover.

    So, you see, it’s quite logical for Nelson to come to the conclusions he came to. What may have begun as a scientific thing has morphed into a quasi-religion for many.

  3. averageJoseph says:

    Consider some of the ways in which environmental behaviors echo religious behaviors and thus provide meaningful rituals for Greens:

    • There is a holy day—Earth Day.

    • There are food taboos. Instead of eating fish on Friday, or avoiding pork, Greens now eat organic foods and many are moving towards eating only locally grown foods.

    • There is no prayer, but there are self-sacrificing rituals that are not particularly useful, such as recycling. Recycling paper to save trees, for example, makes no sense since the effect will be to reduce the number of trees planted in the long run.

    • Belief systems are embraced with no logical basis. For example, environmentalists almost universally believe in the dangers of global warming but also reject the best solution to the problem, which is nuclear power. These two beliefs co-exist based on faith, not reason.

    • There are no temples, but there are sacred structures. As I walk around the Emory campus, I am continually confronted with recycling bins, and instead of one trash can I am faced with several for different sorts of trash. Universities are centers of the environmental religion, and such structures are increasingly common. While people have worshipped many things, we may be the first to build shrines to garbage.

    • Environmentalism is a proselytizing religion. Skeptics are not merely people unconvinced by the evidence: They are treated as evil sinners. I probably would not write this article if I did not have tenure.

    PAUL H. RUBIN

  4. “environmental behaviors echo religious behaviors”

    What a pack of lies.

  5. Andrew you have done something the rightists really hate, you have used logic, truth and common sense.
    They hate that more than anything because it shows just how foolish they really are.
    Thanks!

  6. menopaws says:

    Faith is faith and science is science. Devotion to science is based on knowledge and logic. Devotion to faith is not–it is spiritual and emotional. I don’t believe faith belongs in public schools where the tax dollars of every citizen, regardless of their beliefs, are spent. Science should always trump faith in education. those who believe differently should send their children to religious schools. but, I do NOT want my tax money supporting anyone’s religious agenda………I want to see education be based on pure logic and knowledge. I have great difficulty dealing with those who believe their version of religion is the only valid belief…….Education by tyranny is the most dangerous weapon in our world. Using the tenets of religion does not make it safer or more valuable.

  7. LornaDoone says:

    I find that religious conservatives are rather embarrassed by their “faith as opposed to reason” positions, so they try to imply that everyone else is just like them, except different. (pun intended)

  8. Religiously; having or showing belief in and reverence for God.

    Scientifically; of, relating to, or employing the methodology of science.

    By showing reverence and respect for the creation one also shows reverence and respect for the creator.

  9. sandblower says:

    Mr. Carey, congratulations. You beat me too it.
    The poor professor was trying to say something, but he totally missed. I am amazed his friends did not warn him about how nonsensical his article is.
    Environmentalism is based on sound science. Religion is based on nothing sound.

  10. flamotte says:

    Your letter is brave and superb. It gives me faith.

  11. anders_ibsen says:

    To equate religion and science as one in the same is an affront to both. I’m not a zealot for being concerned about the impacts to human quality of life that come from water contamination, extinctions, or rising sea levels. Especially when those concerns are based in scientific fact.

    Big Oil and Dirty Coal have spent millions to fund shill groups to give themselves a psuedo-scientific credibility. Just like Big Tobacco did in the mid-20th century. It was BS then, and it’s BS now.

  12. alindasue says:

    xring said, “By showing reverence and respect for the creation one also shows reverence and respect for the creator.”

    sozo,
    The “spiritual component” of my environmentalism is my love for God and the earth that He created for us. I take seriously the stewardship over the earth that He has given us and do my best not to squander His gifts or allow them to be carelessly squandered or defiled by others.

    I also do not consider science and religion to be mutually exclusive.

  13. alindasue says:

    Oops. I forgot what I was going to say to xring.

    xring, so far, the bove quoted statement by you makes the most sense of anything else I’ve seen written here.

  14. alindasue says:

    *above

  15. alindasue says:

    anders_ibsen said, “To equate religion and science as one in the same is an affront to both”

    Why? Doesn’t it make sense that the Lord would use scientific principles when He created the universe?

  16. anders_ibsen says:

    @ alindasue:

    Good point. What I meant to say was that it’s an affront to both religion and science to ascribe religious -zealotry- to science.

  17. I can see the environment around me and also the greed that destroys it with no mind to the future of others. Last I checked, no one has seen God , so you need faith to believe in God, that is what faith and religion do, they require belief in something you can’t see or document.

  18. aislander says:

    flamotte writes: “Your letter…gives me faith.”

    I’ve never known Fred to evidence a sense of humor, so his choice of word must be intentional and sincere.

    Thanks for the laugh, Fred!

  19. sumyungboi says:

    Letter writer: “I was dumbfounded when I read Robert H. Nelson’s article (TNT, 4-19) claiming environmentalism is a religion”

    Truth hurts sometimes, pal. Get over it.

    flamotte: “Your letter is brave ..”

    Fred, your definition of bravery is writing a whiny letter in the local paper? Bravery is doing what needs to be done even though you’re scared to death.

  20. sumyungboi says:

    Fred’s a quaker, I’m surprised he didn’t have faith before.

  21. LornaDoone says:

    Writing a letter to the editor, where you have to publish your name and location, takes far more bravery than hiding behind a dozen simultaneous monikers.

  22. sumyungboi says:

    LD: “.. takes far more bravery than hiding behind a dozen simultaneous monikers.”

    From you??!!! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!

    Seriously man, that’s really funny! :)

  23. Washington State is out of the liquor business and both religion and environmentalism have lost.
    Now where’s my drink?

  24. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Lardnos, is it time for a link to your website again? So you to can be brave? Thought so.

  25. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    … that is what faith and religion do, they require belief in something you can’t see or document.

    Obviously you’ve never heard of “idolatry”.

  26. LornaDoone says:

    Haul out a couple more names, Sandy

    CT7 – you changed your dress.

  27. LornaDoone says:

    “So you to can be brave?”

    Where is “can be brave”? It must somewhere you can go TO.

    Is it their? No, it’s there.

  28. concernedtacoma7 says:

    No, I guess you do not want to be brave. Given your advanced age it is a little late to start now.

  29. Talk about faith, it really requires faith to believe in something like “clean coal” or “safe nuclear power”. Ask those in Tennessee who were displaced by the breaking of a huge coal sludge dam. Or those in Japan or Chernobyl who will have land that is poisoned for thousands of years by highly radioactive material.

    But the quote of the night goes to the average- (moron)-Joe who wrote:

    “Recycling paper to save trees, for example, makes no sense since the effect will be to reduce the number of trees planted in the long run. “

    This is the dumbest thing I think I’ve ever read. First, the idea is to keep from having to cut down trees requiring more to be planted in their place. But more importantly recycling prevents more crap being put in a landfill some place when it could be reused.

  30. This is the dumbest thing I think I’ve ever read.

    You forget:
    “Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.” — Ronald Reagan, 1981

  31. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Seriously, did a Reagan bashing memo come out by the DNC recently? You and lard have been bringing up Reagan at random quite often.

  32. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    Talk about faith, it really requires faith to believe in something like “clean coal” or “safe nuclear power”

    It takes more “faith” to believe we have better alternatives – especially in areas of the country where hydro is not a viable option.

    Japan intends to continue and even expand its reliance on nuclear energy, despite the Fukushima disaster. The plan going forward is one that should have occurred to them in the first place; don’t build in high earthquake risk zones, or on coastal lowlands. Moving forward, the Japanese authorities will shut down 3 reactors located in high risk zones, and replace them with new ones located in safer inland zones.

    You’re asking for a lot more than “faith” by closing down existing coal-fired plants in the mid-west, with nothing to replace them. And you’re asking for even more “faith” that all of the employees who’ll be affected by such closures (already occurring, by the way) will be able to find jobs featuring the same level of pay in this economy – from the plants right on down to the mines.

    But the biggest act of “faith” on your part is more like a leap of faith; that as US markets are forced to shut down, coal suppliers will not simply sell their resources on the world market – to be consumed in countries where no environmental controls exist, and no ever-increasing regulation will stifle economic development or continuity.

    As the US continues to espouse ways of developing new energy sources that run on unicorn farts and rainbows, the rest of the world will continue to meet their energy needs largely through the use of coal, hydro, and nuclear.

  33. Robert H. Nelson’s article was either an attempt to legitimize religion or to mock environmental science by making them seem comparable. In either case he succeeded in pointing out which of these two he considers to be legitimate.

  34. LornaDoone says:

    your not brave

  35. “did a Reagan bashing memo come out by the DNC”

    No, why is telling the truth ‘bashing’??

  36. Alindasue and anders_ibsen
    A quick scan of the Renaissance era shows that western science got its start because some religious people began studding nature to better understand and come closer to God.

  37. LornaDoone says:

    kluwer – don’t quote Reagan or Bush. That is called “bashing”. Oh, add Palin to the list.

    Did you see Palin’s latest? Responding to a disgusting comment by a Secret Service agent who said he was “checking her out” when guarding her during the campaign. Palin, always the attention whore had to respond in the media. Keeping it classy as a Moose Hunter would.

  38. The right is morally bankrupt.

  39. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    Insult, attempt to inflame, redirect the discussion to any non sequitur because their personal outlook is so corrupt it can’t stand the light of day – it’s what they do best, and it’s what passes for “class” in their pathetic little world.

    But knowing the first thing about… well anything, but especially “class”…

  40. old_benjamin says:

    World English Dictionary

    Religion

    5. something of overwhelming importance to a person: football is his religion

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/religion?s=t

    Ergo environmentalism is a religion.

  41. First things first. alinda, I concur you with completely. As one who worships the creator of all things, I likewise accept responsibility to be a steward of the creation. I do my best. But that has nothing to do with the fact that some folks have turned environmentalism into a quasi-religion as I stated before.

    Second, those of you who cannot see the link between science and faith? Well, go ahead and brand me a snob, but really? You expose a shallowness of thought that is frankly stunning.

    As for this letter being an act of bravery, that certainly took me by surprise. I think it’s a fine letter, and I am always ready to commend a person for voicing his or her convictions, but brave? I simply don’t follow.

    I find Rubin’s remarks insightful. As I read them I imagined a really good play that might be written around these observations. And finally, though none of you have addressed this, let me restate that for many, environmentalism represents a sort of worship of nature…animism, pantheism….along those lines. For MANY, the cause is rooted in their spiritual beliefs.

  42. LornaDoone says:

    Ben – then the obsession about the private sex lives of others is a religion.

  43. old_benjamin says:

    “Faith is faith and science is science. Devotion to science is based on knowledge and logic. Devotion to faith is not–it is spiritual and emotional.”

    menopaws, please tell me how you know that you are not just a brain floating in a vat of chemicals.

  44. old_benjamin says:

    Doone, I’l take your word for it.

  45. LornaDoone says:

    ben – I took YOUR word and definition for it. If you want to take liberal interpretations of the word “religion”, applying your cited definition –

    “something of overwhelming importance to a person: pornograpy is his religion”

    You might want to rethink your position on words of multiple definitions.

  46. LornaDoone says:

    “please tell me how you know that you are not just a brain floating in a vat of chemicals.”

    According to metaphysicsists, humans are a mass of energy as part of a bigger mass of energy.

    That is no less realistic than a super power in the sky.

  47. old_benjamin says:

    Doone, I expect you know more about obessions and pornography than I, so again, I bow to your superior knowledge.

    No doubt we are a mass energy, but how do we know there is a “we”?
    I suggest we take it on faith, because it is unprovable. Oops, that does tend to knock the props out from under “the scientifc method,” doesn’t it. There are millions of Hindus across the globe that believe what we percieve is an illusion. At least there can be some question about the matter that is not resolvable by empiricism.

    BTW, the Post-Modern view of science is that it, like all human endeavors, is a product of its time, i.e., socially constructed. What was prefectly clear back in the 18th and 19th centuries has grown a bit murky in the last several decades. Try to keep up.

  48. LornaDoone says:

    Benjamin – in classic conservative deflection you try to put on me what you said.

    You’ll note I’m not of that group of people signing petitions in their churches trying to legislate their version of morality. Thus I’m not obsessed with the private sex lives of others.

    As to pornography, it was just one more “fill in the blanks” to YOUR cited definition. Interestingly, the state known for the largest digest of pornography is a conservative religious state. Maybe pornography is the overwhelming importance to religion. (how Dada/Zen of me!)

    Don’t give up your supreme being based faith for metaphysics. Metaphysics accepts logical conclusions as opposed to saying “God did it”.

  49. Science draws logical conclusions based on the information at hand. These conclusions are updated as new information is found.

    The beliefs found in religions never change no matter how much information to the contrary exists.

  50. o_b

    five – a number following one, two, three, and four.

    Utilizing the fifth definition of a word to try to make it fit is weak by a power of 5.

  51. old_benjamin says:

    News flash: I don’t care how anyone defines religion. I have very little use for the word, seeing as how it is susceptible to various definitions. My post simply demonstrated that.

    Doone, it is common to make an infereance to the best explanation. That’s how the legal system works. That sort of reasoning is called “abductive.” Your “God did it” strawman is hardly apropos. The question is: what is the best explanation? Which explanation best accounts for the observed phenomena? If you look at it that way, you may come closer to understanding the theistic perpsective.

  52. old_benjamin says:

    Bandito, you are quite wrong. Check out the Reformation.

  53. LornaDoone says:

    “old_benjamin says:
    April 20, 2012 at 11:47 am News flash: I don’t care how anyone defines religion. I have very little use for the word, seeing as how it is susceptible to various definitions. My post simply demonstrated that.”

    Could have fooled us. You opened the argument that environmentalist thinking was religion.

    As to “coming closer” to theism – “been there, done that” as the fans from the cheap seats love to say.

  54. old_benjamin says:

    Doone, you are fooled quite easily it would seem. My post is way down the chain, hardly the opening argument.

    If you’ve “been there” and “done that,” you have a strikingly naive view of things theological. I’d recommend Bonehead Theology 101.

  55. I have very little use for the word, seeing as how it is susceptible to various definitions.

    A rather postmodern outlook for someone who looks to the words in ancient scripture for definitive answers

  56. old_benjamin says:

    I suspect a cat in the year one was pretty much like a cat in year 2012–four legs, a tail, fur, etc. I also suspect a dead man two thousand years ago was much like a dead man today. The meaning of nouns denoting solid objects doesn’t change much at all over time.

    On the other hand, nouns denoting concepts may change rather widely in meaning over time, reason being abstract nouns have no tangible referrant. These abstractions are what the Post-Modernists recognize as culturally formed.

    When an ancient book refers to a dead man, I believe it is the same kind of dead man we see today. If the book says he came back to life, I believe it means by life what we mean today. There can be very little confusion about whether someone is alive or dead, even over a couple of millenia.

    I am not dogmatic about the meaning of abstract concepts found in the ancient scriptures. Likely “justice” back then is not what we understand as justice today. In this respect, I appreciate the Post-Modern perspective. Like all schools of thought, it has its weaknesses and, in time, will be replaced by another.

  57. LornaDoone says:

    “I suspect a cat in the year one was pretty much like a cat in year 2012–four legs, a tail, fur, etc”

    I had a manx in the 1970s with no tail.

  58. old_benjamin says:

    I had a cat with three legs, but for some inexplicable reason, everyone always asked “What happened to your cats leg?”

  59. RLangdon says:

    LornaDoone
    APRIL 19, 2012 AT 4:53 PM
    “Writing a letter to the editor, where you have to publish your name and location, takes far more bravery than hiding behind a dozen simultaneous monikers.”

    The ultimate in hypocrisy from one who is famous for HIS many monikers on these forums!

  60. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    I think 0bama had cat too.

  61. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Vox- you just set me up for a very off color comment.

  62. bobcat1a says:

    To conflate religion and science is to have no science. The papacy showed that perfectly when it anathematized Galileo; theocrats have been enshrining the error continuously ever since.

  63. The Reformation. The exception that proves the rule.

  64. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    ct7, that was no set-up – and no typo.

    But for our selectively over-sensitive little bleeding hearts here, it was a joke.

  65. “Is this mic on? I know you are out there because I hear you snoring.”

  66. LornaDoone says:

    I’ll make my moniker be “JSmith” then I’m using my real name. (insert laugh track here)

    It’s sort of funny who comes out of the woodwork when you make a certain kind of statement. Someone who has no axe to grind or nothing to hide wouldn’t take exception to my comment that some people (not me) hide behind a half dozen simultanous monikers. Who would be the person to deflect? The person who has a half dozen monikers, of course.

    I have never had more than one moniker at a time. I love to change it every so often, because it upsets the conservatives so much and gives them something to talk about, because they can’t mount an argument on the subject matter of the thread.

    I’ll be waiting for “RLangdon’s” letter to the editor. Mine have been published.

  67. Old-ben;
    The proper meaning of ‘science can not prove it’ is just that – it can not be proved – not that it does not exist.

    The reason science is ‘time dependant’ is each time period has new methods that allow science to gather more data. One example, a simple $20 handheld calculater has more computing power than top of the line computers from the 1950’s.

    Here’s a question for you. If you broke your leg who would you call on to fix it – Your Minster or a scientifically trained doctor?

  68. I’d call on a doctor who has the humility to recognize the limitations of science; a doctor who appreciated the power of prayer. But that’s just me.

  69. I find it interesting, and kinda sad, that some folks insist that we are discussing an either-or situation. Doesn’t a true scientist have an abiding respect for the mysteries of the universe, for the things he/she does NOT know? And I can promise you that thousands of people of faith have an abiding respect for science. To suggest that a belief in God means otherwise is just absurd.

  70. sozo – as a child in parochial school the nuns taught us that Genesis could very well be accurate AND not be in conflict with evolution if we just kept in mind that we have no way of knowing how long a day would be for God. 7 of God’s days could very well be many millennia for humans.

    Unfortunately, there are literalists who insist that God’s days are limited by the time it takes for the earth to rotate around the sun – thus limiting the everpresent, omniscient, omnipresent to human restrictions.

  71. Christian Science……

  72. RLangdon says:

    LornaDoone writes: “I’ll be waiting for “RLangdon’s” letter to the editor. Mine have been published.”

    What is your REAL name then, so I ca look up your Letters To The Editor. Have you the “courage” to tell me?

  73. concernedtacoma7 says:

    His real name, occupation, and history of getting banned is well known here. Type the name of his old monikers and it gets auto-moderated. Bottom line is lardnos trolls these blogs only to annoy. No debate, information, conversation, etc.

    With the exception of BB and Alindasue, there is not one regular leftist here that even attempts to debate facts. LD, also known as MM and lardnos, is the worst of the bunch. Good job! Be careful Larry, you have some competition in the clown category, klu and FC. You better up your level of wallpapering.

  74. aislander says:

    concernedtacoma7: You’re right regarding the unwillingness of lefties to discuss facts (unless they use the pursuit of them to send the thread down a rabbit hole if the discussion is going in a direction that makes them uncomfortable), but I have found only one lefty who would work with me when I waxed Socratic.

    And he no longer posts on this forum…

  75. By Ian Johnston, msnbc.com
    “James Lovelock, the maverick scientist who became a guru to the environmental movement with his “Gaia” theory of the Earth as a single organism, has admitted to being “alarmist” about climate change and says other environmental commentators, such as Al Gore, were too.

    Lovelock, 92, is writing a new book in which he will say climate change is still happening, but not as quickly as he once feared.

    He previously painted some of the direst visions of the effects of climate change. In 2006, in an article in the U.K.’s Independent newspaper, he wrote that “before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.”

    However, the professor admitted in a telephone interview with msnbc.com that he now thinks he had been “extrapolating too far.”
    _____________________

    Many on these threads have referred to those of us who suspected this as “deniers” when in fact, it’s not been a matter of denial at all, but a matter of resisting the alarmist/fear response to these matters.

    I wonder if any will have the courage to acknowledge that they simply fell for misguided tocsins?

  76. I always love it when the other side tells those they oppose who they have taken as a guru.

  77. RLangdon says:

    “I have found only one lefty who would work with me when I waxed Socratic.”

    “And he no longer posts on this forum…”

    Just curious, but would you tell us who that was?

  78. aislander says:

    Polago. But it took a lot of trying…

  79. RLangdon says:

    Polago? Long before my time here on these blogs I am afraid. I don’t ever recall seeing that name. But, there are good Lefty’s, just as there are good Righty’s, so hang in there and you may find another to work with! Thanks!

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