Dangerous Absolutes

Although they knew God, they did not glorify [honor] Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Rom. 1:21–22).

Place: Aspen Institute conference, Colorado

Date: August 4, 2011

Former U.S. vice president and environmental-disaster activist, Al Gore, stepped onto the stage and began a veritable tirade against all who doubt what he sees as the absolute truth about global warming and the catastrophe he claims man-made carbon emissions are creating.

Gore’s “rant” (as it was described by the Los Angeles Times) was so filled with profanities that most newspapers couldn’t print extensive excerpts. He proclaimed that, because of global warming, “the very existence of our civilization is threatened.” His real complaint, though, seemed more fundamental: “There’s no longer a shared reality on an issue like climate.”

By “shared reality,” I take Mr. Gore to have meant that he is crestfallen over the American public’s refusal to close the debate on climate change. In other words, he vehemently believes his worldview on environmental issues should be the “shared reality” for everyone. And if you disagree, you are now a target of his four-letter epithets. A clearer picture of political correctness gone wild is harder to imagine.

The issue here is not the validity of the global-warming theory. It is the transformation of trendy ideas about “greenhouse gases” into a belief system that resembles a secular religion. Those who doubt are infidels.

Case in point: When Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry of Texas dared to question that man-made carbon emissions cause catastrophic global warming, he was skewered by the press. Columnist Scott Stroud of the San Antonio (TX) Express-News said Gov. Perry “breezily dismissed the science behind global warming,” something Stroud equated with opening a “can of crazy.”

This type of totalitarian approach makes politically incorrect dissent a crime against humanity. Even cultural heroes become enemies when they question the sacred cows. Before his death, Michael Crichton, a medical scientist and novelist who wrote blockbuster science-fiction novels like The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park, had the courage to question radical global-warming theories in his novel State of Fear. In response, climate alarmists lashed back, calling him a “global warming denier”—a label that implies something morally and intellectually terrible, as “Holocaust denier” does, for example. Such are the slings and arrows from those who have turned a scientific speculation into a form of nature worship.

I recall a point once made by Dr. Donald MacKay, a late, brilliant brain physiologist in England—and a Christian—who wrote a book refuting the behavioral theories of the atheist B. F. Skinner. He noted that what often passes for rational dispute over truth is, in reality, merely a preference for what is “palatable,” dressed up in rational garb.

Because of our fallen natures, people are prone to gravitate to conclusions that are palatable. We like what is convenient or what appeals to our pride and our desire to “be like God” (Gen. 3:5). Which is why futile thoughts (to quote Paul in Romans), or “speculations,” as the New American Standard Bible puts it, can be so dangerous; human reason must be reined in by clear, irrefutable facts, not merely inferences. Furthermore, our reasoning has to begin with the presupposition that, if we observe orderliness in nature, it is because such order was created by the Creator. The more we push aside the Creator and deify the creation, the more futile and dangerous our thoughts become.

None of these points are meant to diminish the role of true science. Rather, they are a reminder of what many good Bible teachers tell us: The only things we can afford to be totally absolutist about are those things that God has absolutely decided to reveal in His Word.

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