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Climate Change Deniers Set School Policy, Forecast Weather

Climate Change Deniers Set School Policy, Forecast Weather

I’m experiencing a distinct sense of déjà vu. I swear it’s seven years ago and the Dover school board trial is headline news. Certainly climate change skepticism has much in common with intelligent design creationism, being highly political and not at all scientific. Still I’m more than a little disappointed that so many school boards are jumping on the bandwagon — or is it a sinking ship? — of climate denialism.

According to this article from the LA Times last week, Texas and Louisiana have already passed standards for their science curricula requiring educators to teach their students that denialism is a valid scientific position. Tennessee and Oklahoma have also passed resolutions demanding equal time for denialism in the classroom. South Dakota and Utah have also passed resolutions denying climate change but it’s not clear from the article (nor can I find information elsewhere) clarifying whether this was an educational measure.

It’s clear that denialist groups are taking a page from the creationist playbook. Slogans like “teach the controversy,” or “teach both theories” were very effective, though logically invalid. These slogans beg the question, embedding the assumed truth of a contested statement within their argument. The truth is creationism is neither a scientific theory nor is the truth of evolution controversial amongst the scientifically literate.

So it is with human-caused climate change. The hard data has been clear for decades, the easier-to-grasp visual signs have been available nearly as long (photos of receding sea ice, for example), and the effects have been noticeable on an individual basis for several years, depending on where you live. I’m not yet 30 but I remember the brutal Canadian winters I experienced the first half of my life, and never again since.

Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, is quoted as saying that “climate change education is where evolution was 20 years ago.” She would know. Scott and the NCSE have been fighting against religious groups and their efforts to compromise American science standards for years.

Climate change denialism isn’t necessarily religiously motivated, but it’s heavily pushed by the Right who wish to keep Big Oil in business as long as possible. Christian Fundamentalism has become a major force in American conservatism, so there’s a certain degree of overlap between creationists and denialists.

It’s not only the classroom that is being invaded by concerted denialist efforts. ThinkProgress reports on a new progressive campaign against denialist weather reporters. According to their report, more than half of US television weather reporters deny the existence of anthropogenic climate change. In turn, they’re broadcasting their skewed perceptions directly into the nation’s homes.

This quote from Kentucky weatherman Chris Allen gives a sense of what we’re dealing with:

“If you don’t believe in God and creationism then I can see why you would easily buy into the whole global warming fanfare. I think in many ways that’s what this movement is ultimately out to do – rid the mere mention of God in any context. What these environmentalists are actually saying is ‘we know more than God – we’re bigger than God – God is just a fantasy – science is real…He isn’t…listen to US!’ I have a huge problem with that.”

Someone like this is not likely to ever change his mind because he is not basing his views on evidence. The best thing for everyone would be getting someone like that off the air.

In Canada, creationism in the classroom has never been the issue it still is in the United States. But climate change denialism is still a significant force worldwide. The hardline deniers will do everything they can to muddy the waters and hold up mitigating measures. Meanwhile, time grows short. We have to keep pushing back on this issue. Don’t stop educating everyone you know, especially those on the fence, on what the science really says.

Related Stories:

Publisher to MPs: Read This & Stop Ignoring Climate Change

13 Percent of Biology Teachers Teach Creationism

Chinese Report Warns of Global Warming Threat

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Photo credit: Liam Gunley (NASA)

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105 comments

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4:34PM PDT on Apr 1, 2012

IN NO WAY, WILL I ALLOW ADULTERATED MATERIAL ENTER INTO EXISTING EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL THAT IS FICTICIOUS IN NATURE WITHOUT DOCUMENTING SUCH I.E. "FICTION" LITERATURE. TO MISLEAD - IS EXACTLY THAT, MISLEADING. I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFICULTY TAKING ANY MEASURE TO BEST ENSURE THIS DOES NOT OCCUR IN MY WORLD - WHICH ASSUMED CULPRITS ARE APART.

9:16AM PST on Feb 1, 2012

There is a great advantage in providing disinformation in our schools, yes, it sounds odd.

If all our young people were to become fully informed of the impact of Global Climate Change (GCC), there would be no place safe for those of us that caused their future to look so bleak.

Yes, by all means, lie to them and let them die a slow insidious death by our hand.

8:32AM PST on Jan 30, 2012

Thanks for posting.

11:08PM PST on Jan 29, 2012

noted

11:47AM PST on Jan 29, 2012

I agree with much of what Hartson wrote, but...:

The Judeo-Christian Creation story has virtues but cannot be taken strictly literally. There are, in fact, two contradictory versions within the Bible, an Elohist and a Yahwist version, or a priestly and more ancient version. Genesis 1:20-23 (5th Day: creation of all
water- and air-born life), Genesis 1:24-25 (6th Day, part 1: creation of all terrestrial, non-human life), Genesis 1: 26-31 (6th Day, part 2: God creates Man and grants him all naming rights over life, then God creates Woman, then instructs both
in husbandry - stewardship or exploitation, depending on one's bias - and forbids them the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil)?

But then Genesis 2:7 (unspecified Day; God creates Man), then 2.8-14 (the Garden, an irrigation system and animals), then 2:15-20 (instructs Adam about the Tree, husbandry, naming rights), and
only then 2:21-25 gets around to Woman.

So, which came first, other animals or Man? (Either way, clearly, Woman came last.)

Not intending to offend anyone. Just still seeking a Biblical literalist who believes in inerrant transmission to explain that to me.

11:04AM PST on Jan 29, 2012

Noted with concern.

11:01AM PST on Jan 29, 2012

I would think if you spoke to a scientist and asked away from work, if they believed in God, the answer would be yes. This either or, black or white in this discussion is unreasonable. If you read Genesis, there is a perfect description of the Big Bang. It is a simple worded description for a people who were animal herders. This was a way for them to understand. I think it is simple enough now to explain it to the now sophisticate population of today. There was NOTHING. God thought that it would be nice to have something to do. So He said BE and then out of the nothingness Creation came into being. He stepped back and let what He set into motion become what it is now. It is like setting a ball in motion down a track that trips all the activities along its path.

7:51AM PST on Jan 29, 2012

Do these states not want their students to be competitive in science to help lead our country in the future?

1:14PM PST on Jan 28, 2012

I'm glad Naomi posted her comment. There are Christians, individual congregations, and Christian groups, even (especially?) Evangelical ones that are at least as green as most of the prominent secular Green groups. I'm only familiar enough with one, Sojourners, to say that I trust it. There are others, too, worth checking out. (I also trust Tikkun in the areas it focuses on.)

We should never reduce everything to cultural stereotypes, whether of right- or left-wing.

That said, I do not believe that Creationism has any place in public schools, or in any school receiving any kind of government assistance. From my public schools days, I don't ercall Hebrew school erceiving any such assistance.

12:23PM PST on Jan 28, 2012

I have news for the idiotic Kentucky weatherman who is quoted in this article: there are many people like myself, who believe in God and creationism, and know that global warming is a fact. My strong faith is what makes me fight harder against environmental destruction.

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