Talk on Climate Change and Religion

April 27th, I’ll be giving a talk hosted by Minnesota Atheists at the Maplewood Library, 3025 Southlawn Dr, Maplewood, Minnesota. Details are here.

Details:

You may attend any part of the meeting you wish, here’s the schedule:

1:00-1:15 p.m. – Social Time
1:15-1:45 p.m. – Business Meeting
1:45-2:00 p.m. – Break
2:00-3:30 p.m. – Talk by Greg Laden
4:00-whenever – Dinner at Pizza Ranch (1845 County Road D East, Maplewood MN)

This will be a talk about climate change focusing on current and challenging research questions that everyone needs to know about, as well as the relationship between climate change and religion.

Most of the important events in the Bible are linked to climate change. Genesis describes the creation of a planet with a rapidly changing climate. Noah helped all the animals and his family escape an epic case of sea level rise. We can guess that the seven years of lean following the seven years of abundance associated with the early days of the sons of Israel were a climate effect. The plagues and some of the other major events were a form of “weather whiplash.” Indeed, during the days of Moses, wildfires may have been more common, given the number of burning bushes reported for the time!

After all this you would think that mainstream Abrahamic religion would be on the forefront of climate change. And, since humans were in one way or another responsible for most of those Biblical events, one would expect to see widespread acceptance of Anthropogenic Global Warming in religious communities. The reality, however, is more complex than that.

There is a reason that the National Center for Science Education addresses both evolution and climate change curriculum in public schools. But don’t expect the link to be simple or straightforward. Historically, there has been almost as much denial of climate science from the secular community as from the religious community, a situation that has been changing only in recent years. We’ll look at the links, some overt, some more subtle, between efforts lead by the religious right to damage science education and parallel efforts to deny climate science, as well as efforts by Christian fundamentalists to support climate change science.

This talk will also address the most current thinking–in some cases rapidly changing thinking–about climate change. In particular, how does global warming affect weather extremes? Are the California Drought, recent major floods, and the recent visitation of the Polar Vortex acts of a vengeful god, random events, or the effects of climate change? While climate science is not sure, these are probably the result of one of the last two. And, increasingly, thinking among climate scientists is leaning strongly towards the global warming – weather whiplash link.

Another area of concern, and timely given that summer is (supposedly) on the way, is the problem of sea level rise caused by melting large masses of ice currently trapped in glaciers. Sea level rise is one of the issues many feel has not been adequately addressed by the well known IPCC, partly because of the discordance between the timing of important research and the production cycle of the IPCC reports.

Greg Laden writes about climate change, evolution, science education, and other topics at National Geographic Science Blogs and other venues. He is a trained biological anthropologist and archaeologist who has taught at several colleges and universities. Today he mostly engages in climate-change-related science communication. He has done a number of interviews and talks on these various topics for Minnesota Atheists and other groups in the area.

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