David Suzuki

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Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. He is Companion to the Order of Canada and a recipient of UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for science, the United Nations Environment Program medal, the 2009 Right Livelihood Award, and Global 500. Dr. Suzuki is Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and holds 26 honorary degrees from universities around the world. He is familiar to television audiences as host of the long-running CBC television program The Nature of Things, and to radio audiences as the original host of CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks, as well as the acclaimed series It's a Matter of Survival and From Naked Ape to Superspecies. His written work includes more than 52 books, 19 of them for children. Dr. Suzuki lives with his wife, Dr. Tara Cullis, and family in Vancouver, B.C.

Religious right's rejection of science is baffling

| March 28, 2012

Is the world getting nuttier? Looking at recent events in North America, it's hard not to conclude that humanity is taking a crazy step backwards. I recall a time when science and scientists were taken seriously, but lately they’ve been getting knocked around, especially in the U.S. and Canada.

The State of Tennessee, for example, passed a law that allows teachers who don’t believe in evolution or human-caused climate change to challenge existing scientific theories. Yes, students should be encouraged to think critically and to question everything they are taught but, given the current political climate in the U.S., this is likely to lead to misinformation. In the 1920s, a Tennessee school teacher was tried, convicted, and fined for teaching evolution.

Meanwhile, candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination reject the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused climate change. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich once held rational positions but have since capitulated to the fossil fuel lobby. Rick Santorum just seems out of touch on every issue, from rights for women and gays to the environment. He’s referred to climate change as a “hoax” and once said, “We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit.”

Some of these people put their misguided beliefs above rational thought. Republican senator James Inhofe, one of the more vocal and active climate change deniers in U.S. politics, recently said, “God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

That statement is in keeping with the Cornwall Alliance’s Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, which has been signed by a range of religious leaders, media people, and even some who work in climate science, such as Roy Spencer, David Legates, and Ross McKitrick. It says, in part, “We believe Earth and its ecosystems -- created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence -- are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception.” It also states that reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and fossil fuel use will “greatly increase the price of energy and harm economies.”

And then there was this claim from Arizona Senator Sylvia Allen: “This Earth’s … been here 6,000 years, long before anybody had environmental laws, and somehow it hasn't been done away with. We need to get the uranium here in Arizona so this state can get the money from it and the revenues from it.”  

And so there you have it. The economy matters more than the environment, and God won’t let puny humans damage “His” 6,000-year-old creation anyway. That’s not to criticize religion; only those who let it blind them to science and who would use it to advance agendas that don’t even reflect the spirit of their own traditions.

Lest we get too smug in Canada, we must remember that we have politicians who hold similar religious views and are just as anti-science, although Canada has so far managed to keep religion largely out of politics. But recent cutbacks to government scientific research and staff show that many of our leaders also believe that the environment should take a back seat to corporate interests, and that any science that gets in the way must be hushed up or discredited. 

Never mind that the environment is real and that we depend on it for survival and that the economy is a human invention that can be altered to suit the times. Never mind that a long-term healthy economy depends on a healthy environment and that placing all our bets on non-renewable and polluting fuels is folly. These people want to ignore both the problems and the solutions for the sake of short-term and short-sighted benefits for a relatively small number of people.

Whether they justify it with religion or political ideology, it still doesn’t make sense.

Note: Last week's column contained information about coal used for electricity in Canada. Those figures, from the Natural Resources Canada website, were not up to date. In fact, Ontario got 2.7 per cent of its electricity from coal last year.

Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Editorial and Communications Specialist Ian Hanington.             

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

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Comments

Here's a few excerpts from a blog article I wrote that discusses Harper's religious beliefs, something most media will not cover.

 

Canada's Christian fundamentalist Prime Minister tells millions of poor no need to protest

http://chainthedogma.blogspot.ca/2011/10/canadas-christian-fundamentalist-prime.html

... If religion does not play such an overt role in Canadian politics or society as in the U.S., then why should we care what Harper believes? Because as Schaeffer explains above, religious fundamentalism helped create and increase the financial, social and political inequities that are now the focus of worldwide protests. Furthermore, it is important to know if our politicians who create laws and policies base those on evidence or ideology. Harper's government has made it very clear that ideology is far more important than evidence. At the end of it's years long fight against InSite,  for example, the government's arguments at the Supreme Court of Canada against the facility were all based on ideology or jurisdiction. Government lawyers presented no evidence of harm to counter the stacks of evidence proving that the facility saves lives, reduces harm and produces benefits for individuals and society. Likewise, by building more prisons and pushing a new crime bill Harper intends to pass with his new majority, he is completely ignoring solid evidence that crime has been falling for the last 20 years, not increasing.

I questioned above whether Harper is a true believer or just using religion as a political tool. I think that latter scenario may be more common in the U.S., where it is political suicide not to have a religious affiliation of some sort. There are only 28 atheist members of Congress,  but only one of them is willing to admit that publicly, which means the other 27 and probably many other members are hiding or lying about their religious beliefs. I think Harper may actually be a sincere believer, however, because of his consistent refusal to consider valid, scientific evidence in favour of ideological positions, which is a trait of religious fundamentalists. As I mentioned above, that is something that has occurred over and over again in various policy positions taken by the Harper government. Considering the strictly fundamentalist and evangelical tenets of Harper's church, it is really no surprise he discounts scientific evidence when formulating public policy. After all, he chooses to attend a church that believes in creationism and rejects evolution, even theistic evolution, believes the Bible was verbally dictated by God and therefore without error, believes in faith healing, and believes Jesus was born of a virgin and will return any day now. But where does Harper's religion put him in relation to the millions of Canadians struggling with poverty that his politics and policies have ignored? The cries of the poor do not move him, and so his holy book condemns him as a hypocrite: 

But if a person has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn’t care, how can the love of God remain in him? I John 3:17 

Why is it that with all these religion based excuses for injustice always end up biased in favour of big business. Coincidence? Or God's will?

The voices within the evangelical community that would have no quarrel with your article are active, articulate, growing, academic, pastoral and grass roots. They are simply largely unheard above the clamor of well-heeled fear mongers and power brokers. You and your readers might be interested in the following recent publications from the more reasonable side of the isle. Two Canadians, two US writers. For anyone interested, there are many others. Enns, Peter, Evolution of Adam, 2012. Coleson, Joseph, Care of Creation, 2010 Lamoureux, Denis, I Love Jesus, I Accept Evolution, 2009 Cavey, Bruxy, The End of Religion, 2008

The outcome we're heading toward as a species is an evolutionary process as well.  Natural Selection will eventually demonstrate that our species is not fit to last a second longer than our ability to adapt provides for.

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