A Climate for Change: Evangelicals and Scientists Team Up to Save the Panet

By Chris Mooney | October 19, 2009 9:35 am

climate for changeI am very excited to note the forthcoming publication of a book called A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions. It totally belies the idea that science and faith can’t work together toward common goals. The authors are a husband and wife team; Katharine Hayhoe is a climate researcher who focuses on global warming’s regional impacts, and who shares the 2007 Nobel Peace prize with Al Gore and the IPCC; and her husband Andrew Farley is an evangelical minister.

Just look at the incredible juxtaposition of endorsements for this one:

“Climate scientists are best able to tell us if, how, and why Earth’s climate is changing. Ethicists and religious scholars and leaders are best able to tell us how we should respond to the knowledge that science provides. Authored by a climate scientist and a religious leader, this book provides a unique perspective on Christian responses to the findings of climate science. Anyone who is open to messages from both science and Christian scriptures will be struck by the insight and synthesis of this remarkable author team. With clarity unusual in science reports and impeccable logic, A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions, is a compelling call to action.”

James J. McCarthy
Agassiz Professor of Oceanography, Harvard University
President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2008)

“Yes Lord! A scientist and a pastor writing a book together about faith and global warming! How cool is that? What a beautiful sign of the times we are living in. A whole movement of Christians are convinced that our faith in the God of heaven has to affect the way we live on this earth. May this book continue to move us closer to God’s dream for the world.”

Shane Claiborne
author, activist, recovering sinner

The book website is here. Order from Amazon here.


Comments (30)

  1. MartyM

    Did you really mean to say this?

    “It totally belies the idea that science and faith can’t work together toward common goals.”

  2. I’m glad to hear about this. It’s encouraging and an antidote to the extreme right.

  3. Now that’s the kind of Evangelical activism I can applaud. I hope more social justice and environmental concerns make their way into that culture and find appropriate “scriptural support”.

    @MartyM: As far as I can tell, that sentence seems to be correct and capture the spirit of the entry. So yes, I suspect Chris did mean to say that.

  4. Gadfly

    Bravo, LIllian. Now what we need is an antidote to the extreme left.

  5. Gadfly,
    If you can still find the extreme Left, be my guest developing an antidote. I’ve been looking for it for a while now, and it seems to have been lost . . . .

    Great find Chris. I agree wiht you that this is an important step in both reconciling the divsiions between faith and science, and moving our nation closer to a solution to the climate crisis.

    Now let the bashing begin . . . .

  6. Wow, you really are stretching here. I don’t know of anyone that has said that “science and faith can’t work together toward common goals.” Certainly none of the New Atheists whose works I have read would make that claim.

    I don’t know if the best strategy is the accommodationist approach you advocate or the “take no prisoners” approach or Dawkins/Hitchins/Meyers. It is a point that can and should be debated, and I am glad that you are taking the position you do. But can’t we stop this whole deal of trying to find legitimacy? Trying to show Dawkins has softened or this vacuous “see, we can all get along” thing really doesn’t strengthen your point at all. You have a legitimate position, now either move on to something else, or debate the issue. There is no need to use smoke and mirrors.

  7. John Kwok

    Noted evolutionary and conservation biologist E. O. Wilson has been trying to do this too for conservation biology, recognizing that there is a growing conservation movement within Evangelical Protestant Christianity which seeks to preserve “God’s Creation”. As a Bible Belt descendant himself, he has tried to do this while also tactfully reminding those who are evolution denialists why biological evolution is sound science and makes a lot more sense than any form of “scientific creationism”, including of course, Intelligent Design creationism.

  8. bilbo

    Can we start taking bets as to when PZ and Jerry Coyne will start calling for McCarthy to step down for endorsing this book?

  9. bilbo

    Brian says: “I don’t know of anyone that has said that “science and faith can’t work together toward common goals.” Certainly none of the New Atheists whose works I have read would make that claim.”

    Really? Try these on for size:

    1.) The whole extended kerfuffle over New Atheists calling for Francis Collins to step down as head of the NIH…even AFTER he released a statement assuring them that he’d keep his religion out of the position entirely.

    2.) Jerry Coyne stating that he thinks the NCSE should officially say that science and religion cannot coexist instead of just remaining neutral to either side (in his defense, Jerry has taken both of these sides in an attempt to avoid looking too committal…but I guess not too wishy-washy).

    3.) “Science must destroy religion.” – Sam Harris

    4.) “Scientists just ought to be honest. We should tell religious people they can’t work together with us.” – PZ Myers

    I have to give it to these guys, Brian. They’ll say very extreme, mindnumbingly obvious statements like those above, and then in the next post they’ll take a slightly more moderate position so they can just quote the moderate one when someone calls them out for the extreme. The only other people I see do that are, well, religious fundamentalists.

  10. Anthony McCarthy

    — I don’t know of anyone that has said that “science and faith can’t work together toward common goals.” Certainly none of the New Atheists whose works I have read would make that claim. Brian Utterback

    You should read more.

    It’s kind of hard to work with a group that contains one or more members who are constantly telling most of the group that they’re stupid and superstitious and share in the guilt of people who do things like fly planes into buildings. People tend to find that distracting and counterproductive.

  11. Anthony McCarthy

    —- Now what we need is an antidote to the extreme left. Gadfly

    Define what you mean then we’ll know. One suspects that the left you’re talking about probably isn’t all that extreme or remotely a problem due to our lack of power.

  12. Bob Thomas

    Who says that scientists and evangelicals can’t work together on climate change? This seems like a Strawman argument. This doesn’t mean evangelicals and scientists will be a great team for other issues (ex. High school biology curriculum). If your main issue is the environment than there is a greater common ground than there is for other issues. Maybe the approach needs to be different depending on the amount of common ground?

  13. MartyM

    @William Fur: Oh yeah, I see it now. My bad. That’s what happens when I read too quickly. Thx.

  14. Sorbet

    In this context E O Wilson’s “The Creation” is also noteworthy and a clarion call for believers and non-believers to work together to save the environment.

  15. bilbo

    “In this context E O Wilson’s “The Creation” is also noteworthy and a clarion call for believers and non-believers to work together to save the environment.”

    New Atheist response to the above: That stupid faithiest. Doesn’t he know that we should be spending our time telling believers how stupid they are instead of coddling them?

    Levelheaded person: I think if we do that, they might not want to help us on the environment. Maybe we should favor critical discussion over ridicule and mockery, and then we can have both.

    New Atheist: You must be a creationist. I was talking about philosophy; I never meant that they can’t help us too. I just meant we should go insult them, kick dirt in their face, call them ignorant, and THEN ask for their help on the environment.

    Levelheaded person: I’m sure that will work….

  16. John Kwok

    @ bilbo –

    Apparently such New Atheist “demigods” like PZ Myers and Sam Harris haven’t heard what religiously devout scientists such as Vatican Astronomer Guy Consolmagno (a Jesuit brother and a noted planetary scientist) and Brown University cell biologist Ken Miller have been saying, that with respect to potential – and actual – conflicts between science and their faith, then, as scientists, there science has to come first. But of course you’ll never hear our favorite Militant Atheists admitting the truth.

    I also second Sorbet’s strong endorsement of E. O. Wilson’s “The Creation” and was, in fact, alluding to it in my previous comment.

  17. Sorbet

    In my opinion Wilson takes a practical tack. What would be more fruitful, arguing with the believers to change their faith or to convince them to recognize a cause in their faith that is common to the non-believers too? Wilson probably recognizes that the whole science-religion debate will be a non-issue once large-scale destruction due to climate change and environmental depredation envelops our planet. So let the Harrises and Dawkinses do their job, but we should have an important simultaneous campaign to recruit believers to unite in a common cause.

    I too suspect that Wilson, as John mentioned above, is more sympathetic toward religious sensitivities because he is from the Bible Belt in the South. One only has to read his absolutely marvelous biography “Naturalist” to understand where he is coming from.

  18. bilbo

    This sounds quite faithiest and directly contradictory to most of the writing of Coyne, Dawkins, Myers et al.:

    “I think the usual approach of secular scientists is to marginalize religion or even disapprove of it publicly and not expect anything from religious believers or at least religious thinkers.

    But I’ve taken precisely the opposite approach and that is to recognize that there is a powerful moral energy and purpose among religious believers – well, as there is among dedicated secular humans as well.” E.O. Wilson

    Granted, Wilson has also acknowledged the incompatability of the two, but why don’t we see them railing about how misguided and faithiest he is? His quote above sounds essentially identical to several of those that Jerry Coyne has launched a blog crusade against.

  19. bilbo


    Wilson also vocally acknowledges the debate between science and religion as mostly a “culture war,” remarkably similar to what Coyne and Dawkins have vehemently denied.

    “We need to understand that the differences (between science and religion) are mostly metaphysical. Some on both sides extend this purposefully into a culture war and apply it incorrectly. So what I’ve done is to say let’s acknowledge these metaphysical differences, stop the silly culture war, and focus on common ground and have useful discussion towards a mutual good.”

    Again – why stay silent on Wilson? No faithiest should get a free pass according to them, right?

  20. After reading about how the new atheists are supposed to respond, I thought I would check to see what the worst offender (PZ Myers) said about E.O. Wilson’s similiar effort. He must have been very critical, right? Why don’t you follow the link and see for yourselves. Seems like he basically thought the idea of enlisting Baptists. in a common cause was a “wonderful” idea, even if it didn’t make for fun reading for him. This is why I said the post was a Strawman. Argue against the real differences (there are some) instead of just making stuff up.


  21. John Kwok

    bilbo & sorbet –

    I might add that I overheard E. O. Wilson thanking Ken Miller for his indefatigable work against evolution denialists at an AMNH event one evening approximately two years ago. So if Wilson approves of Ken Miller’s work, I wonder why neither Jerry Coyne or PZ Myers have hit the roof. Unless of course they don’t want to criticize a biologist – E. O. Wilson – whose scientific career has been far more substantial than either of theirs.

  22. Scientists and engineers tell us what is happening and how we can change it.

    Ethicists (religious and non-religious) tell us whether we should change things and what we should be changing them to.

    This is nothing new.

  23. MadScientist

    I’ve always understood that the christian thing to do was promote global warming because it will obviously hasten the rapture. Just look at how the catholic church encourages overpopulation to that end.

  24. Ian

    @21, Utter rubbish – the Catholic Church doesn’t believe in the rapture in that way! It believes that science should serve humanity – not visa versa.

  25. Anthony McCarthy

    MadScientist, I have no doubt that this is what you imagine you understand, but that you, actually, misunderstand due to ignorance.

  26. Sorbet

    Coyne has not explicitly said that the NCSE should report incompatibility of science and religion. If you read his posts, he says that ideally the NCSE should be neutral on this issue (Myers said the same thing) but IF they are going to take a stand at all, it’s disingenuous to point out only those scientists who think science and religion are compatible.

  27. bilbo

    “The NCSE should make it clear that evolution and religious belief are at odds.”

    Wow. That sounds really neutral.

    Jerry likes to preach neutrality but then make occasional statements like that above…probably so he can just bring up the neutral ones when someone challenges him.

    Purposefully vague and self-contradicting statements are the stuff of New Atheism.

  28. Sorbet

    Yes, IF they are going to talk about compatibility/incompatibility at all. They should make clear the incompatibility if they are going to make clear the compatibility. That’s what they said.

  29. bilbo

    “They should make clear the incompatibility if they are going to make clear the compatibility.”

    Oh yes, saying “evolution and religion are compatible” and “evolution and religion are directly at war” at the same time will do wonders for the public. And basic logic.

    I think we should keep it at neutral.

  30. Sorbet

    There is nothing illogical about it simply because both kinds of scientist exist in reality. I personally think we should keep it at neutral. The NCSE is in the business of SCIENCE education. It’s best not to make general, sweeping claims about science and religion.


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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