Legitimate research requires relentless skepticism, a humility about conclusions, and a willingness to examine preconceived assumptions. Science isn’t a scroll of revealed knowledge, or a discrete body of approved facts. It is a process by which we can gradually, incrementally understand how the world works. A friend of mine recently brought to my attention a subject brought to light in a rarely referenced book of the Bible…Jude. It addressed briefly an attempt by Korah to thwart God’s direction through Moses. Today, that would be equivalent to insisting that science (or philosophy or theology) is just as holy as the text of Scripture. Man has developed such a high opinion of himself that some have relegated Scripture to the ‘fiction section’ of the local book store. But as we shall see when man’s outcome is in conflict with God’s…’man’s politics’ v. ‘God’s politics’…man will always come out second best, as God has the final say.
A 2016 essay by William Wilson in First Things catalogues just how wrong much of what we think we know can turn out to be. Wilson cites a 2015 study by the Open Science Collection that did something never before attempted: researchers re-created one hundred peer-reviewed psychology studies in the field’s three most prestigious journals to see whether their results could be replicated. The findings were grim: 65% of studies failed to replicate. Of those that did, many had far less conclusive results when they were re-created. Psychology is a soft science at best, pseudoscience at worst, so Wilson pushed even further. He took a look at ‘hard sciences’.
So how did they hold up to scrutiny? Not well. Pharmaceutical companies now assume that about half of all academic biomedical research is false. In one experiment in which scientists at the drug company Bayer attempted to replicate sixty-seven drug discovery studies that had appeared in top journals like Science and Nature. Bayer’s scientists were unable to replicate the published results three-quarters of the time. This doesn’t mean that all scientific research is bogus. It does mean that, no matter how many times Leonardo DiCaprio claims otherwise, science is never settled. Science is a practice, not a product. The product is in God’s hands.
Roger Pielke is…or was…a tenured professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Among other things, he studies the political use of science. His own views on climate change are fairly conventional. Pielke accepts that global temperatures are rising, and has said that he is “personally convinced that it makes sense to take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions”. Please keep in mind that water vapor makes up a large proportion of greenhouse gases. His big mistake was questioning the assumption that global warming has caused a major increase in extreme weather events, like hurricanes. He published a piece suggesting that the rising costs of natural disasters might be driven primarily by economic growth, rather than climate change. It turned out to be a theory that was an unacceptable deviation from what all ‘decent’ people know to be true…sort of like the ‘flat earth’ proponents. He was attacked by climate activists who were set to drive him from his job. The attackers included in 2015, Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona. He learned his lesson and stopped talking about the climate.
Judith Curry, a longtime climatologists at Georgia Tech, resigned from her tenured position because of what she described as “craziness in the field of climate science.” After publishing two books and 186 articles on climate, in 2016 the climate field was so politically fraught that academic journals refused to publish research that deviated from conventional opinion. ‘Man’s politics’ had so resolved the global warming problem that anything other than established policy was not to be considered, including the possibility that ‘God’s politics’ might be playing a hand…the only hand. I do believe that sometime back in history, if you believed anything other than ‘flat earth’, you were a kook. The same goes with the earth being the center of the universe. When science no longer requires evidence and no longer tolerates scrutiny, it’s no longer science. It’s dogma.
Questioning any part of climate orthodoxy is tantamount to “denying science” and both “unpatriotic” and…here’s that loosely used term…”unconstitutional”, just ask Bill Nye, the science guy, the expert who has no background in climate research. In an interview he even suggested jailing doubters who disagree with his views on climate change. This is how far out of kilter ‘man’s politics’ has gotten. Rather than concentrate on the basics, which I believe is all that God asks of us, we find our time and efforts being consumed with man’s efforts to control what God has always controlled. In the meantime our rivers are once again becoming filthy, the banks are strewn with beer bottles, various items of trash, take out chicken boxes, and soiled diapers. Along the Potomac in and near our nation’s capital, the homeless have left rusting shopping carts and moldering sleeping bags. It would appear that the National Park Service has given up on trying to clean it up.
But then we must remember, our environmental leaders don’t care about litter any more, or even about the state of the natural world, the birds, or the riverbanks. They’ve got bigger concerns now…global concerns, moral concerns. They feel good about themselves, and that’s what matters. Is both God and our concerned Indian friend shedding tears over the lack of concern in caring for this gift that we call ‘Earth’? Doesn’t this portion of ‘God’s politics’ deserve at least an occasional mention from the pulpit of all of God’s churches? While prayer prevails on much, feet on the ground and active hands are sometimes the answer to prayer. Are you doing your part to care for God’s great gift?
Next week we will start on a new sub-series dealing with the Churches’ involvement in politics. They have not always been frightened off by the idea. While our founders did not want a theocracy, they did want a government that had a conscience to monitor and remind it of its obligations to our Judeo/Christian foundation. That conscience was God’s churches…at that time it meant ‘Christian’. What can happen when that conscience fails to act for whatever reason, we will see in this new sub-series. I’ve looked forward to writing this series for some time and ask God to help me make in meaningful.
– Bob Munsey
We should not worry about death, but worry about living a life that has no meaning.