Religious Right’s Rejection of Science is Baffling
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.
Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Editorial and Communications Specialist Ian Hanington.
Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
- San Antonio, Texas Unveils Largest Highway Crossing for Wildlife in ... ›
- Wildlife Crossings a Huge Success - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- Climate Change Will Be Sudden and Cataclysmic Unless We Act Now ›
- There's a Heatwave at the Arctic 'Doomsday Vault' - EcoWatch ›
- Marine Heatwaves Destroy Ocean Ecosystems Like Wildfires ... ›
By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
- Biden Reaffirms Commitment to Rejoining Paris Agreement ... ›
- Biden Likely Plans to Cancel Keystone XL Pipeline on Day One ... ›
- Joe Biden Appoints Climate Crisis Team - EcoWatch ›