Climate change: What’s up with the far right/ Christian Evangelical axis of denial?

  • Published on June 28th, 2018

Last week we took a long look at the intersectionality of climate change. There’s a lot to say on this topic (just yesterday, we saw calls from climate justice organizations to join the informal #AbolishICE campaign), so we didn’t have time to touch on how deniers actively ignore intersectionality – and, in many cases, perpetuate the status quo. But since there’s already been a spate of bad news this week – on Tuesday, the Sierra Club pointed out that America is considering putting children in concentration camps with poisoned water, while tobacco and fossil fuel propagandist Steve Milloy celebrated the SCOTUS ruling on Trump’s Muslim Ban–it seems it’s time to take a look at how a very different sort of intersectional politics propagates denial.

A pair of recent posts at WUWT deal with the fringe, far-right brand of (potentially co-opted) Christian evangelicalism that denies climate science and evolution: an Axis of Denial, so to speak.

On Monday, Tim Ball, whom a judge once ruled not even credible enough to commit libel, wrote a bizarre, meandering post for WUWT. Ball’s post explains that alarmists are exploiting the public’s natural aversion to change to stoke fear about what he claims is natural climate change. We won’t bother trying to understand or relay the tortured logic of Ball’s argument, because what’s interesting is the first, introductory portion of his post.

Ball begins his post by challenging evolution, asserting that Darwin’s theory of evolution was never tested. He claims that “there is no evidence to support the increasing evolutionary tree of speciation” and that it was “used by the scientific establishment of the time to defeat religion” because if anyone “challenged Darwin, they were automatically branded as creationists.” This is a dramatically but unsurprisingly bold piece of historical revisionism: the idea of “creationism” as a (pseudo-)scientific theory didn’t really emerge until the 1960s, a full century after the publication, and scientific debate testing the evolutionary theory laid out in the Origin of Species.

Which brings us to the second post. On Sunday, a WUWT guest post by Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow/CFACT’s Paul Driessen responds to a story that ran back in May in the University of Delaware’s student paper. (Not sure why Driessen is responding now…a little late, aren’t you, Paul?) The U-D story is about a recent book, Paranoid Science: The Christian Right’s War on Reality, which, as the name implies, looks at how faith in the US is distorted to justify anti-scientific views like creationism and climate denial. The book touches on University of Delaware professor David Legates’ work with the Cornwall Alliance, a Christian-themed climate denial operation.

In his WWUT post Driessen takes issue with the implication that the Alliance is industry-funded. (Ironically, Driessen and CFACT are actually the link between Cornwall and industry funding, according to ThinkProgress.)

Key to Driessen’s manufactured outrage is that criticism of Cornwall’s pseudo-Christian justification for denial is “biased, deceitful, defamatory hate speech.” He encourages the reader to “imagine the outrage” if it weren’t about Christianity but Islam.

We might agree that if this piece weren’t about the denial efforts of most popular religion in the United States, a branch of the one practiced by the overwhelming majority of all elected leaders in the country’s history, it would be different.

Much like the idea of “punching up” in comedy, making jokes at the expense of the people and groups in power, versus “punching down” at those who are already discriminated against or oppressed, are different. The first is a cornerstone of humor, the latter is hate speech. Driessen’s hyperbole makes an equivalence between the professed religion of every single president in American history, and a religion that’s currently being targeted for repressive measures by the federal government. One that has for decades been scapegoated in the service of invading (oil-rich) nations.

And, again, blind to the irony of criticizing a student journalist’s reporting, Driessen concludes that the original article “is yet another attempt to intimidate and silence unwelcome voices on campuses,” calling for this oppressive exercise of free speech to be “replaced by open, robust, respectful, tolerant free speech for all.”

But nowhere does the student’s article in any way level any sort of (well-deserved) judgement on Legates. There is no call for him to be fired and no mention or encouragement of students organizing against him. And the story notes that Legates himself refused multiple requests for comment. How can a student reporter be accused of attempting to silence an unwelcome voice on campus, when that very voice is the one who rejects a chance to comment?

It shouldn’t need to be said that this, and similar calls for civility and free speech, aren’t sincere, but just distractions designed to appropriate the language of those fighting for survival to instead serve those who already enjoy all the privilege and power this great nation has to offer.

By Climate Denier Roundup

(Originally appeared at DailyKos.)

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