The Other I

October 10, 2018

“I don’t believe…”

Filed under: Just Stuff,Survival Strategies — theotheri @ 7:57 pm

After the United Nations published its report saying that mankind had no more than 12 years to avoid the disaster of climate change world wide, a neighbour said to me that he didn’t “believe in climate change.”

I asked him why.  He said because we’ve had climate change for thousands of years.  Yes, I said, but we are talking about a level of change in temperature, in atmosphere, in the oceans’ acidity that we have not seen for hundreds of thousands of years, before even the appearance of the human species on this planet.  Well, he said, I don’t see how they can prove it.

I dared to ask him if he believed in God.  Absolutely, he said, of course.  It’s obvious.

There are many scientists who believe in God, I said, but there are no scientists who think there is scientific proof of God’s existence, that it is obvious in the sense that it is even potentially a scientific fact.

He asked me to explain.

Scientific fact, I said, is based on evidence, on things we observe and test and therefore try to explain.

1300x1115 Catholic Religious Symbols Clip ArtBelief in God, on the other hand, is based on faith, which by definition is NOT based on evidence.  It is often a deeply held conviction that shapes our lives, our choices, our deepest values, but cannot be proved.

One of the most interesting things for me about the difference between scientific fact and religious faith is that what is accepted as fact often changes when we make new discoveries, find new evidence, or even develop new theories.  Less than two hundred years ago, for instance, many scientists were convinced that evidence supported the view that our planet first formed a mere 4,000 years ago.  Today we think it is closer to 67 billion years.

Religious faith, on the other hand, is not subject to change in that way.  When the inexplicable happens, a person of faith often says it is a mystery we cannot understand, but that it is in”the hands of God.” Although once again, people often lose their faith altogether in the face of what seems inexplicable tragedy.

The prediction of tragically destructive climate change made by scientists in the UN report is based on scientific evidence.  Climatologists know,  therefore, that it could be wrong.  It could be that we are missing critical evidence, or are misinterpreting the evidence we do have.

But unless we can look at the evidence and can make a strong case for arguing that climate change isn’t happening and is not going to continue to happen unless we change our behaviour, we are taking a terrible risk for the future of life on our planet.  It is rather like jumping out the window from the 20th floor, on the grounds that the evidence is not absolutely conclusive that I will die as a result.

Only this time we are talking about the entire planet.

Harry Taylor, 6, played with the bones of dead livestock in Australia, which has faced severe drought.CreditCreditBrook Mitchell/Getty Images


  1. You are right. It is entirely appropriate to DEMAND to examine evidence for climate change, because it is a physical fact, not a metaphysical one.
    And from what little I’ve read, I believe conclusive scientific evidence DOES exists now. It is no longer a matter of debate in scientific circles as it used to be even a few years ago. Now, the only people left to convince are:
    a) those who thought the evidence wasn’t conclusive enough a few years ago, and haven’t kept up with the pace at which the science has moved forward
    b) those who have a dogmatic opposition to the concept of climatic change, and so are unable to keep an open mind on the subject
    c) those whose livelihood or quality of life may suffer if climate change theories were accepted widely (it’s remarkable how our mind ‘believes’ only those things that are convenient) and…
    d) Donald Trump.

    The rest of the world is on board!


    Comment by psriblog — October 11, 2018 @ 6:05 pm | Reply

    • I agree with your categories. I worry at just how big categories a), b), and c) are, and how powerful category d) is!

      On the one hand we might open a whole new healthier and richer world for all living things. Or we might actually drive ourselves and a good many other species to extinction. I know I won’t see it personally, but I’m surprised to realize how painful I find the prospect of the second option.


      Comment by theotheri — October 14, 2018 @ 3:37 pm | Reply

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