Students at three evangelical colleges were used as guinea pigs several years ago to see if a scientist who is also an evangelical Christian could persuade the schools' devout students that climate change was a man-made catastrophe requiring urgent action to combat. Students at Houghton College [New York, Tyndale University College [Toronto], and Dallas Baptist University [Texas] were treated to a nearly one-hour lecture video by Canadian-born Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and professor of political science who teaches in Texas. One of Ms. Hayhoe’s self-declared missions has been to reach evangelical audiences who are skeptical that there is a dire man-made climate change crisis. “I feel a bit more like a prophet warning of impending doom if we don’t change our ways…”
Ms. Hayhoe began her lecture with an attempt to distinguish between faith and science. She cited the Bible verse: 'Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen' (Hebrews:11:1 KJV). Then, according to a summary of the lecture set forth in her father’s co-authored article, Ms. Hayhoe said that science is the opposite.
“Now science is the substance of things here and now, the evidence of things we can observe,” Ms. Hayhoe said.
Ms. Hayhoe then proceeded with her description of the science of climate change and its conclusions. In doing so, however, she displayed the moral certitude of a fervent believer rather than the inquiring mind of a scientist who continues to question conventional wisdom. She said, “Only when we have examined and discounted the natural suspects for a changing climate (i.e. changing solar output, natural cycles, etc), can we attribute climate change to people”….Ms. Hayhoe’s certitude, she said, is rooted in the science of the greenhouse effect that goes back two centuries. But what she is expressing is little more than a leap of faith of her own…And from her position of certitude, she preaches drastic action.
“Of course, what we are asking for is a huge change in the fabric of society, as large as the change from slavery to today,” Ms. Hayhoe declared in her lecture. She praised China, in contrast to the United States, for being “the top country in wind producing energy, and the second top country in solar energy production,” while neglecting to mention that China remains the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.
Wearing her scientist’s hat, she was a co-author of the latest supposedly scientifically based volume of the National Climate Assessment report issued last year. This report set out dire projections as to what may happen by the end of this century if drastic measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not taken in time. The long-range predictions are based not on observable evidence but on computer models, which Ms. Hayhoe herself has admitted are inexact. The authors didn’t allow that inconvenient problem to get in the way of advancing their radical policy prescriptions.
Ms. Hayhoe has also worn the moralist hat, extending her attempt to connect fighting climate change with evangelicals’ core values to reaching broader audiences with a similar message. She has exhorted that the urgency of fighting climate change is strongly connected to whatever core value system a person has.
“Does the thermometer give us a different answer depending on if we're liberal or conservative?” she asked rhetorically [and] if that thermometer tells us that the planet is warming, that humans are responsible and that to fix this thing, we have to wean ourselves off fossil fuels as soon as possible— well, some people would rather cut off their arm than give the government any further excuse to disrupt their comfortable lives and tell them what to do.” She then advised, as an antidote to such selfishness, that “just about every single person in the world already has the values they need to care about a changing climate. They just haven't connected the dots…”