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A recent discussion came up here in the UK about whether it was ‘proper’ to ‘bring religion’ into the issue of climate change. My response at the time was to point out the significance of religion in the USA, where the material originated, and the need to ensure that certain unscrupulous people were prevented from manipulating this in order to promote their own agenda.

Since then, (via Chris Mooney) I see that Nisbet & Myers have been having a contretemps about the subject. In referring to Paul Kurtz and Carl Sagan, Nisbet draws my attention to some important matters.

Nisbet points to the importance of emphasising the shared values between science and religion, one presumes as a means of addressing an audience which takes religion seriously. This also places the issues of climate change in the social arena.

This brings up a long-standing ‘problem’ which science, in particular, has had to deal with; the question of whether the ‘scientific’ approach to the world is in contradiction to the ‘religious’ (or, more broadly, faith-based) approach. In a country where argument still persists over the validity of ‘evolution’ vs. ‘intelligent design’, the conflict, which arose in the Middle Ages as a result of the corrected; liberalisation of Universities into Europe (which threatened the monopoly on learning then belonging to the Church), is reawakened. Following the sinuous but rewarding dialogues on Samadhisoft, it occurred to me that this is, at base, a question of whether we see the world from a rationalist or a religious (perhaps ‘spiritual’ is a better word) perspective, inasmuch as these are different.

There is a great deal of complexity involved in attempting to draw together these two distinct perceptions of how existence is constructed. Whilst it may, in itself, be an important and useful matter to resolve, I agree with Mooney that it is not really relevant to the central question we face with regard to climate change (thanks to Michael Tobis for this version of it):

How do we manage the world’s resources?

The reason that it is not necessary to ‘marry’ the two ways of seeing (call them ‘frames’, if you want) is that both share, if not a common set of values (though I suspect that many of the fundamental values are shared), then at the least, a common goal, which is the preservation of life on Earth.

If we share the same desire or intention (and I would contend that practically all rational people would share this goal) , then the motive for our action is, in this instance, not relevant. It may well become significant when it comes down to deciding how to respond to the challenges which climate change poses, but it immediately acts as a force to unify our different perspectives and place us in a shared bond of commitment – to face the responsibility placed on us to preserve life and to act so as to achieve that end.

We all want the same thing; so let’s go and get it.



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September 2007