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From Creationism to Anti-Environmentalism: The Religious Right's Attack on Science Expands

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It can no longer be a surprise to anyone that a very vocal and well-funded minority of Christian extremists continue to attack evolutionary theory in the name of their narrow brand of religion. In addition to their attempt to distort the scientific record, these people work hard to fool the media and the general public into believing that they are something other than a fringe group.

In fact, their science is completely at odds with that being promoted by the world's leading scientific societies, and their religious perspective is very far removed from those of the vast majority of the world's religious denominations.

This same collection of religious extremists has now decided to broaden its fight on modern science in the name of religion. Under the auspices of the Cornwall Alliance, a group espousing a "Biblical view" of environmental stewardship, which largely means that anthropogenic global warming is an anti-Biblical myth, environmentalism is now under attack.

Apparently, environmentalism is "deadly to the gospel of Jesus Christ." E. Calvin Beisner, founder of the Cornwall Alliance, outlines his position as clearly as anyone could wish: "The environmental movement has actually become what I call the cult of the green dragon. And we need to be prepared as Christians to rescue people from that cult."

The Cornwall Alliance has produced a 12-part DVD entitled Resisting The Green Dragon to promote their anti-science, narrowly religious position. The DVD is filled with stellar figures from the radical right with organizations such as Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, and WallBuilders represented.

The message being promoted in Resisting The Green Dragon is as extreme as it is incorrect. Consider the following:

Around the world, environmentalism has become a radical movement. Something we call "The Green Dragon." And it is deadly, deadly to human prosperity, deadly to human life, deadly to human freedom and deadly to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Make no mistake about it, environmentalism is no longer your friend. It is your enemy. And the battle is not primarily political or material, it is spiritual. ... As Christians, we must actively trust God and obey His word. So when it comes to environmental stewardship, we must reject the false world view, the faulty science and the counterfeit gospel that threatens to corrupt society and the church.

While the scientific hogwash being advanced in the name of religion is so patently absurd that it doesn't deserve a rebuttal, the view that the modern environmentalism movement is under attack by religion should be discredited before it rises to the level of urban myth.

There is ample evidence from across the political and religious spectrum that religion and environmentalism are not at war. Indeed, there are ever increasing data demonstrating that the two are becoming solid allies. Because it is impossible to be comprehensive with the limited space available in this venue, I will simply point to two examples to support my contention.

Let me begin with the sixth annual Evolution Weekend sponsored by The Clergy Letter Project. Each year on the weekend closest to the birth of Charles Darwin (Feb. 12), congregations representing a host of faiths and from all corners of the world, participate in an event designed to demonstrate that religion and science can be compatible while raising the quality of the dialogue on this issue. Although each participating congregation acts independently, Clergy Letter Project members have decided that Evolution Weekend 2011 would focus on the environment, so many participants are exploring how their science can inform their faith as they work to protect the environment. As the Evolution Weekend website says,

Religious people from many diverse faith traditions and locations around the world understand that evolution is quite simply sound science; and for them, it does not in any way threaten, demean, or diminish their faith in God. In fact, for many, the wonders of science often enhance and deepen their awe and gratitude towards God.

Instead, the information and understanding gained through legitimate scientific inquiry can be of significant help to people of faith in better understanding this wonderful planet that we live on - its beauties and wonders, as well as the many environmental threats to the health of both natural and human communities. Science can thus be of assistance to religious leaders and communities, as they seek to fulfill their calling to care for the Earth, through more informed advocacy and actions.

With more than 14,000 clergy members from all portions of the political and geographical spectrum, The Clergy Letter Project can hardly be considered an extremist group and its members and their congregations certainly do not find environmentalism to pose any threat to their faith.

Next, let me turn to a fabulous DVD produced by Marty Ostrow and Terry Kay Rockefeller. Although I plan to focus more attention on their wonderful film soon, for now let me simply say that Renewal: Stories from America's Religious-Environmental Movement is a testament to the passion with which many deeply religious individuals have approached environmental concerns. Ostrow and Rockefeller tell eight riveting stories that demonstrate the diverse actions taken by Christians, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists as they work to integrate environmentalism with their faith. The people depicted defy simple political labels and show the absurdity of the position staked out by the Cornwall Alliance.

The religious right's attack on environmentalism mirrors its long-standing attack on evolution. In both cases, science is grossly misunderstood and/or purposefully misrepresented. And in both cases, the attack, framed in starkly religious terms, claims that there can be only one appropriate religious interpretation. As with the battle over evolution, this newly manufactured controversy over environmentalism should not be seen as a fight between religion and science but as a struggle between one small group representing an extreme view of religion and all other religious traditions.

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