Monday, January 16, 2012

Katharine Hayhoe: A Climate Scientist and an Evangelical Christian

Katharine Hayhoe is a climate scientist and an evangelical Christian. She makes the case that her evangelical Christianity does not conflict with her work, and in fact her faith supports and directs her work as a scientist.

She had a great response to those who question the integrity of climate scientists, which I copied below. Here's the URL if you want to see all of the questions and her responses.  This Q&A page is part of a Nova interview of Katharine (see 2nd URL below)
  • Ebanning2587
     Katharine, I'm an evangelical Christian too. In 2007 I got interested enough in climate change that I read a bunch of stuff: Elizabeth Kolbert, Rob Gelbspan, and some of John Houghton's "Global Warming," (3rd ed.); I watched Richard Wolfson's (Middlebury College) DVD course from the Teaching Company three times and hosted a viewing with friends. I read what the Union of Concerned Scientists said about Exxon and cronies. When I organized a visit by Calvin College's Janel Curry to our local Christian school to tell high school students about climate change from a Christian perspective, a man who's a chemist, the father of students at the school, and an elder in a sister church in our town got angry with me ("I saw your bandwagon coming, and . . . !). He says the system for awarding grant money for research is corrupt, and that's why there's such a strong majority of climate scientists saying anthropogenic climate change is a big problem. I just had to back off because it threatened to cause strife in our community and he knows a lot more chemistry than I do. My question is this: Are you aware of anything at all in the research-grant process, political or otherwise, that gives any plausibility to the charge that the process is biased and therefore the results are biased? How would you answer my chemist friend? --Bob Banning
  • Katharine Hayhoe
    Hi Bob,

    Excellent question. I often get a variant of it, namely that scientists are making up a problem in order to get government funding. Which generally provokes in me a strong desire to smack said questioner over the head with my own tax return, as I am fairly certain I have never been accused of that by someone who makes less money than I do. There are much easier ways for smart people to make money than fabricating a problem and competing for government funds with a < 10% success rate, the vast majority of which funds are primarily used for no more nefarious purpose than to support students and buy lab equipment. Being a doctor, lawyer, or engineer immediately springs to mind. But, moving on .. :)

    First, there is absolutely no documented evidence that the research grant process is corrupt. Federal and State Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are entirely public, as are the full contents of the grants that were awarded in response to each RFP. If there were some corruption of the system, with the results being freely available to public scrutiny you can bet that there would be some kind of expose--books, Fox News specials, you name it. But there is none.

    Second, and just as importantly, funding for climate change deniers, on the other hand, is processed through numerous murky sources. For example, one of the very few scientists who speaks frequently against climate change actually withdrew his participation as a witness on a lawsuit brought by the U.S. automakers against the state of California's vehicle emission standards because he would have been required to disclose his sources and amounts of funding. I find that rather telling.

    The direct ties between organizations such as Exxon and the Koch brothers have been extensively documented in two recent books, which I highly recommend: Climate Cover-Up by James Hoggan and Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway.

    So in the case of your chemist acquaintance, he has the shoe very much on the wrong foot. There is all kinds of evidence for biased funding in the climate denial field, and none at all in the science field.

    Hope this helps!


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