Climate, Elections, and the Battle of Worldviews

In Climate Change, Colleges and Universities, Election 2016, Energy, Environment, Politics, Science, The Big Picture by Wesley Haverlah0 Comments

“We cannot risk putting a climate denier in the White House. At all. That is absolutely unacceptable! We need a President who believes in science and who has a plan to lead America in facing this threat and creating good jobs, and yes, saving our planet,” Hillary Clinton declared last week at a rally at Miami-Dade College.

In the course of introducing Al Gore, Clinton criticized the Republican nominee, mentioned a handful of small-scale environmental challenges and solutions, and championed an aggressive vision of America’s global leadership in the arena of climate change.

The first two maneuvers were rational, or at least justifiable. Being on the campaign trail, the mud-slinging directed at Trump was an inevitable component of her speech. However, her talking points on ‘resilient infrastructure’ were wise and measured. Climate variations are a persistent feature of life on Earth, and Clinton applauded steps that have been taken to protect American residences and livelihoods from adverse weather patterns.

Although I appreciated them, these thought-provoking comments lost their attraction as they were used to fuel a crescendo of climate alarmism. This crescendo was the third major thread of Clinton’s speech. It was not a unique call-to-action, by any stretch. Though, she made a statement that we will be well served to tease out.

As noted above, Clinton boldly declared that the next President should be someone “who believes in science.” For the sake of this particular op-ed, I want to forego the obligatory conflicts over the viability of alternative energy and validity of climate change data. Instead, let us turn our attention to what Dr. Francis Schaeffer was fond of calling ‘presuppositions.’

Presuppositions, to put it simply, are the things that we don’t argue for. They are the bricks of our social stances and political platforms. Presuppositions are the beliefs and convictions that comprise an ideology, and are of such a nature that those who hold them take them for granted.

Schaeffer is renowned for decrying the presuppositions of the modern humanist movement and exhorting Western Christianity to come to grips with its own presuppositions and those of its opponents.

With this concept in mind, it becomes apparent that Mrs. Clinton’s altar call for adherence to an academic discipline will be laden with presuppositions. One of these is the idea that the methodology of science shares its reputation with her particular interpretation of scientific research. This is akin to the recurring theme of world and national leaders claiming that God has taken their side in a military conflict. Though such claims have had great rhetorical effect, the longevity of the claim’s impact often relies upon the argument given for co-opting divine authority.

As observed by Schaeffer, the presuppositions of modern leaders, like Clinton, are not called into question as frequently as historians doubt the veracity of bygone ideologies. It is the task of faithful participants in the democratic process to challenge presuppositions wherever they may be found, in the loneliness of our own souls and in the tempest of the public sphere.

It is worth noting that presuppositions do not operate as individual units, or as phrased by Dr. David Noebel of Summit Ministries: “Ideas have families.” The popularized term for this notion is that of ‘worldview.’ A worldview is a constellation of convictions that shape the way an individual responds to the challenges of public and private life. Generally speaking, this will involve addressing the nature of human beings, the existence of God, and rationality of the universe.

The worldview displayed by Mrs. Clinton and her aforementioned speech is a form of secular humanism. Some primary features include a rejection of most absolute truth claims, a wariness of religious convictions, and a firm belief in the march of human progress. To be clear, this worldview does not stand in total opposition to that of Donald Trump. It might be appropriate to describe him as the same brand but a different flavor. Rather, humanism, in most of its forms, stands in stark contrast to a biblical worldview.

In the biblical view of human history, Man does not march resolutely toward progress. Rather, human beings are marred by sin and require an Absolute expression of grace and truth to experience genuine life and hope. Among other things, such a view rejects a blind adherence to science, or any other man-made institution.

In response to the blinding surges of presuppositions that comprise policy discourse, we can champion a biblical perspective by chasing ideas down to their roots. Wisdom demands that we not only examine policy claims in terms of their future results, but that we search out the understanding of human nature that informs them.

Featured Image Courtesy of Medill DC/FlickrCC

Wes Haverlah is a student at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School studying marketing with a minor in philosophy. He is an intern with Earth Rising Blog, a project of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. Growing up in a family with deep agricultural roots, he is passionate about responsible stewardship of the environment and balancing conservation with relevant economic concerns.

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