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Caring for Creation makes the Christian case for climate action

Posted on 10 October 2016 by John Abraham

From within this movement, there are huge voices, widely respected by both the scientific and faith communities. Perhaps the best known is Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a top climate scientist who is also an evangelist Christian. There are other persons and organizations who work similarly to connect these two world viewpoints in a powerful yet common-sense way.

Recently a book has been published by a faith-science duo. That duo is Paul Douglas, respected meteorologist, entrepreneur, Republican, and Christian, and his writing partner Mitch Hescox who leads the Evangelical Environmental Network (the largest evangelical group devoted to creation care). Their book, entitled Caring for Creation, provides a masterful balance of science, faith, and personal journey.

The style of the book is one I have not seen before. It is a side-by-side presentation of first science, then faith, then science, and back to faith. Interspersed within the main text are enlightening anecdotes mainly from weather forecasters across the country which show an informed lived experience of experts watching the climate change before their very eyes. Importantly the authors provide a list of concrete things that we all can do, starting right now to make a meaningful impact in reducing global warming.

Within this book there is real science. Not just about what is happening now, but the history of climate science, how we’ve known since the 1800s that human emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide can warm the atmosphere. We also hear from Douglas about observed changes to the weather we all experience. This isn’t a problem for far-off times or far-away places. This is an issue that is being manifested now.

Hescox articulates a message grounded in the proposition that the creation is a gift from God and there is a real responsibility to care for it. Not only for others distant in time and space that may suffer, but for our own good. In fact, he argues persuasively that caring for this creation can help strengthen one’s faith.

Hescox also argues from a pro-life position. Caring for creation is the ultimate pro-life stance. Squandering resources and gifts will not only cause real harm to people and our economy, but it will endanger the lives of many of the most vulnerable.

Douglas provided a great summary:

I am a scientist but I believe in absolutes – I believe in more than I can observe, measure and test. The book of Genesis tells us that God made us in his self image. He gave us big, beautiful brains and the ability to think, reason, solve problems, make smart decisions, and improve our lives. He also gave us the good sense not to foul our nest.

Both of these intertwined stories of faith and science are woven together in a way that is easily accessible for non-scientists and people who are not of faith. We don’t need to be climate scientists or religious experts to get a lot out of the authors’ perspective. 

There are a few quotes from the book that do a great job of encapsulating the central themes which I will share. 

With respect to the science, Douglas reminds us that “no matter where you look – the oceans or atmosphere – the Earth is warming.” He later adds, this means we “embrace the reality of today and see the world, not as we think it should be, but as it really is – the world we’ve influenced by releasing a trillion tons of carbon in the geological blink of an eye.”

Hescox states that, “It is almost incredulous that we meet God in creation but we haven’t made the connection that caring for creation nurtures our relationship with him.”

He later includes this excellent statement from Jonathan Koomey from Stanford. “What is conservative after all but one who conserves, one who is committed to protecting and holding close the things by which we live.” 

And perhaps the best statement, which so clearly encapsulates this book and the movement, is provided in the text by Dr. Hayhoe.

Click here to read the rest

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Comments 1 to 29:

  1. Thank's for an informative article. So we appear to have a growing movement of Christians accepting climate science, and that we should reduce carbon emissions, and this is of course good to see. However while more Catholics and other mainstream religions appear to be accepting climate science, many Evangelical Christians are still very sceptical of climate change science, (although statistical analysis shows its not clear if this is due to religion or political beliefs of people in these churches, and other factors)

    The following article discusses numbers and reasons for scepticism. (They are from a Pew survey in 2009, but more recent pew surveys find similar dismal numbers).

    The following is a very brief summary of points made in the above article on why evangelical christians in particular are sceptical. This includes their interpretation of the bible and other general objections.

    1. Why worry about global warming if the kingdom of god is at hand? (My opinion: neglecting to mention that even Christians have no idea how close this is)

    2.God told Noah he would never again destroy Earth by flood (Gen 8:21-22). This is interpreted to mean that “The earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth." (However this is stretching logic in my opinion)

    3. This is a declaration from a specific Evangelical church group "We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history." (My opinion: pure speculation)

    So we still have a lot of unfortunate intepretations that also appear to mix religious and ideological objections. I'm an atheist, but I personally think the dominant message in both the old and new testament is to look after the planet. The following article is by a Dr Jim Denison, who is a Christian who believes we should accept the science of climate change. He has a look at Genesis and thinks it suggests we should care for the environment and reduce human caused global warming.

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  2. Dr Abraham: Thank you for an interesting essay and bringing the book "Caring for Creation" to our attention, as well as a pithy description of what the book says.

    By the way, there are also climate scientists who profess a faith other than Christianity (or none). Dr Saleemul Huq, for instance. (I am unaware of any book on AGW from a Moslem perspective. But hey, I am not a Moslem.)

    Sadly, ignorance and bigotry on this issue are strong and vociferous. I read, for about 15 minutes, comments posted on the Guardian's posting of the complete article. A clear majority of commenters reminded me of the yahoos (as described in Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" 2nd book) who post comments on news articles on the website of Yahoo, the beleaguered internet company. The Religion Deniers can be (but by no means all are) as obnoxious as the Trumpkopfen yahoos.

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  3. Better late than never I suppose, but unless the various Christian denominations change their stance towards abortion, contraception, and sensible family planning, they're still a bigger part of the problem than the solution.  

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  4. So many people mispelled the name of Dr Katharine Hayhoe: commenters on this site, fellow scientists on Facebook, and now John Abraham in TheGuardian and herein...

    I start wondering how Katharine feels about it. Perhaps, being a very nice person, she doesn't mind. But I'm puzzled... Not much mental effort is required to spell the name of such unique person as Katharine, a fairly common name. E.g. less effort than an effort of learning climate science as people do here.

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    Moderator Response:

    Good catch.

    We will correct the spelling and email John to do the same. And be alert to it in future :-(


  5. In the opinion of a priest with whom I worked a few years ago, had "Man shall have dominion over the Earth" been translated instead to "Man shall have stewardship over the Earth" then things might have turned out differently. I'm not a Biblical scholar of any sort, but dominion and stewardship have very different meanings.

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  6. @uncletimrob,

    It is quite clear: 

    Genesis 2:15, The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

    Dominion is not the sort of dominion that doesn't repect God's creation. Specifically tied to it is the idea of stewardship and taking care of it. Very likely the connotation for dominion vs stewardship diverging came with the Romanization of scripture. I am no religious scholar or preacher by any means, but I have read the bible several times, and at least in my opinion it seems pretty obvious that care of the planet is one of the top principles in both Jewish and Christian (and maybe Muslim?) faiths. So much so that special laws termed Sabbath for the Land (Shmita) were given to insure against over exploitation of resources. And very severe penalties for ignoring this:

    Leviticus 26:43 For the land will be abandoned by them, and will make up for its sabbaths while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, will be making amends for their iniquity, because they rejected My ordinances and their soul abhorred My statutes.

    I often wonder how any Christian or Jew could miss the phrase made desolate? And if we go from ancient to modern, where exactly are we to go to now that the whole world is populated? When the ancient Hebrews were forced to leave and their land made desolate, they went into captivity. What happens when the whole planet is made desolate due to not following God's laws and being the good steward? It is pretty astonishing to me how any person of faith could miss that.

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  7. RedBaron @6, for what it is worth, the word in Genesis 1:26 in the Hebrew, which is translated "subdue" in the KJV is described:

    A primitive root; to tread down; hence negatively to disregard; positively to conquer, subjugate, violate
    KJV Usage: bring into bondage, force, keep under, subdue, bring into subjection.

    Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions


    1. to subject, subdue, force, keep under, bring into bondage
    a. (Qal)
    1. to bring into bondage, make subservient
    2. to subdue, force, violate
    3. to subdue, dominate, tread down
    b. (Niphal) to be subdued
    c. (Piel) to subdue
    d. (Hiphil) to bring into bondage
    Origin: a primitive root"

    That which is translated "have dominion" is described:

    A primitive root; to tread down, that is, subjugate; specifically to crumble off
    KJV Usage: (come to, make to) have dominion, prevail against, reign, (bear, make to) rule, (-r, over), take.

    Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions


    1. to rule, have dominion, dominate, tread down
    a. (Qal) to have dominion, rule, subjugate
    b. (Hiphil) to cause to dominate
    2. to scrape out
    a. (Qal) to scrape, scrape out
    Origin: a primitive root"

    The Septuagint (translated into Greek by Hebrew scholars pre 1 AD) uses the word ἄρχετε, whose stem, "archos" means "to rule".

    While I am neither a scholar of Hebrew nor Greek, and I am not aware of any contribution of modern scholarship to the translation of the word, it seems quite clear that the concept of domination is there in the original Hebrew (as best as it is known).  Indeed, if anything the Hebrew is harsher in its terms than either the Greek or KJV.

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  8. For what it's worth, there is a biblical hermeneutics stack exchange which might be a good place to ask questions about this sort of thing (if they haven't already been asked).

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  9. Tom,

    Good catch. Told you I was no bible scholar! So apparently it was the ancient Hebrews that were so domineering and harsh to the land that they needed special laws to prevent them from soiling the nest! However, shouldn't change the overall point for modern times though. Soil the nest and expect desolation from God. Whether the desolation comes from God or from the physical laws of nature, the result is the same....desolation. Atheists and the religious right should be equally concerned, not fighting with each other while the planet faces desolution due to not taking care of it properly.

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  10. It doesn’t really count for much to refer to the dominant message on the Old Testament as it applies to caring for the planet. The issue is actually how the words are interpreted rather than how the words appear. We must keep in mind that a great number of people who read the bible feel and think that it is “the word of God.”  Secondly, so very,very few realize that Earth is a living, loving planet. My iopinion, yes I'm afraid so. However, most of us will not defend a "thing" out there.

    “Genesis 1:26New International Version (NIV)
    26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
    The words “rule over” do not invoke “care for”

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  11. Basically, Dad (god) passed his great works on to us to care for.  I could never understand the fundamentalists on the Right (and most of them seem to be on the right) wanting to mine, kill  the last whale, fish the last fish, clear fell the forests of the world and so forth.  If my dad had passed on the family business to me, I think he would have expected me to care for it and even improve it.  Go figure.  Perhaps the fundamentalist can't actually read or if they read, they have the mother of all cases of cognitive dissonance.

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  12. The Bible contains some genuinely good teachings, however it contains contradictions and mixed messages and sometimes lacks clarity, in my opinion. This leaves things rather open to interpretation especially regarding the environment.

    To some extent we have to ask what did the writers really intend and draw some conclusions. We have to ask what the "weight of evidence” suggests regarding the environment. Genesis seems to suggest we care for the environment, and its hard to believe God would want otherwise. Jesus seemed to promote a philosophy of personal restraint, and loving they neighbour, which could be taken to suggest we care for the environment. How can we love our neighbour if we degrade our mutual environment?

    Of course we have this Bible clause that says "rule over the animals etc" and the Christian Fundamentalists and political right wingers (some of them, disproportionately) seem to think this means we are entitled to hunt species at will even to extinction, and degrade the environment. They interpret the Bible in a way that suits their personal views.

    However it's an interpretation that doesnt make much sense when you look at the Bible as a whole. Theres seems little point in people “ruling over the animals” and "multiplying and replenishing the earth" if we degrade the earth in the process undermining our ability to meet other Bible goals and teachings.

    But there’s a certain fatalism in the Bible. Christian fundamentalists might argue the Bible suggests humans are fallen beings, destined to ruin everything, so it’s all inevitable including global warming and species destruction. Jesus is expected to come back and fix everything up.

    This all reflects the many and varied messages in the Bible, which sometimes seem inconsistent or lacking in clarity. This suggests to me it was composed by human beings, with all their various views on life.

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  13. We know that there are people who reject any findings of science that conflict with their ideology.  Climate change is just one example.

    As an atheist I've never paid much attention to religion, but from the foregoing comments it would seem that there are also religious people who reject any biblical messages that conflict with their religious ideology.

    There must be some common psychology involved.

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  14. nigelj @12, by my reading the Bible has very little to say, if anything, about conservation.  There are various arguments from that have been advanced to give one view or another a patina of biblical authority, but the subtle and indirect nature of those arguments is itself proof that the views are brought to the Bible, not taken from it.  In the meantime, andybody presenting "biblical views" on conservation as a reason for an attitude on climate change is almost certainly shown to be engaging in (possibly self deceptive) propaganda by the habitual ignorance of very direct biblical ethics.  In that regard, I have in mind particularly the Old Testament prohibition on the charging of interest on loans, which command Jesus modified by saying,

    "And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back."

    (Luke 6:34 & 35a, NIV)

    As with many Old Testament commands, Jesus amplifies this one; and in two ways.  First, while the OT forbade the charging of interest to Jews, Jesus extends the command to apply even to your enemies.  Second, while the OT forbade the charging of interest, Jesus forbade any expectation that even the principle would be repaid.

    This command, if taken literally, would forbid any interaction with banks or credit unions (or indeed, support of capitalism in any form).  No doubt the people with subtle arguments as to why the Bible commands neglect of AGW (or the contrary) will also have subtle reasons why their neglect of the literal command of Jesus' should be ignored, and supposedly consistently with their "biblical literalism" - but at that stage it is clear that the Bible does not direct their ethics, except where convenient and/or in agreement with their pre-existing ethical tradition.

    Given that, trying to track down just what is the "biblical basis", either in context or literal word meaning, of the "biblical views on the environment" is almost certainly a waste of time.  Almost certainly the "biblical view" has been raised to provide pseudo-authority to a view taken for an entirely other reason; and unless that other reason is addressed, no amount of Biblical argument will shake it.

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  15. nigelj "The Bible contains some genuinely good teachings, however it contains contradictions and mixed messages and sometimes lacks clarity, in my opinion."

    It helps to remember that it wasn't written as a single book, but instead it is a collection of independent writings from authors who didn't necessarily agree with eachother on everything (e.g. Peter and Paul).  The new testament wasn't "standardised" until the fourth century A.D. and today is an example of "the nice thing about standards is there are so many to choose from".  The bible we have today is mostly a sixteenth/seventeenth century anthology.  This also applies to Digby's comment, understanding the bible isn't that straightforward, and todays understanding is through the filter of nearly 2000 years of theology (some of which may well be deeply miguided).  Having said which, my reading of the bible suggests that we should try to be understanding towards those that we percieve as misunderstanding it. ;o)

    As I understand it, the same is true of the "Old Testament", only more so, which makes it even more difficult to intepret.

    The issue of usury that Tom mentions is a good example of where unthinking attempts at rigorous adherence to the teaching has led to extreme injustice.  Francis Bacon wrote an interesting essay "On Usury" which shows that people have been struggling between following Christian teachings and living in the real world for some time (with Bacon attempting a rational justification for regulated usury - nice to see that banking has sorted itself out so well between the reigns of the two queen Elizabeths ;o).

    BTW I think the verses from Luke are no so much an instruction against usury, but that we can't expect much credit for acts that already bring us personal benefit. I.e. it is an exhortation to unselfish acts rather than a prohibition on personal gain.

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  16. Tom Curtis @ 14, yes I have to broadly agree with you. The Bible has nothing specific on the environment. However some people look for messages that they feel suggest global warming is natural, etc, as per my first post. Others are now trying to suggest the Bible promotes conservation or alternatively its “obvious” god would have wanted this.

    I guess that leaves two alternatives. We either say the bible has nothing meaningful on conservation or climate, so is not an authority. Or alternatively we could argue that there’s “enough” to at least suggest that God would want us to look after the environment.

    The trouble is by dismissing the Bible entirely as an authority on the environment could be seen as a slap in the face. Arguing that it broadly suggests conservation in a general way could be more useful in terms of persuading Christian sceptics. However I agree its not an issue that keeps me awake at nights.

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  17. Dikran @ 15, thanks for the comment. Yes those may be reasons for contradictions. I don’t want to get into a big debate about the authenticity of the Bible. I’m an atheist, but I do think the Bible has a certain degree of wisdom on various things and there are probably a range of reasons for contradictions.

    However the contradictions are still there. For example Genesis has different versions of how man was created, and the gospels give different accounts of the life of jesus and various events. This does create some challenges.

    However the Usery issue is not really a contradiction. I would suggest the teachings on not charging interest and the additional teachings in the New Testament about not expecting to get a loan back as noted by Tom Curtis are more in the category of lacking clarity and practicality. I would compare it to the teaching "judge not lest you be judged" which is also not practical in the real world. These teachings reveal ethical principles that have some limited degree of underlying merit in certain situations, but are not fully resolved or explained.

    This creates a huge difficulty. People try to resolve this by suggesting that the real meaning is just have some sympathy for borrowers in real distress, or not be overly judgemental. This is my interpretation, but it is not everyone’s interpretation, and there is the problem. Basically the Bible is not an adequate stand alone code of ethics for today’s world.

    However you can take messages from the Bible and learn from it. That’s easy for me as an atheist as I view the Bible as simply a historical writing like an ancient encyclopedia, that you can pick the good bits from if they appear rational. However for believers its tougher as they feel it was divinely inspired. They sometimes appear to find it hard to sometimes agree on what parts are not valid in todays world, or which need a "nuanced" interpretation, given it all “could” be the word of God. However the mainstream Churches do seem to be generally taking more sensible interpretations these days on some matters.

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  18. While I also agree that Bible doesnt say anything specifically on conservation, I would be hesitant to interpret "radah" in terms of subjegation. Context is everything - deciding theology on basis of one text when that is at odds with much else is a dangerous (if common) practice. It doesnt gel with reproachment in Ezekiel for harsh "radah" or belief that "radah" is for the benefit of those ruled not ruling. The book in OP seems to be pushing line that God cares for creation independently of Man which isnt hard to support.

    A much more common thread in the bible is idea that if people of God are behaving badly, then environment turns against them (one of the means for God's punishment - powerful, warlike neighbours were another). I have no problem with idea that our current environmental woes can be laid squarely  on the sin of Greed and chucking the 10th commandment out the window.

    Another Christian concern should be that climate change is largely caused by a wealthy few while the impacts are largely felt by those who have contributed the least. The kind of injustice screams in every ethical system and social justice is after all the prevailing theme in the Bible. I am disappointed to see so much Christain outrage focussed on the morality of the bedroom instead of the boardroom.

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  19. Scaddenp @18, I totally agree on all points. Sadly some people totally ignore numerous specific Bible teachings about social justice as if these don’t even exist, while emphasising any clauses about making money in the Bible as paramount ( or about the bedroom). It’s an amazing act of cognitive dissonance, and assumption that these things are somehow mutually exclusive when they aren’t.

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  20. I agree that (as far as I am aware) the bible doesn't have anything specifically about conservation, however the basic theme of the new testament is that we should try to be a bit more unselfish and a bit less selfish (which is what "love thy neighbour" basically boils down to - note that it is "as thyself" which suggests we shouldn't be unselfish to the complete neglect of ourselves).  The question then is whether our use of fossil fuels should be regarded as selfish or unselfish.  Of course this depends on what we are using it for.

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  21. Dikran Marsupial @20:

    "[The] basic theme of the new testament is that we should try to be a bit more unselfish and a bit less selfish"

    I appears to be one of the understatements of the century*.  I know that you are English, among whom understatement is a form of emphasis, but American readers will not recognize that.

    The ethics of the New Testament is indeed to "love your neighbour as yourself", ie, to ascribe as much importance to the needs and desires of your neigbours as you do to yourself.  "Neighbours" in turn, are shown by the Parable of the Good Samaritan, to include all people who are affected by our interactions.  Regardless of the existence or not of a biblical warrant for conservation, this ethic alone provides sure biblical grounds for action on climate change.  Put simply, the only valid discount rate permissible in the NT gives a pure rate of time preference across generations of 0; and at the same time, no multiplier greater than 1 (or less than 1) for benefits or costs in western nations relative to third world nations, as is a standard feature of many estimates of the cost of AGW.

    Where I a Christian, I would go further and say that the basic religious message of the NT is that you should repent (ie, turn from your own ethics, to those of God as set out by the command to "Love your neighbour as yourself") and believe; and that those who do not accept that ethic in determined practise (even though they will fall short) have therefore not repented; and are therefore not Christians.

    I am, however, an atheist, not a Christian.  Therefore I leave it for Christians to define Christianity for themselves.  Unfortunately, for most American evangelicals and/or fundamentalists, that definition invovles the prosperity gospel, which is completely at odds with the teaching of the NT.

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  22. I confess that I am indeed English, guilty as charged! ;o)

    It is worth remembering though that you are also required to love yourself if loving others is to have much meaning (also IIRC the Samaritans were religious enemies, which puts the parable into even sharper perspective).

    Worth noting that the idea of reciprocity is not limited to Christians, but is the basis for most ethical systems (secular as well as religious).  I quite enjoyed "The Golden Rule" by Jeffrey Wattles (Oxford University Press, ISBN-10: 0195101871).

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  23. Tom wrote "Put simply, the only valid discount rate permissible in the NT gives a pure rate of time preference across generations of 0"

    I'm not sure I completely agree with that.  The idea is that we should treat others as we would like to be treated if we were in their position.  It seems fair that richer societies should not be subsidised by poorer societies, so if societies become richer over time it doesn't seem unfair to me to forgo a bit of that increase in wealth to solve problems for a previous generation.  So a rate other than zero (if I understand it correctly) could at least be neutral from a "golden rule" perspective.

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  24. Dikran Marsupial @23, the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", is not in fact equivalent to the the second of the two commands identified, first by Hillel the Elder, and later by Jesus as "being the whole of the Law", ie, "Love your neighbour as yourself".  In practical terms, their guidance will often coincide, but the later requires far more than the former; and even more than the negative form of the Golden Rule ("Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you") taught by Hillel the Elder, and tracable to long tradition going back to Confusius circa 500 BC.  

    Taking account of pragamtics, and in particular conversational implicature, the negative version only enjoins that you do no harms to others, that you would not have them do to you.  In contrast, the positive version requires you to do any good to others that you would have them do to you.  In simple terms, consistent with negative version, you can ignore the want of the beggared blind person, so long as you do not steal from their bowl; whereas the positive version requires you to give aid to that person, at least if you in a similar circumstance would also desire aid.

    In contrast, unless we take it to be hyperbole, the command to love your neighbour literally requires that you consider a given gain by your neighbour as valuable to you as the equivalent gain to yourself; and a given loss by your neighbour as undesirable as an equivalent loss to yourself.  Or in the wors of Laoze (also circa 500 BC):

    "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss."

    Of course, there is no reason to regard that command as hyperbole on Jesus' lips beyond the difficulty we would have in satisfying the command.  Certainly, the more specific principles espoused on the Sermon on the Mount are only inconsistent with the command in seeming to undervalue yourself relative to your neighbour, so unless you ascribe all of Jesus' ethical teachings as hyperbolic (which precludes any possibility that your interpretation is based on context), you are left with the command to love your neighbour haveing the strict form I indicate.

    Specifically with regard to the discount rate, it consists of three parts.  The first is the expected return on an arbitrary investment.  If we can expect a 3% return per annum by simply investing in the stock market, we may reasonably expect a similar return from investment in mitigating and adapting to climate change, and therefore should include that as part of the discount rate.  Further, it is permissible to discount based on uncertainty of outcomes (although given the long tail of uncertainty, that actuall adds a premium rather than a discount in the case of climate change).  Finally, there is the pure rate of time preference, ie, the fact that we prefer to have our benefits here, and now rather than at some distant time in the future.  Consistent with the command to love your neighbour, that part of the discount rate must be zero, for it is impermissible to preffer the current generation over future generations.

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  25. "[The] basic theme of the new testament is that we should try to be a bit more unselfish and a bit less selfish"

    Couldn't agree more. Seems obvious to me.

    "The ethics of the New Testament is indeed to "love your neighbour as yourself"

    Very true and a basically useful teaching. I would say the teaching to love thy neighbour  as thyself would presumably include your neighbours children and arguably their own future children and so on. If not why not? I can't think of a viable reason, that doesn't fall into the category of selfishness.

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  26. "Seems obvious to me."

    It isn't exactly rocket science, is it? ;o) 

    Unfortunately acting on it is more difficult as we generally don't know our neighbours desires and requirements (they generally don't either, any more than we really know ours), which is why we need to have some flexibility, rather than dogma about it.  If we can make the world a better place in the future by using fossil fuels now, e.g. by raising the standard of living or reducing inequality, then it is not clear that fossil fuel use today (primarily for our immediate benefit) is entirely selfish.  It is a bit more difficult to argue that hooning about in a muscle car is an entirely unselfish activity. 

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  27. Dikran @26, I smiled at your wikipedia information on hooning around in a car. I come from New Zealand, and as the article notes the term originated in New Zealand and Australia. Do you know how we deal with "boy racers" who cause a real nuisance? We passed a law allowing their cars to be crushed.

    I certainly agree about interpreting the Bible with some flexibility, at least in this sense: The Bible has clauses promoting social justice and also making money, so whoever wrote the Bible had both in mind. The only rational interpretation is we should do our best to balance both. The only way of interpreting the Bible as a whole is rational, balanced insight, otherwise you end up simply ignoring entire clauses on rather arbitrary grounds.

    I think you mean burning fossil fuels now might not be seen as selfish if it helps the poor "now”? This is of course what some climate sceptics argue. And there would be a cost on the poor now, but some form of income redistribution could counter this. And burning fossil fuels now is a burden on everyone in all future generations, and this is the greater issue and it would be selfish to ignore this.

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  28. Dikran@26,

    You obviously know that Samson 2011 has evidenced the FF burning benefit only those who do it (e.g. western world) while those who don't do it (e.g. Africa) suffer the consequences:

    So the argument that FF burning could potentially be "reducing inequality" is not true. The NT etic of "love your neighbour as yourself" is clearly contradicted here, if the "neighbour" mean other countries.

    The idea of buring FF to lift people out of poverty if a myth propagated by the FF interest groups. Ask people in those poor countries and they will say the opposite: they don't want that burning and that energy coming with it. Often, the "resource course" in oil rich countires of middle east (where AGW vulnerability is high as shown above) mean people over there get zero benefit of that dense energy consumption by the world, their return are just endless conflicts.

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  29. Typo in my post above: I meant to recall "Resource curse" or "paradox of plenty" to invoke the suffering of people in Middle East as global civilisation is "energised" with their oil.

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