Sen. James Inhofe, climate change denier, the Bible only proves you don’t understand words

Rep. James InhofeJust the other morning, I ran across this article from ThinkProgress:

Inhofe: God Says Global Warming Is a Hoax

That article links to a short clip from an interview Inhofe gave to one Vic Eliason at Voice of Christian Youth America to promote his book The Greatest Hoax:

“Well actually the Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that “as long as the earth remains there will be springtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night.” My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

For the sake of argument, let’s just put aside our many, many other differences and allow me to pull out my online copy of your Good Book (personally, I prefer the New American Standard for accuracy in translation) so I can figuratively thump you in the head with it. Maybe together we can shake some sense loose in that addled noggin of yours. See, quoting scripture is all fine and dandy, but if you do that, there’s going to be other people out here, like me, that are willing to play that game with you, if only to demonstrate that you don’t even know what you’re talking about when you lean on your favorite political crutch.

You quote Genesis 8:22 as the crux of your “argument” (barely merits the term) that “God says” anthropogenic climate change is a hoax. Your version and mine are similar enough, so I’ll use mine (NASB):

 22 “While the earth remains, 
Seedtime and harvest, 
And cold and heat, 
And summer and winter, 
And day and night 
Shall not cease.”

The funny thing is, you left out the context. Granted, I know your background as a legislator is in everything but law (I guess your 40 year old BA and presidency of a failed insurance company count for something), but surely as a legislator even you would catch the legalistic legerdemain in such a vow as this, given its context. Just in case you forgot, this is the part where Noah, fresh from the ark, makes a sacrifice found pleasing to Adonai.

21 The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.

Never mind Noah’s strange ability to hear a deity talking to itself. After all, a literal reading of this does strictly mean that Adonai certainly wasn’t talking to Noah, unless you mean to say that Noah is god. Never mind that in his self-directed monologue Adonai only promises to not curse the ground on account of man. Adonai says nothing about not cursing the air. Adonai says nothing about cursing the ground on any other account than man. Never mind that Adonai even goes so far to say that using man as an excuse just means the ground would pretty much always need destroying since “the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Never mind that Adonai promises to never again destroy every living thing, “as I have done”, which is not to say Adonai wouldn’t destroy every living thing in some other way than “as I have done.” Forget all that. That’s all just really inconvenient and distracting, right?

So let’s just stick with your favored quote, the one you use out of context. Adonai says “seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease.” As a legalistic sort, would you put “shall not cease” in a contract (oh, wait, sorry, you’re no attorney) … if your attorney put “shall not cease” in a contract, would that mean “shall not be rescheduled or temporarily suspended”? I wouldn’t think so, but then again, I’m also no attorney. I’m just a guy that seems to understand words better than you.

Adonai, on the other hand, would seem to agree with me that a little rescheduling or temporary suspension of seedtime and harvest is in keeping with his terms. After all, consider what happens a mere four chapters later. In chapter 12, Abraham leaves Canaan to go to Egypt:

10 Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 

Famine, huh? What was that about seedtime and harvest not ceasing while earth remains? I guess this must have just been a bit of rescheduling. A temporary suspension. A fluctuation.

Inhofe: The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.

By extension, cloud seeding to increase precipitation or mitigate hail and fog at airports is just outrageous! Of course not, so there’s a way man is able to change what “He is doing in the climate.” One exception throws the door wide open in the search for others. In what other ways might man make such a change? If you’d bother to read anything other than the junk science supported by your biggest contributors, you might learn a thing or two about the amount of carbon we chuck into the atmosphere and the evidence tying that phenomenon to climate change. Brian Angliss at Scholars & Rogues could help you with that.

Anthropogenic climate change may also influence fluctuations in seedtime and harvest in the long run if it nudges the proper conditions for farming around in a predictable manner. But what if those proper conditions are nudged in unpredictable ways? Seedtime might stay the same out of wishful thinking and poor forecasting,but harvest? Sorry, a failed crop just means harvest is temporarily suspended. Maybe next year.

In your favored verse, does Adonai say anything about cold and heat never fluctuating? No? Right, Adonai just says that, so long as earth remains, it would not cease. Forget anything physics-y about “cold” and “heat” and non-existent reliance upon earth for their existence (since the ancients didn’t have our current understanding and, presumably, neither did the omniscient Adonai). Adonai only promises to keep cold and heat from ceasing. Adonai says nothing about man’s capacity for interfering with its regularity.

In regard to summer and winter, let’s assume we’re not talking about seasons as they depend on little factors like location on the surface of a roughly spherical earth, axial tilt, and distance from the star around which our planet revolves. Neither ancients nor Adonai seemed to know about those trifles. Let’s just assume that, in the ancient mind, a mind that still worried that there might not be morning following night (when the sun died) or spring following a winter, summer is just “that warm time that happens about now-ish” and winter is “that colder time that happens about then-ish”. Then, as now, sometimes warm came a little sooner, or a little later, or cold came a little sooner, or a little later. As with these other Noahide details, Adonai only says summer and winter won’t cease, not that they wouldn’t be scooted around a bit here or there. Adonai also failed to mention whether or not man might one day have a role in that scooting.

On the subject of day and night, maybe you’re on more solid ground. After all, what can man or anthropogenic climate change have to do with when day or night come about? Adonai only said they wouldn’t cease. Once again, Adonai had nothing to say about day and night not changing or whether or not man could have a hand in it. Well, if this is any consideration, I guess even an unchanging day and night all depends on taking a long view. Thanks to modern science, we know just when the sun will come up over the horizon and “day” commences wherever we are, down to the second. If we should move “wherever we are” just far enough, that time shifts, however minimally, ergo, day would start a tad earlier or a touch later. If it turns out that man is able to cause “wherever we are” to change by virtue of triggering geologic events that result in movement of tectonic plates, then even the fixed timing of sunrise and sunset isn’t sacred.

As for “While the earth remains,” don’t even get me started on what the ancients meant by “earth” (הארץ/”the land”) compared to our modern understanding. Their understanding of what wouldn’t cease and our understanding of what wouldn’t cease are worlds apart.

Words just aren’t your strong suit

While you’re busy telling us what Adonai means by anything, St. Inhofe, Literalist Bible Master, perhaps you’d care to explain to Israel and neighboring nations why their borders should look more like the map below? After all, you had this to say:

I believe very strongly that we ought to support Israel; that it has a right to the land. This is the most important reason: Because God said so. As I said a minute ago, look it up in the book of Genesis. It is right up there on the desk.

In Genesis 13:14-17, the Bible says:

The Lord said to Abram, “Lift up now your eyes, and look from the place where you are northward, and southward, and eastward and westward: for all the land which you see, to you will I give it, and to your seed forever. ….. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it to thee.”

That is God talking.

You do realize that when Abraham was to lift up his eyes, he was likely on the highest point available somewhere in the hills of Bethel (see verse 3)? That the likely elevation would have been somewhat lower than that of the neighboring Mt. of Olives (2,739 ft.)? That if one looks around from such a vantage, as Abraham was instructed, one is surveying the horizon? Do you know how far the horizon would appear from 2,739 ft.? 64.1 miles. It would be somewhat nearer from a lower vantage, but let’s go with that.

Israel's new border as proposed by James Inhofe
Israel’s new border as proposed by James Inhofe

Are you really sure that’s what you mean to suggest? I doubt it, but maybe so. You’re a literalist, after all. If this is what you do mean, does that mean Israel is not entitled to the lands outside the red circle? Or that Jordan, for instance, should get ready to relinquish a huge chunk of its sovereign territory? When Israel lops off most of the Negev and its northernmost tip, what nations do you propose should have those? Or do you propose that Israel is also entitled to lands to which it is not biblically entitled?

Do us all a favor, Senator. Forget using the Bible as your crutch. You’re not terribly good at it. You just make real Christians look bad. And now you’re probably gonna piss off the Israelis, who, incidentally, have a government that tends to give credence to anthropogenic climate change. Okay, so climate change, Bibles, and Israel. Is there anything else you should shut up about?

——-

Image credits:

Sen. James Inhofe in Dunce Cap: Adapted from photo of Inhofe by Gage Skidmore under Creative Commons license and photo of dunce cap under Create Commons license.

Map of Israel: © TerraMetrics/Google Maps. Modified under earnest belief such use falls under fair use.

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