Creationists and climate change

Elizabeth Stoker Breunig draws a connection between creationists and climate change:

A more suggestive statistic comes from 2011 polling data, which found that roughly the same percentage of evangelicals who believe in evolution (32 percent) believe in human-caused climate change (31 percent). Is there a link between evangelical distrust in the theory of evolution and similar skepticism about the human-related causal factors in climate change?

I suspect so, though it seems the relationship has less to do with a certain apprehension of science and more to do with a particular view of moral theology, or the way that morality relates to faith.

Breunig supports her case by highlighting a recent Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) report, which shows that white evangelical protestants (WEPs) are significantly less concerned about climate change than other religious groups:


I’m not sure how Breunig concludes such data show that WEPs hold a “particular view of moral theology.” From what I’ve read, both WEPs and black protestants share a common theology. In fact, black protestants are more likely to be creationists than WEPs:


If the same theology leads to both creationism and the rejection of climate change, wouldn’t we expect black protestants to exhibit the same trend as WEPs? But that’s not what we see. Breunig has to explain exactly how WEPs theology differs from other Christians. She can’t just assume it from climate survey data.

The correct approach is to first coherently define evangelical, Protestant, and Catholic, and then categorize according to faith and nothing but faith. A religious survey should make religious instead of racial distinctions. Especially if the goal is to draw a connection between certain types of faith and concern about climate change, dividing along race makes no sense.

I suspect that this report does nothing more than confirm something we’ve known for a very long time: Republicans are much less concerned about climate change than Democrats. White evangelicals and Catholics tend to be Republican, while black evangelicals and Hispanic Catholics tend to be Democrat. These facts–not theology–better explain the survey results.

PRRI’s report–and Breunig’s essay–demonstrate again the tragic tendency to white-wash American Christianity. White evangelicals and black Protestants share a common theology, as do white and Hispanic Catholics. If we treated evangelicals as a group–as we should–we probably wouldn’t see that nice trend which conforms to everyone’s preconceived notions. We probably wouldn’t be able to generalize anything too meaningful or interesting. But who wants a survey that prevents us from making crude generalizations?


  1. I’d take it a step further. The demarcation is not between Republicans and Democrats, but between rural folks and urbanites.

  2. It will take more analysis to get to the bottom of confounding, hidden, and lurking factors. I also saw interesting flaws. I wouldn’t mind the racial breakdown if she at least used the same religious groups within each race. But she didn’t, and I wonder why.

    I also wonder if the 2011 polling data identified the 31 and 32 % as being roughly the same people. If it’s the same poll, that should easily be determined. But it wasn’t mentioned (at least in this blog post) and I wonder if that info is available.

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