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Extreme Weather, The End Times, and Predicting the Future
in the news: "Nearly four in 10 U.S. residents blame weather on 'end times'" says the headline in a recent Reuters news story written by Mary Wisniewski based on a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute. The survey also found that more than 60% blame the extreme weather events (including Hurricane Sandy, prolonged drought in the US mid-section, etc.) on climate change.
commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, project Worldview, www.projectworldview.org): I'd say the survey is consistent with what I believe to be a fundamental divide in a polarized American society: between those who interpret the world based on their faith in traditional religion and those who value reason and what modern science teaches. In America such faith is typically founded on the Bible. In characterizing such faith-based worldviews in terms of worldview themes, I'd begin by citing Belief in a Personal God (theme #8b), Religious Fundamentalism (theme #9A), and Moralistic God (theme #14A). For those whose worldviews have been shaped by the Book of Revelation and its graphic account of the end of the world / End Times, I'd add Apocalypticism (theme #9B). And for those folks who readily dismiss the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community that links human fossil fuel use with climate change as something of a conspiracy, I'd also factor Conspiracism (theme #36B) into this characterization.
In contrast, I'd say that most people who both value reason and are concerned about future problems posed by climate change, generally respect the honesty and integrity associated with "The Scientific Method" (theme #6) and appreciate climate scientists' sharing their findings and concerns. I see human efforts to avoid a truly apocalyptical weather future--where average global temperatures eventually rise by 6oC or more--falling into two categories. One depends more on people agreeing to policies, conflict resolution, and making lifestyle changes--I'd say this values The Attitudinal Fix (theme #47A) more. In contrast, an approach relying on energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy breakthroughs, geo-engineering schemes, etc. values The Technological Fix (theme #46A).
One interesting item in Wisniewski's report: SMU professor Cal Jillson, after noting the survey's finding that 15% of Americans believe the End Times will occur in their lifetimes, points out that most of them don't act in a way that's consistent with that belief. "A good number of these people are saving for retirement" he points out. Of course the gulf between what people claim to believe in and what their actions suggest is an ongoing problem for those hoping to use worldview analysis to forecast future human history. Given all the variables, I'd say successfully doing that is far more challenging than creating a computer model to accurately predict future global average temperatures!
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