Science: Global warming — amount of warming confirmed

Few issues have aroused the feelings of political conservatives and their evangelical allies as much as the claim that global warming is a fact. A newly published study has settled several key issues about this claim that had formerly made it seem questionable.

The New York Times has reported, “A team at the University of California Berkeley that set out to test the temperature data underlying the consensus on global warming has concluded that the mainstream estimate of the rise in the earth’s surface temperature since 1950 is indeed accurate.” The brief newspaper story may be found here. The study found that the earth’s land masses are 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than in the 1950s.

Three major groups had previously published claims supporting human-caused global warming based on a much smaller data set, but climate skeptics had raised several possible sources of error. Among those raising questions were some members of the Berkeley Earth study. The Berkeley study also shows that those possible error sources do not account for the temperature change previously found. The Berkeley study has particular weight in that it includes five times more temperature readings than the previous studies. All of the data and reports are available online.

Professor Richard A. Muller, Berkeley Earth’s founder and scientific director, stated:

Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the U.S. and U.K. This confirms that these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate change skeptics did not seriously affect their conclusions.[1]

The Berkeley Earth team includes physicists, climatologists and statisticians from California, Oregon and Georgia. One member of the group, Saul Perlmutter, was recently awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics (for his work in cosmology).

A surprising twist on the story is that the research leading to these findings was partially funded by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Charles Koch is a billionaire who is most well-known for his support of libertarian causes as well as the Tea Party. Koch also has extensive holdings in fossil fuels.

One real test of these new findings may be whether evangelical Christians accept them as valid. Some Christians have demonstrated a clear disdain for any scientific finding that does not fit their own ideas. This global warming issue is not like the alleged biological evolution of human beings, a far more complicated theory with many unresolved questions. The Berkeley study involves measuring temperatures and assessing whether they are higher or lower on a global basis. If science cannot carry out this task, then we have to wonder whether iPods fell from heaven rather than being designed by engineers.

No conclusion was reached by the Berkeley Earth team about a second inflammatory idea  — human causation of the observed global warming. That awaits further study of ocean temperatures.

As a final treat, watch the video showing the warming of the earth from 1800 to the present at this link. Actually, it is a bit depressing. It starts with a real cold spell in the period 1800–1820 and ends with consistent warming over the last three decades.

Climate change has already made an appearance in the competing Republican campaigns for president. All the candidates firmly doubt there is any problem and several openly allege data manipulation by scientists.  No change in their views should be anticipated based on the Berkeley Earth study because they know what their primary voters believe.

Try to keep in mind that propaganda and data are two different things. This study contains data. God has made all of us stewards of the earth and all that is in it (Gen. 1:27–28), and we will be held responsible for what humans do on this planet. God isn’t running for office.

 

[1] “Cooling the Warming Debate,” by Elizabeth Muller, Founder and Executive Director of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study, 20 October 2011, page 1.

 

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 11:18–26

Genesis 11:18–26
When Peleg had lived 30 years, he became the father of Reu.  19 And after he became the father of Reu, Peleg lived 209 years and had other sons and daughters.
20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he became the father of Serug.  21 And after he became the father of Serug, Reu lived 207 years and had other sons and daughters.
22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he became the father of Nahor.  23 And after he became the father of Nahor, Serug lived 200 years and had other sons and daughters.
24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he became the father of Terah.  25 And after he became the father of Terah, Nahor lived 119 years and had other sons and daughters.
26 When Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
(NET Bible)

Preparation for Abraham and the covenant

God is not in a hurry! He works toward long-term goals, not the quick fix. His plan to remedy the ruin of humankind took millennia to unfold and is not yet complete.

How does our impatience interact with God’s patience? What are we to make of God’s decision to bring his solution by working through humankind? What does Genesis show us about God’s guiding hand on history?

Kenneth Mathews puts this passage into perspective:

The Babel account (11:1-9) is not the end of early Genesis. If it were, the story would conclude on the sad note of human failure. But as with earlier events in Genesis 1-11, God’s grace once again supersedes human sin, insuring the continued possibilities of the promissory blessings (1:28; 9:1).[1]

Gordon Wenham adds, “With this short genealogy from Shem to Abram, the Genesis narrative steps from the primeval period, whose events have cosmic significance directly affecting all mankind, into the patriarchal period.”[2] The patriarchs are, at minimum, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Terah, the father of Abram [later Abraham], waited more than twice as long to have his first son as all the others born after the flood and listed in Genesis 11. Genesis 11:26 tells us he was 70 years old when his first son was born. However, it may shed light on the fact that Abraham did not have his own first son Ishmael (by the servant Hagar) until he was 85 or 86 years old (Gen. 16:3-4).

Terah’s name may be connected to the word for “moon.” Even if it is not, Wenham says, “Several of Abram’s relations have names that suggest adherence to lunar worship (cf. Sarah, Milcah, Laban), a cult that was prominent in Ur and Harran.”[3]Ur was Abram’s birthplace about 186 miles southeast of modern Baghdad. Perhaps this moon worship explains the Lord’s words in Joshua 24:2 saying: “In the distant past your ancestors lived beyond the Euphrates River, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor. They worshiped other gods.”

By God’s grace and selection, Abraham became a towering figure in Old Testament history and New Testament theology. But that is a story for another day!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[This post concludes the series on Genesis 1–11.]



[1] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996) 487.

[2] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 253.

[3] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 252.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 11:10–17

Genesis 11:10–17
This is the account of Shem. Shem was 100 years old when he became the father of Arphaxad, two years after the flood.  11 And after becoming the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other sons and daughters.
12 When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah.  13 And after he became the father of Shelah, Arphaxad lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber.  15 And after he became the father of Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg.  17 And after he became the father of Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters.
(NET Bible)

Shem’s family extends God’s chosen line

God is faithful, but that does not mean that things always go smoothly. Consider the life of Shem, who survived the flood, protected the honor of his father Noah, and helped found a renewed human race.

What does it mean to have a covenant with God? How does God’s blessing relate to the suffering that comes because of living in a sinful world?

Genesis 11:10 contains one of the linguistic markers that divides sections of Genesis into separate accounts. The big thing to consider is the fact that only Shem, of Noah’s three sons, received separate attention in the form of a detailed genealogy. In effect, Shem’s short genealogy is given in chapter 10 with regard to the development of nations; in chapter 11 Shem’s lineage is traced to Abram, who is later renamed Abraham.

You will recall our previous statements that Genesis is a theological history with specific interests. Shem gets all this attention for the simple reason that his line leads through Abraham and through David to Jesus, the Messiah.

Commenting on Genesis 11:10, Gordon Wenham says, “The birth of Arpachshad, the first after the flood, shows that Shem fulfilled the new mandate to mankind to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (8:17; 9:1, 7).”[1]

Genesis 11:16  When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg.

We have previously said the name Eber is related to the name Hebrew, though nothing is made of that fact in Gen. 11:16. Peleg’s name has three consonants that form the root of a verb meaning “divide, separate.” That would scarcely matter except that Genesis 10:25 has the cryptic remark: “One was named Peleg because in his days the earth was divided” (emphasis added).

Many commentators think this division is a reference to the dispersion at Babel, thus placing that event in Peleg’s lifetime, but that is not certain. If heaven has a FAQ, it will probably contain the answer in the top fifty questions asked.   :-)

A retrospective look at Genesis will show that an extended genealogy ends at Genesis 5:32 with the naming of Noah’s three sons. Before it resumes with Seth’s line in Genesis 11, we have the cataclysm of the flood and the dramatic intervention by God at the tower of Babel. We may say that the resumption of the genealogy in Genesis 11 is reassuring. Kenneth Mathews says, “While the threats of the flood and Babel are alarming, the return to the predictable pattern of genealogical descent after each (9:29; 11:10–26) shows that God’s purposes for humanity are back on track.”[2]

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 250.

[2] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996) 489.