Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States, just used a Bible verse to defend his decision to remove scientists from key advisory positions within the agency.
On Tuesday afternoon, Scott Pruitt announced dramatic changes to the rules the EPA would apply to those who can advise on research and regulatory policies. The changes essentially make it easier for lobbyists in the coal, oil, and other industries to “advise” the agency, and make it much harder for actual scientists to serve in an advisory position. Given the EPA’s mission to safeguard public health and the environment, many people are condemning Pruitt’s actions.
When speaking about the changes, Pruitt said:
“[On the journey to the promised land] Joshua says to the people of Israel, ‘Choose this day whom you are going to serve.’ This is sort of like the Joshua principle — that as it relates to grants from this agency, you are going to have to choose either service on the committee to provide counsel to us in an independent fashion or chose the grant. But you can’t do both. That’s the fair and great thing to do."
The insanity of this decision is neatly summarized by Andrew Rosenberg, the director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union for Concerned Scientists. Rosenberg said:
“Pruitt is turning the idea of ‘conflict of interest’ on its head — he claims federal research grants should exclude a scientist from an EPA advisory board but industry funding shouldn’t. The consequences of these decisions aren’t just bad for a few scientists. This could mean that there’s no independent voice ensuring that EPA follows the science on everything from drinking water pollution to atmospheric chemical exposure.”
Pruitt is a devout Christian, and going by what he said regarding the passage in Joshua he clearly relies on his faith to make decisions regarding the EPA. Why do so many religious people resist the idea of climate change, or take umbrage with the idea of caring for the environment?
The answer could lie in the Bible that they hold so dear. For anyone who takes the Bible literally, an important moment happens in the first chapter of Genesis:
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, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” – Genesis 1:26-28 (NIV)
God made humans the rulers of the world and everything in it, according to those verses. So the idea that humans have to change their behavior in deference to the environment directly opposes that belief. For the devoutly religious to agree that we humans are subject to the forces of nature, and have a responsibility to protect fellow animals, that would be anathema to God’s gift of dominion.
It really is maddening from the point of view of an atheist. Louis C.K. has a great bit that is relevant. He said:
“If you believe that God gave you the Earth and God created the Earth for you, why would you not be – have to look after it? Why the fuck – why would you not think that when he came back he would go, ‘What the fuck did you do? I gave this to you motherfucker are you crazy? The polar bears are brown! What did you – what did you do to the polar bears??? Did you shit all over every polar bear? What did you – Who did this? Who spilled this shit? Who spilled this? Come over – did you fucking spill this? What is that?’
‘It’s oil…it’s just some oil…I didn’t mean to spill it…’
‘Well why did you take it out of the fucking ground???’
‘Cuz I wanted to go faster…I’m not fast enough…and I was cold…’
‘What the fuck do you mean cold? I gave you everything you needed you piece of shit!’”
Last month Nicaragua agreed to join the Paris Climate Accord, which makes the United States and Syria the only two countries not participating in the agreement between nearly 200 countries. As the rest of the world is finally making moves to address climate change, the United States is trying to make things worse because of a dangerous mix of delusional religious thinking, greed, and corruption.