Answers in Genesis supports view on climate change that is contrary to prevailing scientific thought

Kentucky Ark Encounter exhibit bucks the trend
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jan 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-15 06:00:20-05

PETERSBURG, Ky. -- Answers in Genesis isn't afraid to buck conventional wisdom.

After all, the Boone County, Kentucky-based group is probably the world's leading advocate for the view that God created the world, much as it is now, just about 6,000 years ago, in six literal days, as described in the Biblical book of Genesis.

So perhaps it's not surprising that the nonprofit would not believe scientific experts who argue a connection between human activity and global warming.

Earlier this month, Answers tweeted a link to a paper written by Alan White titled, "The Globe is Warming, But It's Not Your Fault!" White has a doctorate in chemistry and is retired from the Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport, Tennessee.

In it, White, an occasional Answers contributor and lecturer, acknowledges that since 1880, the average global temperature has risen about 1.3 degrees F. But he doesn't agree that humans have caused it.

Answers spokeswoman Melany Ethridge said that White's not a full-time Answers employee, but said Answers generally agrees on the points in his article, which are reflected in a climate change exhibit at Answers' new Ark Encounter park in Williamstown, Kentucky.

The Ark exhibit claims that global warming has happened even before humans were burning large amounts of fossil fuels, particularly during the so-called Medieval Warm Period from 950 to 1250.

The Noah's Ark replica at Answer in Genesis' Ark Encounter park in Williamstown, Kentucky.

Mark Looy, one of Answers' co-founders, remembers that in the '70s, some scientists were warning of devastating global cooling on the way. For him, that's an example of the uncertainty involved in studying climate change.

But he takes the Bible seriously, he said, when it tells us we should be "good stewards of the world God has given us to tend, even when we can't be sure of the degree of human activity that might contribute to changing climates."

The consensus among scientists worldwide is that human activity is doing just that, and at an alarming rate.

One of White's arguments against that globally accepted truism -- and a common argument among global-warming deniers -- is that in the recent past, the earth was warmer than now, without any help from human activity.

White says that over the past 2,000 years, the temperature has been close to today's twice before -- during the Medieval Warm Period and during the Roman Warm Period.

The study White uses to support his argument was published in 2010. A study published in 2015 showed that any warming during the Medieval Warm Period was limited to Europe -- the rest of the world wasn't any warmer and might have even cooled off.

Also, the temperature graph White uses in his report cuts off at the year 2000. He says that since the turn of the new century, the temperature increase has paused, with little change for about the last 15 years.

When White was asked about this claim, he insisted that if you look at NASA data, you would find that around 2006, temperatures stopped rising and were holding steady. It's an argument often made by climate-change deniers, but one that NASA seems to have debunked in 2015.

NASA says that, with the exception of 1998, the 10 warmest years in the 136 years since records have been kept have all happened since 2000. And the year 2015 ranks as the warmest on record -- a record it looks like 2016 will break.

From NASA again: "The recent increase in global average temperature is so abrupt compared to the rest of the time period that when scientists make a graph of the data, the end of the line is nearly vertical."

It's the rapidity of the warming that alarms scientists -- but is it caused by human activity?

White says no, because the earth has warmed during periods when humans weren't burning lots of fossil fuels (like during the Medieval Warming Period … which might not have been so warm after all).

His argument seems to contend that if carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere caused by the mass burning of fossil fuels didn't cause global warming in other periods, then it isn't necessarily causing it now.

When Kenneth Tankersley, a University of Cincinnati professor who studies the effect of climate change on cultures, was asked what he thought of White's paper, he said that articles published in leading scientific journals, such as Nature, are reviewed by experts in the field, who determine the paper's credibility. Articles such as White's, he said, are "promiscuous with data, which undermines the integrity of the scientific method."

Tankersley has worked on films for the Discovery Channel, and he has also edited a scientific journal.

Tankersley takes a dim view of "creation science" like that practiced by Answers in Genesis, he said, because it starts from the premise that the Bible is literally true and tries to prove that. Science, on the other hand, posits a theory and then tries to disprove it. The theory that can't be disproved then becomes the accepted fact.

He referred to a picture he snapped recently while flying over the Rocky Mountains that he said scared him to death. The mountain's glaciers, he said, which took 25,000 years to form, have melted away -- and are not coming back. Even the glaciers in Glacier National Park are melting, he said.

"Global warming is very real," Tankersley said.

But White -- and many like him who look to Answers in Genesis for scientific opinions -- is not worried.

He ends his paper with questions for the reader: Do you trust that God has your best interests at heart, or "will you always be worried that the planet is on the verge of going out of control?"

For White, it's apparently an issue of faith over science.