WASHINGTON – Traditionally at war over the teaching of Earth’s creation, the two opposing forces of scientists and evangelicals found common ground Wednesday in protection of the environment, no matter how it came to be.
The truce, headed by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School and The National Association of Evangelicals, brought an “Urgent Call to Action,” a collaborative alert to politicians and the public to the dangers of the unsustainable burning of fossil fuels and the extinction of species.
“Important initiatives were already underway on both sides, and when compared they were found to be broadly overlapping,” the call to action says, “We (evangelicals and scientists) clearly share a moral passion and sense of vocation to save the imperiled living world…”
The two groups officially joined forces six weeks ago and now total 28 members. The “Urgent Call to Action” declares the need of people and corporations to make dramatic lifestyle changes to reduce energy consumption, but no other agenda has yet been set.
Members acknowledge that negative stereotypes and misinformation will hinder their goal of education.
One such skeptic is Jeff Trovato, an elder at Christ Reformed Evangelical Church in Millersville, Md., who had not heard of the campaign but said his church “wouldn’t be one to support it” because of a lack of evidence on global warming.
“You don’t want to go there with me,” he said to a reporter.
The science side may have less work cut out for it in convincing the public to get on board with the project, at least in the student arena.
Rita Colwell, distinguished professor at the University of Maryland at College Park and at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health said, “Student bodies will embrace efforts to protect the environment” as their “latent need to be expressed is obvious.”
Members like David Gushee, professor at Union University in Tennessee, said both sides will eventually come around.
“I think it is fair to say that most of us were not just surprised but astonished by the depth of our shared moral commitment, despite the obvious theological differences that exist,” Gushee said.
The first meeting of the coalition in summer 2006 aired stereotypes grown from such blatant differences.
Evangelicals perceived the scientists as sipping lattes and reading The New York Times, said mediator Eric Chivian, while scientists saw the evangelicals as thumping Bibles and driving Hummers.
However, after the initial meeting, the group’s views drastically changed and caused Chivian, director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, to form the bipartisan coalition.
“There is no such thing as a Republican or Democrat, a liberal or conservative, a religious or secular environment,” Chivian said, “We all breathe the same air and drink the same water.”