Finding God in Facts – A Human Survival Guide

Harte, Mary Ellen | January 8, 2019 | Leave a Comment Download as PDF

Dawn | Pixaby 

Dawn | Pixaby 

“The fires are a wake-up call.
They will get worse.
We humans think we are in charge.
We think we are indispensable to God, but he is showing us that he is in control.
He is telling us that we need to find God.

Millie Fudge, Christian survivor of the  2018 prairie mega-fire, Ashland, Kansas

These should be searing words for all those, God-fearing or not, who line up behind President Trump in their denial of human generated climate change, or simply support him for family-values judges. Searing, because whether we view scientific laws as one of the many manifestations of God or not, they  underlie the very real facts that threaten our survival – and, indeed, have resulted in survival insights that are incorporated into basic religious laws.

The physics behind climate change – fossil fueled emissions cause the atmosphere and oceans to absorb far more heat from solar radiation than before –  is basic enough so that the major consequences are unfolding as predicted, only much faster than predictions of the International Panel on Climate Change reports, which duly emphasize conservative consensus.  

Not emphasized in those reports is the lopsided uncertainty of action vs. inaction: the costs of inaction, and the ensuing climate catastrophe, are far greater and more certain than the costs of action.   

Physical laws influence every aspect of  life and physical environment. They are not known to be broken, even when we create interplays that seemingly defy them. Flying seemingly defies gravity, but if physical laws crucial to flying are ignored, we suffer the consequences, as airline accidents illustrate.  

At all scales, physical laws are in control, from the dynamics of energy that fuel life, down to the molecules of our genes, to the movements of water and heat through air that we call weather.

Such diverse interplays often create unpredictable complexity. This does not preclude understanding, nor introduce “mysterious ways” of God: ultimately, we understand the laws underlying that unpredictability, and assess probabilities to describe it. (“What’s the chance of rain today? 50/50.”) And the results of these laws can appear seemingly miraculous when tiny probabilities do occur, as illustrated regularly by national lotteries.

Two important insights from the planetary playout of physics and life deeply affect our survival, however. Firstly, that playout implies no inherent inequality among various life forms: nothing is above physical laws. The evolution of those forms is driven by both biological and physical (both planetary and extraterrestrial – e.g., asteroids) processes, however, that can and have substantially shaped their existence in complex, unpredictable ways.

Secondly, the interplay of these processes over evolutionary time indicates that collaboration enhances survival, and is enhanced by equal treatment, in terms of survival, within and among species.  

There are moral lessons here for all who want to survive. The first lesson underlies social insurance: we all build collaborative connections that will help us when unpredictable needs arise. More collaboration enhances survival, both individual and general. Our long-term existence relies deeply on treating the survival of our planetary biodiversity with the same equality towards which we strive morally within humanity.   

The second lesson underpins motivation for the first: we are more likely to collaborate with those that we believe will treat us equally and fairly.  

These two basic lessons also underpin the Second Great Commandment of the New Testament: love thy neighbor as thyself.    

But survival requires an extension of that love from us to all life on this planet, because, ultimately, we depend on vast systems of life forms for our existence, directly as a result of the complex interactions of those laws: ecosystems provide clean air, beneficial climate, clean water, and maintain a genetic library for needed new forms of crops and medicines. Ecosystems are our physical lifelines. Destroying them for short term gain is suicidal.  Far more people, including unborn babies, will die inhumanely from their destruction than, for example, the unborn babies of today that concern so many current voters. It is one of the most dangerous threats to basic family values. Are we, as voters, adequately concerned about this unfolding apocalypse?

We can choose to survive by recognizing and acting on the facts resulting from scientific laws, or we can perish through willful ignorance of them, whether or not we believe in the manifestations of God. From international climate change negotiators to individual citizens, we all must understand and act on this choice. 


Mary Ellen Harte Ph.D., is a biologist who writes on climate change and population.

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  • Arnold Byron

    Regardless whether physics and biology are happenstance or God driven we are where we are and have to determine a way to get out of the hole humanity has dug itself. I think we can all agree that we have to achieve negative population growth and reduce the population. Dr. Miklashek feels certain that the same natural forces that act whenever a sub-human species becomes overpopulated. I do not want to bet all of humanity on that prospect. There are too many variables. Reaching the goal of negative population growth will take the planning of a global office that has been given the authority to order all of the people of the world in all of the nations of the world to comply with the new rules, laws and mores that the central office will make.

    Of course the global office will have been created by all of the nations working together. This will come about when the colleges and universities of the world come together as an association, write all of the new laws, rules and mores and sell the idea of a global office to the nations. The global office will be run by twelve people elected from the science and comparative religion departments who are not sociopathic and do not have special interests and special agendas. There is lots more that you can read about at the following link: .

    I believe that humanity can actually pull off reducing population growth, ending global warming and ending the possibility of annihilation by nuclear disaster and the equally disastrous use of plastics. Simpy remember this thought. Humanity will not do any work to climb out of this hole unless there is someone in charge to tell them what to do. Humanity will only dither and complain to each other; not unlike the comments that I sometimes read in these blog pages.

    • Since your comment is similar to a later one you left a few weeks ago, I’m inserting here the reply I gave to you then.

      Tackling solutions to many global problems can be significantly jump-started at the national level, esp when the nation is one of the richest and most powerful in the world. Doing so sets an example for other nations to follow. This is a much more likely political scenario than developing a centralized global office, as already evidenced by the one “global office” we already have — the United Nations, which has shown that the political interaction of so many nations waters down every attempt to affect significant change. You have no way of ensuring the same thing won’t happen to your plan, no matter how much you specify the details.
      I would argue that a more effective way to market and garner support for creating responsibly sustainable populations is to emphasize those points that most people already agree on: we wish to bring our populations to sustainable sizes humanely.
      The first way to start tackling it – and changing our attitudes about what constitutes sustainable populations – is to point out another need we all agree on: prevent unintended pregnancies, which is a significant problem.
      As to the ability for one nation to make a difference, one nation already has: China. Its one child policy (whatever you might say about its humanity) not only prevented 1 billion more people from existing in the world today, but it also changed the attitudes of many Chinese: ask your typical city-dwelling Chinese couple how many children they want, and they will say one is what they can responsibly afford and plan to have, whether the one child policy is in effect or not. These are 2 big steps that no other nation has effected, nor thanked China.
      And large organizations have been working overseas to prevent unintended pregnancies — check out the work of the B&M Gates Foundation in Africa, for ex., (but is funding nothing comparable in the US) or that of Pathway International.
      You are right: slowing population growth isn’t enough — but it is a necessary first step.

  • trilemmaman

    I believe these ‘self evident truths’ were best described as a function of the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” in our Declaration of Independence. Catastrophically, the authors of that document didn’t follow the fundamental principles they recognized in it when codifying the U.S. Constitution. That led to a civil war that killed more Americans than all the wars our nation has fought in since then…combined! And our failure to codify “liberty and Justice for all” (golden rule) on the global level is the primary reason we need to worry more about the evolution of weapons and war… which will bring down our population numbers infinitely faster than the longer term consequences from our unforgivable massive crimes against our environment (God’s creation if your into that story). If a pandemic originating from our insults to the environment or failures to address poverty doesn’t do it first.

  • Greeley Miklashek

    Humans have a long evolved, God given if you will, population regulation mechanism built into our neuro-endocrine physiology whereby population density stress initially causes the “diseases of civilization”, but if that is not sufficient to bring our numbers back into an ecological balance with the rest of Her/His ecosystem, then social disruption and infertility are set to do the job. These mechanisms have been well studied in crowded animal experiments over the past 70 years and all have taken the same course, with maximum crowding resulting in no further living offspring and extinct of the entire population. So what? In the past 34 years, infertility in the US has risen 100%, from 1/12 to 1/6 couples and is continuing to increase. Sperm counts in the West have fallen 59% over the past 38 years. On the current trajectory, we could reach sperm counts low enough to prevent natural conception within 14 years. Mother Nature/God knows best and we haven’t been listening. Can you hear Me now? Stress R Us

    • melharte

      Yeah, now if only we listen fast enough, we can avoid much of the future inhumanity. As it is, the message is slowly penetrating…

    • trilemmaman

      Actaully, it’s just the opposite. Modern, safe, comfortable living may make us soft but it also has made us so selfish we don’t want to have children. The fastest decline in birth rates is seen in developed nations where life is good …and insurance children are not needed to take care of us in our old age.

      • Greeley Miklashek

        Actually, all are true. You go with “either, or”, but I’m going with “all of the above”. You, however, have no apparent scientific basis or background to challenge my contribution to this equation. Your arrogance is palpable, but not unusual for many of the unfounded comments on these threads.

      • Falcon86

        For the record, GM brooks no criticism – he’s got a book to flog and an ego to stroke, so he’s quick to accuse you of his own flagrant personality flaws. Your answer is no less “scientific” than his own meandering claims.

  • Jason G. Brent

    Trump will go down in history as the greatest mass murderer because of his and the Republican position on global warming. However, there is one problem—humanity will probably survive the global warming problem and no one will be alive to read the history.

    • Mike Hanauer

      I think for mass murder over the longer term, the Catholic Church is probably in the lead.

      • Jason G. Brent

        I was wrong. You are right. Jason G. Brent