Holy Hippopotamus, BatmanNovember 4, 2009
Looks like Tim Nicholson has won his lawsuit in which he argues that belief in climate change is philosophically akin to a religion. Roger intimated at the potential fallout of such a case a few weeks back, and I picked up the thread too. Of related interest, Leo Hickman pushes the obvious line in his column yesterday.
In my earlier thread, I argued that belief in climate change is not like a religion. In that post, I wanted to take up the philosophical question relevant to the legal claim that a belief in climate change is like other religious beliefs. I proposed that the difference between a religious belief and a non-religious belief lies in the former’s appeal to the supernatural. Many respondents, including philosophy grad student Richard Chappell, pointed out that “when people ask ‘is belief in X a religion?’ they are typically not asking whether X is supernatural.” Richard said that the focus of the claim is not on the content of the belief, but on the psychology of the believer. This is an important observation, but one that seems to me tangential to the legal question.
On this psychological account, if one believes anything fervently enough, then that fervently held belief might qualify not just as religion-like, but as a religion. Fervent belief in Objectivism might qualify as a religion, even though Rand (and presumably her acolytes) fervently condemn religion. More damningly for this view, if one does not believe in the supernatural fervently enough, then that belief is presumably not a religion, even though it may be, according to most people, a religion. So I might believe in God, say, but not have a religious belief in God (whatever that means).
I’d be curious to hear the legal reasoning behind this ruling, as it strikes me as strange. I suspect it has something to do with the UK’s “2003 Religion and Belief Regulations,” which I know nothing about.