David Barton Lectures Pope Francis (Really)

by Dan Quinn

On his Monday WallBuilders Live! radio program, phony historian and religious-right propagandist David Barton decided to lecture Pope Francis about the advice he gets. Yeah, seriously.

Barton and his sidekick Rick Green invited anti-climate science crank William Briggs on their show to criticize Pope Francis for his June encyclical calling climate change a “principal challenge” for humanity. International leaders and climate scientists have praised the encyclical. Right-wing pressure groups and political activists hated it. (Natch.)

So it wasn’t really surprising to hear Barton, Green and Briggs denounce the pope’s encyclical. But it was a little startling to hear them attack the pontiff for listening to people they described as atheists, abortion supporters and “global warming fanatics.” Barton even conflated political positions on issues like free market economics and climate science with being pro- or anti-God.

Here is Barton talking to Green in one segment of the show:

Barton: “The pope has done some really good things since he’s become pope. But it’s now coming out that some of the counsel he is given, some of the advice he is given, some of the encyclicals that are coming out, are being drafted by people who are his counselors who happen to be atheists, who also happen to be anti-God folks as well.”

Green: “Well, yeah, because like you said, he’s done some really good things, but he’s also said some things and done some things that you’re going, ‘wait, really? where’s the biblical basis for that?’”

Barton: “Kind of the attack on the free market system that’s happening. And now the stuff that’s going on with global warming and where he’s come down on that. And you look at the counselors behind that and you say, ‘Oh, I understand where he’s coming from now.’ … There’s a large part of the world that follows the pope’s advice. But what if the advice that’s being given is coming from ungodly beliefs and perspectives?”

Barton at this point introduces Briggs, referring to him as teaching at Cornell. Briggs proceeds to savage the pope for the appointment of Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, one of the world’s most respected climate scientists, to a major Vatican council on science.

Briggs attacks Schellnhuber, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, for being a “self-described atheist” and a “population control enthusiast.” Green weighs in, suggesting that Schellnhuber is “more of an environmental worshipper than a God worshipper.” Briggs calls Schellnburger a “big time global warming fanatic” and criticizes another Vatican adviser, Jeffrey Sachs. Briggs dismisses Sachs, a renowned economist and director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, as just another “population control enthusiast.” Here’s part of what Briggs said:

“What they mean by population control is, of course, abortion and contraception and the like. They don’t like people. They don’t like the idea there are more people than they can control, I guess. They’re suspicious of people. They just don’t like having people around. And so they’re always proposing these ideas that would eliminate people or would control what people do with their lives, particularly in the matter of having children.”

So who in the world is Briggs? He’s an adjunct professor at Cornell, teaching one course a year in statistical science. Among his jobs has been a short stint (1992-93) as a meteorologist at the National Weather Service after he got his undergraduate degree. Briggs has also served as an adviser to the Heartland Institute, a corporate-funded attack dog that rejects climate science.

Scientists and science writers have had a fun time ridiculing Briggs and his arguments (such as here). In short, climate scientist don’t take him seriously. Neither should anyone else, at least not on this topic.

All of which makes Barton’s closing remarks on his show today rather amusing:

“This is a good lesson for all of us. Check the friends you get your counsel from. See where you get your advice. Check who’s telling you what to do on Facebook. Check what sites you look on the web, where you get your news. It has a huge impact on the way you think.”

Indeed, David. We’ll certainly agree with you on that point. Perhaps you should take your own advice — or your listeners should.

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