Archive for the ‘environmentalism’ Category

(Science) came to full flower in its modern form in seventeenth-century Europe. Have you ever wondered why that’s so? After all the ancient Greeks were pretty clever..

October 5, 2009

(Science) came to full flower in its modern form in seventeenth-century Europe. Have you ever wondered why that’s so? After all the ancient Greeks were pretty clever and the Chinese achieved a sophisticated culture well before we Europeans did, yet they did not hit on science as we now understand it. Quite a lot of people have thought that the missing ingredient was provided by the Christian religion. Of course, it’s impossible to prove that so – we can’t rerun history without Christianity and see what happens – but there’s a respectable case worth considering. It runs like this.

The way Christians think about creation (and the same is true for Jews and Muslims) has four significant consequences. The first is that we expect the world to be orderly because its Creator is rational and consistent, yet God is also free to create a universe whichever way God chooses. Therefore, we can’t figure it out just by thinking what the order of nature ought to be; we’ll have to take a look and see. In other words, observation and experiment are indispensable. That’s the bit the Greeks missed. They thought you could do it all just by cogitating. Third, because the world is God’s creation, it’s worthy of study. That, perhaps, was a point that the Chinese missed as they concentrated their attention on the world of humanity at the expense of the world of nature. Fourth, because the creation is not itself divine, we can prod it and investigate it without impiety. Put all these features together, and you have the intellectual setting in which science can get going.

John Polkinghorne, Quarks, Chaos and Christianity, p.18

It’s certainly a historical fact that most of the pioneers of modern science were religious men. They may have had their difficulties with the Church (like Galileo) or been of an orthodox cast of mind (like Newton), but religion was important for them. They used to like to say that God had written two books for our instruction, the book of scripture and the book of nature. I think we need to try to decipher both books if we’re to understand what’s really happening.

Quarks, Chaos & Christianity, page 29-30.

John Polkinghorne (born October 16, 1930 in Weston-super-Mare, England) is a British particle physicist and theologian. He has written extensively on matters concerning science and faith, and was awarded the Templeton Prize in 2002.

Christianity to blame for ecological disaster?

August 6, 2009

we shall continue to have a worsening ecologic crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man….

The greatest spiritual revolutionary in Western history, Saint Francis, proposed what he
thought was an alternative Christian view of nature and man’s relation to it; he tried to
substitute the idea of the equality of all creatures, including man, for the idea of man’s
limitless rule of creation. He failed. Both our present science and our present technology
are so tinctured with orthodox Christian arrogance toward nature that no solution for our
ecologic crisis can be expected from them alone. Since the roots of our trouble are so
largely religious, the remedy must also be essentially religious, whether we call it that or
not. We must rethink and refeel our nature and destiny. The profoundly religious, but
heretical, sense of the primitive Franciscans for the spiritual autonomy of all parts of
nature may point a direction. I propose Francis as a patron saint for ecologists.

The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis
Lynn White. 1967. Science 155: 1203-1207.

Lynn White presupposes that without Genesis man would have behaved better. But in China, without the, Christian historical tradition, environmental degradation is no better – perhaps worse. Officially atheist states like the Soviet Union had terrible records (its a moot point whether this is their Christian tradition or atheism to blame!)