Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Environmentalist Role Reversal

Riddle me this:

Concern for the environment — indeed, the entire environmentalist movement — is traditionally associated with "left-wing" "liberals" and naturalists, who often come under attack from "right-wing" "conservatives" and creationists as "treehuggers" with mixed-up priorities. This strikes me as a profound mystery.

Remember the part in Darwin's Theory of Evolution about Natural Selection (sometimes referred to as Survival of the Fittest)? Let's take a second and reconcile a belief in that process with, say, the Endangered Species Act. If you believe that life sprung from nothing and has progressed from nonliving matter to isolated cells and all the way to human civilization through the forces of random chance (beneficial, heritable mutations) and natural selection (better-equipped, increasingly dominant species directly or indirectly pushing less fit species toward extinction), why would you argue for human intervention when increasing human dominance threatens other species? Why should you care if the polar bear or spotted owl lives or dies? Isn't that just part of the process? Surely, if we're part of this whole natural system, then all our actions — including pollution, waste, ecological destruction, etc. — must be considered just as natural as the actions of an ape, squirrel, or flea. By what standard can they be condemned? (Before you're tempted to argue for humanity's unique power or responsibility, please consider that suggesting such things comes dangerously close to skewering the naturalist premise of your beliefs. To be consistent, man cannot be set apart or held to a higher standard.) But, if our natural actions, contrary to the natural actions of every other creature on earth, lead inexorably to the complete destruction of the planet, I must ask, how did we get to be so different?

On the flip side, if you believe God created every living thing after its own kind to work in harmony as parts of complete, complex ecosystems that by their very existence glorify God ... where do you get off not caring about the planet? Especially when your Bible says that God specifically put man on earth to take care of it. Don't give me any weak rationalizations about "having dominion" or "subduing the earth" — those verses are clearly about stewardship (everything is created "by him and for him", right?). And while you may be Biblically correct in asserting that caring for people is a higher priority than caring for animals or trees, your God asks you to do both. Whatever you do, don't shrug the whole thing off with "the whole world's going to be destroyed anyway" as if the approaching Apocalypse somehow nullifies the commands of your God (see 2 Peter 3:11). Note that He never condones selfishness or wastefulness. If you truly believe you'll one day give an account to Him, you'd better start caring about His creation — all of it.

Just some things for us to think about.