MANY in Australia and around the English-speaking world will celebrate Easter this long weekend. I usually go to Church on Easter Sunday. I’m a Christian by culture while an Atheist by choice. I am inspired by the natural world, its beauty and natural order, so perhaps I am also an environmentalist.
Easter can be a time for reflection including about the world around us and how we choose to live our lives.
Practicing Protestant and climate change sceptic, Graham Young, reflects on the meanings of being a modern Christian today at e-journal Online Opinion. He writes:
“Christianity is not even a broad church, but often a seething mass of denominational theological debate. While one cannot condemn science on the basis of ‘eugenics, nuclear warheads and pollution’ no defence of science would be complete that did not deal with these things either.
“Likewise a defence of Christianity that refuses not only to deal with religious extremism but the sort of evangelical Christianity that dominates outside of Europe, Canada, Australia and the north-east and the west coast of the USA, is flawed. All Christians are not creationists, but many are. This cannot be ignored.”
Many at this weblog suggest that environmentalism is illogical and fanatical, while others defend it as science-based. Like Christianity and other belief-systems with large and diverse followings Environmentalism can be difficult to define.
There are those like Tim Flannery who have been influenced by James Lovelock’s Gaia theory and see a natural order that can be easily knocked off-balance by human activity.
I understand that Al Gore, while a committed environmentalist is also a committed Christian who believes in creation. Perhaps for this reason he is so concerned about the idea of man despoiling the earth through greed.
Then there are Pagans who see the religious power of the natural world in the range of experiences it can symbolize. These people ascribe emotions to the natural world and use the turn of the seasons for their own narratives.
Many environmentalists love to hate the developed industrialized world with a loathing justified by their Romantic view of the natural world and subsistence economies. This approach has its origins in the second half of the 18th century in Western Europe.
There are those who, like me, subscribe to the Darwinian model of evolution and see competition and adaptation, sometimes against a backdrop of catastrophic climate change, as fundamental to understanding and accepting the nature of life on earth.
These different approaches inspire a particular attitude to life.
Like many Christians, many Environmentalists believe that through their individual and collective actions they can help create a better world. It’s a worthy ideal. But we tend to differ radically on how this might be achieved – a better world that is.
‘A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists’ reviewed by Graham Young http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=8753
A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists: Musings on Why God Is Good and Faith Isn’t Evil by David G. Myers
The photograph was taken yesterday by Jennifer Marohasy standing on the edge of the Jamieson Valley, Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia. Click on the image for a larger – better view.
spangled drongo says
Great photo Jen.
I think that when you live in these wonderful places, you find it hard to become an atheist despite the “sophisticated shudders”.
Somehow, humanity and nature need something more. There is something missing.
Humanity and city living, OTOH, seems to affect the spirituality somehow and God doesn’t seem so necessary.
Have a happy Easter.
spangled drongo says
I had my own heavenly visitation this morning when a cloud of Scarlet Honeyeaters decended on me and followed me for some distance.
These tiny, fragile birds are something special.
Enough to make anyone get ‘ligion.
James Mayeau says
Saw Jen on the YouTube.
I’m sort of curious if an ABC news blurb causes a spike in traffic,.
(link provided by my friend Col. Steele)
de beers distillery says
Last year I picked up, by chance, a newly published book out of an ABC bookshop. The author had been a agnostic for much of his life & used his training as a laywer to respond in a reasoned way to the big questions of life.
I’ll leave you with this link: http://godactually.com/christian-book/the-resurrection.html
Ian Mott says
My stated religion is “Comedian”. If there is an all knowing being then one must conclude that after watching over so much of the human condition that he/she is long overdue for a little cheering up. I imagine his bemusement at the way I seriously believe that the life creed that I have adopted is entirely the product of my own reason, with nil input from him.
Yet, if he or she really is that clever then he/she would also understand that each must form their own unique bond with their maker. And that would mean that some would have such confidence in their own intellect that they could only do so through the unconscious pursuit of similar ideals and values, as a result of their own deep contemplation and reflection, whilst believing that he/she doesn’t exist at all.
It would be a bit like the way a husband might seriously believe he has thought something through to make his own decision, oblivious to the the numerous quiet promptings of his ever patient wife. Gods and wives move in mysterious ways, don’t you think?
But there is one very fundamental difference between most religions and the green religion. Most religions prize the truth and condemn the liar but almost every follower of the green religion, when probed, will offer the suggestion that “sometimes you have to lie to get things done”. But if someone said “sometimes you have to lie to make a sale” we would all instantly recognise a shonky trader to be avoided at all costs.
But we accept that Al Gore can call himself a Christian while telling a room full of journalists that it is OK for them to exaggerate environmental problems to get the message through. As if 9 out of 10 was a good score in “Commandments 101”.
“Most religions prize the truth and condemn the liar but almost every follower of the green religion, when probed, will offer the suggestion that “sometimes you have to lie to get things done”.”
Such generalised, unsubstantiated statements are up there with the best of the fundamentalist views.
James, Thanks for the link. No spike followed the TV appearance. When I’m on TV, radio or in print I tend to get a few emails from ‘new’ people who haven’t heard of me etcetera and some of them might start to follow the blog. It is online news that generates most online traffic. Comment on something here at say Anthony Watt’s blog will sometimes have an influence on traffic cause he is getting so big and his audience can easily click across.
You have no idea what I think Jennifer, I would thank you to stop assuming you do.
“You have no idea what I think Jennifer, I would thank you to stop assuming you do.”
I didn’t realize you self-identified as PAGAN!!
Ian Mott says
Then give us evidence to the contrary, Phil.
Does Al Gore claim to be a Christian? Yep. Did he tell a hall full of journalists that it was OK to exaggerate environmental threats to get their way? Yep.
How many times have the WWF/ACF/Greenpimp issued a correction and apology for misleading the public with exaggerated and false claims of doom? Never.
How many times in policy committees etc over the past 20 years have green hideoids told me that one cannot protect the environment and deliver justice as well? Too many to count.
The Victorian fires make it crystal clear that the green religion will subordinate every obligation to humans, including the obligation to protect the lives of children, to their perverted religious dogma. They worship Baal. They are fully capable of unrepentant human sacrifice. They are moral and intellectual retards.
If I had to put SJT into a category it would probably be with Al Gore. I suspect his baggage is a Christian upbringing which colours his view of the natural world. That is he carries this across to his understanding of the natural world but not consciously.
Indeed to understand the natural world as it really is, a great deal of self discipline must be imposed.
Malcolm Hill says
As for most religions prizing the truth just be thankfull we havent yet been coerced into being Islamic.
In that religion there is a word for permissable lieing, namely “taqiyya” which means one can lie if it advances their religion.They use it all to time, thats when you can tell.
For the greenies the equivalent is “scumbagerry”, and it as the same effect it just improves their coffers.
“If I had to put SJT into a category it would probably be with Al Gore. I suspect his baggage is a Christian upbringing which colours his view of the natural world. That is he carries this across to his understanding of the natural world but not consciously.
Indeed to understand the natural world as it really is, a great deal of self discipline must be imposed.”
Exactly my point. You know nothing about me, but can still judge me, and get it completely wrong.
Taluka Byvalnian says
Well, SJT, having read your comments on this blog, YOU get everything completely wrong!
Louis Hissink says
“You have no idea what I think Jennifer, I would thank you to stop assuming you do.”
Given that Jennifer did not mention you specifically, and I reread her post to make sure since I tend to gloss over things, your reaction is quite problematical – or did you post it in the wrong thread, perhaps?
Actually given the stick you give sceptics here, one might be permitted the observation that you might have no idea what you think either.
Jennifer are you sure you arent Ian Mott? You’ve both taken it upon yourselves to speculate about people with no backing whatsoever. The fact Ian now asks I provide proof is hysterical. You make up the lies Ian, it’s no point telling you otherwise. You claimed “almost every follower of the green religion” lies. Countless people I know who are environmentalists have more integrity than it seems most posters here, particularly yourself. You can not possibly claim almost every one of them lies and expect to be taken seriously. Then again, anyone who uses terms such as “retards” is not worth trying to reason with is he?
Jennifer, I don’t know SJT in the slightest but you have a nerve writing that you think you know who he/she is and what he/she is about, especially AFTER he/she has asked you here publicly to stop doing so. It lends ample weight to the numerous suggestions from posters that you make up what ever you choose just to suit your POV.
I’m so glad Louis and the chimp agree with you, thank goodness they are on your side.
Thank you Louis
I was about to say the same, checked J’s post to see if I missed something about sjt, but no.
The man is full of himself!
Ian Mott says
Lets face it, SJT, you’re just a very sick puppy.
When my wife and I first met we were hitching through Italy. When we stayed in Rome we had a room in an attic across the road from a little church. Our room was directly opposite the bells in the tower and we ended up reorganising our daily outings so that we could be back in our little room, making love as the bells tolled midday. It took quite a bit of practise to actually get the timing just right but I have no doubt that, in our own humble way, we, and the unknowing priest next door, were dedicated to perfecting gods work all the same.
And to this day I cannot avoid a silly contented grin each time I hear a church bell chime. Indeed, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
I don’t pretend to know SJT’s heart. Just messing with him. Of course, if I guessed right…
Louis Hissink says
SJT’s comment was the first and until that comment he/she was not named by Jennifer, hence the due diligence Marcus and I did before retorting here.
So SJT’s comment was simply inane, or the green version of capitalists under then bed. Talk about having an obsession with persecution.
Ron Pike says
It’s good to see some Easter inspired reflection and philosophical musings from those above.
But first to SJT, if you do not wish to have others speculate on your beliefs and philosophy, then you should not be on this site. Every poster will be judged by others based on their knowledge of the subject and as to their veracity.
As I have said to others here. Have the courage to come out from the cover of anonymity and you will gain respect.
Frankly I believe we are presently in a mini “dark age,” where truth, reason, common sence and wisdom have all been cast aside in favour of emotional radicalism.
This has happened because we no longer have a functioning “Fourth Estate.” Our MSM have become self serving, incompetent and always drugged on sensationalism. Fearless, dedicated pursuit of truth is no longer the way of our media.
In relation to the veracity of the political environmentalists, I note that these spokepersons are always quick to condem all big busines, all farming and forestry as being untruthful, managers of unsustainable business that is always at odds with their narrow view of our environment.
I ponder if these people ever stop to consider this question?
Why should not Environmentalist who mislead the Australian public be subject to the same laws as corporate Australia?
Every year the ASIC take to court numerous company direcrors and CEO’s. While the details of each case vary, the common theme for each of these prosecutions is the same. That the accused knowingly mislead the Australian public.
If found guilty, they are fined, prevented from holding office in a company and in the case of between 20 and 30 a year sent to jail.
I would like to suggest if the same rules were to apply to some of our more outspoken and radical environmentalists, then, Bob Brown, Peter Garrett, Paul Sinclare, Tim Flannery, Penny Wong and many others would find themselves before the Courts, with the real possibility of being found guilty of breaking what is the fundamenal law of our democracy.
THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS.
Easter is an old pagan ritual for the spring equinox so for us in the SH I suppose that means the autumn equinox. Time for slow casseroles, root veges and an extra doona.
I’ll leave it for those of faith to fight it out amongst themsleves regarding the other aspects. I have no time for religion.
And might every right wing activist, property rights looney, and think thank devotee also be subject to the same rules too. hahahahahaha Come on Pikey – I just spat my Easter egg over the keyboard. You lot have the monopoly on hypocrisy.
THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS. hahahahahahaha Predictable I guess. Pikey assumes he is on the side of righteousness.
And Motty has yet again supplied us with unwanted details of his personal life (yechy) – was that bit with or without the Scandinavian ladies? I’m sure your wife is happier now you’ve told us all that. (no don’t tell us – please – we’ll pay money to avoid knowing).
But anyway – more “framing” of the debate – environmentalism as a religion – come on – this is just more propagandising. More marketing of the ongoing theme. The true religion of Australians would be football surely? Although far more quieter folks probably go to the art gallery. Is art a religion?
Anyway Jen – I don’t get it. As an atheist by choice … why go to Church on Sunday to receive a lecture on something you don’t believe in. Why go – the sing along? Make family happy? The sense of all being together? I don’t get it?
david elder says
I am a practising protestant, a retired biologist, not a creationist, somewhere around C.S. Lewis territory. I enjoy Jen’s blog and am naturally intrigued by this particular section on Easter and related musings.
Many scientists are materialists. I see this as deeply problematic. It turns the human mind into a machine whose workings are fixed by purely material laws. If this were so, how could I find the free will to choose good over bad (ethics) or truth over falsehood (reason)? I therefore suggest it is credible to believe in a spiritual world engaged with us.
This need not exclude science. The concept of scientific law derived historically from the medieval concept of divine order in creation. Nor need we exclude even the controversial evolution. Physicists have noted that evolution of intelligent life required a universe with some very precisely tuned physical properties – the so-called ‘anthropic principle’ which is consistent with a divine mind behind the universe. (I don’t think this concept has to be solely ‘anthropic’ – there could be other sentient species elsewhere in the universe.) Sceptics argue that this anthropic appearance could simply derive from a selection effect upon numerous universes with a range of physical laws- the multiverse theory. Not impossible (and theism could handle it if necessary); but not very scientifically testable either. How do you find a multiverse? So strong preference for it, in the present state of knowledge, is not science – it is metaphysical.
I also often see, especially in recent years with 9/11 and so forth, a feeling that religion is the number one reason for people killing one another. How quickly such people forget marxism, with its tens of millions of deaths in the name of an anti-religious creed. In fairness, many atheists don’t do such things – but then many believers don’t fly airplanes into buildings or blow up abortion clinics either. In fact I’ve never personally met a Christian or a Muslim acquaintance who did anything of the sort.
Sometimes sceptics will respond by arguing that marxism is ‘really’ a religion. This verbal usage is so protean that one could prove anything by such logic. (Was Torquemada on account of his deviation from the Sermon On The Mount ‘really’ an atheist?) It is true, though, that something like marxism can become a surrogate for religion. There is an old saying, attributed perhaps apocryphally to Chesterton the Catholic writer, that when people stop believing in God they believe not in nothing but in anything. Marxism, fascism, New Age fads, the sort of fanatical environmentalism that blocked sound DDT use against malaria in the third world and produced another massive body count by doing so – these cases fit Chesterton’s thesis well enough.
Sceptics today also complained that the US ‘religious right’ was about to turn the country into a theocracy. Some valid criticisms of US religious conservatism can be made. For example, I do not agree with their creationism. But the ‘theocracy’ panic was rather overblown – successive US governments continue to be democratically voted in and out as per usual. Note also that the religious left in the US frequently dabbled in quasi-marxist ‘liberation theology’, without disturbing most of the sceptical intelligentsia in the slightest.
Finally, since this is a blog on environmental matters, I should look at eco-theology. Anticlericalism is fashionable among the Green movement. This stems primarily from Lynn White Jr who in 1967 blamed the ‘dominion’ given to man in Genesis 1:26-28 for environmental despoiling. His remedy was to regard all nature as equally sacred. But then a lethal disease has the same rights as its human victims, so we must not try to cure the patient. A straw man, you say? Check out White’s 1978 article in Ecumenical Review (vol.30:p.99), where he dabbles with the idea that a plague might be good for the planet by culling human numbers. White also wanted massive population cuts by abortion aimed especially at the ‘burden’ of the genetically abnormal. One can legitimately describe this as eco-fascism. Yet White remains a guru to Greens to this day. Stewardship for nature, as in Adam’s charge to keep the garden in the Eden story, is fine. A sense of wonder at nature is also fine, as many biblical passages remind us. But nature-worship always seems to end up in human sacrifice. The DDT/malaria issue (see above), Hitler’s notorious neo-paganism and White’s spiritual levelling are cases in point.
At the base of most religions there is at least one pure thought. Then politics gets involved. And the outcome created gives reasonable strength to an argument that “religion is the root of all evil”. Human beings are potentially evil enough on occassion, but when it is possible to do evil in the name of a higher being then systematic evil with no end is the outcome.
The environment is our home, and we conserve it for our generational preservation. Religion plays no part in that. Very much the contrary, religion very often threatens that conservation. The one thing that humans do better than all other creatures is communicate. All too often religion is that one barrier too many to enable many peoples to merge their energies for one cause in the common good. Conserving our environment is a matter of common sense.
But what happened to plain good old “common sense”? It got trampled to death by zealousness, greed, piousness, intolerence, indifference, ignorance, malisciousness, rage, arrogance, and laziness.
The one ray of hope is common knowledge. Science, from the word scio, latin for “to know”.
Yes, ‘to know’.
Knowledge, as opposed to faith, can be tested through an evaluation of the evidence.
This is an important point, because it distinguishes science from religious belief. To quote Thomas Huxley, a colleague of Charles Darwin, ‘a religious idea can not be subject to scientific proof … science and her methods are independent of authority and tradition.’
Thomas Huxley penned these words in 1860, a year after Charles Darwin had published On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection. This was a period when there was much public debate about the role of science versus church; knowledge versus faith. One hundred and forty years latter, there perhaps needs to be another reckoning between science and faith.
I was just correcting KhunKat … and trying to draw SJT out a bit. It would be good if SJT contributed something, rather than just snipping. What type of environmentalist are you?
Culture is important – that’s why I will go to Church on Sunday. And it is also good to be reminded of what one learnt going up. As I wrote earlier, in order to understand the world as it really is, a great deal of self discipline must be imposed… and so it can be useful to understand the prejudices one is likely to bring to an issue.
PS That should be 149 years later.
To paraphase Jennifer,
I’m a secularist by culture and a christian by intellectual choice.
david elder says
BilB says that a higher being can legitimise vast crimes. This could be argued for Torquemada or bin Laden, but doesn’t work for marxism which has no higher being. BilB also blames religion for environmental problems, but again marxism was the supreme eco-wrecker.
Jen refers to the classical Victorian science/religion debates involving Huxley. But he got himself in a dreadful knot. He advocated a materialism proved by science. Critics pointed out that this deprived us all of free will. Huxley would then adopt an agnosticism of goalpost-shifting proportions: a problem like materialism vs. free will was not solved after all, but science might solve it one day. Today, a century and a half later, I still do not see how one can be a materialist without sacrificing free will.
And indulge us just a bit more … which type of environmentalist?
You will need to explain in a little more detail how many scientists and also Huxley fall into the category of ‘materialists’ … and explain the concept a bit more. Please.
Jeremy C says
Do I have to be a ‘type of environmentalist’
Ron PIke says
Luke, there are many things you do not get.
You need to get out to the bush and quitely look about you more, because in your present frame of mind, Hanrahan will never be dead while you are around.
Jan Pompe says
# broad categories those that take a sensible scientific and pragmatic approach, those who are fanatical (maybe some scientific involvement but unreliable because of bias) then there is the lunatic neither scientific or pragmatic who think humanity does not belong on the planet.
Jeremy C says
But do I have to be a ‘type of environmentalist’?
It is interesting – I would not have picked much of what you wrote above from your general day to day blog Jen. As an atheist, you seem to have a lot more tolerance for theists and their internal differences than you do for environmental types? When actually the latter are driven by the same thing that is your passion, and the former are deluded about some mythical all-powerful spirit-god.
Jan Pompe says
I forgot the fourth category non-environmentalist.
You don’t have to declare which type you are … but no doubt you fit a particular category.
Your ‘types’ might be best considered subtypes of each of the categories I suggest. For example there are Pagans and evolutionary biologists who are pragmatic and others who are fanatical.
In the above post I suggest:
1. Those who believe in Gaia eg. Flannery
2. Those who are overly focused on mankind and impacts from greed and pollution eg Al Gore
3. Pagans. I know a lot of educated suburban woman who fit this category.
5. Evolutionary biologists.
Some, but not all categories are mutually exclusive.
And I am sure I am missing some?
PS My guess is that like SJT, JeremyC best fits type 2, like Al Gore.
I used to be a catholic who cringed when the pope opened his mouth… now I’m a warmist who cringes when Gore opens his mouth. What type is that?
Jeremy C says
“JeremyC best fits type 2”
Don’t think me vain but, why? Any evidence?
My memory/impression from comments you have made here over a period of time. But hey, I’m happy to be corrected.
Jeremy C says
And can you expand on type 2 while we wait for a definition of materialism.
Enough guessing from me about you. And I’ve even declared my type.
I’m guessing you fit my category 1.
My memory of your prevous comments at the blog over a relatively short period of time would suggest you are big on the idea of ecological communities in balance (what did you say about frogs?) and at the same time you are not averse to new technology. So I am going to lump you in with Tim Flannery.
PS But Matt may not think much of Gaia.
There’s a interesting article in the age this morning about the fate of a modern day Christ/ Mohammad/Buddha.
I watched many friends get caught up in the Orange People scam, yet in it’s own way it was one of the founding cults of the greens and the Gaia trip.
david elder says
Hi Jen. You ask what I mean by a ‘materialist’. I mean someone who believes that our minds are nothing but molecular machines controlled by physical laws and nothing else. This is a materialist determinism and it is incompatible with free will. Yet many of my scientific colleagues believe it. Huxley commonly expressed such materialist determinism. When critics pointed out that it destroyed free will, Huxley would retreat to an agnostic position on the matter. But the retreat would not be permanent. Huxley did not consistently repudiate materialist determinism. This deep tension in Huxley’s thought is well brought out by Irvine in Apes, Angels And Victorians, 1956, a standard joint biography of Darwin and Huxley.
I think you are being a bit harsh in your interpretation of Huxley. [Even a bit ‘fanatical’ to quote Jan Pompe early in this thread.]
In 1860 Huxley wrote:
“My business is to teach my aspirations to conform themselves to fact, not to try and make facts harmonise with my aspirations.
“Science seems to me to teach in the highest and strongest manner the great truth which is embodied in the Christian concept of entire surrender to the will of God.
“Sit down before each fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing. I have only began to learn content and piece of mind since I have resolved at all risks to do this.”
This comment would suggest he saw a place for discipline and suggests ‘free will’ in how we go about interpreting information.
Ian Mott says
Gosh, Luke. It hadn’t dawned on me that you were also an emotional cripple. Are you such a stranger to romance that a simple anecdote can make you cringe? Is it the very mention of romance that produces this reaction? Or is it the fact that someone you demonise and defame might have had grabbed hold of a much bigger, richer, and more nourishing slice of life than you have?
I used that anecdote to emphasise the point that if there is an all knowing god then he/she must also be the god of pleasure and chance as well as duty and pain. He/she must also be the god of young lovers and old ones. And heck, Luke, he/she would also be the god of lonely, pathetic, under achieving, late night, netporn self abusers like you and Phil. I think there might even be a message of hope in there fellas, if only you knew how to look for it.
What all of those old guys wrote or thought is irrelevent to your existence other than in giving you comfort. The permutations of your genetic existence are relatively infinite. Your moment to moment choices are spectacularly broad. Right up to the point where you must eat. Then they start to narrow.
Marxism is no more an eco wrecker than any other applied philosophy. Muraroa attol has not collapsed yet to spread its hidden poison around the world. But it might. We really don’t know what else the French have been stuffing into those nuclear cavities. Capitalism is every bit as eco disasterous, it just tends to be sneakier about it, on the one hand, or totally in your face about it on the other, CO2ly speaking.
And that brings up an interesting point. Much is made of each country’s current CO2 emissions, and this is important as it is proportional to the challenge ahead. But what of the historical ownership of the human created CO2 in the atmosphere? What is each county’s accumulated CO2 emissions going back, say 200 years? What is each countries moral imperitive to act? If there is a God, and he is watching, what would he be thinking about our wasteful ways?
Now Motty how could anyone defame you – by the nature of your own blog pronouncements you have already defamed yourself. What reputation have you lost?
But now you have defamed me saying I’m a “netporn self abuser”. But that’s OK – I can take it without complaining. The hypocrisy of extremists is most fascinating.
However remember I’m on your side – you just haven’t worked that out yet. Who else takes the care and time to look after you. Who else corrects your errant notions on forest sediments, kangaroos and PIGs. You should pay me for services rendered.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gncBKNAqcds&feature=related So what’s it like? LOL
spangled drongo says
My religion is simple: “God helps those that help themselves”.
IOW PLAN B!
Gaia would look after us up to a point but would kill us by the million quite happily.
Any similar philosophies spring to mind here?
When we get into plague proportions as we currently are, I think my religion works.
Current undiciplined newthink is gonna do a Gaia on us before long.
Dennis Webb says
What Wes had to say about Gaia in January:
Comment from: wes george January 18th, 2009 at 2:43 pm edit
“…Those, who, like Palaeontologist Peter Ward, reject the notion of ‘Gaia’, and subscribe to the ‘The Medea Hypothesis’ that there is no balance of nature are likely to favour geo-engineering solutions including to climate change…”
The Gaia hypothesis isn’t automatically against geo-engineering of the biosphere, assuming a suitably reasonable need is established beyond dispute and the outcome is well understood. This case lacks on both accounts.
The Gaia hypothesis has been misappropriate by Greenies as an essentially “conservationist” concept. In fact, the theory’s radical trans-nature implications when understood must be deeply disturbing to anyone seeking to defend the environmental status quo.
Gaia is defined as living entity precisely because the biosphere is so radically at non-equilibrium. Earth’s biosphere has more in common with a mammal’s body than with the other planetary bodies of our solar system.
Our greatest cities, as view through the eyes of an alien visitor in orbit would not appear be any more “unnatural” than a termite mound or pods of whales, although extremely important as an indication as to the course and speed evolution has embarked upon on this world. We are no more foreign to the biosphere than our cerebral cortex cells are to our own bodies.
That’s the most important bit of the Gaia Hypothesis–it implies the utter naturalness of humanity and all our undertakings. For if Gaia is, even only metaphorically speaking, a living organism, then humanity is the dawn of conscious self-awareness in a “being” that has lived over a billion years unaware of its evolution.
We are the Earth’s sentience. The first complex system of cells to be able to vaguely comprehend the vast empirical gestalt of our place in the universe.
Just as Homo Sapiens will be the first phenotype on this planet to take control of its genotype, we also represent, more stunningly, Gaia directly managing her own evolution for the first time in the history of planet Earth.
Modern Western science, which began with the Enlightenment, which began with someone painting a bear in a cave a few tens of thousands of years earlier represents the single greatest quantum leap in evolution since proto-mitochondria was incorporated into some primeval cell structure.
This isn’t hubris or an over-simplification, but a fundamental fact of ontology that brings with it a heavy burden. We are no longer children playing in the Garden of Eden with our fire sticks, but master of our own destiny and with it the destiny of every living system on this planet.
Now we face a “trans-human” future. We may already be one of the last generations of purely human human being left. Nature will be redefined.
This is probably a universal discontinuity, which has occurred many times in our galaxy’s history. The fact that our galaxy doesn’t seem to be seething with interstellar “civilizations” seems to indicate that it’s a paradigm shift that few “Gaias” choose to continue upon. But that’s not the point.
We are perched at the greatest, and perhaps the riskiest, moment in the history of our planet, a moment when evolution will accelerate biologically, environmentally and technological to a pace only limited by our wildest imagination. In fact, from a geological timeframe we ARE the most important, riskiest moment in the history of the planet.
Geo-engineering? We’ve been at it since the first human hand step out of The Dream Time put the fire stick to the bush.
david elder says
Hi again Jen. I too have long enjoyed the passage from Huxley which you quote. And yes, it does imply acceptance of free will by him here. My problem is that elsewhere Huxley advocated a deterministic materialism. This does not allow free will. The criticism was raised back in Huxley’s day. Huxley never really faced it. He continued to advocate determinism one minute while speaking the language of free will the next.
David, Can you give me a Huxley quote advocating a “deterministic materialism”?
Nice rave Dennis – I realy enjoyed and can relate to that I think.
I suppose the sun, galacy et al are involved as well, that’d have be wouldn’t they.
maybe we just imagine it all.
what you see is what you get.
I like the kind of gaia you meet at the pubba who buys you bee-er
spangled drongo says
That’s the kinda gaia I are.
“the god of lonely, pathetic, under achieving, late night, netporn self abusers”
Judging by some of what you have written here over the years Ian, I would think you are being totally honest about yourself. So sorry you have to live in the past about the good ole days. Keep livin’ in that fantasy world.
Speaking of which…”Every poster will be judged by others based on their knowledge of the subject and as to their veracity.”
No, that is where the topic of this piece comes in…belief systems. The non-denialists here are judged not on their knowledge but on the fact they don’t believe what the denialists do. Having used the word denialist I will now be crucified for using a term they choose to associate with a WWII atrocity. They will ignore the actual point of the comment and focus instead on how they have been perceived, relying on their usual barrage of abusive terms and phrases like Ian, Hissink and so many others do habitually. This belief system also allows them to be amazingly hypocritical and also totally blind and irresponsible. No to mention bereft of knowledge.
Meanwhile Jennifer goes to church as an atheist, constructs ideas in public about posters she has likely not met and continues to make crap up. Ms Marohasy you have your own followers right here and your very own non-believer’s religion.
Phil, Tell us a bit about yourself? What do you believe in?
Ian Mott says
Thanks for repeating that line again, Phil. I thought it deserved an extra run too.
Jennifer, you are joking right? Why break with habit and ask me? Just assume.
Ron Pike says
A happy and honest Easter to you too Phil.
You claim above: “That the non-denialiats here are judged not on their knowledge but on
the fact that they do not believe what the denialists do.”
You then go on and make the sweeping accusation of deniers. “This beilief system also allows them to be amazingly hypocritical and also totally blind and irresponsible. Not to mention bereft of knowledge.”
The fact that you use the word denialist and then use the accusations above tells me you do not understand the word hypocrisy?
Most posters on this site in discussing climate change and radical environmentalism readily use reasoned argument and supportable examples to support their case.
We are each of us in search of supportable truth.
Most have open minds, receptive to new ideas and able to rationalise argument and data.
My observation over many months is that personal abuse is reasonably shared by both sides of this debate.
So Phil, if you have some worthwhile comment supported by facts to assist your “belief system” lets hear it, but please spare us the self serving sweeping statements.
If you would like an example of what makes me use this site, have a look at the full page colour presentation in News Review of the weekend Herald.
PROGNOSIS FOR A PLANET. With this outlandish statement:
“Which leads me, personally, to the bleak conclusion that the human race is stuffed. My children are going to live in a world in which major cities are flooded, fertile plains become deserts, populations run out of food and water, rivers run dry, fishing grounds become dead zones, our rainforests and living coral reefs become curiosities of history.”
All this from John Collee, a writer of screen plays.
Quick, pass the cycinide pill before it’s too late.
All this and more expressed with NO supporting data or scientific facts.
Only a false graph of Artic sea ice.
However the real problem is that any attempt to present a more balanced picture or contrary point of view will be strenuiously resisted by Fairfax.
Sensationalism trumps truth every time.
Maybe Phil, you have some views on this subject that would rise above name calling.
I hope so.
thanks for the link Ron – I just read it!!
Tim Flannery is one camp – James Hansen the other?? He should stick to writing fiction.
david elder says
Hi again Jen. Easter greetings to you and all readers.
Jen asks: can I give a Huxley quote where he advocates deterministic materialism? I enclose several Huxley statements along these lines. Some are direct quotes and some are paraphrased. Both types of quotation are reproduced as they appear in William Irvine’s well-known biography of Huxley (and Darwin) entitled Apes, Angels And Victorians (1956, Weidenfeld & Nicholson), a work largely sympathetic to Huxley. In these quotes, Irvine’s text is in double quotation marks; Huxley’s own words are in single quotation marks; the parts without quotation marks are my comments.
p.103: “Huxley’s strategy against bishops and archdeacons was not free from inconsistency. When on the offensive, he tends to be an uncompromising materialist, insisting on the primacy of matter and the absolute determinism of natural law.”
This materialist determinist stance would of course be problematic for free will, as was pointed out by contemporaries like Balfour (Irvine p.275-276.) Faced by such awkward questions, Huxley would shift his position to a “fluid” one (Irvine’s term), so fluid as to constitute the “inconsistency” of which Irvine wrote in the passage above (p.103). Thus in Huxley’s response to Balfour, when “(a)ttacked for his more dogmatic position, Huxley once more escaped” by shifting to his fluid position (Irvine, p.277).
p.193: “mind itself is but ‘the result of molecular forces'”, says Huxley in a lecture. He also says here that “(i)ntellectual progress consists in the gradual victory of matter and causation” . . . He does try to qualify this later in the lecture by applying some of his fluid position, but the result is obscurity, as Irvine notes.
p.203: “Huxley has nothing but approval for Hume’s determinism.” This refers to a book by Huxley on Hume.
p.219: “Huxley . . . reduc(es) consciousness to a mere reflection or echo of molecular movement” – from a public lecture.
p.244: in a written article Huxley states a belief in ‘determinism’. Again Huxley does add some of his fluid qualifications; and again the result is a confusing mixture as Irvine comments.
Ron Pike says
Calling Tim Flannery an environmental scientist is akin to calling Osarma bin Laden a world peace activist.
Flannery, Gore and Hansen and others, are not environmentalists with any desire to make the world a better place by improving the environmental knowledge of our comunity, to the end that our democratic decision making process is based on truth.
They use unsubstantiated sensationalist claims to sell books and CD’s to a gullible public.
That their works are not critically scrutinised by our lazy MSM, results in bad decissions being made that are not in the interests of future generations.
All or most of the above appears to be you quoting someone else’s opinion of Huxley. That is not fair.
Indeed I consider it rather unfair of you to not provide a reasonable passage in Huxley’s own words.
He wrote many letters. Indeed he wrote a lot. Surely if, as you suggest, he did not believe in free will he would have written something along those lines that you can quote to us?
I also read the large piece in the SMH this weekend about the earth warming and how the planet shows all the signs of a person with a terminal disease. Absolute rubbish in a broadsheet read by Sydney’s educated!
Ron Pike says
Correction if I may Jennifer,
Anyone of any reasonable education would by now be aware that the Fairfax press has for some time abandoned any pretext of committment to truth and balance.
About 2 years ago I received an email from a highly respected Fairfax journalist to tell me he was resigning his post at Fairfax and inviting me to a luncheon as a wake on his career.
When I rang to apologise for not being able to attend and ask him why he was resigning, he replied as follows:
“Fairfax has become a sheltered workshop for a group of self opinionated people who believe that journalism gives them some right to infuse into everytjing they write, their own personal predjuce and political opinion. Truth is no longer a requirement at Fairfax press.”
While this was damming, what was even more distressing to me, a lifelong subscriber to the SMH, was the fact that his comments only confirmed my opinion of the previous few years.
Sadly we have a problem with our MSM that is having a detrimental affect on our democracy.
We need bloggs such as this to start the movement for TRUTH IN OUR MEDIA.
Keep up the good work and don’t be cowered by abuse.
david elder says
Hi Jen, yes, again!
I don’t have Huxley’s collected works in front of me, but I consider Irvine’s biography provides ample evidence that Huxley himself professed to be a determinist. In particular I refer to these direct quotes from Huxley himself:
Huxley directly used the term ‘determinism’ for his belief system on at least one occasion, in the direct Huxley quote I gave from p. 244 in Irvine. Also, determinism is affirmed in Huxley’s own words, twice, in the passages I quoted from p.193 in Irvine. True, Huxley on these latter two occasions does not directly use the word determinism; but the terms he does use clearly have the same meaning as determinism.
Huxley attacked religion because it was incompatible with determinism. But determinism is equally incompatible with free will.
Ron Pike, are you Ian Mott? There are some astounding similarities.
Ian Mott says
Two critical issues for those of spiritual bent and for atheists as well are;
1 First is the shift in religious focus from the demands of how to become a better person, as exemplified by all the great religions to date, and the green demand to “save the planet”.
The objective of “being a better person” is incremental and requires constant effort throughout one’s life to achieve a broad range of desirable traits from self discipline to compassion. But the desire to “save the planet” places no defined expectations on individual or community behaviour. Deception, greed, theft, sloth, envy, negligence and even manslaughter of both humans and wildlife can be excused so long as a vague intention to further planet salvation was loudly proclaimed as justification.
And it is long overdue to note that the green religion has no associated moral code that governs or guides the manner in which they will work towards their objectives. The end justifies any means.
2 The second is how we cope with being governed and administered by people who do not believe that some ultimate, all knowing arbiter will pass judgement on their misdeeds.
Prior to last century almost every culture was governed by people who held the view that, no matter how high their station in life, their actions were always under the scrutiny of a supreme being and they would eventually be brought to account for their actions. It is what moved Voltaire to say, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him”.
It is no coincidence that the first century in which this belief was subject to serious challenge produced Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and Ratco Maladic. But their extremes were only possible because they had an entire chain of authority that also thought the same way.
This is not to say that belief in an ultimate arbiter prevented appalling injustices in earlier centuries. Far from it. But the very worst behaviour always required an elaborate body of rationalisation, and often demonisation of the victims, before such outrages took place.
And historical research is now uncovering the extent to which such excesses were driven by physical and mental illness, like syphillus, and poisoning, from the use of lead pipes in water supply, in a context of dealing with famine and plague. At the community level, hunger, malnutrition, poor sanitation and grossly inadequate housing played major roles, as they still do in many parts of the world.
But throughout these earlier times the decision makers wrestled with their consciences. An ultimate arbiter was part of most executive actions. And it tempered decision and exercised a brake on raw power in all but the most desperate of circumstances.
With the loss of this notion of ultimate arbitration we now have the green movement claiming that we are in the most desperate of all circumstances, where the very planet itself is supposedly under threat. And this extreme threat is used as pretext for discarding all the hard fought for, and sacrificed for, principles that defined a better person, and just and equitable governance.
In any situation where belief in an ultimate arbiter can no longer be assumed to be present then our society must develop a system of government disclosure and transparency that is robust enough to serve the same purpose. It is no good making futile demands for a return to our earlier religious values when a false oath, before a God they do not believe in, is such a readilly available option for abusers of the system. In particular, the notion of privacy and confidentiality, for all persons involved in governance, must be fundamentally reviewed.
It is no longer acceptable to allow important information on governance to be withheld from public scrutiny for 30 years or more on the basis of it being presented to Cabinet in the form of five cardboard boxes full of unread papers on a hand trolley. All material, including Cabinet submissions, must be made available for scrutiny. Restrictions could still be retained as to appropriate persons to whom such disclosure could be made, and the sort of circumstances in which the information may be used. There would also need to be substantial penalties for the misuse of such material.
The head of power for such measures must rest with the primacy of parliament. It is already recognised as a fundamental contempt of parliament to mislead the house in any way. And it is already accepted that a misleading of the house can take place by way of omission of relevant material. Yet, a government is granted the power to withhold highly relevant material for 30 years or more, merely on the basis that the material was presented to Cabinet.
If a Cabinet is discharging its powers properly then every last bit of material presented to it is relevant material. And if decisions are being made by a Cabinet after which the Parliament is expected to ratify then the parliament must have access to all that material.
It may mean that some sessions of Parliament would need to be closed to the public so that sensitive material can be considered. It would follow that any disclosure of such material outside the chamber would constitute contempt of parliament. But just as both sides in a court case must always act as servants of the court, both sides of parliament must act as servants of the parliament.
At the moment we have a system that was drawn up at a time when almost every member of parliament held the belief that they were individually and collectively accountable to an all knowing arbiter. That condition no longer applies and even if it still did apply it is a very simple step for anyone who does not hold that belief to convey a false impression that they do.
And as far as those people are concerned, the only moral brake on their actions are their own ethics, which are always subject to revision, and the risk of their misdeeds being discovered.
The system could be strengthened by a requirement that each piece of legislation, policy or head of appropriation, should outline the relevant facts and considerations that have lead to the decision. These could include confidential elements that are referred to only by reference to a confidential register, as well as the publicly available considerations. And if it is subsequently discovered that any of the public or confidential considerations were false or in error, then the legislation, policy or appropriation would be struck down.
That is, the parliament would be bound to strike down legislation it had previously passed if a confidential consideration (known only to parliament) was subsequently found to be false. And a failure on the part of a majority to strike down such legislation would become grounds for an opposition to release the relevant information to the public for proper scrutiny.
Ian – you forgot the shift from being a better person to believing in Jesus and doing whatever the heck you want…
Ian Mott says
MattB, I may not be a practicing christian but your implication that most believers in Jesus are in the business of “doing whatever the heck [they] want”, tells me you have had your head so far up your own backside that you have lost sight of daylight.
Most of my working life has involved the detection of lies and bull$hit in job applications. And I can confirm to all that dishonesty is a muscle which, if exercised often will become an involuntary muscle. Conversely, honesty is also a muscle which becomes an involuntary one when it is exercised often. And the reason why shonks and spivs prey on religious communities is because they are really poor liars and are therefore poorly equipped to detect liars in their midst.
And from my experience honest people voluntarily give you all the information you might need to make a decision while the dishonest are invariably selective with the facts and even question your need to have them. They just can’t help themselves.
I have never had a pro-religious bias because I have always applied the appropriate techniques to all. But I can confirm that a much higher proportion of religious folk, be they good christians, good muslims, good hindus or good buddhists, tended to pass the tests that were set for them.
My attitude to the green movement, government officers and certain parts of the research community, has been shaped by detailed, proven and specific assessment methods and too many of them have failed dismally.
Ron Pike says
Still can’t rise above useless sniping!
Why not add something worthwhile to this discussion.
However I certainly cannot remember bell ringing bonking in Rome as a younger man. But I do know that is something I would not forget.
Ian Mott says
Poor old Phil is struggling with reality, again. First he suspected that I was really Jennifer and now he thinks I’m Ron. But both Jen and I appeared on the same stage before 500 people at a conference a few years back and there would be more than 2000 people who have met both of us in person. And it would be an impressive feat indeed, to disguise her tits on my chest, or my neck on her shoulders. There is no way that both of us were rugby front rowers.
And if Ron is me then it was a very interesting phone conversation we had with ourself the other week. But such conversations with himself might be the norm for our mate Phil.