Skip to comments.Is environmentalism the new religion? (with 'Must See' Illustration!)
Posted on 02/10/2007 8:10:32 AM PST by GMMAC
The green fervour
Is environmentalism the new religion?
Joseph Brean, National Post
Published: Saturday, February 10, 2007
In his new book Apollos Arrow, ambitiously subtitled The Science of Prediction and the Future of Everything, Vancouver-based author and mathematician David Orrell set out to explain why the mathematical models scientists use to predict the weather, the climate and the economy are not getting any better, just more refined in their uncertainty.
What he discovered, in trying to sketch the first principles of prophecy, was the religious nature of modern environ-mentalism.
This is not to say that fearing for the future of the planet is irrational in the way supernatural belief arguably is, just that in its myths of the Fall and the Apocalypse, its saints and heretics, its iconography and tithing, its reliance on prophecy, even its schisms the green movement now exhibits the same psychology of compliance as religion.
Dr. Orrell is no climate-change denier. He calls himself green. But he understands the unjustified faith that arises from the psychological need tomake predictions.
The track record of any kind of long-distance prediction is really bad, but everyones still really interested in it. Its sort of a way of picturing the future. But we cant make long-term predictions of the economy, and we cant make long-term predictions of the climate, Dr. Orrell said in an interview. After all, he said, scientists cannot even write the equation of a cloud, let alone make a workable model of the climate.
Formerly of University College London, Dr. Orrell is best known among scientists for arguing that the failures of weather forecasting are not due to chaotic effects as in the butterfly that causes the hurricane but to errors of modelling. He sees the same problems in the predictions of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which he calls extremely vague, and says there is no scientific reason to think the climate is more predictable than the weather.
Models will cheerfully boil away all the water in the oceans or cover the world in ice, even with pre-industrial levels of Co2, he writes in Apollos Arrow . And so scientists use theoretical concepts like flux adjustments to make the models agree with reality. When models about the future climate are in agreement, it says more about the self-regulating group psychology of the modelling community than it does about global warming and the economy.
In explaining such an arcane topic for a general audience, he found himself returning again and again to religious metaphors to explain our faith in predictions, referring to the weather gods and the images of almost biblical wrath in the literature. He sketched the rise of the gospel of deterministic science, a faith system that was born with Isaac Newton and died with Albert Einstein. He said his own physics education felt like an indoctrination into the use of models, and that scientists in his field, like priests... feel they are answering a higher calling.
If you go back to the oracles of ancient Greece, prediction has always been one function of religion, he said. This role is coveted, and so theres not very much work done at questioning the prediction, because its almost as if you were going to the priest and saying, Look, Im not sure about the Second Coming of Christ.
He is not the first to make this link. Forty years ago, shortly after Rachel Carson launched modern environmentalism by publishing leading to the first Earth Day in 1970, a Princeton history professor named LynnWhite wrote a seminal essay called The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis.
By destroying pagan animism [the belief that natural objects have souls], Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects, he wrote in a 1967 issue of . Since the roots of our trouble are so largely religious, the remedy must also be essentially religious, whether we call it that or not. It was a prescient claim. In a 2003 speech in San Francisco, best-selling author Michael Crichton was among the first to explicitly close the circle, calling modern environmentalism the religion of choice for urban atheists ... a perfect 21st century re-mapping of traditional JudeoChristian beliefs andmyths.
Today, the popularity of British author James Lovelocks Gaia Hypothesis that the Earth itself functions as a living organism confirms the return of a sort of idolatrous animism, a religion of nature. The recent IPCC report, and a weeks worth of turgid headlines, did not create this faith, but certainly made it more evident.
It can be felt in the frisson of piety that comes with lighting an energy-saving light bulb, a modern votive candle.
It is there in the pious propaganda of media outlets like the, Toronto Star, which on Jan. 28 made the completely implausible claim that, The debate about greenhouse gas emissions appears to be over.
It can be seen in the public ritual of cycling to work, in the veneer of saintliness on David Suzuki and Al Gore (the rush for tickets to the former vice-presidents upcoming appearance crashed the server at the University of Toronto this week), in the high-profile conversion (honest or craven) of GeorgeW. Bush, and in the sinful guilt of throwing a plastic bottle in the garbage.
Adherents make arduous pilgrimages and call them ecotourism. Newspapers publish the iconography of polar bears. The IPCC reports carry the weight of scripture.
John Kay of the Financial Times wrote last month, about future climate chaos: Christians look to the Second Coming, Marxists look to the collapse of capitalism, with the same mixture of fear and longing ... The discovery of global warming filled a gap in the canon ... [and] provides justification for the link between the sins of our past and the catastrophe of our future.
Like the tithe in Judaism and Christianity, the religiosity of green is seen in the suspiciously precise mathematics that allow companies such as Bullfrog Power or Offsetters to sell the supposed neutralization of the harmful emissions from household heating, air travel or transportation to a concert.
It is in the schism that has arisen over whether to renew or replace Kyoto, which, even if the scientific skeptics are completely discounted, has been a divisive force for environmentalists.
What was once called salvation a nebulous state of grace is now known as sustainability, a word that is equally resistant to precise definition. There is even a hymn, When the North Pole Melts, by James G. Titus, a scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is not exactly How Great Thou Art, but serves a similar purpose.
Environmentalism even has its persecutors, embodied in the Bush White House attack dogs who have conducted no less than an Inquisition against climate scientists, which failed to bring them to heel but instead inspired potential martyrs. Of course, as religions tend to do, environmentalists commit persecution of their own, which has created heretics out of mere skeptics.
All of this might be fine if religions had a history of rational scientific inquiry and peaceful, tolerant implementation of their beliefs. As it is, however, many religions, environmentalism included, continue to struggle with the curse of literalism, and the resultant extremism.
Maybe Im wrong, but I think all this is wrapped up in our belief that we can predict the future, said Dr. Orrell. What we need is more of a sense that were out of our depth, and thats more likely to promote a lasting change in behaviour.
Projections are useful to provoke ideas and aid thinking about the future, but as he writes in the book, they should not be taken literally.
The fundamental danger of deterministic, objective science [is that] like a corny, overformulaic film, it imagines and presents the world as a predictable object. It has no sense of the mystery, magic, or surprise of life.
The solution, he thinks, is to adopt what the University of Torontos Thomas Homer-Dixon calls a prospective mind an intellectual stance that is proactive, anticipatory, comfortable with change, and not surprised by surprise.
In short, if we are to be good, future problem solvers, we must not be blinded by prophecy.
I think [this stance] opens up the possibility for a more emotional and therefore more effective response, Dr. Orrell said. Theres a sense in which uncertainty is actually scarier and more likely to make us act than if you have bureaucrats saying, Well, its going to get warmer by about three degrees, and we know whats going to happen.
© National Post 2007
IT IS! IT IS!
"THE ENVIROMENTALIST INQUISTION"
THAT IS GREAT - did you come up with that yourself?
Well, thank Gaia for that... they'd have to apply the thumb-screws until he recanted, otherwise.
( /sarc )
Let's feed the Carbon Dioxide spewing enviro-whackos to the muzzies!
"did you come up with that yourself?"
Yes I did... I think... You know how that goes. I may have heard it somewhere but the feeling I have is that any Scientist that dares to question the latest fad is called a heretic.
How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.
Catholic Ping List
Please freepmail me if you want on/off this list
Eeeeek! That's the scariest thing I think I've ever seen!
It is decidedly NOT a new religion. It is an offshoot of Pantheism (Gaia, Mother Earth) which pre-dated paganism. That is why some scholars argue that we have gone beyond paganism and are pre-pagan. Gads, even the Greeks worshipped gods instead of omnipresent, pulse-beating, "every atom within a living, breathing earth" as AlGort does.
It is very creepy to me. So is he, for that matter.
Good point (and good pic's). Although we think of the final Jonestown kool-aid disaster and cult-mentality insanity, Jones did advocate for the disadvantaged, and did a lot of service that showed he "walked the walk" and believed his talk, probably much more so than jet-fuel burnin' Gore. He had a lot of political backers, including but not limited to Jerry Moonbeam Brown, and did a lot "for the children," too.
My only regret is that it's kind of an insult to the real Inquisition, which Baylor University sociologist Rodney Stark and St. Louis Unversity historian Thomas Madden say had higher standards of procedural due process, more protection for the accused, higher rates of acquittal, and more lenient sentencing than any of the courts of Europe at that time.
That second link, especially, is worth a look.
It comes as a surprise to many, but the Inquisition was (from a historical point of view) a progressive force for rationality and justice in law: compared, as I say, to monarchial and feudal courts.
"Im so pleased that this type of analysis of the modern environmentalist movement is beginning to show up in the media. There is a great amount of truth and insight in this article. People need to wake up to the fact that environmentalism is morphing into an apocalyptic faith devoid of facts based on traditional scientific method. The secular Left is promoting the movement as a substitute for religion which they have abandoned." ~ Unmarked Package
They're true believers - no doubt about it.
Eunuchs For The Green Kingdom
Star Tribune.com Minneapolis - St. Paul, Minnesota 2/8/07
Last update: February 07, 2007 9:24 PM
Environmentalists have embarked on a secular crusade
By Katherine Kersten, Star Tribune
A recent issue of a magazine from one of Minnesota's Lutheran colleges features a picture of the campus pastor, wearing a beanie with a propeller on it. He is leading what the magazine calls a "congregation" of students in a dedication "service" at the foot of a giant new wind turbine that provides power to the campus.
At one point the pastor asked the students to raise their own miniature pinwheels. I could almost imagine them all being suddenly borne aloft by a gust of prairie wind during the closing verse of a great old Lutheran hymn.
Scenes like this are becoming commonplace, as environmentalism and religion intersect in ever increasing permutations. Last week, Catholic and Lutheran leaders joined polar explorer Will Steger and several scientists to lobby the Minnesota Legislature on what the religious leaders called the moral imperative of addressing climate change.
Wind turbines at Christian colleges, solar panels by church steeples and religiously inspired prairie restorations -- all are fine things. Christianity and Judaism teach that human beings have an obligation to be good stewards of the natural world and its resources.
Sometimes, however, it seems something more is going on.
We see it in the apparent eagerness of some "people of faith"' to embrace worst-case environmental scenarios.
We hear it in their crusading zeal as they proselytize others, for example, to attend a screening of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" in the church basement.
Environmental issues are complex, and often involve data that are open to different interpretations.
Yet in some religious circles, if you raise a skeptical question about, say, global warming (a highly debated subject), you are spurned as if you've committed heresy.
Robert H. Nelson, a professor of environmental policy at the School of Public Policy of the University of Maryland, has often rubbed shoulders with environmental true believers. In his view, contemporary environmentalism, in its extreme forms, has become a "secular religion." Nelson likens it, in important respects, to Christian fundamentalism of the sort derived from the Protestant Calvinism of America's Puritan ancestors.
Today's "environmental gospel" is best understood as "Calvinism minus God," says Nelson. In essence, it retells the biblical creation story in secular dress: Human beings were created in harmony with the world, but then were tempted into evil. Now they spread corruption and depravity, and, as a result, face disaster and perhaps the end of the world.
As environmental true believers see it, the Earth was originally a pristine Garden of Eden. Then the Fall intervened. Human beings embraced science and technology, and pridefully disrupted God's Creation. At the same time, human greed led to material addictions -- an echo of the Puritans' deep skepticism about money and wealth, Nelson points out. Today, many environmentalists regard an excess of consumption as one of the modern world's greatest sins, he says.
The result? Human beings now face retribution -- flood, famine, drought and pestilence. These, Nelson notes, are the "traditional instruments of a wrathful God imposing a just punishment on a world of many sinners."
Only a great moral awakening can save humankind. Who will redeem us? God's holy, self-appointed instruments -- his environmental prophets.
The environmental gospel has a strong appeal, especially for contemporary men and women who are turning away from traditional religion. The green crusade satisfies the universal human hunger for meaning. At the same time, it asks little of believers: no tough commandments about forgiving your neighbor or not coveting his wife. Instead, it offers rituals like recycling and (for those who aspire to sainthood) biking to work. The larger society will pay the serious costs of redemption.
There are more sensible approaches to environmental problems than the environmental gospel. Without viewing human beings as inherently wicked, or environmental problems as a righteous clash between good and evil, citizens and leaders could tackle environmental issues as public policy challenges whose solution requires a careful weighing of scientific data and the costs and benefits of various responses.
Look , they have a whole group of Evangelicals working with them.
Evangelical Environmental Network &
Creation Care Magazine
Including Rick Warren
Write a book or something
That is a great term
Yes, but the connation is perfect
I was just telling my husband this, on the way to Costco this morning!
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.