Closing off our religion coverage for the week: Further to Pope Francis’ adviser is a science pantheist? (And this in an age when the human mind is widely regarded among the intelligentsia as an illusion, shaped for fitness, not for truth), The Guardian asks, Is science policy a theological matter?
The Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ released by Pope Francis last week has generated a wide range of reactions ranging from enthusiastic praise to uneasy criticism. For some, the Pope’s key message was about climate change, for others about the downsides of economic growth, and some saw in it a reconciliation of science and religion. But the Encyclical also lays bare a debate much larger than each of these perspectives, one that is fundamentally about what kind of world we want to inhabit. The Pope’s message is just the latest intervention in a debate over technologies that has been going on for centuries.
Pope Francis writes of the “human roots of the ecological crisis” defined in terms of deference to a “technocratic paradigm” which contains “the deepest roots of our present failures, which have to do with the direction, goals, meaning and social implications of technological and economic growth.”
The Pope’s choice of language is evocative of historian Lynn White, Jr.’s classic essay, “The Historic Roots of our Ecologic Crisis,” written almost 50 years ago in Science. White argued that technological innovation was a “realization of the Christian dogma of man’s transcendence of, and rightful mastery over, nature.” A consequence of this mastery, White suggested, is to “give mankind powers which, to judge by many of the ecologic effects, are out of control. If so, Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt.” More.
This, of course, is why churches that get involved in debates that turn on technical facts lose membership and social significance.
The church ends up backing whatever hastily baptized naturalism is thrust on it (for example, a “huge burden of guilt” for encouraging actions that improved human lifespans and living standards). So the lay people sense that they are irrelevant to the church, and drift elsewhere, anywhere, or nowhere. While the leadership bask in the temporary, cautious, partial approval of honchos who are in fact hostile to their tradition and wouldn’t hesitate to destroy them all.
This, for example, re the Pope’s advisor:
Schellnhuber is most famous for predicting that the “carrying capacity” of the earth is “below” 1 billion people. When confronted with this, he called those who quoted him “liars.” But he then repeated the same claim, saying, “All I said was that if we had unlimited global warming of eight degrees warming, maybe the carrying capacity of the earth would go down to just 1 billion, and then the discussion would be settled.” And he has often said that this temperature tipping point would be reached — unless “actions” were taken.
It’s odd to see the Catholic Church in this position. No so with most others. Several formerly mainstream Canadian Christian denominations, and many more U.S. ones, will probably disappear by mid-century. What dooms them is an insistence on staying relevant to everything except the attitudes, values, and beliefs that made them viable in the first place.
The odd part is that, time and again and irrespective of the specific destructive cause espoused, their leadership fail to see how it must end, barring a miracle. But the compensation is that they are distinctly less likely to even believe in miracles once they have started down this path. So they do not hope for rescue.
Oh well now, tomorrow back to design in nature, which poses more interesting questions than how and why institutions go into decline.
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