The Greens, Religion, and Science
In December of 1966, Lynn White, Jr. (1907-1987) delivered a controversial speech in Washington, D.C. entitled "The historical roots of our ecological crisis." White charged that Christianity "bears a huge burden of guilt" in helping to foster the present-day "out of control" degradation of the environment. White singled out Western Christianity as being primarily responsible for the wedding between science and technology that has left a devastating ecological scar on the modern landscape.
Modern science was solidly built upon a Judeo-Christian theological foundation, with Catholic Scholastic monks leading the way at first, after which the Lutherans took over. Both Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) were Lutherans. It must also be remembered that Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo (1564-1642) challenged the semi-pantheistic Aristotelian view of the universe, not the biblical one, something which is almost always completely misunderstood and misrepresented with regard to the Copernican revolution. The Catholic Scholastics often gave too much deference to Aristotle. On the other hand, however, both Galileo and Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) were strong Catholics. Even Isaac Newton (1642-1727) later performed his scientific studies for the glory of God. With such a crew of Christian scientists coming out of the academic halls in Europe for several centuries, Lynn White, Jr. glibly notes that "the technological superiority of Europe was such that its small, mutually hostile nations could spill out over all the rest of the world, conquering, looting, and colonizing."
Indeed, the famous dictum of modern science, that "knowledge is power," was coined by the Protestant Francis Bacon (1561-1626). This idea of knowledge as power runs completely counter to the classical Greek conception of knowledge as contemplation, being strongly based upon the Christian ideal where theoretical knowledge must be applied. The new Baconian science demanded experimentation and verification that went above and beyond theoretical knowledge. Lynn White, Jr. adds that such assumptions were much more pronounced in Western Christianity than in Eastern Christianity: "the Greek saint contemplates; the western saints acts. The implications of Christianity for the conquest of nature would emerge more easily in the western atmosphere."
Lovers of philosophy, the ancient Greeks had very little interest in developing applied modern science as is practiced today. It was the Old and New Testaments, which time and time again stress the practical import and value of knowledge, which helped form the basis for applied modern science. Moreover, since people believed that God created the universe, this made nature not only tangibly real and rational, but also something worthy of serious investigation. In other words, the Christian scientist expected to learn from nature precisely because he assumed that God intelligently designed it. Once the assumption of God's intelligent design is removed from nature, it becomes very difficult to understand just exactly what scientists are intending to learn these days. Neither can they explain why it is that they have indeed learned so much from nature. The Darwinian descent of man fully submerged into a purposeless natural world of unintelligent outcomes has only compounded this problem further. Contrary to popular opinion, a mixed up post-Christian, postmodern world is anything but a good foundation upon which to build an epistemological basis for scientific knowledge.
Further, the Judeo-Christian God is also separate from world which He created. This is extremely critical. Since God is transcendent above the natural world, to study nature and tinker with her secrets is not an act of irreverence. As such, surprisingly enough, it was the Judeo-Christian worldview which removed the superstitions of the pagan universe and opened wide the door of scientific investigation. Here is precisely where Lynn White, Jr. strongly complains that "by destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects."
The fact that man was made in God's image further established the inherent connection between Christianity and modern science. Man's reasoning capacity was assumed to be one of the primary characteristics of being made in God's image that sharply separated him from brute nature.
The great concern today, therefore, is not that Christian theology will ruin science with anti-scientific ideas like so many fear, but whether modern science can continue to have a genuine future if all of its foundation stones have been removed -- especially if they have been replaced with green ones. As Lynn White, Jr. showcased throughout his speech, the green movement has little regard for the scientific revolution precisely because it associates that movement with Christianity's dominating view over nature. Christianity has allegedly ransacked the ecology of the planet with a heavenly imperialistic worldview which has had little sympathy for the feelings of plants, animals, and indigenous peoples.
Lynn White, Jr.'s answer to help resolve the environmental crisis is even more revealing: "more science and more technology are not going to get us out of the present ecological crisis until we find a new religion, or rethink the old one." In other words, environmentalism is not nearly as scientific as many would presume. The fact that many of its proponents are modern-day pantheists is further evidence of what Lynn White, Jr. may have had in mind. Modern environmentalism is therefore just as much a religious philosophy of man and nature as it is a science. Conservationist Paul Sears wrote in 1964 that ecology was a subversive science and that it was quickly becoming the favorite child of the sciences. Such favoritism has since inserted many green biases into the modern science department.
Greens are well aware of the fact that in order for the environmental movement to carry any weight in modern society, it must have its scientific credentials. Joining hands with Naturalism and Darwinism against Christianity, they therefore have infiltrated the modern science department and clothed themselves with every manner of scientific jargon imaginable in order to give all the appearance of an authoritative discipline.
This subterfuge has also allowed the greens to criticize Christianity from two directions at the same time. On the one hand, Western Christianity has allegedly created the scientific revolution that has raided the ecology of the planet. On the other hand, since many Christians refuse to bow to Darwinism, Christianity is also considered anti-science. This incongruent criticism should cause much more pause about the relationship between Christianity and science than is typically given. Darwinism does not have a monopoly on science. What's more is that if leftists are so into science, then why have so many of them embraced the environmental movement, which is loaded with Romantic, anti-scientific views?
Modern ecology appears to be attempting to return to the "sciences" of the Greco-Roman world, replete with all of its pagan hesitation and superstition, yet dressed up in holistic scientific language that forbids many of the consequences of the scientific revolution. This is the heart of Romanticism and holism, not science per se. Such a holistic atmosphere is not conducive to the original assumptions of the scientific revolution that made that revolution such a powerful force in the modern world. Furthermore, if science is inextricably bound up with modernity, then what will science look like in a postmodern world? Thanks to the green movement, that particular question has already been answered.
Mark Musser is the author of Nazi Oaks: The Green Sacrificial Offering of the Judeo-Christian Worldview in the Holocaust and a commentary on the warning passages in the book of Hebrews called Wrath or Rest: Saints in the Hands of an Angry God.