There are good reasons for being responsible stewards of the environment, but they cannot be derived from the environment itself. Chesterton insists, in fact, that no real ethics can be abstracted from the physical world. It cancels all that it seems to affirm. While democracy declares all men to be worthy, for example, and aristocracy designates some men as worthier, “nature makes no remark on the subject.” Supernatural revelation is required to take a sane view of nature:
The essence of all pantheism, evolutionism, and modern cosmic religion is really this proposition: that Nature is our mother. Unfortunately, if you regard Nature as a mother, you discover that she is a step-mother. The main point of Christianity [is] this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire but not to imitate. This gives to the typically Christian pleasure in this earth a strange touch of lightness that is almost frivolity. . . . Nature was a solemn mother to Wordsworth and Emerson. But nature is not solemn to Francis of Assisi or to George Herbert. To St. Francis, Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister, to be laughed at as well as loved.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Mother Nature Doesn't Exist. Say Hello to Sister Nature.
The November 2008 issue of First Things included an essay by Ralph Wood marking the 100th anniversary of the publication of G.K. Chesterton's classic book, Orthodoxy.
Among other subjects, Wood looks at Chesterton's skeptical view of rationalism, materialism, physicalism, and several other -isms, all of them views that end up elevating man beyond where he should be and minimizing God or dismissing Him altogether.
Wood has this to say in his essay, including a quote from Chesterton:
I see the thought process here as having relevance to the tyranny of certain environmentalist views. We are not here to serve the earth, but to serve our Heavenly Father. The earth is here for the very same reason, though obviously without the moral responsibility that humans bear. We are called to be worshipers of God, not idolators of the earth.
But I'll admit, there's something to be said for taking care of your little sister.