In his famous 1967 Science magazine article, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” the medievalist Lynn White blamed “the Judeo-Christian dogma of creation” for instilling in Western society an ethic of exploitation of the natural world. As God says in Genesis 1, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion…”
In the years since, there’s been plenty of push back, of course. From popes and patriarchs on down, ecologically minded Judeo-Christians have claimed that God was really vouchsafing responsible stewardship — a mandate to care for Creation as if it were our own back yard.
Still, you’ve sometimes got to wonder whether White wasn’t on to something. Like when you read Dennis Prager’s latest column over at RealClearPolitics, wherein the conservative radio host assails environmentalism as the “religion of our time.”
This is the antithesis of the Judeo-Christian view of the world that has dominated Western civilization for all of the West’s history. The Judeo-Christian worldview is that man is at the center of the universe; nature was therefore created for man. Nature has no intrinsic worth other than man’s appreciation and (moral) use of it.
To be sure, Dennis Prager is easy to dismiss. Back in 2006, former New York mayor Ed Koch called him a bigot and a schmuck after he spoke out against Rep. Keith Ellison, (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress, using a Qu’ran to take his oath of office.
But as the bad news of climate change continues to pile up — most recently in this week’s report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — it’s fair to ask whether denial and inertia are the only reasons for the pathetically weak response of our political system.
Over at Bloomberg View, columnist Clive Crook lays the blame on the “gross tactical incompetence of the climate-science community…and its political champions.” He thinks they’re too partisan and alarmist for their own good. Maybe so, but I wonder whether the underlying problem is not, as Lynn White would have said, deep-seated Judeo-Christian resistance.