Re: [asa] AAAS President Keynote Address

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Thu Feb 22 2007 - 09:08:53 EST

Comments in red.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Jack
  To: George Murphy ;
  Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2007 10:45 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] AAAS President Keynote Address

  A commitment to something other than my own faith? George, it sounds like you are saying that environmentalism is equivalent to Christianity. Whatever flavor suits you is ok. Dont you think that there is only one true faith? I dont see what is wrong about being "defensive" about Christ vs environmentalism.

  It "sounds like" that only if you're tone deaf. I neither said nor implied nor left room for the implication that "environmentalism is equivalent to Christianity" or that whatever flavor suits me is OK. You're the one claiming that environmentalism is a religion, & by implication a bad religion. OK, to the extent that that's the case, respond to it by presenting good religious views. The best defense is a good offence. E.g., one might point out that in speaking of "tithing" the person has already entered a bit into the biblical tradition, & then find ways to invite him/her to enter into it more deeply.

  Presenting a positive view of my own faith? What does faith have to do with concerns about environmental degradation? That would apply to Christian and secular interests. I honestly dont see how the Christian faith has a monopoly on environmental concerns.

  Obviously you know nothing about all the work that's been done by Christian theologians over the past ~40 years on the environment. You might start with Redeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship (IVP, 1996) with contributions from Fred Van Dyke, David C. Mahan, Joseph K. Sheldon and Raymond H. Brand. (The latter 2 have been active ASA members. Van Dyke used to belong.) Two books by the Lutheran theologian H. Paul Santmire, The Travail of Nature and Nature Reborn, both published by Fortress, are very good. In spite of its title, the little book God is Green: Ecology for Christians, by Ian Bradley (Doubleday, 1992) is helpful. Earlier I mentioned statements by churches. The one I'm most familiar with (since I was on the task force that developed it) is the ELCA's "Caring for Creation" statement which you can find at .

  None of which is to say that Christianity has a monopoly on environmental concerns, which would be absurd. One of the things Christians need to be able to do is work on such matters with non-Christians to the extent that that is consistent with their faith commitments. But Christianity does have distinctive theological motives for such concerns.

   But my point, which you have ignored, is that I am concerned that the leader of the AAAS is resorting to religious terminology in front of a secular audience, whether it is unintentional, or whether he is intentionally tapping into this motivation.

  I have not ignored your point at all. My response has been (a) to a certain extent, so: People can have, as I noted, many different ultimate concerns, (b) the best way to respond to a challenge which is religious is with a better religious position.
    ----- Original Message -----
    From: George Murphy
    To: Jack ;
    Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2007 10:23 PM
    Subject: Re: [asa] AAAS President Keynote Address

    Why adopt such a fearful attitude & jump into a defensive posture as soon as someone else starts displaying a commitment to something other than your own faith? Of course plenty of people have other religious commitments, though many will not recognize them as religious. Why not try presenting a positive view of your own faith - which was what I was suggesting, & what you've ignored.

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Jack
      To: George Murphy ;
      Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2007 10:09 PM
      Subject: Re: [asa] AAAS President Keynote Address

      George said:
      "The fact that environmentalism can be a religion should not be countered by denying legitimate concerns about the environment but by showing how the calling to care for the natural world is properly understood within the context of Christian doctrines of creation & vocation. "

      I am not at all suggesting that we should be denying legitimate concerns about the environment, I am asking why a leader of a secular organization is resorting to religious terminology. If it is unintentional, it is unfortunate because it supports the views of Crichton et al, if it is intentional, what does that say about the integrity of the data, if anything? I would not have questioned it otherwise, but it makes me wonder why he would resort to this tactic.

      "I'm assuming of course that this concern about "environmentalism is a religion" is real & not a red herring, though I'm not so naive as to think that that's the case for all who raise this cry."

      Well who knows. But why did Holden even make it an issue?
          ----- Original Message -----
          From: Jack
          To: Rich Blinne ;
          Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2007 8:41 PM
          Subject: Re: [asa] AAAS President Keynote Address

          Arent you at all concerned that environmentalism, just like atheism, and materialsim, and any other numerous ism's, are a substitute for Christianity?

          You keep ignoring Holden's use of religious terminology. Why do you think Holden spoke in those terms? Was it just an unfortunate choice of words, or is he trying to encourage this to be a religion to his followers, and to himself? After all this was a scientific conference not a religious one.

          I am concerned about the use of religious rhetoric in a conference such as this. Everyone needs to fill their "God-shaped hole", and certainly environmental zealotry would fit that bill. While I am not opposed to faith/science discussions, I am concerned that Holden is subtly using this human need for religion to advance an agenda, and by doing so is leading people away from Christ. He may not be doing this, but I dont think that we should be endorsing his use of relgious rhetoric.

          Frankly I dont understand his point of tithing anyway. Shouldnt we be using well more than 10% of our talents towards the good of humanity?
            ----- Original Message -----
            From: Rich Blinne
            Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2007 5:24 PM
            Subject: Re: [asa] AAAS President Keynote Address

            On 2/21/07, <> wrote:
              Rich, hang on a second. I still think you are missing
              Janice's point.

              Even though tithe literally means %10, it is clearly
              associated with religion, with churches, wouldnt you agree
              with that?

              Janice is pointing to Holdens use of this term as an
              example of what Crichton is calling Environmentalism.
              That is a zealous religion of defending the environment.

              This has nothing to do with Christianity and rationality.
              Crichton is trying to make the point that there are
              environmental scientists that are zealots, and have their
              judgement clouded. I dont agree with him, and you dont
              agree with him. But unfortunately, Holden's use of a term
              that has religious connotations, makes it appear that
              perhaps Crichton is correct. That is Janice's point. It
              has nothing to do with her faith, fideism, or anything of
              the sort.

            That's Janice's point but it is not Crichton's. Because environmental scientists can be religious zealots, you still have to take one more step in the argument and show how their judgment is clouded and why scientists should not devote their time for the benefit of humanity and why the use of religious rhetoric is bad particularly when science is supposedly atheistic. Crichton short-circuits that analysis by making ALL religious thinking suspect. Science, as defined by himself, of course, GOOD, religion, BAD. Then he only needs to show that there is a religious component and go straight to Q.E.D. Ironically, he gets to his conclusion by mis-labelling scientific thinking as religious and vice versa. Crichton is a dangerous ally for Janice and other Christian environmental skeptics to have because of this. His cure is worse than the disease. If Janice and others are concerned about the New Age influence in environmentalism -- and I am not saying that concern is illegitimate -- then she should join me in my original proposal to coopt the AAAS president's proposal. It should be Christians in science that (legitimately) tithe our talents for the (true) good of humanity.

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Received on Thu Feb 22 09:10:16 2007

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