Saturday, April 21, 2007

Environmental Justification

I began the week by arguing that the Judeo-Christian worldview provides excellent justification for being environmentally conscious, for caring about and for the planet and its inhabitants. Now let me make explicit that I find no such warrant—no rational basis for environmentalism—in the paradigm of Darwinian naturalism.

I’m not here asking which worldview fits the evidence better. On that question the Judeo-Christian worldview wins in a walkover. Virtually all of what we know (empirically) about the universe coheres with the biblical portrayal and remains completely unexplained by Darwinian naturalism. I’m talking about such (seemingly important) things as the existence (and beginning) of the universe, its order, its design for life, the existence (and origin) of life, the presence (in life) of irreducibly-complex things (molecular motors and such) and of information (in the genetic code), and the presence in humans of consciousness and morality.

But for the sake of argument, in today’s post let’s pretend that Darwinian naturalism doesn’t have all of these evidential problems, that it is somehow equal to Christianity in terms of its explanatory scope and power. My point here is that it provides no rational foundation for caring for the environment.

If survival of the fittest is the overarching rule governing the diversity of life on this planet, then why would it matter that other—less fit—species are eliminated by the activities of human beings? Granted, the evolutionist might respond that our own survival might be dependent (in ways we don’t yet appreciate) on the existence of those other species, by maintaining as robust and diverse an ecology as possible. While I wholeheartedly agree with this particular statement, the assertion of it by the evolutionist is logically inconsistent and points out a more basic problem with his worldview.

If Darwinian naturalism is true, there is no such thing as purpose or ultimate morality. And yet any attempt to argue for care of the environment is laden with moral language (“everyone ought to recycle”) and ideas about value that are borrowed from a theistic worldview and which have no logical place in a worldview centered on Darwinism. Even to take a minimalist (selfish) tack and say that I care for the environment for the sake of my own children and grandchildren (that I might succeed in passing on my own genes) is ultimately a value idea that has no rational justification in the worldview of a Darwinian naturalist.

I happen to believe very strongly that we ought to care a great deal about and for our environment and the other life with which we share it. And I have excellent reasons for this conviction (including the reason that it is the substance of the very first command given us by our Creator). While I’m glad that many non-monotheists will take time this weekend to reflect on (and perhaps make personal resolutions about) creation care, I find in their worldview no logical justification for their participation in Earth Day.

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