Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Friday, May 12, 2006

Environmentalists Against Evolution, Evolution Supporting Christian Right

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Environmentalists, or conversationalists as they are sometimes known, want to preserve nature as is. The right-wing and its Christians support Big Business, whose Big Pollution contributes to evolution (evpollution?). Can someone help me understand this?

How is it that normally left-wing scientists who are anxious about global warming advocate against letting evolution continue? Why do normally right-wing Christians, by the right's traditional support for Big Business, effectively support evolution, even if they're against teaching it?

Am I just misunderstanding something here?

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8 Comments:

At 8:51 AM, Canadian Politico Anonymous David Barker said:

I presume your question is somewhat rhetorical, but I'll take a stab. Biologists are most concerned about the phenomenon of habitat loss (which includes global warming) which leads to extinction. Extinction is certainly a part of the evolutionary process, but not very useful without speciation. Estimated extinction rates caused by human activity are now on the order of one of the five or six other so-called mass extinctions which lead to the loss of majorities of species in their times. So mass extinctions are normal on this planet. The issue is, most biologists would agree, we don't want to live through one. First we like biodiversity - not just whales and tigers, but beetles, flies, nematodes - the whole shebang. Secondly, to not believe that there will be consequences for human wellbeing in a mass extinction is naive. There will be a loss of support systems in the form of food, water, and a habitable climate. The only people who don't expect this will be an issue are folks who haven't thought about it, those living in a Randian fantasy world about the capacity of human technology and those that are ready to step willingly into the hereafter.

There is a danger to the isolationist view that we are not a part of the vast genealogy and ecological network of this planet. Archaeological history provides some valuable lessons on the fate of cultures (smart people one and all) that didn't pay attention to their place in the ecosystem.

So to answer your questions: scientists aren't trying to stop evolution, just our risky acceleration of extinction rate. The christian right isn't even thinking about it.

 
At 12:20 PM, Canadian Politico Anonymous Kevin Dixon said:

David Barker gave you an excellent answer and I can't add much to that aspect of the issue. I'll just add that most people have no real grasp of the time scales involved in evolution. Even extremely rapid events on a geological time scale are, from the perspective of human civilization, incredibly vast stretches of time. One million years is nothing geologically. Ten thousand years ago our ancestors had barely begun to change from being hunter gatherers. That is 1% of that the brief one million year period. The knowledge that new diversity will take the place of all we've destroyed is small comfort if this won't happen until our civilization is fossilized.

A completely different perspective on the question (like David I am assuming you are serious in your question) is that you are falling for creationist salesmanship to a certain extent. Anitevolutionists are fond of portraying evolution as part of a materialist, atheistic philosophy than is engaged in a battle with religion. While some people, such as the Objectivists, have certainly latched on to evolutionary ideas because they fit in with their ideals, in general this is a very misleading portrait of evolution. The study of evolution is a branch of biology - it is a scientific discipline. Science is best thought of as a tool for understanding not a moral system. I am not convinced that evolution is the best explanation for life on earth because I think it ought to be true, but rather because the evidence that I see supports evolution as being that best explanation. Evolution is something that happnes - but that doesn't make it good. Is the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria good? The evolution of crop pests that pesticides won't kill?

 
At 1:37 AM, Canadian Politico Blogger lecentre said:

Ah, well that certainly clears things up, folks!

Thanks a lot. :)

However, why is it there are specific campaigns to protect particular species? What makes them deserving of special attention? Correct me if I'm wrong, but whales aren't the most useful beings, though they are quite awe inspiring and beautiful.

Yes, I was being serious in my question, and no, I don't believe in science as a form of morality.

Now, I thank you gentlemen for explaining the left's position (though I still question the means; I think general slowing of evolution would be preferable, as you mention, rather than species-specific campaigns. By the way, what's speciation?)

Now, who'll explain the right's position to me?

 
At 9:00 AM, Canadian Politico Anonymous Anonymous said:

"Environmentalists, or conversationalists as they are sometimes known,"

I'm not aware that environmentalists are particularly inclined toward talking. I think you meant "conservationists".

I don't think you'll get much feed-back from the religious right, because they firmly believe that God is coming in a few years anyhow, for the most part, so what's the point of conservation?

As for particular species, such as a species of whale, before you stop worrying about them dying off, it's wise to make sure you know which other species are going to be affected. What do they eat? Who eats them? What part does their excrement play in the ecology? Their carcass? Their parasites? Are there other species that will fill these roles easily?

Lots of questions.

 
At 3:35 PM, Canadian Politico Blogger Dstopak said:

From the mouths of babes (and lecentre you are either as innocent as a baby or an idiot) sometimes comes surprising insight. It is indeed a paradox why many on the right who profess to beleive in the literal creation of this world by God disdain to protect what their God has created. One would think that those who believe that the creatures of this earth were saved specifically from destruction by God through Noah and his ark, would be the most alarmed at their current rate of extinction. Yet that is not the case and in fact the opposite is true. The supposedly atheistic adherents of evolution and other Godless and immoral ideas are more concerned. That is not to say that there are not deeply religious people who share that concern, but it seems the most vocal adherents to a literal and narrow intrepretation of the Bible are also the ones who seem to value God's creation the least. That is a parodox.

Maybe understanding that mankind is organically linked to the natural world provides a moral compass more profound than the belief that mankind is God's special creation. Maybe a touch of humility in the face of the wonder and mystery of the natural world is necessary for a global ethics that is concerned with the earth as a living planet.

 
At 3:57 PM, Canadian Politico Anonymous Anonymous said:

From the mouths of babes (and lecentre you are either as innocent as a baby or an idiot) sometimes comes surprising insight. It is indeed a paradox why many on the right who profess to believe in the literal creation of this world by God disdain to protect what their God has created. One would think that those who believe that the creatures of this earth were saved specifically from destruction by God through Noah and his ark would be the most alarmed at their current rate of extinction. Yet that is not the case and in fact the opposite is true. The supposedly atheistic adherents of evolution and other Godless and immoral ideas are more concerned. That is not to say that there are not deeply religious people who share that concern, but it does seems that the most vocal adherents of a literal and narrow interpretation of the Bible are often the least concerned when one of God’s supposed creations is obliterated from the face of the earth. That is a paradox.

Science is not a moral system, but insights provided by concepts like evolution can have moral and ethical implications for those whose minds are open. Maybe understanding that mankind is organically linked to the natural world provides a moral compass more profound than the belief that mankind is God's special creation. Maybe a touch of humility in the face of the wonder and mystery of the natural world is necessary for a global ethics that is concerned with the earth as a living planet.

 
At 6:05 PM, Canadian Politico Anonymous Kevin Dixon said:

A follow up addressing your further questions.

Preserving some species rather than others is largely a political decision. For example, tigers are much more appealing to humans than catfish so it is easier to raise money and create legislation to protect tigers. Whales fall into the charismatic category but whale conservation also has a unique history. Whales live in the open ocean and are thus not effectively protected by the laws of indivdiual nations. Whales were also one of the first groups of animals that were recognized as being in danger due to over exploitation. Hence the rather elaborate international mechanism for protecting whales.

As to the righ's lack of interest in environmental protection - that is a harder question. What is called conservatism today in the west has several different threads running through it: libertarianism, free market fiscal conservatism, and social conservatism seem the most relevant to the question. Libertarians want to minimize the role of government in the lives of citizens. Therefore environmental regulations are philosophically unacceptable. On the other hand, many conservatives with a libertarian bent have a personal attachment to the natural world (Barry Goldwater for example). Fiscal conservatives are libertarians when it comes to the right to do anything you want with your money. Their problem with environmental regulations should be obvious.

The social conservatives I think are mostly just not very interested in the environment. As a gross generalization I would say that they are not very curious about things beyond their immediate experience and are much less connected to the natural world than people who accept evolution (for example). There are of course plenty of exceptions to this generalization.

 
At 10:24 PM, Canadian Politico Blogger Ian said:

Another question for you - why is it that doctors, who understand how the body functions, and that it is natural for it to malfunction and for people to die, stubbornly continue to interfere in such natural processes?

Or am I missing something here...?

 

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