· Historical survey of the origins for anthropocentrism and the causes of environmental catastrophes.
· More science and technology will not solve environmental problems because neither science nor technology is the cause. Instead, people and their beliefs cause environmental problems. Thus, changing people’s beliefs (especially those based in medieval Judeo-Christian anthropocentrism) is the solution to environmental problems.
· Industrial revolution marks the change of power from humans and animals to machines. For example, think about agricultural economics when humans (slaves) and animals were the primary source of power. Then the invention of (industrial) machines were invented that made it more efficient than using slaves and animals to produce agricultural goods.
· In terms of revolutionary change, remember when people used to live life guided by their desire to enter Heaven. But now, people live for materialistic goals and mostly no one is guided by Heaven.
· Roots means foundation. White does not want a cursory survey of history, he’s paying special attention to the deepest cause of environmental crises. He argues that the development of western history explains the roots of environmental crises.
· “All forms of life modify their context [or environment]” (56). You cannot live without impacting your environment. And the same is true for everything that exists.
· The industrial revolution impacted the environment, how? Machines polluted more, but also there was a change in population growth and the values of people changed according to the increase in commerce (and affluence), both locally and globally.
· How does religion and the environment intersect?
White’s thesis: Judeo-Christianity is the foundation of our ecological crisis.
White: victory of Christianity over paganism was the greatest psychic revolution of western civilization (bottom of pg 59.). Study pages 59-60 carefully.
· Paganism means non-Christian. Pagans (polytheist) predate monotheist Christian and Jewish traditions. White focuses on impacts of the victory of Christians over Pagans on the environmental crisis. Pagan animism and mystic religions saw God in everything, so they’re less likely to exploit/abuse/destroy the environment because it was be an act against God. So once you eliminate Pagan animism, then it’s easier for people to dominant the environment since it is not an act against God – there is only one God and he does not reside in everything as Pagans believe. See also pg. 60.
· While we live in a post-Christian era, the substance of Christianity still remains the foundation of our culture – a society built on Judeo-Christianity. E.g., people don’t attend Church regularly but their fundamental worldview (axioms) is still Christian. This is why we’re reading Genesis next.
· By ‘’psychic revolution” White refers to mental outlook, a change in worldview. People believed God was everywhere, but that changed so that people only believe in one God and he is not residing in everything or anything.
· Teleology: perpetual progress is rooted in Christian teleology (ends). A teleological value is a value that comes at the end of an activity. People want to live well because they want to reach Heaven instead of burning in hell. In contrast, a cyclical world view of life means there is no progress because there is no endpoint. A linear paradigm (worldview) provides endpoints so that progress is possible. See top of pg. 59.
· Genesis is about Creationism – a unique to a linear worldview of history. A cyclical view of history does not require a beginning because there are no endpoints – it’s a circle, not a line.
· When you name something, you are exercising domination over the named. E.g., when a woman takes her husband’s last name, that is an expression of man’s domination over women (historically, speaking). So when God gave Adam the right to name animals, God gave man the right to dominate animals.
· White: Christianity is the most anthropocentric (human-centered) religion ever. Plants, animals, and ecosystems are instrumental, devalued, and at times, eliminated. Humans supersede everything. It is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends.
· This article created the field of eco-theology. White was not anti-Christian – he’s providing a description of what is causing environmental problems; he wants to improve Christianity such that if it is causing environmental problems, than a Christian solution is required for a problem that is fundamentally Christian. Pg. 61- Christianity bears a burden of guilt…science and technology will not solve the environmental problem because it is not causing it. People and their fundamental (Christian) beliefs are causing environmental problems so the solution must address that directly.
Instructions for the first paper: pick a point that White makes in his article and critically evaluate it. This paper does not require outside research. Instead, you should focus on White’s argument. Pick a point that he makes and explain it in your own words, then say what you think about it, and whether you think the point is correct. No page limit. The page length is up to your discretion, depending on what you write about.
-The next paper will be due around a week after that. Details will be announced later. The third paper will be optional.
-Read Genesis by next Tuesday.
Lynn White Continued (p.56)
(p.62) He claims that since the roots of our environmental crisis are religious, then the solution must also be essentially religious. We cannot rely on science and technology.
-We can create a new religion, according to White. It would have to get rid of anthropocentrism.
-White says another option is to reform the existing religion (61). He points to the “greatest radical since Christ”, St. Francis. Francis emphasized humility, encouraging us not to exaggerate our place in God’s creation. He challenged the mainstream idea of human superiority over animals and nature.
Whichever option we pick, White thinks we necessarily have to reject the Christian axiom that “nature has no reason for existence save to serve man. (62)” If we do not reject that axiom, White thinks we wil continue to have an ecological crisis.
According to White, Francis did not hold to the transmigration of souls, nor to pantheism. Instead, his version of Christianity was a kind of “pan-psychism.”
After noting how Francis failed, White nevertheless concludes with saying we need to bring back the Franciscan view.
Darius believes that White overstated his argument. He thinks that White does not need to go so far as Francis of Assisi especially when the actual text of Genesis is considered. Darius will refer to passages in Genesis to make his point against White.
James The text can be interpreted in different ways which is why Jesus can be viewed both as a socialist or a capitalist.
Kim argues that White ‘s interpretation of the Bible saying that nature is to be exploited by humanity by Saint Francis’s ideas of equality of humanity and nature.
Darius responded that he does not believe that Saint Francis’s egalitarian ideas between nature and humanity and still be Christianity.
Kim the environmental crisis shows that rather than being self-serving of humanity it is self-defeating as the environmental crisis.
Darius and Kim exchanged ideas about what equality means in the context of nature-humanity relationship.
Pamela: Why did it take so long for Christianity’s anthropocentrism to arise?
Also, Pamela wondered about the idea of domination of nature.
Perhaps, we always had anthropocentrist belief but did not have the technological means to implement these ideas.
The real problem in the ecological crisis is not environmental but really the ideology of domination within the production process: The shift to domination of nature came from the Enlightenment not Christianity, as White argues.
Rationality is the driving force of domination viewing others as instruments not ends unto themselves.
So for the Enlightenment philosophers it was rationality that drove them not Christianity.
Christianity was not the source of the Enlightenment’s domination of nature and other humans.