The Apocalyptic Nature of Environmentalism

Every few years a Christian preacher predicts imminent Armageddon, gains some followers and is thrust into the national headlines. Most recently, Harold Camping, the iterant Oakland preacher, announced the world would end on May 22, 2011. Camping prophesized this will be accompanied by massive earthquakes, chaos, death and destruction, just as described in the Book of Revelation. A new heaven and new earth will appear, with the righteous joining God and non-believers perishing. USA Today wrote incredulously, “some people really panicked.” Camping’s ideas were not particularly popular in Catholic and other Christian circles (Mathew 24:36 states that no one can know the precise time Jesus will return, except for God) but they were ridiculed in the media as being representative as mainstream Christian thinking.

Yet environmental scientists cause panic with similar apocalyptic visions and these are taken far more seriously, despite their apparent outrageous nature. I call these eco-apocalyptic. I want to demonstrate the similarities between the visions, then try to explain the analogous patterns of thinking. Analyzing Western history and Christianity helps us understand why two seemingly different ideologies resemble each other.

A popular Rolling Stone headline reads, “Goodbye, Miami.” The byline declares: “By century’s end, rising sea levels will turn the nation’s urban fantasyland into an American Atlantis. But long before the city is completely underwater, chaos will begin.”

The article begins with an imaginative apocalyptic vision of the future:

When the water receded after Hurricane Milo of 2030, there was a foot of sand covering the famous bow-tie floor in the lobby of the Fontaine­bleau hotel in Miami Beach. A dead manatee floated in the pool where Elvis had once swum. Most of the damage occurred not from the hurricane’s 175-mph winds, but from the 24-foot storm surge that overwhelmed the low-lying city… A 17-mile stretch of Highway A1A that ran along the famous beaches up to Fort Lauderdale disappeared into the Atlantic. The storm knocked out the wastewater-treatment plant on Virginia Key, forcing the city to dump hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage into Biscayne Bay. Tampons and condoms littered the beaches, and the stench of human excrement stoked fears of cholera. More than 800 people died, many of them swept away by the surging waters that submerged much of Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale; 13 people were killed in traffic accidents as they scrambled to escape the city after the news spread—falsely, it turned out—that one of the nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, an aging power plant 24 miles south of Miami, had been destroyed by the surge and sent a radioactive cloud over the city.

Apocalypse now, anybody?
Stanford biology professor Paul Ehrlich proclaims: “I believe and all of my colleagues believe that we are on a straightforward course to a collapse of our civilization.” I wonder if ALL of Ehrlich’s colleagues really believe this? More likely, Ehrlich exaggerates in an effort to advance fears about what he genuinely believes is an impending doom. Scientists are not just guided by facts, but by their own opinions, too. Unfortunately, sometimes like politicians, they deceive. By vividly predicting doom, they hope to gain converts in the name of saving humanity.

For Ehrlich, climate change is a serious issue, but the biggest threat comes from the spread of toxins in the environment. “If the chemicals we’re releasing give everybody bladder cancer by the time they’re four years old, we wouldn’t have the first clue what to do about it.… We’re basically sawing off the limb that we’re sitting on.” This is certainly possible, or maybe the eighty-one year old scientist is off his rocker. Time will tell. Ehrlich wrote a book in 1968 called The Population Bomb in which he predicted by the 1970s, population levels would reach unsustainable levels. Hundreds of millions of people will starve to death and it is too late to do anything about it, he lamented. These fanciful predictions have not induced modesty in Ehrlich, nor have they stopped others from spreading his ideas.

A headline at a popular scientific website reads, “Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist.” Frank Fenner, a ninety-five year old professor of microbiology, believes humans will be wiped out in a few decades. He declares, “Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years… A lot of other animals will, too. It’s an irreversible situation. I think it’s too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off.” Fenner blames overpopulation and unbridled consumption. Accordingly, his apocalyptic vision even includes wars and violence over food.

Ehrlich and Fenner are heirs to a tradition fathered by a clergyman, Thomas Malthus. In 1798, the British cleric predicted,

The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands.

Malthus reasoned that while human population increased geometrically (1, 2, 4, 16, 32), food supply only increases exponentially (1, 2. 3, 4, 5.) At some point, population will surpass our ability to feed ourselves and humanity must die an agonizing death.

Apocalyptic visions of the future dominate the minds of environmental scientists, just like they do many Christian leaders. I wonder why? What makes the leaders of two supposedly two distinct fields like science and religion demonstrate analogous thought patterns?

First, science and religion are not as distinct as people believe because both are human ways to interpret and understand the world. Before the rise of modern science, human civilization relied on religion to explain their world, so goals of science and religion are parallel. The real fathers of science, in fact, were Babylonian priests who studied the sky. They recognized that astronomical phenomena were predictable, leading them to believe that scientific activity allowed for the predicting of human affairs. Eclipses were sometimes considered signs of imminent catastrophe, for example.

When interpreting modern scientific apocalyptic predictions from leading scientists, it must be recognized that Christianity laid the backbone for Western intellectual history for one-thousand years. We have all been shaped by our past, both at an individual and cultural level. Christian scientists and intellectuals like Malthus naturally shaped the views of their successors, just as our parents and grandparents have shaped us, whether we like to admit it or not. We have all inherited traditions from our past. The “end of times” idea is almost as old as Western civilization (it really begins with Old Testament authors) and the rise of secularism has not expunged the idea from intellectual history. Why would we think we could eliminate a pattern that has existed for two millennia in merely two centuries?

Scientific activity—defined as the study of the physical world—is roughly four thousand years old, yet scientific activity as a separate sphere from religion is only about two hundred years old. In other words, for the first 95% of its existence, science and religion were united. The relationship has weakened, but clearly has not ended. Unable to completely separate themselves from their past, eco-apocalyptics have blended a powerful tradition in our past—the “end of times” nature of Christianity—with the dominant concept of this age, science. Syncretize is the academic word for the blending of ideological concepts. Rarely, if ever, do belief systems emerge that are completely separate from preceding belief systems. It is normal for burgeoning ideologies to mix the old with the new.

Lest anyone forget, modern science (or natural philosophy it was called in the seventeenth century because science and philosophy weren’t separate fields either) was forged in the crucible of religion. It dates from the seventeenth century with figures like Galileo, Boyle and Newton. These men were deeply religious and they never intended for science to undermine religion. They did not view the two fields as separate realms of inquiry. Newton, upon learning that his scientific ideas were used by the theologian Richard Bentley to justify a providential deity exclaimed, “When I wrote my treatise about our system, I had an eye upon such principles as might work with considering men, for the belief of a Deity, and nothing can rejoice me more than to find it useful for that purpose.” The greatest scientist of the modern age exalts when his science is used to support the existence of a God who oversees and regulates His creation.

Newton also practiced religious prophecy. The father of modern science was the Harold Camping of his day. A tremendous mathematician, Newton used these prodigious skills to analyze the cryptic book of Daniel, desperate to determine when Jesus would return. His answer? Not before 2160 AD. He contended, “It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner.” Modern day scientists have not only adopted their forefather’s scientific method, but his prophecy too. However, he also added, “This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail.”

Newton’s sentiments could just as easily be applied to his environmental science successors. What happens if the year 2100 passes, Miami is still a thriving metropolis and human civilizations continue to flourish? How could all of this not lead to the disrepute of science? Some people love to critique those with power and prestige. And intellectuals always challenge the status-quo, showing how things we believe to be true are not as true as they seem. These predictions will provide these groups with ammunition to critique science. Science will not collapse, but rather it will be weakened as a field of study. Scientists will lose some of the prestige they have earned since the age of Newton. Its zenith will have been the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, until those arrogant, misguided prophets emerged. If this does happen, scientists will have no one to blame but themselves.

Most ideologies employ scare tactics as a way to inspire believers and convert non-believers. I suspect many environmentalists, like the editors at Rolling Stone, don’t take the above apocalyptic views too seriously, but if they help inspire faith in the cause—if they help convert others to our values—why not propagate them? Like some politicians and even some theologians, environmental scientists wildly describe how humanity will suffer, if we do not act properly. I contend that truth matters, especially if scientists want to continue to maintain the prestige they currently enjoy in Western culture. The best way to convert non-believes is not by deceiving them with half-baked prophecies.

Finally, environmentalism may be filling an innate human need for religion. As church attendance has dropped over the last century, environmentalism has waxed. The decline of Christianity among many intellectuals in the eighteenth and nineteenth century created a lacuna that different ideologies have attempted to fill, such as Liberalism (from which both Republicans and Democrats emerged), Nationalism, Marxism/Socialism and environmentalism. Each of these ideologies dates from the nineteenth century, or precisely the time many thinkers lost faith in Christianity. The word ecology dates from the nineteenth century, suggesting its advent is related to the weakening of organized religion that occurred during and after the Enlightenment Era. Environmentalists are less like adherents to traditional religious doctrine because environmentalism fills the vacuum. The greenest nations in the West are the least religious, whereas the most Christian nation in the West, the United States, is the biggest thorn in the side of environmental groups. It is no accident that eco-apocalyptic visions are most likely found in individuals and societies bereft of orthodox Christian beliefs. Religion has guided humanity since its inception and it is logical that it cannot completely disappear.

Suggesting environmentalism promotes religious tendencies and adopts Christian elements is not the same as saying all environmentalist tenets are false. Even the atheist can agree that some Christian principles are true, such as that we are all flawed sinners. Equally, the claim that environmentalism adopts religious concepts doesn’t prove it wrong. We just need to understand that some environmental ideas are not completely distinct from preceding intellectual trends.

Editor’s note: The image above depicts the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” by Albrecht Dürer (c. 1497-98).

David Byrne

By

David Byrne earned his doctorate in history from Claremont Graduate University. His research focuses on the history of ideas, especially the relationship between theology and thought. His most recent publication is titled "The Victory of the Proletariat is Inevitable: The Millenarian Nature of Marxism." It appeared in Kritike: An Online Journal of Philosophy.

  • Adam__Baum

    Never let a good crisis do to waste, if threre is no crisis, manufacture one.
    Nobody should ever discuss Erlich without discussing his intellectual nemesis the late, great Julian Simon, who regularly demolished Erlich’s claims.

    • msmischief

      Which lead to Erlich wishing Simon’s demise.

      • Adam__Baum

        Which proves that Erlich- like most popular “intellectuals” is an individual who maintains that he or she is a veritable font of compassion-as long as that compassion is remote, abstract, aggregated and impersonal.
        However, in dealing with any individual, you see that their high-mindedness is a veneer that conceals their core, a festering cesspool of misanthropic narcisssm, or perhaps authotheism.
        Paul Johnson explored this tendency in his book “Intellectuals”, along with tthe slavish cults that follow this particular type of misanthrope. Unfortunately, while few people continue to dedicate their lives to the likes of Hellman, Sarte or Russell, the cult of Marx is an enduring one.

  • Elat

    I am Christian/Catholic and I believe that we as Christians should be as outraged about the destruction of our earth as any other sin; well, if not more, because we cannot live without it, and it kills people. We ARE reaching apocalyptic levels of environmental destruction. As God’s people, we MUST stand up for His creation and fight this evil.

    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

      Hysterical nonsense. Please name one example of an “apocalyptic level of environmental destruction.”

      • Elat

        hysterical nonsense? we are bombarded with environmental pollution in air, water and soil. We have mountain top removal, fracking – destroying air and groundwater, we have plain pollution from factories and cars, we have toxic waste dumps in both water and soil, Fukushima is the greatest nuclear disaster to date and the full scale of it is hushed down in the media thanks to the nuclear industry not wanting to turn ppl against it. The unfolding disaster is unprecedented. We have nuclear weapons to destroy the whole earth, and future fukushimas waiting to happen (check all nuclear powe plants along coastlines, and faultlines), we have severe animal torture in animal factories, and the animals are bombarded with antibiotics and other toxins. Toxins and synthetic hormones poisoning grounwaters everywhere are dangerous for us, and animals. We have companies like Monsanto spraying extremely dangerous pesticides/herbicides on crop, not to mention what they do to the food with gentic engineering (which is also done to animals, plants, trees and now humans). . Then of course global warming, and cutting down all the worlds forests, which we literally cannot breathe without. let’s not forget that the gulf of Mexico is now a deadzone and but it doesn’t stop them from still drilling. And oil spills happen all the time. In SD they happen and they are not even required to let anyone know. This and more and you call it hysterical nonsense? I don’t know which is worse: what greed is doing to our planet and all upon it, or the human willful denial? I am pro life on ALL fronts which MUST include the environmentn. How can anyone with any decency not fight this? It kills us and WILL kill our children.

        • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

          I will address only three of your encyclopedia of horrors (though the entire passage is nonsense) :
          1) Global Warming is a myth; for more than a decade now, the earth has actually been getting cooler, not warmer. Despite the best efforts by academics and scientists who are tied to millions of dollars of grant money to “prove” global warming, more and more scientists are coming to the opposite conclusion. But really, you could just try spending more time outside. It’s getting colder in the winter, more mild in the summer. There is a greater danger of an ice-age than there is of a meltdown.
          2) Deforestation: the total bio-mass of the earth’s rain forests is DOUBLE what it was in the 19th century. This is because plants absolutely love all the CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere. Deforestation and soil erosion are only local issues, and are easily remedied.
          3) The Gulf of Mexico is hardly a dead zone! It is actually cleaner than it was before petroleum drilling began there. The natural subterranean pressure has always caused oil to ooze from the sea floor, only now, thanks to development of drilling, that pressure has been reduced, and there is LESS tar seen on Gulf shores today than there was 75 years ago.

          • Elat

            I think the reactions I’m getting here is scary…. is this how you think Jesus would react to what’s going on in the world? and you responded to global warming even though I didn’t even mention that. And I’d like to remind you that 95% plus of all scientists agree that is happening. And they measure the water temp rising not the air. And deforestation is not happening? Where do you get your news from? we have steadily deforested the whole planet for years and when now the large rainforests are even getting shoveled it’s extremely dangerous for the entire planet, not to mention the vast eco-systems being decimated. And the Gulf of Mexico is dead. The dispersant that BP dumped made it much much worse, and put the nail in the coffin. What has been done to the planet in the last century is nothing short of devastating, in every aspect possible and the reason lies squarely on the shoulders of humans. WE are the problem. And the driving force is greed and vanity. Jesus already told us that too; “you cannot serve God and mammon”. Abortion is one of the greatest horrors being committed on the planet, but it’s utterly bizarre ignoring/denying the massive problems we’re handing over to the children who manage to escape abortion. You cannot care about one issue and not the other.

            • Adam__Baum

              Abortion is one of the greatest horrors being committed on the planet

              No, it’s THE greatest horror. We have killed more people in this holocaust than Stalin and Hitler combined.

              • Elat

                and? I am against abortion. How does that in any way shape or form justify not caring about the environment? if you don’t all the babies being born won’t have a future. what part of that is hard to understand.

            • vito

              word of advice: do not waste your time with Tea Party-like idiots who cannot even distinguish between temperatures in their back yard and global temperature. They would not recognise an environmental catastrophe if it dropped on their house and destroyed it.

              • Augustus

                Global temperatures have not risen in 15 years. Even proponents of Global “climate change” hysteria have been forced to come up with excuses to justify the lack of evidence for their phony theories. Those who exhibit willful ignorance about global temperatures should avoid casting aspersions on others.

                • Elat

                  well; it’s completely untrue and I think all the scientists know a thing or more about it than lay men like yourself. And why are you upset about it anyway? do you think it’s bad to switch to clean energy and go green? How can you possibly think we can spew out as much into the atmosphere as we do and it’s not gonna have an effect?

                  • Adam__Baum

                    How about “layman” like you?

                • Adam__Baum

                  In the 1970’s they were peddling global cooling, Similarly apocalyptic predictions.

                  I believe in climate change, because change is normal. I work a few blocks away from a prize fossil of a Pleistocene megafauna, an animal adapted to a glacial environment, that vanished when the ice receded 10-20 K years ago. It was recovered about 100 miles away.

                  Yet if I were to dig deep into the ground under my cubicle, I’d likely run into the Southern end of massive coal deposits formed hundreds of millions of years ago when the climate was tropical.

                • vito

                  Yes, you said it and know I believe it… Of course. Why not. I’ll just ignore the scientific consensus, the conclusions of the IPCC and the opinions of sane and responsible politicians (that the global warming over the last 15 years has merely slowed down, but is still very much there), and instead believe you.

              • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                Ah yes, all proofs of impending “environmental disaster” end in name-calling eventually. Very convincing…

              • Adam__Baum

                Oh goody, the global warning cult is out in full force.

              • Elat

                I’m shocked at the posts I see here. I like the authors of Crisis which is why I follow it, but these posts about the environment… stunning. Absolute madness.

                • Adam__Baum

                  We have the same reaction reading your hyperventilations. .

                • vito

                  I agree. I guess that’s what money and power worship does to one’s abilities to recognize facts.

                  • Elat

                    you nailed it. Jesus said you cannot serve God and Mammon. Everyone who supports corporations right to exploit the earth to everyones detriment worships mammon, not God. Anyone who don’t protect those who cannot protect themselves, not just children, elderly, and other ppl, but animals and the earth, serves mammon, not God.

        • Adam__Baum

          Well now, what do you propose to do about Fukashima? It’s an authentic catastrophe-so let’s hear your solution.

          • Adam__Baum

            Note: Negative response.

            • Nick_Palmer3

              Have I walked in on a Monty Python skit? Is this an argument or a contradiction?

              I’m puzzled…

          • Elat

            my solution? why don’t you just read up on it and find out. Or tell your politicians to talk about it. and the news… instead of being busy with entertainment. Most of all, nuclear weapons and energy is NOT safe. It can kill the whole globe. We MUST go green – solar and wind. You think this is some kind of joke? when will you care? only when you yourself get personally sick?

    • Adam__Baum

      As you sit in front of a computer that defies all that the radical geotheists tell us is wrong. The power consumes electricity produced either by hydrocsarbon combustion, or worse the creation of radioactive materials, some that degrade so slowly they have half lives measured in tens of thousands of years. Those components require concentrated amounts of toxic metals and the casing is generally a plastic that requires millenia to break down.

      Are you living in a megamansion and jetting around the world, too-like Algore?

      • Elat

        if you care an iota about God you should care about the whole world, i.e. His creation, not just humans first of all. Second, killing the earth is committing slow but sure suicide of the human race. Not caring about the earth is incompatible with being a follower of Jesus.

        • Adam__Baum

          Peddling hysterical nonsense as your own personal faux religious dogma is incompatible with being of follower of Jesus and it isn’t “caring about the earth”

        • braap!

          It is a grand conceit to think humans can destroy the earth. We can alter it but we will never be able to destroy it. Life has survived massive extinction events in the distant past as it will do so in the future. We just need to make sure we take care of it for our own well being.

    • James1

      The problem with claims such as this is the lack of objective evidence – let alone a benchmark of “normalcy” – to support a claim of imminent doom.

      An atheist in my place of work mentioned something to the effect of overpopulation, citing the hungry in other nations as evidence. However, I have to wonder if we in the US (for one example) dispose of at least enough food to have fed those hungry folk. As well, I understand there is still a fair amount of arable land unused for the production of this inadequate amount of sustenance. So, is the earth really unable to feed a growing population?

      I believe politics and/or selfishness is more to blame than the planet’s capability to support a supposed “population explosion.” One example might be Somalia under Aidid. Food (from some place of excess, by the way) was brought in, but it never reached those intended recipients, confiscated for the “ruler.” Perhaps an extreme example, but how many other regimes treat their own people with such inequity?

      While there may indeed be less than sustainable harvesting in some places, I would hesitate before calling it “apocalyptic levels of destruction.” That is a bit over the top…

      • Elat

        I beg to differ. We are facing apocalyptic problems. Take overfishing and the dying of the bees. Two things I didn’t not even mention above. Without the bees (dying of all the chemicals sprayed everywhere) we cannot make it. The over fishing of the oceans is dead serious, and if you care about any environmental problems and animal torture going on you can quite easily do your part by just not eating meat for example. There is enough food to feed the world but it’s unevenly distributed. We all (should) know what Jesus said about this. But while ppl are starviing in Africa, Americans eat themselves to death. I believe we will all face God and answer to everything we participate in, micro and macro. destroying the earth is a crime against God.

        • Adam__Baum

          Carnophobia was just beaten to death on another thread.

        • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

          You don’t read very much science, do you? The latest research on declining bee populations attributes the phenomenon to a parasite, totally unrelated to any human activity. (And by the way, bees are already making a come back…)

          • Elat

            you are the one not reading, and no they are not in the increase, only in places where they have stopped the chemicals. And no, it’s NOT a parasite. It’s man-caused.

            • Nick_Palmer3

              Contradiction it is.

    • Bones

      In my opinion, Catholics who fall for the global warming scam and zeal of environmental Marxists have forgotten the supremacy of God.
      The catechism tell us “God created everything for man, but man in turn was created to serve and love God and to offer all creation back to him.” God is supreme. Creation is infinite. Scientists do not have the knowledge.
      It is because nations have forgotten God’s supremacy that foods are grown as food, food become more expensive, whilst people starve and cannot heat their homes.
      Populations increase, more plants and trees grow. Environmental Marxists want decreasing population, abortions, euthanasia and whilst concerning themselves with the environment they have distanced themselves from mankind and God.

      • Elat

        environmental marxism??? caring about the earth that GOD created is wrong to you??? and FYI I abhor abortion and euthansia. But I fail to see how in any way at all you can not care about the earth you get your food from, the air you breathe and the water you drink. It’s a crime against humanity and ALL life on it to destroy it.

        • Adam__Baum

          Hyperventilating and regurgitating inane visceral indignities is not “caring”. If you really “cared”, you’d shut off your computer.

          • Elat

            Matthew 5:22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be in danger of being judged; and he who says to his brother, Raca, will be in danger from the Sanhedrin; and whoever says, You foolish one, will be in danger of the hell of fire.”

            • Adam__Baum

              Interesting quote but not relevant. That I think you are reacting emotionally, but without rigor, proportion or realism doesn’t mean I’m angy with you. It also doesn’t mean I’m not going to take issue with you, vigorously.

              The earth is doomed, no matter what we do- in a few billion years, the sun will exhaust it’s hydrogen and it inflate into a red giant, consuming everything in it’s path.

              Your soul will survive that event.

              • Elat

                My quote was as relevant as it gets. you’re the one who is emotional btw; read your own posts. you’re not exactly a nice guy. and the earth is doomed because in millions of years it will be swallowed by the sun. Yeah, great argument for thinking its ok to trash it here and now – not. I am sure you would sing a different tune if you get cancer or any other disaese due to the environment being poisoned.

        • Bones

          Of course we care about the environment but we do not presume that man knows more than the Almighty, maker of all creation.
          We care that people are hungry whilst crops are grown for fuel. Dead fish are thrown back into the sea because of quota limits. That huge resources are spent on useless windmills and efficient power stations are not being built. Water reservoirs are not being build because it suits powers that be that there are supply shortages.
          Our knowledge is like an ant in the universe. It is God’s help we need not so-called experts.

          • Elat

            the oceans is being fished out and deemed to be empty of all fish if we continue the way we do now in ca 50 years. You don’t need fish to live you can eat vegetarian, and I suggest you do. we don’t need experts? this is what we don’t need; ppl who destroy the earth we live on for money.

      • Bones

        Amended ‘foods are grown as fuel’, typo, sorry.

    • braap!

      I agree that we need to take care of the environment and I am a Christian. But, have you ever noticed that the most environmentally destructive forces are in fact forces of nature (i.e volcanoes, hurricanes, etc.). In fact, long before humans, massive natural environmental catastrophes caused mass extinctions. Volcanic eruptions in 1816 caused a summer that was plagued with freezing weather around the world. What does this say about God’s (or nature’s) view of environmentalism?

  • James1

    The US is the most Christian nation in the West? Could not one make an argument for Malta as the most Christian nation in the West? Or any number of Latin American nations?

    Just curious.

    • David Byrne

      When historians use the term West, we mean Europe and the United States. Mexico, Central America and South America are called Latin America. No Western Civilizations textbook analyzes any of those regions, for example.

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  • Dan Hammond

    In an otherwise fine essay David Byrne follows many others in misinterpreting T.R. Malthus. Malthus was not an apocalyptic. He did not predict that “at some point, population will surpass our ability to feed ourselves and humanity must die an agonizing death.” Rather, his point was to show that if utopian visions of the perfectibility of mankind led to the destruction of institutions such as property, markets, and marriage these communities would experience overpopulation. Then, he predicted, the very people who dismantled the social institutions would rediscover their value.

    • Billy Bean

      That is a take on Malthus which I didn’t get in my introductory level sociology and environmental science courses at university, which makes me suspicious that it probably correct. It does raise the question, however, of why it is precisely the utopian secularists who are most likely to cite Malthus as an authority for their own apocalyptic visions of what will happen if we fail to heed their schemes.

      • Adam__Baum

        Because the assumption of geometric population growth is graspable by anyone with the math skills to perform compound interest calculations, for a part of the growth it will match the curve. It is what Popper described as “scientism”.

    • Adam__Baum

      Malthus seduced himself with the idea that population growth is geometric. Even under perfect conditions, it’s a second order linear differential equation, and in reality, it’s subject to massive reductions from disease waves and other exogeneous stressors.

  • redfish

    A lot of environmentalists also apply their own version of Pascal’s wager: “we don’t know if the worse case scenario will come true, but its better to live as if it will.”

  • KPH

    “We just need to understand that some environmental ideas are not completely distinct from preceding intellectual trends.”
    Science is a self correcting method, the noise and error will be tuned out over time. Unlike religious dogma with its magical thinking and non-evidence based thinking. If we applied religious beliefs to the level of scrutiny advocated by this writer what would happen?
    ….

    • John200

      Dear KPH,
      Thank you for, “Unlike religious dogma with its magical thinking and non-evidence based thinking.” which is not a sentence (it has no verb). But leave that aside. Let us turn to your substantive points.

      First, the evidence for Catholic dogma is overwhelming. Ditto the volume and depth of logical (not “magical”) thinking that underlies the faith; it is similarly overwhelming. I’ll give you a quick example. Once in awhile, a heathen comes along to “prove” that Jesus was taken down from the cross, still alive. Jesus then walked away from the tomb, so it was empty. This would imply that a detail of Roman soldiers did not know how to kill.

      They knew, and they knew when a man was dead. Checkmate.

      “If we applied religious beliefs to the level of scrutiny advocated by this writer what would happen?” First, practice your grammar; this sentence does not say what you think it says. Second, this high level of scrutiny has been applied to Catholic beliefs, by the best minds of the past 2000+ years. Many were trying to disprove the faith.

      They could not do it.

      Stick around, we have heard it all before, many times. You stand an excellent chance of learning something. I’ll sponsor you for RCIA.

    • Adam__Baum

      “Science is a self correcting method, the noise and error will be tuned out over time.”

      But for a couple of hundred years, we’ll just use this stuff Newton gave us.

  • fume

    Check the paragraph about geometric vs. exponential. The numbers are wrong, and the categories are flip flopped.

    • Adam__Baum

      Exponential and geometric growth are synonomous terms.

    • David Byrne

      Yes, you are right. Exponential should have been arithmetically.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    In Europe, it is the Hard Left that has proved most suspicious of Environmentalism, “There is no “environmental catastrophe.” The catastrophe is the environment itself. The environment is what is left to man after he has lost everything. Those who live in a neighbourhood, a street, a valley, a war zone, a workshop – they don’t have an “environment;” they move through a world peopled by presences, dangers, friends, enemies, moments of life and death, all kinds of beings. Such a world has its own consistency, which varies according to the intensity and quality of the ties attaching us to all of these beings, to all of these places. It is only us, the children of the final dispossession, exiles of the final hour – the ones who come into the world in concrete cubes, pick our fruits at the supermarket, and watch for an echo of the world on television – only we get to have an environment.”

    They see clearly enough that it is all about power: “Tracking, transparency, certification, eco-taxes, environmental excellence, and the policing of water, all give us an idea of the coming state of ecological emergency. Everything is permitted to a power structure that bases its authority in Nature, in health and in well-being.”

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