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Elements of Paganism in the Modern Ecological Movement

Andrey Goryainov

       Despite the extensive growth of the ecological movement in modern society, the question of its content and meaning is unclear today more than ever before. Different ecological schools offer diametrically opposite points of view in regard to changes in the environment, if that change is threatening to the human organism. In other words, does humanity have the right to live if its activity leads to destruction of the biosphere?
        In trying to answer these questions one should choose the starting point, that is the position from which one makes sense out of life, which thus will affect the answer. For this purpose one should have a clear understanding of a human kind, his future and why he exists. Depending on the answer, the environmental movement will be directed either at self-preservation of Homo Sapiens or at protection of other species from human influence. In both cases the main method of applied ecology will be to prevent the interaction of various populations of species, which is absurd in terms of ecology itself - a science which studies objective laws of interaction between those very populations.
        What is ecology today? In order to answer this question let us briefly examine the history of its origin and development. During the last quarter of the twentieth century rapid development of industry and agriculture brought about what later was called environmental ecological crisis. Already in the 1960s or 70s the degradation of the biosphere as the result of human influence became so obvious that it brought into existence a number of large environmentalist organizations. Originally the main motive for the formation of such organizations was the natural human desire of self-preservation1. Ecology was "chosen" as the scientific basis for the environmentalist movement.
        As a science ecology was developed under the influence of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and specifically his work Origin of Species... (1859), which speaks of the necessity of studying the "struggle for survival" and its mechanisms. The organism's interaction with the environment was interpreted as the driving mechanism of evolutionary development In 1866 German zoologist E. Haeckel, suggested the term "ecology" (from Greek oikos - house, place and logos - teaching, word) and defined it as a science which examined the interaction of organisms with their environment.
        Ecology originally inherited the whole set of contradictions which are characteristic of the evolutionary theory. For example, calculation of the ecological valence's parameters is linked to the concept of an organism's adaptation. According to definition, adaptation is a mechanism appearing as a result of evolution which enables organisms to adapt to changes of environment. But the changes themselves are considered to be the driving mechanism of evolution. Therefore, organisms should have perished in the very beginning of biogenetic evolution, because they had no adaptation mechanism which could have been formed much later as a result of the changes of the environment.
        With the accumulation of contradictions evolutionary ecology split into two principal trends - deep ecology (in the terms of a bio- and cosmocentric version) and anthropocentric social ecology (including the humanistic "green" movement), where evolutionary theory has undergone insignificant changes. As a rule, those changes concern philosophic conceptions of the evolutionary mechanism - its driving factor. Nevertheless, there is no clear differentiation between them and in practice we can observe syncretistic combinations of all trends at the same time. Partially it is connected with general problems of evolutionary theory which are equally insoluble for representatives of any ecological trend.
        Even the evolutionary conceptions of the origin and development of life on Earth, when being thoroughly examined, put ecologists before serious problem. From the perspective of supporters of evolution, if we could have influenced the development of events which took place long ago, by regulating the population of flora and fauna we could have preserved the world like it was millions of years ago. But then probably we would never have had a chance to see Homo Sapiens. That is why an attempt to suspend environmental changes is illogical according to the evolutionary approach.
        On the other hand, instead of suspending evolution we could have guided it into the direction necessary for man. In this regard a new term appeared in ecology - "control of evolution." But then, after ecologists had proclaimed the principal of anthropocentrism (which is absolutely unacceptable to the trend of deep ecology), it started to follow concepts which are indefinable from the point of view of science, and became an obvious philosophic-religious speculation2. Besides, in order to control and direct the course of evolution it would be good to know what actually is its driving mechanism (under the term, of course, that such a thing as evolution ever existed). So far, however, the real reasons of evolution are yet unknown3.
        It is possible that "direction of evolution" means planning the number of organisms, which have a negative impact on the biosphere's state. And since a human does not have any special value in relation to other organisms according to the definition of deep ecology, the population of Homo Sapiens is especially "guilty" before nature and should be controlled first of all and regulated by means of abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, etc.
        In any event, in spite of their mutual antagonism, syncretism of deep and "social" perspectives on ecology is not uncommon. Despite the ecological revolution's global programs, the goal of which is to suspend the further degradation of the biosphere, the majority of ecologists (regardless of the trend they belong to) consider that the changing of the biosphere is fatal, and the present ecological crisis will unavoidably grow into ecological catastrophe4. The destruction of Earth's nature is inevitable, and a human is nothing but a "dying" species, whose morphophisiological and behavioral peculiarities do not meet the conditions of the environment. So, in essence ecology is artificially reproducing a dying species which, as you know, does not bring long-lasting success but only postpones the time of death4. Thus, the scientist's contribution to the progress of human knowledge; the doctor's struggle for relief from pain and sufferings; the diplomat's efforts to establish peace on the Earth; the sacrifices of people of good will for the benefit of the whole humanity - all this becomes useless. Ultimately none of them changes not even one iota. They cannot dispel the darkness and irretrievability of non-existence which all of us will have to experience. That is why our life does not have any ultimate deep meaning and anything we do is equally meaningless5. The conclusion of the inevitable end and meaninglessness of human existence to which scientists materialists came after examining our world turned out to be so frightening that for "human benefit" it was decided to not publicize the pictures of depreciated existence, because they deprive people of perspective6.
        As a result of the obvious "absurdity" of existence, typical pagan beliefs started to revive in ecology; they introduce the same outward appearance of meaning into nonsense. For example, in the biosphere the presence of special "informational" principals leading to the formation of order started to be perceived7. Many scientists denied the predominance of chance and the fatal pressure of environment, and saw purposeful streams of special energy which lead to unlimited perfection8. After erasing the qualitative boundary between animate and inanimate9, scientists started to discern in nature its creative sphere (natura naturans) and aggregate of forms of existence which exist in it (natura naturata). Thus, B. Spinosa's static pantheism was revived and became the basic doctrine of neoecology. In post-communist society these ideas received the home-made name Russian cosmism. The universe allegedly finally got an ultimate purpose, including our existence10, and problems of an evolutionary paradigm of the world's development seemed to be not that insoluble.
        Indeed, the viewpoint on the origin of life called "philosophy of life power" or "creative evolution" is at least more logical than Darwinian evolution. C. S. Lewis, a famous Christian apologist, wrote: People who hold this view say that the small variations by which life on this planet "evolved" from the lowest forms to Man were not due to chance but to the "striving" or "purposiveness" of a life-force. When people say this we must ask them whether by life-force they mean something with a mind or not. If they do, then "a mind bringing life into existence and leading it to perfection" is really a God, and their view is thus identical with the Religious. If they do not, then what is the sense in saying that something without a mind "strives" or has "purposes"? This seems to me fatal to their view. One reason why many people find Creative Evolution so attractive is that it gives one much of the emotional comfort of believing in God and none of the less pleasant consequences. When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest. If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the life-force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you...11
       We see the question of a more logical position grows into a question of morality. Even if we suppose that the universe was created (but not by a Person), then such concepts like honesty, compassion, love are just illusions. Shirley McLaine, one of the founders of New Age, a movement with an analogous worldview, said: We are not limited by anything. We are just not aware of this12. The opinion of Linn White, one of the followers and theorist of environmentalism is even more categorical: We will keep facing the worsening of ecological crisis until we reject the Christian axiom according to which nature exists to serve humans13.
        Christian morals that formed European civilization began to be substituted by "morals" of ancient pagan religions - from worshipping the spirit (spirits) of nature (animals, plants, features of the landscape, etc.) to the cult of earth-goddess Gaea. The process of such re-orientation is accelerated by the general propaganda of ideas of neoecology, and thus - a new worldview. A reader can learn what these ideas imply in the handbook Well Body, Well Earth published by the famous environmentalist society Sierra Club. It suggests that readers should turn to Buddhist meditations and Native American Hopi rituals in order to reaffirm our bond with the spirit of living earth14. Besides, neoecology intends to exercise direct influence on human minds in the process of initial formation of personality and further in order to create (necessary) socio-psychological precepts15. This is already taking place in a number of schools.
        Unfortunately, not every legislative system has anything like the "Hatch Amendment" which forbids teachers to bring pressure on students in the area of psychology, politics, sex and religion. Under the guise of a good idea neopaganism easily finds its way to a de-Christianized educational system, functioning as a mild substitute for the discredited doctrine of atheism. With such a background it is natural that there is a growing interest in horoscopes, psychic phenomena, clairvoyance, spiritism and other elements of ancient cults; like ecology they clothe themselves in quasi-scientific terminology which is appealing to the "modern ear." The problem is also aggravated by the fact that neither students nor teachers have an elementary religious education; that is why they can neither distinguish the pantheistic nature of neoecology ideas nor resist them. Society keeps moving towards continuous demoralization.
        The Bible teaches that human responsibility towards nature is based on faith in the Creator of the world and everything that fills it, in Him who loves His creation and sustains it. A man who is created in God's image is God's fellow worker in the world (1 Cor. 3:9). Like his Prototype, man should love nature and take care of its orderliness, cleanness and well-being. This means that human authority over nature presupposes knowledge of it (science) and also sets forth some control over it (technology). But all this does not mean that man was given the right to abuse the "fruits of nature" and moreover to destroy it13. The Bible says that once the world was different, and every creature of God was good (1 Tim. 4:4). But man, who had free will to choose the way of life or way of death - the way to God or away from God, abused his free will (used his free will for evil). Since that time the creation was subjected to futility..., and the whole creation groans and suffers... until now (Rom. 8:20,22). We disobeyed our Creator when we thought that we ourselves could do and know everything. What happened with the world around us is a graphic example of where our self-confidence leads us. The only real alternative is to repent and accept the redeeming sacrifice of Christ. Only then the creation itself also will be set free from slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Rom. 8:21). What choice will man make now: the choice to come back to the Father or to deny Him forever?

1. Reymerse, N., Protection of Nature and human Environment. - Moscow: Prosveshcenie, 1992. - p.85
2. Laptev, A., Protection and Optimization of Environment. - Kiev: Lybid, 1990. - p.236.
3. G. Osborne. Science, #77, 1991. - p.1933. /Trans. from Russian
4. Reymerse, N., - p.28-29.
5. Craig, W., The Very Beginning. - Chicago: SGP, 1992. - 80 p. /Trans. from Russian
6. Reymerse, N., - p.168.
7. Glaser, R., Biology in the New Light. - Moscow: 1978. - p.154.
8. Antamonov, Y., Meditation About the Evolution of Matter. - Moscow: 1976. - p.168.
9. Aygen, M., Self-organization of Matter and the Evolution of the Biological Micromolecules. -Moscow: 1973.
10. Davies, P., Superforce. - New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984. - p.266.
11. Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity. - Chocago: SGP, 1990.- p.33.
12. Boa, K., Cults, World Religions and the Occult. - SGP, 1992. - p.228. /Trans. from Russian.
13. Orthodox Russia. July 15/28, 1992. - p.2
14. Kjos, B., Under the Spell of Mother Earth. - Whiton: Victor Books, 1992. - 224 p.
15. Reymerse, N., - p.37.

Pamphlet #11 (English). Translated from Russian by Inga Chistyakova
Published by: Christian Center for Science and Apologetics, 1996

Reprinting of this tract is allowed on the condition that a reference to the source is included

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