Re: [asa] A graduate student speaks out

From: Janice Matchett <>
Date: Mon Jan 21 2008 - 22:17:00 EST

At 10:05 PM 1/21/2008, David Clounch wrote:
>"...What happens when someone chimes in whose goal is to bludgeon
>the "unacceptable" peoples into sawdust? To prove them wrong at
>all costs and shout them down? Isn't the primary mode then
>polarization and alienation rather than understanding? This is the
>ASA I have found.

@ You mean like Richard Wright tried to do? :) ~ Janice
A Response to Richard Wright's "Tearing Down the Green"

PSCF, 48 (June 1996): 74-81.

Edwin A. Olson
Emeritus Professor of Geology
Whitworth College Spokane, Washington 99251

Richard Wright's article, "Tearing Down the Green," (Perspectives on
Science and Christian Faith, June 1995) defines and debunks a group
he calls the "evangelical backlash" -- personified mainly by E.
Calvin Beisner.

More than a critique, however, Wright's paper also serves as a
vehicle for communicating his overall outlook on environmental matters.

In this paper, I take issue with Wright in a number of areas. I see
regulatory excess, a slighting of scientific input for political
gain, biased sources of environmental information, indoctrination
masquerading as environmental education and Christian doctrine held
hostage to an environmental agenda. Yes, there are environmental problems.

But a crisis? No.

In his paper, "Tearing Down the Green: Environmental Backlash in the
Evangelical Sub-culture,"1 Richard Wright infers that there exists a
"backlash movement" (p. 80) within evangelicalism which he labels
"Christian anti-environmentalism" (p. 89). The attack of these
anti-environmentalists on the environmental movement, says Wright, is
"primarily a political attack from the right in the name of
Christianity" (p. 80). In his view these anti-environmentalists "make
use of poor scientific work and discount the mainstream scientific
consensus on the environment" (p. 80). To Wright, their scientific
arguments are "patently indefensible when scrutinized carefully" (p. 90).

On what evidential grounds does Wright propose the existence of an
evangelical backlash? He says that "without any doubt the two most
prominent critics of environmentalism from within the Evangelical
fold are E. Calvin Beisner and Larry Burkett" (p. 83). Burkett's
specialty is advising Christians on financial management, and so
Wright has no trouble exposing his lack of environmental expertise.
Beisner, on the other hand, has done his homework regarding both
environmental controversies and relevant biblical material. In fact,
Wright acknowledges that "the presumed biblical support for [the
emerging Christian anti-environmentalism] is currently found in
Beisner's work" (p. 88). So when Wright describes the strategy of the
environmental backlash as "calling into question most of the
scientific claims of the environmentalists about resources,
pollution, and population" (pp. 80-81), he really has in mind the
writings of Calvin Beisner.2 Thus, Wright's effort "to understand the
environmental backlash within evangelical Christianity" (p. 89) seems
reduced to finding out what makes Beisner tick. One wonders whether
there is anything beyond a clash of two competent Christian brothers
with contrasting ideological outlooks on environmental issues.
Further insight into that clash was provided in a recent exchange
between the two men in the pages of PSCF.3

If there is doubt about the reality of Wright's "evangelical
backlash" as a movement, there is no question that he is provoked by
certain secularists who furnish ammunition for Beisner to "put a
Christian spin on" (p. 83). Calling them prominent
anti-environmentalists, Wright lists Julian Simon, Herman Kahn, Fred
Singer, and Dixy Lee Ray as Beisner's "scientific" sources. Notice
the quotation marks enclosing scientific. They are the equivalent of
pseudo -- not a civil way to treat prominent people, even those with
whom one differs.

Except for the first section, my critique of Wright's paper considers
some of the same facets of environmental controversy which he
addresses -- political, scientific, informational, educational, and
religious. To start, however, I call for a change in how debate is conducted.

Setting the Terms of the Debate

Winning a debate is made easier if you can either saddle your
opponent's position with a label having bad connotations or adopt for
your own ideas a term with winsome overtones. For example, members of
the Institute for Creation Research and the multitudes in their
sphere of influence have locked up the word creationist by their
incessant use of that term to describe believers in fiat creation, a
young earth, and flood geology. In so doing, they have pre-empted its
use by Christian people who oppose their ideas yet hold to Divine
creation. The latter are left with the label evolutionist simply
because they are anti-"creationist."

The same kind of tactic is now being used in controversies over
environmental issues. While Wright did not originate the practice, he
makes full use of it. To him, environmentalists are "people with a
strong interest in protecting the natural world and encouraging
greater human concern for the world" (p. 80). They act "out of a deep
love of nature and often out of sincere humanitarian concern" (p.
90). On the other hand, anti-environmentalists "deliberately downplay
and deny unmistakable evidence that all is not right with the earth"
(p. 90). This stark dichotomy is unfair and self-serving, creating a
strong temptation to win points by applying the label
anti-environmentalist without engaging the opposition's ideas.

In my experience, anti-environmentalists are not a very large group.
At least, I do not find many people who are either unconcerned about
their surroundings or knowingly trash the planet. Consequently, when
I oppose some of the ideas of those who call themselves
environmentalists, I do not become thereby an anti-environmentalist.
Indeed, if called that, I would be offended. I know from firsthand
experience what bad air pollution is like, having grown up in
Pittsburgh during the 1930s. I remember both the Donora tragedy of
1948 and the earlier rejuvenation of Pittsburgh when natural gas came
flowing our way from Texas to replace soft coal in home-heating.

Thus, I place myself among a vast throng for whom environmentalist is
a proper description. We are people who like clean air, good water,
and healthful food; we appreciate a diverse biota, beautiful scenery,
and the time and mobility to enjoy them. At the same time, some of us
realize that perfection is not an option, that cost-benefit analyses
are a part of the equation, and that trade-offs are sometimes
necessary. We want to be full participants in the discussions without
being dismissed as anti-environmentalist or backlash.

Politics and Environment

Wright's analysis of the political dimension of environmental concern
is generally on the mark. He could easily have merged his world view
analysis with politics, labeling the opposing viewpoints l*beral and
conservative. Thomas Sowell's categories of constrained and
unconstrained visions also come close to describing the opposing
views which Wright sketches out.

In bringing politics to bear on environmental issues, I differ from
Wright mainly in two ways.

First, I believe he sees too sharp a boundary between the political
and the scientific.

One could hope that when a full scientific analysis of an
environmental problem is completed the proper course of remediation
would be obvious to all concerned.

Experience shows this is not so.

Consider the issue of a diminishing ozone layer in the stratosphere,
a problem Wright dealt with. Most likely due to CFCs diffusing into
the ozone region from below, the depressed ozone levels might result
in a higher ground-level flux of UV(B) radiation and thus a rise in
skin cancer rates. In response to this possibility, an international
meeting was held in Montreal in 1987. Out of the deliberations, there
came the so-called Montreal Protocol. This agreement with subsequent
actions led to the decision to stop worldwide production of CFCs at
the end of 1995 and require a switch to new refrigerants of uncertain
effectiveness and safety.

What went on at Montreal is the subject of a book by Karen T. Litfin
entitled Ozone Discourses.

She described her initiation into reality as follows:

Superficially, this landmark ozone regime appears to have been the
result of a rigorous process of risk analysis and adroit diplomacy
with sophisticated atmospheric models serving as the scientific basis
of the negotiations.

Like others, I was beguiled by a faith in the ability of science to
make politics more rational and cooperative. As I interviewed the
participants and read the source documents from the international
negotiating process, however, I began to suspect that more
complicated dynamics than epistemic cooperation were involved. It
became increasingly evident that "knowledge" was not deeply
implicated in questions of framing and interpretation and that these
were related to perceived interests.

Although the range of uncertainty was narrow, atmospheric science did
not provide a body of objective and value-free facts from which
international cooperation emerged. Rather, knowledge was framed in
light of specific interests and preexisting discourses so that
questions of value were rendered as questions of fact, with exogenous
factors shaping the political salience of various modes of
interpreting that knowledge. In particular the discourse of
precautionary action, not itself mandated by atmospheric science,
moved from a subordinate to a dominant position.4

Litfin later describes the two main groups making up the U.S.
delegation to the Montreal negotiations. Of course, there were the
scientists. But ultimately of greater importance were people she
calls "a group of ecologically minded knowledge brokers," mostly
employed by the EPA. It was they who were "instrumental both in
translating the available knowledge into terms understandable to
decision-makers and in pushing forward specific policy proposals.
This group was more inclined than were the scientists to employ
knowledge on behalf of far-reaching policy recommendations."5 In
fact, says Litfin, almost no scientists "advocated the virtual ban on
CFCs that was promoted by the U.S. delegation."6

What happened in Montreal in relation to ozone provides us with a
prototypical scenario for handling alleged or real environmental
problems once they reach the hands of political knowledge brokers,
people with a "we-must-save-the-earth" mentality.

With such a mind-set, extreme political options will always be the
most favored ones. It is clear, then, to use Litfin's words, that
"while [scientific] knowledge [is] indispensable, it [is] always open
to interpretation, and it [is] never political" (was changed to is).7

My second difference with Wright has to do with the government's
regulatory role in environmental matters. Without calling for a
laissez-faire approach, I believe that regulations have gotten out of
hand. John Stossel, investigative reporter for the 20/20 television
program, expresses my judgment. Admitting that he has spent much of
his career exposing a problem and calling for a government agency to
correct it, Stossel now says:

I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me two decades of reporting to
see that governmental action has side effects like dependency. I now
realize that the government controls which consumer reporters rave
about do more harm than good and that unregulated free markets solve
problems much better than government. Lawmakers] should adopt the
Stossel Rule, which is that every time they pass a law they have to
repeal two old ones making the regulatory monster just a little bit smaller.8

As Stossel calls for less governmental regulation, vice-p resident
AlGore calls for more -- much more.

Wright sees Gore as a very concerned man "who speaks the language of
environmentalism [and] understands the scientific literature" (p. 82).

 From my perspective, however, he comes across as frightening.
Consider this passage from his book, Earth in the Balance:

It is essential that we refuse to wait for the obvious signs of
impending catastrophe, that we begin immediately to catalyze a
consensus for this new organizing principle. Adopting a central
organizing principle means embarking on an all-out effort to use
every policy and program, every law and institution, every treaty and
alliance, every tactic and strategy, every plan and course of action
-- to use, in short, every means to halt the destruction of the
environment and to preserve and nurture our ecological system. Minor
shifts in policy, marginal adjustments in ongoing programs, moderate
improvements in laws and regulations, rhetoric offered in lieu of
genuine change -- these are all forms of appeasement, designed to
satisfy the public's desire to believe that sacrifice, struggle and a
wrenching transformation of society will not be necessary.9

Of course, says Gore, "this wrenching transformation of society [will
be] agreed to voluntarily." That judgment, in my view, is a sure sign
that Gore is ignorant of both history and human nature.

When Science Has Trouble Being Heard

The litany of environmental problems seems to grow larger almost
daily. At least it does in the minds of some who have already
concluded that environmentally the world is on the road to destruction.

Unfortunately, that general conclusion is infecting more and more
people, almost certainly because of constant doom-and-gloom bombardment.

If those influenced happen to be in education or the media, the
rippling effect becomes an avalanche of opinion.

What has developed as a result is a societal milieu in which
everybody knows that there's an environmental crisis. To question
that generalization or any of its component judgments is to receive
looks of incredulity.

Since politicians respond more to opinion then to sober analysis, the
societal costs resulting from certain political decisions about the
environment can be very significant. Alar, asbestos, dioxin,
low-frequency electric fields, certain pesticides, and radon -- all
have been called serious environmental threats based on scientific
arguments. Unfortunately, all have generated unnecessary anxiety, and
some have led to laws that mandate great expenditures of money for
little or no gain.

The acid rain story is an example of science put to the service of an
environmental problem and rebuffed when the findings contradicted
what everyone knew to be true. Sulfur dioxide released at coal-fired
power plants and base-metal smelters has long been recognized as a
contributor to the acidity of rain. Seeking a quantitative evaluation
of the acid rain problem, Congress in the late 1970s authorized a
ten-year research effort that spanned the 1980s. Called the National
Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP), it was ultimately to
employ three thousand scientists and spend in excess of half a billion dollars.

J. Laurence Kulp, NAPAP's research director for several years and
chief editor for the 1987 interim report, summarized the NAPAP effort
as follows:

At the beginning of the [NAPAP] program, acid rain was suspected to
have negative effects on surface waters, crops, forests, building
materials, visibility and human health. Fortunately, the research has
shown that the damage from current and historical levels of acid rain
has ranged from negligible (for example, on crops) to modest (for
example, on some lakes and streams). It is also clear that at current
levels of acid rain deposition there will be no significant increase
in these measured effects over the next half century. The causes and
the distribution of acid rain over the United States through the
seasons are now fairly well-defined, and rapid technological advances
to control the emissions of the precursors of acid rain are occurring.10

When the interim report of 1987 came out, EPA officials and many
environmentalists scoffed at the results because they failed to match
what was expected.

Kulp resigned shortly afterward and was succeeded by Dr. James
Mahoney, who steered the program to completion and oversaw the final
report of 5,000 pages. Like Kulp, Mahoney stood firm against the
pressure from certain people in the environmental community to
distort the interpretation of masses of data and make them say that
acid rain was a disaster.

Failing to get the report changed, these environmentalists and their
political allies pushed through the Clean-Air Act of 1990 before the
final NAPAP report was issued. Senator John Glenn chided his
colleagues in the Senate when he said: "We spend over 500 million
dollars on the most definitive study of acid precipitation that has
ever been done in the history of the world, and then we do not want
to listen to what [the experts] say."11 According to Kulp, "The cost
to society of the acid rain portion of the Clean-Air Act of 1990 will
total at least forty billion dollars, but the benefits will be hardly

The moral of the story is: Don't carry out expensive scientific
evaluations if they will have no influence in shaping final policy.

Getting the Facts -- Whom Can You Trust?

Wright traces environmental disagreements to their informational
source. He writes: "The uninformed public -- indeed, most of us -- is
dependent on whatever media source they encounter and can easily be
misled into believing exaggerations and untruths" (p. 87). He is
right. Then he asks how people can avoid being misled. His answer:
"Look carefully into both sides of an issue and get in touch with the
basic scientific work underlying the issue" (p. 87).

Although generally valid, this approach neglects two facts: first,
data often speak ambiguously, and second, bias is a part of every
individual, even the most prestigious scientists. Environmental
issues in particular seem fraught with both ambiguity and bias.

As a realist, Wright understands that the vast majority of people
will not have access to the appropriate refereed literature, nor the
interest to read it, nor the specialized understanding to evaluate it.

So his recommendation is that people "search for media with no
obvious ties to a political agenda." Fine!

But then he recommends Time, Newsweek, Discover, Scientific American,
and the Nature Conservancy Magazine.

I subscribe to all but Newsweek, and it is not at all obvious to me
that these publications (except Scientific American) lack a political agenda.

Perhaps Wright is unaware that he himself has an agenda, one which
matches that of the publications he recommends.

To him their reporting probably reflects the perspective that he
thinks all right-thinking people ought to have. On the other hand, I
read environmental articles by Time's Eugene Linden and almost
without exception detect a bias, one that is definitely not my own.

Apparently, bias -- or lack of same -- is in the eye of the beholder.

One is not required to read between the lines in the case of Charles
Alexander of Time magazine. During a global warming conference
several years ago, he said:

"As the science editor of Time, I would freely admit that on [the
global warming] issue we have crossed the boundary from news
reporting to advocacy."13

Alexander's admission is only the tip of the iceberg.

Everette E. Dennis, Executive Director of The Freedom Forum Media
Studies Center, says that "U.S. newspapers and television (news
magazines have been interpretive vehicles for years) have begun to
leave behind their search for impartiality, however flawed that quest
might have been."14

Even Time magazine's Anastasia Toufexis wrote: "Much of today's
political and social agenda is built around flagrantly flimsy
figures. Too often exaggerated figures are used to mislead, raise
money or advance an agenda. Environmental organizations tend to
present the most alarming scenarios to pump up the threat of global
warming."15 She could easily have pointed an accusatory finger at
her own organization.

Another area where Wright and I differ is in his faith that certain
environmental organizations simply go where the science leads them.
Of the EPA, Wright says the group "makes a strong effort to base
their regulatory rules on scientific research" (p. 87).

Why, then, did the EPA oppose NAPAP results on acid rain?

Why did the EPA require gasoline producers to use a minimum of 30%
ethanol in their wintertime additives when cheaper and equally
effective oxygenated compounds were available? (The Supreme Court has
recently ruled that the EPA overstepped its authority.)

When EPA administrator William K. Reilly asked a panel of experts to
evaluate the science at EPA, he got back a fifty-page report that
included these findings:

The agency often fails to consider appropriate scientific information
early or often enough in its decision making; fails to enlist
routinely the best scientists -- especially those at universities --
to provide it with data; and fails to evaluate the impact of its
regulations, thereby losing an opportunity to learn from past decisions.16

Wright also sees the environmental non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) in a light different from mine.

The specific NGOs he mentions are the Sierra Club, the Audubon
Society, the Wilderness Society, the League of Conservation Voters,
Greenpeace, Zero Population Growth, The Union of Concerned
Scientists, the World Resources Institute, and the World Watch
Institute. He says they all "hire scientifically trained staff and
call on the findings of scientists for support" (p. 87).

But my reading of literature from these NGOs leads me to conclude
that science sometimes becomes a handmaiden for a political agenda.
This is not to say that each group listed above is out to deceive
through scientific deck-stacking. But common sense tells us that
advocates for a position can be careless with the truth -- generally
the more zealous, the more careless. The constant internal prod for
discernment is an absolute necessity for those who claim to be
seeking the truth -- myself included.

Environmental Education

To the extent that adults are educated about environmental matters,
what they know is generally from print and TV journalism. Since
journalists are overwhelmingly l*beral in their political outlook,
this bias comes through to the public when environmental issues are discussed.

Under the heading "Environmentalist World View," Wright articulates
well what the media present as environmental orthodoxy. While he
offers a third way -- what he calls the "Christian world view" -- I
sense that on the specific issues addressed in his summary of the
"environmentalist world view" he is in substantial agreement.

So insofar as the media curriculum in adult environmental education
is mastered by the public, Wright is probably pleased.

In 1994, a Louis Harris poll showed that it has been mastered. Asked
to name "the greatest threat to human life," more chose "destruction
of environment" than any other perceived danger.17

Earlier, a 1989 poll by CBS News and the New York Times found 80
percent of the respondents agreed with this statement: "Protecting
the environment is so important that requirements and standards
cannot be too tight and continuing environmental improvements must be
made regardless of the cost."18

Wright may be pleased as well with what is happening in the public
schools -- both primary and secondary. The crisis mentality is firmly
in place.

Thomas Harvey Holt investigated some of what happens under the rubric
of environmental "education" and described his findings in an essay
entitled: "Growing up green: are schools turning out eco-activists?"19

What Holt found in curricula and in textbooks was a heavy dose of
politics to the detriment of scientific background. Industry and the
free-market economy were often denigrated and governmental solutions promoted.

Students were even instructed in environmental activism. For example,
second-graders in a New York City public school founded Kids-STOP
(Save the Ozone Project) in order to "save the planet from the deadly
effects of ozone depletion caused by continuing release of
chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere."20

Upon hearing this, Jack Padolino, president of the Pocono
Environmental Education Center said: "Now what does a second-grader
know about chlorofluorocarbons?" The answer, of course, is: "Not
much." Such youngsters are reading a script, not expressing a judgment.

Holt went on to say that "many of those who shape the environmental
education curriculum believe that their purpose is not to weigh
conflicting facts, values and theories but to instill a sense of
crisis."21 Ed Clark of the Wildlife Center of Virginia is quoted as
having said, "Understanding that the world is going to hell in a
handbasket is half of environmental education."22 I suggest that the
other half is to create pliant, frightened students who later will
endorse drastic solutions to overblown problems.

Peggy Noonan, former Reagan speechwriter, provides an illustration of
the environmental indoctrination that reaches down to the lowest
levels of our educational system. She describes the day when

my son came home from school and ran up the stairs with his backpack
in his hand and announced with grave concern, like a perfect little
Soviet child, that the air is so dirty now that it makes buildings
fall down. It erodes them, he told me, and makes them crumble. My
son is afraid of capitalist polluters who are making the air unsafe
to breathe and making buildings fall down He said, "We had a movie in
class, a Green movie" When [our society goes] into one of these
seizures of fashion, we turn a good thing, protecting the
environment, into a bad thing, environmental paranoia. We do not
educate our children. We traumatize them.23

If the bleak picture presented to Noonan's son were accurate and the
world really were on a fast road to destruction, one might argue that
in the name of truth the chips must be allowed to fall where they
may. There is, however, a contingent of unknown size, including me,
who say it isn't so. Yes, there are environmental problems, and, yes,
they need to be addressed. But an essential part of the story is the
significant accomplishment in environmental remediation. The crisis
approach is neither necessary to handle the situations we face nor
helpful to our society's psychic well-being.

A Christian Approach to the Environment

With all sorts of religious spins being put on environmental matters,
it was inevitable that eventually a manifesto by evangelical
Christians would come out. That day occurred in late 1994 when Ron
Sider as chief author, using scientific input from ecologist Calvin
DeWitt, composed the 1600-word position paper entitled "Evangelical
Declaration on the Care of Creation."24

Other than one sentence listing seven "degradations of creation," the
document links humans to their material environment with a number of verbs.

One set is in the past tense and bemoans what has happened to planet
earth; humans are said to have degraded, polluted, distorted,
destroyed, devalued, used, forgotten to take care of, and failed in
their stewardship of the environment.

A second set of verbs urges certain wise actions -- cherish, care
for, protect, heal, sustain, preserve, nurture, respect, and extend
Christ's healing to the environment (generally called creation).

Helped by vagueness, this Evangelical Declaration has drawn almost
universal approval from a host of well-known evangelical leaders,
among them Richard Wright.25 Almost the only negative note was
sounded by E. Calvin Beisner in World magazine.26 Focusing on the
seven degradations of creation -- the contribution of Calvin DeWitt
-- Beisner presented another side of the story. A subsequent issue of
World carried an exchange between Sider and Beisner.27

Is Beisner a fool rushing in where angels fear to tread? After all,
the list of eminent endorsers of the Declaration constitutes a
formidable deterrent for an evangelical like Beisner to speak out. My
opinion is that Beisner's intent was "pinpoint bombing" -- aiming at
specific environmental issues on which he has some expertise.
Certainly no one in his right mind would oppose all the good verbs
listed in the Declaration.

But the problem with words such as cherish and nurture is that they
must be defined by specific concrete acts, both individual and
corporate. It is my judgment that Beisner, through his critique of
the Declaration is really saying, "Let the rubber meet the road; let
us wrestle with what it means specifically to be a good steward of
God's world." I echo that view and hope that discussions where this
occurs find their way into future issues of PSCF.

Although giving most attention to differences in outlook between
himself and the "evangelical backlash," Wright understands as well
that there are "fringe" groups entering environmental discussions
with non-Christian religious convictions. He discusses them in a
section headed "Gaia, New Age, Eco-feminism and Deep Ecology." I
share his concerns and applaud his position.

At the same time, I fear that there are deviations from orthodoxy
closer to mainstream Christianity than Wright and I would like.

Orthodox Christians risk straying from the fundamentals of the faith,
when their embrace of "mainstream environmentalism" leads them to
conclude that human activities have brought the earth to the brink of

For immature Christians, often young, it may be only a short step
from an earth presumed to be in mortal danger to the conclusion that
"saving the earth" must take priority over saving souls. In
struggling to be witnesses for Christ, they may be tempted to take an
easier path -- namely, to jump on the popular environmental bandwagon
as a substitute for the more difficult witness to a transcendent reality.

What might be called mid-course theological adjustments make the
environmental option increasingly attractive. These elevate
environmental activism beyond its proper place in a full-orbed
Christian world view. They are rationalizations which often take the
form of downgrading the supremacy of the transcendent realm with its
emphasis on reconciliation with God and eternal life in his presence.
Or they may elevate material reality to almost a unity with the
spiritual domain and so encourage utopian hopes for planet Earth,
subtly suggesting that environmental cleanliness is next to godliness.

Even more subtle is the implication that the condition of the earth
in the last days somehow influences the quality of the supernatural
realm that will one day become "all in all."

It is as if God has set up a covenant with the human race on a quid
pro quo basis. How his people treat their planetary abode will
ostensibly influence him as he prepares his heavenly house for their
future occupancy. On that view, earth-keeping takes on the motivation
of self-interest -- not a bad reason but usually not the one
trumpeted by Christian environmentalists.

There are, however, occasions on which theological orthodoxy is
totally shunted aside to make way for an environmental agenda.

This is the case with Philip Hefner, Lutheran theologian and editor
of Zygon, a journal relating science and Christian faith. Hefner has
gone far beyond the looseness of speech that sometimes accompanies
exuberance. Instead, he has discarded a Christian world view for an
entirely new metaphysical outlook. Here is how he described it:

In order to best serve our self-understandings, we must recognize (1)
our intrinsic kinship with the rest of nature; (2) that our purpose
as humans is to serve nature; (3) that we are preparers for nature's
future; (4) that our highest calling as humans is to discern the
dimensions of ultimacy in nature and to conceptualize them. In
this we follow God's own pattern of investing in nature as the
greatest project.28

With Hefner, there is no way one can legitimately suggest that
beneath ambiguous language there really lies an orthodox world view.

Hefner writes clearly and what he writes is not historical
Christianity. Instead, it is a radical exaltation of current concerns
about environmental problems and a clear demonstration that designing
religious systems around an environmental core is not the exclusive
province of the avant-garde groups which Wright describes in his paper.


Richard Wright is to be commended for his comprehensive overview of
environmental controversy. I hope that his paper, Beisner's response,
and my critique stimulate further discussion of this important
subject. From my standpoint, that discussion should emphasize papers
which focus on a single environmental issue and are multidimensional
-- including scientific, economic, political and theological
dimensions. It would also help to lower the emotional pitch.

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