From Dominionism to the Pale Blue Dot

Dear Group,

I want to close out this week with a thought along a different vein, sparked by article I read in the New York Times, an article that came to my attention labelled “Most Emailed.” It appeared on November 27 in the Times Magazine, “The Insect Apocalypse Is Here.” It was competing for everyone’s attention from the froth of human social and political concerns, the latest offensive Trump tweet, Nancy Pelosi’s likelihood of keeping her position in the House of Representatives, what Paul Manafort’s lawyers are saying to Trump’s lawyers, the price of oil, and whether the stock market and the economy are going up or down. Yet here it was, an article on the natural world featured as “Most Emailed.” 

We humans are singularly self-absorbed and short-sighted, thoroughly pre-occupied with the activities of other members of our species, the children we try to raise, the stories we tell, the games we play, the wars we wage.

Step back. At the base of it all is the biosphere and the planet on which we depend for food, water, and a place to raise our young. The worldview each of us takes on during our lifetime conditions how we see and understand this ball of rock with its thin layer of life.

As I see it, worldview (at least in U.S.) lays out broadly on a spectrum. Stark Dominionism underpins one end, whereas on the other end is the sense that humanity is a particularly conceited and self-centered manifestation of natural life, thoroughly integrated into the biosphere.

For me, Dominionism is based on [From wikipedia]: “a reference to the King James Bible’s rendering of Genesis 1:28, the passage in which God grants humanity ‘dominion’ over the Earth.”

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Dominionism often includes a sense this human domination over the earth is carefully guided and nurtured by God, that is, that humanity is an instrument of God’s will and, as such, humanity is incapable of despoiling the earth. For some (many?) in this thought pattern, there is also an “end time” that somehow leads to God’s Kingdom, a glorious hereafter. I was brought up with one foot in this tradition. 

At the other end my spectrum of worldview is Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot, the photograph taken in a look back from the Voyager 1 Space Probe in 1990, showing the earth as an tiny speck, a speck containing all of us, a speck nearly vanished in space, a speck which say to some “we are completely on our own and we’d better figure it out fast.” 

These ends of the worldview spectrum have been a source of tension in humanity’s understanding of itself for hundreds of years. Everyone who ever took a class in science in public school remembers or ought to remember the controversy between the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s geocentric view of the solar system and the heliocentrism of Galileo Galilei (and other scientists and astronomers) that came to a head around 1600. The underlying tension has never gone away.

This spectrum of worldview I postulate here, stretching from Dominionism to the Pale Blue Dot is a spectrum of orientation, it is not two well-defined buckets into which people’s mindsets sort simply. For folks who put some thought to it, there are many points along the spectrum where one’s views might lie.

But I digress.

The Insect Apocalypse Is Here” for me was at the end of a string of disquieting articles for anyone on the Pale Blue Dot end of the spectrum.

U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy

The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why Is It So Hard?

What’s Happening to the Price of Oil? (which might make some rejoice, but for me heralds greater demand for gas-guzzling vehicles and ever more burning of carbon)

Palm Oil Was Supposed to Help Save the Planet. Instead It Unleashed a Catastrophe. (the sad story of one of the last bipartisan efforts to cut back on the burning of fossil carbon)

I end the week with much to contemplate. Enjoy the weekend. 

Keep to the high ground,