Environmentalism as religion

A late but strong candidate for controversial discussion-point of the month appeared yesterday in the form of visionary physicist Freeman Dyson’s article for the New York Review of Books, in which he detours into a discussion of global warming skepticism.

There’s a lot of interesting points in there, and the replies and rebuttals are coming thick and fast, but what I wanted to focus on was Dyson’s portrayal of environmentalism as a secular religion, because it turned up in my feed reader at almost exactly the same time as another article which claims software-based research suggests religion is an inevitable consequence of evolution.

If that’s the case, one wonders if religion is merely a developmental phase that we’ll eventually grow out of? One thing’s for certain – Creationists probably won’t appreciate the irony of being told their faith is a by-product of a process they don’t believe in.

3 thoughts on “Environmentalism as religion”

  1. Unfortunately, despite a lot of interesting and fair points, Dyson doesn’t define his use of the word “religion”. As a result I think his assertion that environmentalism (a nebulous and diverse grouping of many different opinions and beliefs) is a “secular religion” is as nonsensical as that regarding socialism. Given that this was published in the US I wonder if framing his argument in this way is a specious sop to the idea that ideologies derived from scientific or political theory are belief systems just like those based on holy writ or the teachings of long-dead prophets.

  2. Science as religion is an old idea. See Asimov’s “Foundation,” and probably a number of earlier works.

    Regarding environmentalism especially, there is of course a great range of beliefs, from the plausible to the nonsensical, as there is with many religions (say, Christianity, which has as many different forms as there are churches). It also has its prophets and holy writs — anyone who dares to cast doubt on some of the “facts” that Al Gore purports in his inconvenient “truth” is branded as a heretic, despite that much of what he states has been shown to be untrue, or at least taken out of context.

    I’m not saying there isn’t global warming or that we shouldn’t take care of the environment. But there are a lot of fanatical environmentalists out there, just like there are a lot of fanatical Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists (well, maybe fewer Buddhists ;o), who care more about the idea of environmentalism than the science.

  3. Quite true, Curtis; the problem is hegemonies, no matter the creed they espouse. Lock-step thinking is never a good thing.

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