Dear Richard and Ed:
Richard touches on a point we cannot ignore. Science — and scientists — need to build fences too. Certainly, we’ll have to live with Hollywood’s vision of a Brave, New — and Biodiversity-Rich World of Jurassic Park. This is no mere fantasy: the notion that we can simply recreate whatever species we destroy, or at least keep them in germ banks, is alive and well in some scientific circles. Yes, it’s wonderful that zoos and botanic gardens do keep species alive — until we can return them to the wild and restore the habitats where they once lived. It’s no solution to the mass extinction of life on Earth that we now face. And the hubris suggests to many that scientists are out of control, modern-day Frankensteins.
Nor does it help when scientists point fingers. Thirty years ago Lynn White Jr., in the internationally prestigious journal Science, cited Christians and their theology as “bearing a great burden” of responsibility for the ecological crisis. The scientific community in general received White’s thesis with open arms, and the Ecological Society of America responded by awarding him their prestigious Mercer prize.
Richard — much as you have told us of the energy evangelicals are now bringing to the issues of environmental stewardship — there are important developments on the scientific side. A decade after White came the founding of the Society for Conservation Biology — a now-large and still-growing international society with a mission to save our natural heritage. (The parallel is to medicine, which saves lives. Having a mission doesn’t compromise the science; it demands that it be the very best.)
From its inception, the founders understood that the ethical and religious basis of our discipline would be essential material for its journal, as much as technical issues of ecology, genetics, and so on. The next issue has my Duke University colleague theologian Stanley Hauerwas on its cover — as well as Ed.
Finally, like Ed, I’m surprised by the low percentages on the Pew Survey. The scientist in me welcomes having numbers. We have something to assess whether what we are doing now will have made a difference a decade from now!
My best wishes,