By Anthony Cox
On Noah Count brood over your wrongdoing.
Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.
Misquoting Aldous Huxley
I wrote some time ago about a recurring theme in Hollywood. The theme is the inevitable catastrophic consequences when humans interfere with nature. Russell Crowe’s portentous Noah continues this theme but with a fascinating twist. In Noah nature is given a religious quality with all the moral status that comes with that but without a traditional religious God and the compromise which comes from that in respect of the clash between science and received knowledge from such a God. In effect nature has been mystified but God has either been subject to Deicide or replaced.
Man-made global warming [AGW] was always a reworking of the Eden myth where the paradise of nature was despoiled by the use of fossil fuels. And just like Eden where God banished Adam and Eve to a harsh unnatural world AGW says the backlash from nature to humanity’s abuse of nature will be equally harsh.
In Christianity there has been a dispute about AGW. On one side is the more progressive forms which accept AGW and interpret the role of Christianity as assisting the people who will be affected by AGW. The 2006 Evangelical Climate Initiative for instance regarded the IPCC as foundational in developing its position on AGW; sort of like an updated version of the 10 Commandments.
On the other side has been the traditional Christian view as typified by the Cornwall Alliance. This approach took the literal Biblical view that God is sovereign over Creation and therefore humans can do no permanent damage to what God has created. This view also advocates that God entrusted the earth to human dominion and we should not be afraid of economic development or other uses of human creativity.
Until Noah floated along Hollywood had favoured the progressive Christian view: AGW was real and there was always serious Biblical like retribution if nature was compromised. The problem was Hollywood has never been a Christian or even a religious place so the moral base for the punishment flowing from interfering with nature could not be sourced in traditional Christianity. And AGW is a product of Green ideology which is determinedly non-Christian and claims to be the pinnacle of “settled science”.
But the modern Green movement also greatly values spirituality, a nebulous concept which hints at hidden meaning and depth beyond what science can quantify without invoking the conventional God as maker which Christianity offers. The solution for the Greens of having AGW “settled science” with a spiritual quality is the Gaia hypothesis invented by James Lovelock. Gaia is a theory of homoeostasis where natural organisms on the planet regulate living conditions to produce relative stability. Gaia is both scientific and spiritual without being Christian or religious.
Given this inherent stability produced by the Gaia it is easy to see how a view of humankind disrupting this process can be similar to the Eden myth.
It is also easy to see how the Gaia can become pseudo God like. In fact prominent AGW scientists like Tim Flannery and Clive Hamilton invest Gaia with God-like properties. Hamilton says:
So I think where we’re going is to begin to see a Gaian earth in its ecological, cybernetic way, infused with some notion of mind or soul or chi, which will transform our attitudes to it away from an instrumentalist one, towards an attitude of greater reverence. I mean, the truth is, unless we do that, I mean we seriously are in trouble, because we know that Gaia is revolting against the impact of human beings on it.
Tim Flannery’s “reverence” is even more startling. Flannery says Gaia will become a super-organism where there will be no outside.
But any similarity to Eden or God is coincidental and unintended. In Crowe’s Noah this super-organism has replaced the Old Testament God completely while still retaining the old God’s values and certainly his stern approach to dealing with human waywardness.
The super-organism in Noah is not called God, it is a Creator. In fact God is not mentioned in Noah and the Creator has not created the Earth for humanity’s use and exploitation as the Cornwall Alliance argues. The Earth is not for use by humans at all and the Flood is the Creator’s way of ridding his natural creation of the pestilence and blight of humans. As Noah says: creation will be left alone — safe. Beautiful.
This is cinematic misanthropy on a grand scale. Misanthropy is at the heart of AGW; it says the Earth would be better off without humans. We see many examples of AGW supporters expressing this view about humans. The view is the antithesis of Christianity, in both its progressive and traditional forms, because both forms still regard humans as part of God’s Creation while quibbling about humanity’s role and importance in that Creation.
The Creation in Noah is a human free zone, the ultimate expression of misanthropy. And the Flood is a cleansing of humanity from the Earth. There are a number of puzzling ironies here.
Firstly, if humans are not part of Creation why are we here? Are we the outside which Flannery says doesn’t exist? Did the Creator create Gaia or vice-versa, or are they the same thing? Lovelock doesn’t know and he invented the idea.
Secondly, if humans are part of Creation but need to be destroyed, that indicates a moral purpose for the Creation which humans have contravened. Is the moral purpose merely the sustaining of the Creation? If humans have to be removed to ensure the sustainability of the Creation does that mean humans are more powerful than the Creator? If so, maybe it’s time we started fighting back just like the heroine does in Prometheus. Not going to see Noah would be a good start.