The Beauty of Life (part 2)

Arthur Conan Doyle once stated that the colorful bloom of a flower is simply an extra. The color was beautiful and had no functional reason for being colorful. Botanists argue that the color of the flower attracts specific pollinators which are in turn looking for specific nectar. The argument only minimizes Doyle’s point. Large-brained upright hominids enjoy the bright colors and sweet smells of flowers. What the scientists sees as a biological by product is a source of pleasure to creatures that use the plant for its’ beauty. Human beings intentionally find ways to to reproduce the plants and to breed them to enhance their beauty.

Humans acting for no other reason than the pursuit of pleasure in this way show the biological aesthetic at work. These actions are also in keeping with the biblical command to “till and keep” the earth. Human dominion as opposed to human domination (because humans make decisions that affect all other living things) is the divinely given responsibility to act in ways that preserve life and beauty.

How then should we do these things? Salatin asks the hypothetical question of where would we be now if fossil fuels had been used to build tools that helped give us renewable energy that did not require more oil consumption to make our civilization work. My own question is why not do more of that now? There is no question that our civilization will need energy in order to continue. We should use fossil fuels to build clean energy infrastructures. In fact, this is being done. I believe we could do this in a greater degree and thus minimize long term damage to the biosphere.

The next step in dealing with the technological problems associated with clean energy development is the increased demand for “rare-earth” minerals that are also used in our communication technologies. What are the human and other costs to mining for these minerals? How is civilization to be restructured so that the sin of domination is not practiced thus enslaving individuals and destroying communities? The answers to these questions begin to come to us when we ask ourselves the following question. What do we want to experience?

End Part 2


The Beauty of Life (part 1)

Vacation time is supposed to be a time for recreation and renewal with relaxation. I spent mine contemplating the assertions of Leonardo Boff in his Toward and Eco-Spirituality and Joel Salatin’s The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs. No, I am not obsessed with work. I am obsessed with life. Since theology is a discipline of made-up words, Thomas Berry called himself a “geologian.” I could be called a “biologian.” But I must say I don’t like the term. To me life is both messy and beautiful.

The biblical doctrine of Creation is the idea of Divine Will imposing order onto chaos by processes of separation. Light is separated from dark. Water is separated from air and land. God brings the animals to Adam to name. Thereby to understand himself as separate from the animals and other living things.

Modern biology gives us an understanding of the essential unity of life. Every living thing eats. Humans hunt and gather food. This practice leads many to believe our essential aesthetic about “the beauty of the earth” is a by-product of our need for food.

There is something lacking in both views.

Appreciating beauty in art or engineering is rooted in the basic needs of people. Even the virtue of courage has its’ own aesthetic quality because it fills the need for a living thing to keep living. This is the same kind of beauty described in the Bible based in order as opposed to chaos. It is the messiness of human systems that pushes human communities to build, to fight, to uproot and plant, and eventually to value the community and the wealth it produces.

Science works on the logical assumption that whatever is true is true. Belief and faith do not factor into what we learn by observation and experimentation. In fact beliefs or matters of faith can be hindrances to learning. This brings us to a scientific problem. “Whatever being true is true” provides the pitfall of how assumptions of completed knowledge are made. History shows how such assumptions of complete understanding have been disastrous in the areas of medicine, nutrition, and ecology. This does not include unforeseen after effects in physics and chemistry. Ironically these tragedies compare with the human tragedy of believing one has complete knowledge in matters of religion.

Here we find the problem of modernism. Western culture is experiencing a crisis of faith and a technological crisis because it has lost a function biological aesthetic. It is my purpose in this blog to explore how that can be restored or replaced.

End Part 1