If asked to state the goal of the environmental movement,na participant in it would probably say something like: “tonpromote a sustainable relationship between human beingsnand nature.”nHow could one possibly object to such a formulation? Yetnhidden in it is a set of assumptions that may paradoxically lienat the root of our present environmental crisis.nThere is a close resemblance between this stated goal andna much older idea from the rationalistic theology of thenmodern West: that the goal of the moral life is to promote ansustainable relationship between human beings and God.nThis God is the God of Christian theism, Who is eternal,ntranscendent, perfect, and unchanging. Obedience to Himnis true happiness. We human beings are by nature fallen andnwicked in part, and thus a caste of priests is necessary,nthemselves under discipline by an ecclesiastical organization,nto discipline the population in the correct beliefs andnreligious practices.nA remarkable human culture flourished under the Christianntheisrn of the West: whether it can survive the effects ofndemocracy, technological progress, and intercultural exchange,nall of which it helped to foster, is presently in doubt.nIt was itself the heir of a religious world view that was lessnabstract, less transcendent, more a matter of ritual andnperformance than what succeeded it, in which God, thenangels, and the saints (and before that, the gods) were morenimmanent; less perfect, less absolute in knowledge andnpower, more a process, more a story than a theology.nChristianity has periodically regretted its departure from thatnancient religious milieu, a milieu much more appropriate tonthe life and thoughts of Jesus Christ himselfnFrederick Turner is Founders Professor of Arts andnHumanities at the University of Texas at Dallas andnauthor of the epic poem Genesis.nNatural Technologynby Frederick TurnernBut the point here is that the environmentalist ethic hasnin effect replaced God with nature. As the phrase goes, “It’snnot nice to fool Mother Nature.” James Lovelock’s Gaianhypothesis, which argues plausibly that in some sense thenplanet Earth is a sort of superorganism, perhaps like a giantnpolyp or colonial animal or coral reef, maintaining its ownnatmosphere, climate, and chemical environment, has suppliednits more religious followers with a personal name fornthe new deity. But the fact that the name and sex of thendeity have changed does not mean that the new cult has notninherited many of the fundamental problems implicit innWestern Christianity.nMany contemporary environmentalists would probablynaccept without much question a set of assumptions, derivednfrom modern Christianity, that if examined might prove tonbe problematic. They would include the following:nThat the essential feature of nature is homeostasis: that is,nthere is a natural balance that is restored when it is disturbed,nand a natural harmony.nThat happiness is doing the will of nature.nThat happiness is essentially stasis, an unchanging andnsecure state in which the future is more or less predictablen(this is an unpacking of the central term sustainable).nThat human beings are different and separate from, andnsubordinate to, a transcendent nature.nThat human beings are no better and no more importantnthan any other species (i.e., the Christian doctrine of thenequality of souls before God has been translated into andoctrine of the equality of species before nature).nThat an (unelected) community of environmentallynconscious, morally refined, sober, devout, humble, andnself-denying ecological Brahmins should interpret to thenmasses the will of nature and direct them accordingly,nchastising the merchant/industrial caste, huiiibling the warriorncaste, and disciplining the farmer caste.nnnAUGUST 1990/27n