Does biology work against religious sentiment?
Here’s an excellent piece by John Derbyshire at National Review explaining his (lack of) religious views.
What does it have to do with environmentalism? Well, check out this part:
I can report that the Creationists are absolutely correct to hate and fear modern biology. Learning this stuff works against your faith. To take a single point at random: The idea that we are made in God’s image implies we are a finished product. We are not, though. It is now indisputable that natural selection has been going on not just through human prehistory, but through recorded history too, and is still going on today, and will go on into the future, presumably to speciation, either natural or artificial. So which human being was made in God’s image: the one of 100,000 years ago? 10,000 years ago? 1,000 years ago? The one of today? The species that will descend from us? All of those future post-human species, or just some of them? And so on. The genomes are all different. They are not the same creature. And if they are all made in God’s image somehow, then presumably so are all the other species, and there’s nothing special about us at all.
Now of course there are ways to finesse that point — intellectuals can cook up an argument for anything, and religious intellectuals, who cut their teeth on justifying some wildly improbable stuff, are especially ingenious — but the cumulative effect of dozens of factlets like this is devastating to the notion that human beings are a special creation. And without that notion, traditional religious belief is holed below the water line. The more you read and learn in the modern human sciences, the more your image of homo sap. fades back into our being just another branch on the tree of life, with all those wonderful features of ours — even language, the most wonderful feature of all — just adaptations, like fins or feathers, with an actual record of the adaptation written, and date-stamped, right there in the genome!
But doesn’t the I, the Me, that I mentioned earlier — the self-awareness that we humans uniquely have — doesn’t that make us special? Do tigers, toads, and ticks have an I? Do they have a connection to the Creator? I don’t know. Perhaps they have a fuzzier one — perhaps higher animals, at any rate, see through a glass as we do, but more darkly. In any case, that only makes us special in the way that an elephant is special by virtue of having that long trunk — more exactly, the way the first creatures who were able to register visible light as images were special. We are part of nature — an exceptionally advanced and interesting part, but … not special.
It’s significant because science is slowly but surely destroying the basis for human exceptionalism. This does not — I repeat does not — suggest that humans are the moral equivalent of ants. But an ethic that views humans apart from and above nature has no basis in reality.
What do we do with that information? That is the big question.
The first step: let’s think very hard about our assumptions about non-human animals and our relations with them.