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Monday, January 28, 2008

Would the world be better without humans?

Have you seen the special "After People" that looks at what would happen on Earth if all humanity was gone from the planet? We have it recorded, but I've yet to watch it. It is a fascinating idea to explore, though - how fast would nature take back over the cities and how would it happen? Would the world "heal" from the effects of human activity? Would it be more beautiful? And if so, for whom? What, as Christians, is our response to this line of questioning? What is the point?

This guy's got the point.

But yearning for the disappearance of the human species so the planet
will be more beautiful is rather contradictory. More beautiful for whom? I’ve
not seen a koala bear setting up an easel to paint a still life.

Read the whole thing.


bob woodington said...

it's an interesting question. i think the point of this line of questioning is twofold - it both illuminates and illustrates man's short-sightedness and arrogance.

modern mankind is notoriously short-sighted and arrogant (though that has ALWAYS been true of "modern man" - all throughout history). we believe that we have reached the pinnacle, and that what we have built has permanence. so looking at what would happen if man disappeared helps to illuminate our arrogance - what we have built would disintegrate in surprisingly short order. a nuclear disaster might destroy mankind, but it would not destroy life, and certainly would not destroy the planet.

in addition, a program like this also is a good illustration of man's arrogance. the idea that we are apart from nature, that we have such a massive impact on the world (whether good or bad) that the world would be better off without us (casting man as some sort of evil stain, without which the world would be "more beautiful") is subtle, but extreme, hubris.

we might be the smartest and most influential species to ever walk the planet, but we are STILL part of nature. a skyscraper is every bit as natural as a beaver's dam or a spider's web. perceiving it as beautiful or ugly is completely subjective, and ultimately irrelevant. by any objective measure, the earth would not be more or less beautiful if man were gone - it would only be different. it would not be good or bad, only different.

so how should we react as christians? on a basic level, answering the question posed by the show, i think this is evident in genesis - in both the creation accounts in genesis 1 and 2. man is shown to be above all of the other creatures in god's creation, but still PART of god's creation. to think that the earth that god designed could not survive and thrive without man, is putting ourselves into a more god-like position. and suggesting that without man, the world would be inherently better is ALSO putting us into a god-like (well, evil god-like, or devil-like if you prefer) position.

modern christians have plenty of tough philosophical issues to tackle when addressing the stewardship of the earth that god gave us, for which there are often no easy answers. however, as i see it, that's not what this program should teach us. it should not contribute to our feelings of guilt or superiority, but to our humility. to help us recognize that we are a part of the earth, not apart from it. perspective can be a good thing....