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Our Attempts To Control The Natural World And The Environmental Crisis

1242 words - 5 pages

Our Attempts to Control the Natural World and the Environmental Crisis
 

As reports of ecological degradation increase around the world,
human concern about environmental issues is also heightening. Scientists,
philosophers and others have all begun the process of determining the
causes of the environmental crisis and trying to sort out how to fix these
problems. In this essay, I would like to examine two of the most widely
expounded philosophies on the cause of environmental degradation in the
Western hemisphere. The first philosophy states that the Judeo-Christian
religious tradition is primarily to blame while the second philosophy
labels technology as the main culprit of the environmental crisis. I will
argue that neither of these two philosophies provide full explanations for
the current world situation. Furthermore, I will suggest that the true
root of environmental degradation stems from human values, particularly
the value which humans place upon having control and "freedom" from the
natural world.

As you all read, the philosophy that the Judeo-Christian religious
tradition is to blame for the environmental crisis was first expounded by
historian Lynn White in 1967. Although many people have supported White's
theory, no one has been able to provide adequate factual proof for his
hypothesis. Further, his focus is too narrow to account for the extent of
environmental degradation in the modern world. I think that the
Judeo-Christian religion certainly played a role in the negligent
treatment of the Earth but it is not entirely too blame. Also, as Patrick
Dorel argues, the Judeo-Christian tradition can be interpreted to go
against White's theory and to support the notion that humans are intended
to be the caretakers of the earth. It completely depends upon which
Biblical passages one is reading. Since Dorel, Moncrief and Pojman all
addressed the problems with Lynn White's theory, I will not take up space
in debating the issue. However, I think it is important to begin with the
common understanding that White's theory is not adequately grounded in
factual reality.

Clearly, the religious argument does not provide a full
explanation for environmental degradation but what about the theory that
technology is to blame? Over the past few decades, many scholars and
philosophers have suggested that the main cause of the environmental
crisis lies in the increased use of technology, which separates mankind
from the natural world. In evaluating this philosophy, I think it is
useful to look at the writings of Tiles and Oberdiek. In the book Living
in a Technological Culture, Tiles and Oberdiek argue the premise that
technology is not value-neutral but neither is it entirely to blame for
environmental issues. Instead, they define technologies as "ways of doing
and making which are both affected by and affect ways of thinking" (Tiles
and Oberdiek 10). In other words, the technologies might affect the
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