Global warming science debate

Ages of Gaia, Science, and Environmental Religion with James Lovelock

by Lewis Loflin

I had noticed a pattern of religious fundamentalism in the environmental movement that did resemble a religion or a cult. (Eden, good and evil, an authoritarian attitude, etc.) While I was aware of the Leftist' politics in the movement, the level of religion and the related social patterns are astounding.

No where is this more so than with James Lovelock inventor of the Gaia hypothesis. To his credit he tries to operate as a credible scientist and is openly critical of the religious nonsense that has evolved around his work. Ages of Gaia is his attempt to explain his position in regards to the religious controversy surrounding his ideas.

Many of his ideas have become dogma to the cult of environmentalism. But science is not popular with most of the public and is a poor basis for spiritualism or emotion. It doesn't deal in the things that make one "feel good" or answer ultimate questions most strive for. From what I've seen most of these people drift into Eastern mysticism or various form of New Age nonsense. They are searching for something their emotions can grasp.

See New Age Religion.

But science today has an authority bordering on a popular mystery religion - some revere it but others hold it in contempt. Often seen by irrational environmentalists as a tool of capitalism and destroyer of the sacred Mother they have launched a war against it - and the human race in general.

But for the majority data, reason, and abstract mathematics hold little emotional appeal. Millions believe in science, but are ignorant of science. Most would have to be dragged kicking and screaming to a chemistry or physics class.

Scientific ignorance has been exploited as secular-humanists-leftists as a way to undermine traditional faiths such as Christianity as they attempt to mold the world to their replacement belief systems. Their cold and often dogmatic ideas fail to catch on with the masses that are simply human beings - not the often automations to be reprogrammed they are made out to be. Humans are not social constructs.

Science doesn't sell to the average citizen, but religion sells. Simply hijack a very popular secular religion and use it as a cover. Others have taken to pseudo-sciences like environmentalism transforming it to even more radical ends - a hatred of any technology that benefits mankind.

See Environmentalism's Fear-Loathing of Technology

What we are dealing with are two big problems. One side are the disgruntled socialists and Marxist's using the issue to revive a failed ideologies that just won't die. Social justice has become climate justice.

One the other side we have real religious extremists totally at odds with all modern society - they seek to destroy it in the hopes of returning a more feudal system of subsistence agriculture, etc. in "harmony" with Mother Earth. It's another Eden fantasy and humans are expendable before the Goddess.

Quoting Science under Siege by Michael Fumento,

Noting that one (allegedly) scientific theory the Gaia theory actually claims that the earth is a living organism, essayist Charles Krauthammer writes that "contemporary environmentalism . . . indulges in earth worship to the point of idolatry." The godhead (or goddess head in this case) is mother earth which has become for many a spiritual being in her own right.

Quoting author and scientist Michael Crichton, "Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists...If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths...

To quote Rex Murphy,

"Save the Earth is evangelical to its green and etymological roots. We see repeated in environmentalism the great dualisms of good and evil -- the modern twin being, say, sustainability versus pollution.

We see, too, in some aspects of the environmental movement that almost irresistible instinct to proselytize and "convert" that is the watermark of all the great faiths, the ferocity to persuade that only comes with the possession of an exclusive and undeniable truth...There is a lot of that mushy New-Ageism...the wild enthusiasms of mysticism..."

Ref. Praise the green god from whom all blessings flow at www.globeandmail.com April 24, 2004

Modern environmentalism has become, "a combination of pseudo-science, new age mysticism, paganism, and socialism which serves as a combination of political philosophy and religion. This is clearly an attempt to replace America's historic secular culture with a new religion - a pagan religion."

James Lovelock is credited with creating the Gaia hypothesis. He notes science is largely captive of government, business, and politics. This has happened because scientific research today is so expensive. Those funding science research do so expecting support for their agendas or else.

To quote Lovelock himself, "When I wrote the first book on Gaia I had no inkling that it would be taken as a religious book" That was 25 years ago. In 2014 he is harshly critical of much of the environmental movement today as largely a crackpot religion devoid of facts.

Dr. Lovelock asks, "Where are the independent scientists?" Good question. They are captives of government grants and campus politics.

Take a look at the ruins of NASA. It has been defunded to the point of collapse. Studying "climate change" and coming up with answers politicians want to hear to justify political agendas is matter of a good career or life at a community college. Many former astronauts and administrators have formally blasted NASA over its political stands on climate change as unscientific.

This has left many scientists in the cross-hairs of political fights and their research (and careers) threatened by special interests on both side of the political spectrum. "Climate correctness" has had the same debilitating effect on science as political correctness has had on social discourse.

Dr. Lovelock further notes that science is constrained by "self-imposed inquisition...Lacking freedom they are in danger of succumbing to a finicky gentility or of becoming, like medieval theologians, the creatures of dogma..."

This is why peer-review has been undermined and dissenting voices on any touchy political issue are buried under a blizzard of censorship and personal attacks.

Dr. Lovelock to the dismay of many environmental extremists is a big supporter of nuclear power and today supports hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. Yes he believes in climate change, but not with the extremism of a religious fanatic. See How Bacteria Created Natural Nuclear Fission.

Much has changed since the Ages of Gaia was written in 1979. New technology has drastically reduced pollution and energy efficiency has been remarkable. New reactor designs hold the promise of providing affordable energy without massive amounts of carbon dioxide.

Ozone depletion turned out to be a scam and the fears of depleting natural resources was way overblown as technology saves the day. How much less copper have we saved with fiber-optic lines made from common sand? Synthetics and plastics have replaced expensive and energy consuming use of toxic metals like zinc.

New manufacturing technology has made advanced electronics super cheap and affordable with a fraction of the energy and materials.

On the downside Ages of Gaia reveals the atheist and pantheistic ideas Lovelock harbors, but he does try to keep them out of science unlike many environmentalists. As Lovelock noted, "I was na´ve to think that a book about Gaia would be taken as science only."

A great quote from Dr. Lovelock puts this in perspective:

This is why, for me, Gaia is a religious as well as a scientific concept, and in both spheres it is manageable. Theology is also a science, but if it is to operate by the same rules as the rest of science, there is no place for creeds or dogma.

There is not place in government for religious dogma; equally there's no place either for science immersed in religious dogma. Thus the pseudo-religion of Environmentalism has become the religion of the urban atheist. It's a violation of separation of religion and state. Quoting Lovelock:

At the same time, as population increased so did the proportion forced to lead urban lives out of touch with Nature. In the past two centuries we have nearly all become city dwellers, and seem to have lost interest in the meaning of both God and Gaia...

I wonder if this is the result of sensory deprivation. How can we revere the living world if we can no longer hear the bird song through the noise of traffic, or smell the sweetness of fresh air?

How can we wonder about God and the Universe if we never see the stars because of the city lights?...

City life reinforces and strengthens the heresy of humanism, that narcissistic devotion to human interests alone...

Yes, back to the urban atheist - and radical environmentalist.

Selected Extracts

PREFACE, Ages of Gaia 1979 revised 2000 by James Lovelock.

Science, unlike other intellectual activities, is almost never done at home. Modem science has become as professional as the advertising industry. And, like that industry, it relies on an expensive and exquisitely refined technique.

There is no place for the amateur in modem science, yet, as is often the way with professions, science more often applies its expertise to the trivial than to the numinous.

Where are the independent scientists? In fact, nearly all scientists are employed by some large organization, such as a governmental department, a university, or a multinational company. Only rarely are they free to express their science as a personal view.

They may think that they are free, but in reality they are, nearly all of them, employees; they have traded freedom of thought for good working conditions, a steady income, tenure, and a pension.

They are also constrained by an army of bureaucratic forces, from the funding agencies to the health and safety organizations. Scientists are also constrained by the tribal rules of the discipline to which they belong.

A physicist would find it hard to do chemistry and a biologist would find physics well-nigh impossible to do. To cap it all, in recent years the "purity" of science is ever more closely guarded by a self-imposed inquisition called the peer review.

This well-meaning but narrow-minded nanny of an institution ensures that scientists work according to conventional wisdom and not as curiosity or inspiration moves them. Lacking freedom they are in danger of succumbing to a finicky gentility or of becoming, like medieval theologians, the creatures of dogma.

I wrote the first Gaia book so that a dictionary was the only aid needed and I have tried to write this way in the present book. I am puzzled by the response of some of my scientific colleagues who take me to task for presenting science this way.

Things have taken a strange turn in recent years; almost the full circle from Galileo's famous struggle with the theological establishment. It is the scientific establishment that makes itself esoteric and is the scourge of heresy.

I have had to become a radical scientist also because the scientific community is reluctant to accept new theories as fact, and rightly so. It was nearly 150 years before the notion that heat is a measure of the speed of molecules became a fact of science, and 40 years before plate tectonics was accepted by the scientific community.

Now perhaps you see why I work at home supporting myself and my family by whatever means come to hand.

It would be difficult after spending nearly twenty years developing a theory of the Earth as a living organism-where the evolution of the species and their material environment are tightly coupled but still evolve by natural selection-to avoid capturing views about the problems of pollution and the degradation of the natural environment by humans.

Gaia theory forces a planetary perspective. It is the health of the planet that matters, not that of some individual species of organisms. This is where Gaia and the environmental movements, which are concerned first with the health of people, part company. The health of the Earth is most threatened by major changes in natural ecosystems.

Agriculture, forestry, and to a lesser extent fishing are seen as the most serious sources of this kind of damage with the inexorable increase of the greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, methane, and several others coming next.

Geophysiologists do not ignore the depletion of the ozone layer in the stratosphere with its concomitant risk of increased irradiation with short-wave ultraviolet, or the problem of acid rain. These are seen as real and potentially serious hazards but mainly to the people and ecosystems of the First World-from a Gaian perspective, a region that is clearly expendable.

It was buried beneath glaciers, or was icy tundra, only 10,000 years ago. As for what seems to be the greatest concern, nuclear radiation, fearful though it is to individual humans is to Gaia a minor affair.

It may seem to many readers that I am mocking those environmental scientists whose life work is concerned with these threats to human life. This is not my intention. I wish only to speak out for Gaia because there are so few who do, compared with the multitudes who speak for the people.

Because of this difference in emphasis, a concern for the planet rather than for ourselves, I came to realize that there might be the need for a new profession, that of planetary medicine...

Extracts from Chapter God and Gaia. P. 203-223 by James Lovelock.

When I wrote the first book on Gaia I had no inkling that it would be taken as a religious book. Although I thought the subject was mainly science, there was no doubt that many of its readers found otherwise.

Two-thirds of the letters received, and still coming in, are about the meaning of Gaia in the context of religious faith. This interest has not been limited to the laity; a most interesting letter came from Hugh Montefiore, then Bishop of Birmingham. He asked which I thought came first, life or Gaia.

My attempts to answer this question led to a correspondence, reported in a chapter of his book The Probability of God. I suspect that some cosmologists are similarly visited by enquires from those who imagine them to be at least on nodding terms with God. I was na´ve to think that a book about Gaia would be taken as science only.

So where do I stand about religion? While still a student I was asked seriously, by a member of the Society of Friends, if I had ever had a religious experience. Not understanding what he meant, imagining that he referred to a manifestation or a miracle, I answered no.

Looking back from 45 years on, I now tend to think that I should have said yes. Living itself is a religious experience. At the time, however, the question was almost meaningless because it implied a separation of life into sacred and secular parts. I now think that there can be no such division.

My thoughts about religion when a child grew from those of my father and the country folk I knew. It was an odd mixture, composed of witches, May trees, and the views expressed by Quakers, in and outside the Sunday school at a Friends' meeting house. Christmas was more of a solstice feast than a Christian one.

We were, as a family, well into the present century, yet still amazingly superstitious. So ingrained was my childhood conditioning about the power of the occult that in later life it took a positive act of will to stop touching wood or crossing fingers whenever some hazard was to be faced. Christianity was there not so much as a faith, rather as a set of sensible directions on how to be good...

What about God? I am too committed to the scientific way of thinking to feel comfortable when enunciating the Creed or the Lord's Prayer in a Christian Church. The insistence of the definition "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth" seems to anesthetize the sense of wonder, as if one were committed to a single line of thought by a cosmic legal contract.

I have kept my doubts in a separate place for too long. Now that I write this chapter, I have to try somehow to explain, to myself as well as to you, what is my religious belief.

I am happy with the thought that the Universe has properties that make the emergence of life and Gaia inevitable. But I react to the assertion that it was created with this purpose. It might have been; but how the Universe and life began are ineffable questions.

When a scientist colleague uses evidence about the Earth eons ago to explain his theory of the origins of life it stirs a similar sense of doubt.

How can the events so long ago that led to the emergence of anything so intricate as life be treated as a fact of science? It is human to be curious about antecedents, but expeditions into the remote past in search of origins is as supremely unimportant as was the hunting of the snark.

The greater part of the information about our origins is with us here and now; so let us rejoice in it and be glad to be alive.

At a meeting in London recently, a wise man, Dr. Donald Braben, asked me: "Why do you stop with the Earth? Why not consider if the Solar System, the Galaxy, or even the Universe is alive?" My instant answer was that the concept of a living Earth, Gaia, is manageable.

We know that there is no other life in this Solar System, and the nearest star is utterly remote.

There must be other Gaias circling other docile long-lived stars but, curious though I may be about them and about the Universe, these are intangible-concepts for the intellect, not the senses. Until, if ever, we are visited from other parts of the Universe we are obliged to remain detached.

Many, I suspect, have trodden this same path through the mind. Those millions of Christians who make a special place in their hearts for the Virgin Mary possibly respond as I do.

The concept of Yahweh as remote, all-powerful, all-seeing is either frightening or unapproachable. Even the sense of presence of a more contemporary God, a still, small voice within, may not be enough for those who need to communicate with someone outside. Mary is close and can be talked to.

She is believable and manageable. It could be that the importance of the Virgin Mary in faith is something of this kind, but there may be more to it. What if Mary is another name for Gaia? Then her capacity for virgin birth is no miracle or parthenogenetic aberration, it is a role of Gaia since life began.

Immortals do not need to reproduce an image of themselves; it is enough to renew continuously the life that constitutes them. Any living organism a quarter as old as the Universe itself and still full of vigor is as near immortal as we ever need to know.

She is of this Universe and, conceivably, a part of God. On Earth she is the source of life everlasting and is alive now; she gave birth to humankind and we are a part of her.

This is why, for me, Gaia is a religious as well as a scientific concept, and in both spheres it is manageable. Theology is also a science, but if it is to operate by the same rules as the rest of science, there is no place for creeds or dogma.

By this I mean theology should not state that God exists and then proceed to investigate his nature and his interactions with the Universe and living organisms. Such an approach is prescriptive, presupposes his existence, and closes the mind to such questions as:

What would the Universe be like without God? How can we use the concept of God as a way to look at the Universe and ourselves? How can we use the concept of Gaia as a way to understanding God?

Belief in God is an act of faith and will remain so. In the same way, it is otiose to try to prove that Gaia is alive. Instead, Gaia should be a way to view the Earth, ourselves, and our relationships with living things.

The life of a scientist who is a natural philosopher can be deeply religious. Curiosity is an intimate part of the process of loving. Being curious and getting to know the natural world leads to a loving relationship with it. It can be so deep that it cannot be articulated, but it is nonetheless good science.

Creative scientists, when asked how they came upon some great discovery, frequently state, "I knew it intuitively, but it took several years work to prove it to my colleagues."

...The myth of the great Mother is part of most early religions. The Mother is a compassionate, feminine figure; spring of all life, of fecundity, of gentleness. She is also the stern and unforgiving bringer of death. As Aldous Huxley reminds in The Human Experience:

In Hinduism, Kali is at once the infinitely kind and loving mother and the terrifying Goddess of destruction, who has a necklace of skulls and drinks the blood of human beings from a skull. This picture is profoundly realistic; if you give life, you must necessarily give death, because life always ends in death and must be renewed through death.

At some time not more than a few thousand years ago the concept of a remote master God, an overseer of Gaia, took root. At first it may have been the Sun, but later it took on the form we have with us now of an utterly remote yet personally immanent ruler of the Universe.

Charlene Spretnak, in her moving and readable book, The Spiritual Dimensions of Green Politics, attributes the first denial of Gaia, the Earth goddess, to the conquest of an earlier Earth-centered civilization by the Sun- worshipping warriors of the invading Indo-European tribes.

Picture yourself as a witness of that decisive moment in history, that is, as a resident of the peaceful, artful, Goddess- oriented culture in Old Europe. (Don't think "matriarchy"! It may have been, but no one knows, and that is not the point.)

It is 4,500 BC. You are walking along a high ridge, looking out across the plains to the east. In the distance you see a massive wave of horsemen galloping towards your world on strange, powerful animals. (The European ancestor of the horse had become extinct.)

They brought few women, a chieftain system, and only a primitive stamping technique to impress their two symbols, the sun and a pine tree.

They moved in waves first into southeastern Europe, later down into Greece, across all of Europe, also into the Middle and Near East, North Africa and India. They brought a sky god, a warrior cult, and patriarchal social order. And that is where we live today-in an Indo-European culture, albeit one that is very technologically advanced.

The evolution of these horsemen to the modern men who ride their infinitely more powerful machines of destruction over the habitats of our partners in Gaia seems only a small step.

The rest of us, in the cozy, comfortable hell of urban life, care little what they do so long as they continue to supply us with food, energy, and raw materials and we can continue to play the game of human interaction.

In ancient times, belief in a living Earth and in a living cosmos was the same thing. Heaven and Earth were close and part of the same body. As time passed and awareness grew of the vast distances of space and time through such inventions as the telescope, the Universe was comprehended and the place of God receded until now it hides behind the Big Bang, claimed to have started it all.

At the same time, as population increased so did the proportion forced to lead urban lives out of touch with Nature. In the past two centuries we have nearly all become city dwellers, and seem to have lost interest in the meaning of both God and Gaia.

As the theologian Keith Ward wrote in the Times in December 1984:

It is not that people know what God is, and have decided to reject him. It seems that very few people even know what the orthodox traditional idea of God, shared by Judaism, Islam and Christianity. is. They have not the slightest idea what is meant by the word God. It just has no sense or possible place in their lives.

Instead they either invent some vague idea of a cosmic force with no practical implications at all; or they appeal to some half-forgotten picture of a bearded super-person constantly interfering with the mechanistic laws of Nature.

I wonder if this is the result of sensory deprivation. How can we revere the living world if we can no longer hear the bird song through the noise of traffic, or smell the sweetness of fresh air?

How can we wonder about God and the Universe if we never see the stars because of the city lights? If you think this to be exaggeration, think back to when you last lay in a meadow in the sunshine and smelt the fragrant thyme and heard and saw the larks soaring and singing.

Think back to the last night you looked up into the deep blue black of a sky clear enough to see the Milky Way, the congregation of stars, our Galaxy.

The attraction of the city is seductive. Socrates said that nothing of interest happened outside its walls and, much later, Dr. Johnson expressed his view of country living as "One green field is like another." Most of us are trapped in this world of the city, an everlasting soap opera, and all too often as spectators, not players.

It is something to have sensitive commentators like Sir David Attenborough bring the natural world with its visions of forests and wilderness to the television screens of our suburban rooms.

But the television screen is only a window and only rarely clear enough to see the world outside; it can never bring us back into the real world of Gaia.

City life reinforces and strengthens the heresy of humanism, that narcissistic devotion to human interests alone. The Irish missionary Sean McDonagh wrote in his book, To Care for the Earth:

"The 20 billion years of God's creative love is either seen simply as the stage on which the drama of human salvation is worked out, or as something radically sinful in itself and needing transformation."

The heartlands of the great religions are now in the last bastions of rural existence, in the Third World of the tropics. Elsewhere God and Gaia that once were joined and respected are now divorced and of no account.

We have, as a species, almost resigned from membership in Gaia and given to our cities and our nations the rights and responsibilities of environmental regulation.

We struggle to enjoy the human interactions of city life yet still yearn to possess the natural world as well. We want to be free to drive into the country or the wilderness without polluting it in so doing; to have our cake and eat it.

Human and understandable such striving may be, but it is illogical. Our humanist concerns about the poor of the inner cities or the Third World, and our near-obscene obsession with death, suffering, and pain as if these were evil in themselves-these thoughts divert the mind from our gross and excessive domination of the natural world...

There are many ways to keep in touch with Gaia. Individual humans are densely populated cellular and endosymbiont collectives, but clearly also identities. Individuals interact with Gaia in the cycling of the elements and in the control of the climate, just like a cell does in the body.

You also interact individually in a spiritual manner through a sense of wonder about the natural world and from feeling a part of it. In some ways this interaction is not unlike the tight coupling between the state of the mind and the body. Another connection is through the powerful infrastructures of human communication and mass transfer...

A frequent misunderstanding of my vision of Gaia is that I champion complacence, that I claim feedback will always protect the environment from any serious harm that humans might do. It is sometimes more crudely put as "Lovelock's Gaia gives industry the green light to pollute at will." The truth is almost diametrically opposite.

Gaia, as I see her, is no doting mother tolerant of misdemeanors, nor is she some fragile and delicate damsel in danger from brutal mankind. She is stern and tough, always keeping the world warm and comfortable for those who obey the rules, but ruthless in her destruction of those who transgress.

Her unconscious goal is a planet fit for life. If humans stand in the way of this, we shall be eliminated with as little pity as would be shown by the micro-brain of an intercontinental ballistic nuclear missile in full flight to its target...