We and Creation: Some paradoxes

24 01 2009

by Fernando Franco

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Mary Cowell is an English woman who has worked as a documentary maker with the BBC. I met her at breakfast and we talked about a subject she loves deeply: ecology and creation. She is here to share her strong feelings about the lack of awareness on issues of ecology in the Church. She told me that “we need to carefully un-pack what we mean when we say we are made in the image and likeness of God; science in the 21st Century is telling us many challenging things about what it is to be human.  DNA science tells us we share 98% of our DNA with a gorilla – our closest relative – but 60% with a fruit fly and 50% with a cabbage.  So what is the face of God?”

I was struck when she asked me pointedly the role of the Society of Jesus in supporting the right view on Ecology. We Jesuits have talked about the earth in the documents of GC 35. The questions however are coming to us faster and more deeply than we ever expected. She added for my own consideration these words:

dsc004754“We are intricately inter-connected with all life and we are part of a web of life rather than a Victorian ‘chain of being’.  What does that mean theologically? It is also challenging to us to acknowledge that if all ‘higher’ animals like top predators and mammals, such as ourselves, were wiped out tomorrow, life on earth would carry on fine without us, with a few adjustments.  But if we destroy the beetles on earth then all life dies in about three months.  We are utterly dependent on creatures we have very little emotional connection with and very often see as unimportant – and for Catholics that is a new challenge to our perceptions.”

She strongly criticized an idealized view of creation, a mere dream or movement to contemplate the “the beauty of creation”. She made her point passionately:

“Indeed it is beautiful, but it is blindly ruthless and that beauty is the result of sheer, unthinking competition.  So what does that tell us about God in all things? What this understanding requires is for us to be humble, to accept facts that challenge us and to consider their implications in the light of faith. Humility is the key word!”

I did get the message. We are too far away from this way of thinking and we need to be humble to be open.

[Editor’s note: read Mary Colwell’s challenging article about “The Future of the Amazon” here]

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2 responses

25 01 2009
Zacharia Chiliswa

in the metaphysical writings of Lonergan on the topic of development i can relate your point when you talk about the interconnectedness of the species inhabiting earth. the problem with our contemporaries is amidst all developmental work, human species has sadly forgotten the interconnectedness and interdependence. my encounter with Lonergan’s work one impressive point he makes is about the cycles of life. what in scientific terms will be ecolology. the higher forms can only survive if the lower forms are.

26 01 2009
Dr. Thomas A. Bausch

Colwell tells us that “creation is blindly ruthless and beauty is the result of sheer unthinking competition.” I do not question what she says, but how do we reconcile that with our Christian distaste for ruthless economic competition, the Chicago school, Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand? Is there not something different, higher in charity and love, in the human person? We are indeed challenged to reconcile and accept our fullness and distinctivness as humans with our unity with all creation.

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