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THE MEANING OF ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS
IN J. G. BENNETT'S THE DRAMATIC UNIVERSE
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ABSTRACT ............... ................. ........ .............. iv
1 IN T R O D U C T IO N ............................................................................. .............. ...
2 THE CALL FOR A NEW PARADIGM OF ENVIRONMENTAL THOUGHT........ 5
In tro du ctio n ....... .................. ....... ... ........................................... .. 5
The Hard Scientists: Eldredge, Leakey, Lewin and Wilson .........................8
The Rational Holists: Lovelock, Barbour and Teilhard............... ............ 12
The Trans-Rational Holists: Berry, W ilber and Bennett..........................................15
Sum m ary ........................................................................................................... 21
N otes ..................................................................................... . . ............. 24
3 EXPLORING THE MEANING OF THE WORD 'ENVIRONMENT'....................26
Introduction ................... .. ................. ... ...................... ...................... 26
Niles Eldredge: Environment as an Ecological Theatre of Evolutionary Process.....28
Leakey and Lewin: Environment as the Stage of Endlessly Changing Life ............30
E. O. Wilson: Environment as the Biological Theatre of Evolutionary Diversity ....32
James Lovelock: Environment as the Planetary Intelligence Called Gaia ................33
Ian Barbour: Environment as the Subject of Healing Dialogue .............................35
Teilhard de Chardin: Environment as an Ever-Deepening Spiritual Integration ......37
Thomas Berry: Environment as an Evolving Cosmic Intelligence .........................39
Ken Wilber: Environment as the Spiritual Ground of Total Integration .................43
An Introduction to J. G. Bennett: The Twin Strands of Evolution and Ecology.......47
J. G. Bennett: The Cosmic Environment of the Domain of Facts.............................49
Sum m ary ..................................... .................. ................ .......... 52
N o te s ...................................... ..................................................... 5 3
4 THE MEANING OF ENVIRONMENTAL VALUES .............. ............... 57
Introduction ................. .......... ........ ................... ..................57
Eldredge and the Need for Realistic Environmental Values ....................................57
Leakey and Lewin and the Supreme Value of Environmental Biodiversity ..............58
Lovelock and the Value of Scientific Curiosity in Knowing the Environment..........62
Barbour and the Value of Rational Dialogue About Environmental Problems..........64
Teilhard de Chardin and the Awakening to Spiritual Value in the Environment.......68
Thomas Berry and the Value of the Environmental Story ...................................70
Ken Wilber and the Value of Integrating All Environmental Perspectives................73
The Cosmic Environment of J. G. Bennett: The Domain of Values .........................75
The Concept of the D om ains ....................................................................................76
The Relevance of Immediate Experience...........................................77
The Interactions Between the Domains of Fact and Value .....................................78
The Act of Assent to Value ............. ............. ....... .......... ... ............ 78
D efinitions of The Essence ....................................................................... 80
S u m m ary .......................................................................................... 8 0
N o te s ............................................................................................. 8 3
5 THE HARMONY OF FACT AND VALUE IN THE ENVIRONMENT .................87
In tro du ctio n ................. .. ........... ................... .......... ... ............ ............... 8 7
Niles Eldredge and the Power of Political Action to Protect the Environment..........88
Leakey and Lewin and the Importance of Safeguarding the Environment ................89
E. O. Wilson and the Practice of Environmental Redemption ................................90
James Lovelock and the Gaia Hypothesis as a Unifying Environmental Vision .......91
Ian Barbour and the Rational Evaluation of Environmental Perspectives .................92
Teilhard de Chardin and the Embrace of the Mystical Environment.........................94
Thomas Berry and the New Ecological Cultural Coding of the Environment ..........95
Ken Wilber and Ubiquitous Context as the Environment of Evolution.................96
J. G. Bennett's Domain of Harmony: The Realization of Environmental Values ..102
The M meaning of W ill in The Dramatic Universe.................................................102
The Meaning of Understanding in The Dramatic Universe ................................103
The Meaning of Transformation in The Dramatic Universe..................................104
The Meaning of Structures in The Dramatic Universe............................. ....106
The Meaning of History in The Dramatic Universe.............................................. 107
The Meaning of Realization in The Dramatic Universe ................ .....................107
Summary .................................................................................. 108
N otes ................. ..................................... ........................... 112
6 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION ..... ..................... ...............116
LIST OF REFEREN CES ........................................... ........................ ............... 119
B IO G R A PH ICA L SK ETCH ......... ................. ...................................... .....................120
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
THE MEANING OF ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS
IN J. G. BENNETT'S THE DRAMATIC UNIVERSE
Chair: Shaya Isenberg
Major Department: Religion
The work of J. G. Bennett provides a cosmic paradigm within which to situate the
contemporary discussion of environmental ethics. It is necessary to note the call for such
a paradigm in the context of writers who share a deep concern about our environmental
problems. It is also important to define precisely what these writers mean by the word
"environment" as it is presented in their respective work. The word "ethics" implies
some sort of valuing process, which is essential to understand in any environmental
discussion. Finally, the practical implications of assigning value to the environment
require tangible commitment and effort on several levels. The delineation of these four
ideas (the calls for a new paradigm of environmental thought, the definitions of the
"environment", the definitions of "values", and the practical implications of assigning
value to the environment) form the substance of this thesis. In addition, the twin themes
of evolution and ecology provide an integrating element to the work as a whole. The
various insights into evolution that each writer highlights lead to a visionary synthesis of
the entire human evolutionary process as visualized by Mr. Bennett. The emerging field
of ecology emphasizes context and relationship as complementary components to the
individuating efforts that characterize evolution, whether as individuals or as species.
One insight pervades this thesis, gathering increasing validity as the vision of each writer
is discussed. This insight involves the inseparability of the evolution of the individual
and the species. Mr. Bennett takes this idea one step further by postulating that our
evolution as a species cannot be separated from the evolution of the biosphere. Quite
naturally, a deeper exploration of Mr. Bennett's conviction leads far beyond the scope of
this thesis, opening the discussion of environmental ethics to the function of our
biosphere in the solar system and the cosmos.
In essence, this is a master's thesis that asks a question: what is the meaning of the
phrase "environmental ethics" in John G. Bennett's The Dramatic Universe (1956, 1961,
1966a, 1966b)? The answer to this question is limited by the methodology of the thesis.
To open a door into the complex thought of Bennett, it has been necessary to approach
his ideas within the context of a discussion-environmental ethics. The sources
consulted in this discussion include Niles Eldredge (1998), Richard Leakey and Roger
Lewin (1995), E. O. Wilson (1992), James Lovelock (1988), Ian Barbour (1990, 1993),
Teilhard de Chardin (1964), Thomas Berry (1988) and Ken Wilber (1998, 2000). Each
of these writers represents a type of insight into our environmental problems, framing
their work according to their respective professional inclinations. As this thesis took
shape, these sources fell into a continuum, forming the basic outline of the thesis.
The work of Eldredge (1998), Leakey and Lewin, (1995) and Wilson (1992)
comprises what could be called "hard" science: carefully planned research and discovery
that is based on strict empirical data. Although all of them stray from these data to
expand the scope of their work, they remain, nonetheless, the most literal and grounded.
Lovelock (1988), Barbour (1990, 1993), Teilhard, (1964) and Berry (1988) naturally fell
into another group whose work expresses the fruit of a dialogue between science and
some form of religious thought. Lovelock's (1988) Earth Mother yearning tempers his
scientific outlook to produce his Gaia hypothesis. Barbour (1990) provides an enormous
body of information about the dialogue between science and religion, with especially
useful insights about environmental ethics (1993). Teilhard's work (1964) resonates with
a strong scientific base that has taken intuitive wings to postulate about our evolutionary
possibilities in relation to the environment.
Thomas Berry (1988) expresses a soulful longing for a new environmental story
that shifts our awareness into a sustainable symbiosis with the living world. He has a
strong sense of history and a clear vision for the changes that must guide our future as a
species. Ken Wilber (1998, 2000) writes with a commitment to integrate his sources into
a compact synthesis that organizes all human knowledge. His work is inspiring and
useful to those who have not already covered this ground in their own research. He
provides a natural segue between the other writers and the work of J. G. Bennett (1956,
1961, 1966a, 1966b). Bennett was a flawed human being with substantial intellectual
powers. His life work was a four-volume outline of all human knowledge called The
Dramatic Universe. This is a massive body of work, difficult to work one's way into and
virtually impossible to grasp in its entirety. Nonetheless, certain strands can be extracted
from The Dramatic Universe for specific purposes of research. The strands that have
proved most useful in this thesis refer to the three domains of Bennett's cosmos: the
domain of fact (all existence); the domain of value (a miraculous 'hidden' dimension);
and the domain of harmony (which unites fact and value).
This thesis has been organized around these three domains. Chapter 2 responds to
the call for a new paradigm of thought about our environment, citing examples from each
writer to substantiate the validity of this thesis. Chapter 3 explains how each of the
authors looks at the environment as an existing reality. It explores the richness of
possible ways of defining the word "environment" with many levels of meaning
emerging to show that the word can be understood in many ways. Chapter 4 analyses the
word "values", especially in relation to the environment: hence, environmental ethics.
Value tends to be implicit (as in the reason one writes a book) and explicit (stated clearly
in the work itself). Both of these aspects of value are considered viable expressions of
each author's insights. Chapter 5 corresponds to Bennett's domain of harmony, where
the domain of facts (the environment) meets the domain of value (environmental ethics).
Its purpose is to discuss practical ways to heal our environment. These "ways" fell into
three broad categories: tangible immediate action (pick up trash, plant trees); educational
action (study, research, teach, write); and mystical action (reflect on the entire situation,
An unexpected unifying element arose in the process of writing: the awareness of
two primary factors that each author considers fundamental. The first of these factors
was the idea of evolution. Remarkably, this notion is rather new in human history; its
uses vary from materialistic to spiritual. Each writer speaks about evolution as one of the
central ideas in his work. The second of these factors was the idea of ecology. It is
conceded that we are moving into a new age and that we must begin to think very
differently about ourselves as individuals and as a species. The tone of this new age is
clearly ecological. Again, definitions vary, but the overwhelming agreement is that we
must learn to listen to and to cooperate with the natural world. The importance of our
species is relative to our understanding of the needs of the species that surround us. We
are being called to recognize interdependence, vulnerability, and compassion as universal
truths that will enable us to survive yet another century.
The work of J. G. Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) provided the backdrop for
the entire thesis. In a sense, everything was molded around his ideas. In another sense,
his ideas were condensed and simplified to fit into an introductory work such as this. The
difficulty with Bennett is in knowing where to begin to express his thought, to tell his
story. It is also challenging to discover errors in his work that represent sheer ignorance.
Nonetheless, a study of Bennett can be highly rewarding in many ways because of the
scope of his intent and the scale of his interests. He thought in cosmic parameters and
dedicated his life to communicating a cosmic vision. His ideas about the biosphere
initially prompted research that was intended to be included in this thesis. This proved to
be impossible because far too much information would have been needed to clarify his
terms. What remains is a beginning effort to show that Bennett did have useful ideas that
can help us to solve our environmental crisis.
THE CALL FOR A NEW PARADIGM OF ENVIRONMENTAL THOUGHT
Does the topic of environmental ethics have a place in the daily lives of ordinary
people? Does it matter if the air we breathe and the water we drink become more
polluted? Is there a connection between the quality of food we eat and the increasing
incidence of cancer? Is environmental ethics a religious issue-something that is of
ultimate concern, affecting us in our choices of right and wrong? Does it matter what
kind of world we leave for our children and grandchildren to inherit? Can any one of us
honestly admit that our only interest in the environment is the raw materials we extract
from it? Of course not: to some extent, every human being must feel appreciation for the
beauty and grandeur of the natural world. In truth, most of us are minimally aware that
we are absolutely dependent on nature for everything we have as living beings. We are
inseparable from the natural world of our environment. It is as impossible to survive
without the environment, as it is to live without food or water or air. We are as much the
children of our natural environment as we are children of our biological parents; we owe
the environment a debt with every breath we take, with every drop of water we use, with
every bite of food we eat.
The purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate that a collective voice is emerging
that is calling for a new relationship between humanity and the environment. This
collective voice includes disciplined empirical scientists, lovers of nature, religious
thinkers and dedicated philosophers. These writers come from different backgrounds and
tell their stories in different ways. And yet, a common theme is shared by all of them:
we must pay more attention to our relationship with the environment. Remarkably, the
tone of their stories resonates to a shared feeling of reverence for nature. Does a clearly
marked dividing line exist between science and religion? The sources cited in this thesis
apparently do not believe in the conventional assumptions by which we often separate
scientific and religious thought. In fact, the scientists often sound like preachers,
passionately urging us to change our behavior toward the environment-or suffer the
consequences. The religious thinkers and the philosophers insist that our evolution as
individuals, and as a species, is intimately related to our relationship with the natural
world. All of these writers stress that we must begin to think of ourselves as one
community with the world that surrounds us. We are all one big family.
If we care about the quality of our air, our water, and our food, we share the
concerns of the writers upon whose work this thesis is based. These concerns challenge
our notions of science and religion, requiring us to re-think their meanings. Is God
separate from the natural world? Are other species of animals and plants here only for
our exploitation, and no more? Are we obligated to give anything back to the
environment if we take something out of it? Should we be held responsible for our
destruction of nature? Can we improve our relationship with the environment by
assuming a role of stewardship toward it? Are human beings the only species that
matters, with all other forms of life simply here to serve our purposes? These are critical
questions and the resounding response from all of these writers is unanimous and
affirmative: we must begin to think about more than our own species. We must change
our relationship with the environment. At present, in so many ways, we treat the
environment like a slave to be exploited mercilessly until it dies. This must change. We
must begin to see the environment as an equal, worthy of respect and dignity. We must
begin to be religious about our relationship with the environment, even from the
perspective of scientists.
This chapter has been divided into three sections, with several writers grouped in
each. The "hard" scientists include Eldredge (1998), Leakey and Lewin (1995), and
Wilson (1992). All of them research and write about life and evolution within strict
empirical parameters, telling their stories of what they are seeing about the relationship of
our species to the rest of life on this planet. The rational holists include Lovelock (1988),
Barbour (1990, 1993), and Teilhard (1964). Their primary interest is to initiate a
dialogue about the way our species thinks about this planet and the place of our species in
it. This dialogue challenges the separation of science and religion, exploring common
ground and delineating differences. The trans-rational holists include Berry (1988),
Wilber, (1998, 2000) and J. G. Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b). All three of these
writers share a deep interest in science and fully respect its methods and its findings.
They also believe science has its place and should not usurp the intangible discoveries
upon which religious convictions are based. These three final writers could be called
scientists of the spirit. They share the scientific passion for organization of ideas, but
they all refuse to accept the empirical limitations of the scientific method, which they
believe to be superficial when applied outside of its proper boundaries.
The method of this chapter is to focus specifically on each author's call for a new
paradigm of thought in our relationship to the environment. This call will challenge the
boundaries of strict empirical science. As these boundaries become more porous, or
expand, each writer will contribute a religious element to the discussion. A new sense of
what it means to be scientific and religious will emerge, with an increasing awareness
that we cannot continue to separate science and religion as we have in the past. The call
for a new paradigm of environmental thought is really an invocation to change the way
we look at the world. The changes that these writers call for include a shift from an
obsession with evolution toward an awareness of the principles of ecology. They call for
more and better dialogue between scientists and theologians in order to clarify the
respective positions and responsibilities of their disciplines. They also call for an
integration of the scientific method and religious practice in which both can benefit from
each. The single goal of these writers is to guide the reader to see that we live as one
species in a great flow of life from which we can no longer isolate ourselves. We must
embrace the totality of existence both as scientific thinkers and as religious beings.
The Hard Scientists: Eldredge, Leakey, Lewin and Wilson
The issue of increasing loss of biological diversity (biodiversity) of species on this
planet is of profound concern to life scientists such as Eldredge (1998), who are capable
of seeing the human species without identifying with it. Eldredge (1998) feels that we
ought to be concerned about the fact that we have affected our planet more powerfully
than any other species. The human competitive edge in the dynamic balance of nature
began to emerge in a dominant manner with the invention of agriculture about 10,000
years ago.1 This placed human beings outside of local ecosystems2 and triggered the
population explosion, which is the root cause of the biodiversity crisis.3 The message of
Eldredge's book, Life In The Balance: Humanity and The Biodiversity Crisis (1998) is
simple: we must see that the loss of biodiversity signals destruction of our environment
and, ultimately, our species. The logical progression of Eldredge's thought (1998) is
easily reconstructed. "To live off our own cultivars (the agricultural revolution), we must
disassemble original ecosystems",4 thereby destroying biodiversity. These local
ecosystems, like species, are parts of larger-scale systems with the biosphere as the total
global ecosystem.5 The cumulative destruction of local ecosystems is eroding the
integrity of the entire biosphere with the inevitable loss of environmental stability,
ultimately threatening the existence of our species.
What Eldredge (1998) is calling for is respect for the importance of biodiversity,
which must begin with an acknowledgment of the primary role of local ecosystems in the
biosphere. This will require scientists (especially biologists) to recognize that the
evolutionary process is not merely a struggle among species-it includes an awareness of
ecosystems. A local ecosystem is much more than the organisms that compose it: it is
flowing energy itself, including inorganic components. The ecosystem is a place where
energy flows constantly from one living component to another. These living components
include, but are not limited to, local populations of species.6 The heart of the evolutionary
process lies squarely inside local ecosystems, with natural selection recording the winners
and losers.7 Plants are truly the heart and soul of terrestrial ecosystems8 because they
define and control so much life through the process of photosynthesis.9 The negative side
of human population growth has been our isolation from local ecosystems. The massive
impact of this isolation on a global scale may have terrible consequences for coming
generations. Eldredge (1998) wants us to understand how the enormity of this impact is a
direct and cumulative effect of the destruction of our local ecosystems.10
Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin (1995) challenge anthropocentric notions in The
Sixth Extinction. They emphasize that Homo sapiens is but one species in the flow of
life." They question the belief that human beings occupy the pinnacle of the evolutionary
process, because this assumes that the evolutionary qualities that we value are superior to
the rest of nature.12 Leakey and Lewin (1995) believe that we are in the midst of a
seismic shift in thinking about the nature of the world we live in-an intellectual
revolution.13 They insist that we are facing a crisis of our own making and if we fail to
negotiate it with vision we will lay a curse of unimaginable magnitude on future
generations.14 Both authors urge us to see ourselves and the earth's biota as an
interactive whole that we can no longer afford to exploit with impunity.15 Leakey and
Lewin (1995) ask us to reflect upon two perspectives. The first perspective is our
miniscule place as a species in the great flow of life. The second perspective is our
absolute dependence upon the other aspects of our environment: the earth systems in
their entirety and the other species that provide us with ecosystem services that are truly
of inestimable value.
E. O. Wilson (1992) is a widely quoted socio-biologist with a special interest in ant
populations. His book, The Diversity of Life (1992) resonates with the work of Eldredge
(1998), and Leakey and Lewin (1995) in their mutual concern for the loss of biodiversity.
While posing as a strict scientist, he writes with deep ethical convictions about right and
wrong. His primary concern is our lack of perspective about the future. He wants us to
begin to think much further ahead, with a time scale longer than we are accustomed to
apply.16 This makes sense: if we continue to think only about what we can take from our
environment, we will never wake up to the fact that we are destroying species every hour
of every day. Significantly, Wilson (1992) believes that we must begin to evaluate right
and wrong outside of the box of specific professional interests. The evidence for this is
the rapidity with which we are changing the environment around us. He asserts that we
must find a way to preserve the health of our species and the environment, and that this
new paradigm must be an enduring one. Oddly, he equates this call for a new paradigm
with the preservation of the freedom of our species and with the emergence of the human
spirit itself17 For Wilson (1992), the profession of biology seems to include an ethical
and spiritual dimension as well as a scientific one.
These "hard" scientists all share a conviction that the loss of biodiversity is a
dangerous omen that could ultimately lead to the extinction of our species. Eldredge
(1998) sees hope in the recognition of the importance of plants in local ecosystems, with
a special emphasis upon populations of species in the perpetual movements of ecological
dynamics. Leakey and Lewin (1995) invoke new insights from evolutionary biology and
ecology to stress the importance of historical contingency in the evolution of species and
ecosystems. They urge us to begin thinking more holistically about these processes, with
increasing awareness of global factors. Wilson (1992) appeals to the need for a radically
new ethical platform from which to dialogue about environmental problems. He sees an
entirely new discipline emerging to address issues that are far beyond the parameters of
any single discipline.18 These scientists share a deep concern for the environment and call
for an entirely new way of thinking about the problems of the loss of biodiversity and
environmental degradation. This new way of thinking signifies a profound shift in the
way empirical science looks at the world. This shift is moving toward the recognition of
ecological relationships as populations of species, not merely single species, and as the
spatial context of those relationships, which ultimately includes the biosphere, the planet
and the solar system.
The Rational Holists: Lovelock, Barbour and Teilhard
In his introduction to Lovelock's The Ages of Gaia (1988), Lewis Thomas states
that we are in a new world, alive with information, in which everything is becoming more
accessible and bewildering: there is not just more to be learned, there is everything to be
learned.19 Lovelock (1988) admits that his book stretches the limits of modern scientific
credibility20 and that he wrote it as a form of entertainment for himself and his readers.21
He expresses a concern for the "tribalism" that isolates scientific disciplines22 and
visualizes an alternative way of thinking about our environmental problems. This
alternative corresponds to the physiological approach to medicine, which diagnoses a
patient as a holistic assembly of systems. Lovelock (1988) proposes the creation of a
new science called planetary physiology-a general practice for diagnosis and treatment
of planetary ailments23-which could serve as a developmental guide as research
discloses new and more integrated patterns of information.24 This new scientific
discipline would answer the call for a new paradigm of environmental thought among
those who yearn for a more holistic approach to the study of our environment and its
It is important to note that Lovelock (1988) deeply respects the scientific method
and deplores those who overlook the crucial role of scientific analysis in its processes.25
He wants to be listened to as a trained scientist whose particular insight can guide us to
looking at our environment in a new way. Lovelock (1988) calls the planetary
intelligence Gaia, whose unconscious function is to keep our planet fit for life.26 Gaia is
not a synonym for the biosphere (that part of the terrestrial earth where living things
normally exist), nor is Gaia the biota (the collection of all living individual organisms).27
Lovelock (1988) has placed himself in an odd position, although he might be the ideal
spokesperson for his vision. As a scientist, he calls attention to the scientific community,
albeit with a somewhat skeptical reception. As a visionary, he attracts the interest of
holistic thinkers who share his intuition of an integrated planetary intelligence. Yet
Lovelock's (1988) vision is slightly vague, as if he himself is not exactly sure of his
premises. In essence, he simply states that Gaia differs from the living crop of earth as
you and I differ from our population of living cells.28
Ian Barbour (1990, 1993) is deeply concerned about our relationship as a species to
the environment, as his careful and extensive research reveals. His call for a new
paradigm of thought about this relationship rests upon a studied dialogue between various
voices that represent science, religion and a process philosophy that attempts to combine
these two major fields. It is implicit in his work that he believes dialogue between
science and religion is important. Barbour (1990, 1993) explicitly states that these two
major categories of human thought speak unrelated languages because they have totally
different functions; that neither should be judged by the standards of the other.29 He
affirms that both disciplines make claims about realities beyond the human world, which
is nonetheless one and the same world.30 Therefore, Barbour (1990, 1993) calls for a
search for a unified worldview that will provide us with a coherent interpretation of all
human experience. In other words, he wants to formulate common ground for discussing
the widely differing perspectives of science and religion through the unifying capabilities
Barbour's (1990, 1993) difficulty lies in his methodology. He tries to incorporate
far too many viewpoints into his dialogues. The reader remains unconvinced about his
purposes: is he attempting some sort of linguistic experiment? Is he compiling a
catalogue about various ways of discussing science and religion? Is he surreptitiously
promoting Whitehead's process philosophy, which assumes increasing importance as the
lengthy narrative progresses? It is difficult to locate Barbour's (1990, 1993) own thought
in his book, although a few original observations occasionally appear in the brief
summaries that are scattered throughout the book. Moreover, the book as a whole lacks
an overriding organizational principle. He calls for philosophical categories to unify
science and religion31, hoping to find a comprehensive metaphysics32 that never emerges
in the book. Yet Barbour's (1990, 1993) intentions are sincere and he does successfully
raise many points about the similarities and differences between science and religion. He
warns us that our search for a new paradigm of environmental thought must not distort
either science or religion in the attempt to encompass the full reality of human
experience. We must always remember that the rich diversity of human experience can
never be forced into a neat intellectual system.33
Teilhard de Chardin (1964) was a religious thinker with a scientific bent who
intuited many ideas about the human evolutionary process, both for individuals and for
the species at large. His influence is wide and his ideas have been adapted by many
futuristic thinkers who share his concern with the outcome of our present conflicts in the
form of wars and environmental destruction. He was an optimist who believed that these
problematic elements are evolutionary speed bumps on our way to a profound and
unimaginably wonderful spiritual unity "in the bosom of a tranquil ocean, of which each
drop will be conscious of being itself'34 He foresaw an increasing attraction to "a
theoretical system, a rule of action, a religion and a presentiment [which] denotes the
effective physical fulfillment of all living beings".35 He acknowledged that "a profound
need for unity pervades the world"36 and that "an effort has been made to formulate and
crystallize, in a series of abstract propositions" some semblance of what this unity could
be, presumably in his own work.37 The evolutionary movement toward unity on ever
higher levels of realization pervades The Future of Man (1964) like a mystical bird rising
through the heavens in ever-increasing spirals.
Teilhard (1964) recapitulates a recurring theme in his book concerning the human
possibility of interiorization, unique among all created beings, through which humanity
imposes a moral order upon itself and "mysticizes" itself.38 In general agreement with
evolutionary biologists, Teilhard (1964) affirms that we learn to organize ourselves in
ever more complex patterns-physically, psychologically and spiritually.39 Teilhard's
(1964) entire essay is a call for a new paradigm of thought. The relationship of his
thought to environmental issues is direct because he is concerned with the process of
unification-individually, as a species and as a planet. Teilhard (1964) was convinced
that everything, especially the human species, is evolving in the awareness of "another
dimension in which variation and growth are still possible".40 It is in this interior
dimension that we reorganize ourselves on all levels to accommodate the impending
changes that will be required to bring Teilhard's (1964) vision of unity into being on our
earth. His contribution to the call for a new paradigm of environmental thought is the
specific invocation of the interior aspect of the human experience that can be opened by
introspection and reflection.
The Trans-Rational Holists: Berry, Wilber and Bennett
Thomas Berry (1988) prefers to visualize the journey of human life through the
concept of "the story". His thorough Christian theological training was not sufficient to
answer his concerns about the larger problems that humanity is confronted with,
especially our destruction of the environment. He laments that our story has changed:
we no longer know its meaning or how to benefit from its guidance.41 It is Berry's (1988)
conviction that a new historical vision is emerging to guide us on our way to a more
creative future. As he sees it, the primary issue is changing the structure and function of
human society-not the fall of civilization or the need to extricate humans from the
controlling forces of the material world.42 Berry (1988) claims that we need an awareness
of the deeper meaning of the relationship between the human community and the earth
process.43 He believes that we are presently experiencing a change of unprecedented
magnitude in the history of humanity that is not simply another historical change or
cultural modification, but of a geological, biological and psychological order of
Berry's (1988) "new story" depends upon our human identity with the entire
cosmic process.45 He is convinced that the move from an anthropocentric sense of reality
to a biocentric norm is essential46 if we are to awaken to the ecological age as the only
viable form of the millennial ideal.47 Berry (1988) is deeply involved in his visualization
of a new paradigm. His repeated calls for radical transformation of what it means to be
human in an age of environmental crisis cement his position as a spokesperson for a new
environmentalism. Like Barbour (1990, 1993), Berry (1988) also believes that we need
to formulate a new language48 to express our deepest concerns about the industrial forces
that continue to ruin the landscape. Yet the impression that lingers from reading Berry
(1988) is a confused mixture of romantic idealism and quiet outrage. Of course he
appreciates the natural world with a deep and abiding affection, but who among us who
makes the effort to read his work does not share this affection? His insights into the
historical forces that have caused environmental destruction are valuable, but what does
he propose we do with the information? All in all, the new language that Berry (1988)
calls for is still unformulated, at least within his own work. Overall, his work is a true
and honest call for a new paradigm of environmental thought that reads more like lyric
poetry than a new cosmology.
Wilber's book, The Marriage of Sense and Soul (1998) is a response to the call for
a new paradigm of thought in the integration of science and religion. By way of
explanation within the context of an integrated metaphor, Wilber's (1998, 2000) work
can be spoken of as a process of opening our eyes to see what evolution has wrought
through the ages of our collective transformations. In line with his overall outline,
Wilber states that we have a problem: we are only seeing partially due to various
historical factors whose clarification, reconciliation and integration is the purpose of his
book. In a nutshell, the story of history from an anthropocentric perspective can be
visualized as a process of learning to see. As Wilber (1998, 2000) describes it, we are
learning to open our eyes to some form of light and to differentiate various realms of
perception. In its broadest parameters, this light can be described as the tangible light of
the sensory realm, the rational light of the mental realm and the spiritual radiance of the
realm of unqualified transcendent unity. The struggles of Western history represent a
continuing struggle of learning to see from these three radically different perspectives.
Wilber's book (1998) begins by stating that we have a problem. Science and
religion have bifurcated our collective perception of reality, generating a schizophrenic
mindset that is calling for integration in the form of our contemporary problems. These
problems take the primary forms of war, environmental degradation and overpopulation
with its attendant poverty and disease. Our collective mindset has created "a violent
schism...in the internal organs of today's global culture".49 The core of this schism is
essentially a polarized collective mentality that has taken two extreme psychological
positions: science and religion. It is Wilber's (1998) contention that the "marriage" of
these two vast disciplines can reconcile the major problems that plague our world by
restoring religion's sense of value, meaning and purpose to the cold facts of the logical
realm of science. He follows a simple line of logic in this courtship. Wilber (1998,
2000) suggests that we extract the benefits of the scientific method from empirical
analysis and apply that method to test the validity of religious assumptions.
The call for a new paradigm of environmental thought in Wilber's essay (1998) is
reflected in his description of the "problem" of empirical science. Generally speaking,
we have been conditioned to believe that the material realm of sensory perception is the
only "real" world. The subjective aspects of our experience have been ignored by design
by Western culture, leaving us in the dark about matters of the mind and spirit.50 Our
mental and spiritual eyes have been progressively sealed shut as "scientific materialism
became the dominant official philosophy of the modern West".51 While acknowledging
the valid contributions of each realm of knowing to the total body of human knowledge,
Wilber (1998, 2000) labors to create a total synthesis of these ways of knowing. The new
paradigm of environmental thought that he proposes begins with the perceptual
possibilities of each of us. Wilber (1998, 2000) guides us to look at the environment as a
physical reality, as a psychological construct that mirrors our own mental condition and
as a spiritual presence that cannot be reduced to material exploitation.
John G. Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) was acutely aware of the intellectual
constraints of modem Western thought. He describes in detail the unfortunate
consequences of anthropocentric thought, scientific materialism and the dualistic Indo-
European language base. Bennett believed that we are passing out of the Megalanthropic
epoch which has been characterized by an exaggerated significance of man's powers of
cognition and action, including a quest for the absolute, the final, the universal, the ideal
and the perfect.52 He also predicted that we are passing out of the epoch of separateness;
and entering a period when our chief concern will be to see how we can live together on
this planet as a single human society.53 In terms of the call for a new paradigm of
environmental thought, Bennett addressed the question deeply and envisioned what can
only be described as a cosmic response. This response to our environmental problems
speaks to our human condition with an urgent call for us to change the way we look at the
world and ourselves. The Dramatic Universe shares Teilhard's (1964) hope for an
evolutionary unification, but Bennett also warns about the other side of the story-the
possibility of self-destruction.
Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) realized that we live in a world of hazard: "no
account of man and his world would be worth much that did not give full weight to the
reality of uncertainty, and show the way beyond it".54 He cultivated a profound respect
for the progress of modem science, while remaining deeply concerned about the social
and cultural consequences of the scientific worldview. Quoting Heinemann, Bennett
includes scientists in his indictment of those who subscribe to the monomorphic fallacy-
the assumption that there is only one kind of truth-when, in reality, fact and truth are
polymorphic.55 He believed that the continuing influence of the language of scientific
materialism has created confusion due to the inadequacy of our modes of thought: we
continue to think in terms of atomic concepts linked by logical implications and empirical
laws.56 This linguistic habit produces a psychological division into "things" and their
"behavior" which destroys a mental structure that must be built up again by a mental
process.5 Bennett asks the reader to consider that our confidence in the scientific
method is based upon the unexpressed conviction that organized structure holds together
the diverse complexity of phenomena, connecting all parts to the whole, to each other and
to the scientist himself58
As a result of our conditioning by the concepts of science, Bennett (1956, 1961,
1966a, 1966b) believed that we continue to think and to speak analytically, and
atomistically, but that we act structurally-that is, in terms of wholeness.59 The
significance of this distinction is central to the message Bennett intends to communicate,
which rests upon discerning the difference between two primary modes of perceiving the
world. In his opinion, we must learn to perceive the world not only by the automatic and
analytic processes of knowing, but also by the synthetic and creative processes of
understanding.60 This key distinction provides a primary foundation upon which his call
for a new paradigm of thought is constructed. In terms of our relationship as a species to
the environment, Bennett suggests that the central problem of environmental exploitation
is the ease with which we relegate the biosphere to an external collection of things,
overlooking the life processes that cannot be reduced so easily to objects. In simpler
terms, we have been conditioned to perceive analytically, without feeling the qualities
that enable us to value the natural world as more than commodities.
Finally, Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) was convinced that "the essentially
dyadic character of Indo-European languages with their subject-predicate construction
reflects the dualistic nature of man at the present stage of evolution".61 He is calling for a
radical re-evaluation of our place as a species in the universe, which includes a profound
re-awakening to the possibilities of direct perception. Like the other writers cited in this
thesis, Bennett agreed that we must learn to see our species as one of many on this planet.
He also was convinced that humanity has tremendous spiritual potential that can only be
awakened by conscious self-transformatory work. A major step in this awakening
process is learning to recognize the debilitating influences of religious anthropocentrism
and scientific materialism, especially as sources of linguistic confusion. The apparent
simplicity of the two primary modes of human perception-knowing and
understanding-can mask deeply significant differences in our capacities for realizing
our human potential. The following chapters of this thesis will deconstruct the difference
in perceptual worlds that emerge from knowing without understanding-and vice versa.
The final chapter will discuss the harmony of knowing about the environment as fact and
understanding the value of qualities that emerge in synchronicity with perceptions of the
environment. The domain of harmony is Bennett's response to the call for a new
paradigm of environmental thought.
The "hard" scientists express their dismay at the indifference of the world to their
scientific discoveries regarding the significance of the loss of biodiversity. They ask
humanity to consider the statistical evidence that predicts our demise as a species if we
continue to destroy the environment. The writers cited in this thesis call for the
recognition of ecological principles that will require us to acknowledge all species as our
family in one environmental home. Lovelock (1988) wants us to visualize a presiding
intelligence that integrates and harmonizes all planetary processes. Barbour (1990, 1993)
believes that we can benefit by discussing the similarities, and differences, of science and
religion. Teilhard (1964) shares his visualization of an evolutionary unity that will come
eventually, dependent entirely upon our capacity to reflect upon our human condition.
The twin themes of evolution and ecology weave through their narratives like the double
strand of a DNA spiral, integrating their individual and collective stories.
Berry (1988) calls for a new environmental story that will restore some of the
ancient mythic dignity to our lives. He blends tribal wisdom with the scientific method,
cemented by powerful theological convictions. Although he repeatedly calls for a new
cosmology within which to place his vision, his approach to formulating a cosmic
perspective remains elementary. Wilber (1998, 2000) has a clear methodology in his
attempt to integrate science and religion. His work from beginning to end is an endlessly
repeated tape-loop that calls for the unification of these two major modes of human
thought. His work can be useful for beginners who need a vocabulary for discussing such
a synthesis. He diagnoses various approaches to holistic thought with candid foresight,
calling for agreement on what we are doing with the environment before we try to heal it.
Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) wore many hats in his life's work. He was a
businessman, philosopher, mathematician, writer, teacher and historian. The Dramatic
Universe (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) was his major effort, accompanied by about 25
books of commentary on his thought, most of them practical applications of his ideas.
Some of his ideas appear to be superficial in hindsight and his observations about the
human species were pessimistic. He formulated a vision of the human condition that
surpasses the parameters of both science and religion by embracing both simultaneously.
The remainder of this thesis will explore the application of his ideas to environmental
1. Eldredge, Life In The Balance, vii.
2. Ibid., viii.
3. Ibid., x.
4. Ibid., 145.
5. Ibid., 56.
6. Ibid., 55.
7. Ibid., 57.
8. Ibid., 108.
9. Ibid., 107.
10. Ibid., 151.
11. Leakey and Lewin, The Sii\ih Extinction, 6.
12. Ibid., 78.
13. Ibid., 67.
14. Ibid., 90.
15. Ibid., 109.
16. Ibid., 312;
17. Ibid., 351.
18. Ibid., 312.
19. Lovelock, The Ages of Gaia, 2.
20. Ibid., 3.
21. Ibid., 14.
22. Ibid., 112.
23. Ibid., 155.
24. Ibid., 141.
25. Ibid., 265.
26. Ibid., 263.
27. Ibid., 19.
28. Ibid., 97.
29. Barbour, Religion In An Age of Science, 13.
30. Ibid., 16.
31. Ibid., 27.
32. Ibid., 28.
33. Ibid., 30.
34. Teilhard De Chardin, The Future ofMan, 307-308.
35. Ibid., 21.
36. Ibid., 23.
37. Ibid., 190.
38. Ibid., 212.
39. Ibid., 234.
40. Ibid., 16.
41. Berry, The Dream Of The Earth, xi, introduction by Brian Swimme.
42. Ibid., xii-xiii.
43. Ibid., 10.
44. Ibid., 11.
45. Ibid., 17.
46. Ibid., 30.
47. Ibid., 33.
48. Ibid., 42.
49. Ibid., Wilber, A Marriage of Sense and Soul, 4.
50. Ibid., 7.
51. Ibid., 10.
52. Bennett, The Dramatic Universe, Volume I, 18. Hereafter in this thesis, the
volume numbers of Bennett's work will simply be listed as I, II, III, or IV.
53. Ibid., 5.
54. Ibid., III, 64.
55. Ibid., 78.
56. Ibid., 173.
57. Ibid., 205.
58. Ibid., 163.
59. Ibid., 166.
60. Ibid., 179.
61. Ibid., 23.
EXPLORING THE MEANING OF THE WORD 'ENVIRONMENT'
According to Webster, the word 'environment' means "all the physical, social, and
cultural factors and conditions influencing the existence or development of an organism
or assemblage of organisms".1 The Earth Science Glossary states that "the environment is
the sum of all external conditions affecting the life, development and survival of an
organism".2 The PAE glossary (Plants, Animals and The Environment) is more inclusive
in its definition: "the environment is the circumstances or conditions that surround an
organism or group of organisms as well as the complex of social or cultural conditions
that affect an individual or community".3 The European Union defines it this way:
"environment is the combination of elements whose complex interrelationships make up
the settings, the surroundings and the conditions of life of the individual and of society,
as they are or as they are felt".4 The Environmental Protection Agency defines
environment as "the complex of physical, chemical and biotic factors (as climate, soil and
living things) that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately
determine its form and survival; the circumstance, objects, and conditions that surround
each of us".5 All of these definitions emphasize the surrounding circumstances-the total
community of influences-that affect living organisms, including human beings.
The writers mentioned in chapter one all agree that the environment is supremely
important. Most of them consider the environment to be limited to this planet, equating it
to the biosphere. The "hard" scientists focus primarily upon the story of evolution, with
increasing attention to insights from the science of ecology. Their shared concern is the
implications of the loss of biodiversity for our species and our environment. The rational
holists see the environment as the primary focus of a reasoning dialogue that must occur
if we are to survive. The trans-rational holists universalize the environment, framing it
within a cosmic context. This is an intuitive process in the work of Teilhard (1964) and
Berry (1988). Wilber (1998, 2000) approaches the universalizing process rationally, with
a trans-rational goal of integrating all rational perspectives. Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a,
1966b) addresses the environmental crisis as a spiritual challenge of perception that
confronts our belief systems and our institutions. He is asking us to prepare to examine
our experience carefully in order to reflect upon it with accuracy and intelligence.
The themes of evolution and ecology weave their way through the work of these
writers, providing an organizational principle as well as a powerful synthesis. The linear
Western idea of evolution as a progressive improvement of the species, which leads to an
ultimate positive goal, is being challenged by a non-linear transformational view. The
challenges to the traditional evolutionary views parallel the emergence of ecology as a
new way of looking at the environment and its problems. The evolutionary view is
species oriented, with empirical science generally ignoring the context in which species
live. The non-linear view of evolution studies the transformations within a given context,
less obsessed with a specific goal than with harmony of process. The concept of the ideal
is giving way to a deep interest in spatial nesting and living contexts. Bennett (1956,
1961, 1966a, 1966b) intuited this shift from evolution with its absolutes toward ecology
with its relativities: a new age with new priorities is upon us.
The following discussions review each author's fundamental message within the
topic of environmental concern, briefly explaining how each perceives the environment.
The complementary narratives of evolution and ecology provide a backdrop for
explaining our place as a species in the great flow of life. A particular element of each
writer's viewpoint has been highlighted by way of introduction. These elements will
reveal deeply unifying commonalities between the views of empirical science, of rational
programs of synthesis and of more universal modes of holistic thought. Bennett (1956,
1961, 1966a, 1966b) is not easily accessible, nor is his work capable of being simplified
to a few diagrammatic principles. The meaning of the word "biosphere" in The Dramatic
Universe requires significant explanatory material regarding what he calls "the domain of
facts". Any discussion of the environment in relation to his work must begin with his
natural philosophy-the first volume of The Dramatic Universe (1956). The method of
this chapter will be to demonstrate how certain elements from each source coincide with
Bennett's ideas about what the environment is and how it functions.
Niles Eldredge: Environment as an Ecological Theatre of Evolutionary Process
When Eldredge (1998) uses the word "environment" (in Life In The Balance), he is
clearly referring to the biosphere, the terrestrial home of our planet's myriad life-forms,
including human beings. The singular point of Eldredge's (1998) message is always
leading to one poignant theme: the tragic consequences of human domination of the
environment via the "success" of the agricultural revolution and contemporary
overpopulation. This theme is elaborated as an evolutionary tale by which human
intelligence has been increasingly culturally contrived since we inhabited the margins of
woodlands and savannahs. It was there that we originally learned to hunt, to ward off
predators, to find and make shelter and to build fires for warmth, protection and food
preparation.6 Evolutionary biology is changing its mind about the relationship of
environment to species. Once it was believed that species simply followed
environmental changes in order to survive. Science is now exploring the extent to which
plant and animal species actually contribute to the creation of the environment.
It is now conceded that ecological systems are never closed or isolated. The edges
of ecosystems are inherently fuzzy because local ecosystems are dynamic, connected by
energy flowing across blurred boundaries, irrevocably linking them with their neighbors.8
The science of ecology studies ecosystems as parts of larger-scale systems that are linked
in a smaller-within-larger fashion, with the biosphere as the global ecosystem.9 Thus
evolutionary and ecological systems are like opposite sides of the same coin,
fundamentally different, yet linked by processes.10 Biodiversity also has two sides: all
species are linked in a complex hierarchical network of evolutionary kinship. Each
species has its own unique dynamic for survival, yet all are mutually related and
interdependent. Eldredge (1998) insists that the heart of the evolutionary process lies
squarely inside local ecosystems in the daily struggle for survival."1 In essence, evolution
is inseparable from ecology: both are dependent upon each other. What Eldredge (1998)
stresses is that our small local ecosystems are inextricably linked to the global ecosystem,
or biosphere. As we destroy these local ecosystems, we also progressively destroy our
own chances for survival as a species. Evolution is not about the dominance of a single
species; it concerns multiple species and their contexts. The global ecosystem changes to
adapt to the influence of species, including human beings. As it adapts to us, we are also
forced to adapt to it-modifying it to suit current conditions.12 Eldredge (1998) is
concerned that we may be exhausting our capacity to adapt to the environment we are
Leakey and Lewin: Environment as the Stage of Endlessly Changing Life
It is difficult to conceive of a time or a worldview in which the idea of evolution
was ignored in favor of the belief in a divine design behind all of creation. Darwin
clearly tipped the scales in favor of a naturalistic perspective: the struggle for existence
within and among species through natural selection, which accorded well with the
prevailing Western ethos of success through effort.13 Darwin visualized a natural world in
which organism were at war with each other.14 He looked to external influences as
shapers of the world15 and vigorously denied mass extinctions.16 All three of these
notions about evolution are now considered primitive and naive, clearly indicating that
the same biological record can be interpreted in so many ways.17 Evolutionary biology
and ecology are now investigating the importance of relationships among species as an
essential condition for survival. The idea of adaptation to external influences is being
reconsidered in terms of larger patterns of historical contingency. And the once ridiculed
idea of mass extinctions is presently believed to accurately reflect geological history.
Ecology can be defined as the interaction of species in communities.18 Leakey and
Lewin (1995) assert that the true nature of the world is revealed by the relationships
among species in present and former communities.19 This idea is dramatically opposed to
Darwin's idea of competition among species, with the dominance of winners over losers.
Darwin's idea that external influences determine the evolution of a species is countered
by the ecological tenet that there are an infinite range of potential patterns regarding the
assemblage, behavior and characteristics of an ecological community.20 A primary goal
of the science of ecology is to detect these patterns and to explain the causal processes
that underlie them. A strong correlation seems to exist between biological patterning and
the physical patterns that shape the material environment of a place,21 which may lend
some credence to Darwin, albeit from another direction. Ecologists generally agree that
erratic behavior in the internal dynamics of an ecosystem (chaos) can be a positive force
that promotes biodiversity.22 The complex and transformatory dynamics that flow within
ecosystems are as important as external influences.23 This demonstrates that the inner
cannot be separated from the outer, even in biology.
Evolutionary biology and ecology are changing the way we study the environment.
The trend is moving from linear perspectives to more holistic investigation.
Environmental stability is much more a matter of interaction among species than of
superior qualities within a single species.24 This insight implies that habitat destruction
has far greater implications than the loss of a few species: it fragments the context of
speciation itself with repercussions throughout adjoining ecosystems. Leakey and Lewin
(1995) suggest that dynamic change is the hallmark of nature and the cause of
biodiversity.25 As the human species endangers other species by direct exploitation (such
as hunting), by biological havoc (such as introducing alien species) and by habitat
destruction,26 we also endanger ourselves. Since neither species nor the ecosystems they
inhabit are infinitely resilient to external insult,27 the human species may actually become
an agent of mass extinction. Our relationship to the environment needs to change or we
will pay for it. We can no longer afford to play the role of dominant conquerors of other
life. We can learn to live in cooperation with other species, studying the dynamics of
whole systems, which includes the science of ecology.
E. O. Wilson: Environment as the Biological Theatre of Evolutionary Diversity
Wilson's (1992) quoting of Evelyn Hutchinson reveals a great deal about his
definition of the environment and of life itself: the environment is the theatre and
evolution is the editor of the play who has no vision and purpose.28 Wilson (1992)
equates the environment with the planetary biosphere. He has a special interest in the
genetics of evolution and he is fully aware that ecology is the least understood of the
environmental sciences.9 Wilson (1992) sees that evolution progresses by differentiation
and complexity of life-forms through precision of environmental control.30 Biodiversity
increases as a species gains command over the environment.31 The logic of Wilson's
(1992) effort is simple: as we destroy our environment, we also destroy species as well
as the context of their evolutionary journey. We destroy the future. Since each species is
relatively unique to a habitat, the loss of that habitat means that an environmental niche
has been removed along with the species that adapted to it.
Wilson (1992) notes that the tendency of Homo sapiens to destroy the environment
is not recent; he bemoans the overkill, habitat destruction and introduction of exotics
(plants, animals and their diseases) that have ruined many ancient landscapes.32 Wilson's
(1992) vision is passionately refreshing and peculiarly myopic. On one hand, he
champions the protection of biodiversity as the lifeline for survival of our species. On the
other hand, he insists that evolution is like a slow blind groping with no innate direction.
His book is solidly rooted in empirical biological science. Interestingly, it transforms
into a practical handbook for environmental restoration, far overstepping the boundaries
of reductionist biology. Wilson's (1992) definition of the environment must be
understood from several perspectives: as a biologist, as an environmentalist and as a
humanist philosopher. The obvious purpose of his book is to introduce a program for
resolving our environmental problems in the coming century. Although he claims to
define the environment as a biologist, he really defines it a well-grounded pragmatic
James Lovelock: Environment as the Planetary Intelligence Called Gaia
Lovelock's (1988) vision of the environment in The Ages of Gaia is simultaneously
modern and ancient. He acknowledges scientific knowledge and adheres, as a working
theorist, to its dictums. But his insights about the planetary environment are a
revolutionary composite of contemporary planetary systems theory and Earth Mother
intuitions. This composite he calls Gaia-which is not a synonym for the biosphere, nor
is it the sum of all living beings (the biota).33 Lovelock's (1988) contention is that
physicists, biologists, ecologists and evolutionary theorists have got it all backwards:
evolution concerns Gaia, not organisms or the environment taken separately.34 He
repeatedly asserts that Gaia includes all living things and their environment,35 reminding
us to be aware of the awesome extent to which earth's environment is always perfect and
comfortable for life.36 He shares the insight from evolutionary biology that the
adaptation of organisms to their environment also changes the environment.37 He lauds
the work of Eugene Odum who was one of the few early ecologists who took a
physiological view of ecosystems.38
It is this physiological view of the planetary environment that Lovelock (1988)
intends to communicate when he insists that the evolution of rocks, air and biota are
inseparable.39 He elaborates upon this theme of a unified planetary intelligence by
claiming that there is no clear distinction between living and nonliving matter, merely a
hierarchy of intensity.40 He calls for an entirely new way of viewing our planetary
environment, invoking the controversial work of past theorists who have contributed to a
systems science of the earth, which Lovelock (1988) calls geophysiology.41 Lovelock
(1988) states that he has drawn general conclusions from solid facts of observation,
although his conclusions remain impossible to verify because the entity he postulates
could never be verified by objective observation. He thinks like a scientist who firmly
believes that the cornerstone of the scientific method is the belief that nature is
And yet, in light of his scientific conviction, it is as impossible to prove the
existence of Gaia as it is to prove the existence of a personal human identity. We can
point to a body or a planet as evidence of a higher intelligence, but we cannot prove
anything beyond what is tangible, from a scientific standpoint. Lovelock's (1988)
contribution to any discussion of the environment is a haunting theoretical possibility of
diagnosing the planet as an integrated collection of unified systems. These systems tend
to function as harmoniously as possible to maintain a condition of reasonable
homeostasis, replicated in similar functions within the human organism.43 Lovelock
(1988) has two unique capacities relative to our relationship with the environment. The
first capacity is his ability to think in grand constructs such as Gaia. The second capacity
is his scientific dedication that requires him to try to communicate to a scientific
community. His work raises more questions than it answers. These questions deserve
consideration within a larger context that is capable of evaluating solar and cosmic
influences upon our planetary environment. Some of these influences will be discussed
in the environmental views of Teilhard (1964), Berry (1988), Wilber (1998, 2000) and
Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b).
Ian Barbour: Environment as the Subject of Healing Dialogue
In Religion In An Age of Science, Barbour (1990) conscientiously sifts through the
basic tenets that underlie the fields of science and religion with the intent of clarifying
precisely what they do and do not share in common. His strategy is simple: he states a
position, and then voices opposing opinions with an eye to summarizing points of
agreement and disagreement. Barbour's (1990) power lies in his ability to synthesize
enormous quantities of data within the range of a coherent discussion. His weakness is a
lack of direction that substitutes breadth for simplicity. Often the bulk of material
presented dilutes the potency of his primary concern, which is to explain the
contemporary polarization of human knowledge (science and religion) and its detrimental
effects on the environment. Barbour (1990) gives the impression of a scholarly
intellectual crusader who is burdened by the weight of his own resources. His ultimate
goal of generating discussion about the all-important dichotomization of science and
religion in the West is eventually achieved.
Barbour (1990) notes that the tendency to reduce all sciences to the laws of physics
and chemistry is called epistemological reductionism.44 Barbour (1990) critiques the
work of E. O. Wilson as representative of the position of scientific materialism because
of Wilson's expressed conviction that all human behavior can be explained by biological
origins and genetic structure.45 In short, Barbour (1990) reviews the essential
assumptions of science and religion with the express purpose of opening a fruitful
dialogue between the two disciplines. This process leads naturally to the profound
discoveries of 20th century science which have undermined the basic assumptions of
Newtonian physics46 and revealed such insights that, in quantum physics, the observer is
always a participant.47 Barbour (1990) criticizes the tendency to take scientific concepts
as exhaustive descriptions of the real world as indications of the fallacy of misplaced
As Barbour (1990) clarifies the constraints by which traditional science has
represented the environment, he inevitably re-defines key terms in light of higher
principles and deeper understanding. In response to Wilson's ideas of evolution, Barbour
(1990) affirms that information is transmitted through memory, language and tradition as
well as genes.49 He also asserts that the pace of evolution increases as higher complexity
is achieved because the past is built into the present and shapes the future.50 He draws on
the work of Ilya Prigogine to clarify that disorder leads to order at a higher level, with
new laws and new types of complexity governing the behavior of structures.51 Barbour
(1990) wants the reader to see that the traditional scientific assumptions of a century ago
have been seriously undermined by modern research. This idea is important because the
belief systems of science still tend to play a significant role in our educational processes,
which shape the way we look at the environment.
Barbour (1990) discusses theological contributions to our environmental views as
sources of a view of the natural order that is ecological, interdependent and
multileveled.52 Throughout his work Barbour (1990) reminds us that we are human
beings with historical patterns reflecting social and political agendas toward the
environment. Industry sees the environment primarily as a source of raw materials;
private ownership capitalism sees the environment as a source of commercial profit.53
Since the time of Darwin's theory of evolution, an increasing recognition of the
relationship of organism to environment has created the science of ecology, which
recognizes the interdependence, diversity and vulnerability of biological species.54
Barbour (1990) summarizes the four primary concepts of ecology as the ecosystem
concept, the sense of finite limits, ecological stability and the awareness of long time
spans.5 Barbour's (1990) work reviews various environmental perspectives of religion
and science with a special emphasis upon the varying meanings of evolution. Finally, the
important new contributions of ecology are given special attention in his work because of
their sensitivity to the unheard voices that need to be recognized in any environmental
Teilhard de Chardin: Environment Deepening Spiritual Integration
Teilhard's (1964) interest in the environment is intimately connected to his
evolutionary vision of the human species as an integral functioning part of our planet.
Teilhard's (1964) interest in science is personal and theoretical, closely linked to his
aforementioned conviction that we must and will evolve as a species, regardless of the
cost. This evolutionary process of humanity and our planetary environment is conceived
of as "a progressive animation of the concrete by the power of thought, of matter by
spirit".56 According to Teilhard (1964), this evolutionary animation occurs in three
distinct stages: aggregation, unification and reflective interiorization. The history of
aggregration began with ancient hunting groups which gradually began to cluster into
small agricultural settlements about 15,000 years ago, giving rise to the earliest civilized
empires about 8000 years ago.5 With human society came modes of communication,
development of language, history, agricultural technology and industry,58 all of which
aggregate material or psychological energies. Teilhard (1964) is optimistic in his
predicted unifications of the human intellect (a coherent system of knowledge through
science) and of human society as a thinking whole.59 In addition, he also envisions a sort
of planetary economic integration occurring through the development of an existing
circulatory and nutritional system of mankind as a whole60 (an economic integration of
the earth's energies).61
Teilhard's (1964) vision of the higher stages of evolution rests upon the key word
"reflection", by which conscious human beings begin to introspect and to reflect upon
their own existence in relation to the rest of humanity, the planet and the universe.
According to Teilhard (1964), branches of our species reflect by turning inwards and
intertwining to form a sort of uni-conscious super-organism.62 This is a dynamically
spiritual process which is presently developing our planetary noosphere; this noosphere
can only function by the release of more spiritual energy with ever higher potential.63
The coordinated efforts of all who are working reflectively on themselves brings
humanity to the second evolutionary stage of life which is applied "in the bosom of the
noosphere".64 This is what Teilhard (1964) refers to as the planetisation of mankind: the
formation of an organico-social super-complex which can only occur in the case of
reflective, personalized elements.65 In this way, Teilhard (1964) asserts, mankind is
coming gradually to form around this earthly matrix a single, major organic unity which
is hyper-complex, hyper-centrated and hyper-conscious.66 In Teilhard's (1964) view, the
first stage of evolution involved the elaboration of lower organisms up to man by the
combination of the planet's elemental sources of energy.67 At present, the earth is
evolving toward a state in which mankind is becoming an adult.68 It is Teilhard's (1964)
conviction that "we shall not be able to survive except by developing and embracing the
The recurring theme of The Future of Man (1964) regarding the meaning of the
word "environment" is evolutionary: humanity is absolutely dependent upon this earthly
environment for all of our existential needs-and reflective introspection is required to
realize this. In the process of deepening our capacity for spiritual reflection, we will
naturally mature in our understanding of what is required in our relationship with the
planet. Teilhard (1964) defined the biosphere as "the actual layer of vitalized substance
enveloping the earth";70 his concept of the noosphere is not to be visualized as separate
from or above the biosphere, but as complementary to it, functioning in synchronicity
with it. Teilhard (1964) explains that, in the noosphere, heredity is transmitted by the
environment. For example, the stages of growth from birth to death inevitably pass
through hereditary anatomical and physiological changes7 according to phylogenetic
patterns. Teilhard (1964) is clearly holistic in his unyielding insistence that our evolution
as a species is absolutely inseparable from the evolution of the planet. Like Berry (1988),
he also touches occasionally upon an even vaster context for us to consider, when he
discusses the meaning of faith. He stresses that faith is a universal elemental quality
which forms the environment of union:72 faith is not a formula. Such occasional
references to a cosmic environment bring a larger perspective to his work by providing a
universal context, challenging us, as readers, "to consummate the universe in
Thomas Berry: Environment as an Evolving Cosmic Intelligence
Brian Swimme introduces the optimistic futuristic thought of Berry (1988) by
claiming that the fundamental truth of contemporary science is that the universe is a
developing reality and that the evolution of the earth in the universe is ongoing.74 Berry
(1988) perpetually re-affirms the need for a radical change from our present activities of
exploitative anthropocentrism to participatory biocentrism75 in relation to our
environment. He evokes a tone of a deeply empathetic romantic visionary who respects
scientific knowledge while severely challenging the validity of notions of progress that
tend to follow in its wake. He is particularly concerned with the apparent entrancement
we have with technology, which, he believes, has kept the human mind in its narrowest
confines since the Paleolithic Age.76 Berry (1988) is acutely aware of the historical
context of the scientific method and the rise of industrialism. The 16th and 17th century
thinkers who saw "a vision of a better order in earthly affairs through scientific control
over the functioning of the natural world"77 apparently failed to anticipate the destructive
consequences of their ideas. The essays in The Dream of The Earth (1988) represent the
intuitive insights of a deeply theistic universal thinker who intends to set the
psychological foundations in our scientific age for a new spiritual appreciation by the
human species for our environmental home.
Berry's (1988) argument rests upon a perpetual re-statement of our species' need to
be more sensitive to the environment. The unique voice that he represents is a
combination of perspectives that could be summarized in three categories: ancient
wisdom, contemporary scientific knowledge and futuristic intuitive insights. Berry
(1988) tends to invoke the wisdom of ancient peoples with a misty-eyed sentimentality
which "calls civilization back to the authentic [which is] our only hope of renewal".78
Berry's (1988) sense of the history of the relationship of Homo sapiens to our
environment captures the long story of the passing millennia-the story of a good
marriage gone very bad with an emerging vision of how we need to change our thinking
to make things right again. The first episode in this grand narrative is perhaps not as
idealistic as Berry (1988) would like to think it is, but even minimal knowledge of
indigenous peoples confirms evidence of a working symbiosis between the tribe and its
natural home-a sustainable relationship of sorts. For Berry (1988), the important thing
is recollecting this mythic vision in order to restore a sustainable context for the survival
and continuation of the evolution of life-forms.79
Berry's (1988) obsession is a penetrating concern with the historical forces that are
ruining the environment-and how to respond to those forces intelligently. This aspect
of Berry's "story" (1988) indicts both science (as the progenitor of industry and
technology) as well as religion (which seldom gets to its functional role within the
creative intentions of the universe).80 Berry (1988) laments the "entire effort of industrial
society to transform the natural world into total subservience".81 He is also profoundly
aware of the evolutionary efforts of the West, with its collective goals of Enlightenment,
democracy, a classless society and a capitalist age of peace and plenty sustained by an
industrial underworld.82 What intrigues Berry (1988) is that the tremendous irony of
history with its devastating consequences and worldwide scale83 continues to be enacted
"in a kind of intoxication with our power for devastation".84 "We are changing the earth
on a scale of millions of evolutionary years".85 We control energy on a magnitude of
scale far greater than ever before,86 while closing down the life system of the planet.87
Berry's (1988) response to this intoxication with the power of industrial technology and
its destruction is an ecological vision-the only context consistent with evolutionary
processes in light of the pre-industrial florescence.88 This emerging vision that Berry
(1988) promotes with such dedication is his telling of the necessary "new story" in order
to generate "a more adequate elaboration of the mythic phase of the ecological
For Berry (1988), the ecological story that is now being formulated, in so many
formats, must include a mythic component which is capable of integrating the latest
scientific discoveries with the ancient belief that the earth itself is a living organism.90
This new "ecological coding"91 requires, according to Berry (1988), a threefold change of
scale in how we perceive the human species in relation to the environment. The first
perceptual shift will require us to begin to act in unity as a species to establish a
functional relationship with the earth process.92 Berry (1988) considers this change to be
possible while our species continues to function within the constructs of the micro-phase
good. This "good" is still centered on the competitive way of life and the self-
aggrandizement of the individual. This "good" presently characterizes our planetary
nation-state configuration (and a community of nations) that guarantees the right to
pursue these purposes.93 The second necessary change of scale is clearly ecological,
recognizing the interdependence of all living and nonliving systems.94 Berry (1988) states
that "we have a single destiny with the larger community of earthly life"95 and that "there
is an economics of the human species and of the earth as a functional community".96
Berry's (1988) third required change of perceptual scale is a macro-phase awareness of
our species and our planet as a single organic reality97 which must find its place in the
larger pattern of the universal context.98
Thomas Berry's (1988) perception of the environment is poignant with awareness
of the great irony of modem history that has ceaselessly promoted ideas of human
progress at the expense of other species and especially of our mutual ecological context.
He is deeply sympathetic with the perilous position of indigenous peoples and their
reasonably sustainable lifestyles which are deteriorating rapidly, like endangered species,
with "generally irreversible consequences".99 Berry (1988) believes it is necessary to tell
a new mythic story about the environment in ecological or relational terms in order to
generate "a new pattern of historical interpretation".100 This pattern projects a deepening
awareness of the human species in relation to itself as a potentially unified whole that
functions within the parameters of more highly evolved versions of existing institutions.
But Berry (1988) calls for an even deeper communion with the planet itself "to restore a
sense of the earth as the matrix of the human".101 Finally, Berry (1988) insists that our
species must begin to consider our place in the universe itself, as a dominant species on a
planet that "we should give over to our children".102 Berry (1988) believes that our
greatest single need is a more integral story; a story that is in harmony with the numinous
and consciousness dimensions of the emerging universe".103
Ken Wilber: Environment as the Spiritual Ground of Total Integration
Wilber (1998) wrote The Marriage of Sense and Soul in order to address "a violent
schism in the internal organs of today's global culture"104 in which "scientific
materialism has become the dominant official philosophy of the modern West".105
Wilber's (1998) purpose in this book is to reconcile the apparent differences between
science and religion by reconstructing their most fundamental premises in the context of
a healing dialogue. This dialogue is constructed in a strategically simple fashion: Wilber
(1998) states the basic positions of science and religion with a minimal historical
background, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses with one underlying intention-to
find a common ground of agreement within which a "marriage" of minds can take place.
This "marriage-agreement" must satisfy the niggling concerns of each party-science and
religion-without imposing unfair constraints or unacceptable convictions upon either
member of the pair. Although sophisticated readers of philosophy might find Wilber
(1998) overstated and repetitious in his contentions, the overall tone of Wilber's (1998,
2000) work is sincere and he provides a needed vocabulary for less informed readers who
wish to understand the primary intellectual conflict of our contemporary Western world.
The scientific perspective is essential to understand our modern relationship to the
environment: we produce and consume in a world structured by scientific technology.
What Wilber (1998) wants us to see is what science means and how it can greatly serve
us in a society that will never let it go; he also clarifies what went wrong with the idea of
science that has produced the industrial nightmare of our environmental holocaust.
Wilber (1998) has separated the essential strands of meaning in science and religion and,
from this platform, has constructed a quadrant diagram with two faces and four aspects.
The faces are simply the division of the world into objective and subjective spheres, the
primary concerns of science and religion, respectively. The aspects are the individual
and collective perspectives of each sphere. This diagram represents the sum total of
Wilber's (1998, 2000) data search for a means of integrating all knowledge. It can also
serve as a useful model for explaining his findings about the physical environment and
our relationship, as a species, to it.
Wilber (1998, 2000) describes in labyrinthine detail the collective evolutionary
transitions by which the West moved from a shared cultural understanding of the great
chain of being to scientism-the dominant official worldview of modernism. Scientism
has a problem: it pronounced the subjective spheres of culture and religion as
worthless,106 asserting its supposed superiority with absolute arrogance. The strength of
science is that it is grounded in evidence that can be reproduced by the application of a
given injunction, paradigm or exemplar.107 Science can construct experiments about the
objective world which repeatedly produce evidence of the existence of laws which
govern natural phenomena. These discoveries can be applied practically to create
technology and industry that can make life much easier for us. The problem is that the
West became so intoxicated with the materialistic advantages of the scientific worldview
that it failed to notice the malicious implications of scientism's insistence that "there is no
reality save that revealed by science and no truth except that which science delivers".108
Wilber's (1998) contention is that we can take the scientific method into our studies
of culture and religion (the subjective spheres) and apply equally rigorous standards to
our subjective convictions in order to verify for ourselves the truths they claim to reveal.
The importance of this type of thought to our understanding of the environment in
Wilber's (1998, 2000) work is that we need both scientific and religious perspectives if
we are to see the environment in its totality. Therefore, Wilber (1998) calls for an
upgraded version of science that transcends the limitations of narrow empiricism. This
higher science could be postulated upon three modes of inquiry, three eyes of knowing,109
which could be said to correspond to three basic ways of looking at reality, including the
environment. The first way of seeing is through the gross physical eyes of narrow
empirical science that seeks to see patterns in the natural world. The second way of
seeing is through the rational or subtle eyes of reason and culture into the realms of mind
and soul. The third way of seeing is through the eye of contemplation into the
transcendent realm of spirit.110
Wilber's (1998) analogy opens up an entirely new vista by which we can look at
the environment. It fully accepts the contributions of modem science without being
limited by its premises. His work clarifies the problem of scientific materialism's
dominance in our modern thinking processes while showing a way to open our minds into
a truly holistic consideration of our environmental problems. His systematic efforts to
integrate hundreds of psychological constructs into one diagram may at first appear
reductionist, but the overall effect is to demonstrate that our environmental problems are
rooted in fragmented belief systems. When we understand the debilitating limitations
and necessary virtues of those belief systems we can begin to see the cosmic forces that
have created and continue to nourish our biosphere. For Wilber (1998), the environment
can be investigated indefinitely by modern science while retaining its subtle
psychological qualities and its spiritual integrity. From Wilber's (1998) unifying
perspective, continuing holistic study of the environment gives us everything to gain
while steadily and intentionally providing a way to minimize our losses due to causes he
Wilber (1998) also conveys a warning to supposedly holistic thinkers who privilege
ecosystem studies, web-of-life theories or process philosophy to the exclusion of truly
holistic ways of seeing. Wilber's (1998) point is that the study of ecology and all forms
of process patterns can take place entirely within the monological empirical worldview of
scientism. This worldview merely looks at the environment through the senses or their
extensions without ever being required to penetrate its surfaces, to dialogue111 with the
life forms that populate the natural world. He explains that the worldview of science,
almost from the beginning, has been a systems holistic view112-which is not complete.
The significant contribution of Wilber's (1998) work to "the science and religion game"
is his insistence that we must learn to respect all possible perspectives (for example,
about the environment) while searching for an overall integrative model within which to
place them. The study of ecology as a scientific discipline must not be separated from
the more holistic efforts of rational thought (cultural influences) and spiritual
contemplation. Any such isolated investigation is doomed to suffer the same withering
fate as empirical science in its isolated flatland. In the flatland world "all interiors are
reduced to exteriors, all subjects to objects, all depth to surfaces, all quality to quantity,
levels of significance to levels of size and value to veneer".113 Wilber (1998) plainly
states that we must look at the environment with equal respect for all ways of seeing,
acknowledging all forms of knowledge, if we are to see it truly and to respond to its
needs with real intelligence.
An Introduction to J. G. Bennett: The Twin Strands of Evolution and Ecology
The theme of evolution is fundamental to Bennett's work in The Dramatic
Universe (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b). He disagrees with Hutchinson and Wilson's
conviction that evolution is blind, utterly lacking direction or purpose.114 In fact, the
entire premise underlying Bennett's effort is an attempt to sketch the ultimate outlines of
our destiny as a species in the biosphere. As Bennett saw it, evolution is a deeply
religious matter. He believed that the evolutionary process is being guided by higher
intelligence that can only communicate with us when we listen to them115-a big factor
in the arising of religious history. He was confident that the body can evolve towards the
mind and the mind can evolve towards some inconceivable intelligence.116 Moreover, in
light of his overarching system of thought, he defined evolution as the ascent of existence
towards spirituality, while involution is the corresponding descent of essence into
actuality.117 As if echoing Eldredge's (1998) repeated insistence that all of the small
ecosystems of the planet are inextricably linked to one total ecosystem called the
biosphere, Bennett affirms that "we are now at a stage when humanity is becoming
conscious of its own wholeness (one-world-awareness), but not yet of its role in the
The views of evolutionary biology correspond remarkably closely to Bennett's own
ideas about the historical role of hazard and contingency. The concept of drama in The
Dramatic Universe (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) refers to the possibility of failing to fulfill
our destiny, which is the definitive hazard to existing without purpose or direction
(characterized by our materialistic epoch).119 Bennett shares Lovelock's (1988) awe for
the degree to which "the physico-chemical conditions on earth are so exactly attuned to
the needs of life".120 Bennett does not limit his vision to Lovelock's (1988) parameters,
however, which are thoroughly based in science but lack Bennett's (1956, 1961, 1966a,
1966b) cosmic perspective. Bennett criticizes, like Barbour (1990, 1993), the fallacy of
misplaced concreteness by which narrow empirical science attempts to reduce our
knowledge of the natural world to its own descriptions: a culturally ingrained habit that
Bennett's work intended to change. Barbour's (1990, 1993) synthesis of ecological
principles provide a fine terrestrial introduction to Bennett's "cosmic ecology" in which
everything exists to maintain the existence of some other whole121 in time spans that are
vast beyond the power of imagination to visualize.
Teilhard (1964) intuits many deep truths about our evolutionary process with
hopeful but vague speculation. Bennett's (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) more organized
effort complements much of Teilhard's (1964) work. Both agree that humanity must
organize itself as an integral functioning unit before we can realize our unity with the
biosphere. Berry's (1988) impending sense of a new historical epoch accords well with
Bennett's vision, as does their mutual passion for telling "a new story" that integrates all
human knowledge. Both Berry (1988) and Bennett communicate incisive insights into
the influence of historical forces that have given rise to our environmental problems.
Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) takes a more systematic approach in his descriptions
of the historical process, preferring an almost esoteric and mathematical formulation of
his terms, in contrast to Berry's (1988) more romantic-poet theological insights. Wilber's
(1998, 2000) fine synthesis of scientific and religious thought parallels elements of
Bennett's (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) work, although Wilber (1998, 2000) has not yet
delineated a definitive methodology for applying his ideas, preferring to point to
prevalent practices of spiritual traditions. Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) actually
does formulate a specific process by which we may begin to penetrate the superficial
appearances of things in order to learn to see for ourselves (author's italics). This
process embodies the tangible experiential components of practical and applied religion
that bring dynamism and promise to Bennett's work. The terms that will be introduced in
this thesis to explain Bennett's work will provide the necessary platform from which to
apply the process of learning to see for ourselves to solve our environmental problems.
J. G. Bennett: The Cosmic Environment of the Domain of Facts
Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) believed that all human experience could be
represented within the parameters of three cosmic domains of fact, value and harmony.122
The organization of this thesis parallels these domains. The present chapter discusses the
meaning of the word "environment", corresponding to Bennett's domain of fact. Chapter
4 explores the meaning of the word "values", corresponding to Bennett's (1956, 1961,
1966a, 1966b) domain of values. Chapter 5 examines practical applications of
environmental values, corresponding to Bennett's domain of harmony. The difference
between Bennett's "environment" and the work of the previous writers is in scale:
Bennett intentionally postulated a cosmic environment that embraces everything science
will ever discover and considerably more. It is the purpose of this chapter to sketch the
outlines of his environment in his own terms, which he called the domain of facts.
The domain of facts includes all of the "goings-on" or natural functions in the
universe, which Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) classified into three worlds: the
hyponomic material world, the autonomic world of life and the hypernomic world of
cosmic entities.123 Bennett stated that our experience of these factual worlds is
homogeneous (because all fact is one)124 but not monomorphous (because existence is
stratified into levels).125 Bennett defined knowledge as the subjective process by which
we attribute order to the functions of the natural world.126 Therefore, natural philosophy
encompasses all of the pursuits of empirical science in its detailed studies in search of
factual truth throughout the entire cosmic environment. The domain of fact is simply the
totality of what is127-the entire process of the universe governed by law. In brief,
knowledge is the province of natural philosophy whose work is the ordering of function
of whatever exists in the cosmic domain of facts.
Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) shared our contemporary concern about
environmental destruction and visualized our relationship as a species to the biosphere as
the key to our evolutionary destiny. He was appalled by the incredible lack of
responsibility among our species for the effects of our activities on the environment.128
Although this is beginning to change, he predicted that it would probably be thousands of
years before we are able to act with one mind, as a species, to fulfill our evolutionary
function toward the biosphere. Bennett respected "hard" science, although he saw far
beyond its truncated vision. Like Lovelock (1988), Bennett was aware of the early
discussions about geophysiology and the biosphere.129 He sympathized with Teilhard's
(1964) views of evolution, although Bennett disparaged contradictions within Teilhard's
(1964) work as a whole.
Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) believed that the human species is in its
childhood,130 acting like a spoiled child that takes from the environment without giving
back. We soil our planetary home with no consideration for generations to come.
Clearly, this situation must change. Bennett visualized the foundation of this change as
an educational process which he outlined in The Dramatic Universe (1956, 1961, 1966a,
1966b). He believed that our confusion as a species is due to the inadequacy of our
modes of thought.131 His environmental views were irrevocably cosmic, simply because
he refused to ignore the fact that we live in an organized universe. He could not confine
his mind to the planetary realm alone, nor could he remain content to accept the
conventional divisions of the natural sciences. As a philosophical thinker, he sought a
natural philosophy that was all encompassing. And yet, he was a deeply religious man
who felt compelled to anchor his beliefs in daily practices that reflected his deepest
convictions and most profound intuitions.
Bennett's (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) work has stupendous implications for our
environmental crisis, although much work needs to be done to bring this aspect of his
ideas into focus. It would be useful to elucidate each of Bennett's three cosmic
domains-of fact, value and harmony-in relation to the biosphere. A religious duty
falls on the shoulders of everyone who wakes up to our responsibility to coming
generations, which is sufficient to generate a sense of stewardship for the environment.
For Bennett, this problem of human responsibility assumed cosmic proportions. His
massive response was a body of work that is difficult to penetrate and almost impossible
to assimilate in its entirety. Relative to this chapter on the meaning of the word
"environment", Bennett would have insisted that even if we could classify all of the
natural forms, functions and interrelationships of the biosphere, we still would not be able
to account for the impulse that drives us to find meaning and purpose in existence.132 This
is where the "hard" scientists contradict themselves-by asserting that values exist in the
natural world, even though they can never locate them by any application of empirical
The environment is that which surrounds us as living beings and supports us in
every way, on all levels-physically, culturally, and spiritually. The "hard" scientists
tend to limit their knowledge to the sensory recognition of empirical patterns. The more
open-minded thinkers look to both science and religion for an explanation of
environmental influences, which gradually opens a universal perspective and an
awareness of cosmic factors. The trans-rational holists search for a totally integrating
paradigm by which to answer for all human knowledge. Such a paradigm points to a
clear need for consistent terms in order to produce a coherent system of thought. All
forms of human knowledge have real truths to contribute in the quest for a unified
cosmology. It is difficult to ignore the fact that we are facing a crisis of environmental
destruction-if we pay attention to the quality of the food we eat, the water we drink and
the air we breathe. It is also difficult to ignore the fact that we live in a universe, not just
on a planet. We live in a cosmic context that is governed by universal laws that shape
our environment and our lives.
The work of J. G. Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) is highly flawed. He held
opinions that were incredibly superficial and his life was far from perfect. In many
respects he was an ordinary man with huge intellectual ambitions. He was also a
religious man who lived by his own standards and followed his own lights. The Dramatic
Universe (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) is difficult to read and extremely difficult to
understand as a unified work. It could be better described as a collection of fragments
that is left for the reader to assemble. But these fragments reach considerably deeper into
the cosmic structure than the work of any of the writers whose work has been reviewed in
this chapter. Bennett's work truly answers the call for a new paradigm of thought as
visualized by the "hard" scientists, especially Wilson. The Dramatic Universe provides
a fully organized response to the mystic yearnings of Teilhard (1964) and Berry (1988)
for a cosmology that reveals the numinous dimensions of the universe as well as the
scientific perspective. Bennett's work exceeds the sincere organizational efforts of
Wilber (1998, 2000), simply because Bennett embraced a wider range in time, space and
dimension. Unlike all of the other writers mentioned here, Bennett alone isolates value to
a hidden and miraculous dimension completely beyond the natural world. The purpose of
the next chapter is to explore how each of these writers defines the word "values",
especially in relation to the environment.
1. From Webster online.
6. Eldredge, Life In The Balance: Humanity and The Biodiversity Crisis, 29.
7. Ibid., 63.
8. Ibid., 56.
10. Ibid., 57.
12. Ibid., 61.
13. Leakey and Lewin, The S.i\Nh Extinction, 17.
14. Ibid., 34.
15. Ibid., 28.
16. Ibid., 40.
17. Ibid., 68.
18. Ibid., 39.
19. Ibid., 6.
20. Ibid., 152.
21. Ibid., 150.
22. Ibid., 159.
23. Ibid., 158.
24. Ibid., 166.
25. Ibid., 197.
26. Ibid., 234.
27. Ibid., 250.
28. Ibid., 163.
29. Wilson, The Diversity of Life, 93.
30. Ibid., 187.
32. Ibid., 253.
33. Lovelock, The Ages of Gaia, 19.
35. Ibid., 39-40.
36. Ibid., 8.
37. Ibid., 33.
38. Ibid., 30.
39. Ibid., 34.
40. Ibid., 40.
41. Ibid., 155.
42. Ibid., 215.
43. Ibid., 18.
44. Barbour, Religion In An Age of Science, 4.
45. Ibid., 7.
46. Ibid., 95-96.
47. Ibid., 100.
48. Ibid., 229.
49. Ibid., 193.
50. Ibid., 214.
51. Ibid., 213.
52. Ibid., 26.
53. Barbour, Ethics In An Age of Technology, 58.
54. Ibid., 59.
55. Ibid., 60.
56. Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man, 18.
57. Ibid., 175.
58. Ibid., 30.
59. Ibid., 69.
60. Ibid., 161.
61. Ibid., 69.
62. Ibid., 150.
63. Ibid., 172.
64. Ibid., 176.
65. Ibid., 115.
67. Ibid., 176.
68. Ibid., 19.
69. Ibid., 280.
70. Ibid., 157.
72. Ibid., 192.
73. Ibid., 226.
74. Thomas Berry, The Dream of The Earth, viii.
75. Ibid., 169.
76. Ibid., 37.
77. Ibid., xii.
78. Ibid., 4.
79. Ibid., 30.
80. Ibid., 25.
81. Ibid., 31.
82. Ibid., 29.
84. Ibid., 7.
85. Ibid., 11-12.
86. Ibid., 29.
87. Ibid., 38.
88. Ibid., 31.
89. Ibid., 32.
90. Ibid., 18.
91. Ibid., 121.
92. Ibid., 43.
93. Ibid., 43-44.
94. Ibid., 41-42.
95. Ibid., 43.
96. Ibid., 74.
97. Ibid., 18.
98. Ibid., 44.
99. Ibid., 29.
100. Ibid., 161.
101. Ibid., 121.
102. Ibid., 12.
103. Ibid., 120.
104. Ken Wilber, The Marriage of Sense and Soul, 4.
105. Ibid., 10.
106. Ibid., 13.
107. Ibid., 30.
108. Ibid., 56.
109. Ibid., 20.
110. Ibid., 7.
111. Ibid., 36-37.
112. Ibid., 57.
113. Ibid., 61.
114. Bennett, The Dramatic Universe, III, 234.
116. Ibid., III, 124.
117. Ibid., II, 27.
118. Ibid., III, 284.
119. Ibid., II, 29.
120. Ibid., I, 431.
121. Ibid., III, 285.
122. Ibid., II, 32.
123. Ibid., I, 62.
124. Ibid., II, 17.
127. Ibid., I, 117.
128. Ibid., III, 284.
129. Ibid., I, 420.
130. Ibid., III, 285.
131. Ibid., III, 8.
132. Ibid., II, 20.
THE MEANING OF ENVIRONMENTAL VALUES
The word "value" is rooted in the idea of worth.1 The idea of worth can be
expanded to include usefulness, desirability or quality-of a thing or a situation.2 The
concept of value is often closely linked to the word "ethics", which refers to principles of
morality and the consequences of right and wrong conduct.3 This chapter will follow the
procedure of reviewing each author's perspective on values, with particular attention to
three distinct meanings of the word "value" in their works: utilitarian, aesthetic and
holistic. The overriding value of evolutionary progress will provide an additional
integrating thematic element to the chapter, with an awareness of the increasing call for
ecological knowledge and understanding. All of the work will focus specifically upon
the meaning of values in relation to the environment. This chapter will conclude by
explaining the intersection of Bennett's (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) ideas of value in the
context of the work that preceded it.
Eldredge and the Need for Realistic Environmental Values
Eldredge (1998) conveniently itemizes the importance of biodiversity in terms of
the values already listed in the introduction: utilitarian, aesthetic and ecosystem services
(holistic).4 His book is a prolonged explanation of why we should care about the loss of
species-the erosion of biodiversity. It is appropriate that he calls for placing realistic
values on all resources, including ecosystems and the species that inhabit them.5
Although he is short on details about how to accomplish this valuation, his book
represents a sincere effort to contextualize his concern that we seem to be oblivious to the
inevitable consequences of environmental degradation. For Eldredge (1998), the entire
issue of environmental ethics boils down to one simple observation: the living world is
more valuable alive than dead.6 His book is a poignant reminder that death of a species is
final. Eldredge (1998) asks the reader to appreciate the significance of biodiversity on all
levels of human need as a necessary preliminary step to formulating methods for
realistically assessing the value of the environment that we exploit so thoughtlessly.
Leakey and Lewin and the Supreme Value of Environmental Biodiversity
Like Eldredge (1998), Leakey and Lewin (1995) reiterate the primary triad of
environmental values: utilitarian (food, medicine, raw materials), aesthetic (human
psychic benefits) and holistic (global systems that maintain the physical environment).
Virtually everything these writers discuss rotates around the supreme value of the
diversity of life. They attribute all types of loss of value-economic, aesthetic and
holistic-to loss of biodiversity: "where value can be identified, loss of diversity
represents loss of that value".8 It is the conviction of these writers that biodiversity
nurtures the human psyche or spirit:9 we risk eroding the human soul if we allow erosion
of the richness of the world of nature.10 Moreover, a heavy emphasis is placed upon the
need to distance ourselves in space and time if we are truly to see the larger reality11 of
our environmental context. We need to understand the source and extent of diversity and
the place of humanity in that diversity.12 Leakey and Lewin (1995) see an intimate
connection between biodiversity and the fate of all species over the great flow of
geological time. In simplest terms, these two scientific writers consider biodiversity to be
the fundamental value: the true and absolute currency. Our wealth as a species is
directly related to our respect for the diversity of the natural environment. As it is, if we
continue to waste this wealth we will not only impoverish future generations, we may
destroy all possibility for life.
E. O. Wilson and the Redemptive Value of Environmental Biodiversity
Wilson's (1992) redeeming virtue is awareness of long time spans. He shares the
sense that biodiversity "is the key to the maintenance of the world as we know it".13
Wilson (1992) eloquently explains the magic of long evolutionary processes: "every kind
of organism has reached this moment in time by threading one needle after another,
throwing up brilliant artifices to survive and reproduce against nearly impossible odds".14
Much of Wilson's (1992) effort in The Diversity of Life is focused upon explaining the
esoteric details of natural selection-"the wellspring of biological diversity".1 Like
Eldredge (1998), and Leakey and Lewin (1995), Wilson (1992) believes that "every scrap
of biological diversity is priceless".16 For Wilson (1992), biodiversity is the treasure of
the entire evolutionary process, "our most valuable but least appreciated resource".17
According to Wilson (1992), the future of our species can be redeemed from an almost
certain demise by consciously awakening to the value of biodiversity on all three levels:
utilitarian, aesthetic and holistic.
The utilitarian benefits of biodiversity inform a significant portion of Wilson's
(1992) essay. He invokes historical precedent by reminding us that, in all cultures,
taxonomic classification means survival; in China, the beginning of wisdom is calling
things by their right names.18 Wilson (1992) promotes the "hard" scientist's passion for
accumulating empirical knowledge, referring to all living species as genetic libraries.19
He supports extensive research to gather as much information as possible about the
biology and life cycles of large numbers of species in order to create principles and
methods for protecting ecosystems from human onslaught.20 Wilson (1992) advocates
creating biological wealth by surveying the economic potential of ecosystems; by
assessing the potential commodity value of species; by assigning recreational value to
wild habitats; and by allocating future value to act as a protective mechanism for
ecosystems that might be endangered.21 All of this possible valuation hinges upon deep
respect for the diversity of species and the ecosystems that they inhabit. Of course, the
obvious utilitarian benefits of potential foods, medicines and fibers are mentioned in
passing, although Wilson (1992) does not excessively labor this point-preferring to
place biodiversity in a larger context.
The aesthetic benefits of biodiversity do not pass unnoticed in Wilson's (1992)
work, although questions can be raised as to how a "hard" scientist like himself defines
his terms. Nonetheless, he is a dedicated advocate of intrinsic value in ecosystems,
which should be treasured no less than "historical episodes, classic books, works of
art".22 In characteristically idiosyncratic fashion, Wilson (1992) explains that, from a
biologist's point of view, elaborate displays of beauty in nature are merely reproductive
isolating mechanisms that arise from error.23 What Wilson (1992) wants to do is to
communicate the urgency of becoming aware of what ecosystems are, of what they do
and of how they affect our lives. His theory is that "increasing familiarity will save
ecosystems because bioeconomic and aesthetic values will grow as each constituent
species is examined".24 Wilson's (1992) many hours of fieldwork have obviously left an
indelible impression upon his heart. It is difficult to read his work without an increasing
sense of affection for the environment and for the values that he claims to perceive in the
natural world. Wilson (1992) refers to this affection as biophilia-the connections that
humans subconsciously seek with the rest of life.25 How strange that a strict empirical
scientist would write with such affection about the natural world, ardently advocating
aesthetic values that lie completely outside the realm of the natural sciences!
The holistic benefits of biodiversity in ecosystems also receive full credit in
Wilson's (1992) survey. Apparently, Wilson (1992) considers it absolutely appropriate
to segue into a philosophical mode as he moves from a perfectly legitimate description of
ecosystem services to an ethic of environmental stewardship. Of course, he reminds us,
biodiversity provides fresh air, enriches our soil and optimizes our bodily functions
(ecosystem services).26 Wilson (1992) also extols the value of reflection: "stewardship of
the environment is a domain on the near side of metaphysics where all reflective persons
can find common ground".27 In other words, this strict scientist is asking his readers to
engage in the spiritual act of reflection in order to understand the consequences of loss of
biodiversity. This role-stretching seems appropriate relative to the message that Wilson
(1992) intends to communicate. It is best to summarize this message in his own words:
"What is morality but the command of conscience seasoned by a rational examination of
consequences? What is a fundamental precept but one that serves all generations?".28
Wilson (1992) the philosopher was probably born by contemplating the millions of
years it has taken to produce the "most wonderful mystery of life: so much diversity
from so little matter".29 He knows his scientific facts and he has every right to
contemplate the future, although his lack of reading in philosophy and religion is evident.
Nonetheless, what he lacks in intellectual sophistication is more than compensated for by
sincerity of intent. Wilson (1992) is aware of the limitations of scientific thought,
especially regarding consequences in future time: we have no future concept to match
our concepts of the past. "What is urgently needed is knowledge and a practical ethic
based on a time scale longer than we are accustomed to apply. An ideal ethic is a set of
rules invented to address problems so complex or stretching so far into the future as to
place their solution beyond ordinary discourse".30 The central message in Wilson's
(1992) book is that we must begin to think about how we can protect the ancient treasures
of living biodiversity in order to allow many future generations to have the opportunity to
appreciate the richness and complexity of life.
Lovelock and the Value of Scientific Curiosity in Knowing the Environment
Although it is difficult for any human being to look at the world non-
anthropocentrically, all of the writers in this thesis are calling for at least one small pause
in our rush to indulge our natural human tendencies. For Eldredge (1998), this pause
took the form of reminding us that the life of the entire human species is but one blip on
the great screen of planetary life in the vast spans of geological time. For Leakey and
Lewin (1995), the pause that refreshes is taking a moment to consider the greater spatial
and temporal contexts that have given rise to biodiversity. For Wilson (1992), the
moment of reflection creates an impulse to look far into the future to see which species
will survive our hour of slaughter. The work of Lovelock (1988) asks us to pause once
again, this time to reflect upon the total system of all planetary systems, which he calls
Gaia. Uncharacteristically for a scientist, Lovelock (1988) cherishes and promotes the
singular value of loving curiosity-the source of his intuitions and the platform for Ages
Lovelock (1988) is a modem enigma. He is a scientist who makes a living by
inventing, which leaves spare time to explore his personal interests, which are also
scientific. He is stuck in his identity as a scientist and tries to free himself by thinking
outside the normative box of his peers. He loves the natural world and embraces the
longing to know new things, in his staid format. He experiences deep intuitive insights
that he translates into a scientific contexts that are accessible to a wide reading public.
He defines good science as the process of getting to know the natural world via curiosity
and deep love; creativity knows intuitively but it may take years to prove what one
knows.31 Lovelock (1988) applauds the amazing ability of life to move upstream against
the flow of time, evolving to ever-greater complexity, characterized by ubiquitous
improbability.32 As a partial victim of the limitations of secular thought, Lovelock (1988)
looks to the ancient past as a time when the belief in a living earth and a living cosmos
were the same thing: heaven and earth were close and part of the same body.33
Lovelock (1988) is asking the reader to value the virtue of loving curiosity about
the natural world, in a scientific fashion. He wants us to open our eyes to see connections
among all of the earth systems that are not yet acknowledged by the conventions of
modern science. In basic terms, he wants us to see holistically, without all of the
trappings of the modern holistic movements. He is radically aware that most
environmental movements are anthropocentric: concerned first with the health of
people.34 Somewhat cynically, Lovelock (1988) questions the compulsion of biologists to
devise classification systems but never to read the books or to question their meaning.35
Lovelock (1988) considers fundamentalist theology to be otiose when it states that God
exists, but he extols the psychological depth of immediate and unreasoned assurance
within us, of which the reasoned argument is the surface exhibition.36 It is from this
internal platform of deep affection and loving curiosity that Lovelock (1988) shapes an
environmental ethic that values Gaia as the largest of the earth's living systems.
Barbour and the Value of Rational Dialogue About Environmental Problems
Ultimately, every polarity finds its harmonizing principle and every argument finds
its moderator. Barbour (1990, 1993) values the rational process of listening to both sides
of a story and then clearly stating their similarities and differences. If he has a weakness,
it is in bulk. He prefers the encyclopedic to the simple and he is not a poet. His attempt
to reconcile science and religion is much needed, as is his more amorphous effort to
discuss technology and ethics. Barbour (1990, 1993) is intensely focused on utilitarian
values. His interest in aesthetic values is secondary and his treatment of holistic values is
crisply erudite in essence but peripheral and indirect in the final analysis. Yet his work is
singular and important to anyone interested in environmental ethics. His definition of
value is worth mentioning: a value is something we view with favor, believe is beneficial
and act to promote; a value resembles a preference or a desire.37 Relative to the
environment, this section will briefly address Barbour's (1990, 1993) ideas about
utilitarian values, aesthetic values and holistic values.
Barbour (1990, 1993) uses the word "instrumentalism" to describe the trend of
scientific theories and religious beliefs to create constructs that are useful for specific
human purposes.38 The scientific manifestation of instrumentalism is expressed primarily
in technologies that magnify our power to control the environment, for better or worse.
Religious beliefs can tend to take the form of work ethics that promise beneficial
consequences for laboring to dominate the natural world, directly or indirectly. All of
this falls under the category of utilitarian values-useful for human purposes. Barbour
(1990, 1993) emphasizes that our view of nature will influence the way we treat nature
and our view of human nature will affect our understanding of human responsibility.39
The utilitarian perspective on our relationship to the environment tends to value the
pragmatic and tangible interests that accord well with the empirical values of the physical
sciences. Religious traditions are being called upon to accept the validity of scientific
discoveries and writers such as Barbour (1990, 1993) assert that there should be a
continuous demand that our concepts and beliefs be closely related to our experience.40
Barbour (1990, 1993) explores the meaning of utilitarian environmental values as
applied both individually and socially. He asserts that the most significant of these
individual values are access to food, health care, and meaningful work. On a social level,
these values take the form of social justice, participatory freedom, and personal
fulfillment.41 He praises Maslow's "hierarchy of needs" paradigm for its great sensitivity
to the multiple dimensions of human experience.42 Barbour (1990, 1993) summarizes the
pragmatic grounds for three environmental values: resource sustainability, environmental
protection, and respect for all forms of life.43 Our problems regarding the utilitarian
environmental values stem from mechanistic science, dualistic philosophy, industrial
technology, and capitalist economics.44 The science of ecology provides empirical
standards by which these destructive environmental values can be transformed into
sustainable contexts. These four ecological standards (or concepts) include the
ecosystem as a unit of research, finite limits, ecological stability and long time spans.45
All of these concepts will be touched upon throughout this thesis as the temporal
concepts of evolution are placed into the context of the spatial concepts of ecology.
Barbour's (1990, 1993) sense of aesthetic values is also related to the concept of
ecology. Quoting Callicott, Barbour (1990, 1993) agrees that ecology changes our values
by changing our concepts of the world, revealing new relationships that stir our ancient
centers of moral feeling.46 It is deeply significant that the principles of ecology can
function on an empirical level of strict science as well as on an aesthetic level of meaning
and beauty. Barbour (1990, 1993) has a unique ability to capture great sweeps of
knowledge in a few phrases. He affirms that such intangible values as respect for
nonhuman nature and for the value of the human individual depend upon our
understanding of ultimate reality.47 Finally, any discussion of aesthetic values should
include a brief mention of the meaning of rational thought. What does it mean to be
rational? On one hand, it could imply that we are all participant observers who are
inextricably part of an interactive system. The form of the questions we ask-for
example, about environmental values-determines the kind of answers we receive.48 On
the other hand, rationality could be what the scientific method brings to the personal
judgments that tend to inform our religious perspectives.49 The acts of speaking, thinking,
and writing require some degree of rationality in order to make us understood by others.
As such, communication of any kind has a utilitarian aspect as well as an aesthetic
quality. Barbour's (1990, 1993) work insists that it is essential that we learn to express
our reasons for the values that inform our interactions with the environment, and that
these reasons can have both utilitarian and aesthetic components.
The holistic values in Barbour's (1990, 1993) work emphasize the criteria of
coherence and comprehensiveness, which have parallel applications in both science and
religion.50 Quoting Holmes Rolston, Barbour (1990, 1993) affirms that scientific theories
interpret and correlate data just as religious beliefs interpret and correlate experience.5
While science is interested in correlation of causes, religion's primary goal is reformation
of the person as a way of life, not just as an intellectual system.52 We must never forget
that religious questions are of ultimate concern, since the meaning of our existence is at
stake: religion asks about the final objects of a person's devotion and loyalty.53 When
revelation is involved, it is recognized by its ability to illuminate present experience.54
Here we have a conundrum. How is it that the religious traditions of the world have
fallen so far from a sense of environmental stewardship? Why do traditional or
conventional religious norms appear to neglect our responsibility to protect the
environment from the exploitative values that threaten our existence as a species? Are
the majority of prototypical religious believers so deeply focused upon some heavenly pie
in the sky that our relationship with the humble earth is considered irrelevant? How can
the obvious spiritual, psychological and economic power of the religious people of the
world be so pathetically indifferent to our planet's environmental problems?
Barbour's (1990, 1993) work is an attempt to initiate a dialogue between scientific
thinkers and religious believers. The central point in his discussion of holistic
environmental values is an insistence that a unifying vision of reality must be consistent
with scientific discoveries and an understanding of human potentialities. Barbour (1990,
1993) shares the passionate indignity of Lynn White Jr. when he calls for a new religion
or a need to rethink our old one if we are to get out of the ecological crisis.55 Echoing
John Passmore, Barbour (1990, 1993) affirms that we do not need a new environmental
ethic at all; we simply need to learn to adhere to a perfectly familiar ethic that is not
fueled by shortsighted greed.56 Barbour (1990, 1993) reminds us that the history of ethics
is simply an extension of the boundaries of the community from tribe to nation to all.5
This leads us to the ideas of holistic ethics in which the welfare of the ecosystem is of
supreme value, recognizing that integrity, stability and beauty are holistic concepts.58
And yet, Barbour (1990, 1993) forces himself to ask if these holistic concepts are truly
real or if they are an example of what some call the naturalistic fallacy of trying to derive
"ought" from "is"?59 This is a powerfully introspective question that will be considered
in the sections that follow.
Teilhard de Chardin and the Awakening to Spiritual Value in the Environment
The utilitarian perspective on environmental values is the least of Teilhard's (1964)
interests in The Future of Man, although it is definitely present as an element in his
vision. With keen insight, Teilhard (1964) suggests that our hunger for material well-
being is really hunger for higher being.60 This is a revolutionary challenge to our Western
addiction to "keeping up with the Joneses". The implications of this insight point to
Teilhard's (1964) central message: we need to learn to introspect if we are to evolve, as
individuals and as a species. He speaks of a twofold sense that is emerging in the human
species-historical duration and collectivity-that have re-ordered the entire field of our
experience.61 His belief in the power of introspection suggests a movement toward "ever-
tightening compression compelling ever more Reflection". 62 Teilhard (1964) accuses
each of us of the vice of egocentricity, a self-imposed isolation that prohibits our escape
from the self to share the point of view even of those we love best.63 This isolating
tendency certainly also applies to our blindness, as a species, to the other inhabitants of
the biosphere. Teilhard (1964) is asking us to become conscious of our power over the
environment and to establish principles by which we can value our biological nature and
our social organization64 in light of the value of the task that the future inevitably calls us
The aesthetic perspective on environmental values is central to Teilhard's (1964)
vision. This perspective has three primary components: the progressive flowering of the
individual, the assumption that the world has meaning, and the endless universalizing of
all values. Teilhard's (1964) respect for individual human potentiality is supreme. He
speaks of the function of personalization that increases variety of choice and wealth of
spontaneity in a harmonized flowering of individual values.66 Teilhard (1964) also
defends the implicit right of each individual to cling to the truth of personal perception
and experience: "for no reason and under no circumstances must the forces of
collectivity compel the individual to deform or to falsify himself, to lie to himself'.67
Teilhard (1964) believes that "the world has a meaning and is taking us somewhere",68
although this meaning appears to emerge from the process of "forging human multiplicity
into a whole".69 The meaning of value hinges upon Teilhard's (1964) intuitions of
universal unification, the "general and irreversible readjustment of the values of existence
to a new spiritual dimension".70 In Teilhard's (1964) eyes, values are made real in the
process of growing to fulfill individual and collective potential in ever-increasing spirals
The holistic perspective on environmental values is the ground and goal of
Teilhard's (1964) work. He states that the soul has only one summit and one
foundation71 and that a profound need for unity pervades the world.72 Teilhard (1964)
insists that our increasing ability to situate ourselves in space and time will require us to
become conscious of our responsibility in relation to the universe.7 He believes that we
are ennobled by serving the work that is proceeding in the universe74 and that we have the
power to look into the future and assess the value of things.75 In a phrase, we have a
symbiotic relationship with our environment, whether that environment is the biosphere
or the entire universe itself. We must awaken to our responsibilities as a species and
learn to value the role of stewardship for the world in which we live. We must allow our
faith in the world process to inspire us to take dynamic spiritual action76 that serves the
outer environment while simultaneously mysticising ourselves by inner transformation
that becomes ardor for life.7 Teilhard (1964) envisions a complete synchronicity of
evolution that gathers all individuals, all societies and all species into a loving and total
Thomas Berry and the Value of the Environmental Story
The thought of Thomas Berry (1988) is fully informed by an intelligent response to
the ubiquitous exploitations that are despoiling our living environment. In the vernacular,
he is definitely on top of the game of environmental ethics, formulating sophisticated
variations of a new story for our new age. This story has one plot line with countless
sub-narratives: we must begin to see ourselves as a single species among many on this
planet who can no longer afford to visualize ourselves in isolation from the natural world
on any level. Berry (1988) tells his story from many perspectives, according to the need
of the hour. In one sense, Berry (1988) sees himself as an interpreter of ancient patterns
in a new historical context.78 In another mode, Berry (1988) laments the psychic
condition of modern humanity with our mechanistic fixations79and our aggressive
anthropocentrism. Berry (1988) urges us to recognize the whole complex of the life
community in our legal processes, our economic structures, our educational systems and
our moral agreements.80 In short, Berry (1988) functions as an intellectual gadfly who
challenges the unprecedented pathology that is embedded in our cultures, our religions,
and our languages: in our entire value system.81 He is critical of the values that govern
our pragmatic use of the environment, our academic understanding of environmental
issues, and our aesthetic appreciation of the natural world.82 Berry (1988) longs for
humanity to wake up to his intuition of an ancient and truly human intimacy with the
world around us.83
Quite naturally, Berry (1988) is intensely critical of utilitarian environmental values
because of their inherently destructive consequences. He draws a clear line between the
utilitarian values of the secular scientific community with its emphasis upon creative
energies and the religious community's fixation upon redemptive energies.84 Berry
(1988) reflects that environmental values must now be determined by human sensitivity
in response to the creative urgencies of a developing world.85 He believes that our present
era is experiencing the most complete reversal of values since the Neolithic period.
Berry (1988) suggests that the religious revelatory experience and the values of classical
humanism on which our civilization was founded are being challenged.86 The story that
Berry (1988) is telling relative to modern utilitarian values-that continue to exploit the
environment without regard for consequences-is really an appeal for rationality. Berry
(1988) wants us to begin to think differently about the earth. He invokes ancient wisdom
traditions and cites the examples of indigenous peoples with their sustainable lifestyles in
symbiotic relationship to the natural world. Berry (1988) is calling for a return to the
story of simple aesthetic values and holistic understanding of the place of humanity in
Berry's (1988) grasp of aesthetic values is connected to his ideas about the literary
value of the story of the universe and our human role in it.87 Our understanding of this
story requires us to be sensitive enough to understand and to respond to the psychic
energies that are embedded deep in the very structure of reality.88Berry (1988) asks us to
reassess our human situation concerning the basic values that give meaning to life.89The
aesthetic values that Berry (1988) invokes are linked to an appreciation of the natural
world. He asks us to investigate where values are and how they are determined and
transmitted-noting that once we lived in a religious world where nature was thought to
be an image of a greater spiritual dimension.90Berry (1988) asserts that we need a new
way of understanding values in all human affairs, occupations, professions, and activities
that derive their meaning from enhancing this emerging world of subjective
intercommunion.91 Berry (1988) is asking us to recognize the need for a new story of the
world that transcends the limitations of both science and religion. Once this need is
known, he believes that a structure of knowledge can be established within this story.92
The sense of holistic values pervades Berry's (1988) work like a shining sun in a
clear blue sky. His native faith in the goodness of creation guides his narrative and
shapes his vision. He refers to an awareness of mutual presence of communion as the
basis of value.93 Berry (1988) reminds us that earlier societies conveniently perceived the
world as having divine, natural and human94 aspects that were interrelated and
inseparable. He recollects the Christian vision of Thomas Aquinas, in which the
supremely beautiful value is considered to be the integration and harmony of the total
cosmic order.95 Berry (1988) believes that a change has begun in our relationship as a
species to the environment, which has an outer aspect and an inner aspect. The outer
change is the initial stages of a movement from exploitative anthropocentrism to
participatory biocentrism.96 The inner change is the beginnings of appreciating the reality
and value of the intersubjective numinous aspect of the entire cosmic order.97 This
suggests that as we learn to look within ourselves-as individuals-we apparently also
spontaneously initiate a corresponding outer response in our collective behavior. If
Berry's (1988) intuitions are correct, our respect for the inner spiritual light also
illuminates our collective understanding of a more holistic relationship to our planetary
Ken Wilber and the Value of Integrating All Environmental Perspectives
In the world of Wilber (1998, 2000), everything revolves around his interest in
integrating all human knowledge into the simplest imaginable format-a quadrant
diagram. Within the context of his integrative diagram, the utilitarian aspect of our
relationship with the environment problematically takes the form of exploitation of
natural resources. This destructive tendency must be transformed consciously into a
sustainable relationship in which we fully provide the means for replacing whatever it is
we need to use from our environmental resources. Wilber's (1998, 2000) particular
contribution to this discussion lies in his overriding need to examine the psychological
causes of our collective insensitivities and what we must do to retrofit our intentions into
a more healing mode. In essence, Wilber (1998, 2000) attributes environmental
exploitation to what he calls a flatland view of reality in which only surfaces are
considered important:98 the prevailing mentality of scientific materialism. What this
worldview lacks is a respect for the interior depths of life-what Wilber refers to as
consciousness99of the forms that constitute the life of our environment. Therefore,
Wilber (1998, 2000) attempts to restore the depth to the flatland worldview by explaining
how we can become conscious of our individual and collective superficiality toward the
In the work of Wilber (1998, 2000), this awakening to consciousness is an exercise
in the aesthetics of the reasoning process. He reminds us that the word "reason" simply
means to ask "what are your reasons"?; "why are you doing this"?100As we learn to
explore our interior being-our consciousness-we begin to realize a quality that is
universal in character and highly integrative because valid reasons make sense and hold
true universally. Reasonable truth is not forced or coerced or ideologically imposed but
is freely open to any who wish to look into its reasons.101In terms of the environment,
Wilber (1998, 2000) asks not only how destruction comes about but why: what are the
underlying explanations that justify destructive actions? Wilber (1998, 2000) invites us
to contemplate the environment from the crossroads where outer and inner intersect,
affirming that there is a difference between the vertical organismic and the horizontal
ecosystemic organization of reality. 102This is a crucial insight because the study of
ecology must not be limited to the investigation of surface patterns only, which is the
interest of the empirical sciences. Wilber (1998, 2000) is asking us to consider the
subjective cultural meanings that accompany the study of ecosystems, as well as their
cosmic components that can only be realized in deep personal interior spaces of
But what are the dynamics of this awakening to the cosmic aspects of ecology, of
our relationship to the environment? Wilber (1998, 2000) responds by explaining the
meaning of vision-logic as the totality of all possible rational perspectives seen in a single
view as an integral whole. 03In terms of the environment, vision-logic is that capacity to
look at every rational explanation for environmental exploitation and to judge how they
all fit together-unifying incompatible contradictions, negating partial truths but
preserving the positive contributions of each reasonable fact.104This integrating process
can apply to every conceivable relationship between humanity and the environment.
Wilber's (1998, 2000) primary interest is to move us past the shallow perceptions of the
environment that have characterized modem thought. His work opens a door into the
subjective dimensions of the human mind and spirit. This requires more than the
superficial observational stance of traditional science that remains content to measure, to
map, and to classify the environment in a monologue of intellectual labels. Wilber (1998,
2000) encourages us to value the possibility of a deeper relationship with the
environment by initiating a dialogue with its inhabitants that will allow us to resonate
with their interior depth, thereby awakening the depth within ourselves.105
The Cosmic Environment of J. G. Bennett: The Domain of Values
The remainder of this chapter will explain some of the basic terms that must be
grasped in order to understand the meaning of the word "value" in Bennett's (1956, 1961,
1966a, 1966b) cosmic environment. The first of these terms is the concept of the three
great domains that form the basis of Bennett's work (fact, value, harmony). Bennett's
thought was also deeply invested in the relevance of immediate experience to the
application of his ideas. Any discussion of Bennett's work must perpetually describe the
interactions between the domains of fact and value as a kind of an endless work in
progress. The idea of assent is central to the apprehension of value, from which the
concept of quality (inherent in value) cannot be separated. Finally, the abstruse meaning
of the word "essence" cannot be ignored in any discussions of the domain of value. For
purposes of simplicity, each of these terms will be highlighted to assist the flow of
comprehension. The goal at all times in this discussion of Bennett's system of ideas is to
explain his terms without introducing excessive information which is beyond the scope of
The Concept of the Domains
Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) defines the domains as those parts of reality
between which continuous transformations are excluded.106 The key to this definition is
the word "continuous". Bennett is saying that ultimate reality has three domains that are
somehow separate (no continuous transformations), but can in special circumstances be
conjoined. Bennett explains that these three domains constitute the existing universe in
its relationship to the essence107 (to be defined later in this section). It is the unique task
of the domain of harmony to reconcile the domains of fact and value. 10When fact and
value are reconciled they lose their distinctive character in order to become "a new
reality".109 This introduces the notion of harmony: the universal quality by which the
abstract develops into the concrete and in which the meaning and purpose of all existence
is contained.110 Bennett's division of the universe into three domains is fundamental to
his metaphysics and to his religious convictions. He believed that human knowledge in
its totality assumes that life plays a fundamental role in the universe and is the link
between the world of material processes and the world of cosmic purposes. In
consequence, our role as humans should be to reconcile the material and spiritual
Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) employs the concept of the three domains to
describe the possibilities of this reconciling process. Relative to our relationship with the
environment, the domains can be looked at in three ways. As a domain of fact, the
environment simply exists under natural law with no inherent value: the classic stance of
empirical science and its exploitative mentality. As a domain of value, the environment
may be perceived as a space that allows for the emergence of value qualities that do not
exist in the natural world but spontaneously occur in conjunction with it. As a domain of
harmony, the environment can provide us with an opportunity to assent to values, such as
beauty, which can motivate us to take action to protect that value if we are willing.
Although Bennett's methodology for describing the three domains may initially appear
somewhat awkward, his ultimate goal is to open our eyes to the cosmic implications of
every detail of our lives, including our relationship with the natural world of our
The Relevance of Immediate Experience
Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) was a practical man, in spite of his prodigious
intellectual efforts. All of his work was geared toward practical applications of the
principles that he believed would save the world and the human species from self-
destruction. Primary to this conviction was his belief in the importance of immediate
experience, the testing-ground of the validity of his ideas. Integral to our discussion is
Bennett's explanation that experience has a two-fold dynamism: actualization as fact and
realization as value.112 Bennett insists that values do not "exist" (in the natural world) but
emerge in and through existence as a quality that is itself an integral part of experience,
becoming temporal as they emerge.113He chastises everyone who assumes that values
exist in any part of the natural world: "owing to lack of sensitivity and a failure to
directly interrogate experience, we fail to see that all values are miraculous".114What he is
asking us to do is to carefully pay attention to our immediate experience in order to
clarify for ourselves exactly what values are and where they come from. Bennett asserts
that when attention is directed to phenomena in immediate experience, we can always
discover values in them while recognizing the inadequacy of reconciling values with the
laws of fact115 (the natural world). In other words, values do not quite fit the world of our
immediate experience until we do \,,w hiiig to help them fit-to create harmony
(author's italics). The precise character of these interactions between the domains of fact
and value needs to be dissected in detail if we are to see our environmental problems in
Bennett's cosmic light.
The Interactions Between the Domains of Fact and Value
Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) stresses that value is generated in and through
fact, but the two are always distinguishable.116Further, he states that values must emerge
spontaneously from the natural order in which they are securely anchored. 17Yet he also
cautions us to beware of the naturalistic fallacy 18of factualizing values, assuming that
because values are inseparable from nature that they are of the natural world. Bennett
explains that values can only be realized by means of facts,119 yet they cannot be
represented in any construct of the world of facts-which requires us to seek for them
beyond the limits of space and time.120 In a strange inversion of thought, Bennett points
to a total and ultimate value that gives significance to all partial values, which requires all
of existence for its expression.121 This implies that the entire existing universe has come
into existence as a vehicle for the expression of the values that we might perceive in our
relationship with the natural world. From this perspective, our environment exists to
serve a cosmic purpose by which we might be able to awaken to the possibility of
perceiving qualities that imbue our hearts with a sense of values. At the same time,
Bennett insists that the domains of fact and value are truly separate, and that the gap
between them can only be bridged by a special act of attention, which he calls assent.
The Act of Assent to Value
Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) is extremely formal with the smallest of
definitions because it is important to him to clarify his meanings. One example of this is
the surgical precision by which he explains the meaning of the word "assent" in relation
to the recognition of values. Bennett defines "assent" as the act by which bare awareness
of value is converted into a positive relationship with it.122 He describes the methodology
by which we assent to value as empathetic discrimination.123 Since this act of assent is a
key functional indicator of Bennett's religious intention in The Dramatic Universe, it is
worth the effort to deconstruct this act from several perspectives. The first perspective is
the bare awareness of value itself: something draws our attention to itself out of all
possible fields of attention in the world of facts. We notice something special, peculiarly
so, although we have not yet entered into a relationship with it. According to Bennett,
the moment that we decide to accept the thing that has drawn our attention as worthy of
serious attention (we attend with a nominal commitment to know it better), we initiate a
positive and personal relationship with it: this is the act of assent to value the thing that
has captured our attention.
In more formal terms, he refers to this act as empathetic discrimination: we
discriminate among many things to pay careful attention to one. This heightened act of
attention elevates us to a state of empathy in which we align our perceptions and feelings
with what we are attending to. In this special state we pay attention as closely and
carefully to the thing as if it were a part of ourselves: we are in a state of empathy. It is
in this condition that we are sensitive to quality. Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b)
could not express it more clearly: in the apprehension of value we assent to a quality.124
In actuality, Bennett defines values as the qualities inherent in everything,125He even
equates value quality with the total interest we all have in knowing ourselves and the
world as well as possible.126In terms of our relationship as a species to the environment,
we must learn to be open to the possibility of perceiving quality in the natural world.
When we perceive such a quality, we can empathize with the world that it awakens
within us: the domain of values. This domain is immanent throughout nature, yet
transcends it. In order to grasp this larger context of Bennett's (1956, 1961, 1966a,
1966b) thought, it is necessary to introduce the word "essence": the pattern of all the
qualities that give meaning and purpose to all experience.127
Definitions of The Essence
Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) uses the word "essence" very carefully, yet its
meaning can only be revealed by explaining it within some of the many contexts in which
it appears in The Dramatic Universe. In one sense, the essence can be defined as the
power to hold together a particular and unique pattern of possibilities without any
requirement to be actualized in the domain of facts or realized in the domain of
harmony.128In another sense, the essence refers to the possibility of "being real":129 it
endows every whole or entity with a possible reality, the fulfillment of which is not
guaranteed.130From yet another point of view, Bennett defines essence as that which does
not exist but can assent to value: the bearer of value.131Another phrasing describes
essence as the non-material qualities that are the sources of value.132The general sense of
the word "essence", as Bennett uses it, refers to the source of possible values that can
fulfill us, that can make us more "real", but that do not necessarily exist. We bring values
from their source in the essence by the act of assenting to quality, which is semi-dynamic,
but lacks the power to act upon the value to make it real: to realize it. This act of
realization forms the final chapter of this thesis.
The environment can be valued for utilitarian reasons, for aesthetic reasons, and for
holistic reasons. The evolutionary process is valued for its capacity to integrate ever-
higher units of complexity that manifest in increasingly diverse biological forms. The
field of ecology is valued for its respectful investigation of the dynamism and subtlety of
spatial contexts that constitute, in their entirety, our total living environment. Niles
Eldredge (1998) argues eloquently for the need to place tangible human values upon all
natural resources, including ecosystems and the species that inhabit them. Leakey and
Lewin (1995) explain that biological diversity is our greatest resource and should be
accorded the supreme value in relation to all human concerns. E. O. Wilson (1992)
reminds us that biodiversity is vitally necessary for utilitarian, aesthetic, and holistic
reasons. Peculiar for a scientist, he implies that our redemption, as a species, from the
waste of our modern environmental holocaust, is possible through reflecting that we must
awaken our consciences to assume a role of environmental stewardship. Lovelock (1988)
asks us simply to value the most fundamental of all ecosystems-the earth itself in its
entirety-that he calls Gaia.
Ian Barbour (1990, 1993) values the possibilities of rational dialogue about our
environmental problems. He does not value brevity or originality, although his work
provides significant insights into the possibilities of transforming both scientific and
religious thought to heal our environment. Teilhard (1964) values the deep spiritual
potential of the evolutionary process as well as the planetary and cosmic environments
that provide the space and ground for our anticipated growth toward unity. Thomas
Berry (1988) values the narrative-the story well told. His work emanates the highest
value of all: unconditional love for the natural world on all levels-as a source of life
necessities, as a place of unlimited beauty, and as a total functioning unit which is beyond
our capacity to comprehend. Wilber (1998, 2000) values the integrating power of
rationality as a necessary prelude to deepening our relationship with the physical
environment and to opening our beings to the inner cosmic environment. Bennett (1956,
1961, 1966a, 1966b) values the immediacy of the cosmic environment and the
intellectual possibilities of penetrating through the superficial surfaces of perceptions into
the deep interior of the spiritual environment, here and now.
Bennett (1956, 1961, 1966a, 1966b) insists that we must learn to look at the total
environment of immediate experience in a strategic fashion if we are to find value in our
lives and to make those values real. Therefore, he divides the cosmic environment into
three domains of fact, value, and harmony. The physical environment of existing things
(including life) is the domain of fact: cosmic in extent, devoid of values and functioning
like a machine under the power of law. The domain of values is miraculous, perfectly
coincident with the natural world, but sourced in a transcendent dimension completely
beyond all creation. The domain of harmony reconciles the existing domain of fact with
the transcendent domain of values by introducing a third principle that is common to both
domains, yet uniquely new and definitively real. In all cases, Bennett requires us to
investigate our own experience to test his ideas in a practical fashion, day by day.
The interactions between the domains of fact and value must be explored with
profound subtlety of attention in order to see exactly how Bennett's (1956, 1961, 1966a,
1966b) ideas apply to our daily lives in relation to the environment. The beginning of
these interactions is learning to assent to value by noticing a particular quality in the
environment and entering into a positive relationship with it. When we pay very close
attention to our recognition of values, we may be able to awaken to the sources of value
in what Bennett calls the essence. Although the word "essence" can be defined in many
ways, even in the work of Bennett, it can be understood holistically to mean the pattern of
all our possibilities, for which the entire cosmic environment of the universe was created.
This does not mean that the universe was created as a resource for human exploitation. It
means that everything that exists was created as an expression of a cosmic value that is
truly incomprehensible. Our proper response to the miracle of existence is to make
precious the qualities we find in it and to find ways to ground these qualities in daily life.
This act of making qualities real in the tangible world of our lives will be explored in the
next, and final, chapter.
1. New Webster's Dictionary of The English Language, Delair Publishing Co., USA,
4. Eldredge, Life In The Balance, 152.
6. Ibid., 188.
7. Leakey and Lewin, The Sixth Extinction, 126.
8. Ibid., 247.
9. Ibid., 2.
10. Ibid., 248.
11. Ibid., 6.
12. Ibid., 7.
13. Wilson, The Diversity of Life, 12.
14. Ibid., 345.
15. Ibid., 88.
16. Ibid., 32.
17. Ibid., 281.
18. Ibid., 44.
19. Ibid., 345.
20. Ibid., 182.
21. Ibid., 319.
22. Ibid., 158.
23. Ibid., 59.
24. Ibid., 32.
25. Ibid., 350.
26. Ibid., 347.
27. Ibid., 351.
29. Ibid., 35.
30. Ibid., 312.
31. Lovelock, The Ages of Gaia, 207.
32. Ibid., 23.
33. Ibid., 209.
34. Ibid., xvii.
35. Ibid., 20.
36. Ibid., 207.
37. Barbour, Ethics In An Age of Technology, 26.
38. Barbour, Religion In An Age of Science, 16.
39. Ibid., xv.
40. Ibid., 90.
41. Barbour, Ethics In An Age of Technology, 26.
42. Ibid., 42.
43. Ibid., 57.
44. Ibid., 58.
45. Ibid., 60.
46. Ibid., 62.
47. Ibid., 41.
48. Religion In An Age of Science, 33.
49. Ibid., 65.
50. Ibid., 21.
51. Ibid., 23.
53. Ibid., 64.
55. Barbour, Ethics In An Age of Technology, 57.
56. Ibid., 57.
57. Ibid., 61.
58. Ibid., 62.
60. Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man, 187.
61. Ibid., 186.
62. Ibid., 275.
63. Ibid., 210-211.
64. Ibid., 197.
65. Ibid., 202.
66. Ibid., 54.
67. Ibid., 195.
68. Ibid., 43.
69. Ibid., 40.
70. Ibid., 60.
71. Ibid., 192.
72. Ibid., 23.
73. Ibid., 16.
74. Ibid., 17.
75. Ibid., 47.
76. Ibid., 208.
77. Ibid., 205.
78. Berry, The Dream of The Earth, 27.
79. Ibid., 16.
80. Ibid., 21.
81. Ibid., 10.
82. Ibid., 13.
83. Ibid., 13.
84. Ibid., 25.
85. Ibid., 133.
86. Ibid., 159.
87. Ibid., xi.
88. Ibid., 48.
89. Ibid., 124.
90. Ibid., 133.
91. Ibid., 136.
93. Ibid., 106.
94. Ibid., 25.
95. Ibid., 129.
96. Ibid., 169.
97. Ibid., 135.
98. Wilber, Sex, Ecology and Spirituality, 133.
99. Ibid., 117.
100. Ibid., 180.
102. Ibid., 73.
103. Ibid., 190.
104. Ibid., 191.
105. Ibid., 133.
106. Bennett, The Dramatic Universe, II, 32.
109. Ibid., III, 17.
110. Ibid., II, x.
111. Ibid., II, 15.
112. Ibid., II, 18.
113. Ibid., II, 24.
114. Ibid., II, 32.
115. Ibid., II, 36.
116. Ibid., II, 18.
117. Ibid., II, 20.
118. Ibid., II, 22.
119. Ibid., II, 29.
120. Ibid., II, 30.
THE HARMONY OF FACT AND VALUE IN THE ENVIRONMENT
The purpose of Chapter 2 was to demonstrate that a call exists among the writers
cited in this thesis for a new paradigm of thought in the relationship of humanity to the
environment. Chapter 3 explored the meaning of the word "environment" and Chapter 4
investigated the meaning of the word "values", with particular emphasis upon how these
writers understand environmental values. The intention of this chapter is to show how
these authorities in their respected fields visualize resolving our environmental problems.
From a religious perspective, this chapter reviews the practical application of
environmental ethics to specific issues. For some, this application is immediate, tangible,
and grounded in physical action that produces results that can be measured and evaluated.
For others, this healing response is oriented to education, formulating knowledge for
future generations to harvest and to renew. And for still others, the practical tasks of
environmental ethics take the form of spiritual action, engaging the parameters of a
dialogue between God and humanity, or spirit and life, while producing small but deeply
meaningful fruits of wisdom.
It is a simple but remarkable fact that all of these writers share a passionate
conviction that evolution is real and central to all life processes. Perhaps it is even more
astonishing that all of them share an emerging awareness that the context of evolution is
also important-and will become even more so in the future. The study of this context
on every level is what is called ecology; the study of the relationships that support and
connect all evolutionary processes. The method of this chapter will be to allow the twin
strands of evolution and ecology to frame the background of the discussion. This chapter
will also consider the work of each writer in terms of the three types of practical action
that can be taken to heal the environment: tangible, educational and mystical. In the case
of some writers, the tangible is all that seems to matter; for others, the mystical looms
large in the background, overshadowing all mundane concerns. What matters is that each
writer contributes a unique perspective to the single idea that our values must ultimately
take the form of some kind of healing response to save the environment from the
malicious handiwork of our species.
Niles Eldredge and the Power of Political Action to Protect the Environment
The main fact that propels Eldredge's (1998) Life In The Balance is the awareness
that human beings have reproduced very successfully since the agricultural revolution,
with direct and indirect consequences. The direct consequence is overpopulation; the
indirect consequence is rampant exploitation of the natural world. Therefore, the bulk of
Eldredge's (1998) effort is to formulate specific, tangible models of action for stabilizing
human population and for safeguarding the richness of the natural world instead of
plundering it.1 Interestingly, his ideas for population control focus upon the economic
empowerment of women. He believes that the education of underprivileged women
should take the form of learning how to take an active role in economic affairs outside the
home-which automatically dampens birth rates.2 It should be stressed that the education
Eldredge (1998) supports in this case is highly proactive, placing women directly into the
workplace of their communities as active agents who learn by participating in local
Most of Eldredge's (1998) interest focuses upon the plight of indigenous peoples
who destroy the natural world that surrounds them in order to survive. He stresses that
we must strike a balance between human economy and ecosystems-that it is ridiculous
to tell starving people not to clear land for food.3Eldredge (1998) believes that it is
possible to enable local people to assume active ownership of the living resources around
them,4 thereby expanding the context of sustainability to include human life as a
significant environmental variable.5 Like a true pragmatist, Eldredge (1998) has a
political agenda that he calls the politics of biodiversity. In its simplest outlines, he calls
for implementing initiatives, assessing ecosystems, developing conservative policies that
reflect the true economic value of the living world, and meeting the economic needs of
existing populations.6 His outlook is pragmatic and his solutions are immediate and
practical. He believes that political action can protect the environment by empowering
those who are locked into patterns of excessive reproduction and environmental
exploitation in order to secure minimal subsistence: the disenfranchised of the earth.
Leakey and Lewin and the Importance of Safeguarding the Environment
The Sixth Extinction (1995) is somewhat vacuous when it comes to specific and
tangible suggestions for resolving the biodiversity crisis. This is because the authors
intend to make their point indirectly, leaving it up to the reader to take the next step.
They prefer to recommend defensive action that shifts the responsibility for
environmental destruction to the exploiters "who should prove that plant and animal
species are not useful before having the right to destroy them".7 Although this may appear
a bit naive at first, the logic may be sound. If we reverse the legal tables on exploitation,
we may or may not eliminate a lot of red tape by requiring proof that is difficult to
provide, contrary to our present dilemma in which we try to prove the value of
ecosystems in a socio-economic context of gross materialism. Leakey and Lewin (1995)
suggest that we make an effort to see wildlife in economic terms in order to move toward
a sustainability paradigm,8 raising the question of how this might best be done. The best
way to describe the application of their exaltation of biodiversity to the real world of
environmental action is through pro-active protection. These two writers (1995) are fact-
based scientific visionaries who foresee an impending environmental crisis that we are
bringing upon ourselves.9 Their deepest wish is to protect future generations from
unimaginable suffering by shifting our collective identity to an environmental context: a
more biocentric perspective.
E. O. Wilson and the Practice of Environmental Redemption
The Diversity of Life (1992) concludes with Wilson's call for a new scientific
discipline (biodiversity studies) that will integrate biology, anthropology, economics,
agriculture, government and law.10 The ultimate purpose of Wilson's (1992) book is to
enunciate a program for creating a sustainable relationship between humanity and the
biosphere. His first step toward this end is to reclassify environmental problemslto
reflect the true value of evolutionary diversity and ecological interdependence. Wilson
(1992) itemizes five specific tasks for achieving the singular goal of sustainability, each
of which contributes to the overriding purpose of saving and using in perpetuity as much
of the earth's diversity as possible.12The first of these tasks requires surveying the
world's flora and fauna. This could be most efficiently accomplished, according to
Wilson (1992), by detailed mapping of the structure of ecosystems with GIS (geographic
information systems) technology that would compile layers of data about topography,
vegetation, soils, hydrology and species distribution.13The second task-creating
biological wealth-involves bioeconomic analysis that assigns economic value to species
(as commodities), to wild habitats (as recreation areas), and to ecosystems (as future
investments). Wilson (1992) believes that the key to creating this wealth is to use the
legal system to delay despoliation of ecosystems, to use science to analyze the
ecosystems, and to use educational techniques to familiarize the public with ecosystems
(hopefully magnifying affection for the natural world).14
The third of Wilson's (1992) tasks for realizing global sustainability is to promote
sustainable development. This would limit population growth and help the rural poor of
the world to live on the land, meeting all of their needs without destroying biodiversity.15
The fourth vital task of sustainability is to save what remains of the world's biodiversity
by preserving natural ecosystems. 16Wilson (1992) visualizes a skillful blend of scientific
research (to enhance development), capital investment (to create sustainable markets),
and governmental controls (to balance economic growth with conservation). He cites the
Endangered Species Act of 1973 as a prototypical example of this preservation process,
with increased attention to the concept of locating and protecting hotspots of potential
biological extinctions. 17Finally, Wilson's (1992) fifth sustainability task is to restore the
wildlands of the biosphere. He considers this 21st century to be the era of restoration in
ecology.18Wilson's (1992) redemptive vision is a well-considered effort to bring the facts
of environmental decay into conjunction with realistic (although high-minded) proposals
for enduring sustainability.
James Lovelock and the Gaia Hypothesis as a Unifying Environmental Vision
Lovelock (1988) simply wants the scientific community to wake up and notice the
whole planet. The Ages of Gaia is first a warning about the consequences of ignoring
what our species is doing to our planet, our home. Lovelock (1988) considers bad
farming to be the primary culprit of destruction,19 with modem forestry practices20 and
the burning of fossil fuels21 as powerful villains in the drama as well. He presents
scientific evidence to rally support for his intuition that a unifying intelligence (although
just awakening) is maintaining the climate on this planet at a temperature that is ideal for
life, a condition he calls homeostasis.22Lovelock (1988) insists that evolution on this
planet is a total phenomenon, including rocks, air and biota23 as indivisible components
that are inseparable from an integrated planetary ecosystem. Therefore, according to
Lovelock (1988), we need a new profession that investigates this total planetary system,
just as we have the profession of physiology to examine the general state of human
health: integrating all of the sub-professions in the field of medicine.24
Lovelock (1988) has a vision that will never be accepted fully by the scientific
community in his lifetime, but he feels compelled to share what he intuits with the people
he believes need to hear it. Nonetheless, his little book and the crude outline of his
amorphous epiphany begin to bridge the huge gap between the worldviews of ancient and
modern peoples, between the sacred and secular worldviews. Lovelock's (1988) intuitive
sense is grounded in scientific facts, although these facts lack an integrating homology to
guide his thought and to shape his vision. His choice of Western physiology as the model
for a total planetary system is unfortunate because Western science lacks both a heart and
a soul, relying upon strict empirical data for its prognoses. Lovelock (1988) has a fine
intuitive mind and a truly majestic insight but his intellectual conditioning cripples him.
Unfortunately, his work will be defined by the limitations of his intellectual context
rather than by the sincerity of his intent.
Ian Barbour and the Rational Evaluation of Environmental Perspectives
Barbour (1990, 1993) brings various perspectives to the discussion of
environmental ethics and practical modes for harmonizing fact and value. His intention
is to integrate the dialogues of philosophy, theology, science, ethics and technology.
Barbour's (1990, 1993) stated goals are justice, peace and environmental preservation; he
stresses that justice is a precondition of peace.25His specific recommendations for
environmental preservation include protecting species and ecosystems, reducing pollution
and sustaining natural resources.26He emphasizes the importance of renewable resources:
solar, hydroelectric, biomass (such as corn and sugar cane for ethanol) and agroforestry.27
Barbour (1990, 1993) clarifies the important difference between the hard and soft paths
of energy consumption: fossil fuels and nuclear energy versus conservation and
renewable sources.28He indicates that there are three major groups to be considered in all
applications of environmental values: the individual, the society, and the environment.29
Barbour (1990, 1993) offers an array of practical suggestions for applying values to the
environment: the way of tangible immediate action. He also addresses issues of
education, evidenced by his lectures that take the form of the two volumes from which
these quotes are drawn.
A great deal of his writing is an attempt to proselytize the process philosophy of
Whitehead, whose categories apparently satisfy Barbour's (1990, 1993) need for a
theology that respects the natural world. Barbour (1990, 1993) is particularly concerned
with ideas of freedom, which he defines in two primary ways. The first is social,
involving the opportunity to participate in the decisions that affect one's life.30The second
definition of freedom is evolutionary-the idea that freedom increases with complexity
and organization.31Although he feels the need to speak primarily to social concerns, some
of Barbour's (1990, 1993) interest is theological but definitely not mystical. He appears
to be interested in ideas of God primarily as a vehicle for Whitehead's process thought.
Barbour's (1990, 1993) practical vision is thorough yet fragmented, lacking a harmonious
integration of the many components of his wide interests. Ultimately, this breadth proves
to be a liability, losing in clarity what he hopes to gain by massive, but scattered, effort.
Yet his method does provide a solid foundation for future work in the continuing
dialogue between science and religion. Many gems are scattered in his lectures that will
guide much environmental healing.
Teilhard de Chardin and the Embrace of the Mystical Environment
Teilhard (1964) speaks of the objective problem of attributing structure to the
world,32 presumably by the free minds that reflect, penetrate, and systematically arrange
ideas.33His ideas tend to be very abstract, pointing ever upward on the great evolutionary
spiral. He links the law of recurrence to the growth in consciousness as a function of
increased complexity.34Teilhard (1964) visualizes this evolutionary process as a vital
urge to grasp all things, to transcend the self,35 and to grow in stature and strength so as to
be able to give more of oneself and to clasp in a tighter embrace.36He believes that we
must develop the sense of ourselves as a species37and that we shall not be able to survive
except by developing and embracing the earth.38His vision is optimistic, wrapped in a
choiceless sense of impending glory that cannot ignore the tragic possibility of self-
destruction. But it is the mystic vision that penetrates the practical aspect of Teilhard's
(1964) work. He refers to the necessity of adding all human knowledge to an immortal
centre of love39and of the ultimate individual fulfillment by conscious union with a
Supreme Being.40His idea of the "point omega", which constantly emanates radiations
perceptible to mystics41 has been widely borrowed.
Teilhard (1964) refers to the heart as the supreme point of coalescence and as the
sphere of feeling with its powers of unification.4He encourages us to love one another,
recognizing in the heart of each the same God who is being born.43For Teilhard (1964),
the law of life is attuning to a mystic vision here and now, allowing every aspect of it to
govern one's life and thought. For him, this is the practical action of the ultimate mystery
of consummating the universe in ourselves.44His work expresses the mystical embrace
that dissolves the sense of separation and guides us to deeper identities in a collective
evolutionary process. Relative to the environment, this futuristic mystical vision entices
the mystic within each of us to embrace all that lives with familial affection. This
mystical gesture provides an intentional context from which appropriate environmental
action will spontaneously flow-a powerful contribution toward the healing that must
take place in our ecological age.
Thomas Berry and the New Ecological Cultural Coding of the Environment
Although much of Berry's (1988) interest is educational, he also provides specific,
tangible suggestions for healing the earth. These ideas include evolving alternative
programs to remedy our current dysfunctional industrial patterns in food and energy
production, housing, architecture, sanitation, health, and forestry. The rule of thumb for
these programs is that smaller scale produces higher quality.45 He also believes that it is
important to change our bookkeeping from a fictional context to the reality of cost to the
environment.46 Berry (1988) advocates changing the educational process to honor the
earth itself as primary physician, lawgiver, scientist, technologist, artist, educator and
revealer of the divine.47 He repeatedly laments the absence of a functional cosmology,48
calling for the creation of the spiritual context of the ecological age-the next great
It is intriguing to read Berry's (1988) work as a form of lyric poetry which is
sentimental, but solidly grounded in real healing wisdom. This wisdom can easily be