In the sacred scriptures, there were
explanations given for an ethics
encompassing the world of nature as well
as that of human beings. Animals and
plants were seen as God's creation, with
spiritual value, as were rivers and mountains.
Those notions are now scientifically
meaningless, and any environmental ethics
based on that view of the world is based on
mere sentimentality. It is not based on
reality, if you accept the scientific view of
the world as reality.
It's like talking about the sacredness
of human life. In one breath we mention
the sacredness of human life and with
the next breath note that its basis is
nothing but DNA. What is sacred about
DNA if it is just some molecules banging
against each other in certain configurations?
If we reject the sacred, reject that it is the
wisdom of God that is imprinted upon
the DNA, that all creation bears the
imprint of God - a meaningless statement
in modern biology - where then does the
sacredness of human life come from?
Even the withering away of Christian
ethics, which we now see before us after
several hundred years of its survival even
since the Scientific Revolution, has to do
a lot with the more recent consequences
of the extension of the desacralized view
of nature into the domain of human life
itself. This is especially notable when it
comes to environmental ethics, which we
need to create in a serious way if we are
to be able to live in the future.
For now, animal activists and others
like them are outside of the mainstream.
They are considered "crazy people"
who tie themselves to trees and refuse
to come down. These acts are not part
of the mainstream of society, which is
not able to develop an environmental
ethic that is also in accord with the
worldview that dominates our lives.
A similar disjunction occurs in our
hospitals because of the purely mechanical
treatment of the human body, and tensions
are created by the fact that some people
still believe they have a soul and that the
human body is not just a mechanical gadget.
All of these tensions present great challenges
that the still dominant worldview poses for us,
and are signs that this paradigm is
now falling apart.
Seyyed Hossein Nasr
From "In The Beginning Was Consciousness"
The Harvard Divinity Bulletin