Sunday, May 16, 2010

evolution, anthropocentrism, environment


I am not so interested in how human is different from the other animals. Or, I can put it, I am as much interested in difference between human and apes as I am in difference between lion and the other cats. I am also interested in what made Charles Darwin discover evolution and how people accept or reject this idea. My point is that, if there was no notion of the agency who creates the world for Darwin, there might have been no such a discovery.
The PBS has many good educational programs to teach evolution. What strikes me is that some of the programs appear to try to argue that evolution and the religious belief shared by many Americans are compatible. For instance, Evolution Episode7: What about God? is an exemplary of this effort. I understand the PBS strives to democratize knowledge. The gap of knowledge between the people who understand evolution and the others who believe in the biblical creationism literally might be a grave concern for the broadcaster. It also tries to "humanize" Darwin, a Lucifer for those of conservative Christians, depicting how much he suffered and hesitated before the publication of his On the Origin of Species. Unlike Richard Dawkins, the PBS appears to be more practical not to attack religion itself, perhaps because it knows well that the problem for those Christian students to make sense evolution is real.
What about God? describes that evolution puts many American students from conservative Christian families an ontological question. For them accepting evolution means alienating their families or cutting themselves from their own roots.
I think that, generally speaking, for the most of Asian Christians living in Asia, the question is rather epistemological. For them, Genesis happened in a kind of spiritual world, but not in this material world. It may be relatively easy for them to make religion and evolution compatible to each other. Though I know there are many evangelists in Asia, or in Japan, I can imagine that the problem for them is not as painful as for the Americans.
Most of Japanese students have no trouble to accept evolution, but I can point out that they can struggle to understand some ideas in evolution, such as distinction between designed objects and designoid objects, which is often discussed by Dawkins. He explains that bee nest is not designed, but something looking like designed: bees are wired to make their nests, but they are not doing so at will. A Japanese student may ask "How can you tell we humans are not wired to make our houses, Mona Lisa, or Moonlight Sonata?" The distinction between the designed and the designoid is used to explain how natural cause makes amazing things. Such an explanation is needed because, in Western culture, when the people are struck by the beauty of nature they tend to imagine that someone has to create this. For a Japanese, comparing creation of nature, if ever was created, to watchmaking is rather blasphemous: "Nature did it. No one can do such amazing things. Making watches or planes is pathetic, compared with what nature does. What's wrong with that?"
In my view, if Darwin was not religious he did not find evolution. His job was rather redefining the watchmaker, but not rejecting it. For him, without a subject there was no world. My assumption is that, for many Asians, the world does not need such a subject in order to exist. I quickly add that I am not interested in which notion of the world is superior.
I would love to understand so-called the Western subjectivity. I have never been in America. The most of Americans I have met are, I think, rather secular people. So I am not qualified to say something about those evangelists. But, I dare say what I imagine is that the main obstacle for those religious people to conciliate evolution is their anthropocentrism, but not the Western subjectivity. In my opinion, it is important to articulate the subjectivity from anthropocentrism.
Anthropocentrism is everywhere, even among those of environmentalists. For such people, only human can save, say, biodiversity. But, who saves for what? It is humans who benefit from saving biodiversity. Anthropocentrism tends to ignore this.
Anthropocentrism and Evo Morales's notion of Mother Earth may be two sides of the same coin. Though I am for his idea of climate debt, I do not think those indigenous people have never polluted the earth. Of course, I agree with that the developed nations are mostly responsible for climate change and have to cut emissions drastically. My point is that Mother Earth is not a pre-modern idea. If there was no anthropocentrism, there could not be such a concept. Those indigenous people are not living in another time. They are our contemporary.

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