Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Quote of the day: On determinative and normative knowledge

"Sadly, while mankind's determinative knowledge has accumulated, its normative knowledge has been rather volatile."


SYSTEMS SCIENCE. Systems Practice, 10:13-35,1997.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Roaring Augrabies

For a few days Augrabies Falls, or "the place of the Great Noise" in the Northern Cape, is becoming a place of "Great Thunder". The average volume of 313 cubic metres per secondis expected to increase to around 5200 cubic metres per second, almost 17 times the average flow! With columns of spray rising high into the sky, it reminds one of Mosi-oa-Tunya or the "Smoke that Thunders", a local description for the Victoria Falls. Here are some eyewitness pictures of one of Africa's great showpieces, although when we where there the main falls were completely obscured by spray.

When driving upstream it is very clear that the floods that cause this spectacle also have another, more darker side:

It is when a displaced labourer start asking us what to do next after his house was flooded, the extent of the problem starts driving home. Many flood-hit areas have now been declared as national disasters.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Some thoughts on Christian environmental ethics

The emerging ecological crises have brought a renewed focus on an ethics of the environment. An ethics of the environment and Protestant Christianity are often perceived to be at odds. An often-cited reason is the thesis by Lynn White that Christianity is responsible for the current ecological crises. This thesis has been discussed and refuted previously, but still commands a lot of attention. An alternative Christian ethic on the environment is emerging as evident by certain educational programmes, such as this one at ICS (youtube) and recent work at the University of Exeter.

What does concern is that certain long-term developments within mainstream Protestant Christianity theology and practice itself that does not lend itself easily towards a worldview integrative enough to include the whole of the cosmos. Protestant Christianity has a lot to offer in the development of an environmental ethic, but is plagued by certain internal obstacles. At least two of these obstacles need further elaboration, namely a narrow focus on personal redemption and the Platonic eschatological idea of a sinful earth that will be exchanged for a perfect heaven.

This contrasts with another view within Protestant Christianity that redemption includes the whole of the cosmos and that the future will be a renewed heavens and earth, restored to Gods original intent at creation.

It is my view that such divergent views on the nature of redemption and eschatology have had profound impacts on the development of a Christian ethics on the environment, and need to be critically discussed and where possible corrected for further contributions to the field of environmental ethics from an integrative Protestant-Christian worldview.