Environmentalism As Religion Essay Contest

Guest essay by Andy May

The late Dr. Michael Crichton was wonderful writer. In 2003 he presented a wonderful essay in San Francisco equating environmentalism to religion. Nobel prize winning physicist Dr. Ivar Giaver makes the same point in a presentation here. In religion man is meant to be saved from the consequences of his sins. In the environmentalist religion the world was a wonderful, beautiful Eden until man and his technology came along. Man has eaten the apple and lost Eden. Now we must give up our “evil” technology and go back to nature, otherwise all is lost.

As Crichton notes:

“There is no Eden. There never was. What was that Eden of the wonderful mythic past? Is it the time when infant mortality was 80%, when four children in five died of disease before the age of five? When one woman in six died in childbirth? When the average lifespan was 40, as it was in America a century ago. When plagues swept across the planet, killing millions in a stroke. Was it when millions starved to death? Is that when it was Eden?

And what about indigenous peoples, living in a state of harmony with the Eden-like environment? Well, they never did. On this continent, the newly arrived people who crossed the land bridge almost immediately set about wiping out hundreds of species of large animals, and they did this several thousand years before the white man showed up … And what was the condition of life? Loving, peaceful, harmonious? Hardly, the early peoples of the New World lived in a state of constant warfare. … The warlike tribes of this continent are famous: the Comanche, Sioux, Apache, Mohawk, Aztecs, Toltec, Incas. Some of them practiced infanticide, and human sacrifice. And those tribes that were not fiercely warlike were exterminated…”

Environmentalists are horrible at predictions. We haven’t run out of oil, millions haven’t starved due to overpopulation, half of all species have not gone extinct, temperatures have not risen in over 18 years, total Antarctic ice and sea ice are increasing and on and on. But, it’s a religion, facts don’t matter. The bearded idiot on the street doesn’t put down his “end of the world is near” sign just because we pass the date he predicted we would all die. He just changes the date of destruction and carries on.

As Dr. Crichton explains, DDT is not a carcinogen, it did not cause birds to die and the people who banned it knew these facts. But, they banned it anyway and as a result tens of millions of poor people, mostly children, died. This was because of religion, not science.

The “Church of Global Warming” is probably the worst sect. The world has warmed from 288 Kelvin to 288.8 Kelvin in the last 135 years and not at all since 2002 according to the UAH satellite data. This is insignificant and very normal variability. The world is greener, food crops better and larger than ever, fewer people are hungry or in poverty, life expectancy is longer than ever before, and we have more arable land. There is no evidence that global warming is either man-made or dangerous and there is no evidence that carbon dioxide is either the sole cause of the minor warming we have seen or the dominant cause. We can show it is a greenhouse gas like water vapor, but that is about it.

We must get the religion out of environmentalism. We must get it back on a scientific basis. Too many organizations are simply lying, pure and simple. It started with DDT and has only gotten worse since. Science, especially environmental science, is becoming more and more politicized and this could have disastrous consequences.


Note: this post accidentally went up without Andy May’s byline. He is the author, not me. -Anthony Watts

Like this:


September 14, 2016 in Climate News.

Read my contribution to the Immanent Frame

Learn more about my book

Consecrating Science, University of California Press, 2017

View the Chautauqua Institution Lecture series "Journey of the Universe". Scroll to mark 19:20 to view my talk.

Hear my interview on Rachel Carson's Silent Spring at WFHB here.

Find my complete cv here.

Lisa Sideris

Professor, Department of Religious Studies


Sycamore Hall, Rm. 227


Ph.D., Indiana University, 2000

Research Interests

  • Religion and Nature
  • Science and Religion
  • Environmental Humanities
  • Environmental and Animal Ethics
  • Energy Ethics
  • Evolution Controversies
  • Religion and the Anthropocene
  • Environmental History and Literature

Professional Biography

I received my Ph.D. from Indiana University in 2000. Before coming (back) to IU, I taught both at Pace University in New York City and at McGill University in Montreal. I came back to Indiana’s Religious Studies Department both because of the strong interdisciplinary profile of the program, and because of the natural beauty of IU and Bloomington.

In the broadest sense, I am interested in the value and ethical significance of natural processes, as these values are captured or occluded by religious and scientific worldviews. My areas of research include environmental ethics and the environmental humanities and the science-religion interface. Much of my early research focused on conflict and compatibility between scientific (particularly Darwinian) and religious interpretations of nature and natural processes. My first book Environmental Ethics, Ecological Theology, and Natural Selection (Columbia University Press, 2003) critiques the tendency of Christian environmental ethics, or “ecological theology,” to misconstrue or ignore Darwinian theory, and examines the problems this creates for developing a realistic ethic toward nature and animals.

I am also interested in the legacy and ongoing relevance of environmental pioneer Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring (1962) arguably marks the beginning of the environmental movement in America and abroad. I edited (with philosopher and nature writer Kathleen Dean Moore) a volume of interdisciplinary essays on Carson's life and work, titled Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge (SUNY Press 2008).

My recent research has focused on the role of wonder in contemporary scientific discourse and its impact on how we conceive of and relate to nature. My current book, Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Natural World (University of California Press, July 2017) examines how scientific rhetoric and narratives about wonder actually pit science against religion, and encourage a devaluation of the natural world. Stories of the origin and evolution of our universe and our planet (the “Universe Story, or “Epic of Evolution”) are emblematic of modes of “consecrated science” that, I argue, are environmentally and ethically problematic. Related to this, I am also interested in the mythic, religious, and ethical dimensions of the so-called Anthropocene. I currently lead a research project with scholars from three other Midwestern universities that investigates religious and ethical perspectives on being human in the Anthropocene.

I am actively involved in IU’s Individualized Major Program and have taught in the Human Biology Program, and I am affiliated with the Integrated Program in the Environment at IU.


  • PI, “Being Human in the Age of Humans: Perspectives from Religion and Ethics,” funded by the Humanities Without Walls Consortium, $141,215.
  • Course Development Sustainability Fellowship, IU Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs/IU Office of Sustainability (Course: “The God Species: Ethics in the Anthropocene”). 2015
  • Beth Wood Distinguished Service-Learning Faculty Award (IU Office of Service Learning), 2012, 2013.
  • Fellow, Rachel Carson Center for Environmental Studies, Munich, Germany. July-Dec., 2010
  • Co-applicant, “Virtuous Empathy,” Grant from University of Chicago, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, 2010. Richard Miller, PI.
  • New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities Grant 2010. Project: “Nature-Study and the Empathic Imagination 1900-Present.”
  • New Frontiers Exploration Travel Fellowship 2010
  • Participant, Interdisciplinary Faculty Workshop on Empathy (sponsored by IU's Institute for Advanced Study and Poynter Center) 2009-2010
  • Trustees Teaching Award, Indiana University, 2008
  • Active Learning Grant, Indiana University, 2008
  • Global Citizenship Course Development Grant (Course: “Religion, Ethics, and the Global Environmental Crisis”) 2007
  • Indiana University Summer Faculty Research Fellowship, 2006
  • Fellow, Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton University (Darwin and Religion Project), 2000-2001
  • Templeton Foundation Science and Religion Course Competition Prize, 1999-2000

Courses Recently Taught

  • COLL-C 103 Pleasure, Pain, and Peak Oil
  • HUBI(Human Biology)-B 300 Living Downstream
  • REL-R 202 Religion and Animals
  • REL-D 340 Religion and Bioethics
  • REL-D 350 Religion, Ethics and the Environment
  • REL-D 430 Evolution and Ethics
  • REL-D 430/571 The God Species: Ethics in the Anthropocene

Publication Highlights


Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Natural World (University of California Press, 2017)

Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge (SUNY Press, 2008)

Environmental Ethics, Ecological Theology, and Natural Selection (Columbia University Press, 2003)

Articles and Book Chapters

“Spirituality,” in Fueling Culture: 101 Words for Energy and the Environment, ed. by Imre Szeman, Jennifer Wenzel, and Patricia Yaeger. Fordham University Press, 2017.

“‘To know the story is to love it:’ Scientific Mythmaking and the Longing for Cosmic Connection” in Methodological Challenges in Nature-Culture and Environmental History Research. Edited by Jocelyn Thorpe, Stephanie Rutherford, L. Anders Sandberg. Routledge. 2016.

“Anthropocene Convergences: A Report from the Field,” in “Whose Anthropocene? Revisiting Dipesch Chakrabarty’s ‘Four Theses.’” Ed. by Robert Emmett and Thomas Lekan, RCC Perspectives: Transformations in Environment and Society, 2016: 2, 89-96.

“On Letting a Thousand Flowers Bloom: Religious Scholarship in a Time of Crisis,” in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion (Roundtable on Climate Destabilization), Vol 83, No. 2, June 2015.

“Science as Sacred Myth? Ecospirituality in the Anthropocene Age,” and "The Confines of Consecration: A Reply to Critics.” Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture, “Contesting Consecrated Scientific Narratives” (author-critics forum on my work). JSRNC 9.2, 2015.

“Forbidden Fruit: Wonder, Religious Narrative, and the Quest for the Atomic Bomb,” in Celia Deane-Drummond, Sigurd Bergmann, and Bronislaw Szerszynski, eds., Technofutures and the Sacred: Transdisciplinary Perspectives. eds. (Ashgate, 2015).

“Contested Wonder: Biological Reductionism and Children’s Nature Study,” in the Journal of Religion and Society, Supplement Series 11 (2015).

"I See You: Interspecies Empathy and Avatar,” Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture. 4.4. (2010) 457-477.

"Fact and Fiction, Fear and Wonder: The Legacy of Rachel Carson.” 2009 (2008) Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal 91 (3-4) 2 (actual publication date Aug. 2009)

“The Secular and Religious Sources of Rachel Carson’s Sense of Wonder.” In Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge, Lisa H. Sideris and Kathleen Dean Moore, eds. SUNY, 2008.

“Evolving Environmentalism: Ecotheology in Creation/Evolution Controversies.” Worldviews: Environment, Culture, Religion. 11(1). Mar 2007.

“Religion and the Meaning of Ecology,” The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Ecology, Roger Gottlieb, ed., Oxford UP, 2006.

“Religion and Environmentalism in America,” Faith In America,[Three Volumes], Charles Lippy, ed., Greenwood Press, 2006.

“Writing Straight With Crooked Lines: Holmes Rolston’s Eco-Theology and Theodicy,” Nature, Value, and Duty: Life on Earth with Holmes Rolston, III, Christopher Preston and Wayne Ouderkirk, eds. Springer Press, 2006.

“Intelligent Design, Science Education, and Public Reason.” Poynter Center White Paper. Robert A. Crouch, Richard B. Miller, Lisa H. Sideris. Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions, Indiana University. 2006.

“Environmental Ethics, Ecological Theology, and Natural Selection” Environmental Stewardship: Critical Perspectives, Past and Present, R.J. Berry, ed., T&T Clark International, 2006

“The Ecological Body” [on Rachel Carson]. Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 85 (4-5), 2003

“One Step Up, Two Steps Back: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Savagery in Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory.” Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 84(3-4), 2002

“Roots of Concern with Nonhuman Animals in Biomedical Ethics,” bioethics issue of Journal of the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research, 40(1), 1999 (with David H. Smith, and Charles McCarthy)

Blogs and Online Publications

“Genesis 2.0.”, Cosmologics: A Magazine of Science, Religion, and Culture. Summer 2016.

“Surviving the Anthropocene Part I: Big Brains and Big Money at the Smithsonian," Inhabiting the Anthropocene. July 5, 2016

“Surviving the Anthropocene, Part II: Of Omega Points and Oil.” Inhabiting the Anthropocene. July 8, 2016

Guest editor, “Cosmology and the Environment,” Immanent Frame.


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