Is there a tension between de-anthropocentrism and sustainability?: On one potential pitfall of eco-theologies’ use of empirical science

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From a standpoint sympathetic to environmentalist concerns, this paper identifies and probes a tension internal to theologies that aim to de-anthropocentrize religion (usually Christianity) to pursue the ethical ideal of sustainability. Such theologies include ecotheo- logies (like McFague’s), theocentrisms (like Gustafson’s), and other scientifically-informed posthumanist (or adjacent) thought (like Rubenstein’s critical pantheism) that build from Lynn White’s 1967 claim that entrenched dualisms associated with classical theology and Enlightenment science set the stage for environmental catastrophe. This tension, I argue, emerges from these theologies’ simultaneous commitments (a) to defend the signifi- cance of empirical discoveries in physical cosmology, evolutionary history, and geology that decenter Homo sapiens in the context of God’s (broader) creation, and (b) to foster sustainable relationships between humanity and non-human nature, including animals, landforms, ecosystems, and natural processes. Despite each commitment ostensibly bolstering the other, I contend that in some contexts, they undermine one another: To achieve its ethical goal, such theologies recruit scientific insights that decenter human beings by contextualizing humanity within older and farther-reaching natural processes. Yet by so doing, the goal of sustaining non-human nature and natural processes as they are is paradoxically revealed as indexical to (some) humans’ desire to retain a status quo.
Period2022 nov. 25
EvenemangstitelAt the Margins of Life: Exploring Existential Sustainability - Technology, Health and Death
Typ av evenemangKonferens
PlatsLund, SverigeVisa på karta