One important discussion of Eco-theology is the idea of the creation of the Universe. As discussed in Journey of the Universe there are many people who, although accepting of scientific explanations of the story of the beginning of the Universe, also find it is important to instill uniqueness in the story.
Journey of the Universe narrates the 14 billion year story of the universe’s development, from the big bang at the universe’s inception to the emergence of simple molecules and atoms to the evolution of galaxies, stars, solar systems, and planetary life of greater complexity and consciousness. The wonder that surrounds the creation story combats the realization of the lonely place that humans on Earth have. If the Earth is envisioned in this way then it is also easier for people to understand the importance of preserving this “creative force” of life and other forces of the Universe. This view is the view of the spirituality of the Universe that still allows for scientific processes but maintains that the mechanical processes were directed by something at one point.
One proponent of this view is Thomas Berry who believes that there is a creative force behind the universe. According to Berry there must have been some kind of unique feature of the Universe that allowed it to have been organized. He does not see the universe as reductionistic scientism, a method of thinking in which everything can be reduced to mechanical processes. Berry further elaborates that Earth itself is interested in having organisms living on it and the living beings themselves are linked together by food sources and mating processes.
There is a romantic vision of the world represented and its creation in “The Great Flaring Forth” (otherwise known as the Big Bang) in The Journey of the Universe and that is important to note. This vision of Earth as a spiritual wonderment is not pragmatic either, in fact it is a more pragmatic way of thinking for the majority of humanity. What ordinarily is a topic of somewhat elitist, scientific reasoning, environmentalism becomes a morally higher pursuit. Berry creates an extensionist view of Earth as a sacred community which is more biocentric than typical religious thought. Unfortunately it is not a method of reasoning accepted by the scientific community.
In “The Dream of the Earth,” by Thomas Berry, he maintains that the reason why environmentalism as a movement has had trouble being communicated to the general populace is that is does not have a good story. Berry does recognize that the traditional creation story sustained us for some time but with the advent of more scientific advancements it is important for a new story to be created. For Berry, a new creation story must provide a context in which life could function in a meaningful manner. He also dismisses various New Age orientations which have been ineffective in dealing with our present life situation. Berry maintains that the lack of this cohesive story has also pushed people into returning to religious fundamentalism which is counterproductive to the purpose of the environmentalism movement.
Although I am not religious, I see the benefits in the use of a unique creation story in order to instill an environmental ethic in people. I think that it will help people understand the importance of caring for the Earth and its inhabitants and will also move people away from an anthropocentric, consumer-based ethic. Like Berry argues, people need some guidance despite grounded, scientific theories developed that explain the various processes that guide our world and the harm that we are doing to them.
As we will see later, this particular examination of the universe can be seen as environmental pragmatism but also as Deep Ecology, although the two range widely in their philosophy. For us to fully appreciate and create a better world it is important to have this dynamic, new story of creation. No longer should fundamentalism reign in the religions of our time but instead a new discussion of the creation of the Universe should be formed that holds sway among scientists and theologians alike. I do not personally appeal to Berry’s creation story because I understand and appreciate the scientific principles that dictate our world and I think that the randomness of the universe is enough of an explanation for the beauty and wonder of the universe to be appreciated.