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Article
Subduing the Earth: Genesis 1, Early Modern Science, and the Exploitation of Nature
Humanities & Social Sciences papers
  • Peter Harrison, Bond University
Date of this Version
1-1-1999
Document Type
Journal Article
Publication Details
Harrison, Peter (1999) ‘Subduing the Earth: Genesis 1, Early Modern Science, and the Exploitation of Nature’, The Journal of Religion 79 (1) pp. 86-109.

© 1999 University of Chicago Press

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Abstract

[Extract] : In a short paper which appeared thirty years ago in the journal Science, historian Lynn White, Jr., suggested that in "the orthodox Christian arrogance toward nature" may be found the ideological source of our contemporary environmental woes. The Christian doctrine of the creation sets the human being apart from nature, advocates human control of nature, and implies that the natural world was created solely for our use. The biblical text that best exemplifies this view is Gen. 1:28: "And God said to them 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.'" In the Christian Middle Ages, according to White, we already encounter evidence of attempts at the technological mastery of nature, and of those incipient exploitative tendencies that come to full flower in scientific and technological revolutions of later eras. All of this is attributed to the influence of Judeo-Christian conceptions of creation. Christianity, White concludes, "bears a huge burden of guilt for environmental deterioration."

Citation Information
Peter Harrison. "Subduing the Earth: Genesis 1, Early Modern Science, and the Exploitation of Nature" (1999)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/peter_harrison/18/