Gaia - Paganism Disguised as Science
In this secular age we do not expect government departments to promote religious concepts. Certainly agencies whose mandate is to provide recreational facilities would seem least likely to subscribe to religious objectives. Yet a government parks and recreation department recently circulated articles from the September 1990 issue of Parks and Recreation. These articles urged staff to educate the public to develop a "sacred sense of attachment to the earth for our very survival". Such is not an isolated incident. A new worshipful regard for the earth is becoming fashionable. Western society is on the verge of ushering in a new age of paganism. But many people remain blissfully unaware of the sinister events and ideas which are connected to worship of Mother Earth. It is imperative that Christians prepare to defend themselves against a new pagan onslaught. It is coming fast.
While it is true that there is nothing new under the sun, some ideas seem almost to appear from nowhere. What has actually happened is that one individual appears who is able to confer on an idea a charisma it formerly lacked. Perhaps alternatively it is society that has changed and is more receptive than before to a certain idea. Thus Charles Darwin popularized the far-from-new idea of evolution. Likewise the idea of the goddess Earth is really ancient paganism rearing its ugly head. There have, however, been fairly recent proponents. The first individual to label the idea as scientific was James Hutton (1726-1797), the Scottish thinker who convinced geologists that the earth is extremely ancient: "no vestige of a beginning, — no prospect of an end." Apparently in 1785 at a meeting of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Hutton declared that the Earth consisted of a single living being. Society at this time was not prepared for this interpretation and the remarks were consigned to obscurity. More recently, in the 1940s, Soviet scientist Vladimir Vernadsky made similar pronouncements. But society still was not ready.
The Ideas of James Lovelock
Enter on the scene James Lovelock (b. 1919). Throughout his life this English scientist seems to have been consistently pagan. "Christmas was more of a solstice feast than a Christian one... So ingrained was my childhood conditioning about the power of the occult that in later life it took a positive act of will to stop touching wood or crossing fingers..." (The Ages of Gaia. 1988. Bantam New Age Books p. 204)
During the 1960s he worked for NASA in the bio-sciences division of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. It struck Lovelock that there is a stark difference between the physical and chemical properties of barren planets such as Mars and Earth which harbours life in myriad forms. Rather than giving praise to the Lord, creator of Heaven and Earth, Lovelock looked for an explanation of these differences from nature itself. He concluded that living organisms create and maintain the environmental conditions which are necessary to sustain life. Lovelock proposed that the composition of gases in the atmosphere, earth's temperature and many other conditions, all would revert to conditions unfavourable for life, if living beings were not continuously exerting an effect on the environment. Lovelock supposed that life and a favourable environment evolved together in a positive feedback system. He therefore considered that the earth itself is a living super-organism which has, in effect, created itself. Thus Lovelock put things backwards. Instead of recognizing that the Lord created the world to be suitable for living creatures, he concluded that living creatures fashioned their own home.
Lovelock imagines the evolving earth to be "a compassionate, feminine figure, spring of all life, of fecundity..." A contemporary of Lovelock, novelist William Golding (author of Lord of the Flies), declared that anything alive deserves a name, and he proposed Gaia, the Earth Goddess of the Greeks. So Gaia she became. Lovelock and fellow-thinkers maintain that the earth goddess has consistently been worshipped since ancient times. Lovelock suggests that the Roman Catholic veneration of Mary is a form of goddess worship.
What if Mary is another name to Gaia? Then her capacity for virgin birth is no miracle or parthenogenetic aberration, it is a role of Gaia since life began. Immortals do not need to reproduce an image of themselves; it is enough to renew continuously the life that constitutes them. Any living organism a quarter as old as the Universe itself and still full of vigor is as near immortal as we ever need to know. She is of this Universe and, conceivably, a part of God. On Earth she is the source of life everlasting and is alive now; she gave birth to humankind and we are part of her. The Ages of Gaia p. 206
Lovelock first discussed his idea at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in 1968. Five years later, after "intense and rewarding collaboration" with American biologist Lynn Margulis, articles were published in two journals Tellus and Icarus. Then in 1979 the book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth by Lovelock was published by Oxford University Press. The interest of the scientific community in this matter is illustrated by a four day conference in 1988, devoted to Gaia, and sponsored by the American Geophysical Union. According to Time (November 13, 1989) the scientific crowd at the conference gave Lovelock an exuberant standing ovation. Lynn Margulis (b. 1938), famous for an evolutionary theory of her own, has recently collaborated with her magician son Dorion Sagan (by her first husband Carl Sagan), on a book Microcosmos (1986. Summit Books, New York) which builds on the Gaia concept.
Implications of the Gaia Hypothesis
Certain implications follow from the Gaia hypothesis and are important components of this new manifestation of paganism. One idea is that the search for ultimate origins is irrelevant and impossible.
It is human to be curious about antecedents, but expeditions into the remote past in search of origins is as supremely unimportant as was the hunting of the snark.The Ages of Gaia p. 205
What Lovelock is saying is that we should give up any hope of finding an explanation for the origin of the universe and of life. As Christians of course, we have that explanation in the Bible. But Lovelock believes that we should be content never knowing from whence the universe came.
Much more significant is Lovelock's insistence that humans do not matter. He maintains that commitment to Gaia and humanism are mutually exclusive (opposite) attitudes (p. 216). Elsewhere he remarks that "Gaia theory forces a planetary perspective. It is the health of the planet that matters, not that of individual species of organisms" [such as humans] (p. xvi).
Gaia theory is as out of tune with the broader humanist world as it is with established science. In Gaia we are just another species, neither the owners nor the stewards of this planet. Our future depends much more upon a right relationship with Gaia than with the never-ending drama of human interest. (p. 14)
It follows from the above that the essence of Gaia is death. Lovelock believes that death is the necessary end of life and that new life is made possible by the deaths of former generations. Christians, on the other hand, see death as a terrible evil, the consequence of man's fall into sin and the final enemy which will be conquered by Christ (1 Corinthians 15:26). Yet Lovelock maintains that pain and death are normal and natural.
Our humanist concerns about the poor of the inner cities or the Third World, and our near- obscene obsession with death, suffering, and pain as if these are evil in themselves — these thoughts divert the mind from our gross and excessive domination of the natural world. (p. 211)
Margulis and Sagan continue this theme in Microcosmos when they remark that deaths are actually beneficial. Individual deaths clear the way for the survival of better adapted individuals (Microcosmos p. 274) and one should take pleasure in this thought.
It is apparent to people familiar with the new age movement that Gaia is but a new manifestation of this wholesale rejection of the true God. As is clearly outlined in an article in 21st Century Science and Technology (Roger A. Maduro. 1989. Sept/Oct pp. 50-58) Gaia theory is particularly insidious because it appeals to sectors of society perhaps formerly untouched by the new age. These new converts include many scientists.
Earth Day, 1990
Many environmentalists now seem to support Gaia, some blatantly. An article in the Edmonton Journal (Mar. 21, 1990) was entitled "Besieged planet may retaliate". It began:
Mother Earth is being cannibalized — but could fight back, two ecologists suggested at a conference on Opportunities for Business and the Environment...
Even more recently, an environmentalist was quoted in the same newspaper (Oct. 29, 1990) urging that feminists, vegetarians, environmentalists and earth worshippers should unite to free the world from male-dominated materialism!!
Earth Day, April 22, 1990 was the most recent concentrated public indoctrination into earth worship. A creed was even published by Earth Day 1990 Canada. It began, "I hold the Earth, taken as a collection of its interdependent parts, animate and inanimate, to be a single, self-regulating life system requiring its human parts a cooperation with, rather than a domination over, the remaining parts." There is no more blatant statement of Gaia worship than this creed. One wonders how many people failed to perceive the religious significance of this whole event.
God and Gaia?
Time magazine's article on Gaia proclaims that the long estrangement between science and religion may now be at an end. In Gaia, science and faith may be recognized as one and the same reality. Christians, of course, have always insisted that the material universe indeed conforms to God's revelation in the Bible. Spiritual and physical reality are indeed one. There is only one truth. Secular scientists have replied that any interpretation of nature which fits the Bible must obviously be untrue as religion and science cannot be expected to agree. Now suddenly, many of these secular scientists have changed their tune. As long as it is not our Lord who is to be recognized, they are perfectly happy to see a unified religion and science. As Love-lock sums it up, "I have tried to show that God and Gaia, theology and science, even physics and biology are not separate but a single way of thought." (p. 212)
As Christians we recognize that Gaia represents a terrible rejection of the living God and that the implications of this faith are dreadful indeed. That these attitudes are sweeping society is certainly a cause for sorrow. The animal rights movement and many environmentalist campaigns are manifestations of this faith. Our concern is increased however, with the knowledge that many do not regard these pagan ideas as optional choices. Influential voices are suggesting that universal recognition of the needs of the Earth is mandatory if life is to survive. Society must give up some freedoms, they say, for the cause of survival. Freedom of thought may no longer be condoned. Hence it may not be too long before the freedom to worship our Lord is seen as a threat to survival of the planet. The signs are everywhere, even in government. Watch out for the first skirmishes, they will probably come in the form of threats to Christian education.
Surely we cannot forget the description of unbelieving man in Romans 1:25, "Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen."