Environmental Ethics, Ecological Theology, and Natural Selection

By Lisa H. Sideris | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 2
The Best of All Possible Worlds
Ecofeminist Views of Nature and Ethics

All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, threction, which thou canst not see;
All thscord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good;
And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.

—Alexander Pope

Robert Booth Fowler observes that environmentalists frequently turn to the idea that nature provides an ideal model of life in community. For some Christians an ecological ethic requires them to "live the community ethic," represented by nature's "holism, interrelatedness, and the vital importance of striving to maximize a common good."1 Yet this turn to nature for a model of community life overlooks important questions, incluthng whether natural systems actually exhibit communal, harmonious characteristics. Scientists, he notes, generally see far more "competition and instability in nature than community enthusiasts might like."2

The work of two prominent ecofeminists, Rosemary Radford Ruether and Sallie McFague, illustrates this pro-community sentiment particularly well. As we will see, the interpretation of nature as normative for human relationships involves a much greater emphasis on themes of ecology than evolution, as I delineated these concepts in the previous chapter; often the ecological data invoked is outdated or contains misrepresentations. As such, both Ruether and McFague present arguments that are incompatible with current scientific understanthngs and both exhibit serious shortcomings as ethics that could realistically be applied to nature. Following a discussion of

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