I think it’s fair to say we’re at a real turning point in human history. Everyone on various ends of the political and religious spectrums disagrees on what that point is—and certainly what to do about it, but everyone feels (correctly in my view) that something big is up. And I don’t mean that Mayan End Of Time thing in December.
Regardless of your belief system you can’t argue that the basis of ‘progress’ has it’s root in Genesis. It’s the foundational manifesto for every culture that has mattered. Even non-Western cultures such as China and Japan have gotten on the same train.
And the root premise: God says in Genesis: ‘Be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth.’
I’ve read many new-agey articles arguing that it’s really about ‘stewardship’ and people have been ‘mis-translating’ the passage for thousands of years but that’s a pretty weak argument. First of all, I ain’t no scholar of ancient Hebrew, but I looked up a few words in my Tanach and they sure sound more like ‘dominate’ than ‘take care of’ to me. And of course, you don’t need to be a philologist to realise that the ancient world was a brutal place. The constant theme is conquering; not ‘taking care of’. And finally, even if everyone from Ezra to Constantine to thousands of Popes, Emperors and Kings got it ‘wrong’ (Whoopsie!) the fact remains that it has been the common belief that humans had not only a right but a duty to take control and exploit the world to its furthest limit.
And now? We’re reaching some limits. Limits that the authors of the Bible could not possibly have imagined. In fact, the idea that the world even has limits would’ve been an alien concept to the ancient mind.
Fishery or forest ‘management’? They couldn’t imagine such things because the idea that humans could over-fish or cut down too many trees… or in fact run out of anything would have been ridiculous.
Unless you’re a First Nations person, this idea of human beings having ‘dominion’ over the earth is so ingrained in our minds that it’s almost impossible to reprogram. Quitting smoking? Kicking a meth habit? Overcoming racial, gender and sexual prejudices are nothing in comparison to the basic idea that we will prevail. Sure we may create massive problems, but God certainly wouldn’t have given us the planet without giving us the brains to engineer our way out of any scrape… and in fact, turn even genocides, extinctions and global warming to our ultimate advantage. It’s all part of the plan. So we need to stick to the plan.
Whether you are interested in ‘Drill Baby Drill’ or more of the ‘Great Spirit’ type, it’s not a bad idea to recognise that ‘dominion’ is at the very core of our narrative as people of the book.