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Michael Crichton on Environmentalism

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    Posted: 21 December 2008 at 10:34pm
Environmentalism as Religion
Commonwealth Club
San Francisco, CA
September 15, 2003

This was not the first discussion of environmentalism as a religion, but it caught on and was widely quoted. Michael explains why religious approaches to the environment are inappropriate and cause damage to the natural world they intend to protect.

I have been asked to talk about what I consider the most important challenge facing mankind, and I have a fundamental answer. The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.

We must daily decide whether the threats we face are real, whether the solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we're told exist are in fact real problems, or non-problems. Every one of us has a sense of the world, and we all know that this sense is in part given to us by what other people and society tell us; in part generated by our emotional state, which we project outward; and in part by our genuine perceptions of reality. In short, our struggle to determine what is true is the struggle to decide which of our perceptions are genuine, and which are false because they are handed down, or sold to us, or generated by our own hopes and fears.

As an example of this challenge, I want to talk today about environmentalism. And in order not to be misunderstood, I want it perfectly clear that I believe it is incumbent on us to conduct our lives in a way that takes into account all the consequences of our actions, including the consequences to other people, and the consequences to the environment. I believe it is important to act in ways that are sympathetic to the environment, and I believe this will always be a need, carrying into the future. I believe the world has genuine problems and I believe it can and should be improved. But I also think that deciding what constitutes responsible action is immensely difficult, and the consequences of our actions are often difficult to know in advance. I think our past record of environmental action is discouraging, to put it mildly, because even our best intended efforts often go awry. But I think we do not recognize our past failures, and face them squarely. And I think I know why.

I studied anthropology in college, and one of the things I learned was that certain human social structures always reappear. They can't be eliminated from society. One of those structures is religion. Today it is said we live in a secular society in which many people---the best people, the most enlightened people---do not believe in any religion. But I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form. You can not believe in God, but you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.

Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday---these are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs. They may even be hard-wired in the brain, for all I know. I certainly don't want to talk anybody out of them, as I don't want to talk anybody out of a belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God who rose from the dead. But the reason I don't want to talk anybody out of these beliefs is that I know that I can't talk anybody out of them. These are not facts that can be argued. These are issues of faith.

And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism. Increasingly it seems facts aren't necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.

Am I exaggerating to make a point? I am afraid not. Because we know a lot more about the world than we did forty or fifty years ago. And what we know now is not so supportive of certain core environmental myths, yet the myths do not die. Let's examine some of those beliefs.

There is no Eden. There never was. What was that Eden of the wonderful mythic past? Is it the time when infant mortality was 80%, when four children in five died of disease before the age of five? When one woman in six died in childbirth? When the average lifespan was 40, as it was in America a century ago. When plagues swept across the planet, killing millions in a stroke. Was it when millions starved to death? Is that when it was Eden?

And what about indigenous peoples, living in a state of harmony with the Eden-like environment? Well, they never did. On this continent, the newly arrived people who crossed the land bridge almost immediately set about wiping out hundreds of species of large animals, and they did this several thousand years before the white man showed up, to accelerate the process. And what was the condition of life? Loving, peaceful, harmonious? Hardly: the early peoples of the New World lived in a state of constant warfare. Generations of hatred, tribal hatreds, constant battles. The warlike tribes of this continent are famous: the Comanche, Sioux, Apache, Mohawk, Aztecs, Toltec, Incas. Some of them practiced infanticide, and human sacrifice. And those tribes that were not fiercely warlike were exterminated, or learned to build their villages high in the cliffs to attain some measure of safety.

How about the human condition in the rest of the world? The Maori of New Zealand committed massacres regularly. The dyaks of Borneo were headhunters. The Polynesians, living in an environment as close to paradise as one can imagine, fought constantly, and created a society so hideously restrictive that you could lose your life if you stepped in the footprint of a chief. It was the Polynesians who gave us the very concept of taboo, as well as the word itself. The noble savage is a fantasy, and it was never true. That anyone still believes it, 200 years after Rousseau, shows the tenacity of religious myths, their ability to hang on in the face of centuries of factual contradiction.

There was even an academic movement, during the latter 20th century, that claimed that cannibalism was a white man's invention to demonize the indigenous peoples. (Only academics could fight such a battle.) It was some thirty years before professors finally agreed that yes, cannibalism does indeed occur among human beings. Meanwhile, all during this time New Guinea highlanders in the 20th century continued to eat the brains of their enemies until they were finally made to understand that they risked kuru, a fatal neurological disease, when they did so.

More recently still the gentle Tasaday of the Philippines turned out to be a publicity stunt, a nonexistent tribe. And African pygmies have one of the highest murder rates on the planet.

In short, the romantic view of the natural world as a blissful Eden is only held by people who have no actual experience of nature. People who live in nature are not romantic about it at all. They may hold spiritual beliefs about the world around them, they may have a sense of the unity of nature or the aliveness of all things, but they still kill the animals and uproot the plants in order to eat, to live. If they don't, they will die.

And if you, even now, put yourself in nature even for a matter of days, you will quickly be disabused of all your romantic fantasies. Take a trek through the jungles of Borneo, and in short order you will have festering sores on your skin, you'll have bugs all over your body, biting in your hair, crawling up your nose and into your ears, you'll have infections and sickness and if you're not with somebody who knows what they're doing, you'll quickly starve to death. But chances are that even in the jungles of Borneo you won't experience nature so directly, because you will have covered your entire body with DEET and you will be doing everything you can to keep those bugs off you.

The truth is, almost nobody wants to experience real nature. What people want is to spend a week or two in a cabin in the woods, with screens on the windows. They want a simplified life for a while, without all their stuff. Or a nice river rafting trip for a few days, with somebody else doing the cooking. Nobody wants to go back to nature in any real way, and nobody does. It's all talk-and as the years go on, and the world population grows increasingly urban, it's uninformed talk. Farmers know what they're talking about. City people don't. It's all fantasy.

One way to measure the prevalence of fantasy is to note the number of people who die because they haven't the least knowledge of how nature really is. They stand beside wild animals, like buffalo, for a picture and get trampled to death; they climb a mountain in dicey weather without proper gear, and freeze to death. They drown in the surf on holiday because they can't conceive the real power of what we blithely call "the force of nature." They have seen the ocean. But they haven't been in it.

The television generation expects nature to act the way they want it to be. They think all life experiences can be tivo-ed. The notion that the natural world obeys its own rules and doesn't give a damn about your expectations comes as a massive shock. Well-to-do, educated people in an urban environment experience the ability to fashion their daily lives as they wish. They buy clothes that suit their taste, and decorate their apartments as they wish. Within limits, they can contrive a daily urban world that pleases them.

But the natural world is not so malleable. On the contrary, it will demand that you adapt to it-and if you don't, you die. It is a harsh, powerful, and unforgiving world, that most urban westerners have never experienced.

Many years ago I was trekking in the Karakorum mountains of northern Pakistan, when my group came to a river that we had to cross. It was a glacial river, freezing cold, and it was running very fast, but it wasn't deep---maybe three feet at most. My guide set out ropes for people to hold as they crossed the river, and everybody proceeded, one at a time, with extreme care. I asked the guide what was the big deal about crossing a three-foot river. He said, well, supposing you fell and suffered a compound fracture. We were now four days trek from the last big town, where there was a radio. Even if the guide went back double time to get help, it'd still be at least three days before he could return with a helicopter. If a helicopter were available at all. And in three days, I'd probably be dead from my injuries. So that was why everybody was crossing carefully. Because out in nature a little slip could be deadly.

But let's return to religion. If Eden is a fantasy that never existed, and mankind wasn't ever noble and kind and loving, if we didn't fall from grace, then what about the rest of the religious tenets? What about salvation, sustainability, and judgment day? What about the coming environmental doom from fossil fuels and global warming, if we all don't get down on our knees and conserve every day?

Well, it's interesting. You may have noticed that something has been left off the doomsday list, lately. Although the preachers of environmentalism have been yelling about population for fifty years, over the last decade world population seems to be taking an unexpected turn. Fertility rates are falling almost everywhere. As a result, over the course of my lifetime the thoughtful predictions for total world population have gone from a high of 20 billion, to 15 billion, to 11 billion (which was the UN estimate around 1990) to now 9 billion, and soon, perhaps less. There are some who think that world population will peak in 2050 and then start to decline. There are some who predict we will have fewer people in 2100 than we do today. Is this a reason to rejoice, to say halleluiah? Certainly not. Without a pause, we now hear about the coming crisis of world economy from a shrinking population. We hear about the impending crisis of an aging population. Nobody anywhere will say that the core fears expressed for most of my life have turned out not to be true. As we have moved into the future, these doomsday visions vanished, like a mirage in the desert. They were never there---though they still appear, in the future. As mirages do.

Okay, so, the preachers made a mistake. They got one prediction wrong; they're human. So what. Unfortunately, it's not just one prediction. It's a whole slew of them. We are running out of oil. We are running out of all natural resources. Paul Ehrlich: 60 million Americans will die of starvation in the 1980s. Forty thousand species become extinct every year. Half of all species on the planet will be extinct by 2000. And on and on and on.

With so many past failures, you might think that environmental predictions would become more cautious. But not if it's a religion. Remember, the nut on the sidewalk carrying the placard that predicts the end of the world doesn't quit when the world doesn't end on the day he expects. He just changes his placard, sets a new doomsday date, and goes back to walking the streets. One of the defining features of religion is that your beliefs are not troubled by facts, because they have nothing to do with facts.

So I can tell you some facts. I know you haven't read any of what I am about to tell you in the newspaper, because newspapers literally don't report them. I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. I can tell you that the people who banned it knew that it wasn't carcinogenic and banned it anyway. I can tell you that the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, mostly children, whose deaths are directly attributable to a callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and thus irrevocably harmed the third world. Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die and didn't give a damn.

I can tell you that second hand smoke is not a health hazard to anyone and never was, and the EPA has always known it. I can tell you that the evidence for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit. I can tell you the percentage the US land area that is taken by urbanization, including cities and roads, is 5%. I can tell you that the Sahara desert is shrinking, and the total ice of Antarctica is increasing. I can tell you that a blue-ribbon panel in Science magazine concluded that there is no known technology that will enable us to halt the rise of carbon dioxide in the 21st century. Not wind, not solar, not even nuclear. The panel concluded a totally new technology-like nuclear fusion-was necessary, otherwise nothing could be done and in the meantime all efforts would be a waste of time. They said that when the UN IPCC reports stated alternative technologies existed that could control greenhouse gases, the UN was wrong.

I can, with a lot of time, give you the factual basis for these views, and I can cite the appropriate journal articles not in whacko magazines, but in the most prestigious science journals, such as Science and Nature. But such references probably won't impact more than a handful of you, because the beliefs of a religion are not dependent on facts, but rather are matters of faith. Unshakeable belief.

Most of us have had some experience interacting with religious fundamentalists, and we understand that one of the problems with fundamentalists is that they have no perspective on themselves. They never recognize that their way of thinking is just one of many other possible ways of thinking, which may be equally useful or good. On the contrary, they believe their way is the right way, everyone else is wrong; they are in the business of salvation, and they want to help you to see things the right way. They want to help you be saved. They are totally rigid and totally uninterested in opposing points of view. In our modern complex world, fundamentalism is dangerous because of its rigidity and its imperviousness to other ideas.

I want to argue that it is now time for us to make a major shift in our thinking about the environment, similar to the shift that occurred around the first Earth Day in 1970, when this awareness was first heightened. But this time around, we need to get environmentalism out of the sphere of religion. We need to stop the mythic fantasies, and we need to stop the doomsday predictions. We need to start doing hard science instead.

There are two reasons why I think we all need to get rid of the religion of environmentalism.

First, we need an environmental movement, and such a movement is not very effective if it is conducted as a religion. We know from history that religions tend to kill people, and environmentalism has already killed somewhere between 10-30 million people since the 1970s. It's not a good record. Environmentalism needs to be absolutely based in objective and verifiable science, it needs to be rational, and it needs to be flexible. And it needs to be apolitical. To mix environmental concerns with the frantic fantasies that people have about one political party or another is to miss the cold truth---that there is very little difference between the parties, except a difference in pandering rhetoric. The effort to promote effective legislation for the environment is not helped by thinking that the Democrats will save us and the Republicans won't. Political history is more complicated than that. Never forget which president started the EPA: Richard Nixon. And never forget which president sold federal oil leases, allowing oil drilling in Santa Barbara: Lyndon Johnson. So get politics out of your thinking about the environment.

The second reason to abandon environmental religion is more pressing. Religions think they know it all, but the unhappy truth of the environment is that we are dealing with incredibly complex, evolving systems, and we usually are not certain how best to proceed. Those who are certain are demonstrating their personality type, or their belief system, not the state of their knowledge. Our record in the past, for example managing national parks, is humiliating. Our fifty-year effort at forest-fire suppression is a well-intentioned disaster from which our forests will never recover. We need to be humble, deeply humble, in the face of what we are trying to accomplish. We need to be trying various methods of accomplishing things. We need to be open-minded about assessing results of our efforts, and we need to be flexible about balancing needs. Religions are good at none of these things.

How will we manage to get environmentalism out of the clutches of religion, and back to a scientific discipline? There's a simple answer: we must institute far more stringent requirements for what constitutes knowledge in the environmental realm. I am thoroughly sick of politicized so-called facts that simply aren't true. It isn't that these "facts" are exaggerations of an underlying truth. Nor is it that certain organizations are spinning their case to present it in the strongest way. Not at all---what more and more groups are doing is putting out is lies, pure and simple. Falsehoods that they know to be false.

This trend began with the DDT campaign, and it persists to this day. At this moment, the EPA is hopelessly politicized. In the wake of Carol Browner, it is probably better to shut it down and start over. What we need is a new organization much closer to the FDA. We need an organization that will be ruthless about acquiring verifiable results, that will fund identical research projects to more than one group, and that will make everybody in this field get honest fast.

Because in the end, science offers us the only way out of politics. And if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost. We will enter the Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting fears and wild prejudices, transmitted to people who don't know any better. That's not a good future for the human race. That's our past. So it's time to abandon the religion of environmentalism, and return to the science of environmentalism, and base our public policy decisions firmly on that.

Thank you very much.
A feeling of discouragement when you slip up is a sure sign that you put your faith in deeds. -Ibn 'Ata'llah
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote love Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 December 2008 at 2:18pm

It's too bad we can't ask Mr. Crichton about his religious views, since his recent passing from cancer.  May he rest in peace and his family comforted.
I for one would be interested to know more about his lifestyle, but one can gather Mr. Crichton's crutch was a secularist view of the world from his speeches and writings.  I found it interesting that George W. Bush became a fan for his book State of Fear.
Mr. Crichton used real science as fiction to create characters in futuristic doomsday tales and his critics say Mr. Crichton is extending his chaos theory in his novels and films without adequate character development.  What the Hollywood story-teller has provided though, is a keen eye to the practices of some folks in the environmental movement.  We need people to intellectually and scientifically challenge them to keep the road we're traveling on straight.  But to base our entire thought process on the words of Mr. Crichton is a narrow view of the complex world in which we live in.  A secular view is probably best described by Imam Zaid Shakir, a renowned scholar of our beautiful religion.  May Allah be pleased with him and bless his family.

In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful
The Changing Face of Secularism
and the Islamic Response

Imam Zaid Shakir

If we are to intelligently discuss issues related to secularism it is imperative that we first define the term. Secularism is the divorcing of religious belief, religious ritual, or a sense of community based on religious affiliation from the moral life of society. Secularism has manifested itself historically in both a subjective and an objective sense. Subjectively, or at the level of individual experience, secularism involves the disappearance of religious thought, feeling and imagery from the understanding of worldly things. At this level of experience, many people who may appear outwardly extremely religious, may in fact be thoroughly secularized as their thought processes, sentiments, and worldview are void of any truly religious referents. 

At the objective level secularism involves the exclusion of religious offices, institutions, and ceremonies from public life. All modern states are thoroughly secularized. This reality also includes the states of the Muslim world as our countries are ruled by elites who have adopted the secular institutional and bureaucratic structure of the Western Kafir state. Even those states, which have undergone some degree of Islamic reform, have done little to alter those structures.

The roots of secularism have been variously identified as emanating from Hellenic rationalism, the civil and communal values of Greco-Roman life, the Renaissance, the Reformation, Calvinism, and most prominently the moral and empirical philosophies spawned by the Enlightenment. Regardless of which of these developments we view as being pivotal in the development of secularism, we must return to one salient fact: Secularism constitutes open rebellion against Allah.

We are informed that the rationale for the creation of the human being is to worship Allah, and that the Islamic polity and the principles, which underlie it, are instituted to facilitate that worship. Hence, Islam is fundamentally anti-secular. Allah informs us in the Qur'an:

I have only created the Jinn and Humans that they worship Me.
Al-Dhariyyat: 56

He also informs us that the rejection of that worship involves grave consequences. He says:

Whoever turns away from My Remembrance will have a wretched life and 
We shall resurrect him blind on the Day of Judgment.
Ta Ha: 124

Whoever rejects the Remembrance of his Lord, He [Allah] will lead him
into a severe, unbearable punishment.
Al-Jinn: 17

Having thus defined secularism, we turn to the second theme introduced by the title of this lecture: secularism's changing face. If we understand that secularism initially involved a struggle between its advocates and the European Church, we can see that it has indeed undergone significant changes. The first major change occurred during the latter 19th Century when the struggle between secularism and the church was replaced by a struggle between two competing versions of secularism: the Marxist/Socialist version and the liberal version. With the victory of the liberal version, a victory finalized by the falling of the "Iron Curtain" and the subsequent demise of the Soviet Union, a set of circumstances was created which led to the return of the debate between secularism and religion. Secularism was to indeed change faces, or more precisely to reveal a new manifestation of an old face.

In the new debate between secularism and religion, Islam emerged as the standard bearer of religion. The reason for this is that Islam is, as admitted by Ernest Gellner, Zbigniew Brezinski and other leading Western intellectuals, the last true, or normative religion. The current secularist assault against Islam is thus assuming the intensity that characterized the earlier attack on Christianity. It is our contention that the origin of this assault lies in the rebellion of Satan against Allah, and his subsequent declaration of war against the descendants of Adam. The Qur'an describes that declaration in the following words:

Because you have caused me to stray, I'm going to lie waiting to ambush them [humankind] along your Straight Path. I'm going to assault them from in front, from behind, from the right and from the left; and you won't find most of them thankful [for you blessings].
Al-'Araf: 16

It is interesting to note that the earliest Muslim commentators as producing all of the psychological and behavioral traits that characterize the contemporary secular individual have understood this assault of Satan. Ibn Kathir relates the following passage in his commentary on this verse:

'Ali ibn Abi Talha relates from Ibn 'Abbas (May be Pleased with them both) that Satan's
assault from in front means he will cause them to doubt about the Hereafter. From behind

means he will make them excessive in their craving for the World. From the right means he will cause them confusion concerning their religion. From the left means he will make sin

appealing to them. (This quote is from memory thus there may be slight changes from the

original wording

When one views the damage which has been wrought by secularism in the Christian world, and the nature of the damage which is currently manifesting itself in the Muslim world, one can readily see the accuracy of Ibn 'Abbas' explanation. In the Muslim world, the reality of a life after death seems the furthest thing from many people's mind. The obsession with the World, which drives Muslim participation in a new globalized consumer culture, is too clear to warrant further comment. Increasingly large numbers of Muslims feel deprived if growing arrays of labels and logos aren’t plastered over their clothing. The confusion in the Din is apparent in the expanding ranks of the religiously noncommitted, and the increasing pettiness of the issues being vehemently argued by the committed. The appeal of sin can be gauged by the ubiquitous nature of the satellite dishes which adorn the rooftops of houses throughout the Muslim world and the increased viewing of soft and hard pornography which those dishes facilitate.

The need for an Islamic response to an increasingly pervasive secularism is all too clear. The destructiveness of man's effort to orchestrate the social, economic and political life of society has to be arrested if we are to conceive of a meaningful future for this planet. At the individual level, the insecurity, rootlessness, and anomie resulting from the elimination of religiously informed traditional institutions provides the conditions which encourage gangs, ethnically-based hate groups, and an oftentimes violence-prone religious fundamentalism. The legions of willing recruits for extreme Zionist groups, ultraconservative armed militias in the American Midwest, chauvinistic Hindu nationalism, and increasingly inflexible "Jihad" groups in the Muslim world are all the direct or indirect result of secularism.

At the family level, the disintegration of traditionally ascribed roles, rights, and responsibilities for men, women, and children is leading to stresses that many families cannot survive. In the Muslim community, the familial stability which made spouse and child abuse rare occurrences has given way to a volatile instability whose presence can be gauged by the rapidly escalating numbers of battered women, homeless children, and divorces. 

Environmentally, secularist ideals have led to what Professor 'Abd al-Hakim Murad has referred to as the "gang rape" of the planet. The toxic byproducts of an ill-conceived developmental model poison our land, air, and the seas. Untreated sewage chokes and defiles our rivers and streams. Whole communities in coastal areas are rendered economically unviable due to overfishing so severe that in some areas even the hardy, once abundant codfish has disappeared. Even in remote areas of the planet which are presented by the tourist industry as "island paradises" the destructiveness of man's economic hubris is all too clear. 

In Oahu, the most populous of the Hawaiian islands, a ceiling of smog hovers over the densely populated downtown area and the airport/American Air Force base during still summer days. Beaches are often closed due to sewage spills. The countryside is littered with garbage dumps and junkyards. Large areas of the island have been transformed into treeless wastelands, abandoned by the pineapple industry, which has moved on to greener pastures in the Philippines and elsewhere. What few forested areas remain rapidly disappearing as developers throw up acres of new "ticky tacky" condominiums. Keeping golf courses green uses up a disproportionate percentage of available fresh water, while pesticide residues from those same golf courses poisons scarce ground water.

The above-mentioned victory of the liberal version of secularism has meant the victory of what Francis Fukuyama, one of the leading advocates of that version, refers to as free market capitalism and liberal democracy. These twin forces have worked to ensure that the ethics of profit replace the ethics of the Prophets (Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon them). Corporate profits determine if potentially privatized schools will teach children to think or to mindlessly consume. Profits determine if our rivers and lakes are swimmable. Profit determines if genetically engineered food grown in warehouses will eliminate the small farmer throughout the "developing" world just as corporate greed and agribusiness giants have practically eliminated the family farm in America. Furthermore, the relentless pursuit of profit has been the primary impetus behind the oppressive provisions of the recent Uruguay Round of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and the associated WTO (World Trade Organization). This will allow massive transnational corporations to dump cheaply produced junk food, junk products, and a junk culture on any nation of the world, with the right to declare any opposition to that process -no matter how principled that opposition- as an impediment to free trade.

In terms of liberal democracy, the corrupt implications of this arrangement are epitomized by one of its leading philosophical schools -deconstruction. This school elevates a form of literary criticism and linguistic analysis to inform social action. It posits that just as language is the product of a set of subjectively experienced "deep structures" which don't admit the existence of any universal referents for meaningful objective knowledge, so too social and political reality is subjectively formed and experienced. Hence, there are no universal or objective referents for meaningful transcending social or political action. Whatever, social or political action does unfold in this intellectual climate, unfolds along fragmented ethnic, cultural or gender lines. The spiritual strength and philosophical principles necessary to challenge the destructive hegemony of transnational capitalism disappear before they are created leaving both pseudo-liberated woman and a growing array of multicuturalisms united by a single unchallengeable characteristic: consumerism.

This dangerous school of thought, of which the more fundamentalist wing of our current Islamic reform is in many ways an unwitting agent, eliminates the possibility of meaningful social and political action leaving a void in the human soul which is filled by consumerism. It is no accident that McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken, two symbols of the emerging global consumer culture, have appeared in Mecca, the Holiest place in Islam, under the auspices of the most fundamentalist of all Muslim governments. Taken to it logical end, this consumerism will destroy the Earth.

Islam obviously opposes this arrangement. Although deconstructionalists don't admit the existence of universal principles such as tolerance or compassion, which make ethnic, cultural and gender politics possible, Islam contains no such internal contradiction. Let us consider one of numerous examples. Allah declares in His Noble Book:

What is wrong with you that you don't fight in the way of Allah and the oppressed;
men, women, and children who say, "Our Lord deliver us from this town whose people are oppressors. And raise up for us from yourself one who will protect us, and raise up for us from yourself one who will help!"
Al-Nisa': 75

Assisting the weak, working to eliminate oppression, and protecting the defenseless are higher principles the knowledge of which is made possible by the existence of an ultimate, objective reality from which all else derives its existence, and upon which all else depends for its continued existence -Allah. Hence, Islam admits an ultimate reality. It admits a higher purpose to life, the worship of Allah. It similarly presents a set of principles and ideals that serve as the basis for meaningful collective action. 

Reflecting on the state of the world, one cannot help but be struck by the penetrating words of Allah in His Glorious Book:

Corruption has appeared in the land and sea because of what the hands of men have wrought [by their sinful recklessness] This is so that We may give them a taste of what they have done, in order that they may return [to the way of Divine Guidance].
Al-Rum: 41

If man is to return to the way of the Divine, it will be the Muslims who will lead that return. Islam presents a viable critique of contemporary atheistic thought and it is also the only major socio-religious force with a viable ecological philosophy. The thoughtless abuse and waste which characterizes our contemporary secular world is roundly condemned by the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Allah declares in the Qur'an:

Eat and drink from the provision of Allah and don't go through the Earth working 
Al-Baqara: 60

Son of Adam! Adorn yourselves at every place of prayer; eat, and drink, but don't
waste. Surely, He [Allah] doesn't love those who are wasteful.
Al-'Araf: 31

Allah says concerning the mercy which His Messenger (Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him) exemplified:

We have only sent you as a mercy to all the Worlds.
Al-'Anbiya: 107

It is interesting to note that in the opening chapter of the Qur'an, Al-Fatiha, after mentioning his Lordship over all creation, Allah immediately mentions the vastness of His Mercy. He says, "Al-Hamdu lillahi Rabb al-'Alamin, Al-Rahman Al-Rahim (All Praise is for Allah the Lord of All the Worlds, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful). Allah similarly reminds humanity that all living creatures comprise organized communities which have many of the basic rights possessed by humans. He says:

There is no creature on the Earth, nor any bird flying upon its wings, except that it 
comprises communities like yourselves.
Al-An'am: 38

Muslims must honor the rights of those creatures as part of our custodianship over the Earth. However, petty little Islamic groups cannot exercise that custodianship. If Muslims are to provide badly needed direction for humanity we will have to transcend the divisions, which in many cases are the byproducts of the ill-conceived schemes of small men. In his insightful book, Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the Twenty-First Century, Zbigniew Brzenski clearly implies that Islam can potentially offer a viable socio-political alternative for humanity. However, that Islamic alternative is generally unknown because unlike the failed communist alternative it hasn't been articulated at the state level. Such an articulation must occur before Islam can respond seriously to the challenge of secularism.

In order for Islam to be a viable international actor, state or nonstate, Muslims will have to move beyond the petty political divisions which have afflicted the Ummah for much of the past century. In the West, we will have to prevent the emerging "Traditionalist-Salafi" division from becoming a fundamental, irreconcilable split. One way to do this is to define Ahli al-Sunnah w'al-Jama'ah as broadly and as inclusively as possible, instead of the narrow, exclusive definitions, which dominate current discourse. One such definition is provided by Tahir al-Bagdadi (d. 429 AH) in his book, al-Farq bayn al-Firaq (The Difference Between the Sects). He mentions Ahl al-Sunnah w'al-Jama'ah as being comprised of eight basic groups. These groups accommodate all of the orientations, which serve as the basis for the thought of informed Traditionalists and Salafis. He then mentions an objective standard (Dabit) which distinguishes these eight groups from the adherents of the sects such as the Khawarij, M'utazilah, and others. Adopting such a broad view, which represents the best of a rich academic tradition, is essential if we are to move forward as a unified community. 

I have chosen to close by emphasizing the need for Muslim unity because the tremendous challenges confronting humanity and our Ummah require our collective action. Secularism, doesn't have to be the enduring socio-political legacy of humanity. Islam, as we have tried to show, offers something a lot better to humanity, to a ravaged Earth, and her creatures. It is up to us Muslims to demonstrate to humanity through our unity, our love, our spiritual elevation, our sacrifice, our living, and our dying that Islam is truly the "solution." If we can understand and take up the challenges of the day humanity will be able to see the first rays of a new dawn after a long, dark, and difficult night.

Zaid Shakir
Aylesbury, England
February 1999

Edited by love - 24 December 2008 at 2:34pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Andalus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 December 2008 at 11:31pm
Originally posted by love love wrote:


It's too bad we can't ask Mr. Crichton about his religious views, since his recent passing from cancer.  May he rest in peace and his family comforted.
This begs the question: Who cares what his religous views are and what the hell does it have to do with his argument? I will answer: Absolutely nothing. You are trying to obfuscate the point with a "strawman".
I for one would be interested to know more about his lifestyle, but one can gather Mr. Crichton's crutch was a secularist view of the world from his speeches and writings. 
Completely irrelevant. Who cares?
I found it interesting that George W. Bush became a fan for his book State of Fear.
Although that is interesting, and maybe a sign that he became wise to the scam being played out by the modern day environmentalist movement, but again, irrelevant.
Mr. Crichton used real science as fiction to create characters in futuristic doomsday tales and his critics say Mr. Crichton is extending his chaos theory in his novels and films without adequate character development. 
Once again, irrelevant. Who cares? How is this related to what he stated?
 What the Hollywood story-teller has provided though, is a keen eye to the practices of some folks in the environmental movement.  We need people to intellectually and scientifically challenge them to keep the road we're traveling on straight.  But to base our entire thought process on the words of Mr. Crichton is a narrow view of the complex world in which we live in. 
Of course, some in the movement but not you or your visionaries. With all due repsect, this is a typical reply from an environmentalist: It is the other guys who are the irraitonal ones, me and my bunch are the sane ones, so one should not generalize.
It may be in your "opinion" that you feel Michael Chrichton is narrow in his thinking, but you have yet to argue why he is wrong. In fact, I would say that he is right on the money in describing the movement. I did not see any errors in anything he stated.
A secular view is probably best described by Imam Zaid Shakir, a renowned scholar of our beautiful religion.  May Allah be pleased with him and bless his family.
Once again Love, with all due respect, who cares what Zaid SHakir thinks of secularism? In fact, secularism has nothing to do with the views of Michael Chriton. Zaid Shakir is not a known authority on science, the science (or non science) of environmentalism, the environmentalist movement, or even on Michael Chriton. Furthermore, whether or not Michael Chriton is a secularist is completely off topic and irrelevant, as it does not change the facts and argument presented by Michael Chriton (in other words, it (his conclusions) is not dependent upon him being a secularist or not).
What you posted by Zaid Shakir has no bearing on the topic here in this thread or on the views of Michael Chriton.
Good night Love.

A feeling of discouragement when you slip up is a sure sign that you put your faith in deeds. -Ibn 'Ata'llah
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote love Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 December 2008 at 11:02pm
Good night Andalus. 
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