For the Politically Incorrect:
The Anti-Biblical Noble Savage Hypothesis Refuted
(Do Peoples Free of Biblical Influence ACTUALLY Live in Harmony with Nature and Each Other?)
|Author: John Woodmorappe
Environmentalists frequently indict the Biblical dominion mandate–that human beings should “subdue” the earth (Gen. 1:28)-for causing the heedless modern exploitation of the natural environment. Other passages are blamed for the advent of genocidal warfare. These indictments follow from the mistaken perception that the Bible encourages us to see the earth, and other people, as objects to exploit and conquer. Some suggest that humans once worshipped a benevolent Mother Earth, and saw nature as a bounteous provider to be loved and respected. But once “patriarchal” religions like Christianity became widespread, Earth and her bounty were supposedly seen as something we were free to exploit as we saw fit.
These arguments against what is taken to be the Bible’s teaching about the use of nature run smack into some plain facts. In recent times no one has done a better job of ruining the earth than those who do not, even nominally, obey the Scriptures. After the fall of Communism in the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact nations, it was discovered that environmental pollution and degradation under Communism generally far surpassed that in capitalist countries (Edwards 1993). The atheism at the foundation of Communism proved to be no protector of the earth’s resources. Rather it permitted their ruthless misuse.
More fundamentally, however, environmentalist accusations against the Bible can be answered by actually examining the lives of “primitive” peoples. Since such peoples have usually not been influenced by the Bible, one might suppose that they live in a “natural” state of peaceful coexistence and harmony with their environment.
A recent study (Alvard 1993) casts doubt on this view. After citing a number of earlier studies which demonstrate that aboriginal peoples do not function with an attitude towards the conservation of nature, Alvard examined the Piro Indians of Amazonian Peru. He found that their hunting is guided, not by any pre-Christian reverence for nature, but only by their immediate practical needs.
Furthermore, Alvard warns against confusing one’s relative inability to harm the environment (because of primitive technology) with a deliberate choice to avoid harming it:
That these groups live within the limits of their environment is evidence that some sort of apparent equilibrium has been achieved. However, as discussed above, such a circumstance does not rate the hunters the label of conservationists. . . . [T]he appearance of balance between traditional native groups and their environment has more to do with low population densities, lack of markets, and limited technology than it does with any natural harmonious relationship with nature. (p. 384).
We should ask whether the notion of “reverence for Mother Earth” is a genuine phenomenon of anthropology, a true “natural state”–or a hopeful myth that can become a form of idolatry.
A popular corollary to the myth of “Mother Nature” is the claim that, before European contact, warfare among Native American tribes was ritualistic, and relatively free of bloodshed. The warfare became savage, according to this view, only after European Christians armed the Native Americans.
Recent archeological evidence, however (see Bamforth 1994 and Krech 1994) shows that genocidal warfare between native tribes, including such brutal practices as scalping and mutilation, predated the arrival of Europeans. As Bamforth notes:
The Missouri River data, particularly the evidence from Crow Creek, would seem to refute Blick’s (1988) assertion that tribal warfare is a post-contact phenomenon on the Plains and, by extension, elsewhere: tribal peoples were clearly capable of engaging in extreme violence without access to European weapons and without the process of cultural change such access brings with it. (p. 108)
Unfortunately, there are Christians numbered among those who carelessly exploit the environment. But one need look no further than the sinful human heart to find reasons for genocidal warfare or the misuse of nature’s resources. Since Adam our “state of nature” has been one of sin and its consequences. We ought to be surprised, therefore, not by finding destruction and hatred in nature–but by finding theories that claim humans in their natural state lived in harmony with the earth and each other. Such theories imagine a time that never was.
Alvard, M. S. 1993. Testing the “Ecologically Noble Savage” Hypothesis: Interspecific Prey Choice by Piro Hunters of Amazonian Peru. Human Ecology 21: 355-387.
Bamforth, D. B. 1994. Indigenous People, Indigenous Violence: Precontact Warfare on the North American Great Plains. Man 29: 95-115.
Edwards, M. 1993. A Broken Empire. National Geographic 183 (March 1993): 2-53
Krech, S. 1994. Genocide in Tribal Society. Nature 371: 14-15.
Topics: radical environmentalism, rebutting anti-religious propaganda, political incorrectness, antifeminism, countering environmentalist extremism, little-known information, Judeo-Christian environmental ethic, countering politically correct propaganda, falsifications of history, environmental doublespeak, tree huggers, Rush Limbaugh’s environmentalist wackos
ADDENDUM: Since this article originally appeared in the Bible-Science Newsletter, more politically incorrect evidence has surfaced which debunks the anti-Christian and anti-western notion that aboriginal peoples are basically peaceful until exposed to the presumed violence of Europeans [See Gibbons (1977). Archaeologists Rediscover Cannibals. Science 277: 635-637, for evidence for the onetime widespread practice of cannibalism among the Amerindians long before Columbus ].