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Religion's Responsibility for the Ecological Crisis: An Argument Run Amok

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 September 2018

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The current passion for a “theology of ecology” got its chief start with the appearance in Scietice in March, 1967, of an article titfed- The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis.“ Its .author, medieval historian Lynn White, Jr., of UCLA, is an engaging raconteur with a gift for the memorable phrase and the arresting thought. He is professionally adept at rummaging through heaps of historical scraps and making sense of them, frequently rather novel sense. Specializing in the development of technology in the Middle Ages, he links happenings from seemingly different realms, particularly ideas and artifacts, so that once familiar history suddenly looks quite different, rather like the shock one gets when old stories of kings and armies and conquests are retold from the medical point of view.

Copyright © Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs 1975

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page 39 note • “The Changing Canons of Our Culture,” in Machina Ex Deo, Essays in the Dynamism of Western Culture (Cambridge, Mass., 1968). “Historical Roots” has been reprinted in this volume.

page 39 note •• “Technology: Assessment From the Stance of a Medieval Historian,” American Historical Review (February, 1974).

page 42 note • See White's “The Iconography of Temperantia and the Virtuousness of Technology,” in Action and Conviction in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Memory of E.H. Harbison, edited by Theodore K. Rabb and Jerrold E. Siege! (Princeton, 1969); “What Accelerated Technological Progress in the Western Middle Ages?” in Scientific Change, edited by A.C. Crombie (New York, 1963); “Dynamo and Virgin Reconsidered” and “The Context of Science,” both in Machina Ex Deo.

page 43 note • See White, “Natural Sciences and Naturalistic Art in the Middle Ages,” American Historical Review (1947): and “The Context of Science,” the original date of which is 1963.

page 43 note •• See discussions in Yi-Fu Tuan's article on “Our Treatment of the Environment in Ideal and Actuality,” in American Scienttrf, Vol. 58; Dubos's A God Within, Glacken's Traces on the Rhodian Shore; and my own Ecology and Human Need.

page 44 note • For White's thoughts here see his “Continuing the Conversation,” in Western Man and Environmental Ethics, edited by Ian C. Barbour (Reading, Mass., 1973); “Historical Roots”; “Cultural Climates and Technological Advance in the Middle Ages,” in Viator: Medieval and Renaissance Studies (1971); and “The Act of Invention,” in Machina Ex Deo.

page 44 note •• The quotation is from White's “Continuing the Conversation,” and the clarification here-as at some other points—is from an interview I conducted with him last June 28.