Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Practical pantheism?

The movie Avatar must really be a great movie because it has struck so many nerves on the left and the right. My favorite (and I use that word advisedly) take is from the loony right by Phil Kline Kansas's former attorney general. I am not going to dissect his whole scree which you can read here:

Kline predictably thinks it is pro-environmental propaganda, for he writes:

"The natives are one with their native planet, including their mother-god Eywa. Eywa is the planet, and the natives reach oneness by entwining fibers from their bodies with the fibers of the planet. This representative sexual union allows them to hear their departed ancestors and gain rhythm with the planet — a séance orgy so to speak. All life on the planet is one, with one spirit and one energy."

Notice how nicely he works in the evil SEX into his rhetoric.

Later on we get the evil bugaboo of evolution:

"Such a prayer represents atheistic Hollywood's dilemma. The only way to reconcile a godless Darwinistic worldview with a deeply spiritual American culture is to convert environmentalism into religion. For what greater purpose for man than to save mother earth, or Pandora? And thus, our purpose in a purposeless world."

And he says that that culture of the Pandorans is Pantheistic. Well that is true I suppose but if Kline would take off his blinders a bit he would see that it is really a practical pantheism. After all, on Pandora evolution (sorry Phil that is the way the world works) has led to a system where the Pandorans can little plug into each other and indeed that is necessary for their survival. So it's not some really some sort of mystical new age Pantheism, but quite practical.

Now we don't have the same explicit connections to our environment that the Pandorans have but we are interconnected much more and need the rest of the biosphere a lot more than Kline seems to care about. At simplest level we are not even a single organism but a community of roughly 100 trillion human cells and 10 times that many bacterial cells that are symbiotic with us. And I don't think that includes the mitochondria which were believed derived from free living bacteria. And examples of how we are interconnected can be multiplied repeatedly at other levels of biological organization.

So Kline and company may scream but maybe we need a good dose of practical pantheism.