Lisa Sideris, De-Extinction Technologies as Theological Anthropology: The Uses and Misuses of Wonder
Discourse on the relationship between science and religion frequently invokes the language of wonder, and Anthropocene discourse is no exception. My presentation will examine the moral imaginary of wonder in current debates about the application of a specific Anthropocene technology: de-extinction strategies and related genetic tools applied to extinct or soon-to-be-extinct species. I argue that wonder, as it is often invoked in discussions of de-extinction, has little to do with express concerns about the justice, rights, or well-being of organisms, and thus bears little obvious connection to conservation and restoration rationales. Instead, these uses of wonder are largely expressions of awe at human power, creativity, and ingenuity. As such, wonder-inspired de-extinction strategies actually disrupt or obviate the need to respond with grief and mourning to human-caused extinctions. Moreover, as I will suggest, these uses of wonder lay claim to a particular and problematic image of the human, a theological anthropology that posits humans as the creative, world-making being par excellence. What other visions of the human might be available to us in a world that is increasingly the product of human activity?
Lisa Sideris received her Ph.D. from Indiana University in 2000. Before coming (back) to IU, she taught both at Pace University in New York City and at McGill University in Montreal. In the broadest sense, she is interested in the value and ethical significance of natural processes, as these values are captured or occluded by religious and scientific worldviews. Her areas of research include environmental ethics and the environmental humanities and the science-religion interface. Her early research focused on conflict and compatibility between scientific (particularly Darwinian) and religious interpretations of nature and natural processes. Her first book Environmental Ethics, Ecological Theology, and Natural Selection (Columbia University Press 2003) critiques the tendency of Christian environmental ethics, or “ecological theology,” to misconstrue or ignore Darwinian theory, and examines the problems this creates for developing a realistic ethic toward nature and animals. Her 2017 book, Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Natural World (University of California Press 2017), examines how scientific rhetoric and narratives about wonder may actually pit science against religion, and encourage a devaluation of the natural world. She is currently co-PI of a major grant from the Luce Foundation for a project titled “Being Human: Public Scholarship as Theological Anthropology," and serves as Associate Director of a new IU Center for Religion and the Human.
Forrest Clingerman is Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Ohio Northern University. His research focuses on environmental theology and ethics, with interests in religious interpretations of climate change and climate technologies, the sense of place, and environmental hermeneutics. He is co-editor of Arts, Religion, and the Environment (Brill 2018) and Theological and Ethical Perspectives on Climate Engineering (Lexington 2016).
Free and open to the public. Light reception following.
This event is made possible by support from the Institute of Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, College of Arts and Letters, John J. Reilly Center, College of Science, Department of Philosophy, Department of Theology, and Environmental Change Initiative.
Originally published at ctshf.nd.edu.