December 19, 2020
[00:06:22] Podcast Sponsors
[00:09:23] How We've Lost Our Perception of the Intelligence of Plants
[00:14:15] Biophilia, and Perceiving All of Nature with The Emotional Bond We Have with Family and Pets
[00:27:35] Podcast Sponsors
[00:31:43] Guest Introduction
[00:35:23] Interview with Gordon Wilson
[00:43:12] The Pressing Need Gordon Saw in Writing His Book
[00:46:58] The Dominion Mandate: What It Is and What It Has to Do with Environmentalism
[00:54:03] Common Stereotypes Among Christians When It Comes to The Environment
[00:59:44] The Ideal “Stereotype” of an Environmentally-Conscious Christian
[01:09:03] How Fossil Fuels Have Been Unnecessarily Demonized
[01:14:51] Concerns Over the Ability to Feed a Growing World Population
[01:22:49] Practical and Moral Ways to Affect Lasting Change in The Environment
[01:34:50] Final Comments
[01:36:10] Closing the Podcast
[01:36:51] End of Podcast
Ben: Well, folks, guess what, it is my birthday tomorrow, if you're listening to this podcast at the time that it comes out. And because it's my birthday, this is something that I tend to do annually. I give away a big free gift to all of you on my birthday. It's an annual tradition of mine to gift to my audience a unique and a special surprise on my birthday. So, I'm doing just that beginning tonight at midnight. And in this case, I got a little bit out of control and I decided to take the entire book that I've been working on behind the scenes for the past year and give it to you for absolutely free.
So, the title of this book, it's all about spiritual disciplines and spiritual fitness. It's called “Fit Soul: Tools, Tactics, and Habits for Optimizing Spiritual Fitness.” You can get it at fitsoulbook.com. It's a culmination of all the strategies and the lessons I've learned over the past 20 years of my life, specifically for increasing your happiness, your fulfillment, your meaning in life. It's chock-full of everything from how to find your purpose, how to make maximum impact in the world, how to get detached from attachments that are holding you back from true happiness in life, how to make more friends, how to have better sex, how to ditch your smartphone and technology addictions, a whole bunch of new breathwork tactics for sleep, for energy, for gut issues. A lot about emotions and biology of belief and how to fix your aches, and ailments, and unsolvable illnesses and mystery pains from the inside out, the exact spiritual disciplines I personally practice every day.
And again, I'm not kidding, I'm giving this book away for free. So, here's the deal. You go to fitsoulbook.com and you can just instantly download the book right now. It's right there for you. And again, this is a bit of a birthday gift to myself. I don't want to make any money off this book, I just want to make your life better with it. Now, if you're one of those people, kind of like me who doesn't like to burn your eyeballs out reading things on a computer screen, or on a Kindle, or wherever else you want to put this book after you download it, I do have physical copies available, too. Now, I'm not making any money on the physical copies either, but I am requesting you at least help out with the shipping, and the handling, and the printing costs. I'm just basically printing this on-demand for you. So, if you want the print version, it's the same thing. Just go to fitsoulbook.com. You can even grab the free version and get the print version, too, if you want to. This also is something that would be a fantastic New Year's gift for yourself or for other people. I'm super proud this thing's out. I've been working hard, hard on it. And so, it's at fitsoulbook.com. Happy birthday to me. Free gifts for you. That's a win-win. So, check it out. Spread the word, too, if you can. Anybody you know who wants a free book on spiritual fitness, send that URL over to him, fitsoulbook.com, and enjoy.
Ben: On this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.
Gordon: I wanted to look at the word of God. What does it say about the creation? What is God's heart, basically, in the creation?
Ben: It is a matter of no small consequence that the only people who have lived sustainably on the planet for any length of time could not read.
Gordon: That which you learn about, you begin to appreciate. That which you appreciate, you begin to value. That which you value, you begin to conserve.
Ben: Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.
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So, this would be a great gift for you to give to someone for the Holidays, if they're looking for a new coach, gift to yourself. And what you do is just go to BenGreenfieldCoaching.com. You can get hooked up with a coach liaison over there. They'll connect you with a coach. She's going to be just perfect for you, whether you want to sleep better, work on gut issues, or you're an athlete who's training for performance, or you're just a CEO or an executive who wants to crush it mentally. All of these folks not only have gone through my entire coaching program, but then I have office hours with all the coaches to bounce everything off of me each month. So, it's kind of like you're working with me, too, in a way. So, that's all at BenGreenfieldCoaching.com, brand new program. We're just rolling out, and there's levels that are affordable for anyone from training plans to nutrition plans, to Q&As, to consults, to full on concierge coaches in your back pocket 24/7, you name it. Check it all out at BenGreenfieldCoaching.com.
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So, I think I'd like to set some context before we jump into the podcast episode with Gordon because I've been reading a book lately. It's actually a really good book. I'll link to it in the shownotes. It's called “The Lost Language of Plants.” And you can probably imagine that there is, in this book, some things that are definitely relevant to the discussion on environmentalism, and the way we treat the planet. This book in and of itself is just fascinating when it comes to the plant kingdom as a whole. I'm going to share with you some of my prime takeaways from it regarding the environment.
But this book really highlights the idea that we've changed the way that we believe that the universe operates. Originally, there was this sacred intelligence associated with the universe, this idea of what's called Biophilia. Meaning that plants themselves actually have, “personalities” isn't the right word, but they actually have almost souls in a different way than humans, but some type of a sacred intelligence, a sacred intelligence built into the center of the universe. And there's been a major shift in how the universe is viewed, especially during the rise of science in the past several 100 years. Prior to the rise of Christianity, for example, the Romans believed, like a lot of other historical cultures, that sacredness and intelligence were present in everything. And so, Christianity, as it attained political power during the fall of the Roman Empire and as a response against Roman paganism, began this process of narrowing other religious expressions and theologically removing sacred intelligence from a lot, except like the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and deities like angels and saints that were designated by the church to be sacred.
And of course as part of that, the church also really encouraged this idea of what you'll hear bout in this podcast, the dominion mandate. We're supposed to exert dominion over nature, and that nature was created expressly for people by God. But that in and of itself did threaten to make nature viewed as more of a resource and less sacred than many other religions at the time held nature to be. And while I, in no way, am fan of worshipping nature, like worshipping trees, or plants, or rocks, or things like that, I think that sometimes we suck all the sacredness out of them when we swallow this line of thought, hook, line, and sinker.
And so, Protestantism carried this further. It abandoned even saints and angels, and reduce sacredness in physical form to a single expression like Jesus and the Bible. And that's why I actually appreciate some elements of, say, like Eastern Orthodoxy, which have woven a lot of elements of aesthetics and beauty, or at least retained a lot of those elements in Christianity. And to their credit, folks like Gordon, who I interview in this podcast, are actually part of a rising Christian movement in Moscow, Idaho, that from my perspective is beginning to revalue things like fiction, and art, and beauty, and movies, and entertainment, and ways that we can express beauty that go beyond just the over intellectualization of theology, which I feel is really rampant in Christian Protestantism.
But anyways, back to this idea of the sacred elements of the planet, when we look at the rise of science, I think that it's certainly, in addition to some of the elements of Christianity and the dominion mandate, contributed to this problem even more because when you look at science, it's really remarkable human invention. But as with all human inventions, it has limitations, it has unexamined assumptions, it has design flaws. And there are strong conflicts between fundamentalist scientists and fundamentalist Christians, making it very difficult to examine the limits of science or, say, like standard evolutionary theory without being labeled as some kind of a fundamentalist Christian, or unscientific, or someone who hates, or issues, or doesn't understand science. And many scientists are unwilling and will often antagonistically refuse to openly explore problems in the structure of science and their possible ramifications. And that unwillingness, I think, is disturbing, particularly when it comes to approaching our planet from a little bit more of a spiritual or sacred standpoint.
It's essentially this concept of reductionism. The problem with reductionism is this belief that we examine systems by taking them apart. And reductions are certain that there's nothing in the whole system that cannot be predicted from a knowledge of the parts, but to understand the universe and its most complex entities, living systems, including plants, and trees, and animals. I don't think that reduction alone is enough to understand our planet. And this book is really fantastic, this book “Lost Language of Plants,” because it does get into this idea of Biophilia. Like, there were times when nature was perceived as alive with intelligence and with soul, and people bonded with nature much as people bond with their pets or with their family now. Biophilia is technically a genetically encoded or innate emotional affinity towards all other life forms on Earth.
This loss of Biophilia is something that I think is aggravated by a few particular elements that really leap out to me that are ways that we live that are far different than, say, like indigenous hunter-gatherer tribes would have lived in terms of the way that we view the universe. So, in my opinion, children should be growing up in nature, doing as my children are encouraged to do by me, plant foraging, doing wilderness survival, spending time outdoors, understanding leaves, and plants, and animals, and recognizing them, and appreciating them as living entities that we must coexist with in order for life on this planet to proceed. And certainly, we can use those things for medicines and for foods, et cetera, but abusing them is really a complete–it really is, like almost the scientific reductionistic approach, like we can take this apart, it's just pure science, it's just matter, it's just atoms. There is no soul, there is no sacredness when it comes to, say, this nettle root, or this yarrow, or this wild mint, or plantain leaf, or something else that we found upon our land.
And this idea that the earth is not alive, that nature is not alive I think is something that really contributes to the loss of Biophilia, and also some of the issues with the way in which we treat the environment. I mean, take for example, and this is going to be controversial, but take for example like public schooling. Public schools are completely enveloped in the perspective that the universe is not alive, the entire curriculum, except for, say, like a literature course, or maybe a really gifted and unique teacher contains that type of embedded communication. So, every day for 12 to 20 years of formal public schooling, kids are taught that they're alone on a ball of rock hurtling around the sun, and that the other residents of that ball of rock are just resources to be used or to be managed. It's a very mechanistic reductionistic view, especially when it comes to the science that is taught in the public schooling environment.
And I think that that said, there's a book called “Earth in Mind” by author David Orr. And David Orr says this, kind of a long quote, but I'm going to tell it to you anyways. He says, “It's worth noting that environmental devastation is not the work of ignorant people. Rather, it is largely the results of work by people with BAs, BSs, LLBs, MBAs, and PhDs.” Elie Wiesel once made the same point, noting that the designers and perpetrators of Auschwitz, Dachau, and Buchenwald, the Holocaust, where the eras of Kant and Goethe widely thought to be the best-educated people on Earth, but their education did not serve as an adequate barrier to barbarity. What was wrong with their education? In Wiesel's word, it emphasized theories instead of values, concepts rather than human beings, abstraction rather than consciousness, answers rather than questions, ideology and efficiency rather than conscience.
I believe that the same could be said of our education towards the natural world. It, too, emphasizes theories, not values, abstraction rather than consciousness, neat answers instead of questions, and technical efficiency over conscience. It is a matter of no small consequences that the only people who have lived sustainably on the planet for any length of time could not read, or like the Amish, do not make a fetish of reading. It's this idea that that book knowledge is no substitute for the direct transmission of knowledge from someone who has spent years and years interacting with nature in a little bit more of a wild and freeway. And so, this idea of a loss of personal, uninhibited, spontaneous interaction with nature being replaced by formal schooling is something that I think brings up our kids with this Western scientific mode of analysis and a feeling that that feelings about nature or the feelings of nature are somewhat irrelevant.
Now, another big issue here, and this also might be controversial, is, and this might surprise you, but bear with me here, television. So, think about it this way. So, for thousands of years, humans have dreamed. Dreaming is a basic need. It's like food, or clothing, or shelter, or touch. It is how we actually process memories, and it is how we produce creativity. And when you look at television, you could make an argument that it has replaced to a certain extent things like storytelling, or reading fiction, or even there I say dreaming. Like, I grew up reading “Lord of the Rings,” and I also grew up reading C. S. Lewis's “Chronicles of Narnia.” And my mind was forced to, while I read those, develop these rich, subtle details in terms of character development that the television or movie portrayals of those same stories replaced for me. And the same way with movies or TV shows, the storytelling that we are exposed to on a daily basis begins to resemble dreaming, because, like dreaming, it contains sounds and images. It's very dynamic, the way that television is produced.
And you can think of it like this, like television is to dreaming, junk food is to real food. So, we're continually exposed, if we are the type of people who, and maybe you're not, I hope you aren't, who are constantly watching television, were exposed to dreaming that works with these really shallow and homogenized meanings that are reflective of a particular industry and a way of thinking, like the way that Hollywood might want to portray a certain story to us. And we lose our deep, unconscious ability to be able to form our own ideas, to interweave our own fabrics of these characters into our psyche. And I think that as a result of that, we once again have lost our connection with a little bit of the sacredness of the universe because the majority of dreams on television, they're this human-centered universe as machine perspective, and they're also an expression of this cultural mythology that I described earlier of almost like a dead universe.
And so, kids, being public school inside, watching television, disconnected from nature, I think creates this scenario where we separate our children from the aliveness of the world. And this is something that I don't think is really talked about or considered when it comes to the way in which we care for our environment. I think too big, big barriers to us developing a healthy attitude towards the environment, our indoor television, and video games to a lesser extent, and then the reductionistic scientism that is presented in a public schooling scenario. Now, when we look at plants, indigenous people for thousands of years, they were very clear about where their knowledge of plant medicines originated.
So, we like to think that ancient man a very long time ago in a forest cut himself, he began to bleed, it's a bad cut, there's lots of blood. He decides he wants to put a plant on the wound. He begins to place a bunch of plants on the wound, he tries grass, that doesn't work. He tries marshmallow leaves, that doesn't work. The bleeding gets worse and worse. Eventually, he grabs yarrow. And yarrow grows like weeds around my own property. So, I understand yarrow, it's fantastic for stopping bleeding. So, he slaps that on there, the yarrow stops the bleeding. He goes forth. He tells everyone in his community, in his village, of this plant. And the knowledge of that plant medicine enters the cultural lore. And that's the way that we like to think about the way that a lot of our knowledge of plants and how to use them as medicines originated.
But let's extend this thought pattern a little bit more. Look at Artemisia. Artemisia, in Native American lore, is a plant that provides protection against maleficent powers. It's something that you would use to drive away evil, demonic influences. So, we've got the guy in the forest again, and he's walking along, minding his own business, and he encounters like a negative influence, a maleficent power, a demon, like some type of a spiritual influence. And he's afraid, like anyone would be, and he starts looking to the plant kingdom for help. So, he holds the same yarrow up, that doesn't work. Holds up grass, nothing. Holds up marshmallow, nothing. Cherry leaves, no effect. So, then panicking, he rushes through the forge. He's picking up all these plants, then he grabs Artemisia. He holds it up, and all of a sudden, the negative influence dissipates, the negative influence has warded off.
And that type of trial and error method is how we tend to think based on a reductionistic view of the universe and scientism, how we actually learn from plants. But in the vast preponderance of cases, when indigenous hunter-gatherer tribes are approaching, when the Amazon or elsewhere or Native American tribes are approached and asked about where their knowledge of plants originated in the vast preponderance of cases, they insist that the knowledge of the plants came not from trial and error, but from the plants themselves, or from visions, or from dreams, or from sacred beings. Those of you who know that ayahuasca, very likely, would not have originated, the combination of–I think it's a vine. Was it vine in a leaf or a vine in a root? I forget. I should know. But a lot of tribes in the Amazon, they say that was revealed to them by the plants themselves, by the sacred intelligence of the plants themselves. They didn't just go around like trying thousands of things for hundreds of years before they settled upon that specific combination.
In this book “The Lost Language of Plants,” it puts it really well. It says plants have been talking to us for a long time, and even has a little quote from plants. It says, “Do you think it is possible to dissect a human being, render it down into its constituent parts, feed them into a machine which measures such things and determine from that its ability to paint or create great music? No. Then why do you think that once you have done this with my body, you know anything about me?” And folks, the reason I'm telling you all this is that plants release earth's subtle chemistries through these intertwined, interdependent synaptic feedback loops that are faster and more complex than researchers or science can write them down or elucidate.
And I think that based on this idea, rampant in Christianity, in scientism, in public schooling, in television, that we've lost the ability to be able to listen to planet Earth, because we think this concept of Biophilia, this concept of sacred intelligence, this concept that if we spend lots of time in nature, that nature will begin to speak to us and we will learn things that we never would have thought from nature itself. We think it's either silly if we're scientists, or we think it's paganistic if we're Christians. And I think that both approaches are sad. I think that more Christians need to spend deep time in nature, just listening to plants and the sacred intelligence that we can find in nature. And I think that more scientists need to forsake the reductionistic approach and recognize, to give you another simple analogy, that you can't isolate the lycopene from a tomato for something like prostate health and get as good effects as you would from eating the whole, ripe, raw tomato itself. And nobody yet knows why that is the case, but it is the case.
And so, as you listen to this podcast with Gordon about environmentalism, I would invite you to just think deeply about your approach to nature, your approach to–and I realize this might be an offensive way for me to describe it, but are you contributing to the rape of this planet, to the rape of Mother Earth? Or are you making a concerted effort for you, your family, your children, to actually go out and be in nature and pay attention to the sacred intelligence of nature like other human beings have done for thousands of years? And when you do so, I think you will not only gain a deep respect for it that will make you less likely to be someone who contributes to the pollution of the environment, but you'll also come away just blessed by that time spent in nature. And you should read this book, by the way, “The Lost Language of Plants.” You should read Gordon's book, my guest on today's show, “A Different Shade of Green.”
But important things to think about. So, I realized it's kind of a long, long introduction, but I will get off my soapbox now and we will go talk to Gordon. And if you have your own thoughts about anything that I have just shared with you, I would encourage you to go to the shownotes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/shadeofgreen. Pipe in and let me know your thoughts about what I've just shared with you, or of course about the upcoming conversation with Gordon. Alright, let's go dive.
Alright. It is officially here, officially here. What's officially here? Well, here's the deal. If you're plant-based, if you're keto, if you're full-on carnivore, if you're breatharian, or whatever those people are that survive on eating air alone, it doesn't matter because I'm personally inviting you, no matter who you are or what nutrition plan you follow, to join my super popular annual five-day fasting challenge. We had 20,000 people last year, and it's all run by my team at Kion. We've put together an amazing super in-depth eBook that answers all of your fasting questions, that walks you through all the science, how to do it. You get a bunch of exclusive video content. Again, it's totally free, the fasting challenge. And you get a whole bunch of people doing it with you. So, it's very hard to mess up, right? And you could choose alternate day fasting, intermittent fasting. Some people do like full-on five-day water fast, but you have the accountability and support of an entire team to help you through, and it's just called the annual Kion Fasting Challenge. You get in and you got to get in by January 11th, just so you know, at getkion.com/fasting-ben. It's getK-I-O-N.com/fasting-ben. It's the Kion fasting challenge, January 11th. You got to get it on time.
Well, howdy ho, I want to interrupt today's show to tell you about lion's mane. I just read a new study. I tweeted it out that this is going to be super funky, but there was this study on lion's mane used as an enema, I'm not kidding you, for irritable bowel. Super interesting. I would imagine it might make you smarter because lion's mane has trace amounts of caffeine in it. But unlike coffee, it's pretty low in caffeine, but it has a lot of things in to support what's called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is kind of like miracle grow for your brain. You'll even hear of some people blending lion's mane with like psilocybin and niacin. It's a plant medicine stack by itself. Or if you really want to upgrade a cup of coffee and dump it into coffee, it is amazing for your brain, for your mental function. If you haven't tried a natural cognitive stimulant like a mushroom extract, specifically lion's mane is the one that's for your brain. You're missing out on what it feels like to have mushrooms hit your brain in a really cool way. And what my friends at Four Sigmatic are doing now is an exclusive offer, is giving you 10% off of their bestselling lion's mane, or any of their products. You go to foursigmatic.com/ben, F-O-U-R-S-I-G-M-A-T-I-C, foursigmatic.com/ben. That'll instantly get you 10% off. So, check it out, foursigmatic.com/ben.
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Well, folks, if you've been a podcast listener for anytime now, you know that I'm a Christian and I also am a man who enjoys things like bow hunting, spearfishing, plant foraging. Even here at our home in Spokane, Washington, animal husbandry with goats and with chickens. And I just really appreciate our planets, what I like to call our father's world. And so, I sometimes get a little bit disappointed when I look around me and realize that many Christians actually don't appear to be very good, shall we say, environmentalists. And in the past, I've interviewed folks like Joel Salatin, for example, regenerative farmer who actually does both care for people and for the environment in the way that he raises his animals. I've also interviewed a man named Doug Wilson from Moscow, Idaho, about his take on how Christians should approach food. And during that discussion, which I'll link to in the shownotes that I'll give you the URL for momentarily, we even discussed a little bit about things like church potlucks and the amount of monocropping, and soy, and corn, and wheat, and other things that might deplete our nation soil that are relied upon as food staples in many Christian circles, which I also find to be concerning.
And so, it seems we've been shockingly bad at using our Bibles and our brains when it comes to conservation and the environment. And my guest on today's show has written an entire book about this. His book is called “A Different Shade of Green,” a biblical approach to environmentalism and the dominion mandate. If you don't know what the dominion mandate is, don't worry, that term is going to be added to your vernacular shortly. His name is Gordon Wilson. He's actually the brother of Doug Wilson, who I just mentioned earlier, who I have interviewed about a Christian approach to food. And in the book, Gordon really gets into a great perspective on how we should actually approach care for this planet without necessarily swallowing hook, line, and sinker full-on progressivism.
And so, we have a lot to delve into today. And Dr. Wilson is actually a senior fellow of natural history at the wonderful New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. He is a trained biologist, and he has even, in addition to publishing a biology textbook, created a series of really wonderful films called “The Riot and the Dance,” which we'll also talk about. It's basically a two-part nature documentary series called “The Riot and the Dance.” And I'll to that. I'll link to his book and everything else that we discuss if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/shadeofgreen. That's BenGreenfieldFitness.com/shadeofgreen.
Gordon, welcome to the show, man.
Gordon: Thanks for having me, Ben. It's a pleasure to be here.
Ben: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Well, it's a pleasure to have you on. Just opening the kimono just a bit, people, like I mentioned, may be familiar with the fact that I interviewed your brother Doug a few months ago about food. And as a matter of fact, your guys' father, Jim, was one of my mom's first friends when she moved to Moscow, Idaho. So, our family history actually goes a little ways back in terms of our paths crossing. And of course, my wife and I went to University of Idaho and we cross paths quite a bit when we were down there.
So, anyways though, you have an interesting history because you're a biologist. You're also a Christian. And I'm just curious for you, how that's worked if you catch a lot of flak in the scientific community for being someone who, at least as far as I know, is kind of a died in the wool creationist?
Gordon: Well, that's a great question, Ben. Right now, I teach at New Saint Andrews College, and it's a Christian University. And so, the administration, my colleagues, were all on the same page. So, I don't get flak here, but as far as being a biologist, where biology is very secular, and to be a creationist, that's tantamount to being a heretic. Evolution is basically a cardinal doctrine of biology. And so, if you don't hold to that hook, line, and sinker, you are suspect. And in fact, it appears in the first movie, one of my professors, talking about flak, wrote a little Post-it note that says, “Gordon, you'll never be able to call yourself a biologist if you continue to hold the views about evolution that you demonstrated last week. You're a bright person. Start using your own mind.”
Now, that's not really persecution, I have to say. That's just a little snack. But during my orals, that professor, as far as my few instances of flak, during my oral finals for my master's at the University of Idaho, that professor asked me a loaded question. I think it was designed to sort of see if I was on the same page and to expose myself if I wasn't. I answered it according to the theory of evolution because I made it a point not to be a problem child both in undergraduate and graduate work. I wanted to learn the theory of evolution, the way they taught it, so that they could know that I knew what they believed because I didn't want to have them say, “Well, you don't believe it because you don't understand it.”
So, I really took it upon myself to understand the theory. So, I got this loaded question. I answered it according to the theory of evolution, but then I sort of dug myself in a hole for a half-hour by saying, “But–” and filled in my position. Then it took me about a half-hour to dig myself out of that hole. And one of my professors on the committee was a Christian, and he thought, “Oh dear, I'm going to have to lock horns with some of these other professors who are just looking pretty perplexed and maybe even livid that there's this creationist that's about to graduate with their master's degree.” But it turned out that the person that was the most distraught, not the person who asked the question, but somebody else who turned purple. His color returned, and he was the first to say as far as I'm concerned, he passed.
So, I think he didn't agree with me, but he was convinced that I wasn't a lunatic. He knew that I knew the material. He just thought that I was sort of naive and that I would come around eventually once I was a little bit more educated in this area and the nuances of this great theory. Well, I haven't come around. It's been over 30 years. And then, when just one other–well, couple other times I was teaching microbiology just sort of a one-off thing at the U of I, and that caused an uproar, because one department hired me, another department was freaking out that I was a creationist. And I allayed their concerns. Everybody can swell. Even though that the people that hired me were–they were fine because they knew that I wasn't going to get behind the lectern and espouse my views. They knew I was just going to teach microbiology. But what was distressing about the biology department? They were distressed of not what I was going to say in front of the class because they didn't like what I thought in my head. The fact that I was a creationist and I was up there, they just thought the optics are all wrong. We can't have him up there even if he doesn't say a peep about his views because what will happen to our granting, we might jeopardize federal money if the federal granting agencies catch wind of this and all of that. So, it turned out that the powers would be ran interference for me, and thankfully, academic freedom is alive and well in certain places. And so, I was okay for those two semesters, sort of for the same reason and about 10 years apart, taught micro, and was able to teach those classes.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. That's interesting. I recently read a book that delves into this idea of why any educated scientists, especially scientist with a Ph.D., would advocate a literal interpretation of the six days of creation, for example. That book was called “In Six Days: Why Fifty Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation.” And it interviews geneticists, and orthodontists, and geologists, and really presents actually a whole bunch of men and women with doctorates in a wide range of scientific fields who actually have been convicted by a great deal of evidence to believe in an actual literal six-day creation. And that might seem like a bastardization of science to many people listening in because there is this idea. Many evolutions have said that creationists cannot be real scientists, even the National Academy of Sciences. They have a whole guidebook about teaching evolution and the nature of science, and it basically says that evolution is the most important concept in modern biology. But then if you actually go back and rewind the clock, there are a staggering number of so-called real scientists who believed in Biblical creation. I mean, like Isaac Newton and Carl Linnaeus.
Gordon: Yeah. This was before Darwin, but still some of the greatest architects in biology, even after Darwin, Louis Pasteur, arguably one of the greatest biologists of all time, was very much believed that God was responsible for life. And that was some of the things that motivated him in his science, and motivated him to design that experiment of refuting the theory of spontaneous generation because he says, “If this kind of thing goes on, then this concept of God is just not necessary.” And so, he knew it was at stake. We just think he was this guy that is just doing science because of this noble pursuit of truth. And that was true, but he was motivated by his belief in God.
Ben: Right? Yeah. Although everyone has their faults, but one thing I'm not a fan of when it comes to Louis Pasteur is he actually, in my opinion, had some issues when he–I think he claimed the use of rabies vaccine on a child, but it was actually testing on a bunch of dogs. And there were some issues in the vaccine development that I–I think he had a little bit of scientific misconduct going on, but regardless–
Gordon: Most of those guys did, yeah.
Ben: Big picture is–and again, I'll link to it in the shownotes for those of you listening in, that book “In Six days.” That one was really compelling for me when it came to me being more comfortable with scientifically based. That'll be also a faith-based creationist approach.
But beyond evolutionism versus creationism, if those are words, environmentalism is really the hot topic at hand with this new book that you've released. And I'm just curious, what inspired you to actually sit down and write a book that addresses Christianity in the environment?
Gordon: Well, that also is a great question. I, like you, have seen so many people fall off either side of the boat on this question. There's people that are reacting against the secular environmental agenda, and I think for many good reasons. But because they take up a contrary and position, and they think, “Okay, we have dominion. We were created in the image of God,” we're talking about Christians here, “and this is here for our use, our exploitation. We can use it up with little or no concern for the future.” That disturbed me. But also, falling off the other side of the boat of Christians who were drinking the Kool-Aid of the environmental agenda and they were getting very–had a lot of progressive notions in their head and the politics behind it, the heavy-handed overreach of government, I think many times, even if they are well-meaning this governmental overreach in areas that they really had no business reaching into, I didn't like undiscerning Christians taking on that extreme either.
And so, what I wanted to do was I didn't want to have a reactionary book. And I didn't want to take up a moderate book just to be moderate. I wanted to look at the word of God. What does it say about the creation? What is God's heart, basically, in the creation? And when he signed the title over to us in the dominion mandate, what was that doing? Was that a blank check for us to do what we want, or was that something entirely different that we're not to exploit it and oppress it, but to use it. Yes, we can use it. We can hunt, we can fish, we can do things. But if you look closely at all of scripture and all of its context, you see a desire for God to have mankind under the Lordship of Jesus Christ enhance the environment. We want to reflect his image. We are image-bearers. We want to reflect his image. God is lavished, God is extravagant, God is loving. He has given us this luxury addition creation with a whole lot more in it than we actually need to keep us propped up. I mean, he could just make us a half a dozen different plants to feed us and get all of the nutrients.
Ben: We don't need a platypus, for example. At least not as far as we know yet. There's no distinct human need.
Gordon: Right. So, there's this lavish creation, and it's not there for us to just blindly whittle away at and go, “Oh, well, it's just for us to just consume at our leisure with little or no concern.” So, I wanted to have a biblically grounded book that wasn't the scholarly slog. I've seen enough scholarly slogs. And even in areas that I'm interested in, I sometimes am very hesitant to pick up this scholarly slog on some topic. I want a nice, readable, accessible, jaunty, fun book that addresses the topic in very clear terms that some layperson can wrap their head around. That is my kind of book. That's why I wrote it.
Ben: Right. Now, you already used the term, and so did I in the introduction that many people might not be familiar with, the “dominion mandate.” What's the dominion mandate? What does it even have to do with environmentalism?
Gordon: Well, the dominion mandate, if I pull up my–that's what theologians call this charge in Genesis 1:28. I'm pulling up my little Bible here.
Ben: Oh, come on, you don't have it memorized?
Gordon: Well, I should.
Ben: Geez. What kind of creationist are you?
Gordon: Yeah, I know. I was never in Awana, Ben. Give me a break. Genesis 1:28, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'” So, at first blush, you could think, “Okay. This is just this verse that gives man a blank check.” But yes, it's an awesome responsibility, but remember, you can't have dominion over things that don't exist. If we have this idea that we can just throw things under the bus at our leisure and say, “Well, that plan or that animal doesn't justify its existence by having something that it can serve that has some utilitarian use for us to exploit,” then, well, since I can't know what the platypus does–I mean, there's no cuts made on the platypus that are good, and also does just live in streams, and down under, and in New Zealand. Who needs it?
Panda bears. We all like certain creatures because they're cute and fuzzy. And we say, “Okay. Well, they justified their existence because they're big, cute, and fuzzy.” But there's all sorts of creatures, most in fact, that don't commend themselves to us by being cute and fuzzy, but God made them anyway. And so, that's the important thing I see in the dominion mandate. It's not a blank check to just exploit it will. It says we are to have dominion over all these creatures, birds in the air, fish in the sea, all sea creatures, all living creatures on the land. It's sort of like a global wildlife management, but it's not just wildlife, it's domestic life, it's everything. And if you look at all of scripture, you see that we should define dominion in the way that God defines it.
We often have this default connotation that it means, “Oh, exploit. A press B tyrannical over it.” And it's actually very different if we look at headship in–biblically defined, we see–and Ephesians 5 is sort of a microcosm–well, actually, macrocosm. It says, “Christ is head of the church.” Well, that's that robust definition of dominion, but Christ is the head of the church. But it says in Ephesians, “To present the church as a spotless bride.” So, the church of God, His headship, His sovereign reign over the church, is not something that's oppressive and exploitive, it's beautifying. And so, if we are imitating God as image-bearers, we should look at the creation and exercise our dominion in a like manner as the way God would be having dominion as Christ is over the church.
Ben: Yeah. I think the word itself though rubs some people the wrong way because you associate dominion with authority, and command, and power, and sway. And as you've explained, really, it's more responsibility and care, like a pretty serious responsibility that we were given to actually, not just like subdue animals, or name animals, or organize gardens or things like that, but actually engage in some amount of what would arguably be sustainability, actually caring for this planet in a way that grows it and sustains it. Whereas I think a lot of Christians, specifically, roll with that idea of dominion and consider it to be power. Like, I can just rape this planet because we own it and God's in control, and he's going to take care of everything no matter how many factories that we erect.
Gordon: And that's the problem is that we need to be circumspect at what our actions do. We have a bad taste in our mouth of what dominion can be because when God gives us authority over things, there's so many with our sin, we can exercise that authority in all sorts of wrong-headed ways that really cause depletion and diminishment of whatever it is that's in our charge. If you buy a car and you're really into cars, if exercise good dominion, you own the car, but you own it, and you treat it well, and you polish it, you wax it, you keep it really fine-tuned. That would be good dominion of your car. You still own it, but bad dominion would just be you drive it, you run it into the ground, you never wash it, you just trash it inside and out, and run until it runs out of oil and freezes up the engine, and we go, “That's dominion.” Well, that's not dominion at all. That's really bad dominion. So, authority and headship isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just depends on how you exercise it. It can be very beautiful. It can be very bad.
Ben: As you outline in the book, you could even look at something like a parable in Matthew. And those of you who are familiar with the Bible might be familiar with the “Parable of the Talents” where a master assigned certain servants a number of talents, and one servant was just thinking about what would arguably be called sustainability. They took their talent and they buried it in the ground. When the master returned, he basically really didn't get much because he didn't invest in that talent. Whereas the better servants, the more faithful servants, they actually managed to get the net return on their talents because they turned a profit, they invested it, they cared for it. And so, I think you present the scenario in the book where, yeah, we can just basically manage the planet to merely sustain plants and animals, or we can actually manage the planet in a way that plants and animals thrive under domestication, or well-managed in the wild, or actually used for us for everything from pharmaceuticals and medicine to food, to clothing, to pets and beyond. And really, that's a more biblical and Christian example of managing the planet versus just using the planet.
But it seems like different people, especially in the Christian community, have different approaches. And I found this pretty entertaining, you actually invented all these stereotypes for the books, like the–what was it? Like you have Anti-Green Andy and Pre-Mil Pete. What are the stereotypes, like the common Christian stereotypes that we run into when it comes to the environment?
Gordon: I came up with four exaggerated stereotypes, Anti-Green Andy, and Apathetic April, Pre-Mil Pete, and Green Greta. Basically, they represent the range of attitudes out there. There's obviously more and they aren't meant to fit everybody or pigeonhole everybody into those categories. But Anti-Green Andy is just someone I mentioned before. He's got this notion that dominion is just about–it's here for our–God made us in His image. It's just there for the taking. We can use it. We can maximize our profits if things go extinct, if we accidentally throw things under the bus because of our entrepreneurial spirit. Oh, well, no big deal. I remember a long time ago I saw in the back of National Geographic this picture of a logging truck and tucked on the back of one of the logs on logging truck. It said, “Spotted down mobile home.”
And I think that typifies the Anti-Green Andy stereotype. I would say there's nothing wrong necessarily with cutting timber, but I think what we should do is think in terms of, how can we use it? How can we practice forestry so that we can have a forest ecosystem that is well-managed, not just for timber, but also for all of the creatures in that ecosystem? Manage it in a very holistic way. It's not this complete tree-hugging mentality where–you can actually log, but we're thinking in terms of how can we not just sustain, but how can we beautify this planet and not just have it get degraded because of all of our activities. So, that's the Anti-Green Andy approach.
Ben: Right. Well, it's that idea that–I get it. There's basically this–it's like a contrary and position to progressivism where there might be data spinning, or silly accesses, or wrong-headed thinking, or heavy-handed governmental regulations, but–
Gordon: And you're sick and tired of that. Yeah.
Ben: Yeah. So, they don't bother distinguishing a baby from the bathwater and just say, “Well, we're just going to throw all that out and just leave a smoking crater in our path by not caring for the environment at all because God forbid, we'd be associated with any type of like liberal, progressivistic tendencies.” And that's of course, when you step back and look at it, foolhardy, but that's kind of like the stereotypical Christian redneck almost, just driving around with their big truck and muffler gas-guzzling approach, not caring at all. And so, yeah. I think that's certainly one flaw that I see quite a bit. Probably because I live in Idaho/Washington–
Gordon: Did you see more of those?
Gordon: Apathetic April, not much to say there. She doesn't think about it much. She just has her little groove that she exists in, and she goes to church, and Facebooks, and doesn't really think about what the environment at all. And she might think, “Oh, yeah. I guess we're supposed to be good stewards. Maybe that means recycle.” But again, very shallow in her attitude, doesn't have any strong opinions either way. I think there's a lot of those around. Pre-Mil Pete would be basically the idea that Christ is coming any day now and we shouldn't concern ourselves with the state of the planet, the state of our resources, the state of biodiversity. We just need to evangelize and convert as many people on this rock before God raptures us off. Kind of this ALAMO approach, and let's not worry about the flower garden in the ALAMO because we're under siege and we need to hang in there until God raptures us.
That's sort of the Pre-Mil Pete approach. The Green Greta is somebody who loves nature, loves the environment. And that's good, but she's kind of, in an undiscerning way, drunk the Kool-Aid of the secular, progressive, environmental movement. And so, she's sort of hook, line, and sinker. We have an electric car, hybrid car. We've got to eat everything it has to be organic. We have to have 1.7 kids and so on. She's been catechized by the media as to, say, that greenhouse gases, evil gas. And so, she's a global environmental alarmist and–
Ben: Right. Like a very PC Christian.
Gordon: Yeah. PC Christian. And very opposite Anti-Green Andy.
Ben: And obviously, this is all interesting and points out common flaws that we see, but of course it begs the question, if we were going to come up with the ideal Christian stereotype for someone who actually incorporated the dominion mandate in a way that sustains our planet, grows our planet, cares for and learns from our planet. I'm curious if we could paint a picture of what the ideal would be. For example, in your book, you note someone who may have fit into that ideal. William Wilberforce, who is best known for his efforts to abolish the slave trade, but he also founded the first organization for animal welfare, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, motivated by his Christian faith. I think that's a perfect example of someone who falls outside of those stereotypes. But kind of a fun thought exercise, how would you describe a Christian who actually applies this so-called dominion mandate in a way that does not necessarily give one giant middle finger to progressivism and then walk away and just burn our planet to pieces, but yet also has a balanced approach that's not necessarily placing–I guess like placing the environment on a pedestal above God.
Gordon: Right, right. So, that's going to look different in every individual person. A balanced person can have any particular calling, like that person can work in a trade or some industry that might be counter what ultimately good. I don't want to guilt-trip people in the same–well, you have only three possible occupations that you can exercise in order to be balanced in all of this. I think, well, God takes us where we're at. He doesn't say, “Okay. You work in an industry that's not very green, so you need to quit.” I think there's ways of going about that activity in a way that is reformational, not revolutionary. But the main thing, it's very easy. I don't know if this gets to your last question, which is?
Ben: How Christian get involved with ensuring they're in the best job they can?
Gordon: Yeah. Really, again, depends on where you are. You've heard that slogan that says, “Everybody wants to save the world. Nobody wants to help mom do the dishes.” And it's similar to that. What we need to do is look at our own sphere of influence, whatever that is. And the reason I wrote this book is not to give you a “how-to” guide on every last issue because there's so many issues out there that is impossible for me to address, and I wanted to address them in principle so that we can take biblical principles and say, “Okay. This is what biblical principles look like,” And then apply them with wisdom in my own sphere of influence.
The big guiding principles are, “Love God and love your neighbor.” And also, you refer to the Animal Care Department. It says in Proverbs 12:10, “A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast.” So, rather than saying, “I need to save the planet, I need to get up right now and quit my job and save the planet,” no. Start taking care of your pet, for goodness sake. A righteous man has regard for the needs of his animals. That means your animals, whether you've got a little farmyard, you should make sure that they're fed, they are healthy. It's very easy to get unbalanced in this and give way too much care, but we need to take care of the needs of our animals and not cause them to have any kind of undue suffering because we're just lazy caring for the plant. We want to beautify things.
So, you've got your home, your apartment. You might not have any real estate, but if you do, start beautifying it, start to landscape it in a way that's beautiful to your neighbors. So, you're ultimately doing it because you're glorifying God. You are wanting to imitate God. We're image-bearers. We want to beautify things like Him. And so, we take care of our yard, our garden. Love your neighbor. Love your neighbor means that you don't foul. For example, just on something like littering. That's mostly just unaesthetic activity. It doesn't necessarily cause the ecosystem to implode. But it's ugly, and it can cause problems, but it's mostly just ugly. So, if it's ugly, don't do it, even if it doesn't cause any great tragedy.
And the important thing, I think, it's yeast loaf, is to transfer those types of love God, love your neighbor, which means you don't want to pollute the air in a way that you can't–I mean, it's not wrong to necessarily have a factory, but if you're a CEO of a factory, a Christian owner of a factory should work as far as it depends on him or her to make that factory as environmentally clean as possible. But there's already a ton of environmental regulations. We shouldn't be thinking in terms of just being in raw compliance with the regulations, we should be thinking in terms of, am I just serving my clientele by making a good product at a good price, or are my neighbors, my non-client neighbors, happy with what I'm dumping into the river?
Ben: That's a Golden Rule in–
Gordon: Yes, a Golden Rule.
Gordon: Exactly. Is my shop or my industry an eyesore? Is it making the air ugly, and stink, and unhealthy? What I'm jumping in the water, is it unhealthy? Is it causing a distraction in the aquatic ecosystem? These are big, big things and I'm glad I'm not in that position because these are awesome, very, very heavy responsibilities. And I don't think they can necessarily change overnight. I think God is very patient with us, just like in our own personal walk with God. He sanctifies us and He lets us grow in godliness over the years. It's not this radical. People don't just become super Christians overnight. God whittles and chisels us and conforms us into the image of Christ in his time. And I think in the same way as we seek to be a balanced Christian with regard to the creation, we really think in terms of the Golden Rule, which is, “Love God, love your neighbor.” And sometimes it's like turning the Titanic around. And God is patient, but we need to be working at making changes that are in keeping with God's law. So, that was sort of a general approach. I think we need to look at our own sphere of influence and not just try to go off and save the world. Take care of our animals, love your neighbor. And a lot of that loving your neighbor has to do with how we treat our environment.
Ben: And this idea of following the Golden Rule comes down to something that I think you mentioned in the book about how, if we, especially as Christians, were to govern ourselves better from an internal standpoint. There would actually be less of a need to impose what we might consider to be restrictive or excessively progressive environmental policies. For example, I don't know, not being able to build something in your backyard because it's been designated as a wetland sanctuary for some duck or butterfly that happens to wander through it, which can obviously be annoying.
But a lot of those mandates being passed down by the government wouldn't really, I think, be necessary if we were actually approaching things like our factories, our lawns, or roadsides, et cetera, with this idea of not only loving our neighbor, but also asking ourselves daily, how can we actually make the planet better in the way that we've been called to with this original dominion mandate? And it just seems like there's this flawed thinking pattern where we again just want to defy progressivism and put our foot on the line when it comes to being as conservative as possible and avoiding any type of that–what you call the green granite type approach. Like, we don't want to be the Christian who just drives a hybrid car and shops at the Coop and takes the quick lukewarm showers with the 1.7 children and–et cetera.
So, that really does make sense, but I think there are some little subtle nuances that you get into in the book that I think might be fun to explore because you have some interesting takes on some of this, like fossil fuels, for example. It appears to me after reading your book that you're actually not against the use of fossil fuels and are in fact a fan of them. What's the case that you have to make for that?
Gordon: Yeah. First of all, I make mostly a case against what is paraded before the watching world as alternative energy as green energy. And I'm saying that there's really an unseemly side to those green alternatives that is not very green. Now, I'm not saying that fossil fuel is robust. We do know that they have emissions. I don't think CO2 is an evil gas, and we can explore that later, but there are emissions that aren't healthy. And I am all for working towards technology that is increasing, reducing the emission, the hazardous emissions in our exhaust. But I don't want to demonize fossil fuels, natural gas, fuel. It's reliable. It's relatively cheap. And if you look at the alternative energy, if you did not have government subsidies, they would be ridiculously expensive. The reason they're affordable is because we prop them up with subsidies. And so, if they could pay for themselves, but if you look at cradle to grave costs and look at the hazardous, some of the rare mineral earth that are used making a lot of the parts to both the solar panels, not only in mining materials for them, but also disposal of them at the end of their life, it's not environmentally friendly. It uses up a lot of real estate. And again, I think fossil fuels for now is a good energy source, and I think the media has just demonized them in a wrong way.
Ben: Now, isn't there a book about this, Alex Epstein's book, it's called “A Moral Case for Fossil Fuels?”
Gordon: Yeah. It's a good book. If somebody comes along with an energy that's dense, it's affordable, it's reliable, it's scalable, then God bless him. It doesn't have to be fossil fuels. If something is cleaner than fossil fuels and it's cheaper than fossil fuels–and I think we've also demonized nuclear energy because we're just afraid of reactor leaks. And rightly so, I think we want to make sure that we build a nuclear reactor. It's going to be really, really safe. But I think that we've flipped everything on its head, and I think the media has made us think that nuclear and the petroleum energy is anti-green. And I think, no, it's not necessarily anti-green.
Another book that I would like to recommend, I just read it a bit ago, it's by Michael Shellenberger called “Apocalypse Never.” And he is a best-selling book in the–I forget what categories on Amazon, but it's called “Apocalypse Never.” And he is an environmentalist. He was frontline boots on the ground on all sorts of issues for decades. He's not a Christian, but he realized that after decades of his work as being an environmental alarmist, he's now realized that he was wrong. And he's still an environmentalist, but he's now really advocating for nuclear energy. It's a really good book. It's balanced. I don't think he's made friends in the progressive camp, but he's well-respected, at least before he made the switch. He was well-respected.
Ben: Yeah. I'm pretty familiar with him. Actually, it's kind of like a green planet advocate. I didn't realize he had a new book. Didn't that book just come out, “Apocalypse Never?”
Gordon: Yeah, just came out. And the subtitle is “Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All.” So, it's quite illuminating.
Ben: Yeah. Well, there's a lot of interesting arguments out there that we may not have time to get into the weeds on today's show. But I think people should be aware of some of the basic facts, like how carbon emissions have peaked and have been declining in a lot of developed nations for like a decade. Deaths from extreme weather, those have declined like 80% over the last 40 years. The earth warming to really high temperatures is increasingly unlikely due to slowing population growth and abundant natural gas. And between that and the book “A Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” I think you can make a case that when used responsibly, again we're relying upon big picture, this idea of the Golden Rule and sustaining the environment, that they actually can make a case that some of this stuff is actually making human life on this planet better.
Gordon: Yeah. Did you read “Moral Case for Fossil Fuels?”
Ben: No, not yet.
Gordon: Yeah. Okay. But yes, good and just another thing to put in the hopper. It's really illuminating. But I think it needs to be balanced because these books that I've recommended aren't necessarily coming from a Christian worldview, but it gives you a balance from what we're constantly hearing from the media, and gives us a more balanced perspective.
Ben: Got it. Now, what about feeding and sustaining the growing world population? I mean, how do you feel in terms of where we're at as far as the actual carrying capacity of the earth? And do you have any concerns there?
Gordon: I don't have any concerns right now. I know that this earth is finite, but if you fly anywhere and you look down, most of this world is not covered with people. There's a lot of room on this planet. And all of the projections back in the '70s by Paul Ehrlich saying that we're going to have massive starvation, there's no way we can support, there's going to be hundreds of thousands of people dying of starvation in the late '70s, early '80s. And what's happened to all those alarmist projections is that they just haven't come to pass. And it's simply not because we've stopped growing, our population keeps going up, but we're innovators, we are not behaving like animals.
Animals, they sort of reach a peak called a carrying capacity, whether it's elk on Moscow Mountain. There's this carrying capacity what that habitat can sustain. But with people, we won't pass those carrying capacities because we're innovators. We figure out how to grow more food. We figure out how to increase densities and produce infrastructure or construct infrastructure that allows us to have a higher carrying capacity, and feed a growing population. So, I think we shouldn't worry right now about the world. There's some countries that there's a negative population growth there. They're going downhill and they're actually trying to get people to have kids because they realize that the age structure is getting very top-heavy, and they realize that the younger age classes are getting too small, and this top-heavy older age classes on top. And that's just an unhealthy position because when those enter retirement, you've got this really skinny younger population that can't sustain the older.
Ben: Yeah. Well, I'm going to push back. I think it is something we should worry about, even when I'm–you mentioned flying and looking down. I have our land in Spokane, Washington. I'm looking out over farmland that's largely a great deal of what I would consider to be soil raping, monocropping, lots of soy, and wheat, and corn. And really, I think that we have to pay attention to regenerative agriculture practices. I mentioned Joel Salatin earlier. Everything from aquaculture to holistic planned grazing, to pasture cropping, to perennial crops?
I mean, if you look at 4 billion acres of farmland, and 8 billion acres of pastureland, and 10 billion acres of forestland, unless we actually are able to farm that regeneratively, I don't think that we can sustain long-term ethical food production in a manner that's actually nutrient-dense. And again, a guy like Joel Salatin has a lot of good thoughts on this, and everything from the additional organic matter to the soil, to increase the water holding capacity, to the fact that we already know, like small farmers can feed the world less or quarter of all farmland. But I think we have to massively overhaul our approach to agriculture, which for you and me, we both live on these rolling Golden Hills of the Palouse, which I always thought were so beautiful. I drive from Spokane down to Moscow. And now when I look at it, I think it's a little bit of a travesty.
Gordon: Well, and this is where I agree that we need to be reforming all the time in how we do agriculture. But I don't like to come up to say Farmer Bob, who's been doing this way for a long time, he doesn't know necessarily the other way. He might be open to it, but he's just not exposed to it. So, just like God is patient with us, I think we need–if we come at these people that have done it the wrong way since depleting the soil, just using artificial fertilizers rather than having permaculture, enriching the soil, like you said, with Joel Salatin, and all of those practices are great. And I think that sort of yeast in the loaf, just like turning the Titanic around, you just don't say, “Okay. Everybody doing it wrong right now needs to just stop and do it right.”
We need to be patient and come alongside and help people see because I think that if you present a form of agriculture that's doable in incremental steps where they can change this practice they've been doing for generations, and say, “Hey, if you do it this way, you're going to reduce erosion, you're going to make the soil healthy, all of these things.” But if we're just like a ton of bricks and say you're raping the land and you have no business doing what you're doing, even if I agree with you in principle–I look at the Palouse. I live here and I don't see any hedgerows, and in England, you have hedgerows, where you've got these big, big wide habitat corridors for all sorts of wildlife to live in and travel through. But we've joined field to field to field to field, and we don't have these habitat corridors.
And someone who loves nature, I'm not against agriculture, but again, I want to be conciliatory to the person who's doing what I would say not the best way and say, “Hey, let's think about turning this around,” because I think as soon as you throw down and say the rhetoric can cause the Farmer Bob, who's done it this way for generations, to start entrenching, start to get defensive, and you now have loss to potential convert unless you do coercion, political coercion, that forces them to do a certain thing. What we want, just like getting back to the first thing, we want people to change for the good in a way that there is self-government. It's like, I'm doing this because I love God and I love my neighbor. I want to have my land increase in productivity over the generations rather than get more and more depleted.
When we first moved to Moscow in '71, the hills look like chocolate brownie mix. I mean, it was just super dark, dark, rich soil, and now they're getting lighter and lighter and lighter when you don't see the crops on them. And so, I know over the last 50 or so years, I've just seen the progressive. We can keep growing a ton of wheat because we can just spray, give them the artificial fertilizers. But I'm agreeing with you, Ben. I just think our tactic on bringing the old school mentality and turning them, it's more of a reformation rather than trying to get them to get on board or fish or cut bait, buddy. I think we need to be respectful to their heritage without insulting them and seeing what is better rather than insulting what they've done wrong.
Ben: Yeah. Now, another practical question, I'm just curious for you personally as a biologist and a creationist, and somebody who's written a book about the environment, what do you do yourself when it comes to your own, either your dietary choices, or the kind of car you drive, or the kind of recycling you do? I mean, do you have specific tactics in place that you would consider to be either unorthodox or outside the box when it comes to being a Christian? I don't know if [01:23:15] _____ Christian environmentalist, but at least a Christian who is well-aware of environmental considerations.
Gordon: I generally stay away from the word environmentalism because there's a lot of baggage attached to that word. And so, I would say I'm a Christian conservationist. What I do, I mentioned in my book that I'm not an activist. That doesn't mean I just want to write about things and don't do anything. Well, I realize that to just try to get a bandwagon going and saying, “Okay. Everybody, let's do this.” And generally, the trend is, okay, we're going to do this so that we can feel–the temptation is to feel self-righteous, like, “Well, I'm recycling, you're not. I'm shopping at the Coop, you're not. My daughter–excuse me, I got the frog in my throat.
Ben: That's alright. That's abuse of the dominion mandate, by the way, to be swallowing frogs.
Gordon: Yeah, especially–yeah, because I love [01:24:14] _____, but I don't eat them. My daughter is in England and there's a lot of unspoken pressure. There's certain stores that you shop at if you want to be green, and there's certain stores that you're frowned upon, and oh, you're just someone who doesn't care. And I don't like to guilt trip people in saying, “Okay. If you want to be right before God, you need to shop this way.” Everybody's got a different budget. If you can afford the Coop, and you can afford organic, and you can afford all of this stuff, that's fine, God bless you. I'm not going to get on you and say, “Oh, you're a Green Greta or something.” I would just say, “Great. You find that healthy? Great.”
But I'm not going to come up to someone who's trying to feed their family and shops at a big box store. I'm not going to guilt trip them. What I think what needs to happen at the reformational level is not to guilt trip the consumer so much as to have the actual producers think in innovative ways. And I think that's happening to a certain extent, whether it's green development or reducing packaging. If somebody comes along and makes a truly green in the good sense, not in what I would call radical environmentalism, but truly green, where you're reducing the use of plastics, and the consumer actually sees, “Okay, this is not more expensive, I can afford it. It may be a slightly bit more of an effort, but I can do this in a way that reduces plastic waste.” The issues can be highly complex and you can do research on all of these things. I am not someone who can afford to shop at organic. Maybe go back to–
Ben: [01:26:14] _____ Staples in $25 coconut yogurt from Erewhon?
Gordon: Right, right, right. Yeah. So, if you look at my cupboard, you're not going to say, “Oh, this person is doing everything within his power to make this.” But if somebody comes along and makes it more where it's still convenient to shop and it's not super expensive, I think the more we get innovative at the production level, the more the consumers will come along. But I'm not going to come along to the consumer and say, “You're wrong for shopping here,” when they're just trying to feed their family. So, I hope that answers the question.
Ben: Yeah, it does. I was just curious what your life looks like.
Gordon: I get this in my book that the solution to all environmental problems is the solution to send because I would say that either directly or indirectly, most of our environmental problems come from sin, whether it's individual sin or corporate sin. And I think that the more the gospel starts to pervade and people get reconciled to God through the Lord Jesus Christ, then they will–that reconciliation of God, the relationships with other areas like the creation. As Francis Schaeffer, I quote him in the book, he says in his book “Pollution and the Death of Man,” he's a Christian philosopher of the 20th century, and he said, “If I love the lover, I love what the lover has made.”
And that says a lot because the more we're reconciled to the God of all creation, the more we'll like what He makes, the more we'll love our neighbor. We will start to behave. It's not necessarily overnight, but we'll start to behave in a reformational way that seeks to honor God and honor his creation in organic grassroots way. And I shy away from anything that whether it's legislation, or activism, or guilt-tripping, I shy away from that and I say, “The best way to do it is to get people–” this is what I do with it and say. I teach people not how to be an activist. I teach people how awesome God's creation is. I teach them the diversity of creation. I teach them the complexity of creation. I teach them how wonderful it is and how much gratitude we should be exuding towards it.
When that happens, I don't have to say anything about you got to do this or that to the environment. The students just graduate and some of them come back and say, “You really gave me new eyes. You totally gave me new eyes to view the creation in a totally different way.” And so now, their whole perspective of care without me actually explicitly telling them, “You need to care for the environment,” that which you learn about, you begin to appreciate. That which you appreciate, you begin to value. And that which you value, you begin to conserve. It just happens organically just by teaching people how wonderful God's creation is. And that's how I want to do it.
Ben: Well, that makes sense. And my own perspective is that I think that more Christians should be proud of the recycling bin in their kitchen. They should be aware of the length of their showers. They should look at their food packaging and actually consider how much soy, or corn, or wheat, they might rely upon as staples in their diet. I think that despite the fact that many Christians associated that with some type of progressive environmentalism, that's just way too hippy, bro. I actually I think that more Christians, and this is why I want to record this podcast, they need to think about what this so-called dominion mandate actually means. And I would just love to see better care for God's planet woven into Christianity because sometimes it does feel a little bit hypocritical. You're going to be in church singing “My Father's World,” and then driving away and heading to the church potluck with–rife with monocropped wheat and soda cans getting thrown away into the regular trash instead of the recycling bin. That might seem nitpicky, but I think it's something we really need to think about.
Gordon: Yeah. We should, and we need to also require some research, because sometimes if you dig down deep in the weeds, sometimes the amount of energy and the amount of fuss in recycling is not cost-effective. I'm not saying it in all cases, I'm saying that if there's somebody that can recycle and can actually earn a living without being subsidized by the government, then great, but I think it should be more of a free market. And this is where innovation comes in. If we can free market this so that people will naturally want to do it because, well, it's good for the environment, and it's easy, and it's not that much of a hassle. I think we think, getting back to what I said earlier, it's innovation at the production level. But we need to do our homework on all of these things. And if somebody comes up with ways to do this that doesn't put the poor person in the congregation at a disadvantage, but they're able to do it as well, I don't want them to say, “Oh, I'm a second class Christian because I can't eat that kind of wheat.”
Ben: Yeah, that's true, but at the same time, I think that person has the prerogative to look into things like a vertical patio garden where they could grow more the food that they're actually spending more money on than they would be able to get if they were growing it themselves. I think that even the church has a responsibility to a certain extent to teach people how to care for their bodies, how to eat, how to drink, how to engage in practices that allow one to affordably and sustainably live. And I think that's sometimes a hole. It's sometimes a gap, and I wish that more congregations particularly would pay attention to these matters. And honestly, I think your book is a wonderful starting place for, whether it's a pastor or a Christian who's interested in some of these considerations to review and to read.
And then, the other thing I should note, because I know we're running a little bit short on time, is that you also have I think something that's a little more inspirational for those who really want to wrap their heads around the wonders of God's creation and the remarkable aspects of this globe. It just came out I believe this year, “Your Riot and Your Dance.” How many episodes are there of that right now?
Gordon: There's two, and the first one came out. It's “Riot and the Dance: Earth.” That came out in 2018. And then, the second one just came out this year, “Riot and the Dance: Water.” We're planning on making more. And David Attenborough is still chugging away in his '90s. And so, Lord willing if I'm still kicking, and God provides, we'll keep doing these. The subtitle for “Riot and the Dance” is “A Cinematic Celebration of Creation.” So, it's just nature documentary from a Christian perspective giving all the glory, honor, and praise to God. And I really recommend it. I know it's sort of, since I'm the host of the show, it's awkward, but you can get it on–you can go to the App Store and go–it's a VidAngel app called “The Riot and the Dance.” I don't know if you're providing that, but you can–
Ben: Yeah. I'll put links for everybody in the shownotes to the app and the website.
Gordon: It's an app and you can go to that and watch both episodes. But also, it's sort of a pay it forward like “The Chosen” in VidAngel. If you like it and you want to see more of this type of production, you can pay it forward and fund somebody else who wants to view it. And fund the next episode.
Ben: Cool. Well, that's awesome. There's the Golden Rule in practice right there. Well, this is all fascinating, and I'm sure that those of you who are you listening and may have your own comments, your questions, your feedback to add, and I would encourage you to do so. Go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/shadeofgreen. BenGreenfieldFitness.com/shadeofgreen is where I will link to Gordon's website and book. I will link to other podcasts and books that we mentioned during this episode. I'll link to “The Riot and the Dance” video and an app, and everything that you need to engage with this podcast even more if you would like to do so. So, that's all at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/shadeofgreen. The book is called “A Different Shade of Green.”
Gordon: I don't know if you have it as well the textbook. I have a biology textbook, which is named after the same as the–actually, it came first, “The Riot and the Dance: Foundational Biology.” And the documentaries were named after the, actually, the textbook. So, they sort of brand each other, but there's also the textbook, if you're homeschool and want to teach biology from a Christian perspective.
Ben: I may need to pick that up for my boys. They're actually pretty interested in biology, animals, ecology, et cetera. I don't own that book yet, but yeah, “The Riot and the Dance: Foundational Biology.” I may need to pick that one up.
So, all sorts of resources for folks. And again, I'll link to all this in the shownotes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/shadeofgreen. Gordon, I might run into you this weekend because I happened to be making that drive from Spokane to Moscow on Friday. So, I may see you down there.
Gordon: Yes. I haven't seen you in a while.
Ben: It has been a little while. But thank you so much for your time, for coming on the show, for sharing this with us, for writing the book, and for being a voice out there when it comes to caring for God's planet.
Gordon: You're welcome, Ben. Thanks for having me on your show.
Well, thanks for listening to today's show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I've ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes, that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. When you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.
Let's face it: Christians don't seem to be very good environmentalists. We have been shockingly bad at using our Bibles and our brains when it comes to conservation and the environment. Unhinged environmentalism is not the answer, but neither is ignorance and apathy. It's time for something different, and my guest on today's podcast, Dr. Gordon Wilson, feels that Christian responsibility for the natural world goes back to the very beginning, when God commanded us to “fill the earth and subdue it.” This so-called “Dominion Mandate” is an authoritative alternative to both environmental activists and to those who think “conservation” is a word progressives made up.
So, what does “dominion” mean for us, living in a world of constant reports about impending global meltdown; of oil spills, pollution, and strip-mining; of extinction threats, both real and imagined?
Dr. Wilson's new book, A Different Shade of Green: A Biblical Approach to Environmentalism and the Dominion Mandate, contains a compelling Christian approach to biodiversity, conservation, and other environmental issues—offering solutions and correcting errors while teaching us how to give thanks for and rule over all of creation.
Dr. Wilson is currently a senior fellow of natural history at New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. Before joining NSA, he was a faculty member at Liberty University from 1991 to 2003. He has also taught on a part-time basis at the University of Idaho and Lynchburg College. Gordon received his Ph.D. in environmental science and public policy from George Mason University in 2003 and also earned his M.S. in entomology and B.S. in education/biology at the University of Idaho. He has published his dissertation research on the reproductive ecology of the eastern box turtle in Southeastern Naturalist and The Herpetological Bulletin. He regularly writes popular natural history articles for Answers Magazine and has recently published a biology textbook called The Riot and the Dance: Earth. Dr. Wilson is also the narrator of a two-part nature documentary series by the same name.
During this discussion, you'll discover:
-How we've lost our perception of the intelligence of plants…10:00
- Announcement about Ben's new book Fit Soul
- The Lost Language of Plantsby Stephen Buhner
- Christianity began the process of removing sacred intelligence of all life after the fall of the Roman Empire
- Dominion mandate – Nature is created by God for people; views creation as a mere resource rather than part of the creation
- Protestantism reduced sacredness to only Jesus
- Eastern Orthodox Christianity
- Movement within Christianity to renew an understanding of the sacred elements of the planet
- Human inventions have limitations: design flaws, human biases, etc.
- Reductionism: We examine systems by taking them apart
- This is not sufficient to fully understand the planet
-Biophilia, and perceiving all of nature with the emotional bond we have with family and pets…14:30
- Loss of biophilia aggravated by:
- Not growing up in nature leads to a lack of appreciation for it
- The idea that Earth and nature are not “alive”
- Public school curriculum, by and large, have this loss of biophilia
- Earth in Mindby David Orr
- Television has deleteriously affected imagination, creativity, storytelling, dreaming
- Television is to dreaming what junk food is to real food
- We've lost our connection to the sacredness of the universe with the advent of modern media and technology
- Two barriers to our understanding of our environment:
- Indoor television (video games to a lesser extent)
- Reductionistic scientism in a public school scenario
- Indigenous peoples will say their understanding of plants and plant medicine came from the plants themselves
- Ayahuasca supposedly revealed to people by the plants themselves
- Christians and scientists should spend more time in nature and perceive the sacred intelligence in plants
Interview with Gordon Wilson
-Life as a biologist and a Christian…35:25
- Being a creationist is tantamount to being a heretic in the biology field at large (evolution is the cardinal doctrine)
- Wanted to learn the theory of evolution the way it was taught to prove he knew what they believed
- This approach more or less assuaged any animosity that may have existed between himself and his peers, superiors, etc.
- University deans and what not feared losing federal funding because a creationist is merely speaking, even if it's not his own views
- In Six Daysby John Ashton
- Isaac Newton and Louis Pasteur were notable biologists who held to the creationist theory of the world
-The pressing need Gordon saw in writing his book…43:15
- Two contrarian views within the Christian community:
- Use of resources with little concern for the future
- Being influenced by environmentalist propaganda, governmental overreach, etc.
- Understanding God's “mind” in creating the world, life on it, etc.
- What is the Christian's proper use of creation within that context?
- Humans as “image-bearers” are tasked with preserving and enhancing the environment
- Gordon wanted the book to be readable and enjoyable for all
-The dominion mandate: What it is and what it has to do with environmentalism…47:00
- Genesis 1:28“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'”
- You can't have dominion over things that don't exist
- It's not for us to choose which creatures are useful and which are not
- “Rule” over creatures is not a tyranny
- Christ is the head of the church, to present the church as a spotless bride; the church is to be beautified by his headship
- Dominion can be beautiful or bad, depending on the mindset of the one to whom authority is given
- Parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14~30)
-Common stereotypes among Christians when it comes to the environment…54:05
- Anti-Green Andy: The environment is there for the taking, little concern for the future
- Apathetic April: Goes to church, gives zero purposeful thought to the environment at all
- Pre-Mil Pete: Christ is coming any day, so we shouldn't concern ourselves with the state of the planet; evangelize, evangelize, evangelize
- Green Greta: Loves the environment, but has drunk the secular, progressive Kool-Aid
-The ideal “stereotype” of an environmentally-conscious Christian…59:45
- William Wilberforce founded the first animal rights organization in England
- Work within your own sphere of influence
- Gordon's book is not a “how-to” guide, but an instruction in principles
- Guiding principles: Love God, Love thy neighbor (The Golden Rule)
- Proverbs 12:10“A righteous man has regard for his beast.”
- Animals should not suffer because we're lazy
- Make your home beautiful with plants
- If it's ugly, don't do it, even if it doesn't cause a huge tragedy
- Not polluting the air
- Comply with regulations because it's right, not simply to be in compliance
- Working at turning around the Titanic
- Government mandates may not be necessary if more people take a conscious mindset toward the environment
-How fossil fuels have been unnecessarily demonized…1:09:05
- More an indictment on “green” or “alternative” energy
- CO2 is not an “evil gas”
- There are healthy and unhealthy emissions
- Alternative energies are prohibitively expensive but made affordable because of government subsidies
- Nuclear energy has received a similarly bad rap
- A Moral Case for Fossil Fuelsby Alex Epstein
- Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us Allby Michael Shellenberger
-Concerns over the ability to feed a growing world population…1:14:53
- Alarmist projections have not come to pass
- Humans do not behave like animals (caring capacity); we're innovators
- Some parts of the world are encouraging younger people to have more children
- What A Christian-Libertarian-Environmentalist-Capitalist-Lunatic-Farmer Can Teach You About How To Eat, How To Shop & How To Think About The Way We Farm & Feed The World with Joel Salatin.
- Regenerative farming is key to sustainability in the food supply
- Can't expect all problems to be solved overnight
-Practical and moral ways to affect lasting change in the environment…1:23:00
- “Christian conservationist” rather than an “environmentalist”
- Easy to become self-righteous by having certain practices that promote the environment
- Encourage innovation among the producers, versus guilting the consumer
- The solution to environmental problems is the solution to sin
- Pollution and the Death of Manby Francis Schaeffer
- The Riot and the Dance: Foundational Biologytextbook by Dr. Gordon Wilson
-And much more…
Resources from this episode:
- A Different Shade of Green: A Biblical Approach to Environmentalism and the Dominion Mandate
- The Riot and the Dance: Foundational Biology
- The Riot and the Dance: Earth
- What A Christian-Libertarian-Environmentalist-Capitalist-Lunatic-Farmer Can Teach You About How To Eat, How To Shop & How To Think About The Way We Farm & Feed The World with Joel Salatin
- Why Your Pursuit Of A Better Body & The Perfect Diet Is Never Going To Make You Happy, How Christians Should Make Food Choices, The Ultimate Source Of Joy & Much More with Doug Wilson.
– Other resources:
- The Lost Language of Plantsby Stephen Buhner
- Earth in Mindby David Orr
- In Six Daysby John Ashton
- A Moral Case for Fossil Fuelsby Alex Epstein
- Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us Allby Michael Shellenberger
- Pollution and the Death of Manby Francis Schaeffer
- Why Regenerative Agriculture?
–Fit Soul: Ben Greenfield's new book on the spiritual disciplines. It's yours FREE for the digital version, a nominal charge for the print version. Happy birthday, Ben!
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