It’s too Easy Being Green

Christopher Hitchens begins his book, God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” with an anecdote from his school days, alleging that his teacher made a very basic mistake, arguing that God did not make the world green because it was restful to our eyes, but rather our eyes were adjusted to the green in the world.[1] I’ve noted in the past that Hitchen’s fact checking in this particular work is inadequate,[2] and he appears to be outright deceptive in his discussion of slavery,[3] and yet, in this opening section, Hitchens also seems to have not thought out the implications of his own theory.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are a deer in a meadow, munching on the foliage, enjoying the sun, being soothed by the tall, green grass and suddenly the wolf eats you due to your inattention. As moderns we have these romantic notions of the forest, made possible by parks where we can visit, enjoy nature, and not worry about wolves and bears who might think we look delicious. Nature, however, is far more cruel, and this cruelty is supposedly the driving force in the innovation of biological species, at least according to Darwin.  What Hitchens misses is, in the Darwinian world he believes is responsible for everything, the result should be the opposite; green should not be a color we find soothing, it should be a color that makes us alert, wary of predators and danger, along with brown, black, and every other natural color.

In fact, our very romance of nature, the forest, the cycle of life and the food chain is counter-intuitive. If, in fact, we are merely the product of Darwinian natural selection winnowing the results of random mutations, we should be glad to live in controlled cities away from all the animals that see humans as food; in fact, we should be cheering on the destruction of the polar bear, realizing this makes the artic a safer place for mankind to eventually live. And yet, we cannot resist at some level the call of nature, and the need to preserve animal life. We carry within us a romantic ideal of nature that only makes sense if there was some ideal from which it is derived and for which we were designed, a nature where we aren’t simply a hunter or prey. In a way, Genesis makes much more sense of our intuitive view of man’s place in the world than does Darwin’s theory, which we are forced to applaud in the science classroom, but to avoid and hate in the ethics class.

[1]Christopher Hitchens God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, (New York: Twelve, 2007), 1-3.