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Catherine Pepinster’s strange view

According to Catherine Pepinster in her Thought for the Day we think of human beings as distinct from other animals and this is a legacy of the Enlightenment, with its exaltation of human reason. This mistaken view, she suggested, reached its full flowering in the Victorian era, when human reason was supposed to separate us from the rest of creation. Christianity, she claimed, offers a different viewpoint: the world is not ours to dominate but is given to us in trust and we live in “a unified physical world which is part of God’s continual act of creation.”

I have to say I don’t recognize this description of Christianity (Buddhism or Taoism, perhaps). Ms Pepinster is Editor of The Tablet; Catholics don’t go in for reading the Old Testament much, which perhaps is why she has forgotten Genesis.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. [Gen 1:28]

Far from reducing the distance between ourselves and other animals, Christianity has continually harped on it. The superiority of man is deeply embedded in Christian thinking and the Enlightenment was, after all, heir to Christianity. It was the conviction of our special nature that caused the hostility to Darwinism felt by many (not all) Victorians and the same belief is at the root of modern anti-Darwinism in the USA and elsewhere. It was Charles Darwin’s offence that he dethroned humanity from its exalted position as the crowning glory of creation.


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