Professor Daniel Amit
While religion and science can and must come together, neither
of them affects the political process directly. And it is,
of course, the political process, local, national and global,
that must be changed to stop and reverse current trends which,
in the tradition of this symposium, can be labelled 'Apocalyptic'.
One necessary bridge for linking religion and science on
the one hand and the political/economic realm on the other
is social science, primarily economics and political science.
These disciplines are needed to assess the costs and benefits
of politically expedient decisions and must weigh the costs
of continuing along dominant ideological trails against information
accumulated concerning the consequences. However, given that
the tension between the practicalities of the real world and
the inertia of intellectual tools may become very pronounced,
the underlying assumptions of these disciplines must also
Within this theme these issues were discussed by four voices.
They all shared the view that the situation is ominous and
that the writing is on the wall for everyone to read. Yet
the variety of their approaches created a mini-symphony. At
ground level we had an unabashed, almost theory-free exposition
by Edward Goldsmith which put before us the direct
consequences of 'globalisation', read simply as export-directed
development. The conclusion was that this particular force
necessarily undermines any possibility of the development
of national policies of 'social good' (wages, employment,
social services, protection of the environment), because such
an approach raises costs. Since the national framework is,
to date, the only one where enforcement is effective, this
observation forecasts doom.
At the abstract, philosophical, level we were presented with
a critique of meta-economics by John Broome. He suggested
that of the three pillars of liberal economics - priorities
dictated by limited resources; values determined by individual
preference; the market as the tool for satisfying these preferences
- only the first is of truly universal validity. The other
two, if their domain of application is extended uncritically,
may lead to quite significant deviations from the just goals
preached by liberal economists.
Herman Daly argued from within the discipline of economics
itself that growth may become gravely uneconomic. To the non-expert
this may sound like a contradiction in terms. He argued that
it is invalid to say that since the relative importance of
the extractive part of the economy is in decline, concern
for the environment is reduced. Nor is it tenable to say that
whenever the interaction of production with nature becomes
problematic, science or technology will be able to come to
the rescue. In fact, the evidence seems to point the other
way, bringing these theoretical conclusions into line with
the presentation by Edward Goldsmith and suggesting that growth
may not be sustainable and is definitely not humane.
In the last presentation, Nikolaos Mouzelis proposed
a hermeneutic of modern society and its impasse by characterising
the main features of 'modernity'. He drew attention to a series
of concepts which can be interpolated between social science
and mystery (in the sense used by the theologians in our symposium).
In this, he emphasised the opposition of the Promethean-scientific-productivist
approach (fragmenting and controlling) and the apophatic-religious-integrative
approach. As in the previous presentations, the spectre of
Social Darwinism was raised as an integral and dominant component
of the hegemonious political economy. The suggested antidote
to the dangers of this 'modernist' transformation of society
and neo-liberalism is democratisation within a more humane
type of economic system. The author perceived the roots of
such an economic system to lie within European capitalism.
It is appropriate that this theme - with its otherwise gloomy
consensus - ended on this optimistic note.
Trade and the environment (Mr Edward Goldsmith)
Economics and the environment (Professor John Broome)
Uneconomic growth: conflicting paradigms (Dr Herman E Daly)
Religion, science and the environment: a synthetic view (Professor Nikolaos Mouzelis)