I was talking with an Evangelical friend the other day about our enjoyment of the Fact and Faith films for children, produced in the early Sixties. I particular remember the demonstrations on electricity and the pictures of outer space. We both agreed that they enthused us greatly about the majesty of science, and how scientific discoveries were taken as ‘proof’ of the majesty of God.
Now it is the other way round. Science is taken as the proof of the non-existence of God. So we now find ourselves in a world that has to be refilled with human emotion to make up for the absence of the divine. We find a form of post-Christian animism, expressing itself above all in sentimentality towards animals.
This found its finest manifestation in the new legislation introduced last month to turn the RSPCA into an arm of national government, and potentially (as the media pointed out) to outlaw treading on slugs, if it could be proved that they ‘feel pain’.
There is here, so it seems, no wonder, no awe, no appreciation, no religious respect for creation and our fellow creatures, but the institutionalizing of sentimentality, an almost desperate attempt to push human attributes further and further out into the alienated animal world.
What about the ants? On the feeling of pain, they are far below foxes. And yet their cultural skills are way beyond anything imagined by any in the animal rights lobby. The idea that organized agriculture is 50 million years older than our oldest human ancestor – that is a wonderfully humbling and awesome thought.
The fungus-farming attine ants can mirror just about every stage of modern industrialized farming. The collection, transport and preparation of the raw materials show factory-style precision and conveyor-belt sequencing. Weeding, pruning, applying fertilizer, temperature and humidity control, removal of waste products, all have their ant/human parallels. Most astonishing of all, the use of streptomycene antibiotics to maintain the health of the fungal monoculture seems to have been successful for millions of years, whereas human pesticides have encountered the problem of resistant superbugs after less than a century.
There is nothing here to make us sentimental, but much to make us praise God for the extraordinary richness of his creation.