Al Gore, Defender of the Faith

Al Gore, Defender of the Faith
Vice President Says Environment Suffers From Disease
Caused by Science and Reason
by Ken Ragge

Vice President Al Gore gives every indication he is a believer in Codependents Anonymous. For the most part, his book, Earth in the Balance, shows a reasonable, genuine concern for the environment. However, the chapters Dysfunctional Civilization and Environmentalism of the Spirit can be described as Twelve Step "outsider doctrine." Outsider doctrine is the "truths" held by cult members which can be shared with non-members as opposed to "insider doctrine," which is withheld from outsiders and only gradually revealed to new recruits as they are "spiritually advanced" (indoctrinated) enough to "understand."

Gore's theory of what is wrong with everyone is John Bradshaw's codependency. Bradshaw is over 25 years "in recovery" (in Twelve Step groups) and chief guru of Codependents Anonymous. Codependents Anonymous is one of over 500 groups that believe the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are God's latest revelation.

Gore applies Codependents Anonymous doctrine and language to the world's environmental problems. They are "addictions" due to "dysfunctional families," "enablers," and people "in denial" but "recovery is possible." Codependency theology centers around the idea that every living human being suffers from excessive, unhealthy dependencies. "Spiritually awake" people instead depend on their Twelve Step program. Says Gore, ". . . each new generation in our civilization now feels utterly dependent on the civilization itself."

One might wonder at what time people weren't so "dependent" on their civilization. "Like the rules of a dysfunctional family, the unwritten rules that govern our relationship to the environment have been passed down from one generation to the next since the time of Descartes, Bacon and the other pioneers of the scientific revolution some 375 years ago."

Gore, using metaphysics (which sounds scientific) and an imagined ideal world prior to the Reformation, argues about the horrors of science and using reason.

“the joy of the dark ages”

It is very understandable that someone concerned with the environment would have nostalgia for a time when human population was a tiny fraction of what it is now and when environmental damage and stress were relatively insignificant.

However, Gore's nostalgia is also for Dark Ages theology and totally blind to the nightmares of that age. Gore blames reason and thought not subject to religious morality for all problems. For example, in describing the harm of separating science from religious morality, "This rational, detached, scientific intellect, observing a world of which it is no longer a part, is too often arrogant, unfeeling, uncaring. And its consequences can be monstrous." Does he discount the Inquisition? Were the Grand Inquisitors, the moral leaders of that time, humble, feeling, and caring? Of course they were. In their world of superstition and blind obedience to religious authority, when they were carefully placing the bundles of fuel for a witch burning to cause maximum pain, they were saving souls from evil. They were, in their own minds, doing good.

Gore's nostalgia for the Dark Ages runs deep, "Before the scientific era, children almost certainly found it easier to locate and understand their place in the world because they could define themselves in relation both to their parents and to a God who was clearly present in nature. With these two firm points of reference, children were less likely to lose their direction in life." In an age when children were the property of their parents, and their parents property of the state, ruled by a king ordained by God, well, perhaps it was difficult for children to "lose their direction in life." The tens of thousands of children who died in the Crusades had not lost direction, they were obediently following moral authority. It is very difficult to lose direction when there is no freedom of choice in anything and every detail of one's life, including essentials such as marriage and profession, are preordained.

Gore claims, "The confusion at the heart of much of modern science -- came from [the] assumption that human intellect could safely analyze and understand the natural world without reference to any moral principles defining our relationship and duties to both God and God's creation." Is Gore suggesting that Copernicus, Galileo and Keplar wrong, that they should not have challenged the "moral principles" and the defined relationship to God? Is the fact that the earth is round and moves through space something we should not know?

Gore suggests we bring God back into the laboratory, and says, "science may one day definitively disprove . . . that there can be a separation between facts and values, between the thoughts of a scientist and the moral duties of a human being."

This is following a metaphysical argument that thoughts can change reality, not in the sense of "If I think I can, I can." but, " If the mental activity . . . turns out to have tangible consequences of the kind we now associate with a form of physical energy . . . " In spite of the claim of scientific backing and the sophistication of the language, this is nothing more than "Be careful what you think, bad thoughts put you in league with the devil."

Gore confuses scientific fact and morality. In pointing out that a scientific experimenter used vivisection on animal, he confuses whatever facts may be found with the wrongness of cruelty.

No, Al Gore, cruelty and ignorance did not suddenly appear with the scientific revolution and the regaining of the use of rational thinking. Yes, the environment was much healthier in the "good old days" of the Dark Ages, but that was perhaps the only thing that was. The problems of civilization which you list, Nazism, Stalinism, and Maoism to name a few, do indeed have their roots in the family and culture. However, the solution is not transferring blind obedience from a "dysfunctional family" to blind obedience to any ideology or theology. No, thinking is not in conflict with feeling, but thinking and feeling is in conflict with ideology and rigid theology.

Three times in the chapter where you describe the spiritual disease of codependency as the source of all problems on earth you cite Alice Miller, the most respected therapist and philosopher in the western world. Perhaps you might more thoroughly read her work, beginning with For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence. You may like it. It is a very "feeling" work. But then again, you may not. The case presented is rational.

Perhaps your real conflict is the contradiction between objective reality and the religiously held belief that the Twelve Steps are perfect. Perhaps the core of your "morality" is the suppression of awareness to attain blind obedience to doctrine.