“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
Sir David Attenborough, brother of the actor and director Richard Attenborough, is a famous British broadcaster of natural history TV documentaries. He is a convinced atheist. He once expressed his dislike for Christian belief by talking about what the Bible says in Genesis 1:26: Let [mankind] have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
Attenborough misquoted this verse. He read it as “the natural world is there for you to dominate, you have dominion of the animals and plants of the world.” He sees this domination as a bad thing. He said:
That basic notion – that the world is there for us, and if it doesn’t serve our purposes it’s dispensable – has produced the devastation of vast areas. We have assumed that we can build a house on it, dig it up, put tarmac over it; that’s OK because it’s there for us. In finding solutions to our ecological problems we have to understand evolutionary processes.
What he is not understanding is that the word used is not dominate, but dominion. This has a whole different set of connotations. Of course, it does mean that God has set human beings in control. But it also implies a stewardship of the world by people – that we are to take care of it and preserve it. Stewardship implies a management responsibility, to be taken seriously by prayer for God’s glory.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for the wonderful world that You have placed us in. Help us to take care of it and to use those resources which you have given us responsibly and gladly. Amen.
Ref: Nature 457, 967 (19 February 2009). Image: Weddell Glacier, South Georgia, Adobe Stock Images, licensed to author.