Wednesday, January 04, 2023

"Avatar's" Pantheism Is Not Real Pantheism

(I wrote this post in 2009 when Avatar 1 came out.)

With the movie "Avatar" the worship of Nature has again stepped forward. God is made equal to Nature; "God" = "Nature"; by "God" we really mean "Nature." Persons are part of Nature. We are to commune with Nature, to "be one with Nature." And, in Avatar, we see that Nature sides with those who commune with it and call out its name. "The Na’Vi are saved by the movie’s hero, a turncoat Marine, but they’re also saved by their faith in Eywa, the “All Mother,” described variously as a network of energy and the sum total of every living thing." (Douthat)

The idea that Nature is a being with consciousness is worthy of being rejected for the following reasons.

1. Science does not support this metaphysical claim.

2. History and personal experience argue against Eywa-theory. "Nature," simply as nature, seems indifferent. We call Nature "Mother Nature," and label the hurricane "Katrina," but they do not answer (unlike "Avatar's" Eywa) when we call their names.

3. The historical fact that some ancient peoples worshiped Nature is not an argument for the truth of the idea that Nature is a being with a mind of its own. To think so is to commit, in logic, the genetic fallacy.

4. Philosophical pantheism does not support Eywa - theory. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's essay on "Pantheism" states: "Where pantheism is considered as an alternative to theism it involves a denial of at least one, and usually both, central theistic claims. Theism is the belief in a "personal" God which in some sense is separate from (transcends) the world. Pantheists usually deny the existence of a personal God. They deny the existence of a "minded" Being that possesses the characteristic properties of a "person," such as having intentional states, and the associated capacities like the ability to make decisions." (emphasis mine) Call Nature "Eywa" if you want, but "Eywa" does not have intentional states. So the Cameron-idea at the end of "Avatar" where Eywa "responds" is, on philosophical pantheism, absurd. SEP concludes: "Worship and prayer are not suitable to pantheism." Read the etnire SEP essay to understand this.

As a Christian theist what am I to make of nature? Here's a thought from C.S. Lewis's Miracles which tells us that Nature is not to be considered God, but viewed differently.

"I spoke just now about the Latinity of Latin, It is more evident to us than it can have been to the Romans. The Eng-lishness of English is audible only to those who know some other language as well. In the same way and for the samereason, only Supernaturalists really see Nature. You must go a little away from her, and then turn round, and lookback. Then at last the true landscape will become visible. You must have tasted, however briefly, the pure water frombeyond the world before you can be distinctly conscious of the hot, salty tang of Nature’s current. To treat her as God,or as Everything, is to lose the whole pitch and pleasure of her. Come out, look back, and then you will see ...this as-tonishing cataract of bears, babies and bananas: this immoderate deluge of atoms, orchids, oranges, cancers, canaries,fleas, gases, tornadoes and toads. How could you ever have thought is was the ultimate reality? How could you everhave thought that it was merely a stage-set for the moral drama of men and women? She is herself. Offer her neitherworship nor contempt. Meet her and know her. If we are immortal, and is she is doomed (as the scientists tell us) torun down and die, we shall miss this half-shy and half-flamboyant creature, this ogress, this hoyden, this incorrigiblefairy, this dumb witch. But the theologians tell us that she, like ourselves, is to be redeemed. The‘vanity’ to which she was subjected was her disease, not her essence. She will be cured in charac-ter: not tamed (Heaven forbid) nor sterilized. We shall still be able to recognize our old enemy,friend, playfellow and foster-mother, so perfected as to be not less, but more, herself. And that will be a merry meeting."