Book review - Responsible Dominion by Ian Hore-Lacy

Reviewed by Tim Thwaites

Taken from TMA with permission

Responsible Dominion contains views on the stewardship of our Earth developed over a lifetime by an author who is difficult to stereotype. Ian Hore-Lacy is at the same time a committed evangelical Christian, a committed environmentalist, and a committed technologist.

He has worked for decades in the mining industry and at present is the director of public communications for the World Nuclear Association, the peak body for the nuclear energy industry outside the US. And he believes in engineering our future.

The purpose of Hore-Lacy’s book is not primarily to provide solutions—although his answers to many problems are quite plain—so much as it is to reframe environmental questions in the context of his Faith and his confidence in the bounteous resources provided by the Creator God. In fact, the conclusion of this relatively short book is not a prescription of actions to take as stewards of the Earth but, as suggested by the book’s subtitle, a code of conduct to guide Christians in their consideration of the serious, global environmental issues of our time.

Hore-Lacy firmly contends that the resources conferred on us by the Creator specifically include our humanity, intelligence and ingenuity, and the science and technology which results from them. He also argues that for Christians, the welfare of human beings should be no less important than consideration of “the environment”.

These last two points lead him to some strong conclusions. He has no truck, for instance, with those who believe in a six-day creation or its stalking horse, Intelligent Design. To him, these are nonsensical concepts which beggar the God-given rationality of human science. Hore-Lacy also has little time for the people he deems environmental romantics, who view technologies such as genetic modification (GM) and nuclear power, which are the fruits of human intelligence, as inherently evil or ungodly.

Hore-Lacy believes in a God who has provided for his people in abundance, and he suggests that Christian environmentalists who see only limits to the resources provided in God’s created Earth may be lacking in faith. Even though he freely admits we face enormous problems such as climate change, poverty and hunger, he optimistically believes that in our Earth and our intelligence, God has given us all we need to solve them.

So, in his opinion, Christians should consider using all the appropriate technology at their disposal to provide for human needs and strive for equity. In fact, not to do so, would be wrong. Specifically, Hore-Lacy argues that GM will play a significant role in increasing food production and, not surprisingly, that nuclear power is important to the carbon-free generation of electricity.

Whether or not you agree with Ian Hore-Lacy’s solutions, as someone who has moved in the pragmatic world of industry his analyses of environmental issues does place them squarely on a practical level. For instance, even if you maintain—as he would not—that six billion people are too many for this Earth, the fact is that they are already here, and as Christians we need to deal with the immediate problem of feeding them.

Responsible Dominion is a pretty demanding read. Those attempting it should have some understanding both of science and theology. Although it contains some examples to lighten and illustrate its arguments, it could do with more. And despite copious footnotes, every so often important pieces of data are unattributed.

The book is a useful contribution to the environmental debate. Even those unlikely to agree with many of Hore-Lacy’s conclusions can gain from reviewing his arguments. And it is refreshing to come across someone making a serious attempt at integrating Faith with practical solutions to sustainable development.




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