No panda-eating for Chuck Colson

Well, it’s not quite that simple. But in his BreakPoint radio commentary last Friday, Chuck Colson did quote British naturalist and wildlife expert Chris Packham as saying, “I would eat the last panda if I could have all the money we have spent on panda conservation put back on the table.”

The context for that somewhat over-the-top statement, Colson explained, is Packham’s lament that pandas attract so many resources to the cause of their survival just because of their emotional pull on our affinity for cuteness. In reality, Packham argues, the effort to save pandas from extinction is futile because of the species’ self-destructive tendencies. We should be devoting our rescue efforts to more easily salvageable, if uglier and less cuddly, organisms, as well as entire fragile ecosystems.

But Colson won’t be grilling the first panda-steak–not because it wouldn’t make sense:

“Packham’s comments make perfect sense if you’re coming from both a utilitarian and Darwinian perspective. For the price of postponing what may be the inevitable for 1,500 pandas and a few thousand tigers, we can save far more numerous species and entire habitats.”

But because pandas (and all created things) have a value beyond their utility to humanity:

“We do care because man is not merely another animal, and he is capable of more than simple utilitarian calculations. Man, created in the image of God, can transcend self-interest and make sacrifices for the sake of struggling fellow-creatures, whether those creatures walk on two legs or four. His altruism has a divine, not a material, source.

“Man can also teach his fellow man that he is a steward, and not merely an exploiter, of the rest of creation. His self-understanding is moral and spiritual, not just biological.”

Colson’s reminder of the inherent value of a creature is an important to reflect on when we find ourselves getting wooed into what can sometimes be a self-serving “green” mentality. Creation care is about God, and the value he gives to all he has made–not just ourselves. If we lose sight of that humbling reality, we might just let panda slip onto the menu.

Comments

  1. Thanks very much for sharing this post, and Colson’s comments. They’re great to come across, especially as he has made less flattering comments about animal advocacy in the past (http://conversationinfaith.wordpress.com/2008/05/09/god-and-dog-and-charles-colson-part-one/) – Ben, Not One Sparrow

  2. Hey Ben–thanks for the comment. We’re all Colson fans here at Flourish. He was pretty instrumental in me keeping my faith as a young adult, and Jim worked closely with him at PF for many years. We appreciate it when he writes thoughtfully about the creation. And we take seriously his warnings about climate alarmism and the quasi-religious nature of environmentalism, and we share some of his concerns.

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